Politics & Policy

“The Godfather”

Congressman Rohrabacher remembers Lyn Nofziger.

California’s Dana Rohrabacher worked with Lyn Nofziger during the Reagan years. Congressman Rohrabacher talked to National Review Online late Tuesday about Nofziger, who died Monday after a battle with cancer.

Kathryn Jean Lopez: What were your interactions with Lyn Nofziger like?

Congressman Dana Rohrabacher: Lyn was my boss in the 1976 and 1980 Reagan presidential campaigns. Lyn was the one who hired me for the campaign. He was the press secretary and my official title was assistant press secretary so I was one of the traveling members of the staff that went with Reagan everywhere along with Lyn. He was very demanding in terms of getting the job done but he always kept the atmosphere light with his humor and kindness. He expected us to get the job done and service the news media. He was always disheveled but always focused. He had such an incredible wit that he used to diffuse confrontation and also used it to criticize without hurting someone’s feelings–even yours truly sometimes.

Lopez: What’s your favorite Nofziger story?

Congressman Rohrabacher: Favorite story is when we were in New Hampshire and a right-wing religious journalist was attacking Reagan and berating Lyn for drinking too much. I walked up to the two and heard this attack. Lyn said to the guy, who was supposedly an ordained minister, “Well [his name] what about it, are you a journalist today or a minister, you’re not wearing your collar?” The guy retorted “So now you’re attacking religion?” and Lyn replied “No I didn’t attack anyone’s religion.” The man turned to me and said “You heard him didn’t you? He was attacking my religious convictions.” I said “Listen buddy I don’t know if you’re a minister or a reporter but you’re a jerk.” Lyn grabbed me by the arm and hauled me out of there as the guy erupted in anger. Lyn put his arms around me and said “Dana I have two things to tell you. First: Thank you, you’re a stand up guy. Second: Don’t ever do that again.”

Lopez: How/Why was Nofziger essential to the Reagan years?

Congressman Rohrabacher: Lyn was essential because he was a committed limited-government conservative. He was pro-freedom, liberty, and justice. He was never taken in by money, fancy clothes, cars, or the promise of wealth. He saw right through people of power and wealth and saw whether they were honest. He served Reagan well by ensuring that Reagan got his message across. He never manipulated Reagan, he just went out there and did his job. Above all, he was a loyalist to Reagan without a personal agenda.

Lopez: What’s the most important lesson from Nofziger’s career politicos could afford to learn?

Congressman Rohrabacher: Lyn may have been down but he was never demoralized and that’s why he was never “out.” As long as you maintain your standards, you can always come back. When people respect you and your integrity, you’re not just someone who knows how to write a press release or put on a press conference.

Lopez: How will you best remember Lyn Nofziger?

Congressman Rohrabacher: I will best remember Lyn as the godfather who took it upon himself to protect the Reaganites once the election was over and ensured that those of us who had been with Reagan during the campaign would have a place in his government, not just the stampede of politicos who would have backed anybody to get in. I’ll always remember him as the guy who was down and out three or four times and on top three or four times but was never bitter and who could always find the humor in any situation to make people laugh.

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