I never met Ronald Reagan, and I only saw him in the flesh once (at an NR banquet, appropriately enough). But I did happen to see the Oval Office while he was president, courtesy of Dinesh D’Souza, who was working at the White House that year and gave me a tour of the non-public areas late one night when the Reagans were out of town. I stood behind the red velvet rope that is stretched across the door when no one is home, leaning as far into the office as I dared and gaping like a schoolboy, thinking about how astonished my parents would be when I called to tell them where I’d been.
More than anything else, I remember how struck I was by the sheer unfanciness of the decor–it seemed almost homey. For all the obvious architectural elegance of the room, it reminded me more than anything else of a small-town law office writ large. I also remember thinking how fitting it was that a man like Ronald Reagan should spend his days working not in a palatial European-style chamber but in a quintessentially American room like that.