Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Lyn Nofziger

I probably would not have paid much attention to today's news that longtime Republican insider Franklyn "Lyn" Nofziger had died, were it not for the fact that his path and mine once crossed — albeit briefly — about a quarter-century ago.

In the fall of 1980, I was a sophomore journalism student at Pepperdine University. Active at the campus radio station, I acquired — more because of my constant availability than any extraordinary talent on my part — a considerable number of behind-the-scenes responsibilities in addition to my on-air work as a disc jockey and sports announcer. Among my tasks was coproducing a public affairs program hosted by a fellow student whose father had been the longtime publisher of the Sentinel, a newspaper that served the Los Angeles black community.

With the '80 national election approaching, my coproducer put together a show featuring interviews with the various Presidential candidates. Well, not the candidates themselves for the most part (although we did manage a one-on-one with the Libertarian candidate, a dull-witted chap who kept referring to our alma mater as "Peppertone"), but their designated spokespeople. Lyn Nofziger, who was Ronald Reagan's press secretary at the time, spoke with us by telephone on behalf of the Reagan campaign. Nofziger was easily the most effective speaker of the folks we interviewed — clear on his message and engaging in style. He didn't convince me to vote for Reagan — it would have taken either a pistol to my temple, or a date with Erin Gray, to pull off that feat — but he seemed like a likable guy.

Nofziger will likely be remembered as the person whose job it was to tell the White House press corps that President Reagan (see? he didn't even need my vote) had been shot by John Hinckley. Shortly after that, Nofziger left the Reagan administration and returned to the campaign scene, in later years running campaigns for right-wingers Pat Buchanan and Steve Forbes. (I said he seemed likable. I didn't say he seemed sensible.)

I'm sure that after all these years, Nofziger would not have recalled that one interview out of the hundreds he gave in the fall of 1980. But I do.

Speaking of dead Republicans, I see that Caspar Weinberger, HEW secretary under Richard Nixon and defense secretary under Ronald Reagan, also passed away today.

I'm sure that jokes about Caspar becoming a friendly ghost would be entirely inappropriate.

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