At the 2013 Milwaukee County Republican Party's annual Reagan Day dinner Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker told a story that he said,"gives me a shiver just talking about it."
That would be the story about how Nancy Reagan was so amazed by Scott Walker's recall victory that she invited him to come speak at the Reagan Library. (Walker failed to mention that ninety-one-year old Nancy Reagan is more of a figurehead of the Reagan Foundations that signs dozens of invites to people every year to speak at Reagan Library as part of the Reagan Forum series. You know who else has scored these special invites? Dennis Miller, Mark Levin, and Dennis Prager. In fact, the person that spoke after Walker was—drum roll please—Greg Gutfeldt!)
OK, sorry—back to Walker's story.
Before Walker gave his speech, he scored a special meeting with Nancy Reagan. (Reality check: It wasn't that special; it happens to many Reagan Forum participants.) So, they get to talking, and Walker tells her that his recall election happened on the anniversary of her husband's death: June 5.
After Walker makes this point, Mrs. Reagan doesn't push her panic button. And she doesn't dismiss what he is saying as the ramblings of a pathological narcissist with delusions of grandeur. Instead she is apparently awestruck. (You'll find out why we can assume that in a second.)
Then Walker leaves her home in Bel Air and goes to the Reagan Library to give his speech. As he is walking by some of the exhibits on display and, well, let's let Walker tell the rest:
"One of the other great privileges I had, that was unbeknownst to me, that they had set up, was, we came around the corner on the tour, before I gave a speech to about a thousand people at the library, and the curator there, had, I see him and he's got white gloves and he's got something in his hand. "And they brought over a pair of white gloves for me and he said, 'No one has touched this since President Reagan. It is his mother's Bible that he took the oath of office on. Mrs. Reagan would like you to hold and take a picture with it."
At this point the crowd makes a collective gasp. Several "awwwwhhh"s break out and then the they break into an applause as Walker slowly nods.
In other words, Nancy Reagan was so impressed with Walker that she arranged this quasi-anointment ceremony of letting Walker be the first to touch the Reagan Bible since Reagan. This is huge! In Republican politics, this is like the Pope arranging a swig from the Holy Grail!
In other news—wait, there's more to this story? Shut the front door!—I got in touch with Jennifer Torres, who is the artifacts curator at the Reagan Library. Torres said Walker did in fact, get his picture taken with the Reagan inauguration Bible, but that is the only part of the story that is true.
When asked specifically if Nancy Reagan had arranged for Walker to hold the Reagan Bible, Torres said in a email that it was Walker, not Nancy Reagan, that made the request to have his picture taken with the Bible—and that Walker made the request before he visited with Nancy Reagan or even flew out to California:
Gov. Walker requested to view the Bible while he was at the Library for a speaking engagement. The Bible is periodically removed from exhibit in order to rotate the pages on display. We decided to remove the Bible the day Gov. Walker was in town to comply with his request, took the Bible back to collections after the photo, and re-installed it on exhibit a few days later.
What about the stuff about Reagan being the last person to touch it? Eh, not so much:
Since the President's passing, several staff members and conservators have handled the Bible, all while wearing gloves. It is unknown if President Reagan was the last to have to have touched the Bible without gloves, but it is doubtful. It may have been handled by family or staff before it was brought to the Library. Once the Bible was at the Library, it would only be handled with gloves per collections management practices. The Bible was brought to the Library in 1992, and was placed on exhibit at some point. It was removed from exhibit in 2010 during the renovation, and re-installed in 2011.
When asked if Walker is the only visiting dignitary to have handled the Bible since the library opened, Torres said that he was, but he is also likely the only visiting dignitary to have ever made such a request.
There you have it folks: there was nothing special about Walker holding and getting his picture take with the Reagan Bible. Except, of course, in Walker's mind.
And that should concern you.
Jud Lounsbury is a political reporter based in Madison, Wisconsin. Previously, Lounsbury served as a press secretary for several politicians and organizations, including Russ Feingold, Tom Harkin, and Al Gore's Iowa campaign.