How are these for candid observations about first families -- past, present and future -- from Bill Gulley, who served the last four presidents at the White House?
Nancy Reagan, in the words of former president Richard M. Nixon, "runs Ronald Reagan . . . she's a very strong woman, a b---, a demanding one, and he listens to her."
Lillian Carter, talking to her son Billy about a plan to erect at government expense a facility on his property in Plains, Ga.: "Get all you can, honey. If they'll give you a hundred thousand, take a hundred thousand. Get all you can, because you'll never get another chance like this."
On President Carter's first trip overseas in May 1977, the embassy staff in London had taken reports about his teetotaling seriously and "there wasn't a drop of liquor in the house . . . it was 11:30 at night and everything was shut . . . but Carter . . . wanted a drink, so the naval aide had to go scurrying out into the London night, back to Air Force I, to find the new president a bottle of booze."
Nixon's reaction upon hearing the above item: "Carter drinks? You mean to say he DRINKS? Goddamn!"
And so go Bill Gulley's observations of first families. Past, present and future.
Gulley, to some observers the most powerful man in the White House for the past four administrations, has written his memoirs with collabrator Mary Ann Reese. The book, "Breaking Cover," is absolutely nothing like the usual upstairs-downstairs-backstairs memoirs of White House maids and butlers and dog-walkers to which the bookbuying public has become accustomed in recent years.
Gulley was head of the Military Affairs Office under four presidents, before leaving early in the Carter administration.
Most people have never heard of Bill Gulley and have no idea what the Military Affairs Office does.
Gulley knows many are going to be shocked when they find out.
"The Defense Department budget," he writes, "is huge and largely classified; the White House budget is small and open for examiniaton by the citizens and the politicians. Since the White House couldn't begin to support even one of the functions the military performs for it, we were the rich uncle over in the East Wing, doing anything the president wanted, discreetly.
A Marine sergeant wounded in hand-to-hand combat at Guadalcanal, he was the first civilian ever appointed to a job that had been held previously at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue by a succession of generals.
Gulley had 2,000 people working for him, with another 1,500 on call and all the "vast resources of the Department of Defense at his disposal."
He controlled "the president's Aladdin's lamp" with which "there's a bottomless pit of money, ingenuity and resources to do it with."
Gulley administered what he calls a multimillion-dollar "Secret Fund" that is going to outrage taxpayers when his book is published and should start people yelling for congressional reform when they read how it has been "used and abused" legally and illegally by every administration.
For LBJ, for example, Gulley used the military funds to install an irrigation system and to resurface roads and build a movie theater on the Johnson ranch in Texas.
When Nixon wanted a swimming pool right outside his bedroom door at Camp David, Gulley spent $500,000 of military funds to sculpt one like an oversize bathtub atop a bomb shelter that had to be reinforced.
When Ford aides didn't want to relinquish Blair House to Rosalynn Carter during the transition one night when they were giving a party there, $3,000 was spent from the military funds to send a small jet to Georgia to bring her to Washington for one day of meetings.
Chip and Caron Carter lived with their dog for awhile, Gulley claims, in a government-owned house on Lafayette Square. "The American taxpayer not only paid (the) rent," Gulley writes, "he even paid a ticket Chip Carter got and handed over to (the military office) when Chip's car was towed away."
Simon & Schuster plans to publish Gulley's book in August. Penthouse will excerpt it in August and Twentieth Century-Fox is negotiating to buy the Lyndon B. Johnson chapter for a movie.
The LBJ material is some of the earthiest and funniest yet to be made public. Usually, in the past, aides writing books have tended to sanitize their experiences with Johnson, out of respect for his memory or his still-living loved ones.
Gulley hasn't sanitized his recolections of ANYONE and the result is the most candid and least self-serving memoirs ever written about the White House by someone who worked there.
"One of the White House doctors told me that Johnson's sex appetite was a result of B-12 shots . . ." writes Gulley. "He said that B-12 has that effect on certain people and Lyndon Johnson was one of them."