Everywhere I go, people ask me the same question: "Did Nancy Reagan really say she wished President Carter and Mrs. Carter would move out of the White House early so she and Ronnie could move in?"
The answer is that she didn't. Informed sources in the Reagan administration team have told me that it was just the opposite. The Carters asked the Reagans to move in earlier. This is what transpired:
Nancy Reagan received a telephone call from Mrs. Carter last week.
"Hello, Nancy, this is Rosalynn. We were talking to Amy last night at dinner, and she suggested we move across the street into Blair House so that you and Ronnie could get into the White House ahead of schedule. Jimmy and I thought it was a wonderful idea."
"Ronnie and I wouldn't hear of it, Rosalynn. You're entitled to live there until Jan. 20, 3 p.m., Eastern Standard Time."
"Nancy, you wouldn't be putting us out a bit. We know how eager you are to start redecorating, and we'd only be in the way here. Jimmy might have to come over to the Oval Office every once in a while to sign some papers, but he would never go into your living quarters."
"Rosalynn, all that talk about wanting to redo the upstairs has been exaggerated. My decorator thinks the rooms are just perfect as they are. He loves early Plains, Ga., decor. Except for adding some bright colors to the rooms, changing the drapes and the slipcovers, as well as the rugs and the furniture, we're going to keep the place just as you left it. Ronnie said to me last night, 'If it's good enough for the Carters, it's good enough for us.'"
"That was very sweet of him, but Amy has always wanted to live in Blair House and so has Chip. We'd be very comfortable there, and it would give us an opportunity to adjust to smaller quarters."
"Rosalynn, you're a dear to even think of us at a time like this, but Ronnie and I would never be able to sleep in the White House at night knowing your family was all packed in together in Blair House. Ronnie said to me the other day, as he was branding cattle on our ranch, that he knows what it is to be thrown out of a house before someone's lease is up. He told me to tell you that if you don't find a place to live, you can stay with us at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., after Jan. 20, 3 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, as long as you like."
"We're all packed now, Nancy, and we can always go to Camp David if we don't like Blair House."
"We won't allow you to move out one day earlier than you have to. I told the decorator he would just have to wait until you were gone before he put up the Scalmandre wallpaper."
"Well, if you feel that strongly about it, we'll have to break the news to Amy. I've left a list on the refrigerator door of things that have to be fixed, and the telephone numbers or repairmen who will come when you call."
"You didn't have to do that, but it was sweet of you."
"I also have a little dressmaker in Georgetown, in case you want her name."
"I'd love it. It was so kind of you to call."
"Don't mention it, Nancy, and be sure and call me for anything -- anything at all."
After Rosalynn hung up, President Carter said, "Did they go for it?"
"Nope," said Rosalynn. "We're stuck 'till the 20th."
"Darn it," the president said, "that means we're going to have to pay the oil bill for another month."