August 10th, 2014

Joe Lockhart to CNN’s Candy Crowley: ” I don’t think a lot of people know this, but Jim Brady kept the title of press secretary.”

Today on CNN’s State of the Union with Candy Crowley, ABC’s Ann Compton, journalist Al Hunt and former Clinton Press Secretary Joe Lockhart remember the life and legacy of former Regan Press secretary Jim Brady.


A full transcript of the interview is available after the jump.



On that day, journalist Al Hunt was on Capitol Hill.  Joe Lockhart would later become bill Clinton’s press secretary when the briefing room was dedicated to Brady and ABC’s Ann Compton was covering President Reagan.


Earlier I spoke with them about that day 33 years ago and the legacy of Jim Brady.


ANN COMPTON, “ABC NEWS” WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT:  It was a day in which it was just so normal it was only 69 days into the administration and his deputy, Larry Speakes, well, Jim, I’ll go in the motorcade.  And Jim said, no, no, I’ll go.

It was still somewhat new to Jim.  We had known him first at Capitol Hill where he was a very creative king of thinking outside the box before people thought that way.  And I think he brought that creativity and that kind of strategic thinking to the press secretary’s job, which literally lasted 69 days for Jim Brady.

CROWLEY:  His humor could get him into trouble.

AL HUNT, “BLOOMBERG VIEW” COLUMNIST:  It could be.  Ronald Reagan one time said that trees caused more pollution than cars.  They were (inaudible) the campaign in 1980 and Jim looked at a forest fire and said, killer trees.  And the Reagans (INAUDIBLE) —


CROWLEY:  — getting kicked off the plane.

HUNT:  They did but they brought him back.

CROWLEY:  Did he set a template in any way?

JOE LOCKHART, CLINTON W.H. PRESS SECRETARY:  You know, I think he did, because I think it was his style.  I used to review the transcripts of the briefing for one thing.  I read through it and if I saw the word laughter after something, I said more than three or four times I knew it was a good briefing.

CROWLEY:  Tell me a little bit about that day when you first learned that Jim, although it was kind of a funny time because at first everyone thought the president was fine.

COMPTON:  Well, there was one thing we knew for sure, the minute we saw that video and you saw Jim Brady on the ground but he was moving.  What we didn’t know is how gravely injured the president was.

And you saw Nancy Reagan’s statement when Jim Brady died saying she remembers sitting in a small room in the emergency room with Sarah Brady, both of them knowing their husbands were in critical condition and not knowing how the day would end.

CROWLEY:  Well, Ann brings up an interesting part of this story, Al.  He was not particularly Nancy Reagan’s favorite choice for press secretary.

RONALD REAGAN, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Some of the things that I am reading, none of which are true, and Nancy couldn’t more – be more delighted and thinks he’s absolutely handsome.


HUNT:  She would not have picked him but you know something, Jim Baker and Mike Deaver went to a number of reporters and said, who should we pick as press secretary, and they all said, Jim Brady because we trust him.  He’s so good.


LOCKHART:  I don’t think a lot of people know this, but Jim Brady kept the title of press secretary.  Larry Speakes who toiled long for President Reagan in that role was always the acting press secretary, and the buck stopped with Nancy Reagan and she said, no, that’s Jim Brady’s job.


CROWLEY:  The post shooting Jim Brady, I often looked at him and saw him after a couple of times, you know, after the shooting, he did work with his wife, the Brady Foundation and the handgun control bill which President Clinton signed, the Brady Handgun Control Bill.  So, it was a life that just was toughly lived.  He got dealt a bad hand and he still — you still saw Jim Brady come back and do something different but do it really well.


LOCKHART:  We throw around the word hero a lot in our culture, but Jim defined it.  He had something so tragic happen to him and he turned it into something so positive.


I mean, let’s look at how tough the gun control debate is.  Jim Brady got something done.


REAGAN:  I happen to believe in the Brady Bill because we have that same thing in California right now.


LOCKHART:  Jim Brady got a law passed that has saved lives.




COMPTON:  In his life after the shooting he bridged the gap between Republican and Democrat.  Those lines went before and how Washington, there’s still a core of family and camaraderie and people who respect each other’s opinions.  And I think that kind of personification is exactly what Jim brought.


HUNT:  I agree.  I think he did that.  I also hope we remember him not only for his great intelligence and his great dedication but his humor.


BRADY:  The phone rings every two minutes or so and I find myself heading back towards the White House to put out a fire or to start one.


CROWLEY:  Joe, I want you to talk to me about the day they dedicated the briefing room.


LOCKHART:  Sure.  It was my favorite day at the White House.  We came upon the idea that the one way to honor the legacy of Jim and Sarah Brady and the work they’ve done was to name the room after them.


BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Jim Brady is living proof that you can’t kill courage, that it takes more than a cheap handgun to destroy a strong spirit.


LOCKHART:  For everybody in that room, these reporters who had lived with him and loved him for — me and my staff and you know, sort of  the press secretary fraternity and the single most important thing is I have never seen such pure, unadulterated joy in another man’s face that day, when he sat there with Sarah.


BRADY:  Today I still miss some of you.  It’s good to be back.