Jim Brady’s death brought to mind a wistful moment in The Prince of Darkness, the late Robert Novak’s priceless memoir. On March 23, 1981 — one week exactly before John Hinckley shot bullets into President Reagan and his press secretary — Novak and his partner Rowland Evans sat down with Reagan in the Oval Office for a 30 minute interview. Novak had called Brady to request it, and to his surprise Brady was the only aide present, and he left after five minutes. “We were alone with the president,” Novak writes, for another 30 minutes it turned out. At which point, Brady returned, “hand-signaled” to Novak that time was up but gave him and Evans five additional minutes to wrap things up.
A disabled Brady kept the title of press secretary through the Reagan presidency’s eight years but never was able to perform the office’s duties. I think Reagan missed Brady’s relaxed style. Access to the president was sharply curtailed for all news media, and that included Rowley and me. Larry Speakes, the de facto press secretary, worked for [chief of staff James] Baker and treated Evans and me like the enemy. When we would write an inside dope column critical of Baker, Speakes would rip us in the morning briefing. Brady, I am sure, would have tried to work with us to get a better column next time.