BROOKE GLADSTONE: The Reagan presidency was famous for its declaration of Morning in America -- no matter what time of day it was. And the man in charge of reminding the public that the sun was always on the horizon was former aide Michael Deaver. I spoke to him in January of 2001 about how he managed the media in the days of Reagan.
BOB GARFIELD: Michael Deaver, welcome to On the Media.
MICHAEL DEAVER: Thank you.
BOB GARFIELD: You were regarded as a master of handling the press. You limited, or at least tried to limit, President Reagan's exposure to a series of photo opportunities for the evening news. You didn't seem to care much what or how much was written about the president in the newspapers, or at least that's your reputation.
MICHAEL DEAVER: It's fair to say that I always believed that most people got all their information from television, and so television was the most important part of my job. Yes, the dailies, particularly the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, so forth, were critical because whatever was above the fold was usually the top of the evening news story, so that was important. But I really felt myself more like a producer for television than anything else.
BOB GARFIELD: You could actually set the networks' agenda for covering the president by engineering press events, couldn't you?
MICHAEL DEAVER: You could. One of the things that we did that made that easier was that we worked on a 60-90 day strategy, so that I knew pretty well for the next three or four weeks what the news story was going to be 80 percent of the time. People at CBS and NBC and NPR didn't know that.
BOB GARFIELD: And you knew which days you wanted to deflect attention from the true story of the day and which day you wanted to invite attention.
MICHAEL DEAVER: Of course.
BOB GARFIELD: What was your best trick for manipulating the likes of us?
MICHAEL DEAVER: Well, I never thought of myself as manipulating. I just thought of myself--
BOB GARFIELD: Oh, you did so!
MICHAEL DEAVER: -- no, no, honestly I didn't. I just thought - lookit - I remember being back here about three weeks and walking out and picking up the Washington Post one day on the lawn at 6 o'clock in the morning and opening it and looking above the fold and saying "This is my day. This is what I gotta do today." Then I scratched my head, and I said "Wait a minute -- the Washington Post didn't get elected to anything. Why is this entire town running around what's above the fold in the Washington Post today? Shouldn't the White House - shouldn't the Congress be setting the agenda instead of the Washington Post?"
BOB GARFIELD: Now, the Clinton administration came to town with a sort of similar notion of how to set the agenda for the press, and they just ran into all sorts of resistance and eventually had to completely back off. What did the Clinton administration do wrong?
MICHAEL DEAVER: Well, the Clinton administration didn't have the benefit of Jim Baker and Dave Gergen and some of the people early on who'd been here before in previous administrations and knew how the press corps worked. They, they made mistakes in sort of tactics with the press that were totally unnecessary. They didn't understand that you couldn't say something once. You had to repeat it over and over again. So they used to day, you know, poor old Bill Clinton, he had a great day but he never had a good week. Because he couldn't ever stretch the story out to make it continue to pound and pound and pound.
BOB GARFIELD: Michael Deaver, thank you for joining us.
MICHAEL DEAVER: It's been a pleasure.
BOB GARFIELD: Public relations executive Michael Deaver was a media advisor to President Ronald Reagan.