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Gen. Colin Powell recalls "hardball" side of Nancy Reagan

Gen. Colin Powell served as a national security adviser under President Ronald Reagan
Colin Powell on “indomitable presence" of Nancy Reagan 06:59

Former first lady Nancy Reagan, who died Sunday at the age of 94, is remembered as a force both in the public eye and behind the scenes at the White House.

According to retired Gen. Colin Powell, former secretary of state and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staffs who served as a national security adviser during President Reagan's last two years in office, said Mrs. Reagan was "a friend and ally," but "she could be an adversary if she didn't like what was going on."

"The [Donald] Regan case is a classic example, and she knew that Don Regan had to be moved on as chief of staff and bring in Howard Baker. She merely leaked it to the press, and the press had it on CNN," Powell recalled Monday on "CBS This Morning." "I was the deputy national security adviser, and my boss Frank Carlucci said, 'Have you seen television?' I said, 'Yes.' He said, 'I wonder if Don knows.' And it was Frank Carlucci who went down to Don's office -- 'Don, did you resign? It's on television.' And Don looked up bewildered and he immediately wrote his resignation letter, took it to the president's office and left the White House. That's hardball, fellas. That is hardball."

Undeniable love story of Nancy and Ronald Reagan 03:23

Powell said Mrs. Reagan was tough, but it was always related to protecting "her man, her Ronnie." She was not only instrumental in President Reagan's political rise, but also a strong defender of his legacy. Their love for one another and partnership made a deep impression on the people around them and also the public.

"Without her, there was no complete him," Powell said.

Whenever Mrs. Reagan would be out of town, Powell said the president would start to become "fretful" after a day or two.

"And on the third day, we would have a little meeting -- 'Somebody call up there and tell her she's gotta come home.' It was that direct. You could see it. It was visible," Powell said.

Noonan and Stahl on Nancy Reagan's lasting impact 05:36

CBS News contributor and Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan, who was a special assistant and speechwriter for President Reagan, pointed to the Reagans' partnership.

"She looked out for him, made sure he had time to think, time to do what he had to do, made sure people didn't take advantage of him. She also was someone who bluntly told her husband her views," Noonan recounted on "CBS This Morning."

Noonan, who is a Board of Trustees member at The Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and also wrote "When Character Was King: A Story of Ronald Reagan," said she saw a great deal of Mrs. Reagan in the past 10 years.

"She was so much fun. She was witty and amusing. Rather sly in her observations. She was like a girl-girl. She loved gossip," she described, noting that the gossip was "never unkind" or judgmental.

"She was an indomitable presence," Powell said.

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