Confrontation of The Superwives

Vivacious and voluble, Raisa upstages the First Lady

Piqued at Raisa Gorbachev's one-woman triumph at the Reykjavik summit, Nancy Reagan was known to consider the Soviet First Lady imperious and dogmatic. Preparations for the Washington summit seemed to confirm that impression. Raisa had taken her time accepting an invitation to tea, insisting that the hour be changed. She was keeping her schedule a mystery, confounding efforts to plan ahead. So when the Soviets asked to bring five extra guests to Tuesday's state dinner, the word quickly came back: forget it.

But if the East Wing of the White House was waging cold war while the West Wing celebrated a...