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Polarization-Is It American?

Posted by Terrance on December 11, 2010 with 2 Comments as , , , , , , , , , ,

This bickering back and forth in what we hear through the media as well as social media websites is getting way out of hand.It is a turn off to many people that really detest the vile language that a certain group of people portray. There is a loss of respect through this dichotomy of politicking from Americans.

We live in a country that has Constitutional rights and liberties. We need to use these liberties wisely and not for bashing a party or demeaning anyone for their political beliefs. What seems to happen is that it forms the minds of impressionable youth to form opinions that are not peaceful nor are they conducive to American values.

We are at a turning point in history that America is in jeopardy in a way that has brought contention within the political system and the American people. This has to be thwarted because the author of contention and division is the enemy of peace. Why can we not get along with each other and learn to suck it up when people want to debate. There is this polarity of the Right – left – conservative – liberal and best of all the worst part of polarization is Good- Bad.

This involves judgment and self righteousness. There is no good or bad opinions that are based with an open mind for truth. We cannot force people to agree with us one way or another nor should we shut them out by not at least attempting to listen to their point of view.  We can say…..Thank you for sharing your opinion with me and leave it at that, without getting into a debate with each others beliefs and political persuasion.

We have a lot of work to do and we have a lot of ground to make up and we cannot do it with the mindset that is so ever present in today’s society. We have to learn to suck it up and bite our tongues in order to move ahead. Being right is not as important as being happy folks. So when you come across people that want to debate you STOP and learn to take a deep breath and keep your composure.

This goes for all of us. Who knows that person that is trying to make a point may have a valid expression that needs to be heard. When we have composure over ourselves we are able to reason with each other without losing our beliefs. It does not matter what political party you belong to, it should be a golden rule for living in harmony with each other.

Folks, we have to do something different or we will end up in riots and social conflicts with each other because of the prime conditions for Martial Law governance. We cannot afford to be taken over by government because we failed to get along with each other as well as being tolerant of each other.

This is not what our Forefathers want people. The phrase of Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness is what American values are all about. It is the intent of pursuing happiness that we live out our American inheritance for being the greatest country in the world; past, present, and future. Whatever goes on in America gets broadcast throughout the world and if we want to continue to be the light in the darkness we have to be the light to others. One could say that the way we act towards each other could be a national security issue. We have enemies out there that wants to destroy America and American values, they see our weakness and they will prey on our weakness as being able to get along with each other. Confusion and chaos is the work from an evil force that tries to control the hearts of man, please remember this when you interact with someone that opposes you. We can all be happy living in a world of diversity but it will take work as well as a commitment towards the cause of humanity. God Bless America and may God Bless us with ways to find peace within us.

Written by: Terrance W. Norton

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Ronald Reagan 40th President

Posted by Terrance on December 2, 2010 with No Comments as , , , , , , , , ,

President Ronald Reagan 40th President


Governor of California, 1967–1975

Ronald Reagan on the podium with Gerald Ford at the 1976 Republican National Convention after narrowly losing the presidential nomination.

In 1976, Reagan challenged incumbent President Gerald Ford in a bid to become the Republican Party’s candidate for president. Reagan soon established himself as the conservative candidate with the support of like-minded organizations such as the American Conservative Union which became key components of his political base, while President Ford was considered a more moderate Republican.[78]

Reagan’s campaign relied on a strategy crafted by campaign manager John Sears of winning a few primaries early to seriously damage the lift-off of Ford’s campaign. Reagan won North Carolina, Texas, and California, but the strategy disintegrated[79] and he ended up losing New Hampshire and Florida.[80] As the party’s convention neared, Ford appeared close to victory. Acknowledging his party’s moderate wing, Reagan chose moderate Republican Senator Richard Schweiker of Pennsylvania as his running mate. Nonetheless, Ford narrowly won with 1,187 delegates to Reagan’s 1,070.[80]

Reagan’s concession speech emphasized the dangers of nuclear war and the threat posed by the Soviet Union. Though he lost the nomination, he received 307 write-in votes in New Hampshire, 388 votes as an Independent on Wyoming’s ballot, and a single electoral vote from a faithless elector in the November election from the state of Washington,[81] which Ford had won over Democratic challenger Jimmy Carter. During this time he was granted an honorary membership into Alpha Kappa Psi, Alpha Zeta Chapter.[82]

[edit] 1980 presidential campaign

Reagan campaigns with Nancy and Senator Strom Thurmond (right) in South Carolina, 1980

The 1980 presidential campaign between Reagan and incumbent President Jimmy Carter was conducted during domestic concerns and the ongoing Iran hostage crisis. His campaign stressed some of his fundamental principles: lower taxes to stimulate the economy,[83] less government interference in people’s lives,[84] states’ rights,[85] and a strong national defense.[84]

After receiving the Republican nomination, Reagan selected one of his primary opponents, George H.W. Bush, to be his running mate. His showing in the October televised debate boosted his campaign. Reagan won the election, carrying 44 states with 489 electoral votes to 49 electoral votes for Carter (representing six states and Washington, D.C.). Reagan received 50.7% of the popular vote while Carter took 41%, and Independent John B. Anderson (a liberal Republican) received 6.7%.[86] Republicans captured the Senate for the first time since 1952, and gained 34 House seats, but the Democrats retained a majority.

[edit] Presidency, 1981–1989

During his Presidency, Ronald Reagan pursued policies that reflected his personal belief in individual freedom, brought changes domestically, both to the U.S. economy and expanded military, and contributed to the end of the Cold War.[87] Termed the Reagan Revolution, his presidency would reinvigorate American morale[88][89] and reduce the people’s reliance upon government.[87] As president, Reagan kept a series of diaries in which he commented on daily occurrences of his presidency and his views on the issues of the day. The diaries were published in May 2007 in the bestselling book, The Reagan Diaries.[90]

[edit] First term, 1981–1985

The Reagans wave from the limousine taking them down Pennsylvania Avenue to the White House, right after the president’s inauguration

To date, Reagan is the oldest man elected to the office of the presidency (at 69).[91] In his first inaugural address on January 20, 1981, which Reagan himself wrote,[92] he addressed the country’s economic malaise arguing: “In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problems; government is the problem.”

The Reagan Presidency began in a dramatic manner; as Reagan was giving his inaugural address, 52 U.S. hostages, held by Iran for 444 days were set free.[93]

[edit] Assassination attempt

On March 30, 1981, Reagan, along with his press secretary James Brady and two others, were shot by a would-be assassin, John Hinckley, Jr., outside of the Hilton Washington hotel. Missing Reagan’s heart by less than one inch,[94] the bullet instead pierced his left lung.[94] He began coughing up blood in the limousine and was rushed to George Washington University Hospital, where it was determined that his lung had collapsed;[94] he underwent emergency surgery to remove the bullet.[95] In the operating room, Reagan joked to the surgeons, “I hope you’re all Republicans!”[96] Though they were not, Joseph Giordano (a Democrat) replied, “Today, Mr. President, we’re all Republicans.”

The bullet was removed and the surgery was deemed a success.[95] It was later determined, however, that the president’s life had been in serious danger due to rapid blood loss and severe breathing difficulties.[97] He was able to turn the grave situation into a more light-hearted one, though, for when Nancy Reagan came to see him he told her, “Honey, I forgot to duck” (using Jack Dempsey‘s quip).[96]

The president was released from the hospital on April 11 and recovered relatively quickly,[98] becoming the first serving U.S. President to survive being shot in an assassination attempt.[99] The attempt had great influence on Reagan’s popularity; polls indicated his approval rating to be around 73%.[100] Reagan believed that God had spared his life so that he might go on to fulfill a greater purpose.[101]

[edit] Air traffic controllers’ strike

Only a short time into his administration, federal air traffic controllers went on strike, violating a regulation prohibiting government unions from striking.[102] Declaring the situation an emergency as described in the 1947 Taft Hartley Act, Reagan held a press conference in the White House Rose Garden, where he stated that if the air traffic controllers “do not report for work within 48 hours, they have forfeited their jobs and will be terminated.”[103] Despite fear from some members of his cabinet over a potential political backlash,[104] on August 5, Reagan fired 11,345 striking air traffic controllers who had ignored his order to return to work,[105] busting the union.[106] According to Charles Craver, a labor law professor at George Washington University Law School, the move gave Americans a new view of Reagan, who “sent a message to the private employer community that it would be all right to go up against the unions”.[106] This position was in stark contrast to Ronald Reagan’s past as a labor union president of the Screen Actor’s Guild, as well as his support for the Polish labor union Solidarity in its fight against Soviet domination.

[edit] “Reaganomics” and the economy

Main article: Reaganomics

Ronald Reagan’s official White House portrait

During Jimmy Carter‘s last year in office (1980), inflation averaged 12.5%, compared to 4.4% during Reagan’s last year in office (1988).[107] Over those eight years, the unemployment rate declined from 7.5% to 5.3%, hitting annual rate highs of 9.7% (1982) and 9.6% (1983) and averaging 7.5% during Reagan’s administration.[108]

Reagan implemented policies based on supply-side economics and advocated a classical liberal and laissez-faire philosophy,[109] seeking to stimulate the economy with large, across-the-board tax cuts.[110][111] Citing the economic theories of Arthur Laffer, Reagan promoted the proposed tax cuts as potentially stimulating the economy enough to expand the tax base, offsetting the revenue loss due to reduced rates of taxation, a theory that entered political discussion as the Laffer curve. Reaganomics was the subject of debate with supporters pointing to improvements in certain key economic indicators as evidence of success, and critics pointing to large increases in federal budget deficits and the national debt. His policy of “peace through strength” (also described as “firm but fair”) resulted in a record peacetime defense buildup including a 40% real increase in defense spending between 1981 and 1985.[112]

During Reagan’s presidency, federal income tax rates were lowered significantly with the signing of the bipartisan Economic Recovery Tax Act of 1981[113] which lowered the top marginal tax bracket from 70% to 50% and the lowest bracket from 14% to 11%. Then, in 1982 the Job Training Partnership Act of 1982 was signed into law, initiating one of the nation’s first public/private partnerships and a major part of the president’s job creation program. Reagan’s Assistant Secretary of Labor and Chief of Staff, Al Angrisani, was a primary architect of the bill. The Tax Reform Act of 1986, another bipartisan effort championed by Reagan, reduced the top rate further to 28% while raising the bottom bracket from 11% to 15% and reducing the quantity of brackets to 4. Conversely, Congress passed and Reagan signed into law tax increases of some nature in every year from 1981 to 1987 to continue funding such government programs as TEFRA, Social Security, and the Deficit Reduction Act of 1984.[114][115] Despite the fact that TEFRA was the “largest peacetime tax increase in American history,” Reagan is better known for his tax cuts and lower-taxes philosophy.[115][116][117][118] Real gross domestic product (GDP) growth recovered strongly after the early 1980s recession ended in 1982, and grew during his eight years in office at an annual rate of 3.85% per year.[119] Unemployment peaked at 10.8% monthly rate in December 1982—higher than any time since the Great Depression—then dropped during the rest of Reagan’s presidency.[120] Sixteen million new jobs were created, while inflation significantly decreased.[121] The net effect of all Reagan-era tax bills was a 1% decrease in government revenues when compared to Treasury Department revenue estimates from the Administration’s first post-enactment January budgets.[122] However, federal Income Tax receipts increased from 1980 to 1989, rising from $308.7Bn to $549.0Bn.[123]

During the Reagan Administration, federal receipts grew at an average rate of 8.2% (2.5% attributed to higher Social Security receipts), and federal outlays grew at an annual rate of 7.1%.[124][125] Reagan also revised the tax code with the bipartisan Tax Reform Act of 1986.[126]

Reagan gives a televised address from the Oval Office, outlining his plan for Tax Reduction Legislation in July 1981

Reagan’s policies proposed that economic growth would occur when marginal tax rates were low enough to spur investment,[127] which would then lead to increased economic growth, higher employment and wages. Critics labeled this “trickle-down economics“—the belief that tax policies that benefit the wealthy will create a “trickle-down” effect to the poor.[128] Questions arose whether Reagan’s policies benefited the wealthy more than those living in poverty,[129] and many poor and minority citizens viewed Reagan as indifferent to their struggles.[129]

Following his less-government intervention views, Reagan cut the budgets of non-military[130] programs[131] including Medicaid, food stamps, federal education programs[130] and the EPA.[132] While he protected entitlement programs, such as Social Security and Medicare,[133] his administration attempted to purge many people with disabilities from the Social Security disability rolls.[134]

The administration’s stance toward the Savings and Loan industry contributed to the Savings and Loan crisis.[135] It is also suggested, by a minority of Reaganomics critics, that the policies partially influenced the stock market crash of 1987,[136] but there is no consensus regarding a single source for the crash.[137] In order to cover newly spawned federal budget deficits, the United States borrowed heavily both domestically and abroad, raising the national debt from $997 billion to $2.85 trillion.[138] Reagan described the new debt as the “greatest disappointment” of his presidency.[121]

He reappointed Paul Volcker as Chairman of the Federal Reserve, and in 1987 he appointed monetarist Alan Greenspan to succeed him. Reagan ended the price controls on domestic oil which had contributed to energy crises in the early 1970s.[139][140] The price of oil subsequently dropped, and the 1980s did not see the fuel shortages that the 1970s had.[141] Reagan also fulfilled a 1980 campaign promise to repeal the Windfall profit tax in 1988, which had previously increased dependence on foreign oil.[142] Some economists, such as Nobel Prize winners Milton Friedman and Robert A. Mundell, argue that Reagan’s tax policies invigorated America’s economy and contributed to the economic boom of the 1990s.[143] Other economists, such as Nobel Prize winner Robert Solow, argue that the deficits were a major reason why Reagan’s successor, George H. W. Bush, reneged on a campaign promise and raised taxes.[143]

[edit] Lebanon and Operation Urgent Fury (Grenada), 1983

Reagan meets with Prime Minister Eugenia Charles of Dominica in the Oval Office about ongoing events in Grenada

American peacekeeping forces in Beirut, a part of a multinational force during the Lebanese Civil War who had been earlier deployed by Reagan, were attacked on October 23, 1983. The Beirut barracks bombing resulted in the deaths of 241 American servicemen and the wounding of more than 60 others by a suicide truck bomber. Reagan sent a White House team to the site four days later, led by his Vice President, George H.W. Bush. Reagan called the attack “despicable,” pledged to keep a military force in Lebanon, and planned to target the Sheik Abdullah barracks in Baalbek, Lebanon, training ground for Hezbollah fighters,[144][145] but the mission was later aborted. On February 7, 1984, President Reagan ordered the Marines to begin withdrawal from Lebanon. In April 1984, as his keynote address to the 20,000 attendees of the Rev. Jerry Falwell‘s “Baptist Fundamentalism ’84” convention in Washington, D.C., he read a first hand account of the bombing, written by Navy Chaplain (Rabbi) Arnold Resnicoff, who had been asked to write the report by Bush and his team.

On October 25, 1983, only two days later, Reagan ordered U.S. forces to invade Grenada, code named Operation Urgent Fury, where a 1979 coup d’état had established an independent non-aligned Marxist-Leninist government. A formal appeal from the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) led to the intervention of U.S. forces; President Reagan also cited an allegedly regional threat posed by a Soviet-Cuban military build-up in the Caribbean and concern for the safety of several hundred American medical students at St. George’s University as adequate reasons to invade. Operation Urgent Fury was the first major military operation conducted by U.S. forces since the Vietnam War, several days of fighting commenced, resulting in a U.S. victory,[146] with 19 American fatalities and 116 wounded American soldiers.[147] In mid-December, after a new government was appointed by the Governor-General, U.S. forces withdrew.[146]

[edit] Escalation of the Cold War

Reagan escalated the Cold War, accelerating a reversal from the policy of détente which began in 1979 following the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.[148] Reagan ordered a massive buildup of the United States Military[112] and implemented new policies towards the Soviet Union: reviving the B-1 bomber program that had been canceled by the Carter administration, and producing the MX “Peacekeeper” missile.[149] In response to Soviet deployment of the SS-20, Reagan oversaw NATO‘s deployment of the Pershing II missile in West Germany.[150]

Reagan, the first American president ever to address the British Parliament, predicts Marxism-Leninism will be left on the “ash-heap of history”.[151]

Together with the United Kingdom’s prime minister Margaret Thatcher, Reagan denounced the Soviet Union in ideological terms.[152] In a famous address on June 8, 1982 to the British Parliament in the Royal Gallery of the Palace of Westminster, Reagan said, “the forward march of freedom and democracy will leave Marxism-Leninism on the ash-heap of history.”[153][154] On March 3, 1983, he predicted that communism would collapse, stating, “Communism is another sad, bizarre chapter in human history whose last pages even now are being written.”[155] In a speech to the National Association of Evangelicals on March 8, 1983, Reagan called the Soviet Union “an evil empire“.[156]

After Soviet fighters downed Korean Air Lines Flight 007 near Moneron Island on September 1, 1983, carrying 269 people including U.S. congressman from Georgia Larry McDonald, Reagan labeled the act a “massacre” and declared that the Soviets had turned “against the world and the moral precepts which guide human relations among people everywhere”.[157] The Reagan administration responded to the incident by suspending all Soviet passenger air service to the United States, and dropped several agreements being negotiated with the Soviets, wounding them financially.[157] As result of the shootdown, and the cause of KAL 007’s going astray thought to be inadequacies related to its navigational system, Reagan announced on 16 September 1983 that the Global Positioning System (GPS) would be made available for civilian use, free of charge, once completed in order to avert similar navigational errors in future.[158][159]

Under a policy that came to be known as the Reagan Doctrine, Reagan and his administration also provided overt and covert aid to anti-communist resistance movements in an effort to “rollback” Soviet-backed communist governments in Africa, Asia and Latin America.[160] Reagan deployed the CIA’s Special Activities Division to Afghanistan and Pakistan. They were instrumental in training, equipping and leading Mujaheddin forces against the Soviet Red Army.[161][162] President Reagan’s Covert Action program has been given credit for assisting in ending the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan,[163] though the US funded armaments introduced then would later pose a threat to US troops in the 2000s war in Afghanistan.[164]

In March 1983, Reagan introduced the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), a defense project[165] that would have used ground and space-based systems to protect the United States from attack by strategic nuclear ballistic missiles.[166] Reagan believed that this defense shield could make nuclear war impossible,[165][167] but disbelief that the technology could ever work led opponents to dub SDI “Star Wars” and argue that the technological objective was unattainable.[165] The Soviets became concerned about the possible effects SDI would have;[168] leader Yuri Andropov said it would put “the entire world in jeopardy”.[169] For those reasons, David Gergen, former aide to President Reagan, believes that in retrospect, SDI hastened the end of the Cold War.[170]

Critics labeled Reagan’s foreign policies as aggressive, imperialistic, and chided them as “warmongering,” though they were supported by leading American conservatives who argued that they were necessary to protect U.S. security interests.[168] A reformer, Mikhail Gorbachev, would later rise to power in the Soviet Union in 1985, implementing new policies for openness and reform that were called glasnost and perestroika.

[edit] 1984 presidential campaign

1984 presidential electoral votes by state. Reagan (red) won every state except for Mondale’s home state of Minnesota (and Washington, D.C.)

Reagan accepted the Republican nomination in Dallas, Texas, on a wave of positive feeling. He proclaimed that it was “morning again in America,”[24] regarding the recovering economy and the dominating performance by the U.S. athletes at the Los Angeles Olympics that summer, among other things. He became the first American president to open an Olympic Games held in the United States.[171]

Reagan’s opponent in the 1984 presidential election was former Vice President Walter Mondale. With questions about Reagan’s age, and a weak performance in the first presidential debate, it was questioned whether he was capable to be president for another term. This confused and forgetful behavior horrified his supporters at that moment, as they always knew him as clever and witty, and it is said that around this time were the early symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease showing in him.[172][173] Reagan rebounded in the second debate, and confronted questions about his age, quipping, “I will not make age an issue of this campaign. I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent’s youth and inexperience,” which generated applause and laughter.[174]

That November, Reagan was re-elected, winning 49 of 50 states.[175] The president’s landslide victory saw Mondale carry only his home state of Minnesota (by 3800 votes) and the District of Columbia. Reagan won a record 525 electoral votes, the most of any candidate in United States history,[176] and received 58.8% of the popular vote to Mondale’s 40.6%.[175]

[edit] Second term, 1985–1989

Reagan was sworn in as president for the second time on January 20, 1985, in a private ceremony at the White House. Because January 20 fell on a Sunday, a public celebration was not held but took place in the Capitol Rotunda the following day. January 21 was one of the coldest days on record in Washington, D.C.; due to poor weather, inaugural celebrations were held inside the Capitol.

Ronald Reagan is sworn in for a second term as president in the Capitol Rotunda

In 1985, Reagan visited a German military cemetery in Bitburg to lay a wreath with West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl. It was determined that the cemetery held the graves of 49 members of the Waffen-SS. Reagan issued a statement that called the Nazi soldiers buried in that cemetery “victims,” which ignited a stir over whether he had equated the SS men to Holocaust victims; Pat Buchanan, Director of Communications under Reagan, argued that the notion was false.[177] Now strongly urged to cancel the visit,[178] the president responded that it would be wrong to back down on a promise he had made to Chancellor Kohl. He attended the ceremony where two military generals laid a wreath.[179]

The disintegration of the Space Shuttle Challenger on January 28, 1986 proved a pivotal moment in Reagan’s presidency. All seven astronauts aboard were killed.[180] On the night of the disaster, Reagan delivered a speech written by Peggy Noonan in which he said:

The future doesn’t belong to the fainthearted; it belongs to the brave… We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them, this morning, as they prepared for their journey and waved goodbye and ‘slipped the surly bonds of Earth’ to ‘touch the face of God.’[181]

[edit] War on Drugs

Midway into his second term, Reagan declared more militant policies in the War on Drugs. He said that “drugs were menacing our society” and promised to fight for drug-free schools and workplaces, expanded drug treatment, stronger law enforcement and drug interdiction efforts, and greater public awareness.[182][183]

In 1986, Reagan signed a drug enforcement bill that budgeted $1.7 billion to fund the War on Drugs and specified a mandatory minimum penalty for drug offenses.[184] The bill was criticized for promoting significant racial disparities in the prison population[184] and critics also charged that the policies did little to reduce the availability of drugs on the street, while resulting in a great financial burden for America.[185] Defenders of the effort point to success in reducing rates of adolescent drug use.[186][187] First Lady Nancy Reagan made the War on Drugs her main priority by founding the “Just Say No” drug awareness campaign, which aimed to discourage children and teenagers from engaging in recreational drug use by offering various ways of saying “no”. Mrs. Reagan traveled to 65 cities in 33 states, raising awareness about the dangers of drugs including alcohol.[188]

[edit] Libya bombing

Main article: Bombing of Libya

Relations between Libya and the U.S. under President Reagan were continually contentious, beginning with the Gulf of Sidra incident in 1981. These tensions were later revived in early April 1986, when a bomb exploded in a Berlin discothèque, resulting in the injuries of 63 American military personnel and death of one serviceman.[189] Citing that there was “irrefutable proof” that Libya had directed the terrorist bombing,[190] Reagan authorized the use of force against the country.[189] In the late evening of April 15, 1986, the U.S. launched a series of air strikes on ground targets in Libya.[189] The attack was designed to halt Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi‘s ability to export terrorism, offering him “incentives and reasons to alter his criminal behavior”.[189] The president addressed the nation from the Oval Office after the attacks had commenced, stating, “When our citizens are attacked or abused anywhere in the world on the direct orders of hostile regimes, we will respond so long as I’m in this office.”[190]

[edit] Immigration

Reagan signed the Immigration Reform and Control Act in 1986. The act made it illegal to knowingly hire or recruit illegal immigrants, required employers to attest to their employees’ immigration status, and granted amnesty to approximately 3 million illegal immigrants who entered the United States prior to January 1, 1982, and had lived in the country continuously. Critics argue that the employer sanctions were without teeth and failed to stem illegal immigration.[191] Upon signing the act at a ceremony held beside the newly refurbished Statue of Liberty, Reagan said, “The legalization provisions in this act will go far to improve the lives of a class of individuals who now must hide in the shadows, without access to many of the benefits of a free and open society. Very soon many of these men and women will be able to step into the sunlight and, ultimately, if they choose, they may become Americans.”[192]

[edit] Iran-Contra affair

President Reagan receives the Tower Report in the Cabinet Room of the White House, 1987

In 1986, a scandal shook the administration stemming from the use of proceeds from covert arms sales to Iran to fund the Contras in Nicaragua, which had been specifically outlawed by an act of Congress.[193][194] The Iran-Contra affair became the largest political scandal in the United States during the 1980s.[195] The International Court of Justice, whose jurisdiction to decide the case was disputed,[196] ruled that the U.S. had violated international law in Nicaragua due to its obligations not to intervene in the affairs of other states.[197]

President Reagan professed ignorance of the plot’s existence. He appointed two Republicans and one Democrat (John Tower, Brent Scowcroft and Edmund Muskie, known as the “Tower Commission”) to investigate the scandal. The commission could not find direct evidence that Reagan had prior knowledge of the program, but criticized him heavily for his disengagement from managing his staff, making the diversion of funds possible.[198] A separate report by Congress concluded that “If the president did not know what his national security advisers were doing, he should have.”[198] Reagan’s popularity declined from 67 percent to 46 percent in less than a week, the greatest and quickest decline ever for a president.[199] The scandal resulted in fourteen indictments within Reagan’s staff, and eleven convictions.[200]

Many Central Americans criticize Reagan for his support of the Contras, calling him an anti-communist zealot, blinded to human rights abuses, while others say he “saved Central America”.[201] Daniel Ortega, Sandinistan and current president of Nicaragua, said that he hoped God would forgive Reagan for his “dirty war against Nicaragua”.[201] In 1986 the USA was found guilty by the International Court of Justice (World Court) of war crimes against Nicaragua.[202]

[edit] End of the Cold War

Ronald Reagan speaks at the Berlin Wall‘s Brandenburg Gate, challenging Gorbachev to “tear down this wall!”

By the early 1980s, the USSR had built up a military arsenal and army surpassing that of the United States. Previously, the U.S. had relied on the qualitative superiority of its weapons to essentially frighten the Soviets, but the gap had been narrowed.[203] After President Reagan’s military buildup, the Soviet Union did not further dramatically build up its military;[204] the enormous military expenses, in combination with collectivized agriculture and inefficient planned manufacturing, were a heavy burden for the Soviet economy.[205] At the same time, the Reagan Administration persuaded Saudi Arabia to increase oil production,[206] which resulted in a drop of oil prices in 1985 to one-third of the previous level; oil was the main source of Soviet export revenues.[205] These factors gradually brought the Soviet economy to a stagnant state during Gorbachev‘s tenure.[205]

Ronald Reagan recognized the change in the direction of the Soviet leadership with Mikhail Gorbachev, and shifted to diplomacy, with a view to encourage the Soviet leader to pursue substantial arms agreements.[207] Reagan’s personal mission was to achieve “a world free of nuclear weapons,” which he regarded as “totally irrational, totally inhumane, good for nothing but killing, possibly destructive of life on earth and civilization.”[208][209][210] He was able to start discussions on nuclear disarmament with General Secretary Gorbachev.[210] Gorbachev and Reagan held four summit conferences between 1985 and 1988: the first in Geneva, Switzerland, the second in Reykjavík, Iceland, the third in Washington, D.C., and the fourth in Moscow.[211] Reagan believed that if he could persuade the Soviets to allow for more democracy and free speech, this would lead to reform and the end of Communism.[212]

Speaking at the Berlin Wall on June 12, 1987, Reagan challenged Gorbachev to go further, saying:

“General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization, come here to this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”

Reagan and Gorbachev sign the INF Treaty at the White House in 1987

Prior to Gorbachev visiting Washington, D.C., for the third summit in 1987, the Soviet leader announced his intention to pursue significant arms agreements.[213] The timing of the announcement led Western diplomats to contend that Gorbachev was offering major concessions to the U.S. on the levels of conventional forces, nuclear weapons, and policy in Eastern Europe.[213] He and Reagan signed the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty at the White House, which eliminated an entire class of nuclear weapons.[214] The two leaders laid the framework for the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, or START I; Reagan insisted that the name of the treaty be changed from Strategic Arms Limitation Talks to Strategic Arms Reduction Talks.[209]

When Reagan visited Moscow for the fourth summit in 1988, he was viewed as a celebrity by the Soviets. A journalist asked the president if he still considered the Soviet Union the evil empire. “No,” he replied, “I was talking about another time, another era.”[215] At Gorbachev’s request, Reagan gave a speech on free markets at the Moscow State University.[216] In his autobiography, An American Life, Reagan expressed his optimism about the new direction that they charted and his warm feelings for Gorbachev.[217] The Berlin Wall was torn down beginning in 1989 and two years later the Soviet Union collapsed.

[edit] Health and well-being

On July 13, 1985, Reagan underwent surgery at Bethesda Naval Hospital to remove cancerous polyps from his colon. This caused the first-ever invocation of the acting president clause of the 25th Amendment.[218] The surgery lasted just under three hours and was successful.[219] Reagan resumed the powers of the presidency later that day.[220] In August of that year, he underwent an operation to remove skin cancer cells from his nose.[221] In October, additional skin cancer cells were detected on his nose and removed.[222]

Two years later, on January 5, Reagan underwent surgery for an enlarged prostate which caused further worries about his health. No cancerous growths were found, however, and he was not sedated during the operation.[223] In July of that year, aged 76, he underwent a third skin cancer operation on his nose.[224]

Earlier in his presidency, Reagan started wearing a custom, technologically advanced hearing aid, first in his right ear[225] and later in his left as well.[226] His decision to go public with his wearing the small, audio-amplifying device boosted their sales.[227]

[edit] Judiciary

During his 1980 campaign, Reagan pledged that, if given the opportunity, he would appoint the first female Supreme Court Justice.[228] That opportunity came in his first year in office when he nominated Sandra Day O’Connor to fill the vacancy created by the retirement of Justice Potter Stewart. In his second term, Reagan elevated William Rehnquist to succeed Warren Burger as Chief Justice, and named Antonin Scalia to fill the vacant seat. Reagan nominated conservative jurist Robert Bork to the high court in 1987. Senator Ted Kennedy, a Democrat of Massachusetts, strongly condemned Bork, and great controversy ensued.[229] Bork’s nomination was rejected 58–42.[230] Reagan then nominated Douglas Ginsburg, but Ginsburg withdrew his name from consideration after coming under fire for his cannabis use.[231] Anthony Kennedy was eventually confirmed in his place.[232] Along with his three Supreme Court appointments, Reagan appointed 83 judges to the United States Courts of Appeals, and 290 judges to the United States district courts. His total of 376 appointments is the most by any president.[citation needed]

[edit] Post-presidential years, 1989–2004

Ronald and Nancy Reagan in Los Angeles after leaving the White House, early 1990s

After leaving office in 1989, the Reagans purchased a home in Bel Air, Los Angeles in addition to the Reagan Ranch in Santa Barbara. They regularly attended Bel Air Presbyterian Church[233] and occasionally made appearances on behalf of the Republican Party; Reagan delivered a well-received speech at the 1992 Republican National Convention.[234] Previously on November 4, 1991, the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library was dedicated and opened to the public. At the dedication ceremonies, five presidents were in attendance, as well as six first ladies, marking the first time five presidents were gathered in the same location.[235] Reagan continued publicly to speak in favor of a line-item veto; the Brady Bill;[236] a constitutional amendment requiring a balanced budget; and the repeal of the 22nd Amendment, which prohibits anyone from serving more than two terms as president.[237] In 1992 Reagan established the Ronald Reagan Freedom Award with the newly formed Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation.[238] His final public speech was on February 3, 1994 during a tribute to him in Washington, D.C., and his last major public appearance was at the funeral of Richard Nixon on April 27, 1994.

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