Monday, May 3, 2010


RONALD REAGAN (1981-1989)

Ronald Wilson Reagan (February 6, 1911 – June 5, 2004) was

the 40th President of the United States (1981–1989) and the 33rd

Governor of California (1967–1975). Born in Tampico, Illinois,

Reagan moved to Los Angeles, California in the 1930s. He

began a career in filmmaking and later television, making 52

films and gaining enough success to make him a household

name. Reagan served as president of the Screen Actors Guild,

and later spokesman for General Electric (GE); his start in

politics occurred during his work for GE. Originally a member

of the Democratic Party, he switched to the Republican Party in

1962. After delivering a rousing speech in support of Barry

Goldwater's presidential candidacy in 1964, he was persuaded

to seek the California governorship, winning two years later

and again in 1970. He was defeated in his run for the Republican presidential nomination in

1968 as well as 1976, but won both the nomination and election in 1980.

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. Termed the "Reagan Revolution," his

presidency would reinvigorate American morale and reduce the people's reliance upon

government. As president, Reagan kept a series of diaries in which he commented on daily

occurrences of his presidency and his views on current issues. The diaries were published in

May 2007 in the bestselling book, The Reagan Diaries.

First term (1981–1985)

The Reagans wave from the limousine taking them down Pennsylvania Avenue to the White

House, right after the president's inaugurationTo date, Reagan is the oldest man elected to the

office of the presidency. In his first inaugural address on January 20, 1981, which Reagan

himself wrote, he addressed the country's economic malaise arguing: "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.


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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. Missing Reagan's heart by less than one

inch, the bullet instead pierced his left lung. 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; he endured emergency surgery to remove the bullet. In the operating

room, Reagan joked to the surgeons, "I hope you're all Republicans!" Though they were not,

Joseph Giordano replied, "Today, Mr. President, we're all Republicans."

The bullet was removed and the surgery was deemed a success. It was later determined,

however, that the president's life had been in serious danger due to rapid blood loss and

severe breathing difficulties. 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).

The president was released from the hospital on April 11 and recovered relatively quickly,

becoming the first serving U.S. President to survive being shot in an assassination attempt.

The attempt had great influence on Reagan's popularity; polls indicated his approval rating to

be around 73%. Reagan believed that God had spared his life so that he may go on to fulfill a

greater purpose.

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. 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." Despite fear

from some members of his cabinet over a potential political backlash, on August 5, Reagan

fired 11,345 striking air traffic controllers who had ignored his order to return to work,

busting the union. 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


"Reaganomics" and the economy

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). Over those eight years, the unemployment

rate declined from 7.1% to 5.5%. Reagan implemented policies based on supply-side

economics and advocated a classical liberal and laissez-faire philosophy, seeking to stimulate

the economy with large, across-the-board tax cuts. Citing the economic theories of Arthur


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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.

During Reagan's presidency, federal income tax rates were lowered significantly with the

signing of the bipartisan Economic Recovery Tax Act of 1981. Real gross domestic product

(GDP) growth recovered strongly after the 1982 recession and grew during his eight years in

office at an annual rate of 3.4% per year. Unemployment peaked at 10.8% percent in

December 1982—higher than any time since the Great Depression—then dropped during the

rest of Reagan's presidency. Sixteen million new jobs were created, while inflation

significantly decreased. The net effect of all Reagan-era tax bills was a 1% decrease in

government revenues. Reagan also revised the tax code with the bipartisan Tax Reform Act

of 1986.

The policies proposed that economic growth would occur when marginal tax rates were low

enough to spur investment, 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. Questions

arose as to whether Reagan's policies benefitted the wealthy more than those living in

poverty, and many poor and minority citizens viewed Reagan as indifferent to their struggles.

In accordance with Reagan's less-government intervention views, Reagan cut the budgets of

non-military programs including Medicaid, food stamps, federal education programs and the

EPA. He protected entitlement programs, such as Social Security and Medicare, however, his

administration attempted to purge many allegedly disabled people from Social Security

disability rolls.

The administration's stance toward the Savings and Loan industry contributed to the Savings

and Loan crisis. It is also suggested, by a minority of Reaganomics critics, that the policies

partially influenced the stock market crash of 1987, but there is no consensus regarding a

single source for the crash. In order to cover newly spawned federal budget deficits, the

United States borrowed heavily both domestically and abroad, raising the national debt from

$700 billion to $3 trillion. Reagan described the new debt as the "greatest disappointment" of

his presidency.

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 1970s. The price of oil subsequently dropped,


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and the 1980s did not see the fuel shortages that the 1970s had. Reagan also fulfilled a 1980

campaign promise to repeal the Windfall profit tax in 1988, which had previously increased

dependence on foreign oil. 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. 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.

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 conditions, inaugural

celebrations were held inside the Capitol.

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. Now strongly urged to cancel the visit, 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.

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. On the night of the

disaster, Reagan delivered a speech 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.'

Iran-Contra affair

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. The Iran-Contra affair became the largest political scandal in the United

States during the 1980s. The International Court of Justice, whose jurisdiction to decide the

case was disputed, ruled that the U.S. had violated international law in Nicaragua due to its

obligations not to intervene in the affairs of other states.

President Reagan professed ignorance of the plot's existence. He appointed two Republicans


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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. A separate report by

Congress concluded that "If the president did not know what his national security advisers

were doing, he should have." Reagan's popularity declined from 67 percent to 46 percent in

less than a week, the greatest and quickest decline ever for a president. The scandal resulted

in fourteen indictments within Reagan's staff, and eleven convictions.

Many Central Americans criticize Reagan for his support of the Contras, calling him an anticommunist

zealot, blinded to human rights abuses, while others say he "saved Central

America." Daniel Ortega, Sandinistan and current president of Nicaragua, said that he hoped

God would forgive Reagan for his "dirty war against Nicaragua." In 1986 the USA was found

guilty by the International Court of Justice (World Court) of war crimes against Nicaragua.

Reagan left office in 1989. In 1994, the former president disclosed that he had been

diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease earlier in the year; he died ten years later at the age of 93.

He ranks highly among former U.S. presidents in terms of approval rating.

GEORGE H.W. BUSH (1989-1993)

George Bush brought to the White House a dedication to

traditional American values and a determination to direct

them toward making the United States "a kinder and gentler

nation." In his Inaugural Address he pledged in "a moment

rich with promise" to use American strength as "a force for


Coming from a family with a tradition of public service,

George Herbert Walker Bush felt the responsibility to make

his contribution both in time of war and in peace. Born in

Milton, Massachusetts, on June 12, 1924, he became a student

leader at Phillips Academy in Andover. On his 18th birthday

he enlisted in the armed forces. The youngest pilot in the Navy when he received his wings,

he flew 58 combat missions during World War II. On one mission over the Pacific as a

torpedo bomber pilot he was shot down by Japanese antiaircraft fire and was rescued from

the water by a U. S. submarine. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for bravery

in action.

Bush next turned his energies toward completing his education and raising a family. In

January 1945 he married Barbara Pierce. They had six children-- George, Robin (who died as

a child), John (known as Jeb), Neil, Marvin, and Dorothy.


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At Yale University he excelled both in sports and in his studies; he was captain of the

baseball team and a member of Phi Beta Kappa. After graduation Bush embarked on a career

in the oil industry of West Texas.

Like his father, Prescott Bush, who was elected a Senator from Connecticut in 1952, George

became interested in public service and politics. He served two terms as a Representative to

Congress from Texas. Twice he ran unsuccessfully for the Senate. Then he was appointed to

a series of high-level positions: Ambassador to the United Nations, Chairman of the

Republican National Committee, Chief of the U. S. Liaison Office in the People's Republic of

China, and Director of the Central Intelligence Agency.

In 1980 Bush campaigned for the Republican nomination for President. He lost, but was

chosen as a running mate by Ronald Reagan. As Vice President, Bush had responsibility in

several domestic areas, including Federal deregulation and anti-drug programs, and visited

scores of foreign countries. In 1988 Bush won the Republican nomination for President and,

with Senator Dan Quayle of Indiana as his running mate, he defeated Massachusetts

Governor Michael Dukakis in the general election.

Bush faced a dramatically changing world, as the Cold War ended after 40 bitter years, the

Communist empire broke up, and the Berlin Wall fell. The Soviet Union ceased to exist; and

reformist President Mikhail Gorbachev, whom Bush had supported, resigned. While Bush

hailed the march of democracy, he insisted on restraint in U. S. policy toward the group of

new nations.

In other areas of foreign policy, President Bush sent American troops into Panama to

overthrow the corrupt regime of General Manuel Noriega, who was threatening the security

of the canal and the Americans living there. Noriega was brought to the United States for trial

as a drug trafficker.

Bush's greatest test came when Iraqi President Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, then

threatened to move into Saudi Arabia. Vowing to free Kuwait, Bush rallied the United

Nations, the U. S. people, and Congress and sent 425,000 American troops. They were joined

by 118,000 troops from allied nations. After weeks of air and missile bombardment, the 100-

hour land battle dubbed Desert Storm routed Iraq's million-man army.

Despite unprecedented popularity from this military and diplomatic triumph, Bush was

unable to withstand discontent at home from a faltering economy, rising violence in inner

cities, and continued high deficit spending. In 1992 he lost his bid for reelection to Democrat

William Clinton.

WILLIAM J. CLINTON (1993-2001)

During the administration of William Jefferson Clinton, the U.S. enjoyed more peace and


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economic well being than at any time in its history. He was the first Democratic president

since Franklin D. Roosevelt to win a second term. He could point

to the lowest unemployment rate in modern times, the lowest

inflation in 30 years, the highest home ownership in the country's

history, dropping crime rates in many places, and reduced

welfare rolls. He proposed the first balanced budget in decades

and achieved a budget surplus. As part of a plan to celebrate the

millennium in 2000, Clinton called for a great national initiative

to end racial discrimination.

After the failure in his second year of a huge program of health

care reform, Clinton shifted emphasis, declaring "the era of big

government is over." He sought legislation to upgrade education,

to protect jobs of parents who must care for sick children, to

restrict handgun sales, and to strengthen environmental rules.

President Clinton was born William Jefferson Blythe III on August 19, 1946, in Hope,

Arkansas, three months after his father died in a traffic accident. When he was four years old,

his mother wed Roger Clinton, of Hot Springs, Arkansas. In high school, he took the family


He excelled as a student and as a saxophone player and once considered becoming a

professional musician. As a delegate to Boys Nation while in high school, he met President

John Kennedy in the White House Rose Garden. The encounter led him to enter a life of

public service.

Clinton was graduated from Georgetown University and in 1968 won a Rhodes Scholarship

to Oxford University. He received a law degree from Yale University in 1973, and entered

politics in Arkansas.

He was defeated in his campaign for Congress in Arkansas's Third District in 1974. The next

year he married Hillary Rodham, a graduate of Wellesley College and Yale Law School. In

1980, Chelsea, their only child, was born.

Clinton was elected Arkansas Attorney General in 1976, and won the governorship in 1978.

After losing a bid for a second term, he regained the office four years later, and served until

he defeated incumbent George Bush and third party candidate Ross Perot in the 1992

presidential race.

Clinton and his running mate, Tennessee's Senator Albert Gore Jr., then 44, represented a


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new generation in American political leadership. For the first time in 12 years both the White

House and Congress were held by the same party. But that political edge was brief; the

Republicans won both houses of Congress in 1994.

In 1998, as a result of issues surrounding personal indiscretions with a young woman White

House intern, Clinton was the second U.S. president to be impeached by the House of

Representatives. He was tried in the Senate and found not guilty of the charges brought

against him. He apologized to the nation for his actions and continued to have unprecedented

popular approval ratings for his job as president.

In the world, he successfully dispatched peace keeping forces to war-torn Bosnia and bombed

Iraq when Saddam Hussein stopped United Nations inspections for evidence of nuclear,

chemical, and biological weapons. He became a global proponent for an expanded NATO,

more open international trade, and a worldwide campaign against drug trafficking. He drew

huge crowds when he traveled through South America, Europe, Russia, Africa, and China,

advocating U.S. style freedom.

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