Presidency of Ronald Reagan
||This article may require cleanup to meet Wikipedia's quality standards. (December 2010)|
|Presidency of Ronald Reagan|
|40th President of the United States|
January 20, 1981 – January 20, 1989
|Vice President||George H. W. Bush|
|Preceded by||Jimmy Carter|
|Succeeded by||George H. W. Bush|
|Born||February 6, 1911
Tampico, Illinois, United States
|Died||June 5, 2004
Bel Air, Los Angeles, California, United States
|Spouse(s)||(1) Jane Wyman (married 1940, divorced 1948)
(2) Nancy Davis Reagan
|Alma mater||Eureka College|
Domestically, the administration favored reducing government programs and introduced the largest across-the-board tax cuts in American history. The economic policies enacted in 1981, known as "Reaganomics", were an example of supply-side economics. Reagan aimed to encourage entrepreneurship and limit the growth of social spending, as well as the reduction of regulation and inflation. Economic growth saw a strong recovery in the 1980s, helping Reagan to win a landslide re-election. The national debt increased significantly, however.
Regarding foreign policy, the administration was steadfastly anti-communist, calling the Soviet Union an "evil empire" and ending 1970s détente. Reagan accelerated the massive buildup of the military started by his predecessor, including an invasion of Grenada, the first major overseas action by U.S. troops since the end of the Vietnam War. The "Reagan Doctrine" controversially granted aid to paramilitary forces seeking to overthrow communist governments, particularly in war-torn Central America and Afghanistan. Reagan also promoted new technologies such as missile defense systems in order to confront the Soviets and their allies. In diplomacy, Reagan forged a strong alliance with UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, and he met with Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev four times, aiming to shrink the superpowers' nuclear arsenals.
Reagan's presidency has been termed the "Reagan Revolution", or the Age of Reagan in recognition of the political realignment both within and beyond the U.S. in favor of his brand of conservatism and his faith in free markets. The Reagan administration worked toward the collapse of Soviet Communism, and it did collapse just as he left office. Victory in the Cold War led to a unipolar world with the U.S. as the world's sole superpower. While the damaging Iran-Contra affair engulfed several Reagan aides during his second term, Reagan himself left office with a 63 percent approval rating, one of the higher approval ratings of departing presidents. After years of unstinting praise from the right, and unrelenting criticism from the left, historian David Henry finds that by 2009 a consensus had emerged among scholars that Reagan revived conservatism and turned the nation to the right by demonstrating a "pragmatic conservatism" that promoted ideology within the constraints imposed by the divided political system. Furthermore, says Henry, the consensus viewpoint agrees that he revived faith in the presidency and American self-confidence, and contributed critically to ending the Cold War.
Reagan was an advocate of free markets and, upon taking office, believed that the American economy was hampered by excessive economic controls and misguided welfare programs enacted during the 1960s and 1970s. Taking office during a period of stagflation, Reagan said in his first inauguration speech, which he himself authored:
|“||In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.||”|
His first act as president was to issue an executive order ending certain price controls on domestic oil, which had contributed to the 1973 Oil Crisis and the 1979 Energy Crisis. The price of fuel subsequently dropped, and the 1980s did not see the gasoline lines and fuel shortages that the 1970s had.
Reagan focused his first months in office on two goals, tax cuts and military spending, which was viewed as a successful way to tackle issues and echoed by later presidential advisers. Reagan's economic policies, similar to supply-side economics and dubbed "Reaganomics", achieved a 25% cut in the federal personal income tax, moderate deregulation and tax reform, which he believed would remove barriers to efficient economic activity. After a sharp recession, a long period of high economic growth without significant inflation ensued.
Despite Reagan's stated desire to cut spending, federal spending grew during his administration. However, economist Milton Friedman pointed out that non-defense spending as a percentage of national income stabilized throughout Reagan's term, breaking a long upward trend; the number of new regulations added each year dramatically decreased as well.
One of Reagan's most controversial early moves was to fire most of the nation's air traffic controllers who took part in an illegal strike. Reagan also attempted to increase the solvency of Social Security by cutting disability and survivor benefits, and by increasing the Federal Insurance Contributions Act tax (FICA). He also took tough positions against crime, declared a renewed war on drugs, but was criticized for being slow to respond to the AIDS epidemic.
In foreign affairs, Reagan initially rejected détente and directly confronted the Soviet Union through a policy of "peace through strength", including increased military spending, firm foreign policies against the USSR and, in what came to be known as the Reagan Doctrine, support for anti-communist rebel movements in Afghanistan, Angola, Cambodia, Nicaragua and elsewhere. Reagan later negotiated with Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev, and together they contributed greatly to the end of the Cold War.
Reagan authorized military action in Lebanon, Grenada, and Libya throughout his terms in office. It was later discovered that the administration also engaged in covert arms sales to Iran in order to fund anti-communist Contra rebels in Nicaragua. The resulting Iran-Contra Affair became a scandal to which Reagan professed ignorance. A significant number of officials in the Reagan Administration were either convicted or forced to resign as a result of the scandal.
By the end of the Reagan presidency, a high level of public approval (63 percent of the nation) indicated that the administration had recovered its image among the American public because of the perceived restoration of America's power, prosperity and national pride.
Legislation and programs 
|This section requires expansion. (July 2007)|
Major legislation signed 
- August 13, 1981: Economic Recovery Tax Act of 1981
- September 3, 1982: Tax Equity and Fiscal Responsibility Act of 1982
- October 13, 1982: Job Training Partnership Act of 1982
- October 15, 1982: Garn-St. Germain Depository Institutions Act
- January 7, 1983: Nuclear Waste Policy Act
- April 20, 1983: Social Security Amendments of 1983
- September 28, 1984: Voting Accessibility for the Elderly and Handicapped Act
- October 30, 1984: Cable Communications Act of 1984
- April 7, 1986: Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985
- June 6, 1986: Federal Employees Retirement System
- October 1, 1986: Goldwater-Nichols Act
- October 22, 1986: Surface Freight Forwarder Deregulation Act of 1986
- October 26, 1986: Tax Reform Act of 1986
- November 6, 1986: Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986
- July 22, 1987: McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act
- August 10, 1988: Civil Liberties Act of 1988
- August 4, 1988: Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act
- August 23, 1988: Omnibus Foreign Trade and Competitiveness Act
- October 13, 1988: Family Support Act
Major legislation vetoed 
- Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act. The veto was overridden
Proposals not passed by Congress 
Major treaties 
Administration and Cabinet 
Domestic policy 
Foreign policy 
Assassination attempt 
On March 30, 1981, only 69 days into the new administration, Reagan, his press secretary James Brady, Washington police officer Thomas Delahanty, and Secret Service agent Timothy McCarthy were struck by gunfire from would-be assassin John Hinckley, Jr. outside the Washington Hilton Hotel. Although "close to death" at the hospital, Reagan recovered and was released from the hospital on April 11, becoming the first serving U.S. President to survive being wounded 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 might go on to fulfill a greater purpose.
Political philosophy 
During his Presidency, Ronald Reagan pursued policies that reflected his optimism in individual freedom, expanded the American economy, and contributed to the end of the Cold War. The "Reagan Revolution", as it came to be known, aimed to reinvigorate American morale, and reduce the people's reliance upon government. As President, Reagan kept a series of leather bound diaries, in which he talked about daily occurrences of his presidency, commented on current issues around the world (expressing his point of view on most of them), and frequently mentioned his wife, Nancy. The diaries were published into the bestselling 2007 book, The Reagan Diaries.
As a politician and as President, Ronald Reagan portrayed himself as being a conservative, anti-communist, in favor of tax cuts, in favor of smaller government in the economic sphere while actively interventionist in the social and foreign policy spheres, and in favor of removing regulations on corporations. Ronald Reagan is credited with increasing spending on national defense and diplomacy which contributed to the end of the Cold War, deploying U.S. Pershing II missiles in West Germany in response to the Soviet stationing of SS-20 missiles near Europe, negotiating the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) to substantially reduce nuclear arms and initiating negotiations with the Soviet Union for the treaty that would later be known as START I, proposing the Strategic Defense Initiative, a controversial plan to develop a missile defense system, re-appointing monetarists Paul Volcker and (later) Alan Greenspan to be chairmen of the Federal Reserve, ending the high inflation that damaged the economy under his predecessors Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford, lowering tax rates significantly (under Reagan, the top personal tax bracket dropped from 70% to 28% in 7 years ) and leading a major reform of the tax system, providing arms and other support to anti-communist groups such as the Contras and the mujahideen, selling arms to foreign allies such as Taiwan, Israel, Saudi Arabia, and Iraq (see Iran–Iraq War), greatly escalating the "war on drugs" with his policies and Nancy Reagan's "Just Say No" campaign, ordering the April 14, 1986 bombing of Tripoli and Benghazi in retaliation for an April 5 bombing of a West Berlin nightclub frequented by U.S. servicemen, in which the Libyan government was deemed complicit, and signing the Civil Liberties Act of 1988 which compensated victims of the Japanese American Internment during World War II. Terrorism was also a major part of the Reagan Administration's politics, as his administration grouped the responses to terrorism into five broad categories. “(1) Military measures (i.e., ‘swift and effective retribution’); (2) Non-military efforts (such as implementing economic, legal, and/or political sanctions against an offending state); (3) Provide logistical support to a government where an attack took place (such as increased financial aid for that state’s military, or technical support); (4) Acquiesce to terrorist demands; and (5) No Response against the responsible party and/or only increase defensive measures (e.g., installing shatter-proof windows at an embassy, erecting concrete impediments to make it harder for suicide bombers to get close to their target, etc.).”
Other matters 
Although Reagan's second term was mostly noteworthy for matters related to foreign affairs, he supported significant pieces of legislation on domestic matters. In 1982, Reagan signed legislation reauthorizing the Voting Rights Act of 1965 for another 25 years, even though he had opposed such an extension during the 1980 campaign. This extension added protections for blind, disabled, and illiterate voters.
Other significant legislation included the overhaul of the Internal Revenue Code in 1986, as well as the Civil Liberties Act of 1988 which compensated victims of the Japanese-American internment during World War II. As well as those, Reagan signed legislation authorizing the death penalty for offenses involving murder in the context of large-scale drug trafficking; wholesale reinstatement of the federal death penalty did not occur until the presidency of Bill Clinton.
Reagan's position on gay rights has been a subject of controversy. In the late 1970s he wrote a response in his LA Herald-Examiner column to the organization backing the California Briggs Initiative, stating that he opposed the proposed ban on gay public school teachers. Reagan's daughter, Patti Davis, wrote an article in the New York Times where she recalled her father talking about Rock Hudson's homosexuality in an accepting and tolerant manner.
The oldest president 
As Reagan was the oldest person to be inaugurated as president (age 69), and also the oldest person to hold the office (age 77), his health, although generally good, became a concern at times during his presidency. His age even became a topic of concern during his re-election campaign. In a debate on October 21, 1984 between Reagan and his opponent, former Vice President Walter Mondale, panelist Henry Trewhitt brought up how President Kennedy had to go for days on end without sleep during the Cuban Missile crisis. He then asked the President if he had any doubts about if or how he could function in a time of crisis, given his age. Reagan remarked, "I am not going to make age an issue of this campaign. I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent's youth and inexperience," generating applause and laughter from the audience. Mondale (who was 56 at the time) said years later in an interview that he knew at that moment he had lost the election.
On July 13, 1985, Reagan underwent surgery to remove polyps from his colon, causing the first-ever invocation of the Acting President clause of the 25th Amendment. On January 5, 1987, Reagan underwent surgery for prostate cancer which caused further worries about his health, but which significantly raised the public awareness of this "silent killer."
Former White House correspondent Lesley Stahl later wrote that she and other reporters noticed what might have been early symptoms of Reagan's later Alzheimer's Disease. She said that on her last day on the beat, Reagan spoke to her for a few moments and didn't seem to know who she was, before then returning to his normal self. However, Reagan's primary physician, Dr. John Hutton, said the president "absolutely" did not "show any signs of dementia or Alzheimer's." His doctors noted that he began exhibiting Alzheimer's symptoms only after he left the White House.
Close of the Reagan era 
In 1988, Reagan's Vice President, George H. W. Bush, was elected to succeed Reagan as President of the United States. On January 11, 1989, Reagan addressed the nation for the last time on television from the Oval Office, nine days before handing over the presidency to Bush. On the morning of January 20, 1989, Ronald and Nancy Reagan met with the Bushes for coffee at the White House before escorting them to the Capitol Building, where Bush took the oath of office. The Reagans then boarded a Presidential helicopter, and flew to Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland. There, they boarded the Presidential Jet (in this instance, it was not called Air Force One), and flew home to California—to their new home in the wealthy East Gate Old Bel Air section of Los Angeles. Reagan was the oldest president to serve (at 77), surpassing Dwight Eisenhower, who was 70 when he left office in 1961.
See also 
- U.S. presidential election, 1976
- U.S. presidential election, 1980
- U.S. presidential election, 1984
- History of the United States (1980-1988)
- Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California
- List of honors named for Ronald Reagan
- 600-ship Navy
- Ronald Reagan on Wikiquote
- Carliner, Geoffrey (1991). Politics and economics in the eighties: edited by Alberto Alesina and Geoffrey Carliner. University of Chicago Press. p. 6. ISBN 0-226-01281-6.
- David Henry, "Book Reviews," Journal of American History (Dec. 2009) volume 96 #3 pp 933-4
- Murray, Robert K. and Blessing, Tim H. 1993. Greatness in the White House. Penn State Press. p. 80
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- D'Souza, Dinesh (June 8, 2004). "Purpose". National Review. Retrieved February 16, 2009.
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- Freidel, Frank (1995), p. 84
- "The Reagan Diaries". Harper Collins. Retrieved 2007-06-05.
- Wills, David (2003). The First War on Terrorism: Counter-Terrorism Policcy During the Reagan Administration. Lanham, Maryland: Rowman &Littlefield. p. 5. ISBN 0-7425-3128-7.
- "Reagan Weighs In On Social Issues." U.S. News & World Report, May 12, 1982
- Reagan, Ronald (1978-11-01). "Editorial: Two Ill-advised California Trends". Los Angeles Herald-Examiner. p. A19.
- Deroy Murdock on Ronald Reagan & AIDS on National Review Online
- Mondale, Walter. 1984: There You Go Again... Again / Debating Our Destiny Transcript. Interview with Lehrer, Jim. PBS Newshour. http://www.pbs.org/newshour/debatingourdestiny/dod/1984-broadcast.html. Retrieved February 29, 2012.
- Rouse, Robert (March 15, 2006). "Happy Anniversary to the first scheduled presidential press conference - 93 years young!". American Chronicle.
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- Appleby, Joyce; Alan Brinkley, James M. McPherson (2003). The American Journey. Woodland Hills, California: Glencoe/McGraw-Hill. ISBN 0-07-824129-4.
- Beschloss, Michael (2007). Presidential Courage: Brave Leaders and How they Changed America 1789-1989. Simon & Schuster.
- Cannon, Lou (2000). President Reagan: The Role of a Lifetime. New York: Public Affairs. ISBN 1-891620-91-6.
- Cannon, Lou; Michael Beschloss (2001). Ronald Reagan: The Presidential Portfolio: A History Illustrated from the Collection of the Ronald Reagan Library and Museum. PublicAffairs. ISBN 1-891620-84-3.
- Diggins, John Patrick (2007). Ronald Reagan: Fate, Freedom, and the Making of History. New York: W. W. Norton.
- Freidel, Frank; Hugh Sidey (1995). The Presidents of the United States of America. Washington, D.C.: White House Historical Association. ISBN 0-912308-57-5.
- Gaddis, John Lewis (2005). The Cold War: A New History. The Penguin Press.
- Hertsgaard, Mark. (1988) On Bended Knee: The Press and the Reagan Presidency. New York, New York: Farrar Straus and Giroux.
- LaFeber, Walter (2002). America, Russia, and the Cold War, 1945-1971. New York: Wiley.
- Matlock, Jack (2004). Reagan and Gorbachev: How the Cold War Ended. New York: Random House. ISBN 0-679-46323-2.
- Morris, Edmund (1999). Dutch: A Memoir of Ronald Reagan. Random House. includes fictional material
- Reagan, Nancy (1989). My Turn: The Memoirs of Nancy Reagan. New York: Harper Collins.
- Reagan, Ronald (1990). An American Life. New York: Simon and Schuster. ISBN 0-7434-0025-9.
- Reeves, Richard (2005). President Reagan: The Triumph of Imagination. New York: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0-7432-3022-1.
- Regan, Donald (1988). For the Record: From Wall Street to Washington. New York: Harcourt. ISBN 0-15-163966-3.
- Walsh, Kenneth (1997). Ronald Reagan. New York: Random House Value Publishing, Inc. ISBN 0-517-20078-3.
Further reading 
- Reagan Library
- Ronald Reagan biography on whitehouse.gov
- Reagan Era study guide, timeline, quotes, trivia, teacher resources