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Ronald Reagan

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Ronald Wilson Reagan (Template:IPAc-en Template:Respell; February 6, 1911Template:SpndJune 5, 2004) was an American politician and actor who served as the 40th president of the United States from 1981 to 1989. He previously served as the 33rd governor of California from 1967 to 1975 and as president of the Screen Actors Guild from 1947 to 1952 and from 1959 until 1960.

Reagan graduated from Eureka College in 1932 and began to work as a sports broadcaster in Iowa. In 1937, Reagan moved to California, where he became a film actor. From 1947 to 1952, Reagan served as the president of the Screen Actors Guild. In the 1950s, he worked in television and spoke for General Electric. From 1959 to 1960, he again served as the Screen Actors Guild's president. In 1964, "A Time for Choosing" gave Reagan attention as a new conservative figure. He was elected governor of California in 1966. During his governorship, he raised taxes, turned the state budget deficit into a surplus, and cracked down harshly on student protests in Berkeley. After challenging and nearly defeating incumbent president Gerald Ford in the 1976 Republican presidential primaries, Reagan won the Republican nomination and then a landslide victory over incumbent Democratic president Jimmy Carter in the 1980 United States presidential election.

In his first term, Reagan implemented "Reaganomics", which involved economic deregulation and cuts in both taxes and government spending during a period of stagflation. He escalated an arms race with the Soviet Union and transitioned Cold War policy from détente to rollback. He also survived an assassination attempt, fought public sector labor unions, expanded the war on drugs, and ordered the invasion of Grenada in 1983. In the 1984 presidential election, Reagan defeated former vice president Walter Mondale in another landslide victory. Foreign affairs dominated Reagan's second term, including the 1986 bombing of Libya, the Iran–Iraq War, the secret sale of arms to Iran to fund the Contras, and a more conciliatory approach in talks with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev that culminated in the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty.

Reagan left the presidency in 1989 with the American economy having seen a significant reduction of inflation, the unemployment rate having fallen, and the United States having entered its then-longest peacetime expansion. At the same time, the federal debt had nearly tripled since 1981 as a result of his cuts in taxes and increased military spending, despite cuts to domestic discretionary spending. Alzheimer's disease hindered Reagan's post-presidency and his physical and mental capacities rapidly deteriorated, ultimately leading to his death in 2004. His presidency constituted the Reagan era, and he is considered a prominent conservative figure in the United States. Historians and scholars have ranked Reagan among the middle to upper tier of American presidents, and he is often viewed favorably among the general public.

Early life

Ronald Wilson Reagan was born on February 6, 1911, in a commercial building in Tampico, Illinois, as the younger son of Nelle Clyde Wilson and Jack Reagan.Template:Sfn Nelle was committed to the Disciples of Christ,Template:Sfn which believed in the Social Gospel.Template:Sfn She led prayer meetings and ran mid-week prayers at her church when the pastor was out of town.Template:Sfn Reagan credited her spiritual influenceTemplate:Sfn and he became a Christian.Template:Sfn According to Stephen Vaughn, Reagan's values came from his pastor, and the First Christian Church's religious, economic and social positions "coincided with the words, if not the beliefs of the latter-day Reagan".Template:Sfn Jack focused on making money to take care of the family,Template:Sfn but this was complicated by his alcoholism.Template:Sfn He also strongly opposed the Ku Klux Klan, racism, and bigotry.Template:Sfn Neil was Reagan's older brother.Template:Sfn

Reagan's family lived in Chicago, Galesburg, and Monmouth before returning to Tampico. In 1920, they settled in Dixon, which Reagan called his hometown.Template:Sfn They lived in a house near the H. C. Pitney Variety Store Building.Template:Sfn Reagan attended Dixon High School, where he developed interests in drama and football.Template:Sfn His first job involved working as a lifeguard at the Rock River in Lowell Park.Template:Sfn In 1928, Reagan began attending Eureka CollegeTemplate:Sfn at Nelle's approval on religious grounds.Template:Sfn He was a mediocre studentTemplate:Sfn that participated in sports, drama, and campus politics. He became student body president and joined a student strike that resulted in the college president's resignation.Template:Sfn When two black football teammates were refused service at a segregated hotel, Reagan invited them to his parents' home nearby in Dixon and his parents welcomed them. At the time, his parents' stance on racial questions were seemingly, unusually progressive in Dixon.Template:Sfnm Reagan himself had grown up with very few black Americans there and he was unaware of a race problem.Template:Sfn

Entertainment career


Radio and film

Template:Multiple image

After obtaining a Bachelor of Arts degree in economics and sociology from Eureka College in 1932,Template:Sfnm Reagan took a job in Davenport, Iowa, as a sports broadcaster for four football games in the Big Ten Conference.Template:Sfn He then worked for WHO radio in Des Moines as a broadcaster for the Chicago Cubs. His specialty was creating play-by-play accounts of games using only basic descriptions that the station received by wire as the games were in progress.Template:Sfn Simultaneously, he often expressed his opposition to racism.Template:Sfn In 1936, while traveling with the Cubs to their spring training in California, Reagan took a screen test that led to a seven-year contract with Warner Bros.Template:Sfn

Reagan arrived at Hollywood in 1937, debuting in Love Is on the Air (1937).Template:Sfn Using a simple and direct approach to acting and following his directors' instructions,Template:Sfn Reagan made thirty films, mostly B films, before beginning military service in April 1942.Template:Sfn He broke out of these types of films by portraying George Gipp in Knute Rockne, All American (1940), which would be rejuvenated when reporters called Reagan "the Gipper" while he campaigned for president of the United States.Template:Sfn Afterward, Reagan starred in Kings Row (1942) as a leg amputee, asking, "Where's the rest of me?"Template:Sfn His performance was considered his best by many critics.Template:Sfn Reagan became a star,Template:Sfn with Gallup polls placing him "in the top 100 stars" from 1941 to 1942.Template:Sfn

World War II interrupted the movie stardom that Reagan would never be able to achieve againTemplate:Sfn as Warner Bros. became uncertain about his ability to generate ticket sales. Reagan, who had a limited acting range, was dissatisfied with the roles he received. As a result, Lew Wasserman, renegotiated his contract with his studio, allowing him to also make films with Universal Pictures, Paramount Pictures, and RKO Pictures as a freelancer. With this, Reagan appeared in multiple western films, something that had been denied him working at Warner Bros.Template:Sfn In 1952, he ended his relationship with Warner Bros.,Template:Sfn but went on to appear in a total of 53 films,Template:Sfn his last being The Killers (1964).Template:Sfn

Military service

Captain Reagan in the Army Air Force working for the 1st Motion Picture Unit in Culver City, California, between 1943 and 1944
Reagan at Fort Roach, between 1943 and 1944

In April 1937, Reagan enlisted in the United States Army Reserve. He was assigned as a private in Des Moines' 322nd Cavalry Regiment and reassigned to second lieutenant in the Officers Reserve Corps.Template:Sfn He later became a part of the 323rd Cavalry Regiment in California.Template:Sfn As relations between the United States and Japan worsened, Reagan was ordered for active duty while he was filming Kings Row. Wasserman and Warner Bros. lawyers successfully sent draft deferments to complete the film in October 1941. However, to avoid accusations of Reagan being a draft dodger, the studio let him go in April 1942.Template:Sfnm

Reagan reported for duty with severe near-sightedness. His first assignment was at Fort Mason as a liaison officer, a role that allowed him to transfer to the United States Army Air Forces (AAF). Reagan became an AAF public relations officer and was subsequently assigned to the 18th AAF Base Unit in Culver CityTemplate:Sfn where he felt that it was "impossible to remove an incompetent or lazy worker" due to what he felt was "the incompetence, the delays, and inefficiencies" of the federal bureaucracy.Template:Sfn Despite this, Reagan participated in the Provisional Task Force Show Unit in BurbankTemplate:Sfn and continued to make theatrical films.Template:Sfn He was also ordered to temporary duty in New York City to participate in the sixth War Loan Drive before being reassigned to Fort MacArthur until his discharge on December 9, 1945, as a captain. Throughout his military service, Reagan produced over 400 training films.Template:Sfn

Screen Actors Guild presidency

When Robert Montgomery resigned as president of the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) on March 10, 1947, Reagan was elected to that position, in a special election.Template:Sfn Reagan's first tenure saw various labor-management disputes,Template:Sfn the Hollywood blacklist,Template:Sfn and the Taft–Hartley Act's implementation.Template:Sfn On April 10, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) interviewed Reagan and he provided them with the names of actors whom he believed to be communist sympathizers.Template:Sfn During a House Un-American Activities Committee hearing, Reagan testified that some guild members were associated with the Communist PartyTemplate:Sfn and that he was well-informed on a "jurisdictional strike".Template:Sfn When asked if he was aware of communist efforts within the Screen Writers Guild, he called the efforts "hearsay".Template:Sfn Reagan would remain SAG president until he resigned on November 10, 1952;Template:Sfn Walter Pidgeon succeeded him, but Reagan stayed on the board.Template:Sfn

The SAG fought with film producers over residual paymentsTemplate:Sfn and on November 16, 1959, the board installed Reagan as SAG president,[1] replacing the resigned Howard Keel. In his second stint, Reagan managed to secure the payments for actors whose theatrical films were released from 1948 to 1959 were televised. The producers were initially required to pay the actors fees, but they ultimately settled for pensions instead. However, they were still required to pay residuals for films after 1959. Reagan resigned from the SAG presidency on June 7, 1960, and also left the board;Template:Sfn George Chandler succeeded him as SAG president.Template:Sfn

Marriages and children

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Reagan married Brother Rat (1938) co-star Jane WymanTemplate:Sfn in January 1940.Template:Sfn Together, they had two biological daughters, Maureen in 1941,Template:Sfn and Christine,Template:Sfn born prematurely and dead the next day in 1947.Template:Sfn They adopted one son, Michael, in 1945.Template:Sfn Wyman filed to divorce Reagan in June 1948. She was uninterested in politics, and occasionally recriminated, reconciled and separated with him. Although Reagan was unprepared,Template:Sfn the divorce was finalized in July 1949. Reagan would also remain close to his children.Template:Sfn Later that year, Reagan met Nancy Davis after she contacted him in his capacity as the SAG president about her name appearing on a communist blacklist in Hollywood; she had been mistaken for another Nancy Davis.Template:Sfn They married in March 1952Template:Sfn and had two children, Patti in 1952, and Ron in 1958.Template:Sfn


Reagan initially refused to work in television and on Broadway theatre, but after receiving offers to work in nightclubs in 1954,Template:Sfn he became the host of MCA Inc. television production General Electric TheaterTemplate:Sfn at Wasserman's recommendation. It featured multiple guest stars,Template:Sfn and Ronald and Nancy Reagan, continuing to use her stage name Nancy Davis, acted together in three episodes.Template:Sfn When asked how Reagan was able to recruit such stars to appear on the show during television's infancy, he replied, "Good stories, top direction, production quality."Template:Sfn However, the viewership declined in the 1960s and the show was canceled in 1962.Template:Sfn In 1965, Reagan became the hostTemplate:Sfn of another MCA production, Death Valley Days.Template:Sfn

Early political activities

Reagan speaking for presidential candidate Barry Goldwater in Los Angeles, 1964
Reagan campaigning with Barry Goldwater, 1964

Reagan began as a Democrat, viewing Franklin D. Roosevelt as "a true hero".Template:Sfn He joined the American Veterans Committee and Hollywood Independent Citizens Committee of the Arts, Sciences and Professions (HICCASP), worked with the AFL–CIO to fight right-to-work laws,Template:Sfn and continued to speak out against racism when he was in Hollywood.Template:Sfn In 1945, Reagan planned to lead an HICCASP anti-nuclear rally, but Warner Bros. prevented him from going.Template:Sfn Reagan also supported Harry S. Truman in the 1948 presidential electionTemplate:Sfn and Helen Gahagan Douglas for the United States Senate in 1950. It was Reagan's belief that communism was a powerful backstage influence in Hollywood that led him to rally his friends against them.Template:Sfn

Reagan began shifting to the right when he supported the presidential campaigns of Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1952 and Richard Nixon in 1960.Template:Sfn When Reagan was contracted by General Electric (GE), he began giving speeches to their employees.Template:Sfn His speeches had a positive take on businesses, but a negative take on government.Template:Sfn Under anti-communistTemplate:Sfn Lemuel Boulware, the employees were encouraged to vote for business-friendly officials.Template:Sfn In 1961, Reagan adapted his speeches into another speech to criticize Medicare.Template:Sfn In his view, its legislation would have meant "the end of individual freedom in the United States".Template:Sfn In 1962, Reagan was dropped by GE,Template:Sfn and he formally registered as a Republican.Template:Sfn He said, "I didn't leave the Democratic Party. The party left me."Template:Sfn

In 1964, Reagan gave a speech for presidential contender Barry GoldwaterTemplate:Sfn that was eventually referred to as "A Time for Choosing".Template:Sfn Reagan argued that the Founding Fathers "knew that governments don't control things. And they knew when a government sets out to do that, it must use force and coercion to achieve its purpose"Template:Sfn and that "We've been told increasingly that we must choose between left or right."Template:Sfn Even though the speech was not enough to turn around the faltering Goldwater campaign, it increased Reagan's profile among conservatives. David S. Broder and Stephen H. Hess called it "the most successful national political debut since William Jennings Bryan electrified the 1896 Democratic convention with his famous 'Cross of Gold' address".Template:Sfn

1966 California gubernatorial election


The Reagans celebrating Ronald's victory in the 1966 California gubernatorial election at The Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles
Ronald and Nancy Reagan celebrating his gubernatorial election victory, 1966

In January 1966, Reagan announced his candidacy for the California governorship,Template:Sfn repeating his stances on individual freedom and big government.Template:Sfn When he met with black Republicans in March,Template:Sfn he was criticized for opposing the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Certain in his own lack of prejudice, Reagan responded resentfully that bigotry was not in his natureTemplate:Sfn and later argued that certain provisions of the act infringed upon the rights of property owners.Template:Sfn After the Supreme Court of California ruled that the initiative that repealed the Rumford Act was unconstitutional in May, he voiced his support for the act's repeal,Template:Sfn but later preferred amending it.Template:Sfn In the Republican primary, Reagan defeated George Christopher,Template:Sfn a moderateTemplate:Sfn who William F. Buckley Jr. thought had painted Reagan as extreme.Template:Sfn

Reagan's general election opponent, Pat Brown, attempted to label Reagan as an extremist and tout his own accomplishments.Template:Sfn Reagan portrayed himself as a political outsider,Template:Sfn and charged Brown as responsible for the Watts riots and lenient on crime.Template:Sfn In numerous speeches, Reagan "hit the Brown administration about high taxes, uncontrolled spending, the radicals at the University of California, Berkeley, and the need for accountability in government".Template:Sfn Meanwhile, many in the press perceived Reagan as "monumentally ignorant of state issues", though Lou Cannon said that Reagan benefited from an appearance he and Brown made on Meet the Press in September.Template:Sfn Ultimately, Reagan won the governorship with 57 percent of the vote compared to Brown's 42 percent.Template:Sfn

California governorship (1967–1975)

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The Reagans at an airport, 1972
The Reagans in 1972

Brown spent much of California's funds on new programs, prompting them to use accrual accounting to avoid raising taxes. Consequently, it generated a larger deficit,Template:Sfn and Reagan would call for reduced government spending and tax hikes to balance the budget.Template:Sfn He worked with Jesse M. Unruh on securing tax increases and promising future property tax cuts. This caused some conservatives to accuse Reagan of betraying his principles.Template:Sfn As a result, taxes on sales, banks, corporate profits, inheritances, liquor, and cigarettes jumped. Kevin Starr states, Reagan "gave Californians the biggest tax hike in their history—and got away with it."Template:Sfn In the 1970 gubernatorial election, Unruh used Reagan's tax policy against him, saying it disproportionally favored the wealthy. Reagan countered that he was still committed to reducing property taxes.Template:Sfn By 1973, the budget had a surplus, which Reagan preferred "to give back to the people".Template:Sfn

Reagan reacted to the Black Panther Party's strategy of copwatching by signing the Mulford Act in 1967Template:Sfn to prohibit the public carrying of firearms. On May 2, before the act was passed, 26 Panthers were arrested after interrupting a debate on the bill in the California State Capitol. The act was California's most restrictive piece of gun control legislation, with critics saying that it was "overreacting to the political activism of organizations such as the Black Panthers". Reagan also approved additional legislation for a waiting period of fifteen days as a "cooling-off" period for handgun buyers so that they would not purchase weapons in the heat of the moment and could think about their future actions.Template:Sfn Although the Panthers gained national attention, their membership barely grew.Template:Sfn The act marked the beginning of both modern legislation and public attitude studies on gun control.Template:Sfn

After Reagan won the 1966 election, he and his advisors planned a run in the 1968 Republican presidential primaries.Template:Sfn He ran as an unofficial candidate to cut into Nixon's southern support and be a compromise candidate if there were to be a brokered convention. He won California's delegates,Template:Sfn but Nixon secured enough delegates for the nomination.Template:Sfn

Reagan, who had been critical of administrators tolerating student demonstrations in the city of Berkeley,Template:Sfn sent the California Highway Patrol and other officers to quell the People's Park protests in May 1969. One student was shot and killed while many police officers and two reporters were injured. Reagan then commanded the state National Guard troops to occupy Berkeley for seventeen days to subdue the protesters, allowing other students to attend class safely. In February 1970, violent protests broke out near the University of California, Santa Barbara, where he once again commanded the National Guard. On April 7, Reagan defended his response to the protests, saying, "If it takes a bloodbath, let's get it over with. No more appeasement." When further violence erupted on April 18, one student was inadvertently killed by a policeman, leaving Reagan distraught.Template:Sfn

During his victorious reelection campaign in 1970, Reagan, remaining critical of government, promised to prioritize welfare reform.Template:Sfn He was concerned that the programs were disincentivizing work and that the growing welfare rolls would lead to both an unbalanced budget and another big tax hike in 1972.Template:Sfn At the same time, the Federal Reserve increased interest rates to combat inflation, putting the American economy in a mild recession. Reagan worked with Bob Moretti to tighten up the eligibility requirements so that the financially needy could continue receiving payments. This was only accomplished after Reagan softened his criticism of Nixon's Family Assistance Plan. Nixon then lifted regulations to shepherd California's experiment.Template:Sfn In 1976, the Employment Development Department published a report suggesting that the experiment that ran from 1971 to 1974 was unsuccessful.[2]

Reagan did not run for the governorship in 1974 and it was won by Pat Brown's son, Jerry.Template:Sfn Reagan's governorship, as professor Gary K. Clabaugh writes, saw public schools deteriorate due to his opposition to additional basic education funding.Template:Sfn As for higher education, journalist William Trombley believed that the budget cuts Reagan enacted damaged Berkeley's student-faculty ratio and research.Template:Sfn Additionally, the homicide rate doubled and armed robbery rates rose as well during Reagan's eight years, even with the many laws Reagan signed to try toughening criminal sentencing and reforming the criminal justice system.Template:Sfn Reagan strongly supported capital punishment, but his efforts to enforce it were thwarted by People v. Anderson in 1972.Template:Sfn According to his son, Michael, Reagan said that he regretted signing the Family Law Act that granted no-fault divorces.Template:Sfn Saying he was unaware of the mental health provision, Reagan expressed regret over signing California's 1967 Therapeutic Abortion Act that allowed abortions in the cases of rape and incest when a doctor determined the birth would impair the physical or mental health of the mother. Reagan believed that doctors were interpreting the provision loosely and more abortions were resulting.Template:Sfn

Seeking the presidency (1975–1981)

1976 Republican primaries

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Reagan and Gerald Ford shaking hands on the podium after Reagan narrowly lost the nomination at the 1976 Republican National Convention
Reagan and Gerald Ford shaking hands on the podium after Reagan narrowly lost the nomination at the 1976 Republican National Convention

Insufficiently conservative to ReaganTemplate:Sfn and many other Republicans,Template:Sfn president Gerald Ford suffered from multiple political and economic woes. Ford, running for president, was disappointed to hear him also run.Template:Sfn Reagan was strongly critical of détente and Ford's policy of détente with the Soviet Union.Template:Sfn He repeated "A Time for Choosing" around countryTemplate:Sfn before announcing his campaign on November 20 when he discussed economic and social problems, and to a lesser extent, foreign affairs.Template:Sfn With both candidates determined to knock out each other early in the primaries,Template:Sfn Reagan would suffer devastating losses in the first five primaries of 1976, beginning with New Hampshire.Template:Sfn There, he popularized the welfare queen narrative about Linda Taylor, exaggerating her misuse of welfare benefits and igniting voter resentment for welfare reform,Template:Sfn but never overtly mentioning her name or race.Template:Sfn

In Florida, Reagan referred to a man morphing into a "strapping young buck" after buying steak with food stamps,Template:Sfn which became an example of dog whistle politics.Template:Sfn He also accused Ford for handing the Panama Canal to Panama's government while Ford implied that he would end Social Security.Template:Sfn Then, in Illinois, he again criticized Ford's policy and his secretary of state, Henry Kissinger.Template:Sfn Losing these primaries prompted Reagan to desperately win North Carolina's by running a grassroots campaign and uniting with the Jesse Helms political machine that viciously attacked Ford. Reagan won an upset victory, convincing party delegates that Ford's nomination was no longer guaranteed.Template:Sfnm

Reagan won subsequent victories in Texas, Alabama, Georgia, and Indiana by continuing to attack social programs, opposing forced busing, accumulating support from a declining George Wallace presidential campaign,Template:Sfn and repeating his criticism of Ford and Kissinger's policy.Template:Sfn The result was a seesaw battle for the 1,130 delegates required for their party's nomination that neither would reach before the Kansas City conventionTemplate:Sfn in August.Template:Sfn Furthermore, Ford abandoned mentioning détente and began invoking Reagan's preferred phrase, "peace through strength".Template:Sfn

Reagan took John Sears' advice of choosing liberal Richard Schweiker as his running mate, hoping to pry loose of delegates from Pennsylvania and other states,Template:Sfn and distract Ford. Instead, conservatives were left alienated. Ford picked up the remaining uncommitted delegates and prevailed, earning 1,187 to Reagan's 1,070. Before Ford gave his acceptance speech, he invited Reagan to address the convention. In his impromptu speech, Reagan emphasized individual freedomTemplate:Sfn and the dangers of nuclear weapons. In 1977, Ford told Cannon that Reagan's primary challenge contributed to his own narrow loss to Democrat Jimmy Carter in the 1976 United States presidential election.Template:Sfn

1980 election

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Results for the 1980 United States presidential election
1980 electoral vote results

Beginning in 1977, Reagan emerged as a vocal critic of President Carter. The Panama Canal Treaty's signing, the 1979 oil crisis, and rise in the inflation, interest and unemployment rates helped set up his 1980 presidential campaign,Template:Sfn which he announced on November 13, 1979Template:Sfn with an indictment of the federal government.Template:Sfn Reagan stressed his fundamental principles of tax cuts to stimulate the economy and having both a small government and a strong national defense,Template:Sfn since he believed the United States was behind the Soviet Union militarily.[3] Heading into 1980, his age became an issue among the press, and the United States was in a severe recession.Template:Sfn In the primaries, Reagan lost Iowa to George H. W. Bush, but rebounded in New Hampshire. Soon thereafter, Reagan's opponents began dropping out of the primaries, including John B. Anderson, who left the party to become an independent candidate. Reagan easily captured the presidential nomination and chose Bush as his running mate at the Detroit convention in July.Template:Sfn

The general election pitted Reagan against Carter amid the multitude of domestic concerns and ongoing Iran hostage crisis that began on November 4, 1979.Template:Sfnm Reagan's campaign worried that Carter would be able to secure the release of the American hostages in Iran as part of the October surprise,Template:Sfn Carter "suggested that Reagan would wreck Social Security" and portrayed him as a warmonger,Template:Sfn and Anderson carried support from liberal Republicans dissatisfied with Reagan's conservatism.Template:SfnTemplate:Efn One of Reagan's key strengths was his appeal to the rising conservative movement. Though most conservative leaders espoused cutting taxes and budget deficits, many conservatives focused more closely on social issues like abortion and homosexuality.[4] Evangelical Protestants became an increasingly important voting bloc, and they generally supported Reagan.[5] Reagan also won the backing of Reagan Democrats.[6] Though he advocated socially conservative view points, Reagan focused much of his campaign on attacks against Carter's foreign policy.[7]

In August, Reagan gave a speech at the Neshoba County Fair, stating his belief in states' rights. Joseph Crespino argues that the visit was designed to reach out to Wallace-inclined voters,Template:Sfn and some also saw these actions as an extension of the Southern strategy to garner white support for Republican candidates.[8] Reagan's supporters have asserted that this was his typical anti-big government rhetoric, without racial context or intent.[9][10][11] In the October 28 debate, Carter correctly chided Reagan for being against national health insurance. Reagan replied, "There you go again", though the audience laughed and viewers found him more appealing.Template:Sfn Reagan later asked the audience if they were better off than they were four years ago, slightly paraphrasing Roosevelt's words in 1934.Template:SfnTemplate:Efn

On November 4, he won a decisive victory in the Electoral College over Carter, carrying 44 states and receiving 489 electoral votes to Carter's 49 in six states and the District of Columbia. He won the popular vote by a narrower margin, receiving nearly 51 percent to Carter's 41 percent and Anderson's 7 percent. Republicans also won a majority of seats in the Senate for the first time since 1952Template:Sfn while Democrats retained the House of Representatives.Template:Sfn

Presidency (1981–1989)

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First inauguration

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Reagan giving his inauguration speech at the United States Captiol, 1981
Reagan delivering his inaugural address, January 1981

The 40th president of the United States,Template:Sfn Reagan was sworn into office for his first term on January 20, 1981. In his inaugural address, he addressed the country's economic malaise, arguing, "In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem, government is the problem."Template:Sfn In a final insult to President Carter, Iran had waited until Reagan had been sworn in before sending the hostages home.Template:Sfn

"Reaganomics" and the economy

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Reagan addressing the nation from the Oval Office on tax reduction legislation, 1981
Reagan outlining his plan for tax cuts, July 1981

Reagan advocated a laissez-faire philosophy,Template:Sfn and promoted a set of neoliberal reforms dubbed "Reaganomics", which included monetarism and supply-side economics.Template:Sfnm To achieve this, Reagan worked with boll weevil Democrats to pass tax and budget legislation in a Congress led by Tip O'Neill.Template:SfnTemplate:Efn He lifted federal oil and gasoline price controls on January 28, 1981,Template:Sfn and later signed the Economic Recovery Tax Act of 1981Template:Sfn to dramatically lower federal income tax rates and require exemptions and brackets to be indexed for inflation starting in 1985.Template:Sfn The Tax Reform Act of 1986 reduced the number of tax brackets and top tax rate, and almost doubled personal exemptions.Template:Sfn Conversely, Reagan raised taxes eleven times,Template:Sfn including the Tax Equity and Fiscal Responsibility Act of 1982 amid growing concerns about the mounting federal debt.Template:Sfn The bill doubled the federal cigarette tax and rescinded a portion of the corporate tax cuts from the 1981 tax bill. By 1983, the amount of federal tax had fallen for all or most taxpayers, but most strongly affected the wealthy.Template:Sfn

Reagan said that the tax cuts would not increase the deficit as long as there was enough economic growth and spending cuts. His policies proposed that economic growth would occur when the tax cuts spur investments, which would result in more spending, consumption, and (ergo) tax revenue. This theoretical relationship has been illustrated by some with the controversial Laffer curve.Template:Sfnm Critics labeled this "trickle-down economics", the belief that tax policies that benefit the wealthy will spread to the poor.Template:Sfn Milton Friedman and Robert Mundell argued that these policies invigorated America's economy and contributed to the economic boom of the 1990s.[12] As for the 1982 tax increase, many of his supporters condemned the bill, but Reagan defended his preservation of cuts on individual income tax rates.Template:Sfn According to Paul Krugman, "Over all, the 1982 tax increase undid about a third of the 1981 cut; as a share of GDP, the increase was substantially larger than Mr. Clinton's 1993 tax increase."[13]

Inflation and unemployment

Line charts showing Bureau of Labor Statistics and Federal Reserve Economic Data information on the monthly unemployment, inflation, and interest rates from January 1981 to January 1989
Monthly unemployment, inflation, and interest rates from January 1981 to January 1989 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics and Federal Reserve Economic Data

Reagan took office in the midst of stagflation.Template:Sfn The economy briefly experienced growth before plunging into a recession in July 1981.Template:Sfn As Federal Reserve chairman, Paul Volcker fought inflation by pursuing a tight money policy of high interest rates,Template:Sfn which restricted lending and investment, raised unemployment, and temporarily reduced economic growth.Template:Sfn In December 1982, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) measured the unemployment rate at 10.8 percent.Template:Sfn Around the same time, economic activity began to rise until its end in 1990, setting the record for the longest peacetime expansion.Template:Sfn In 1983, the recession endedTemplate:Sfn and Reagan nominated Volcker to a second term in fear of damaging confidence in the economic recovery.Template:Sfn

Reagan appointed Alan Greenspan to succeed Volcker in 1987. Greenspan raised interest rates in another attempt to curb inflation, setting off the Black Monday although the markets eventually recovered.Template:Sfn By 1989, the BLS measured the unemployment rate at 5.3 percent.Template:Sfn The inflation rate dropped from 12 percent during the 1980 election to under 5 percent in 1989. Likewise, the interest rate dropped from 15 percent to under 10 percent.Template:Sfn Yet, not all shared equally in the economic recovery, and both economic inequalityTemplate:Sfn and the number of homeless individuals increased during the 1980s.Template:Sfn Critics have contended that a majority of the jobs created during this decade paid the minimum wage.Template:Sfn

Government spending

In 1981, in an effort to keep it solvent, Reagan approved a plan for cuts to Social Security. He later backed off of these plans due to public backlash.Template:Sfn He then created the Greenspan Commission to keep Social Security financially secure and in 1983, he signed amendments to raise both the program's payroll taxes and retirement age for benefits.Template:Sfn He had signed the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1981 to cut funding for federal assistance such as food stamps, unemployment benefits, subsidized housing and the Aid to Families with Dependent Children,Template:Sfn and would discontinue the Comprehensive Employment and Training Act.Template:Sfn On the other side, defense spending doubled between 1981 and 1985.[3] During Reagan's presidency, Project Socrates operated within the Defense Intelligence Agency in order to discover why the United States was unable to maintain its economic competitiveness. According to program director Michael Sekora, their findings helped the country exceed Soviet missile defense technology.[14]Template:Sfn


Reagan sought to loosen federal regulation of economic activities, and he appointed key officials who shared this agenda. William Leuchtenburg writes that by 1986, the Reagan administration eliminated almost half of the federal regulations that had existed in 1981.Template:Sfn The 1982 Garn–St. Germain Depository Institutions Act deregulated savings and loan associations by letting them make a variety of loans and investments outside of real estate.Template:Sfn After the bill's passage, savings and loans associations engaged in riskier activities, and the leaders of some institutions embezzled funds. The administration's inattentiveness toward the industry contributed to the savings and loan crisis and costly bailouts.Template:Sfn


The deficits were exacerbated by the early 1980s recession, which cut into federal revenue.Template:Sfn The national debt tripled between the fiscal years of 1980 and 1989, and the national debt as a percentage of the gross domestic product rose from 33 percent in 1981 to 53 percent by 1989. During his time in office, Reagan never submitted a balanced budget. The United States borrowed heavily in order to cover newly spawned federal budget deficits.Template:Sfn Reagan described the tripled debt the "greatest disappointment of his presidency".Template:Sfn Jeffrey Frankel opined that the deficits were a major reason why Reagan's successor, Bush, reneged on his campaign promise by raising taxes through the Budget Enforcement Act of 1990.[15]

Assassination attempt

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Ronald Reagan waves his hand as he walks out of the Washington Hilton. Surrounding him are secret service agents, policemen, press secretary James Brady, and aide Michael Deaver.
Reagan moments before he was shot, March 1981

On March 30, 1981, Reagan, James Brady, Thomas Delahanty, and Tim McCarthy were struck by gunfire from John Hinckley Jr. outside the Washington Hilton. Although "right on the margin of death" upon arrival at George Washington University Hospital, Reagan underwent surgery and recovered quickly.Template:Sfn Later, Reagan came to believe that God had spared his life "for a chosen mission".Template:Sfn

Supreme Court appointments

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Reagan appointed three associate justices to the Supreme Court of the United States: Sandra Day O'Connor in July 1981, Antonin Scalia in 1986, and Anthony Kennedy in 1988. He also appointed William Rehnquist as the chief justice in 1986.Template:Sfn The direction of the Supreme Court's reshaping has been described as conservative.Template:SfnTemplate:Sfn

Public sector labor union fights

Ronald Reagan speaks to the press in the Rose Garden about the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization strike.
Reagan making a statement to the press regarding the air traffic controllers strike, August 1981

Early in August 1981, the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization (PATCO) went on strike, violating a federal law prohibiting government unions from striking.Template:Sfn On August 3, Reagan said that he would fire air traffic controllers if they did not return to work within 48 hours; according to him, 38 percent did not return. On August 13, Reagan fired roughly 12,000 striking air traffic controllers who ignored his order.Template:Sfn He used military controllersTemplate:Sfn and supervisors to handle the nation's commercial air traffic until new controllers could be hired and trained.Template:Sfn The breaking of the PATCO strike demoralized organized labor, and the number of strikes fell greatly in the 1980s.Template:Sfn With the assent of Reagan's sympathetic National Labor Relations Board appointees, many companies also won wage and benefit cutbacks from unions, especially in the manufacturing sector.Template:Sfn During Reagan's presidency, the share of employees who were part of a labor union dropped from approximately one-fourth of the total workforce to approximately one-sixth of the total workforce.Template:Sfn

Civil rights

Ronald Reagan at the signing ceremony for Martin Luther King Jr. Day legislation in the Rose Garden. Coretta Scott King, George H. W. Bush, Howard Baker, Bob Dole, Jack Kemp, Samuel Pierce, and Katie Hall looking on.
Reagan signging the Passage of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, November 1983

Despite Reagan having opposed the Voting Rights Act of 1965,Template:Sfn the bill was extended for 25 years in 1982.Template:Sfn He initially opposed the establishment of Martin Luther King Jr. Day,[16] but signed a veto-proof bill to create the holiday in 1983, and also alluded to claims that King was associated with communists during his career.Template:Sfn In 1984, he signed legislation intended to impose fines for fair housing discrimination offenses.Template:Sfn In March 1988, Reagan vetoed the Civil Rights Restoration Act of 1987, but Congress overrode his veto. He had argued that the bill unreasonably increased the federal government's power and undermined the rights of churches and business owners.Template:Sfn Later in September, legislation was passedTemplate:Sfn to correct loopholes in the Fair Housing Act of 1968.Template:Sfn Reagan signed this legislation in a Rose Garden ceremony.[17]

Early in his presidency, Reagan appointed Clarence M. Pendleton Jr. as chair of the United States Commission on Civil Rights to criticism for politicizing the agency. Pendleton and Reagan's subsequent appointees steered the commission in line with Reagan's views on civil rights, arousing the ire of civil rights advocates.Template:Sfn In 1987, Reagan unsuccessfully nominated Robert Bork to the Supreme Court as a way to achieve his civil rights policy that could not be fulfilled during his presidency; his administration had opposed affirmative action, particularly in education, federal assistance programs, housing and employment,Template:Sfn but Reagan reluctantly continued these policies.Template:Sfn In housing, Reagan's administration saw considerably fewer fair housing cases filed than the three previous administrations.Template:Sfn Reagan's recasting of civil rights through reduced enforcement of civil rights laws has been regarded by some as the largest since Lyndon B. Johnson's presidency.Template:Sfnm

War on drugs

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Ronald Reagan with Nancy Reagan, Paula Hawkins, Charles Rangel and Benjamin Gilman for the signing ceremony for the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986 in the East Room, 1986
Reagan signing the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986, October 1986

In response to concerns about the increasing crack epidemic, Reagan intensified the war on drugs in 1982.Template:Sfn While the American public did not see drugs as an important issue then, the FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration and the United States Department of Defense all increased their anti-drug funding immensely.Template:Sfn Reagan's administration publicized the campaign to gain support after crack became widespread in 1985.Template:Sfn Reagan signed the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986 and 1988 to specify penalties for drug offenses.Template:Sfn Both bills have been criticized in the years since for promoting racial disparities.Template:Sfn Additionally, Nancy Reagan founded the "Just Say No" campaign to discourage others from engaging in recreational drug use and raise awareness about the dangers of drugs.Template:Sfn A 1988 study showed 39 percent of high school seniors using illegal drugs compared to 53 percent in 1980,Template:Sfn but Scott Lilienfeld and Hal Arkowitz say that the success of these types of campaigns have not been found to be affirmatively proven.[18]

Escalation of the Cold War


Reagan in the Oval Office, sitting with people from the Afghanistan-Pakistan region, February 1983
Reagan meeting with Afghan mujahideen leaders, February 1983

Reagan ordered a massive defense buildup;Template:Sfn he revived the B-1 Lancer program that had been cancelled by the Carter administration,Template:Sfn and deployed the MX missile.Template:Sfn In response to Soviet deployment of the SS-20, he oversaw NATO's deployment of the Pershing missile in Western Europe.Template:Sfn In 1982, Reagan tried to cut off the Soviet Union's access to hard currency by impeding its proposed gas line to Western Europe. It hurt the Soviet economy, but it also caused much ill will among American allies in Europe who counted on that revenue; he later retreated on this issue.Template:Sfn In March 1983, Reagan introduced the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) to protect the United States from space intercontinental ballistic missiles. He believed that this defense shield could protect the country from nuclear destruction in a hypothetical nuclear war with the Soviet Union.Template:Sfn There was much disbelief among the scientific community surrounding the program's scientific feasibility, leading opponents to dub the SDI "Star Wars",Template:Sfn though Soviet leader Yuri Andropov said it would lead to "an extremely dangerous path".Template:Sfn

In a 1982 address to the British Parliament, Reagan said, "the march of freedom and democracy ... will leave Marxism–Leninism on the ash heap of history."Template:Sfn David Cannadine says of Margaret Thatcher that "Reagan had been grateful for her interest in him at a time when the British establishment refused to take him seriously" with the two agreeing on "building up stronger defenses against Soviet Russia" and both believing in outfacing "what Reagan would later call 'the evil empire'"Template:Sfn in reference to the Soviet Union during a speech to the National Association of Evangelicals in March 1983.Template:Sfn After Soviet fighters downed Korean Air Lines Flight 007 in September, which included Larry McDonald and 61 other Americans, Reagan expressed outrage towards the Soviet Union.Template:Sfn The next day, reports suggested that the Soviets had fired on the plane by mistake.Template:Sfn In spite of the harsh, discordant rhetoric,[19] Reagan's administration continued discussions with the Soviet Union on START I.[20]

Although the Reagan administration agreed with the communist government in China to reduce the sale of arms to Taiwan in 1982,Template:Sfn Reagan himself was the first president to reject containment and détente, and to put into practice the concept that the Soviet Union could be defeated rather than simply negotiated with.[21] His covert aid to Afghan mujahideen forces against the SovietsTemplate:Sfn has been given credit for assisting in ending the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan.Template:Sfn However, some of the American-funded armaments introduced then would later pose a threat to American troops in the 2001–2021 war in Afghanistan.[22] In his 1985 State of the Union Address, Reagan proclaimed, "Support for freedom fighters is self-defense."Template:Sfn Through the Reagan Doctrine, his administration supported anti-communist movements that fought against groups backed by the Soviet Union in an effort to rollback Soviet-backed communist governments and reduce Soviet influence across the world.[23]Template:Sfn Critics have felt that the administration ignored the human rights violations in the countries they backed,Template:Sfnm including genocide in Guatemala[24] and mass killings in Chad.[25]

Invasion of Grenada

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Reagan in the White House to discuss the Grenada situation with a bipartisan group of members of Congress, October 1983
Reagan discussing the Grenada situation with a bipartisan group of members of Congress, October 1983

On October 19, 1983, Grenadan leader Maurice Bishop was overthrown and murdered by one of his colleagues. Several days later, Reagan ordered American forces to invade Grenada. Reagan cited a regional threat posed by a Soviet-Cuban military build-up in the Caribbean nation and concern for the safety of hundreds of American medical students at St. George's University as adequate reasons to invade. Two days of fighting commenced, resulting in an American victory.Template:Sfn While the invasion enjoyed public support in the United States, it was criticized internationally, with the United Nations General Assembly voting to censure the American government.Template:Sfn Regardless, Cannon later noted that throughout Reagan's 1984 presidential campaign, the invasion overshadowed the 1983 Beirut barracks bombings,Template:Sfn which killed 241 Americans taking part in an international peacekeeping operation.Template:Sfn

1984 election

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Results for the 1984 United States presidential election
1984 electoral vote results

Reagan announced his reelection campaign on January 29, 1984, declaring, "America is back and standing tall."Template:Sfn In February, his administration reversed the unpopular decision to send the United States Marine Corps to Lebanon, thus eliminating a political liability for him. Reagan faced minimal opposition in the Republican primaries,Template:Sfn and he and Bush accepted the nomination at the Dallas convention in August.Template:Sfn In the general election, his campaign ran the commercial, "Morning in America".Template:Sfn At a time when the American economy was already recovering,Template:Sfn former vice president Walter MondaleTemplate:Sfn was attacked by Reagan's campaign as a "tax-and-spend Democrat", while Mondale criticized the deficit, the SDI, and Reagan's civil rights policy. However, Reagan's age induced his campaign managers to minimize his public appearances. Mondale's campaign believed that Reagan's age and mental health were issues before the October presidential debates.Template:Sfn

Following Reagan's performance in the first debate where he struggled to recall statistics, his age was brought up by the media in negative fashion. Reagan's campaign changed his tactics for the second debate where he quipped, "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." This remark generated applause and laughter,Template:Sfn even from Mondale. At that point, Broder suggested that age was no longer a liability for Reagan,Template:Sfn and Mondale's campaign felt that "the election was over".Template:Sfn In November, Reagan won a landslide reelection victory with 59 percent of the popular vote and 525 electoral votes. Mondale won 41 percent of the popular vote and 13 electoral votes from the District of Columbia and his home state of Minnesota.Template:Sfn

Response to the AIDS epidemic

A 1987 ACT UP art installation quoting Reagan on AIDS with a blank slate to represent silence
Reagan has been criticized for his delayed and muted response to the AIDS epidemic. This 1987 art installation by ACT UP quotes Reagan on AIDS with a blank slate, representing total silence.

The AIDS epidemic began to unfold in 1981,Template:Sfn and AIDS was initially difficult to understand for physicians and the public.Template:Sfn As the epidemic advanced, according to White House physician and later physician to the president, brigadier general John Hutton, Reagan thought of AIDS as though "it was the measles and would go away". However, the October 1985 death of his friend Rock Hudson changed Reagan's view; Reagan approached Hutton for more information on the disease. In 1986, Reagan asked C. Everett Koop to draw up a report on the AIDS issue. Koop angered many evangelical conservatives, both in and out of the Reagan administration, by stressing the importance of sex education including condom usage in schools.Template:Sfn A year later, Reagan, who reportedly had not read the report,Template:Sfn gave his first speech on the epidemic when 36,058 Americans had been diagnosed with AIDS, and 20,849 had died of it.Template:Sfn

Scholars and AIDS activists have argued that the Reagan administration largely ignored the AIDS crisis.Template:SfnTemplate:SfnTemplate:Sfn Randy Shilts and Michael Bronski said that AIDS research was chronically underfunded during Reagan's administration, and Bronski added that requests for more funding by doctors at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were routinely denied.Template:Sfn[26] In a September 1985 press conference, after Hudson announced his AIDS diagnosis, Reagan called a government AIDS research program a "top priority", but also cited budgetary constraints.Template:Sfn Between the fiscal years of 1984 and 1989, federal spending on AIDS totaled $5.6 billion. The Reagan administration proposed $2.8 billion during this time period, but pressure from congressional Democrats resulted in the larger amount.[27]

Addressing apartheid

Reagan and Desmond Tutu shaking hands in the Oval Office, 1984
Shortly after the 1984 election, Reagan met Desmond Tutu, who described Reagan's administration as "an unmitigated disaster for us blacks",[28] and Reagan himself as "a racist pure and simple".[29]

Opposition to apartheid strengthened during Reagan's first term in office as its component disinvestment from South Africa movement, which had been in existence for quite some years. The opposition also gained critical mass following in the United States, particularly on college campuses and among mainline Protestant denominations.[30][31] President Reagan was opposed to divestiture because, as he wrote in a letter to Sammy Davis Jr., it "would hurt the very people we are trying to help and would leave us no contact within South Africa to try and bring influence to bear on the government". He also noted the fact that the "American-owned industries there employ more than 80,000 blacks" and that their employment practices were "very different from the normal South African customs".[32] The anti-communist focus of Reagan's administration lent itself to closer ties with the apartheid regime of South Africa, particularly with regards to matters pertaining to nuclear weapons.[33]

The Reagan administration developed constructive engagementTemplate:Sfn with the South African government as a means of encouraging it to move away from apartheid gradually. It was part of a larger initiative designed to foster peaceful economic development and political change throughout southern Africa.[34] This policy, however, engendered much public criticism, and renewed calls for the imposition of stringent sanctions.[35] In response, Reagan announced the imposition of new sanctions on the South African government, including an arms embargo in late 1985.[36] These sanctions were seen as weak by anti-apartheid activists and as insufficient by the president's opponents in Congress.[35] In 1986, Congress approved the Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act, which included tougher sanctions; Reagan's veto was overridden by Congress. Afterward, he remained opposed to apartheid and unsure of "how best to oppose it". Several European countries, as well as Japan, also imposed their sanctions on South Africa soon after.[37]

Libya bombing

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Reagan being briefed by the National Security Council Staff on the 1986 Libya air strike in the White House Situation Room. Seated with Reagan is George Shultz, William Casey, Don Regan, and Charles Gabriel.
Reagan receiving a briefing on the Libya bombing, April 1986

Contentious relations between Libya and the United States under President Reagan[38] were revived in the West Berlin discotheque bombing that injured 63 American military personnel and killed one serviceman on April 5, 1986. Stating that there was "irrefutable proof" that Libya had directed the "terrorist bombing", Reagan authorized the use of force against the country. In the late evening of April 15, the United States launched a series of airstrikes on ground targets in Libya.[39] Thatcher allowed the United States Air Force to use Britain's air bases to launch the attack, on the justification that the United Kingdom was supporting America's right to self-defense under Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations.[39] The attack was, according to Reagan, designed to halt Gaddafi's "ability to export terrorism", offering him "incentives and reasons to alter his criminal behavior".[40] The attack was condemned by many countries; by an overwhelming vote, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution to condemn the attack and deem it a violation of the Charter and international law.[41]

Iran–Contra affair

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Reagan in the Cabinet Room to receive the Tower Commission Report on the Iran–Contra affair, February 1987
Reagan receiving the Tower Commission Report on the Iran–Contra affair, February 1987

Reagan authorized William J. Casey to arm the Contras, fearing that Communists would take over Nicaragua if it remained under the leadership of the Sandinistas. Congress passed the 1982 Boland Amendment, prohibiting the CIA and United States Department of Defense from using their budgets to provide aid to the Contras. Still, the Reagan administration raised funds for the Contras from private donors and foreign governments.[42] When Congress learned that the CIA had secretly placed naval mines in Nicaraguan harbors, Congress passed a second Boland Amendment that barred granting any assistance to the Contras.[43] By mid-1985, Hezbollah began to take American hostages, holding eight of them in reaction to the role Israel and the United States played in the Lebanese Civil War.[44]

Reagan procured the release of seven American hostages held by Hezbollah by selling American arms to Iran, then engaged in the Iran–Iraq War, in hopes that Iran would pressure Hezbollah to release the hostages.[45] The Reagan administration sold over 2,000 missiles to Iran without informing Congress; Hezbollah released four hostages but captured an additional six Americans. On Oliver North's initiative, the administration redirected the proceeds from the missile sales to the Contras.[45] The transactions were exposed by Ash-Shiraa in early November 1986. Reagan initially denied any wrongdoing, but on November 25, he announced that John Poindexter and North had left the administration and that he would form the Tower Commission to investigate the transactions. A few weeks later, Reagan asked a panel of federal judges to appoint a special prosecutor who would conduct a separate investigation.[46]

The Tower Commission released a report in February 1987 confirming that the administration had traded arms for hostages and sent the proceeds of the weapons sales to the Contras. The report laid most of the blame on North, Poindexter, and Robert McFarlane, but it was also critical of Donald Regan and other White House staffers.[47] Investigators did not find conclusive proof that Reagan had known about the aid provided to the Contras, but the report noted that Reagan had "created the conditions which made possible the crimes committed by others" and had "knowingly participated or acquiesced in covering up the scandal."[48] The affair damaged the administration and raised questions about Reagan's competency and the wisdom of conservative policies.[49] The administration's credibility was also badly damaged on the international stage as it had violated its own arms embargo on Iran.[50]

Soviet decline and thaw in relations


Mikhail Gorbachev and Ronald Reagan signing the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty in the East Room, December 1987
Mikhail Gorbachev and Ronald Reagan signing the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, December 1987

Although the Soviets did not accelerate military spending in response to Reagan's military buildup,Template:Sfn their enormous military expenses, in combination with collectivized agriculture and inefficient planned manufacturing, were a heavy burden for the Soviet economy. At the same time, the prices of oil, the primary source of Soviet export revenues, fell to one third of the previous level in 1985. These factors contributed to a stagnant economy during Mikhail Gorbachev's tenure as the Soviet Union's leader.[51]

Reagan's foreign policy towards the Soviets wavered between brinkmanship and cooperation.[52] Reagan appreciated Gorbachev's revolutionary change in the direction of the Soviet policy and shifted to diplomacy, intending to encourage him to pursue substantial arms agreements.[21] They held four summit conferences between 1985 and 1988.[53] 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.[54] The critical summit was in Reykjavík in 1986, where they agreed to abolish all nuclear weapons. However, Gorbachev added the condition that SDI research must be confined to laboratories during the ten-year period when disarmament would take place. Reagan refused, stating that it was defensive only and that he would share the secrets with the Soviets, thus failing to reach a deal.[55]

In June 1987, Reagan addressed Gorbachev during a speech at the Berlin Wall, demanding that he "tear down this wall". The remark was ignored at the time, but after the wall fell in November 1989, it was retroactively recast as a soaring achievement.[56][57][58] In December, Reagan and Gorbachev met again at the Washington Summit[59] to sign the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, committing to the total abolition of their respective short-range and medium-range missile stockpiles.[60] The treaty established an inspections regime designed to ensure that both parties honored the agreement.[61] In May 1988, the U.S. Senate overwhelmingly voted in favor of ratifying the treaty,[62] providing a major boost to Reagan's popularity in the aftermath of the Iran–Contra affair. A new era of trade and openness between the two powers commenced, and the United States and Soviet Union cooperated on international issues such as the Iran–Iraq War.[63]

Post-presidency (1989–2004)

Template:Multiple image

After leaving the presidency on January 20, 1989,Template:Sfn Ronald and Nancy Reagan settled in a home in Bel Air, in addition to Rancho del Cielo in Santa Barbara.Template:Sfn He received multiple awards and honors.[64] In 1991, the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library opened.Template:Sfn On April 13, 1992, Reagan was assaulted by Richard Springer while accepting an award from the National Association of Broadcasters in Las Vegas,[65] though Reagan was not injured.[66] Reagan also addressed the 1992 Republican National Convention,Template:Sfn and spoke publicly in favor of the Brady Bill,[67] a constitutional amendment requiring a balanced budget, and the repeal of the 22nd Amendment. His final public speech occurred on February 3, 1994, during a tribute to him in Washington, D.C.; his last major public appearance was at the funeral of Richard Nixon on April 27, 1994.Template:Sfn

In August 1994, Reagan was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, which he announced through a handwritten letter in November.Template:Sfn There was speculation over how long he had demonstrated symptoms of mental degeneration,[68] but lay observations that he suffered from Alzheimer's while still in office have been widely refuted by medical experts;[69][70][71] his doctors said that he first began exhibiting overt symptoms of the illness in late 1992[72] or 1993.[71] Over time, the disease destroyed Reagan's mental capacity, leaving him able to recognize only a few people including his wife. Still, he continued to walk through parks and on beaches, playing golf, and until 1999, go to his office in nearby Century City.[71] Eventually, his family decided that he would live in quiet semi-isolation with his wife.[73]

Reagan died of pneumonia, complicated by Alzheimer's,[74] at his home in Los Angeles, on June 5, 2004.[75] President George W. Bush called Reagan's death "a sad hour in the life of America".[76] His public funeral was held in the Washington National Cathedral,Template:Sfn where eulogies were given by Margaret Thatcher, Brian Mulroney, George H. W. Bush, and George W. Bush.Template:Sfn Other world leaders attended including Mikhail Gorbachev and Lech Wałęsa.Template:Sfn Reagan was interred at his presidential library.Template:Sfn


Template:See also

Historical reputation


In 2008, British historian M. J. Heale summarized that historians have reached a broad consensus in which Reagan restored conservatism, turned the United States to the right, practiced a pragmatic conservatism that balanced ideology and the constraints of politics, revived faith in the presidency and American exceptionalism, and contributed to victory in the Cold War,Template:Sfn which ended with the Soviet Union's dissolution in 1991.Template:Sfnm Many conservative and liberal scholars agree that Reagan has been the most influential president since Roosevelt, leaving his imprint on American politics, diplomacy, culture, and economics through his effective communication of his conservative agenda and pragmatic compromising.[77] During the initial years of Reagan's post-presidency, historical rankings placed his presidency in the twenties.Template:Sfnm Throughout the 2000s and 2010s, his presidency often scored in the top ten.Template:Sfnm[78]

Many proponents, including his Cold War contemporaries,[79]Template:Sfnm believe that his defense policies, economic policies, military policies, and hard-line rhetoric against the Soviet Union and communism, together with his summits with Gorbachev, played a significant part in ending the Cold War.[80][21] In reverse, professor Jeffrey Knopf argues that being labeled "evil" probably made no difference to the Soviets but gave encouragement to the East-European citizens opposed to communism.[21] President Truman's policy of containment is also regarded as a force behind the fall of the Soviet Union, and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan undermined the Soviet system itself.[81] Nevertheless, Melvyn P. Leffler called Reagan "Gorbachev's minor, yet indispensable partner, setting the framework for the dramatic changes that neither anticipated happening anytime soon".Template:Sfn

Reagan was known for storytelling and humor,Template:Sfn which involved punsTemplate:Sfn and self-deprecation.Template:Sfn He had the ability to offer comfort to Americans during the aftermath of the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster.Template:Sfn He also had close friendships with many political leaders across the globe, especially the two strong conservatives Thatcher and Mulroney. Reagan and Thatcher provided mutual support in terms of fighting liberalism, reducing the welfare state, and dealing with the Soviet Union.[82] Reagan's ability to talk about substantive issues with understandable terms and to focus on mainstream American concerns earned him the laudatory moniker the "Great Communicator".Template:SfnTemplate:Sfn He also earned the nickname "Teflon President" in that public perceptions of him were not substantially tarnished by the multitude of controversies that arose during his administration.Template:SfnTemplate:Sfn

Political influence

Reagan led a new conservative movement, altering the political dynamic of the United States.[83] Conservatism became the dominant ideology for Republicans, displacing the party's faction of liberals and moderates.[84] More men voted Republican.[83] Reagan also often emphasized family values, despite being the first president to have been divorced.[85] He was supported by young voters, an allegiance that shifted many of them to the party.[86] He attempted to appeal to black voters in 1980,[87] but would receive the lowest black vote for a Republican presidential candidate at the time.Template:Sfn Throughout Reagan's presidency, Republicans were unable to gain complete control of Congress.Template:Sfn

The period of American history most dominated by Reagan and his policies that concerned taxes, welfare, defense, the federal judiciary, and the Cold War is known as the Reagan era, which emphasized that the Reagan Revolution had a permanent impact on the United States in domestic and foreign policy. The Bill Clinton administration is often treated as an extension of the era, as is the George W. Bush administration.[88] Since 1988, Republican presidential candidates have invoked Reagan's policies and beliefs.[89] Carlos Lozada noted Trump's praising of Reagan in a book he published during his 2016 campaign.[90]






Works cited








Journal articles



External links

Template:Sister project links

Official sites


News coverage


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  7. Patterson, pp. 145–146
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  19. G. Thomas Goodnight, "Ronald Reagan's re‐formulation of the rhetoric of war: Analysis of the 'zero option,' 'evil empire,' and 'star wars' addresses." Quarterly Journal of Speech 72.4 (1986): 390–414.
  20. Herring, pp. 868–869
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  34. Thomson, pp. 106–123
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  42. Weisberg, pp. 128–129
  43. Patterson, pp. 208–209
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  46. Patterson, pp. 210–211
  47. Brands, pp. 646–649
  48. Patterson, pp. 211–212
  49. Rossinow, pp. 202–204
  50. Brands, pp. 653, 674
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  57. Andreas Daum, Kennedy in Berlin (2008), pp. 207‒13.
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  59. Rossinow, pp. 234–235
  60. Patterson, p. 215
  61. Rossinow, p. 236
  62. Patterson, p. 216
  63. Herring, pp. 897–898
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  82. Paul Pierson, Dismantling the welfare state?: Reagan, Thatcher and the politics of retrenchment (Cambridge University Press, 1994).
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  88. Jack Godwin, Clintonomics: How Bill Clinton Reengineered the Reagan Revolution (2009).
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