26 Jun CB10. Ronald Reagan, Past President of the USA, A Review
A film actor who became a president of the USA. Ronald Reagan looked and spoke well during his eight years in office. He attributed high respect to the seat of the presidency. Reagan more or less stopped the Cold War of 40 years between the USA and the Soviet Union, and made the USA the sole superpower in 1991. The world became a safer place because of his presidency.
- In around 1,000 words, I would like to discuss Ronald Reagan, who I really like as a president of the USA. I possess three books on him on my shelf.
- Ronald Reagan (6 February 1911 – 5 June 2004; 93 years) was president of the USA from 1981 to 1989. He was the oldest president up to that time. A republican, his politics was conservatism although he was a democrat for some years before he became president.
- When he was young, he had a reputation of being a “jack of all trades”, excelling in campus politics, sports, and theatre. He was elected student body president. Later, Reagan was active in the Screen Actors Guild serving as its president for many years.
- In 1966, he was elected governor of California serving to 1975. He spurred people to go to work and advocated against the socialism mentality. He had campaigned on a platform of sending “the welfare bums back to work”.
- In 1980, Reagan beat the incumbent president, Jimmy Carter who was troubled by the Iran hostage crisis (1979–81) where 52 American citizens were held at the USA embassy in Tehran for more than a year (and who were only released after Reagan became president).
- As president, Reagan implemented ‘Reaganomics’ which advocated lowering tax rates and reducing government spending (small government was his style). Reagan however increased military spending, which increased the federal debt. Reagan pursued policies that reflected his personal belief in individual freedom.
- He was the first president to reject containment with the Soviet Union and put into practice the concept that the Soviet Union could be defeated rather than simply negotiated with. I remember I was scared that the world might end from nuclear war when Reagan escalated the Cold War.
- In March 1983, Reagan escalated an arms race of ‘Star Wars’ with the Soviet Union while engaging in talks with Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev. The Soviet Union was in decline and ultimately collapsed three years after Reagan left office. Reagan and the United Kingdom’s prime minister Margaret Thatcher both denounced the Soviet Union in ideological terms. Reagan had predicted that communism would collapse.
- Reagan famously told Gorbachev to “tear down this wall” – the Berlin wall. The demolition of the wall was completed in 1992. Reagan said of the Soviet Union – “Their society is economically weak, and it lacks the wealth, education, and technology to enter the information age. They have thrown everything into military production, and their society is starting to show terrible stress as a result. They can’t sustain military production the way we can. Eventually it will break them, and then there will be just one superpower in a safe world – if, only if, we can keep spending”.
- General Secretary Gorbachev said of Reagan’s Cold War role: “[He was] a man who was instrumental in bringing about the end of the Cold War,” and deemed him “a great president.” Gorbachev does not acknowledge a win or loss in the war, but rather a peaceful end; he said he was not intimidated by Reagan’s harsh rhetoric.
- In 1991, Communism was overthrown in the Soviet Union, and on 26 December 1991, the Soviet Union ceased to exist.
- Reagan’s opponent in the 1984 presidential election was former vice president Walter Mondale. Reagan at age 73 famously said “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, even from Mondale himself.
- In November 1984, Reagan won a landslide re-election victory, carrying 49 of the 50 states. Mondale won only his home state of Minnesota and the District of Columbia. Reagan won 525 of the 538 electoral votes, the most of any presidential candidate in USA history.
- In 1986, the Iran–Contra affair became a problem for Reagan. It stemmed from the use of proceeds from covert arms sales to Iran during the Iran-Iraq War to fund the Contra rebels fighting against the government in Nicaragua, which had been specifically outlawed by an act of Congress. Reagan professed that he was unaware of the plot’s existence.
- During Jimmy Carter’s last year in office (1980), inflation averaged 12.5 percent, compared with 4.4 percent during Reagan’s last year in office (1988). Under Reagan’s administration, the unemployment rate declined from 7.5 percent to 5.4 percent.
- When Reagan left office in 1989, he held an approval rating of 68%.
- Reagan earned the nickname “the Teflon President” – the Iran-Contra affair did not affect him in the end. Reagan was known to joke frequently during his lifetime, and displayed humour throughout his presidency. He was famous for storytelling. His age and soft-spoken speech gave him a warm grandfatherly image.
- In August 1984, Reagan made the following joke: “My fellow Americans, I’m pleased to tell you today that I’ve signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever. We begin bombing in five minutes”. This joke was well received.
- Reagan had the ability to talk about substantive issues with understandable terms. His focus on mainstream American concerns made him “The Great Communicator”.
- One poll placed Reagan as the eighth greatest USA president.
- Some critics of his presidency point out that Reagan’s economic policies resulted in rising budget deficits, a wider gap in wealth, and an increase in homelessness; and the Iran-Contra affair lowered American credibility.
- Reagan suffered from Alzheimer’s disease. His son wrote that there were signs of this during his presidency.
- Despite this, Reagan “helped create a safer, freer world”. The USA became the only superpower when Soviet Union collapsed in 1991.
© Comasters July 2020.