Ronald Reagan - The Bonzo Years

1981


11/20/80
President-elect Reagan arrives at the White House to receive a job briefing from President Carter, who later reveals that Reagan asked few questions and took no notes, asking instead for a copy of Carter's presentation.

1/21/81
At his first Cabinet meeting, President Reagan is asked if he intends to issue an expected Executive Order on cost-cutting. He shrugs. Then, noticing Budget Director David Stockman nodding emphatically, he adds, "I have a smiling fellow at the end of the table who tells me we do." (see 11/10/81) Richard Allen, on his first day as National Security Adviser, receives $1,000 and a pair of Seiko watches from Japanese journalists as a tip for arranging an interview with Nancy Reagan. (see 11/13/81)

2/2/81
At his hearing to become Undersecretary of State, Reagan associate William Clark answers no to all of the following: "Are you familiar with the struggles within the British Labour Party?" "Do you know which European nations don't want U.S. nuclear weapons on their soil?" "Can you name the prime minister of South Africa?" "Can you name the prime minister of Zimbabwe?" All of the above questions were being addressed in the daily news at the time. Despite his lack of knowledge in current events, he is confirmed.

2/5/81
James Watt is asked at a Congressional hearing if he agrees that natural resources must be preserved for future generations. "Yes" he says, then adds "I do not know how many future generations we can count on before the Lord returns." (see 12/14/81)

2/18/81
President Reagan warns a joint session of Congress that the national debt is approaching $1 trillion. "A trillion dollars," he explains, "would be a stack of $1,000 bills 67 miles high." (see 10/23/81)

3/18/81
The Gallup Poll: Reagan Approval Rating Trails Earlier Presidents - The Washington Post

5/11/81
Ed Meese, White House counselor with Cabinet rank, calls the American Civil Liberties Union a "criminals' lobby."

5/21/81
White House Seeks Eased Bribery Act. Says 1977 Law Inhibits Business Abroad By U.S. Corporations - The New York Times The U.S. casts one of only three votes against a World Health Organization ethics code preventing the sale of American infant formulas to Third World countries, where their use with contaminated water has killed thousands of babies.

6/16/81
At his third press conference, President Reagan responds to the following:
· The Israeli attack on Iraq - "I can't answer that"
· Israels' refusal to sign the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty - "Well, I haven't given very much thought to that particular question there"
· Pakistan's refusal to sign the treaty - "I won't answer the last part of that question"
· Israeli threats against Lebanon - "Well, this is going to be one, I'm afraid, that I can't answer now"
· The tactics of political action committees - "I don't really know how to answer that."
When faced with skepticism about his administration's grasp of foreign affairs, the President declares "I'm satisfied that we do have a foreign policy."

6/29/81
"I regard voting as the most sacred right of free men and women" - President Reagan, although he refuses to commit to supporting an extension of the Voting Rights Act.

6/30/81
"We love your adherence to democratic principle, and to the democratic processes." - George Bush, toasting newly re-inaugurated President Ferdinand Marcos, whose fondness for democracy is less celebrated by those who know him better.

7/23/81
"Heck, no. I'm going to leave this to you experts. I'm not going to get involved in details." President Reagan declining Treasury Secretary Donald Regan's invitation to join the negotiation session at which his tax-cut bill is being shaped.

8/6/81
White House Seeks To Loosen Standards Under Clean Air Act - The Washington Post

9/15/81
President Reagan says he is "as committed today as on the first day I took office to balancing the budget." (see 10/23/81)

10/19/81
California state senator John Schmitz tells a TV interviewer that if Reagan's policies fail, "the best we could probably hope for is a military coup or something like that." He explains that he is talking about "a good military coup, not a bad military coup."

10/23/81
The national debt hits $1 trillion.

11/10/81
Atlantic Monthly publishes William Greider's article "The Education of David Stockman", in which the Budget Director: · Admits "None of us really understands what's going on with all these numbers" · Acknowledges that supply-side economics "was always a Trojan horse to bring down the top rate" · Says of the Reagan tax bill "Do you realize the greed that came to the forefront? The hogs were really feeding." President Reagan is unaware of the article until brought to his attention at his fifth press conference by Leslie Stahl.

11/13/81
The Justice Department begins investigating a $1,000 payment given to National Security Adviser Richard Allen for arranging an interview with Nancy Reagan. "I didn't accept it, I received it," says Allen. "It would have been an embarrassment" to the Japanese to have returned the money. Asked if Allen will stay on the job, President Reagan says, "On the basis of what I know, yes." Nancy Reagan is said to be furious that she has been dragged into the story. (see 1/4/82)

11/23/81
President Reagan vetoes a stopgap spending bill, thus forcing the federal government - for the first time in history - to temporarily shut down. Says House Speaker Tip O'Neill, "He knows less about the budget than any president in my lifetime. He can't even carry on a conversation about the budget. It's an absolute and utter disgrace."

11/27/81
In an interview with Barbara Walters, President Reagan describes his academic record: "I never knew anything above Cs."

11/30/81
President Reagan tells a $2,500 per ticket GOP fund-raiser in Cincinnati about a letter from a blind supporter. "He wrote in Braille," the President says, "to tell me that if cutting his pension would help get this country back on its feet, he'd like to have me cut his pension." The identity of this generous fellow is never revealed.

12/14/81
"Mr. Reagan has the White House, I have Arlington." - James Watt justifying his decision to hold two private cocktail parties at Arlington Cemetery's Lee Mansion at the taxpayer's expense.

12/17/81
When asked at his sixth press conference if he agrees with his Justice Department's efforts to overturn the Webber ruling, which allows unions and management to enter into voluntary affirmative action agreements, President Reagan says he "can't bring to mind as to what it pertains to and what it calls for." When a reporter explains it to him, he says he supports the decision. White House aides later say he thinks it should be overturned.

12/20/81
Reagan Officials Seek To Ease Rules On Nursing Homes. Proposals Include Repeal Of Regulations On Sanitation, Safety And Contagion - The New York Times

12/22/81
President Reagan claims, during a PBS interview, that New Deal proponents actually "espoused" fascism. Roosevelt biographer Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., calls this "a gross distortion of history." (see 12/23/81)

12/23/81
Asked to comment on his wife's higher-than-usual disapproval rating, President Reagan says, "I just heard earlier today - and maybe Larry can tell me if this is true - I just heard that some poll or something has revealed that she's the most popular woman in the world." White House spokesman Larry Speakes says he has seen no such poll. (see 2/24/82)


   

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