Ronald Reagan - The Bonzo Years


Deputy defense secretary Paul Thayer resigns amid charges of insider trading. He eventually serves 19 months for perjury and obstruction of justice.

Reagan Task Force Finds No Evidence of Great Hunger - The Washington Post

Columnist Nelson suggests another source for the Medal of Honor story: a war-time story in the April 1944 issue of Reader's Digest (a lifelong favorite magazine of President Reagan). The story ends: "The ball turret gunner was badly wounded and stuck in the blister on the underside of the fuselage. Crewmen worked frantically to extricate the youngster, but there was nothing they could do. They began to jump. The terror-stricken lad screamed in fear as he saw what was happening. The last man to jump heard the remaining crewman, a gunner, say, 'Take it easy, kid. We'll take this ride together.'"

President Reagan nominates Ed Meese as the new Attorney General (head of the Justice Department).

"You find yourself remembering what it was like when on the spur of the moment you could just yell to your wife that you were going down to the drugstore and get a magazine. You can't do that anymore." - President Reagan telling Time magazine about being President.

President Reagan on Good Morning America, defending his administration against charges of callousness: "You can't help those who simply will not be helped. One problem that we've had, even in the best of times, is people who are sleeping on the grates, the homeless who are homeless, you might say, by choice."

"He may be ready to surrender, but I'm not." - President Reagan responding to Tip O' Neill's advocacy of a pullout from Beirut.

President Reagan announces plans to get the Marines out of Beirut, describing the action as "decisive new steps." Larry Speakes explains, "We don't consider this a withdrawal but more of a redeployment."

"The only difference between a board of directors...and our Cabinet meetings is when it comes time for decision we don't take a vote. The decision is mine." - President Reagan defending himself against media claims that he is told what to do.

Appointee Tells of Loans Arranged For Meese - The New York Times

Attorney General-designate Ed Meese admits that he "inadvertently failed to list" a $15,000 interest-free loan from a man who later received a federal job (as did his wife and his son) in his financial disclosure statements. He explains that "it never occurred to me that an interest-free loan was a thing of value."

The day after his administration announced it would not recognize the World Court's jurisdiction over the U.S. mining of Nicaraguan harbors (which violated international law), President Reagan proclaims May 1 as "Law Day USA". "Without law," says the President, "there can be no freedom, only chaos and disorder."

William Casey apologizes to the Senate Intelligence Committee for keeping the Nicaraguan mining a secret. Barry Goldwater, among others, called it an "act of war".

Asked about the possibility of secret funds going to the contras, President Reagan declares, "Nothing of that kind could take place without the knowledge of Congress."

Discussing US-Soviet relations with GOP leaders, President Reagan announces, "If they want to keep their Mickey Mouse system, that's okay." "It's a change in his view," says an official. "It's not an evil empire. It's a Mickey Mouse system."

At his 26th press conference, President Reagan claims that "not one single fact of figure" backs up Democratic "demagoguery" that his budget cuts have hurt the poor. The next morning, a congressional study reports that cuts in welfare have pushed more than 500,000 people - the majority of them children - into poverty.

The Census Bureau reports that 35.3 million Americans were living in poverty in 1983 - an 18-year high rate of 15.2% of the population.

A suicide bomber drives into the US embassy annex in Beirut, killing two Americans. It is the third such incident in 19 months.
George Bush, explaining the evils of the Sandanistas: "The Sandanistas came in. They overthrew Somoza, killed him and overthrew him. Killed him, threw him out." - Somoza actually fled Nicaragua when he was overthrown, and was later assassinated in Paraguay.

President Reagan claims the latest Beirut bombing is the fault of Jimmy Carter, who he said "presided over the destruction of our intelligence capability." Carter responds that Reagan tends "to blame his every mistake and failure on me and others who served before him."

A House Intelligence Committee report finds "no logical explanation" for the lapse in security at the embassy in Beirut, since State Department and embassy officials had plenty of reason to suspect that a bombing attempt was not only possible but probable.

"I don't think he's read the report in detail. It's five and a half pages, double-spaced." - Larry Speakes responding to the question of whether President Reagan has read the House report on the latest Beirut truck bombing.

President Reagan engages in his first debate with Walter Mondale. He does so badly his wife confronts aides afterwards, demanding "What have you done to Ronnie?" Some "special moments":
· Talks about a law he signed in California as if it had been signed by his Democratic predecessor
· Reprises his "hit" line, "There you go again", only to have it thrown back at him with a sharp rejoinder by Mondale, whose handlers knew the President would use it.
· Blanks out completely in the middle of an answer, bringing up subsequent questions about his mental fitness
· Claims that the increase in poverty "is a lower rate of increase than it was in the preceding years before we got here," though in fact it is higher
· Explains that a good bit of the defense budget goes for "food and wardrobe", becoming the first US President to so refer to military uniforms
· Says "I'm all confused now." as he prepares to deliver his closing statement.

"With regard to the age issue and everything," says President Reagan, "if I had as much makeup on as he did, I'd have looked younger, too." He goes on to claim that he not only went makeup-free during the debate, but "I never did wear it. I didn't wear it when I was in pictures." This statement is promptly disputed the next day by G.E. Theater makeup man Howard Smith, Death Valley Days makeup man Del Acevedo, and debate panelist James Weighart, as well as Mayor Edward Bergin, recalling a recent presidential visit to Connecticut.

"I don't think it's winnable. I was quoted wrong, obviously, 'cause I never thought that." - George Bush denying that he told journalist Robert Scheer that he thought nuclear war is "winnable", though Scheer actually has a 1980 tape of him saying that.

After Mondale makes an issue out of President Reagan's stated belief that nuclear missiles fired from submarines can be recalled, the President claims he "never said any such thing."
The Associated Press reports the existence of a CIA-prepared manual teaching Nicaraguan rebels how to, among other things:
· How to blackmail unwilling citizens into supporting their cause
· How to arrange the deaths of fellow rebels to create martyrs
· How to kidnap and kill (the manual uses the word "neutralize") government officials.

A senior administration official says President Reagan did not know about the CIA manual until "after it appeared in the newspaper yesterday."

Lucille Levin, wife of one of the three Americans kidnapped by Lebanese terrorists in March, takes the media to task for failing to remind the public of how tough President Reagan claimed to be when he took office. "Why aren't we talking about these hostages?...Why is it allowed to stand when Ronald Reagan says America won't have hostages again?...Are we bored with hostages now?"

CIA Director William Casey writes to Congress to explain that the "thrust and purpose" of the CIA manual was to improve the effectiveness of the Nicaraguan rebels in "face-to-face communication."

"Mr. Reagan's ignorance about the Soviet Union and his air-headed rhetoric on the issues of foreign policy and arms control have reached the limit of tolerance and have become an embarrassment to the U.S. and a danger to world peace." - The Chicago Tribunes piece which actually endorses the President, despite the above considerations.

President Reagan, although he has not read the manual, says that the word "neutralize" means "remove from office," not "assassinate." When asked how to remove an unwanted official, he replied, "You just say to the fellow that is sitting there in the office, 'You're not in the office anymore.'"

President Reagan wins re-election, announced by Dan Rather at 8:01 p.m. EST. His 525 electoral votes are the most ever won, his 49 states (he loses DC and Minnesota) tie Nixon's 1972 landslide, and he wins the popular vote 59% (54,450,603) to Walter Mondale's 41% (37,573,671).

The White House announces that two Reagan-ordered investigations have concluded that there was "no violation" of the law when the CIA manual was written for the Nicaraguan rebels.


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