My Fellow Americans: Presidents Speak to the People in Troubled Times
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Eisenhower to run for president as a Democrat and campaigning for Helen Gahagan Douglas in her futile U. Senate race against Richard M. It would not be until the early s that he switched parties. By , Reagan had become president of the Screen Actors Guild. He was swept up in ideological turmoil that tormented Hollywood. Writers and actors were blacklisted.
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Some never worked again. In , he married Nancy Davis, a young actress whose mother, Edith Luckett, had been on stage and whose stepfather, Dr. Loyal Davis, was a prominent neurosurgeon. She gave up acting to devote herself to her husband. They had two children, Patricia Ann and Ronald Prescott. Enter General Electric, stage right. For eight years, beginning in , Reagan served GE as the host of a televised series of dramas. He also was its goodwill ambassador to employees and to civic and business groups around the country.
While his motive was to make money, over time the experience of speaking to business people helped crystallize his views and prepared him for active politics. At first, he confined his deepest political beliefs to private communications — a letter to Vice President Richard M.
Nixon, for instance, in which he said of John F. By , his speeches had become more political — and more controversial. Under pressure, General Electric ended the arrangement. He had become so popular, he said, that at least three years of bookings had to be canceled.
People wanted to talk about and hear about encroaching government control. And hopefully they wanted suggestions as to what they themselves could do to turn the tide. Unlike Goldwater, he could sell conservatism with a smile. Americans saw the smoothest, most articulate, most attractive champion of the Republican cause in a generation. The next spring, Holmes P. Tuttle, a wealthy Los Angeles car dealer who had promoted the fund-raising speech, invited other millionaires to support Reagan in a race for governor of California. They, in turn, hired professors to brief Reagan on state issues and broaden his command of literary allusions.
But it brought criticism as well. Democrats derided him as a puppet who mouthed words scripted by others. Edmund G. He argued that government was too big, taxes were too high and regulation was strangling business. Reagan defeated Brown by nearly 1 million votes and swept Republicans into every major executive office except attorney general.
The champion of striking students at Eureka College vowed to restore order at protest-torn campuses throughout California and was pleased to see the firing of nationally respected University of California President Clark Kerr. Reagan also supported the first-ever UC student tuition.
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He appointed a former member of the John Birch Society to head his Office of Economic Opportunity and to campaign against legal assistance for the rural poor. In a compromise, Boyarsky writes, he gave up a permanent ceiling on welfare appropriations, but he succeeded in reducing welfare rolls. Squeezing, cutting and trimming government were harder. It marked the first of a roller-coaster series of tax increases and rebates. One of his most remarkable flip-flops involved his opposition to payroll withholding of state income taxes. But in , when the state faced a serious cash flow crisis, Reagan finally gave in.
As he campaigned, he had been dismissive of some environmental concerns.
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He signed a historic abortion reform bill authored by a Democrat that vastly liberalized the procedure in California. Advocates promoted it as a model for other states. Later, as a national political figure, Reagan would hold the support of the most militant anti-abortionists, while doing relatively little to advance their cause.
Unruh, who had opposed him unsuccessfully when he ran for a second term. He ran for president in , but fell to Nixon.
By , when Reagan completed his second term as governor, Nixon had resigned in disgrace. Reagan began an all-out, two-year drive to wrest the nomination from incumbent Gerald R. Ford, an appointed vice president who became president on the resignation of Nixon. Reagan fell short by a handful of delegates to the Republican national convention.
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This time Reagan was not to be denied. Under Carter, Americans had been battered by double-digit inflation, stagnant growth and a fuel shortage that caused long lines at gasoline stations. Reagan preached optimism. If he were elected, America would stand tall again, he said, and competence would return to Washington. When Reagan took office at the age of 69, he was better positioned than any Republican since Eisenhower to lay a firm hand on government.
He froze hiring and new regulations. He swept even low-level Democrats out of their jobs and replaced them with Republicans. To presidents with programs, their first days in office are important. Reagan did not have that long. On his 70th day, he was shot by John W. Hinckley Jr. It careened off a rib and lodged in his left lung — within an inch of his heart. The bullet was removed during a two-hour operation, but not before he had lost nearly half his blood and edged close to death.
Reagan had been in far graver danger than he let on. He had walked into the hospital and did not collapse until he was out of sight. Hinckley, who had a history of psychiatric problems, was trying to impress actress Jodie Foster, whom he idolized. He had fired six shots, wounding four people.
ISBN 13: 9781554075492
Press secretary James Brady was hit in the head and has been in a wheelchair since. Hinckley was committed to a mental institution. Twelve days after the shooting, Reagan was back at the White House. His strength and gallant demeanor touched the public. Characteristically, however, he did not change his long-standing opposition to gun control. Brady, on the other hand, became a national leader in the fight to curb handguns. Despite the interruption, Reagan lost little momentum.
In the middle of his first summer as president, more than 11, federal air traffic controllers, members of one of the few unions to support him, walked off their jobs — and he fired them.
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It was a blow to organized labor, already in decline. But it showed that Reagan meant what he said, especially about guarding the economy against inflation.
Historic Presidential Affairs That Never Made it To the Tabloids
Before the end of his first summer as president, Congress had enacted his historic tax cut and his budget legislation largely intact. To justify increasing defense spending while slashing taxes, Reagan had embraced supply-side economics — a theory that enjoyed little standing among many economists.
Supply-siders held that higher spending and lower taxes would not increase the deficit. Instead, the theory held, tax cuts would unleash such a wave of economic growth that government income would actually rise. It did not happen. As defense spending rose and the tax cuts kicked in, the predicted surge in economic growth did not materialize. The deficit soared toward record levels. Eventually, the national debt nearly tripled. Unemployment reached a year record of But even Republicans feared that without additional revenue, the deficit would reach uncontrollable proportions.