Ronald Reagan Pros and Cons

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Table of contents

  1. Introduction to Reagan's Presidency
  2. Economic Reforms and Achievements
  3. Controversies and Scandals
  4. Challenges with Congress and Domestic Policies
  5. Legacy and Impact: The Lasting Influence of Reagan's Presidency

Introduction to Reagan's Presidency

Ronald Reagan was an above-average president. He strongly believed that communism was detrimental to America and the world, and he worked hard to bring it down. Reagan was well-liked by most Americans, who viewed him as an approachable, down-to-earth, good-natured president.

Economic Reforms and Achievements

President Reagan had many goals involving domestic and foreign affairs during his presidency. When President Reagan came to office, America’s economy was a mess. Thousands of people were out of jobs, businesses were closing down by the day, inflation was out of control and interest rates were high. Reagan helped America by lowering income taxes which he achieved by passing the Economic Recovery Tax Acts. Essentially, these Acts lowered income taxes, providing people with more money and allowing them to spend more to help increase the economy. Another one of his primary goals was to eliminate the communist belief system, including defeating the Soviet Union in the Cold War.

Controversies and Scandals

Reagan made it his goal to prevent communism from spreading. To accomplish this goal, Reagan implemented the Reagan Doctrine in 1985, which focused on helping anti-communist rebel groups globally, in the hope that they could bring their communist governments down.

Although Reagan appointed many exceptional people for his cabinet and administration, not all of his appointees made the best decisions for America. 1983 Reagan assigned Robert Carl McFarlane as his National Security Advisor. McFarlane’s job was to help Reagan with national problems and foreign policy affairs. In 1985, when Iran and Iraq were at war, Iran secretly contacted America, who wanted to buy weapons from us. Instead of dealing with things legally, McFarlane wanted to sell ammunition to Iran, which was illegal at the time, in hope that it might help improve our relationships not only in Iran but in many Middle Eastern countries as well. Also, American officials in the Reagan administration sought to use the proceeds from weapons sales to Iran to provide funding for the contras in Nicaragua. Over 15,000 missiles were sold to Iran. Then, in November 1986, a Lebanese newspaper discovered America and Iran’s trading system and published it to the public. Word was out: Reagan was giving weapons to terrorists and it all started with Robert Carl McFarlane’s consent to doing this.

The general view was that Robert Carl McFarlane had failed his job as a National Security Advisor. Now that this information was known to the public, Reagan addressed the nation. At first, he claimed to know nothing about this situation, but then he returned his statement. This reflected poorly on him and Reagan's approval rate went down since people had a hard time believing him. This ordeal was considered Reagan’s most significant failure. His entire life, Reagan was very open about his feelings toward terrorists, and his campaign guaranteed that he would never support terrorists. Due to McFarlane, Reagan was actually aiding the terrorist-supporting regime in Iran, making Reagan appear as if he no longer kept his word. Additionally, Oliver North, America’s Marine Corps lieutenant colonel at the time, was taking the money that America received from giving Iran weapons and giving it to the Contras in Nicaragua to help fight them against their government! Both these men were appointed by Reagan to help America and make it more secure. Nothing makes a nation feel more insecure than having its government participate in secret deals with other countries and aiding terrorists of any kind. Both men simply failed at their job. Both weakened the nation's sense of security with Reagan and replaced it with doubtfulness, insecurity, and fear.

Challenges with Congress and Domestic Policies

When Reagan came into office, the House of Representatives was Democratic, and the Senate was a Republican. The Liberal House made it harder for Reagan to accomplish things such as pass tax cuts, increase military spending, and lower government funding, Six years into his presidency, the Republicans lost the Senate to the Democrats. Reagan had a hard time getting things done with congress and many times had to try to convince Democrats from the House through letters.

Reagan faced many domestic challenges. One approach he used to overcome them was not procrastinating. One example of how Reagan was successful by not delaying, was with the economy. As soon as Reagan got into office, he immediately prepared legislation for Congress to enact to help America’s economy. He acted very smartly and very quickly. He devoted much time considering different solutions to help America’s economy and then settled upon one approach that he believed would work and attempted to put it into action right away. Reagan was successful in persuading Congress to implement tax cut acts as early as 1982 (with the Tax Equity and Fiscal Responsibility Act). Reagan’s economic strategies are often referred to as “Reaganomics” and they were considered his greatest accomplishment. His tax cuts and his lowering of government domestic program funds helped the economy grow in a way no one thought was possible. Millions of jobs and businesses were created, which provided many opportunities to people who desperately needed them. Moreover, America’s flourishing economy helped the country stand strong during the cold war, while the Soviet Union collapsed due to its weak economy.

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Reagan resolved foreign affairs by not being afraid to take initiative. He reached out to different countries in ways many presidents would have been afraid to do. When Mikhail Gorbachev became the leader of the Soviet Union, in 1985, Reagan had all the reason to have a less than cordial relationship with him. Instead, Reagan saw this as a new opportunity to repair ties with the Soviet Union. He reached out, took initiative, and even invited Gorbachev to the U.S.

Reagan was patient, a good listener, yet stubborn. His patience is seen during the cold war. Although his first meeting with Gorbachev didn’t produce anything significant, he still invited Gorbachev to meet again on friendly terms. Reagan’s patience worked to his advantage because eventually he and Gorbachev signed “The Treaty Between the United States of America and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics on the Elimination of Their Intermediate-Range and Shorter-Range Missiles,” which limited weapons for America and the Soviet Union.

In addition to being patient, Reagan was stubborn, especially regarding communism. He was unwilling to compromise with the Soviet Union and couldn’t imagine it staying communist forever. This strong-willed part of his personality is one of the factors responsible for ending the cold war. Reagan couldn’t bear to have the communist Soviet Union spreading its doctrine under his rule; he did everything he could to stop it.

Legacy and Impact: The Lasting Influence of Reagan's Presidency

Reagan was a president who listened to others. He didn’t expect to get exactly what he wanted. Not only was he prepared to negotiate, but he also wanted to do so. The Soviet Union leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, wrote in A President Who Listened (after Reagan’s passing): “ True, Reagan was a man of the right. But, while adhering to his convictions, with which one could agree or disagree, he was not dogmatic; he was looking for negotiations and cooperation.” This quote shows that Reagan did not make decisions against communism by himself. Reagan met and discussed with Mikhail Gorbachev, who was technically the leader of the “enemy” (the Soviet Union). He aimed to make decisions that would benefit the world as a whole. He met with the Soviet leader, heard what he had to say, and together, they worked to try and create solutions to make the world safer.

Like all other presidents, Reagan had his fans and his critics. Ben T. Elliott, Director of White House Speech Writing during Reagan’s time, wrote: “[Reagan] transformed a sputtering U.S. economy into a rocket of growth that led to a generation of prosperity.” On the other hand, Ben Gran, former Public Affairs Specialist and Executive writer for Governor Tom Vilsack (D-IA), in a May 6, 2016 article for Paste Magazine titled 'Ronald Reagan Is Way Overrated, and We Need to Come to Our Sense: A Magnum Opus,' wrote: “Ronald Reagan wasn't brilliant; he was just really, really lucky - he was wrong about lots of things, but he still managed to bumble his way through without starting World War III. He wasn't a visionary; he was a one-trick pony who kept peddling the same tired Cold War ideas that had bogged America down for decades. He wasn't brave; he was willfully oblivious.” Both these quotes show that Reagan had people who loved him and people like Gov. Vilsack who didn’t. He did have a slight edge though, since his approval rate among the American people was 53% during his time, a little more than half. Regardless of whether people liked him or not, he was immensely respected by most people for providing America with the strong comeback they desperately needed, which was no easy feat.

Numerous presidents altered and adopted many of Reagan’s policies, ideas, and economic strategies. One example of a president who did this was one of Reagan’s successors, President George W. Bush. Bush’s tax cuts were very similar to Reagan’s in the way that the goal was to lower taxes to create economic growth.

An everyday person was greatly impacted by Reagan and his decisions. Thanks to him, Communist Soviet Union is no longer the threat it once was. Without Reagan’s tactics and strategies, America could still be having a cold war with Russia for all we know. People living in the present have Reagan to thank for making America feel safer.

With a collapsing economy, a population with low morale, and communism spreading all over the world, Ronald Reagan came into his presidency and took these problems in stride. He managed to make progress on each of these hot-button concerns when no one thought solutions were possible. Ronald Reagan, an above-average president, worked hard and succeeded in helping to make America great again.

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