Ronald Reagan

Thomas C. Reed, the former campaign manager and Secretary of the Air Force during the Ronald Reagan administration, spoke to students about his experiences at a lecture held in Sid Richardson Hall on Thursday evening. According to Reed, the stereotype of Reagan being a “dumb actor” is incorrect, considering Reagan’s mental abilities.
Photo Credit: Mariana Gonzalez | Daily Texan Staff

Despite the stereotype as a “dumb actor,” former President Ronald Reagan’s greatest legacy was advancing the end of the Cold War, according to Reagan’s former campaign manager.

At the Clements Center for History, Strategy and Statecraft on Tuesday, Thomas Reed, former Secretary of the Air Force, gave insight into Reagan’s “immensely active and smart” mind.

“The most hard to believe, hard to comprehend thing about Ronald Reagan was his mind was immense, and it would rapidly process information at a pace you could not believe,” Reed said.

During Reagan’s gubernatorial campaigns in the mid-’60s and early ’70s, Reed served as Reagan’s campaign manager, and later, in the ’80s, as a special assistant to Reagan for national security.

According to Reed, Reagan was devoid of political ambition and found the perks of power humorous. Reagan’s ambition came from his wife, according to Reed, and without her, he never would have been president.

“He basically didn’t have this burning desire [of] ‘I’ve got to be governor. I’ve got to be president,’” Reed said. “He knew what he believed, and he decided he felt that he needed to display leadership. And yet, amazingly, the reverse of that coin is, once in a contest of any sort, losing was absolutely unacceptable. He was the toughest competitor that any of us ever saw.”

History graduate student Emily Whalen said, despite Reagan’s domestic and foreign policy achievements, her biggest takeaway from the lecture was what Reed really experienced during the Reagan administration — the beginning actions that precipitated the end of the Cold War.

“I think a lot of analysis now of Reagan does sort of play into that ‘dumb actor’ narrative, so it is really refreshing to hear a different perspective and to hear that he was really actually a very engaged and deep thinker,” Whalen said.

Government sophomore Jeremy Cana said he thinks Reagan’s personality and charisma helped influence his success as president.

“A lot of [Reagan’s] policies led to a lot of what the country’s facing today, but I recognize that there’s a lot to learn from him,” Cana said. “He was a great, charismatic figure. He inspired people to do a lot things — that in itself is important, I think, the ability to inspire.”

Greg Abbott, attorney general and governor-elect, challenged President Barack Obama’s immigration order on Wednesday, saying he stepped out of his bounds.

Abbott issued a statement on Wednesday after filing a lawsuit with 17 other states – including the states of Texas, Alabama, and Wisconsin – claiming that the president’s executive order violated the Constitution’s Take Care Clause, which mandates the president “take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed.”

“The Constitution's Take Care Clause limits the President's power and ensures that he will faithfully execute Congress's laws – not rewrite them under the guise of ‘prosecutorial discretion,’” Abbott said in his statement. “The Department of Homeland Security's directive was issued without following the Administrative Procedure Act's rulemaking guidelines and is nothing but an unlawfully adopted legislative rule: an executive decree that requires federal agencies to award legal benefits to individuals whose conduct contradicts the priorities of Congress."

Abbott spoke about his lawsuit at a press conference on Wednesday after filing it with the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas. He said Obama’s order differed from those of President Ronald Reagan and President George W. Bush.

“There was never any legal action that determined the legal validity of what President Bush and President Reagan did,” Abbott said. “But most importantly was what President Bush and President Reagan did; [it] was an effort to fulfill legislation that was passed by Congress. In this instance, President Obama has said he is taking this action because Congress will not act. His own words show he is violating the Take Care Clause. He is trying to enact laws himself because Congress will not act. He does not have that authority.”

The lawsuit clarifies that the issue is not with immigration, but about the “rule of the law.” Abbott repeated this on Wednesday, calling Obama and the Department of Security and other agencies’ subsequent orders unconstitutional and illegal.

“Texas and other states that have joined with us are asking for declarative judgment and conjunctive relief,” Abbott said. “We are asking the president to go through the prescribed constitutional process rather than making them up himself.”

The defendants of the case have already acknowledged the 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program and federal government’s failure in enforcing the laws, as well as the consequence of Obama’s executive order, Abbott said.

 “As the defendants have acknowledged themselves, Texas will suffer as a consequence of this most recent presidential order,” Abbott said.

Texas and the other states that joined the lawsuit have a strong case, Abbott said. He referenced the Supreme Court case of Massachusetts v. Environmental Protection Agency, and said the outcome of that case proved Texas’s valid suit.

“If you look at the Supreme Court decision of Massachusetts v. the EPA, the Supreme Court granted standing to Massachusetts,” Abbott said. “A doctrine called parens patriae [said] under damages that the people of Massachusetts may suffer from global warming. I will submit to you that the standing of Texas is far stronger than what the Supreme Court granted to Massachusetts in that case.”

Photo Credit: Connor Murphy | Daily Texan Staff

Editor's note: An earlier version of this column ran with a cartoon which inaccurately stated the name of the cartoonist. The correct cartoonist is Connor Murphy. 

In the world of international politics, allies and adversaries seem static for long periods of time, but then they shift quickly and decisively. American relations with Russia are an excellent example of this phenomenon. The countries were Cold War enemies in the 1980s, strategic partners in the 1990s, and now they are antagonists again. Iraq is another prime example. In the 1980s Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein was an American ally, in the 1990s he became a strategic threat, and in 2003 Americans labeled him an enemy in the “Global War on Terror.” Britain’s great nineteenth century prime minister, Lord Palmerston, put it best when he observed that countries do not have permanent allies or adversaries, only permanent interests.

During the 1970s, Iran was one of the United States’ most important allies in the Middle East. Under Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi’s dictatorship, the government in Tehran used its vast oil wealth to build a modern state that imported technology from abroad and contained both communism and Islamism in the region. The United States, Israel and Saudi Arabia worked closely with Iran to protect the flow of oil and maintain political stability.

When the Islamic Revolution in Iran overthrew the Shah in 1979 and held 52 Americans hostage for 444 days, the United States and Tehran became mortal enemies. Iran’s new leader, the Ayatollah Kohmeini, called America the “Great Satan.” Presidents Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan labeled Iran a “terrorist state” and they worked to overthrow the regime. Carter and Reagan also negotiated with the Iranian government when they felt the regime could facilitate the release of American hostages in Tehran and other parts of the Middle East. These negotiations, however, did not reduce the enmity between Washington and Tehran.

Iran’s effort to develop nuclear power, and an accompanying weapons capability, crossed both periods, before and after the 1979 revolution. Encouraged by the United States, the Shah used his wealth to purchase capabilities and resources from foreign suppliers, including France, Germany and the United States. Cut off from many of these suppliers after 1979, the Islamic government turned to other sources, including the illegal network run by Pakistani scientist A.Q. Khan. During the two periods Iran’s partners changed dramatically, but its nuclear ambitions remained consistent.

This often neglected history brings us to the current moment in relations between the United States and Iran. Years of sanctions and isolation have taken their toll on an Iranian society that struggles to access foreign supplies and technology. Internally, citizens have shown frustration with an Islamic regime that is unable to deliver an improved standard of living for its growing population. The Arab Spring began in Iran in 2009 with street protests against an election stolen by the Islamic leaders. In 2013, Iranians elected a foreign-educated president who promised reforms and an opening to the West, despite the continued domination of religious mullahs in the country’s politics.

The United States remains firmly committed to both the denuclearization of the Islamic government in Iran and democratic reforms. As it negotiates for these goals, Washington has found itself cooperating, at least informally, with the Iranians on a number of common strategic challenges. In Iraq and Syria, the United States and Iran share a strong interest in defeating the radical Sunni Islamic State. Washington and Tehran have shared intelligence and cooperated on the battlefield. The United States and Iran both support the new Shiite government in Iraq, and they are both training the new Iraqi military. Of course, the two countries are on different sides in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and Iran continues to support Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad; but in the struggle for Middle East stability, Washington and Tehran find themselves frequently working together. 

The current negotiations between the United States and Iran on nuclear non-proliferation and economic sanctions reflect these circumstances. After months of intensive discussions, the two sides seem so close to agreement. Iran needs international trade and Washington is keen to offer that. Washington is determined to prevent an Iranian nuclear bomb, and many in Tehran seem to recognize that a nuclear capability is not worth the overwhelming costs. 

What keeps the two sides apart is something other than the details, but a bigger question of trust. Can Washington and Tehran find a way to trust one another? Trust does not come overnight. It requires a sustained relationship, consistent goals and clear expectations. More than anything, it requires the personal outreach of leaders who are willing to put themselves on the line.

After more than 30 years of hostility, relations between the United States and Iran can and will shift when the leaders of these two powerful states commit to work together. Such a commitment will make the details fall into the place and the common interests rise above all else. To insure that outcome, we must maintain our toughness but also reach out. Americans want better relations with Iran, and we must show that, as we also show that we will not tolerate the extremism that brought us to conflict in the first place.   

Suri is a professor in the Department of History and the LBJ School of Public Affairs.   

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

Every generation has its “Where Were You When…?” dates. For my parents’ generation — the most poignant “where were you when” question is the assassination of President John F. Kennedy on November 21, 1963. The moment that, for each American who heard that awful news, is forever seared in their memories.

In my generation’s childhood years, the main such moments were hearing that President Ronald Reagan had been shot, and five years later learning that the space shuttle Challenger had exploded. Those were my generation’s defining dates — until Sept. 11, 2001.

That day I was in Washington, D.C. I had just moved back three weeks earlier, returning after a three-year hiatus for graduate school to the city where I had previously lived and worked for several years. My daily commute took me right past the Pentagon, just 200 yards from the spot where the hijacked American Airlines Flight 77 would tear a hideous gash into the building. 

On that morning I left the house around 6:45 a.m. for a breakfast meeting on Capitol Hill. Never would I have imagined that within three hours of driving by, the Pentagon would become the first Washington building attacked in wartime since the British burned the city almost two centuries earlier.

After my breakfast I parked my truck on Capitol Hill and took the Metro to my office at the American Enterprise Institute, a think tank six blocks from the White House. Shortly after arriving at my desk, one of my interns came over with a quizzical look and said that an airplane had just hit the World Trade Center. Curious, I opened the Washington Post website to a headline saying the same thing but offering no details. My immediate guess was that a small private plane must have accidentally collided with the building. Assuming there was nothing more to the story, I resumed work. 

A few minutes later my intern came running back and said that a second plane had hit the other World Trade Center building. Almost simultaneously, another colleague yelled that “the Pentagon has been hit, we are under attack!” It was simultaneously frightening and surreal as I tried to make sense of the discordance between the possibility that we were in our last minutes of life and the fact that our office felt as comfortable and placid as any other day. There was no smoke or fire, no clanging alarms, no gunshots, no masked men yelling — none of the things that I assumed an attack would bring. 

All that changed minutes later when a few colleagues and I went outside on the roof of our building. Across the river, a black pillar of smoke buried the Pentagon and stretched miles into the sky, magnitudes larger and more terrifying than any fire I had ever seen. I ran back down to my desk and phoned my parents in Tucson. When my mother answered I quickly blurted, “Mom, I just want you to know that I am OK.”  Bewildered, she asked, “What do you mean?” Realizing that Arizona was three hours behind the East Coast and she had just woken up, I told her to “turn on the TV, we’re under attack, I love you and will call back later!”

Now chaos and confusion set in. Someone else ran over and reported that the State Department had just been hit. Another person said that a bomb had just been set off at the Washington Monument. Yet another said that gunmen were attacking the White House. 

None of that was true, yet at the time we did not know, and given the smoke from the Pentagon descending across the rest of the city, any terrible report seemed possible. Nor did we know that in these same moments, the heroic passengers of hijacked United Flight 79 were sacrificing their lives to prevent their plane from decimating another Washington target, perhaps the White House or the Capitol.

I ran into the office of another colleague. He and several others were huddled in front of the television, watching live footage from New York. Suddenly we saw the first tower begin to crumble and fall. None of us said a word; tears rolled down several faces.     

The building manager said it was our choice whether to evacuate the building or stay in place.. Along with many others, a friend and I decided to leave. Outside, a surreal scene confronted us. The streets were packed with thousands of people, deathly quiet, walking with faces pale in collective shock. Uniformed men with assault rifles sternly motioned us down certain streets. We walked for almost three hours until reaching my truck, parked near my church on Capitol Hill. I went inside the pastor’s office where he and several others were watching the news. There we stayed for about six hours, transfixed and horrified. As evening fell the vehicle ban was lifted, so I began to drive home. Minutes later I passed by the Pentagon again, smoke billowing out amid the carnage and rubble. I knew that nothing would ever be the same.

Inboden is executive director of the Clements Center for History, Strategy, and Statecraft, and associate professor at the LBJ School of Public Affairs.

 

Editor’s note: This is the fifth in a weekly series in which The Daily Texan looks back at something it covered in its 113-year-old history.

One of the biggest competitions in party politics surfaces near the end of each fiscal year.

In a game of high-stakes political chicken, Republicans and Democrats stand firm in backing federal budget positions they may or may not support. This year, party leaders raised the stakes, pushing the federal government into its second-longest shutdown to date.

November 1981 saw the first-ever federal government shutdown under former President Ronald Reagan. The shutdown — a result of disagreements between Reagan, the House and the Senate regarding funding cuts to social programs and foreign aid — furloughed an estimated 400,000 federal government employees for half a day, according to two United Press International articles printed in The Daily Texan on Nov. 23 and 24. The Nov. 24 article called Reagan’s quick shutdown of nonessential government services a “dramatic gesture.”

Reagan signed a $400 million temporary funding bill on Nov. 23, ending the shutdown less than 12 hours after he vetoed a $427.9 million congressional compromise.

“Several members of Congress said approval of the three-week stopgap was as much a sign of Congress’ desire to go home for Thanksgiving holiday as it was a major win for Reagan,” the Nov. 24 article said.

Prior to 1980, government agencies’ nonessential duties were only minimized when the president and Congress failed to agree on an aspect of the federal budget, a period known as a funding gap. But in the early ’80s, Attorney General Benjamin Civiletti issued two interpretations of the 1870 Antideficiency Act — which had, up until that point, prohibited the government from spending more than was allotted in the budget. This led to the creation of government shutdowns, as the attorney general’s opinions asserted that, in accordance with the act, nonessential government agencies must be suspended during funding gaps.

In the 30 years since their inception, only a few shutdowns have occurred in the U.S. — the longest and most memorable being the December 1995 to January 1996 shutdown. In November 1995, the government shut down for six days because of disagreements between former President Bill Clinton, the House and the Senate about cuts to social program funding, including education cuts.

Tensions between the two parties manifested during the shutdown, with House Speaker Newt Gingrich, a Republican, claiming that Clinton’s mistreatment of him and Senate Minority Leader Bob Dole during a recent trip had contributed to the budget standoff, a Nov. 16 Daily Texan article said. Alternately, Democratic Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle blamed Gingrich.

“He wants chaos,” Daschle said of Gingrich in the article. “He wants collapse of the government, and now he’s got it.”

The November 1995 shutdown ended when Clinton and Congress agreed to attempt to balance the budget in seven years, continue debates about the budget and temporarily continue government agency funding in an agreement known as a continuing resolution.

The continuing resolution expired Dec. 15, and a second shutdown began — this time spanning 21 days. In January, Clinton and Congress agreed to a seven-year budget plan with modest spending cuts and tax increases. The shutdown came to a close at a cost to the Republican Party, which a majority of Americans blamed for the shutdown.

In this year’s shutdown Democrats and Republicans held tight to opposing agendas, resulting in a temporary extension on the debt limit and halt on the shutdown. So while the players may change over the years, results stemming from political differences many times don’t.

Commentary

Donald Trump — mega-millionaire, star of “The Apprentice” and pre-eminent comb-over guru — is making headlines for his announced exploratory committee into a potential presidential run in 2012 on the Republican ticket.

Trump is hardly the first celebrity to run for public office, and his ample war chest stands to keep his name in the mix through the election season. But how likely is he to be successful? By examining his fellow celebrity politicians, it might be possible to distinguish where exactly Trump falls on the presidential spectrum.

Trump, and perhaps all ambitious celebrity pols, yearns for the kind of esteem Ronald Reagan held. Reagan is better known for his defining presidency of conservative politics, his supply-side “Reaganomics,” ending the Cold War and the Iran-Contra affair than his acting career. Reagan’s presidential prowess so overcame his initial celebrity status that it’s often remembered as an afterthought.

But few non-celebrity politicians have reached the success of Reagan. The only other presidential celebrity examples for Trump to potentially follow would be Obama and Kennedy — neither exactly in his wheelhouse. Though he could follow the lead of Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Over his two terms as California governor, The Terminator gained serious political respect as a moderate Republican whose magnetism endured despite the drooping approval ratings suffered by lame-duck incumbents. And now that he’s done working in politics? He’s returning to showbiz, launching a comic book and animated series aptly titled “The Governator” with Marvel head honcho Stan Lee.

Arnold is a less polarizing figure than Trump, and based on some of Trump’s on-air flubs — notably for not knowing Roe v. Wade’s precedent as a right to privacy — he’s facing an uphill battle even if he wasn’t better known for his on-air persona. The failures of some celebrities running for office hold salient cautionary tales.

Comedian Stephen Colbert also famously “ran” for president in 2008, attempting to be on both the Democratic and Republican ballots. A spectacular failure, the whole endeavor seemed like a grand gesture for ripe material for his show, “The Colbert Report.”

While Trump hasn’t made a name for himself as a comedian like Colbert, it’s difficult to know just how serious he is about running. The Democratic Party wasn’t amused with Colbert in 2008 and refused to accept his bid. If by some bizarre sequence of events Trump clinches the nomination, will the Republican Party be willing to validate it?

The White House may be too drastic a real estate change for Trump — and he should know, with his millions made from his real estate ventures. Like most non-celebrity politicians, the best way to hold a higher office is to work your way up the ladder.

Sonny Bono, fresh from leaving Cher, enjoyed a successful political career as the mayor of Palm Springs and later as a U.S. Representative of California. Former “Saturday Night Live” star Al Franken, who first gained attention for his progressive politicking through a talk radio show and a series of bestselling books, won the extremely close Minnesota senate race in 2008.

But Trump has never been marked by modesty; his “go big or go home” attitude would seemingly preclude him from taking stepping stones such as a senate run to eventually get him to D.C. So finally, there’s the celebrity politician perhaps closest to Trump’s own personality: Howard Stern.

The radio shock jock won the Libertarian Party nomination for his 1994 run for governor of New York, but when a law requiring him to disclose his address and financial records reared its head, he withdrew. It raises the question as to what exactly Stern’s motivations were for running: Was he a legitimate politician or an oversize personality caught up political theater? Trump appears to be leaning toward the latter.