Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Presidential Elections - Part 4

In 1980 when Ronald Reagan won the Republican nomination, there was a lot of speculation of who would be his vice presidential choice. A name that was floated was former President Gerald Ford. There was discussion of something like a co-presidency. This didn't work out and almost as an afterthought Reagan chose former CIA director George Bush as his running mate. After Reagan become president, things began to turn around. The Cold War pretty much vanished when he stood up to the USSR which ultimately ceased to exist as a country. The economy turned around. I honestly think Ronald Reagan ended up being the best president of my lifetime. I also remember how John Hinckley tried to assassinate him in 1981 (to supposedly impress Jodie Foster). Reagan was hit in the chest but survived. His Press Secretary James Brady was left paralyzed by a gunshot to the head. Reagan survived and recovered quickly to resume his duties as President (and ultimately dodge the pattern of all presidents elected twenty years apart dying in office).

Reagan ran for reelection in 1984. The Democratic party nominated Walter Mondale (Jimmy Carter's vice president) for president and Geraldine Ferraro (the first woman vice presidential nominee by a major party). Mondale really had no chance. He tried to make an issue of Reagan being the oldest man ever to be president. In one of the presidential debates, Reagan joked "I will not make age an issue of this campaign. I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent's youth and inexperience". Even Mondale laughed and later admitted he knew then he was going to lose. He not only lost, he was stomped. He only carried his home state of Minnesota and the District of Columbia. This was the last "landslide" presidential victory (up til now).

Since Reagan could not run for a third term, there would be a new Republican nominee in 1988. Vice President George Bush threw his hat into the ring and with Reagan's endorsement (and the promise to continue Reagan's policies) won the Republican nomination. The Democratic nomination was up in the air among numerous candidates. The early front runner was Colorado senator Gary Hart. However, word got out of his involvement with a young lady named Donna Rice and he dropped out of the race. Finally, Massachusetts governor Michael Dukakis ended up getting the nomination. The Republicans sought to portray Dukakis as a liberal - which Dukakis embraced. Bush's choice of vice president (Dan Quayle) seemed to be an unwise choice. Much was made of his youth and inexperience. In the Vice Presidential debate, Qualye compared his experience with that of John F Kennedy which prompted the Democratic VP candidate Lloyd Bentsen to quip "Senator, I served with Jack Kennedy. I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you're no Jack Kennedy." What I remember really hurting Dukakis was a guy named Willie Horton. Horton was a convicted murderer. Under a furlough program in place at that time in Massachusetts, Horton was released as part of a weekend furlough program. He didn't return and committed a violent crime and was ultimately captured in Maryland. Republican ads blamed Dukakis for this (since he was governor, supported the program and had vetoed a change to the bill that have not allowed first-degree murders to be a part of the program). Bush ended up defeating Dukakis relatively easily. However, a promise he made during that campaign (that he ultimately broke) would cost him dearly in 1992 (which I'll talk about in my next post).

Monday, August 1, 2016

Presidential Elections - Part 3

As Jimmy Carter’s term progressed, things just got worse. There was an energy crisis in 1979. Not only did gas prices shoot up (over 1.00 a gallon) but gas just wasn’t available (because of issues in oil production in the Middle East). I remember gas stations closing down during the day because they were either out or trying to conserve their supplies. Also, gas was sold either by the half gallon or liter until gas pumps could be converted to handle three digit gas prices. The USSR continued to flex its muscles and invaded Afghanistan. Because of this, the President had the US Olympic Team boycott the 1980 Olympics in Moscow (the only time we’ve done that I think). I remember Sam Bowie of UK had made the basketball team and wouldn’t be able to play. The biggest thing I remember was in Iran. The Shah of Iran was ousted and the Ayatollah Khomeini took over rule of the country. Then, a group took over the US embassy there and held 52 Americans hostage. At first President Carter tried to negotiate for their release. Then, he sent in an attempt for rescue which failed horribly – they never got even close to the embassy. At this point, public sentiment really turned against him.

All of this led to President Carter doing something I’d never dreamed he’d do. He signed an act that reinstated registration for Selective Service (the draft). Every male born in 1960 and 1961 had to register within a few weeks of his signing. Being born in 1961, I dutifully went to the Avondale Post Office and filled out a card to do this. As the months progressed, I grew more and more concerned. I could tell Ronald Reagan was a no nonsense kind of guy. I feared he would immediately start up the draft if he were elected and send soldiers to Iran and Afghanistan. To be honest, I didn’t want to go overseas and fight. In retrospect, that seems really cowardly. My Papaw fought in France in World War I. My dad was in the Army. I had uncles who served as well as other relatives. My only defense is I was an immature somewhat self-centered 18 year old.

The Presidential election approached. I wasn’t voting for Jimmy Carter because I thought he’d done a poor job as president. As I said above, I was convinced Reagan would have me fighting in a foreign war in the very near future so I didn’t want to vote for him. I ended up voting for a third party candidate. John Anderson had run against Ronald Reagan in the 1980 Republican primary and decided to run as an independent. I decided he would get my vote. As I look back, I didn’t really understand his platform, I just knew he didn’t seem to be the “hawk” Ronald Reagan was. From what I read much later, he was a moderate and I tend to be a conservative. I also remember getting a flyer under my windshield at Paducah Community College promoting Libertarian Ed Clark. A friend of mine happened to see the flyer while riding with me one day and liked him enough to vote for him (I won’t name him, I feel like if he wants to admit it, he can). My ironic answer to him on why I couldn’t vote for Ed Clark was “He doesn’t have a chance to win”.

Pollsters predicted the election would be close. The only poll that didn’t show the election as close was the “Weekly Reader” poll done at schools. It had Reagan winning easily. Guess who was right? They were. Reagan won in a landslide. John Anderson did get 6% of the vote but no Electoral votes. I steeled myself for what would happen when Reagan took office. As he was in the process of being inaugurated, Iran released the hostages to Algeria. Reagan took the approach of supporting Afghanistan troops with military advice, money and weapons. So, all my worry was for nothing (as it often is).

That’s plenty for now. In my next post, I’ll discuss the Reagan years and how that choice of Vice President in 1980 shaped things after he left office.