The Weiner Component #169 – Part 3: The Modern Presidents & the Congress

English: Presidents Gerald Ford, Richard Nixon...

The first of the potentially extreme Conservative Candidates to run for the Presidency was Barry Goldwater.  He ran and was massively defeated in 1964 by Lyndon B. Johnson.  He received 22% of the vote, Johnson got well over 70%.  The extreme Conservatives (reactionaries) were not able to successfully mass their forces and win an election until 1980 with Ronald Reagan.  Both Eisenhower and Nixon tended to be more moderate Republicans.

 

Ronald Wilson Reagan was born on February 6, 1911 and died on June 5, 2004.  He served as President of the United States from January 20, 1981 to January 20, 1989.  This made him seventy years old when he first assumed the presidency and seventy-eight when he retired from that position, after serving two terms.  Up until that point he was the oldest President of the United States.

 

For his first four year term the Senate had a Republican majority and the House of Representatives had more Democrats than Republicans, meaning that the Speaker of the House was a Democrat.  This continued through the first two years of his second term.  During his last two years in office both Houses of Congress had a Democratic majority. 

 

In order to get legislation he wanted Reagan had to be able to compromise with the Democrats; “Take half a loaf.”  Occasionally he would go off on a tantrum and state that unless such-and-such a bill was passed he would not sign any other bills; but mostly he was able to compromise with Democrats.  Once in a while he would get his way.

 

Reagan has been called the Teflon President.  He came across as a nice guy with good intensions, being both an excellent speaker and a likeable person.  His years in the movies from the late 1930s on and the fact that he always played one of the good guys seemed to carry over. 

 

In 1964 Reagan gave a paid speech for Barry Goldwater called: “A Time for Choosing,” that threw him into politics.  He was elected the conservative Governor of California from 1967 through 1975.  Later he unsuccessfully entered the race as a potential Republican Presidential candidate in 1968 and 1976.  He lost both times and was not chosen as the Republican candidate.  In 1980 he did become the Republican choice and won against the incumbent, Jimmy Carter.

 

As the new president in 1981, Reagan instituted new and sweeping changes.  He espoused supply side economic policies which was described as “Reagonomics.”  This advocated tax reduction for the well-to-do, presumably in order to bring about rapid economic growth.  The argument being that if the rich had more surplus income they would then invest that money into new economic growth.  This new money would then trickle down to the ordinary citizens who would hold these new jobs and the government would then collect more taxes by reducing taxes.

 

There was only one problem with this system: it didn’t work.  Reagan himself had been one of the rich individuals benefiting from the new law.  His money had never been invested in new growth and this was true for the entire group that received this benefit; they tended to invest their surplus funds into old investments like the stock market.

 

He also advocated economic deregulation which brought about an increase in pollution and, in addition, he advocated a decrease in government spending; that would be entitlement programs to help the poor since he massively increased military expenditures.

 

Reagan felt that during administrations like that of Jimmy Carter the Soviets had militarily gotten ahead of the U.S. in military preparedness.  He firmly believed that America had to catch up and get ahead of Russia in its military ability.  Consequently we had to seriously upgrade our armaments.  The program was called “Star Wars.”   Apparently Reagan liked movies; some of the weapons he envisioned came out of films; they didn’t exist in real life.  He felt they could be developed as needed.

 

Reagan’s military concepts weren’t true; we were far ahead of the Soviet Union.  The U.S. National Debt went up for the first time to well over a trillion dollars during his watch.  In a sense it was a brilliant strategic move because if we upgraded, even though it was partly on a comic book level, the military was going to utilize weapons that didn’t exist but were going to be created as needed.  Following this happening the Soviet Union to just maintain it world position also had to upgrade its military. 

 

Every country, every economy is limited to the amount of productivity that its citizenry is capable of producing.  It may be a gigantic amount, almost beyond concept, but it is still a finite amount.  Consequently choices have to be made as to what it will produce.  The Soviet Union by trying to keep up with the United States militarily massively deprived its people of what they needed in order to successfully survive and the result was that the Communist State fell economically apart and Russia ceased being a communist dictatorship. 

 

Communism, where it existed, now became a National Movement rather than an international one.  Each of the existing communistic states like China and Cuba now became mixes of socialism and capitalism.  Reagan can claim credit for this; but it was an accident based upon his fears rather than a strategic move.

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Early in his first administration Reagan allowed Paul Volker, the Chairman of the Federal Reserve, to institute the Draconian measures needed to break the inflationary spiral that had been gradually generated from the time of the Vietnam War.  These measures caused a lot of unemployment and misery throughout the United States.  Interest rates had reached over 12 1/2 percent. To break the cycle of inflation Volker raised them far beyond that.

 

With massive unemployment occurring Reagan went on national television with a copy of the Sunday Employment Section of the New York Times and stated to the American public that he held twenty pages of employment ads.  If anyone had lost their job then they should go to where there was employment.  After the announcement he returned to the Oval Office and forgot about the problem. 

 

From that day on people in old jalopies left home with their families and followed rumors of where there was supposedly employment.  Most of the rumors for employment in other parts of the U.S. were just that, rumors.  By 1982 the FED would reduce interest rates; the GDP would rise to 3.4%; the inflationary spiral was broken but the homeless problem would persist to the present day.

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In 1984 Reagan won a landslide victory for his second term.  His foreign policy was at times strange: He described the Soviet Union as the
Evil Empire.
  In late 1983 Reagan approved having the CIA mine Nicaragua’s main harbor.  This was the harbor of a Socialist country with whom we were at peace.  The object was to keep out civilian cargo vessels and cut off imported weapons, fuel, and other supplies.  The premise being that this would seriously hurt the Sandinista or socialist government of Daniel Ortega.  This, in turn would give a serious boost to the CIA backed rebels or “Freedom Fighters,” as Reagan called them and create and uprising.  The CIA used firecracker mines dropped by small speedboats.  They were noisy but did little damage.  This act created an international uproar which forced Congress to take action.

 

In 1986 the U.S. bombed Libya in retaliation for a 1986 Berlin discotheque terrorist bombing.  There were 40 reported Libyan casualties and one U.S. plane was shot down.  The dead included a baby girl.

 

Reagan illegally authorized the Iran-Contra Affair.  Toward the end of his second term Reagan requested that Congress authorize funds for his “Freedom Fighters” in Nicaragua.  The Democratic Congress would not authorize any money.  Reagan’s people, with his approval, began a secret operation by which arms would be illegally sold to Iran through other countries and the profit would be used for the Nicaraguan rebels.  The operation was right out of the movies, probably a James Bond movie, and the man coordinating everything was Colonel Oliver North, who probably saw himself as the super-patriot.  North avoided prison because he testified before Congress and all of his testimony was exempt from prosecution.

 

It was all totally illegal and Reagan could have been impeached and he and his staff prosecuted and sent to prison.  In his speech when he admitted it to the nation he couldn’t believe that he had acted illegally.  But since his term was almost over and as he had acted, it was believed, for the good of the United States nothing was done.

 

President Reagan initially transitioned the Cold War from détente to rollback by escalating an arms race with the USSR.  He engaged in talks with Mikhail Gorbachev that culminated in the INF Treaty which shrank both countries nuclear arsenals.   He challenged Gorbachev to tear down the Berlin wall.  This was done five months after he left office and on December 26, 1991, nearly three years after he left office, the Soviet Union collapsed.  It can be argued that President Ronald Reagan ended the Cold War.

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Reagan was followed by his Vice President, George H.W. Bush as the 41st President of the United States from January 20, 1989 to January 20, 1993.  He served one four year term as President.  Both Houses of Congress were controlled by the Democratic Party, consequently there wasn’t much cooperation between them and the Republican President.

 

President George H. W. Bush had a lot of experience working in the government: he had been a member in the House of Representatives from 1967 to 1971, United States Ambassador to the United Nations from 1971 to 1973, Chair of the Republican National Committee from 1973 to 1974, Chief of the U.S. Liaison Office to the People’s Republic of China from 1974 to 1975, Director of Central Intelligence from 1965 to 1977, and 43d Vice-President of the United States from 1981 to 1989.

 

In domestic policy Bush wanted to lower the National Debt which had grown to well over a trillion dollars under President Reagan.  He felt that this should be done by lowering government spending.  Congress, on the other hand felt it should be done by raising taxes.  Mostly the Democratic Congress won out.  Bush had promised not to raise taxes when he ran for the presidency but he later signed a bill that raised them.  This lowered his popularity significantly among Republicans.

 

President George H.W. Bush spearheaded, along with Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, the negotiations of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which eliminated the majority of tariffs on products traded among the United States, Canada, and Mexico.  The treaty encourages trade among these countries.

 

In foreign policy the U.S. invaded Panama and placed the popular elected president in charge of the country.  He had won the election but the old government under Manuel Noriega had invalidated it and remained in power.  After an American soldier was killed the U.S. invaded and arrested Noriega.

 

In Iraq the situation was different.  President Bush sent a plenipotentiary or special unassigned diplomat to deal with Saddam Hussein the ruler of Iraq.  The diplomat was a woman, which in the eyes of an Arab ruler meant that the mission was unimportant and also her authority to commit the U.S. to anything was highly limited.  Apparently the two verbally spared for a while. 

 

What Saddam Hussein needed to know was what would the U.S. do if Iraq invaded oil-rich Kuwait?  It would seem that diplomatic meetings never deal directly with the question that needs to be answered.  Saddam Hussein assumed from the meeting that the U.S. would do nothing to stop the invasion. 

 

I suspect that George H.W. Bush assumed he was establishing the concept of equal rights for women.  With his experience he should have known better.  The result of the Kuwait invasion was the Gulf War, which Bush had the sense to end without unseating Hussein.  Saddam Hussein would later attempt to have Bush assassinated for betraying him.  George W. Bush, his son, would later get even with Hussein and turn the Middle East into a cage-less zoo, which it still is.

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In 1992, Bush was succeeded in the presidency by Bill Clinton, a Democrat, who held that office for two terms, until January 20. 2001.  Previously Clinton had been Governor of Arkansas.

 

Bill Clinton presided over the longest period of peacetime economic expansion in American history.  During his first two years in office he had a Democratic majority in both Houses of Congress and he signed into law The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which had been initiated by Republcan President George H.W. Bush.

 

From 1992 until early 1994 the Republicans were able to stop legislation from passing in the Senate by use of the filibuster.  Clinton’s Health Care proposal was never voted upon and other legislation was also stopped in this fashion.

 

In 1994 both Houses of Congress achieved a Republican majority.  Newt Gingrich became Speaker of the House and Strom Thurman Majority Leader in the Senate.  The Senate had 47 Democrats and 53 Republicans.  The House had 230 Republicans and 204 Democrats.

 

President Clinton was seen by the Speaker and other Republicans as the enemy.  The Republicans shut down the government twice: from November 14 – 19, 1995 and from December 16 – January 6, 1996, for a total of 28 days.

 

The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Newt Gingrich, would resign his speakership and also resign from the House over ethics violation charges.  The potential vote against him was overwhelming by both Republicans and Democrats.

 

The final attack against Clinton ended in Impeachment Charges by the House of Representatives.  An independent council, Ken Starr, was appointed to investigate Clinton’s involvement in an earlier land deal, called “Whitewater.”  Nothing negative or impeachable was found about Clinton’s involvement.  What was discovered was that he was having an illicit relationship with a White House intern.  When questioned by a Grand Jury he gave misleading information.

 

Presumably he lied to the Grand Jury.  The first article of impeachment was approved by a House vote of 228 to 206.  Five Republicans refused to vote for it and five Democrats supported the impeachment.  He was accused of lying to the Grand Jury about the nature of his relationship with the intern.  The second article of impeachment, obstruction of justice passed by a narrower margin: 221 to 212.

 

The trial was held in the Senate, which also had a Republican majority.  The question, of course, was: Are these “High Crimes and Misdemeanors”?  Bill Clinton was found, Not Guilty.

 

The irony attached to this was that Newt Gingrich had earlier resigned both his Speakership and position in the House of Representatives.  He had been replaced by the Louisiana Republican, Robert L. Livingston as the new Speaker.  Larry Flynt, the publisher of Hustler Magazine offered one million dollars for each unflattering sexual story about Republican members of Congress. 

 

Apparently one million dollars is serious money.  Livingston was a true family man.  He so believed in it that he had two families, one legal and one not so legal.  His second extra-legal wife gave Flynt her story and received the one million dollars.  Robert L. Livingston resigned both his Speakership and his position in the House.  Other Republicans in Congress got very nervous as Flynt’s offer still remained.

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For his last two years in office Clinton had a budget surplus and reduced the National Debt.  He signed a welfare reform act and the State Children’s Health Insurance Program that provided health coverage for millions of children.  Clinton left office with the highest public approval rating of any U.S. President since World War II.

 

The man who replaced Bill Clinton as the 43d President of the United States was George W. Bush, the second man elected president who did not receive the majority popular vote by the American people.

 

George Walker Bush was elected president in 2001 after a close and controversial election.  Eight months into his presidency, on September 11, 2001, The Twin Towers in New York City were destroyed in two terrorist suicide attacks.  Bush launched the War on Terror, an international military campaign which included the war in Afghanistan (2001) and the War in Iraq (2003).

 

In addition he promoted policies on health care, education, and social security reform.  While going to war he signed into law broad tax cuts, the Patriot Act, the No Child Left Behind law, social security reform, the Partial Birth Abortion Act, and Medicare prescription drug coverage benefits for seniors.  During his presidency there were national debates on immigration, social security, electronic surveillance, and torture or enhanced interrogation. 

 

George W. Bush was reelected to office in 2004 in another close election.  During his second term he received criticism for his handling, from both sides of the aisle, of the Iraq War and the Katrina Hurricane. 

 

Presumably the preemptive Iraq War was launched because Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.  No “weapons of mass destruction” were ever found in Iraq.  In point of fact, Saddam Hussein, the ruler of Iraq, had tried to have George H.W. Bush, the president’s father assassinated over Iraq’s Gulf War.  Bush Jr’s attack on Iraq was a punishment for that. A rather expensive punishment!

 

In the case of Hurricane Katrina which devastated much of the Gulf Coast and put much of New Orleans underwater, the man who headed the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Michael D. Brown, was a Federal appointment.  He had been rewarded for his participation in the presidential election with that job and was incapable of properly carrying it out.  Bush responded to mounting criticism by accepting full responsibility.  But that was beside the point.

 

In 2006 the Democratic Party regained control of both Houses of Congress.  In December 2007 the United States entered the worst economic downturn since World War II, the so-called Great Recession.  Its causes had been rapidly generated from the Reagan administration on.  The Bush administration obtained Congressional passage of numerous economic programs intended to preserve the country’s financial system.  In 2008 Bush initially bailed out the major banks who through their hunger for profits and the lack of regulation had brought the nation to the brink of financial collapse and themselves to the point of bankruptcy.

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It was at this point that Barack Obama assumed the presidency with the nation facing a disaster far greater than the 1929 Great Depression.  President Obama had been elected on a platform of “Time for a Change.”  Instead he had to make a potentially Great Depression into a Great Recession and allow the country to recover from the state of disaster that the Republicans had created, of which American was in the midst.

 

In his first two years in office he signed the American Recovery and investment Act of 2009 and the Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act of 2010.  He also signed the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) and the Dodd Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.  In foreign policy he ended U.S. involvement in the Iraq War and increased troop levels in Afghanistan. In January of 2011 President Obama ordered the military operation that resulted in the death of Osama bin Laden 

 

Up until 2010 the Democrats had control of both Houses of Congress.  In that year the Republicans gained control of the House of Representatives.  The Democratic Party lost 63 seats in that House of Congress, giving the Republicans 243 representatives to 193 for the Democrats.  The Republicans had earlier in caucus taken an oath to make Obama a one term president by impeding everything he wanted to do.  For the first two years of his presidency they would delay and make extensive use of the filibuster in the Senate.  After they achieved their majority they would oppose everything he had or would try to do in the House of Representatives.

 

From 2011 on the House of Representatives has not only hampered Presidential actions but have also forced through laws by attaching amendments to necessary legislation that have actually worsened economic conditions brought about by the Great Recession or Housing Debacle of 2008.  They did this by, among other things, increasing unemployment.  Through the Federal Reserve’s use of creative Monetary Policy the President and the Chairman of that organization have brought about a good percentage of recovery.  Had they had Congress’ full cooperation, fiscal policy could have been applied and recovery would have been completely achieved.  Instead the country is still at about 5% unemployment.

 

President Obama was reelected to a second term in 2012.  He has, unsuccessfully in terms of Congress, promoted policies related to gun control, particularly after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, among other reforms.  On foreign policy troops were sent back into Iraq to help counter the effects of ISIS and the situation in Afghanistan continues.  In 2015 the Paris Agreement on climate change was signed by the United States and by 192 other countries.  The U.S. was part of a United Nations agreement with Iran not to develop an atomic bomb and relations with Cuba were normalized.  All this, despite the actions of Congress, have given President Obama a highly favorable rating among American presidents and the general public.

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On November 8, Donald Trump was elected President of the United States beginning January 20. 2017.  While the Democratic candidate, Hillary Clinton had 395,595 more popular votes than Trump, 60,467,245 to 60,071,650.  Trump had 290 Electoral College votes to Clinton’s 232. 

 

Trump has largely but not completely acted presidential since the election.  He still tweeted stupidly about the spontaneous protests that have occurred across many cities in the United States against him.  He is thin-skinned and over reactive.  But this is not the real crux of his present problems.  On November 28 the first of his Trump University class action suits begins.  Even though it’s a civil suit if Trump loses and is found guilty of fraud, which he is accused of, he could conceivably be impeached.  The judge in the case, who Trump has accused of being prejudiced because of his Hispanic heritage, has recommended that Trump settle the case out of court.  But there are over 7,000 claimants who say they were cheated by Trump’s false claims about Trump University, some of whom paid as much as $35,000 for tuition.  Trump may not be able to afford the cost of settlement.  In addition there are two other class action suits coming up in addition to a $40 million suit from New York State for fraud.  The current case was filed in 2010.  Trump could be impeached during his first year in office for what he did before being elected president.  It should be interesting, if not colorful.

 

 

English: Seal of the President of the United S...

 

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