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21 Reasons Why Ronald Reagan Was a Terrible President

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Jeff is a computer professional who takes a great interest in politics and tries to always distinguish fact from opinion.

Official portrait of President Reagan, 1981

Official portrait of President Reagan, 1981

1. Reagan Supplied Weapons to America's Enemies

He armed Saddam Hussein's Iraq during the Iran-Iraq war despite the fact that it was widely known Iraq was using chemical weapons against civilian populations in violation of international law. (U.S. Secretly Gave Aid to Iraq Early in Its War Against Iran: The New York Times)

2. Reagan Ignored the Atrocities Committed by Saddam Hussein

Even after the whole world condemned Saddam Hussein for using chemical weapons to kill over 5,000 Kurdish civilians in Iraq, the Reagan administration continued to provide weapons and tactical information to Iraq, which Iraq used to target its enemies. Reagan even vetoed a UN resolution condemning Iraq.

3. Reagan Illegally Supplied Arms to Both Sides of the Iran-Iraq War

While he was supplying Iraq with weapons, Reagan also armed Iran during the Iran-Iraq War in direct violation of a U.S. law that he had signed.

4. Reagan Caved in to the Demands of Terrorists

After several Americans were taken hostage by terrorists in Lebanon, Reagan provided weapons to Iran in exchange for their release. Despite this concession, ultimately more hostages were taken.

Memorial to 241 marines, soldiers, and sailors killed on October 23, 1983 in Beirut, Lebanon.

Memorial to 241 marines, soldiers, and sailors killed on October 23, 1983 in Beirut, Lebanon.

5. Reagan Caved in to the Demands of Terrorists Again

After Reagan sent Marines to Beirut for a peacekeeping mission, a terrorist’s truck bomb killed 241 U.S. Marines. Reagan responded by immediately doing exactly what the terrorists wanted, pulling all the troops out of Beirut. (When Reagan Cut and Run - Foreign Policy)

6. Reagan Was Weak in the War on Terrorism

After the bombing of the US Marine Corps barracks in Beirut, Reagan promised to track down and punish the terrorists who committed that horrible act. He never followed up on that promise.

7. Reagan Didn't Obey His Own Laws

He illegally supplied weapons to Nicaraguan rebels in violation of a law that he himself had signed.

8. Reagan Supported the Violent Overthrow of a Democratically Elected Government

He illegally supported the Nicaraguan Contras, whom he called “Freedom Fighters,” despite the fact that they killed civilians and wanted to overthrow the democratically elected government to restore the dictatorship that previously existed in Nicaragua. (Reagan gives CIA authority to establish the Contras -

9. Reagan Started an Unnecessary War to Divert Attention From His Failure in Beirut

Just days after the bombing that killed 241 Marines in Beirut, Reagan launched an attack on the island of Grenada to remove Cuban soldiers there. This successfully took attention away from the devastating loss of those Marines in Beirut.

USS Stark after 37 crew members were killed by an Iraqi missile on May 17, 1987.

USS Stark after 37 crew members were killed by an Iraqi missile on May 17, 1987.

10. Reagan Failed to Defend US From Saddam Hussein

When an Iraqi fighter jet fired a missile into a U.S. Navy ship in 1987, killing 37 men, Reagan did nothing in response to the attack. Iraq is still the only non-allied country to attack a U.S. warship without retaliation.

11. Reagan Helped Create Al Qaeda

The Reagan administration armed and supported the Mujahideen rebels in Afghanistan. Many members of the Mujahideen, like Osama bin Laden, used their experience in Afghanistan to help them form the terrorist organization Al Qaeda.

12. Reagan Supported the Racist Apartheid Government in South Africa

When the white minority in South Africa (just 10% of the population) brutally repressed the black majority, even denying them the right to vote, the U.S. Congress overwhelmingly passed the Anti-Apartheid Act of 1986 to apply pressure to South Africa to end Apartheid. But President Reagan opposed any sanctions on South Africa and vetoed that bill. Congress was forced to override his veto. (House overrides Reagan apartheid veto, Sept. 29, 1986 - POLITICO)

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Iraqi President Saddam Hussein greets Donald Rumsfeld, special envoy of President Ronald Reagan, in Baghdad on December 20, 1983.

Iraqi President Saddam Hussein greets Donald Rumsfeld, special envoy of President Ronald Reagan, in Baghdad on December 20, 1983.

13. Reagan Supported the Most Brutal Dictators in the World as Long as He Didn't Consider Them “Communists”

  • He supported Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega. Later, when Noriega became too close with Fidel Castro, we suddenly considered him an enemy and removed him from power.
  • He supported Saddam Hussein when he committed the most brutal atrocities on Earth, killing thousands of his own people. Years later, when Saddam threatened our oil supply, we used these same atrocities as reasons to go to war with him.
  • He supported Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos even after Marcos killed his political rival and rigged his own reelection.
  • He supported the brutal regime in El Salvador when it was widely known that they were killing civilians, including Americans. After four American nuns were murdered by Salvadorian soldiers, Reagan’s Secretary of State defended the Salvadorians, suggesting that the nuns might have been shot while trying to run a military roadblock—but this wouldn't explain why they were also raped before they were killed.

14. Reagan’s Administration Had More Documented Corruption Than Any President in U.S. History

At least 138 Reagan administration officials, including several cabinet members, were investigated for, indicted for, or convicted of crimes. This is the largest number of any U.S. President. Many of them were pardoned by Reagan or President Bush before they could even stand trial.

  • Secretary of the Interior James Watt —Indicted on 21 felonies
  • Attorney General Edwin Meese —Resigned after investigations of corruption
  • Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger—Charged with Iran-Contra crimes and pardoned before going to trial
  • Assistant Secretary of State Elliot Abrams—Plea bargained for Iran-Contra crimes and pardoned by President Bush
  • Two National Security Advisors Robert MacFarlane and John Poindexter—Pleaded guilty to Iran-Contra crimes and were pardoned
  • Three high ranking CIA officials, Alan Fiers, Clair George, and Joseph Fernandez —Convicted and pardoned for Iran-Contra crimes
  • At least nine Reagan appointees were convicted of perjury, lying to Congress, obstruction of Congress, or contempt of Congress

15. Reagan Frequently Repeated Bald-Faced Lies Even After They Were Publicly Revealed to Be Untrue

  • He told stories about having been a U.S. Army photographer assigned to film Nazi death camps. Reagan never visited or filmed any such camps.
  • He often told a story about a “Chicago Welfare Queen” who had 80 aliases and gotten $150,000 in welfare. She never existed but investigators did find one woman who had two aliases and received $8,000. Still, Reagan continued to tell the false version of the story.
  • He claimed that trees create more pollution than automobiles, an absurdly untrue statement that he literally pulled out of thin air.

16. Reagan Set Records for Budget Deficits

After criticizing President Carter for having a $50 billion deficit, Reagan’s own deficits exceeded $200 billion. He tripled the national debt in only eight years. Although Republicans blamed Congress for the deficits, all eight of the budgets Congress passed had less spending and smaller deficits than the budgets proposed by Reagan. (Record Deficit in Reagan Budget - The New York Times)

17. Reagan's Economic Policies Put Millions of Americans out of Work

When he took office in 1981, unemployment was at 7.5% and dropping. A few months after his economic policies took effect, unemployment began to rise again. Millions of people continued to lose their jobs for the next two years until unemployment exceeded 10%. It stayed above 10% for nearly a year, peaking at 10.8%. Three years after he was elected, unemployment was still higher than when he was sworn in.

18. Reagan’s Policies Allowed Hundreds of Thousands of Family Farms to Go out of Business or Declare Bankruptcy

By some accounts, nearly one third of all farms were at risk of being foreclosed during the 1980s. Reagan vetoed a farm credit bill that would have given farmers some relief. His popularity among farmers dropped so low that at one point when discussing the exportation of grain to other countries, Reagan joked that he would like to “keep the grain and export the farmers."

19. Reagan’s Financial Policies Caused the Savings and Loan Industry to Collapse

The financial deregulation and changes to the tax code that President Reagan enacted ultimately caused nearly 750 different financial institutions to fail. This cost taxpayers about $150 billion.

Ronald Reagan wearing cowboy hat at Rancho del Cielo, 1976.

Ronald Reagan wearing cowboy hat at Rancho del Cielo, 1976.

20. Reagan Robbed the Social Security Trust Fund to Pay for His Budget Shortfalls

After Reagan cut taxes for the rich, the tax revenue to fund the government was so small that the budget deficit grew to four times what it had been under Jimmy Carter. So Reagan “borrowed” hundreds of billions of dollars from the Social Security trust fund to pay the country’s bills. That money has never been paid back.

21. Reagan Largely Ignored the AIDS Epidemic while Tens of Thousands of People Were Dying of the Disease

Many conservatives in the 1980s believed that AIDS was God’s punishment for being gay. Ronald Reagan did not publicly talk about AIDS until the 6th year of his presidency. In 1986, when AIDS fatalities were doubling every year, Reagan proposed cuts in funding for AIDS research.

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.

Questions & Answers

Question: How does Donald Trump's scandal record compare to Ronald Reagan's?

Answer: Trump has only been in office for two years, and he has more scandals than most presidents do in eight. If Trump is allowed to serve a second term, he could set a new record for the most scandals, most members of his administration going to prison, and most harm done to the country. Reagan was a terrible president, but Trump could be catastrophic.

Question: Is it true that Reagan defunded State-run institutions for the mentally ill, began by Carter, which helped create the homeless crisis that we are currently experiencing?

Answer: I have often heard that, yes.

Question: Do you think Walter F. Mondale (who ran against Reagan in 1984) would have been a good president?

Answer: Since I've listed a multitude of reasons why Reagan was a terrible president, it stands to reason that I do believe that Mondale would have been considerably better. I doubt a Mondale presidency would have had the countless scandals, graft, and corruption that we experienced from the Reagan presidency.

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