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How Was Ronald Reagan as a President?

Updated on February 25, 2021
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Ara is a Journalism graduate from California State University Northridge who is always looking to explore his writing opportunities.

By the question asked in this article, readers would think that this is just some generic article asking a simple question but there is more to it than that. How was Ronald Reagan as a president? Looking back at his career in the Oval Office, I would say that as of 2019, Reagan is at best an average president. He was not really a conservative icon and he was also not as terrible as those on the Left say that he was.


President Ronald Reagan seen here in 1985.
President Ronald Reagan seen here in 1985. | Source

Ronald Reagan Got Into the White House Because of a Dissatisfied American Public

Ronald Reagan was the first person since Herbert Hoover to have been elected President of the United States that did not originally begin his public life in politics since Herbert Hoover in 1928. I have always thought that the US Presidency is best for those individuals that have a background in politics already. Is this a biased view? For sure, but I don’t even think that the Founding Fathers envisioned that America would have celebrities serving in the nation’s highest office, but by 1980, much of the American public was dissatisfied with the direction that the country was going in. There was much malaise as the United States had been facing an oil embargo since 1973, the same year that OPEC (Organization for Petroleum Exporting Countries) was founded. The oil embargo led to massive inflation, unemployment increased, and there was a 40% rise in gasoline prices and a 30% rise in home heating costs. In addition to this, the United States had been facing one of its biggest international crises’ to date: 52 American hostages were being held by conservatives that were in charge of Iran’s new Islamic regime and this one issue really destroyed Jimmy Carter’s chances of reelection.

Ronald Reagan as a President

How Would You Rate Ronald Reagan's Presidency?

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Reagan Was a Lifelong Democrat Until 1962

Ronald Reagan as a young man was a Democrat but as he became opposed to communism and the conservative social values of his second wife Nancy Davis brought him closer to the Republican Party. He actively supported Barry Goldwater’s presidential campaign but Goldwater was eventually badly beaten by Lyndon Johnson in 1964 by a margin of 486-52. That defeat may have been on the mind of Reagan as he ran for President twice before but was unsuccessful in 1968 and 1976. After winning the Republican nomination in 1980, Reagan went into the general election that year and cruised to an easy victory over his opponent, Jimmy Carter, beating him by 489-49.

Official Portrait of Ronald Reagan (1981)

Source

Reagonomics: Ronald Reagan's Most Famous Policy Initiative

Upon assuming the Presidency, Ronald Reagan’s first big plan or policy proposal was called Reaganomics, influenced by economist Arthur Laffer of the University of Southern California. Laffer’s argument was that these policies would result in more jobs created for all economic classes. Reaganomics also included deregulation and higher interest rates to try and control the inflation problem. I am sure that readers would like to know, what were Ronald Reagan’s strengths as a President? These are in no particular order of importance but the good aspects of Ronald Reagan were:

Ronald Reagan: His Strengths

  1. His communication skills and oratorical skills: Reagan was skilled at being able to get his message across to a very concerned and anxious American public. He would also use his sense of humor to criticize his opponents as well. There is a famous moment during his 1984 campaign against Walter Mondale in which he said: “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.”
  2. Foreign policy: Reagan was a staunch anti-communist who was deeply concerned about the possibility of a nuclear war with the then Soviet Union so he was able to successfully negotiate with then Soviet premier Mikhail Gorbachev in order to make sure that no such war ever took place. He also supported the regime of Saddam Hussein during the Iran-Iraq War in the 1980’s as the United States was concerned that the new regime in Iran would try to export its influence throughout the Middle East. Basically, the United States was very fearful that Ayatollah Khomeini and the Revolutionary Guard would build up in power to such a degree that they would control the entire Middle East with oil money, oil supplies, a very powerful military, and they would be a threat to US interests in the region. Although the United States and many Western nations provided Saddam with intelligence information, weapons, and chemical gas, the regime in Iran was not overthrown but at least supporting Saddam was seen as the proper political move at the time. However, one weakness of this was that although Reagan vowed to pursue the people that attacked the US Marine barracks in Beirut, Lebanon following the Marine barracks bombing which led to the deaths of 241 US soldiers, Reagan withdrew all US forces from Lebanon instead of confronting Hezbollah. Now, we will address the bad points of the Reagan presidency.


"Introductory Video About the Reagan Revolution"

Ronald Reagan: His Bad Points as President


  • Not able to neutralize Hezbollah or the influence of Iran’s Islamic Regime
  • Deregulating banks, savings, and loan associations
  • Opposition to labor unions
  • The firing of over 12,000 air traffic controllers
  • Restrictions on logging and drilling for oil on public lands were relaxed.
  • The outlawing of abortion is bad or it can be good depending upon who you ask. This is a controversial issue.

Note: I could on about Reagan’s other economic policies and what he did about the AIDS crisis but for the purposes of this essay, I will only address certain aspects of his Presidency. Another major weak point about Ronald Reagan as President is that in spite of the fact that he campaigned on the issue of law and order and being this kind of tough guy that was wanting to export American values of freedom and democracy abroad, the reality paints a much different picture.


Reagan did not even attempt to confront Hezbollah, even though the US forces were stationed in Lebanon and instead by February 1984, US troops in Lebanon were removed. The lie that Reagan told was that these troops were being sent to Lebanon as part of an international peacekeeping force but they were there to try and prop up a Christian style government. Where was that toughness? Iran & Hezbollah defeated the US military there and kept the Iran-Iraq War at a stalemate so if this was a game, Iran so far had 2 points and the US had….zero! The so-called “law and order” President along with Secretary of State George Schultz authorized the invasion of the small island nation of Grenada which had a Communist military style regime there. Cuba had troops and technical aid workers that were stationed there willing to defend that regime. However, they surrendered after just two days. Additionally, the Reagan Administration supported right wing death squads in El Salvador which were used to silence any form of dissent. In Nicaragua, the Sandinistas were led by a man by the name of Daniel Ortega. Reagan believed that their rule would open the region to Soviet and Cuban communist influence. He wanted no part of this, so at least he was consistent in his anti-communist policies. He then authorized the CIA to train and equip a group of revolutionaries known as the Contras.

What the Reagan Administration's foreign policy really was about

I realize that Ronald Reagan believed very strongly in freedom and democracy, however and this is a BIG however…. The actions shown by the Reagan White House prove that this Administration was not interested in promoting freedom and democracy but rather they were interested in supporting regimes that suited their national interests. So I will attempt to “grade” Ronald Reagan in various areas of his Presidency and here is a quick snapshot of it:


Based on this quick snapshot of grades, Ronald Reagan would get no higher than a C- grade if we were going to analyze US Presidents based on a grading system.



Famous Dialogue Between Reagan and Mondale

How Ronald Reagan Ranks In Each Category


  • Overall Charisma: A
  • Speaking, Oratorial Skills & Sense of Humor: A
  • Economic Policies: D+
  • Foreign Policy: C-
  • Toughness as a Statesman: C
  • Negotiating with the Soviet Union: A

Is Ronald Reagan the Worst President Ever? No

Where do we start as we try to conclude that Reagan may be the worst President of the modern era or maybe ever at least in the ideas of one person? For starters, Reagan believed that there should be a sort of hands-off approach by the government to try and address the nation’s problems. In his First Inaugural Address in 1981, he said: “Government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem,” (Parry, 2009). To further add to this point, Reagan used his standing to deepen grievances of white men who believed that they had been victims of reverse discrimination and political correctness. In this same article by Parry, the author mentions that even as these working class white men that voted for Reagan and they were known as Reagan Democrats, unions became broken. Free trade policies resulted in the loss of US manufacturing jobs, old neighborhoods decayed and drug use among young people really soared. This is just the beginning of the description as to why Ronald Reagan may be the worst President in the history of the United States. But whatever Parry says, looking back and analyzing this Presidency, Reagan is not the worst President of the United States but he may very well be at best average.

Bibliography

Parry, R. (2009, June 3). Ronald Reagan: Worst President Ever? Retrieved from Common Dreams: https://www.commondreams.org/views/2009/06/03/ronald-reagan-worst-president-ever

© 2019 Ara Vahanian

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