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Ronald Reagan as a President and a Person Essay

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Updated: Apr 21st, 2021

Introduction

Ronald Reagan was the 40th president of the United States. He was, perhaps, the most successful president in the world’s history. His presidency saw the United States of America obtain sustainable economic stability, and it also gave citizens trust and confidence in the White House. These advancements are, arguably, the threshold of America’s financial success. By using appropriate economic policies, President Reagan helped reduce both federal spending and taxes in the United States.

By doing so, he attracted a significant amount of investment in his country. Although he has his school of critics, Ronald Reagan made such an outstanding contribution to the United States that his success as a president can be compared to very few presidents in the United States history.

His confidence in what e believed in was instrumental in his success as a president since, with excellent communication skills, he made his ideas known and let people express their views of his opinions. He was able to fight Soviet Communism until its effect in the U.S. was negligible. He led the United States in the rivalry between the U.S. and the Soviet Union and ultimately made the U.S. win over the Soviet Union. He is also credited for creating the West emerge victors in the cold war in which the rivalry mentioned above between the U.S. and the Soviet Union took center-stage.

Reagan was a President like no other. He was always waiting for people to demand his services as a leader for him to run for whatever position. Before he ran for Governor in California, he had never thought of himself being a politician. However, he was a political activist who frequently criticized the government and fought Soviet Communism with all his might. He began fighting communism during his acting years when it was made clear that communism was terrible because he was once a proponent of communism. After realizing its negativity, Reagan did all he could to fight communism while expressing his belief in conservatism.

These two principles, coupled with his unbeatable communication skills, were bound to get him very far even as a film actor. The people of California mounted pressure on him to run for the governorship.

He was very hesitant at first, but he later gave in and gave it a try. He won the governorship position in California with a commendable margin. After serving California’s people for one term, the Californian people were impressed with his ideals and policies, and thus they gave him a second term in office. He then got involved in the campaigns for various presidential candidates until his supporters mounted pressure on him once again to run for the presidency, and the rest is history (Nosotro 1). Thus, it can be summarized that President Ronald Reagan was a true leader who had confidence in what he believed in and was not afraid to make his ideas known.

Early Life of Ronald Reagan

Born on the 6th day of February in 1911, Ronald Reagan grew in his Tampico Illinois home to be a respectable and all-around person. His parents were John and Nelle Reagan, and they took him to Dixon High School, where he was a football-playing average student. He went to Eureka College, where he undertook a course in Economics and Sociology. Later as a President, he jokingly remarked that he got a chance to play football for four years in college. Thus in college, he was part of the college football team, and he also acted in plays organized by the school. He was part of the Swimming team of Eureka, a group he created. It can thus be seen that President Reagan was an all-round student in college by being an average student in academics and participating in college co-curricular activities.

Professional Life of Ronald Reagan

After completing college, Ronald Reagan worked at a radio station in Davenport, where he broadcasted sports. In 1937, he went to California for Spring Baseball training, where he met a Warner Bros agent who signed him as a radio announcer in a film. This film was the beginning of a career in movies that saw him making more than 50 films. He is best known as an actor for his Knut Rockne-Al movie.

After acting in Hollywood for some time, Reagan became a member of the SAG (Screen Actors Guild) board. This was from the year 1947. He then became more interested in politics with a keen interest in national politics. He was against the ideas of communism, and he thus worked hard to ensure that communism did not find a place in Hollywood. Due to his activism against communism and the impressive stand he took concerning politics, he was elected as the president of the SAG by its members.

He then worked as the president of the SAG for the next six years, during which time he developed a great interest in politics and formed significant networks in national politics. He then retired from films but remained very close to SAG, dating many young starlets after his wife divorced him. However, he later acted at a nightclub for $30 to pay a debt of $18.

After his career in the film industry, President Reagan became actively involved in President Nixon’s national politics and later became the governor for the State of California. He later vied for the presidency in which he won with a record vote margin. His presidency was also characterized by numerous achievements that he is remembered among the most successful American presidents. He used controversial but appropriate economic policies to change most of the problems that the U.S. was experiencing as he took office. He also helped to bring down the Soviet Union, which was a threat and rival to the United States of America, and he also helped the West come out of the cold war victorious.

Life as a politician

As stated in the discussion above, President Reagan was actively involved in the Republican Richard Nixon presidential campaigns. He gave two hundred speeches in the campaigns on behalf of Nixon. After four years, he became interested in politics, where he actively campaigned for Barry Goldwater as a presidential candidate. After being in the political limelight for more than half a decade, conservative Republicans were very pleased with him, and they regarded him as their hero.

He was therefore requested by these conservatives to vie for the Californian governorship in the year 1966. After he was asked by his fellow conservatives to run for Governor in California, he refused at first, but after serious consideration, he gave in. He won the nomination with the Republican Party in June and won California’s Governorship with an overwhelming vote difference. After his first term as the Governor of California ended, he was voted back into office by the Californian people who had admired his work (“Ronald Reagan – Governor of California” 1).

Another essential thing to note about the political life of Ronald Reagan is that Reagan was initially a Democrat. In the greater part of his life in the film industry, Reagan argued his political beliefs with a Democrat base. However, in the year 1962, after actively campaigning for Presidential candidate Nixon, Ronald Reagan became a Republican after he had severely changed political parties.

Ronald Reagan’s Presidential Campaign

In his transition from the governor to president, Ronald Reagan gave reasons why he decided to run for president in 1980. He explains how after unsuccessfully campaigning for Ford, Carter’s predecessor, many supporters came to him urging him to run for president. He also showed great interest in the administration of President James Carter. The Carter administration was built on, among others, a policy for reducing military spending, which did not augur well with Ronald Reagan.

They also implemented their so-called “national economic planning” (Wroe 29), which, to Ronald Reagan, could have destructive effects on the United States’ economy, which had a strong foundation in freedom of investment. To Reagan, what the U.S. needed was not a carefully planned and strict transformational economic policies but strategic incentives to investment that would attract investment in the United States and make the economy grow (Samuelson 1). Ronald Reagan made all these concerns and solutions to problems known to his supporters during the campaigns.

As mentioned above, the administration of James Carter was reducing its expenditure on the military, yet its performance in national security was a disappointment. The American government was facing competition so stiff from communism that it was on the verge of losing to the latter. The government was heavily relying on a volunteer army, and the military lacked strategic composition while the government was sitting back, watching enemies develop nuclear Armageddon.

These problems had to be highlighted by any presidential candidate against James Carter during the campaigns. Thus, Ronald Reagan emphasized them and promised to reverse the situation by freeing the hostages held captive in Iran as soon as he took office. He also promised to prioritize military spending and increase the United States’ strategic forces to give it competitiveness, which would make peacekeeping easy. The people of the United States knew that he was an anti-communist crusader and thus his campaigns only the efforts he had made in fighting communism and the potential he had in strategizing America for the cold war. By the end of the campaigns, the American people were sure that it is Ronald Reagan they needed if they wanted to be secure (“Ronald Reagan – Presidential Campaigns” 1).

Other aspects of the Carter government that did not impress Ronald Reagan and which he bitterly highlighted during his campaigns were the general economic state in which the United States was. Unemployment was at a record high, inflation had also gone up, and interest rates were again increasingly climbing. Worse still, the economic policies of the Carter administration did not promise a reversal of the situation. Ronald Reagan was even predicting that the United States would plunge into recession due to the Carter administration’s economic policies.

Another primary concern that made Ronald Reagan give in to the pressure of running for president from the American people was that the administration was making Americans lose faith in America’s greatness as a nation. The president always reminded the public that their country had passed its prime and that they would be better off if they braced themselves for less in days to come. He made Americans believe that they had made their country a country with very slim chances of progressing, which made people urge Ronald Reagan to run for president with great zeal (Schuster 1).

During his campaigns, Ronald Reagan promised American voters that he would see that taxes are significantly reduced when they allow him to be their president. True to his words, after he got to White House, Ronald Reagan facilitated the most considerable reduction in American taxes in the history of the U.S. He proposed a strategic tax reduction policy spanning a period of three years and affecting all stakeholders of the economy. This is even though the tax cuts mainly affected people in the high-income category and corporate tax-payers. The reasoning was that these people could convert the tax reduction into investments in the U.S., which would, in turn, help to grow the economy of the U.S. The proposal mentioned above got the approval of the Congress in 1981 July.

This was after Congress had lowered the reduction by a quarter. President Reagan insisted that tax cuts would be an effective way of growing the economy more sustainably than the idea of increasing government spending to grow the economy. Despite this, President Ronald Reagan also increased government spending in some ways. He proposed a massive increase in the military budget to strengthen the armed forces, which had weakened in the 1970s decade (Sandhyarani 1). Congress gave him the go-ahead but with substantial cuts to his initial proposal. This was one of his campaign policies after he promised Americans to increase the United States’ military competitiveness in a bid to secure American citizens.

As the Reagan government tried to fulfill its campaign promise to reduce government spending, they sought to make significant cuts in the amount of money spent domestically. This task was challenging as the government was trying to make strategic spending changes in the military. Some aspects of the economy could not be easily controlled, like interest on the national debt. Other aspects of the economy that could not be touched were Medicare and Social Security. This left several small programs that were almost 10% of the budget. Most of the latter programs targeted poor Americans, and most cuts were on these programs (Morris 1). In a nutshell, a reduction in domestic spending was realized but not as it was anticipated during the campaigns.

Other things that Ronald Reagan highlighted during his campaigns are the importance of liberty to the American people. He stressed that the American people would be liberated by the law and consequently empowered to participate actively in nation-building. He also made it clear that he was a proponent for individualism and also for a community that shuns the ideas of communism with all its might.

He had grown to disdain communism with so much intensity that nearly every speech he gave had to make that point to the audience. He was sincere with his beliefs and feelings, and thus he spoke things from his heart. This, together with his impeccable communication skills, earned him a multitude of followers. Also, among his campaign policies was the suggestion of states’ limited power in running government affairs (Rosenberg 1). This was meant to ensure that states are answerable to the federal government to ensure that the administration of the states was done correctly.

Major Successes as a politician

Ronald Reagan’s presidency was characterized by many successes. Having gotten political experience as the governor of California and having unbeatable oratorical skills from his career in Hollywood, Ronald Reagan was, indubitably, destined for success as the United States president. His success can also be attributed to the prolonged political activism before his election as a governor.

Among Ronald Reagan’s significant achievements was the fact that he was the reason why the cold war that had troubled the world for decades came to an end. He was able to engineer the triumph of the U.S. in the cold war and bring the same to an end due to his excellent strategic planning skills and unbeatable communication skills (Cannon 83). For instance, he was very close to the Prime Minister of Britain at the time, a Margaret Thatcher, which enabled him to change the standoff between the United States and countries in the East.

Additionally, the historical speech he delivered in Germany, West Berlin, calling for the demolishing of the Berlin Wall, was a huge step towards the end of the cold war since the Berlin Wall was one of the Cold War cradles in Germany. To prove how critical this speech was to the Germans, the defense minister in German, a Theodore Guttenberg, is currently advocating for the commemorating of President Reagan by naming a street after the former president of the United States.

Also, among Reagan’s reasons for making the West emerge victors in the cold war was his ability to form healthy and productive alliances. He maintained close ties to the Israelis, and by so doing, he became the president of the United States who was the “most pro-Israel ever” (D’Souza 57). He had also developed a close alliance with countries in the Middle East, which enabled him to monitor the popularity of Soviet Communism and ensure that it was checked. This ability to form strategic alliances, therefore, made him destroy Soviet Communism, which was a threat to America’s advancement.

As the 40th president of the United States finished his two terms of office, he had a reason to be proud of America’s progress during his time as the president of the United States. Among the reasons why he had seen so much success is the breakthrough that his innovative program for revolutionizing the American economy had seen. This program is dubbed the Reagan Revolution, and its primary purpose was to make the American people be able to live without relying heavily on the government. By the end of his two terms, he was convinced that he had honored his campaign pledge by restoring “the great, confident roar of American progress and growth and optimism” (Morris 93).

A myriad of historians believes that Ronald Reagan was the reason why the White House enjoys unequaled trust and honor. This is because the image of the White House had been tarnished by occurrences that took place before Ronald Reagan became the president of the United States. Some of the events include the Vietnam War that had seen a large faction of American citizens losing trust and confidence in their government. This was mostly because the policies implemented during the Vietnam War were authoritative to the extent that young people were being required by the government to go and die on the battlefield. Many American lives were lost as American citizens advocated for the recalling of the troops by the day.

However, after Ronald Reagan became the president, he gave the American presidency a new face by making unequaled progress as far as the American people’s welfare was concerned. Other events that had tarnished the image of the American Presidency before Reagan’s time were the Watergate Scandal and the Pentagon Papers.

Among the successes that the former president of the United States saw is his ability to stimulate and maintain economic growth through his appropriate application of economic policies, which came to be known as Reaganomics. As controversial as it may be, Reaganomics worked for the United States during Ronald Reagan’s presidency. It involved significant economic policies geared towards reducing government spending and counteracting this with a parallel reduction in the rates of taxation of income (Ackerman 1). This was meant to attract investment and subsequently lead to the growth of the economy.

At the same time, the government of the United States focused on reducing regulation and closely monitoring the supply of money to U.S. citizens in a bid to reduce the rates of interest and inflation. By the end of his stay in the White House, President Reagan had accomplished most of the things that he and his supporters had hoped to achieve using the economic policies (Niskanen 1).

For instance, he helped to reduce federal spending by about 1.5% during his time in office. This was amid increased spending in defense. He thus moderated the fiscal trends that had been adopted by prior administrations and did not completely change them. For instance, the central transfers were unscathed as President Reagan moderated other budgetary policies. Such transfers include Medicare and Social Security. He also realized this reduction in federal spending by proposing reductions in the number and budgets of other domestic programs while drawing up his first budget. Corporate tax rates were cut to 34% from a staggering 48% hence attracting investors (“Ronald Reagan” 1).

When President Reagan got into office, there were seven hostages in Iran. Although these hostages are the reason that Reagan became somehow infamous during his presidency, he ensured that they were released from hostage when he got in office, and this can be viewed as an achievement. This is even though analysts suspect that during campaigns, Reagan and his campaign team delayed the release of the hostages, which was being organized by his Democrat counterpart Jimmy Carter.

President Reagan also made major achievements by removing archaic regulations in the airline industry. This included his intervention that led to the breaking down of the union for air traffic controllers. Despite this, the policy platform he created during his presidency saw the creation of approximately 15 million jobs. This meant that the American economy was bound to grow, with an additional 15 million people being involved in nation-building during his presidency.

He also made a substantial investment in the military capability of the United States, which was one of the reasons he was able to make the West emerge victorious in the cold war. His foreign policy of peace went a long way to bring peace to the world since countries were no longer at liberty to engage in war as they thought appropriate. This was also enabled by his investment in the military, which made other countries dread involvement in a war that could invoke the U.S. to intervene.

After building the military capacity of the United States, the Soviet Union was forced to overspend in a bid to equip its military. This is because they were in competition with the United States, and any military move by the United States was counteracted by the Soviet Union. This strategic move, by President Ronald Reagan, of forcing the Soviet Union to overspend in building its military is one of the main reasons why he was able to bring down the latter (McDouglas 1).

The monetary policy did not produce the best results, but its improvement during Ronald Reagan’s time cannot be ignored. Reagan adopted a policy initiated in 1979 that was meant to reduce the growth of money and consequently reduce interest and inflation rates. Strategic interventions in the foreign exchange markets also had an impressive effect on the value of the dollar.

Failures of President Ronald Reagan

Although President Reagan enjoyed two successful terms in office, he also had a few hiccups during his time as the United States president. Among the dark days of his presidency is the period in which the Iran-Contra Affair was publicized. A score of political activists and historians consider this time as the lowest point that the presidency of Ronald Reagan reached.

President Reagan had shown a long-standing disdain for Soviet Communism, and he was using all means possible to fight it. As a result, he made efforts to give financial and training support to anti-communist insurgencies like the Contras, who he regarded as “the moral equivalent of our Founding Fathers” (Wolf 1). This was amid legislation that prevented the involvement of the CIA in Nicaragua, the base of the Contras in fighting communism. It was, therefore, nearly impossible for President Reagan to give financial support to the Contras. Then there came a chance for the president to show his support to the Contras.

With Iran and Iraq at war, Iran sought to buy U.S. weapons. Despite the rules against the selling of military equipment to Iran, McFarlane consulted the president, explaining that the sale would give the U.S. a chance to influence the Middle East. The president had been guilty about his inability to set free seven hostages held by the Iranian government (Neufville 1). He, therefore, accepted the deal on condition that the American hostages would be freed. In the process of the weapons-for-hostages agreement, it was found that some of the money that was supposedly paid to the CIA was not paid.

Thorough investigations showed that the funds had been diverted to the Contras, hence the phrase Iran-Contra Affair. This affair seriously affected Reagan’s reputations as he could not disclose the truth about the transactions since they were against the law. President Reagan suffered a lot of embarrassment as people sought to know his involvement in the weapons-for-hostages deal. This is because the answers he gave to the press were very inconsistent, and they showed that there was a lot of information that the president was not willing to give out. The Iran-Contra Affair saw several government officers resign, and others tried to agree (Gregory 1).

President Reagan also disappointed his supporters with his seemingly uncontrolled spending in defense, which hurt his efforts to reduce federal spending. His first term was characterized by significant growth in defense spending, which was higher than his campaign proposals. His reduction of federal spending was, therefore, not significant when compared to national output. In 1989, when President Reagan was in office, federal expenditure decreased to 22.1 of GDP from a previous 22.9 in 1981 with slight increments between the years. His supporters were greatly disappointed by his administration. The federal deficit and federal debt were also unimpressive as President Reagan retired after two terms (Gregory 1).

Social Life

He had strong faith with much love for his family as well as his country. Reagan married his first wife, Jane Wyman, in 1940. They had met at a function where Reagan was filming Brother Rat, one of his films. After they were married, they were blessed with two kids. The first was their biological daughter Maureen Elizabeth who was born in the year 1941, and an adopted son, Michael Edward. He was adopted by the family in the year 1945. In 1947, the family lost their third child, born prematurely and lived for only a day. Jane divorced Reagan in the year 1949 as her career flourished while that of her husband stagnated due to the war’s effects. She also won custody over their two children.

In 1951, when Reagan was serving as the president of SAG, he was approached by a lady who was being mistaken for a communist because she shared her name with another lady. She was Nancy Davis, and she was very concerned about the false identity she was being given because she was an actress. The two agreed that they would go out for dinner as the young actress explained her predicament to Reagan.

They met for dinner and started dating. In early 1952, the Hollywood couple got engaged, and barely three months later, the couple married with their two friends as their only witnesses. In October of the same year, the couple was blessed with Patricia Ann, a daughter, and six years later, Ronald Prescott, Reagan’s son with Nancy, was born. Michael married and gave the couple Cameron and Ashley as their grandchildren. So far, Reagan has been the only U.S. president to have separated from his wife.

Having participated in several co-curricular events during his schooling days, President Reagan had an excellent social foundation and a healthy interaction with other people, especially in the jurisdiction of duties. During college, his participation in the football team won him a career as a Sports Announcer on the radio after completing his college. He was also involved in the swimming club during his college days and developed enviable skills in interpersonal relationships.

However, much of his eloquence development can be attributed to his career in Hollywood, where he was an actor. His ability to relate with others and do good things without monopolizing credit for them is one main reason why President Reagan was able to become the fortieth president of the U.S. This is because he generously campaigned for other people like President Nixon and Ford without even considering himself as a potential presidential candidate. This worked to his advantage in that he got to be known to the electorate, and by making his ideas known to them, they were able to judge him and consider him a potential president. His supporters approached him after campaigns and urged him to run for governorship in California and later for president.

Regardless of the right policies that President Reagan had during his campaign for the presidency, he had a lot of critics and haters. During the time, some of the members of the press were relentlessly suggesting that he was dying his hair due to his age. Others suggested that having been an actor who read scripts written to him by other people, he was unable to come up with anything reasonable. They suggested that Reagan was using other people to write his speeches, which he delivered perfectly due to his experience in Hollywood. This prompted Reagan to adopt a different approach in addressing audiences. He would ensure that the speech sessions were interactive, with his speech being guided by the responses from the audience.

Last days of Ronald Reagan

During his last days in office, the former President Ronald Reagan started experiencing memory problems. He once joked with his personal doctor in the White House during a check-up session, “I have three things I want to tell you. The first is that I am experiencing problems with my memory. I cannot remember the other two” (Reagan 39). After his retirement, he was found with Alzheimer’s disease.

He opted to make the official diagnosis public instead of keeping it to himself and his family, and thus he wrote an open letter to the public to this effect. The letter was dated 1994, the 15th day of November. After this diagnosis and public announcement of his condition, the former president’s health continually worsened. His memory was in such a bad condition that he, his wife, and his aides feared that he might trip in a public place while making a speech. Ten years after his Alzheimer’s diagnosis, he died. This was on the 5th day of June in 1994 when he was 93 years of age.

Conclusion

Reagan’s career in politics was, in a way, delayed. Until to date, he still is the oldest president of the United States of America. He was inaugurated at the age of seventy years. During his time in office, Reagan had gained the confidence of the civilians in his regime as a governor and with his policies and political views according to many Americans’ views on his administration. Therefore, his election was like no other as he got more electoral votes ever received by a candidate vying for the presidency in the United States.

With the discussion above, it is clear that President Reagan was a good leader. Except for the period during which the Iran-Contra Affair was made known to the public, the American people trusted him and believed he was the most honest president ever. He always made his intentions and predicaments known to the public, which made it easy for the public to know the reasons for his actions.

He was a leader who was committed to the welfare of the American people because, during his presidency, many things changed for the better in the U.S. First, he negotiated the release of hostages who were being held in Iran. This was an achievement since the hostages were captured during the James Carter regime, and by taking it as his duty to free the hostages, he made the public respect and trusted the White House. He also came up with the aforementioned economic policies, which helped to repair the American economy. This was a great achievement because some critical economic parameters were not appealing, as President James Carter left office.

For instance, interest and inflation rates were on the rise, and federal spending was uncontrolled. He took a conservative approach while reducing tax rates to attract investment, and by the end of his two terms as the president of the U.S., a lot had changed for the better as far as the economy of the U.S is concerned. Most of these things were highlighted in his campaign for the presidency and, thus, he did accomplish his promises though some were not exactly completed.

Despite the turbulence he experienced in his first marriage, President Reagan was a dedicated family man who loved his wife and children alike. He was very close to the children he had with his divorced wife, and he shared an unbreakable bond with his wife. His family supported each other even during the difficult times of his presidency. For instance, during the assassination attempt of the president, his wife was by his side until he recovered.

After weeks in a coma and as he took his last breath, he opened his eyes and looked at his wife in the eye with clear eyes, signifying the bond they shared. As he died, he had all family members with him, showing how close the members of the family were. He was a man who respected people, and before he came into the political limelight, he acted due to public demand. In a nutshell, President Reagan died knowing that he had made a great and patriotic contribution to his country and expecting the best for the U.S. in the future.

Works Cited

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Cannon, Lou. President Reagan: The Role Of A Lifetime. New York. Bell & Bain, 2000. Print.

D’Souza, Dinesh. How an Ordinary Man Became an Extraordinary Leader. New York. Wadsworth Publishing, 1999. Print.

Gregory, Anthony. “Ronald Reagan’s Good Rhetoric, Bad Policies, and Vile Followers”. 2004. Web.

McDouglas, Henry. “Small town to Tinseltown”. 2007. Web.

Morris, Edmund. A Memoir of Ronald Reagan. California. Barnes & Noble, 2000. Print.

Morris, Edmund. “”. 2001. Web.

Neufville, Robert. “Losing Reagan’s Legacy”. 2010. Web.

Niskanen, William. “The Concise Encyclopedia of Economics: Reaganomics”. 1988. Web.

Nosotro, Rit. “Ronald Reagan, The 40th President of the United States”. 2003. Web.

Profiles of U.S. Presidents. “Ronald Reagan – Presidential Campaigns”. 2000. Web.

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Reagan, Nancy. Ronald Reagan: An American Hero: His Voice, His Values, His Vision. New York. DK Publishing, 2001. Print.

Rosenberg, Jennifer. “Historical Importance of President Ronald Reagan”. 2010. Web.

Samuelson, Davies. “Ronald Reagan: general characteristics”. 2003. Web.

Sandhyarani, Ningthoujam. “Interesting facts about Ronald Reagan”. 2009. Web.

Schuster, Simon. “The Campaign”. 2000. Web.

Wolf, Julie. “The Iran-Contra Affair”. 2000. Web.

Wroe, Ann. Lives Lies and the Iran-Contra Affair. New York. St. Martins Press,1992. Print.

40. Ronald Reagan. “Ronald Reagan”. Web.

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