Reagan agrees "in principle" to send a small number of troops to Beirut as a "peace keeping force" between warring Christian and Muslim factions.
John Hinckley, Jr. is sentenced to be indefinitely committed to a mental hospital.
U.S. Marines arrive in Lebanon.
The nation sinks into its worst recession since the Great Depression. Reagan fears budget deficits as high as $200 billion. On November 1, more than 9 million Americans are officially unemployed.
Soviet premier Leonid Brezhnev condemns the U.S. for arms buildup. In a speech to Soviet generals and Defense Ministry officials, he says that the U.S. is pursuing policy of "adventurism, rudeness, and undisguised egoism" that threatens "to push the world into the flames of nuclear war."
In congressional elections, Democrats pick up 26 seats in the House of Representatives. The GOP manages to hold on to its majority in the Senate.
Soviet premier Leonid Brezhnev dies and is succeeded by Yuri Andropov.
The official unemployment rate reaches 11.5 million. Hardest hit is "rustbelt." In Milwaukee, 20,000 wait in 20 degree weather to apply for 200 jobs at auto-frame factory.
Reagan's approval rating plummets to 35%.
Reagan submits his fiscal 1984 budget to Congress; $189 billion deficit. A combination of the recession, tax cuts, and an increase in defense spending are to blame. Advisors urge Reagan to either raise taxes or cut defense, Reagan rejects the advice and vows to "stay the course."
In a speech to National Association of Evangelicals meeting in Orlando, Florida, Reagan says that U.S.S.R. is the "focus of evil in the modern world."
The official Soviet news agency TASS says Reagan is full of "bellicose lunatic anti-communism."
Reagan unveils his proposal for a Space Defense Initiative (SDI) in a national speech: "I call upon the scientific community in our country, those who gave us nuclear weapons, to turn their great talents now to the cause of mankind and world peace, to give us the means of rendering these nuclear weapons impotent and obsolete." Soviet Ambassador Anatoly Dobrynin says SDI would "open a new phase in the arms race."
First signs that the economy is recovering. It will soon take-off with dramatic force. Lasting 93 consecutive months, it will be the biggest peace time economic expansion in U.S. history.
Soviet Premier Yuri Andropov's letter to Reagan suggests elimination of nuclear threat. Reagan sends cordial reply suggesting that U.S.-Soviet negotiators pursue this goal in Geneva.
Korean Air Lines jet (KAL 007) downed by Soviet fighter. All of the 269 people aboard perish. Sixty-one are U.S. citizens. Reagan denounces it as a "crime against humanity."
Andropov accuses Reagan of risking war. "To turn the battle of ideas into military confrontation would be too costly for the whole of mankind."
James Watt steps down as Secretary of the Interior.
Reagan appoints William Clark as Secretary of Interior. Deputy National Security Advisor David MacFarlane takes over as National Security Advisor.
A suicide truck bomber kills 241 members of the U.S. peacekeeping force stationed in Beirut, Lebanon, when he crashes into the Marines barracks.
To protect against a perceived Communist threat in Grenada, and to protect U.S. medical students from growing unrest, 5,000 U.S. troops invade the island nation.
Reagan says in a televised address that all the ills of the world are to be blamed on the Soviets.
One hundred million Americans, including the president, watch the television movie "The Day After," a frightening look at the aftermath of a nuclear war.
The first Pershing II missiles are deployed in West Germany. U.S.S.R. breaks off International Nuclear Forces (INF) talks in Geneva.
"Time" magazine chooses Reagan and Andropov as "Men of the Year."
The U.S. launches Operation Staunch, advising the international community not to sell weapons to Iran to force a negotiated settlement to Iran-Iraq War.
The Kissinger Commission issues a report on Central America. The report accepts Reagan's premise that Communism must be resisted in the region.
Reagan's speech on U.S.-U.S.S.R. relations calls for a return to arms talks and to parallel sets of nuclear arms talks in Geneva and in Vienna on reducing conventional forces in Europe. The speech reflects a considerable shift in tone from his previous statements on the Soviet Union.
Secretary of State Charles Shultz designates Iran as sponsor of international terrorism.
Reagan formally announces he will seek reelection.
Reagan sends 1985 budget to Congress; $180.4b deficit.
Yuri Andropov dies of kidney failure. A hard-liner himself, he paved the way for more liberal Russian leaders, including Mikhail Gorbachev. He is succeeded by Konstantin Chernenko. Poll shows 38% approve Reagan's foreign policy; 49% disapprove.
High-ranking CIA agent William Buckley is kidnapped by terrorists in Lebanon.
Reagan signs directive for aggressive posture to terrorism. The new policy is set forth in a document officially designated National Security Decision Directive 138.
In a televised speech, Reagan makes a case for helping Contras in Nicaragua. "The Sandinista rule is a Communist reign of terror. Many of those who fought alongside the Sandinistas saw their revolution betrayed. They were denied power in the new government. Some were imprisoned, others exiled. Thousands who fought with the Sandinistas have taken up arms against them and are now called the Contras. They are freedom fighters."
Shultz meets secretly with Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega in Managua. Ortega told Shultz that Nicaragua's internal affairs are not the business of the U.S.
Reagan delivers a speech at Pointe du Hoc, where he stood on the dramatic rock cliff jutting into sea that U.S. Army rangers had climbed during invasion of Normandy. The veterans of this invasion were his audience.
Army successfully tests the interceptor missile, the kingpin of a space defense system.
Saudis begin paying $1 mil/month secretly to Contras. The money is deposited into Cayman Islands account owned by Contra leader Adolfo Calero.
Walter Mondale accepts the presidential nomination at the Democratic convention. "I mean business. By the end of my first term, I will cut the deficit by two-thirds. Let's tell the truth. Mr. Reagan will raise taxes, and so will I. He won't tell you. I just did."
The Soviet Union boycotts the 23rd Summer Olympics in Los Angeles.
During a check prior to a radio broadcast, Reagan jokes into mike that he's ordered U.S.S.R. bombed. "My fellow Americans, I am pleased to tell you today that I've signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever. We begin bombing in five minutes." The gaff cut into Reagan's margin over Mondale by 7 points, signaling that Americans are still uncomfortable with Ronald Reagan's Soviet hardline.
At the Republican Convention at Dallas, Reagan's huge popularity becomes evident. His "Morning in America" celebratory campaign strategy is unveiled. Campaign ads celebrate accomplishments of his 1st term -- the economy is booming and there is a resurgence of patriotic pride. Campaign is seen as lacking focus in terms of a plan for a 2nd term.
Reagan meets with Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko at White House. Talk lasts for three and a half hours. Little progress is made, but Reagan demonstrates that U.S.-Soviet relations had his personal attention and high priority.
The Reagan-Mondale debate in Louisville. Reagan's performance is so bad that press questions his ability to continue serving. Raises the "age issue."
Congress passes the 2nd Boland Amendment which outlaws solicitation of 3rd-party countries to support Contras. The amendment bars the use of funds available to C.I.A., defense, or intelligence agencies for "supporting, directly or indirectly, military or paramilitary operations in Nicaragua by any nation, group, organization or individual."
The second debate between Reagan and Mondale. Answers age question with a quip "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."
Reagan defeats Mondale in landslide. Reagan carries 49 states -- 525 electoral votes to Mondale's 10, and 59% of the popular vote. One fourth of registered Democrats voted for Reagan.
German Chancellor Helmut Kohl arrives in Washington for a 2-day visit; he suggests Reagan visit a cemetery in Germany. This is the beginning of the "Bitburg affair."
Changes in White House Staff. Chief of Staff James Baker swaps jobs with Treasury Secretary Donald Regan. Edwin Meese becomes Attorney General. Deputy Chief of Staff Mike Deaver will resign soon thereafter. Reagan's "troika" which helped him govern in his first term is gone.
My American Experience
Who was your favorite 20th-century American president? Was it FDR? Kennedy? Reagan? Or one of the other 14 men who helped usher the United Sates through the 1900s? Who do you think was the most influential?