Political News

Published: 1983
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Joseph Lowrey of the SCLC and Coretta Scott King, widow of slain civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., speak at a church about martin Luther King's legacy and the needs for today and the future on July 7, 1983.

Jenny Cossola: Congressional lawmakers face difficult decisions in 1983. Correspondent Pye Chamberlayne reviews the year in Congress …

Pye Chamberlayne: "Congress propped up Social Security, put restrictions on the President's power to command troops and honored Martin Luther King, Jr. with a Federal holiday. More important to many was Congress's failure to reduce $200 billion budget deficits forecast for the foreseeable future. Other plans that failed: domestic content, a bill to make foreign automakers make more parts in America; deregulation of natural-gas prices; the nuclear weapons freeze; and immigration reform.

"The best thing Congress did, and one of the toughest, was to pass new taxes and benefit-growth cuts to keep Social Security solvent. Without it, checks would have been delayed and possibly cut. Ways and Means Chairman Dan Rostenkowski of Illinois took to the House floor with pride … "

Chairman Dan Rostenkowski: "It is a cautious, fair plan that raises enough revenue to ease the system through the decade and also closes the enormous deficits built up in the next century."

Pye Chamberlayne: "Congress took two big steps on civil rights. It declared the third Monday in January starting in 1986 to be a Federal holiday honoring Martin Luther King, Jr. After President Reagan said he would fire three liberal civil-rights commissioners, Congress took away half his power to hire and fire and denied him the power to appoint a commission majority.

"With regard to the Marines in Lebanon, Congress invoked the ten-year old War Powers Law for the first time. This action, which the President signed, asserted for the first time that the President would have to withdraw troops within 90 days without explicit permission from Congress. At the same time, Congress granted that permission for 18 months.

"Pye Chamberlayne, Capital Hill."

Jenny Cossola: In another piece of major legislation, Congress voted to begin production of the controversial MX missile.

Ed Karrens: This action came as good news to President Reagan, whose third year in office was dominated not only by domestic problems, but by a series of international crises.

Early in the year he went to the country with a plea for support for his Central American policy …


President Ronald Reagan: "A faraway totalitarian power has set its sights on our friends and neighbors in Central America and the Caribbean. If we don't meet our responsibilities there, we'll pay dearly for it."

Ed Karrens: In the months following, Mr. Reagan was faced with the Beirut bombings, the invasion of Grenada and the shooting-down of the South Korean airliner. This put an even greater strain on U.S.-Soviet relations.

Ironically, the Sonneberg global developments occurred against a background of dramatically improving U.S. economy. The public apparently liked Mr. Reagan's leadership, and at year's end his job approval rates stood at 62%.

1983 was not without its embarrassing moments for the President. One of these was triggered by one of Mr. Reagan's most controversial Cabinet members. James Watt, then Interior Secretary, was addressing a Chamber of Commerce meeting about minority representation on a panel commissioned to study his coalescing practices …

Secretary James Watt: "Five members, three Democrats, two Republicans, every kind of mix you can have. I have a black, I have a woman, two … two Jews and a cripple."

Ed Karrens: That comment led to Watt's resignation and a reshuffling of Cabinet posts.

Jenny Cossola: 1983 was also a year that saw a great deal of action in the political arena. Correspondent Bill Small reviews the highlights …

Bill Small: "1983 was the year that Chicago and Philadelphia both elected the first black mayors in their histories, Harold Washington in Chicago, Wilson Goode in Philadelphia.

"At the Presidential level, it was the year with the first black male Presidential candidate. The shouts of 'Run, Jesse, run' finally convinced the Reverend Jackson to make it official …

Reverend Jesse Jackson: "'I rise to declare my decision to seek the nomination of the Democratic Party for the Presidency of the United States of America.'"


Bill Small: "Jesse Jackson isn't alone. The year ended with seven other Democratic hopefuls: Senator Alan Cranston, Gary Hart; John Glenn and Ernest Hollings had announced, along with former Vice-President Walter Mondale; former Florida Governor Rubin Askew and former Senator and Presidential candidate George McGovern.

"But if the Democrat stable was full, the Republican lineup was empty, at least officially. But Ronald Reagan had authorized formation of a campaign committee, making him a legal, if not formally announced, candidate, and at year's end Mr. Reagan's counselor, Edwin Meese, said he sees no chance that the President will not seek reelection … "

Secretary Edwin Meese: "'I have not seen indication whatsoever that the President when -- when he makes his ultimate decision and announcement will not indicate that he's gonna run again.'"

Bill Small: "And by year's end, the White House was saying that Mr. Reagan plans to announce his intentions in a televised speech on January 29th.

"Bill Small, Washington."