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Biography of James Earl Carter, Jr., Ronald Wilson Reagan, William Jefferson Clinton - Top Ten Most Notorious Despots

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    James Earl Carter, Jr.

    Born: 10/1/1924
    Birthplace: Plains, Ga.
    James Earl Carter, Jr., was born in the tiny village of Plains, Ga., Oct. 1, 1924, and grew up on the family farm at nearby Archery. Both parents were fifth-generation Georgians. His father, James Earl Carter, was known as a segregationist, but treated his black and white workers equally. Carter's mother, LillianJames Earl Carter Gordy, was a matriarchal presence in home and community and opposed the then-prevailing code of racial inequality. The future president was baptized in 1935 in the conservative Southern Baptist Church and spoke often of being
    a born again Christian, although committed to the separation of church and state.

    Carter married Rosalynn Smith, a neighbor, in 1946. Their first child, John William, was born a year later in Portsmouth, Va. Their other children are James Earl III, born in Honolulu in 1950; Donnel Jeffrey, born in New London, Conn., in 1952; and Amy Lynn, born in Plains in 1967.

    In 1946 Carter was graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis and served in the nuclear-submarine program under Adm. Hyman G. Rickover. In 1954, after his father's death, he resigned from the Navy to take over the family's flourishing warehouse and cotton gin, with several thousand acres for growing seed peanuts.

    Carter was elected to the Georgia Senate in 1962. In 1966 he lost the race for Governor, but was elected in 1970. His term brought a state government reorganization, sharply reduced agencies, increased economy and efficiency, and new social programs, all with no general tax increase. In 1972 the peanut farmer politician set his sights on the presidency and in 1974 built a base for himself as he criss-crossed the country as chairman of the Democratic Campaign Committee, appealing for revival and reform. In 1975 his image as a typical Southern white was erased when he won support of most of the old Southern civil-rights coalition after endorsement by Rep. Andrew Young, black Democrat from Atlanta, who had been the closest aide to the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. At Carter's 1971 inauguration as Governor he had called for an end to all forms of racial discrimination.

    In the 1976 spring primaries, he won 19 out of 31 with a broad appeal to conservatives and liberals, black and white, poor and well-to-do. Throughout his campaigning Carter set forth his policies in his soft Southern voice, and with his electric-blue stare faced down skeptics who joked about Jimmy Who? He defeated Gerald R. Ford in Nov. 1976. Likewise, in 1980 he was renominated on the first ballot after vanquishing Senator Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts in the primaries. In the election campaign, Carter attacked his rivals, Ronald Reagan and John B. Anderson, independent, with the warning that a Reagan Republican victory would heighten the risk of war and impede civil rights and economic opportunity. In November Carter lost to Reagan, who won 489 Electoral College votes and 51% of the popular tally, to 49 electoral votes and 41% for Carter.

    In his one term, Carter fought hard for his programs against resistance from an independent-minded Democratic Congress that frustrated many pet projects although it overrode only two vetoes. Observers generally viewed public dissatisfaction with the stagflation economy as a principal factor in his defeat. Others included his jittery performance in the debate Oct. 28 with Reagan, staff problems, friction with Congress, long gasoline lines, and the months-long Iranian crisis, including the abortive sally in April 1980 to free the hostages. Yet, assessments of his record noted many positive elements. There was, for one thing, peace throughout his term, with no American combat deaths and with a brake on the advocates of force. Regarded as perhaps his greatest personal achievements were the Camp David accords between Israel and Egypt and the resulting treaty the first between Israel and an Arab neighbor. The treaty with China and the Panama Canal treaties were also major achievements. Carter worked for nuclear-arms control. His concern for international human rights was credited with saving lives and reducing torture, and he supported the British policy that ended internecine warfare in Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe. Domestically, his environmental record was a major accomplishment. His judicial appointments won acclaim; the Southerner who had forsworn racism made 265 choices for the Federal bench that included minority members and women. He also ended the U.S. practice of holding petroleum prices far below world levels with price decontrols.

    President of America

    Ronald Wilson Reagan

    Born: 2/6/1911
    Birthplace: Tampico, Ill.

    Ronald Wilson Reagan rode to the presidency in 1980 on a tide of resurgent right-wing sentiment among an electorate battered by winds of unwanted change,Ronald Wilson Reagan longing for a distant,
    simpler era. He left office in Jan. 1989 with two-thirds of the American people approving his performance during his two terms. It was the highest rating for any retiring president since World War II.

    His place in history will rest, perhaps, on the short- and intermediate-range missile treaty consummated on a cordial visit to the Soviet Union that he had once reviled as an evil empire. Its provisions, including a ground-breaking agreement on verification inspection, were formulated in four days of summit talks in Moscow in May 1988 with the Soviet leader, Mikhail S. Gorbachev.

    Reagan can point to numerous domestic achievements as well: sharp cuts in income tax rates, sweeping tax reform, creating economic growth without inflation, and reducing the unemployment rate, among others. He failed, however, to win the Reagan Revolution on such issues as abortion and school prayer, and he seemed aloof from sleazy conduct by some top officials.

    In his final months Reagan campaigned aggressively to win election as president for his two-term vice president, George Bush.

    Reagan's popularity with the public dipped sharply in 1986 when the Iran-Contra scandal broke, shortly after the Democrats gained control of the Senate. Observers agreed that Reagan's presidency had been weakened, if temporarily, by the two unrelated events. Then the weeks-long Congressional hearings in the summer of 1987 heard an array of Administration officials, present and former, tell their tales of a White House riven by deceit and undercover maneuvering. Yet no breath of illegality touched the President's personal reputation; on Aug. 12, 1987, he told the nation that he had not known of questionable activities but agreed that he was ultimately accountable.

    Ronald Reagan, actor turned politician, New Dealer turned conservative, came to films and politics from a thoroughly Middle-American background middle class, Middle West, and small town. He was born in Tampico, Ill., Feb. 6, 1911, the second son of John Edward Reagan and Nelle Wilson Reagan, and the family later moved to Dixon, Ill. The father, of Irish descent, was a shop clerk and merchant with Democratic sympathies. It was an impoverished family; young Ronald sold homemade popcorn at high school games and worked as a lifeguard to earn money for his college tuition. When the father got a New Deal WPA job, the future president became an ardent Roosevelt Democrat.

    Reagan won a B.A. degree in 1932 from Eureka (Ill.) College, where a photographic memory aided in his studies and in debating and college theatricals. In a Depression year, he was making $100 a week as a sports announcer for radio station WHO in Des Moines, Iowa, from 1932 to 1937. His career as a film and TV actor stretched from 1937 to 1966, and his salary climbed to $3,500 a week. As a World War II captain in Army film studios, Reagan recoiled from what he saw as the laziness of Civil Service workers, and moved to the Right. As president of the Screen Actors Guild, he resisted what he considered a Communist plot to subvert the film industry. With advancing age, Reagan left leading-man roles and became a television spokesman for the General Electric Company.

    With oratorical skill his trademark, Reagan became an active Republican. At the behest of a small group of conservative Southern California businessmen, he ran for governor with a pledge to cut spending, and was elected by almost a million votes over the political veteran, Democratic Gov. Edmund G. Brown, father of later governor Jerry Brown.

    In the 1980 election battle against Jimmy Carter, Reagan broadened his appeal by espousing moderate policies, gaining much of his support from disaffected Democrats and blue-collar workers. The incoming Administration immediately set out to turn the government around with a new economic program. Over strenuous Congressional opposition, Reagan triumphed on his supply side theory to stimulate production and control inflation through tax cuts and sharp reductions in government spending.

    The president won high acclaim for his nomination of Sandra Day O'Connor as the first woman on the Supreme Court. His later nominations met increasing opposition but did much to tilt the Court's orientation to the Right.

    In 1982, the President's popularity had slipped as the economy declined into the worst recession in 40 years, with persistent high unemployment and interest rates. Initial support for supply side economics faded but the President won crucial battles in Congress.

    Internationally, Reagan confronted numerous critical problems in his first term. The successful invasion of Grenada accomplished much diplomatically. But the intervention in Lebanon and the withdrawal of Marines after a disastrous terrorist attack were regarded as military failures.

    The popular president won reelection in the 1984 landslide, with the economy improving and inflation under control. Domestically, a tax reform bill that Reagan backed became law. But the constantly growing budget deficit remained a constant irritant, with the President and Congress persistently at odds over priorities in spending for defense and domestic programs. His foreign policy met stiffening opposition, with Congress increasingly reluctant to increase spending for the Nicaraguan Contras and the Pentagon and to expand the development of the MX missile. But even severe critics praised Reagan's restrained but decisive handling of the crisis following the hijacking of an American plane in Beirut by Muslim extremists. The attack on Libya in April 1986 galvanized the nation, although it drew scathing disapproval from the NATO alliance.

    Barely three months into his first term, Reagan was the target of an assassin's bullet; his courageous comeback won public admiration.

    Reagan is devoted to his wife, Nancy, whom he married after his divorce from the screen actress Jane Wyman. The children from his first marriage are Maureen, his daughter by Wyman, and Michael, an adopted son. He had two children by Nancy: Patricia and Ron. Reagan continues to struggle with Alzheimer's disease, which he developed in the years following his presidency.

    President of America

    William Jefferson Clinton

    Born: 8/19/1946
    Birthplace: Hope, Ark.
    William Jefferson Clinton was born William Jefferson Blythe III in Hope, Ark., on Aug. 19, 1946. He was named for his father, who was killed in an automobileWilliam Jefferson Clinton accident before Clinton's birth. Virginia Kelley, his mother, eventually married Roger Clinton, a car dealer, whose surname the future president later adopted.

    In high school in Hot Springs, Ark., Clinton considered becoming a doctor, but politics beckoned after a meeting with President John F. Kennedy in Washington, D.C., on a Boys' Nation trip. He earned a B.S. in international affairs in 1968 at Georgetown University, having spent his junior year working for Arkansas Senator J. William Fulbright. He was a Rhodes scholar at Oxford between 1968 and 1970. He then attended Yale Law School, where he met his future wife, Hillary Rodham, a Wellesley graduate. The couple has one child, Chelsea.

    Clinton taught at the University of Arkansas (1974-1976), was elected state attorney general (1976), and in 1979 became the nation's youngest governor. But he was defeated for reelection in 1980 by voters irate at a rise in the state's automobile license fees. In 1982 he was elected again. This time he reined in liberal tendencies to accommodate the conservative bent of the voters.

    Clinton became the 42nd U.S. president following a turbulent political campaign. He overcame vigorous personal attacks on his character and on his actions during the Vietnam War, which he actively opposed. The character issue stemmed from allegations of infidelity, which Clinton refuted in a television interview in which he and Hillary avowed their relationship was solid. Throughout his term in office, Clinton was dogged by allegations relating to the Whitewater real estate deal in which he and Hillary were involved prior to the 1992 election. Though the Clintons were never accused of any wrongdoing, partners in the venture were convicted of fraud and conspiracy in a trial in 1996.

    The problems faced by the new president were as daunting as they were varied. In January 1993 he became embroiled with the military leadership over his campaign pledge to allow homosexuals to serve openly in the armed services. He ultimately agreed to a compromise, dubbed the don't ask, don't tell policy. Clinton's first year also saw him wrangling with Congress over the Federal budget and economic policy.

    In his second year, Clinton faced persistent troubles on the domestic front, with acrimonious battles raging over health care, welfare reform, and crime prevention. A health care reform package crafted by his wife failed to gain sufficient support. Clinton had to reduce his objective from massive overhaul to incremental reform.

    Clinton won major victories with the passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which took effect Jan. 1, 1994, and the Global Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), which led to the establishment in 1995 of the World Trade Organization (WTO). Congress also approved a deficit reduction bill, rules allowing abortion counseling in federally funded clinics, a waiting period for handgun purchases (the Brady Bill), and a national service program.

    Foreign affairs, once a weak point for a man elected on a domestic economic agenda, became a proving ground for Clinton. He improved his international image when the Israel Jordan peace agreement was signed at the White House in the summer of 1994 by Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin and Jordan's King Hussein. In the fall of that year, the administration succeeded in restoring Haiti's ousted president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, to power. Clinton scored again by bolstering Russian president Boris Yeltsin's popularity with promises of economic aid.

    The problems in Eastern Europe were Clinton's next big challenge. Though he wanted desperately to end the brutal ethnic cleansing in Bosnia, he did not want to commit American ground troops to do so. A peace accord involving American peacekeeping troops was ultimately signed in Dayton, Ohio, in November 1995.

    The 1994 elections resulted in a Republican-controlled Congress, and 1995 was largely a tug-of-war between the White House and Capitol Hill over budget-balancing and other key points of the G.O.P.'s Contract with America, crafted by Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich.

    In 1996, aided by a booming economy, Clinton won reelection to a second term, becoming the first Democratic president since Franklin D. Roosevelt to do so. The country's general prosperity also made it possible in 1997 for Clinton and the Republicans to reach an agreement to balance the federal budget in three decades.

    However, the character issues that had followed Clinton for years soon began to emerge once again. A series of investigations was begun to determine whether Clinton and Vice President Gore had participated in questionable fund-raising practices in their 1996 campaign.

    As his tenure wore on, Clinton came under increasing pressure from Kenneth Starr, the independent counsel who in 1994 took over the investigation of the Clintons' involvement in the Whitewater land deal. Over time, Starr's brief was expanded to include other matters, such as the death of White House lawyer Vincent Foster, the handling of firings in the White House travel office, and shocking allegations of sexual misconduct by Clinton.

    The president seemed to win a point in April 1998 when a federal judge in Arkansas threw out a long-pending sexual harassment suit brought by Paula Corbin Jones, a former Arkansas state employee. In July 1999, however, the same judge fined Clinton $90,000 after finding him guilty of giving false and misleading testimony in the Jones case over an alleged affair with a young White House intern, Monica S. Lewinsky. In January 1998, Clinton had adamantly denied ever having engaged in sexual relations with Lewinsky, or of asking anyone to lie to cover up the affair.

    Despite the explosive charges, Clinton's overall popularity among Americans remained high. The country seemed willing to ignore his weaknesses in character, much as they did in the 1992 elections, as long as the economy was good, his policies were popular, and the United States remained strong abroad. On Aug. 17, 1998, Clinton made history by becoming the first U.S. president to testify in front of a grand jury, in an investigation of his own possibly criminal conduct. In an address to the nation that evening, he admitted to having had an inappropriate relationship with Lewinsky, but reaffirmed that he did not ask anyone to lie about or cover up the affair.

    On Sept. 9, Starra conservative Republican whose investigation was seen by Clinton supporters as a politically inspired vendetta delivered his report to the House of Representatives. While the report outlined 11 possible grounds for impeachment, none stemmed from the initial subjects of the investigation, including the Whitewater real estate deal. The real focus of the accusations seemed to be Clinton's moral conduct, and the Starr Report graphically detailed his sexual affair.

    Despite the American population's general disapproval of a trial (which was reflected in poll after poll), Congress moved forward in its highly partisan impeachment proceedings and on Dec. 19, Clinton became the second president in American history to be impeached. Two of the four articles of impeachment passed (Article I, grand jury perjury, and Article III, obstruction of justice), the votes drawn along party lines. After a Senate trial in Jan.Feb. 1999, Clinton was acquitted on both counts.

    While the impeachment trial overshadowed all other activity in Washington for a good portion of 1998, Clinton was forced to respond to continued problems with Iraq at the end of the year. In December, Saddam Hussein blocked a weapons inspection by the United Nations. The U.N. responded with airstrikes that would continue on a nearly daily basis for the next three months, and then off and on through the spring and summer, as Iraq taunted the U.S. and its allies further by shooting at jets patrolling the no-fly zones set up after the Persian Gulf war.

    In the spring of 1999, reports of continued ethnic cleansing in the Serbian province of Kosovo were growing. Clinton and his British counterpart, Tony Blair, led the push for NATO intervention, which resulted in a 78-day bombing campaign against Serbia that began in March. Although Clinton received some sharp criticism for holding back on the deployment of NATO ground troops, he was ultimately justified, as Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic finally agreed to a peace treaty, signed June 9.

    In his final year of office, the president maintained a relatively low profile but took several major trips overseas, to South Asia, Europe, and Africa. He also prepared for the 2000 elections, lending his support not only to presidential hopeful Al Gore, but also to his wife, Hillary Clinton, who ran for U.S. senator from New York.

    President of America

    The Top Ten Most Notorious Despots

    by Borgna Brunner

    The Me Millennium

    Infoplease's top ten despots of the last thousand years share a few common bonds. Each had a penchant for sadism. And each would no doubt claim that the murder and mayhem that took place under his rule was necessary for law and order or to make the trains run on time. But whether their excuse is ideological or practical, the genuine reason was an overweening egotism at the expense of everything and everyone else.

    Tamerlane (Timur)

    Tamerlane's life (c. 1336-1405) was spent conquering the inhabitants of Asia. A Turkik Mongol, his goal was to make his capital, Samarkand, the most impressive in Asia. Yet he rarely stayed at home, preferring to vanquish and destroy additional lands. Legendary for his ruthless savagery and lack of mercy, Tamerlane massacred entire populations including the 80,000 residents of Delhi and razed whole cities, leaving behind nothing but rubble. And he had a macabre sense of architecture building towers out of the skulls of his victims.

    Ivan the Terrible (Ivan IV)

    On January 16, 1547, Ivan became the first czar of Russia, ruling until 1584. His early reign was primarily spent in battle in an effort to expand Russian land. His tyrannical cruelty only developed later in life, when he turned increasing paranoid and vindictive historians suspect mental instability. In 1570, Ivan formed a troop of personal bodyguards called oprichniki, who answered only to him and became the vehicle for massacring his perceived enemies over a seven-year period (1565-1572). The landed gentry was Ivan's particular nemesis, and he unleashed his oprichniki upon thousands of them. He was equally guilty of domestic violence, killing his son and heir, Ivan, in a state of fury, as well as several of his wives he is believed to have had seven of them.

    Maximillien Robespierre

    Robespierre was the mastermind of the Reign of Terror (1793-1794), the dark underside of the French Revolution that perverted its lofty ideals of democracy with fanaticism and inhumanity. Robespierre, leader of the infamous Committee of Public Safety, turned France into a police state, sending "enemies of the nation" to the guillotine without benefit of a public trial or legal representation. About 40,000 French men and women were executed or died in prison, and another 300,000 were imprisoned. Only Robespierre's own beheading ended the slaughter.

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