The 1980s Government, Politics, and Law: Headline Makers

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The 1980s Government, Politics, and Law: Headline Makers

Tawana Brawley
Robert H. Bork
Geraldine Ferraro
Bernhard Goetz
Jesse Jackson
Oliver North
Sandra Day O'Connor
David A. Stockman

Tawana Brawley (1972–) Tawana Brawley shocked New Yorkers on November 29, 1987, when she claimed she had been brutally raped and abused over a four-day period by six white men, some or all of whom may have been law enforcement officers. Shortly after the apparently racially motivated attack was revealed, several self-appointed advisors, including civil rights leader Al Sharpton, stepped in to assist the Brawley family. They quickly claimed a cover-up was under way to protect the officers involved in the assault. Almost a year later, a grand jury ruled that evidence conclusively proved that Brawley had fabricated the story.

Robert H. Bork (1927–) Robert H. Bork was a respected federal appeals court judge when President Reagan nominated him in 1987 to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court. His nomination, however, went down to defeat when Democrats on the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee used the unprecedented televised proceedings to bring to light his many conservative opinions. Bork opposed new civil rights laws, abortion, and preferential treatment for minorities and women. To the viewing public, he appeared uncaring and intellectually arrogant. In the end, his nomination to the Supreme Court was denied by the largest margin of all unsuccessful Supreme Court nominees in U.S. history.

Geraldine Ferraro (1935–) Geraldine Ferraro served as a Democratic congresswoman from Queens, New York, before Walter Mondale announced on July 12, 1984, that she would be his running mate in the presidential election that fall. With that announcement, Ferraro became the first woman ever to seek the vice presidency as the candidate of a major national political party. Many Democrats hailed her nomination. Her lack of experience in foreign affairs, her stand on abortion, and her husband's questionable financial dealings soon tarnished her image. After she and Mondale lost the November election, she found it hard to re-enter politics.

Bernhard Goetz (1947–) Bernhard Goetz made headlines nationwide when he shot four African American youths on the New York subway on December 22, 1984. One of the youths was paralyzed from the waist down as a result. Goetz, who had been robbed and assaulted in 1981, waited nine days before turning himself in to police. He claimed two of the youths had asked him for five dollars in a threatening manner before he

started shooting. Charged with assault, attempted murder, reckless endangerment, and illegal weapons possession, Goetz was found guilty of only the last charge in June 1987.

Jesse Jackson (1941–) Jesse Jackson made history in 1984 when he campaigned to be the Democratic candidate for the presidency of the United States. He was the first African American to wage a full-scale campaign to head a major-party ticket. Although many considered his foreign-policy agenda to be controversial, Jackson finished in third place among the Democratic challengers. Four years later, he made a second run for the office of president, emphasizing the theme of unity. This time, he finished in a strong second place behind Michael Dukakis, the eventual Democratic nominee.

Oliver North (1943–) Oliver North gained the most notoriety of all individuals charged in the Iran-Contra scandal. A lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Marine Corps, North worked as a staff assistant to the National Security Council (NSC). The Reagan administration used the NSC to funnel aid to the contra (counterrevolutionary) rebels in Nicaragua. North directed the operation. When his activities were discovered, North was forced to testify before the U.S. Congress. He became a folk hero to many when he contended he was merely a loyal soldier serving his commander in chief, whether or not he violated the U.S. Constitution.

Sandra Day O'Connor (1930–) Sandra Day O'Connor became the first female U.S. Supreme Court justice when the U.S. Senate unanimously confirmed her nomination to the Court on September 26, 1981. Initially thought to be a staunch conservative, she has in fact sided with both conservative and liberal justices on many issues before the Court. No one, however, has ever questioned her commitment. In 1988, O'Connor was diagnosed with breast cancer, underwent surgery, then returned to the Court ten days later, without missing any work.

David A. Stockman (1946–) David A. Stockman served in the Reagan administration as the director of the Office of Management and Budget. When he assumed the post in 1981, he was just thirty-four years old. Famous for his vast knowledge of the federal budget and his great desire to cut it, Stockman took the lead in attacking federal government spending. He quickly realized, however, that Reagan's economic agenda had serious miscalculations that would lead to massive deficit spending. Stockman than became openly critical of the president's economic approach. He left the Reagan administration in 1986.

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The 1980s Government, Politics, and Law: Headline Makers

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The 1980s Government, Politics, and Law: Headline Makers