Which scandal was the more serious: The Iran-Contra affair or the Monica Lewinsky affair? How do you explain the different outcomes for Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton? Clearly these two incidents can be construed as polar opposite events in American history. However, both of these historical events share one similar theme.
The Iran-Contra affair occurred during the Reagan administration. America loved President Reagan for his no nonsense talk and brought back Americans “spirit and sense of optimism.” (Noonan) Reagan’s agenda of pro-democracy was evident in dealing with “left-wing movements in Central America,” and stated that Iran was a “supporter of terrorism.” (Henretta, 2012) Reagan wanted to defeat or stop any movements in Central America and he needed the assistance of Iran to do so. Without America’s knowledge, the United States sold weapons to the country in Iran. Monies raised by the arms deal would be used to squash any uprisings in Nicaragua.
Why would the United States be interested in Nicaragua? The decision was clear. The Sandinistas that were elected by the public was threatening the United States businesses. Reagan at that point armed the “Contras” to stop the threat by the Sandinistas. What businesses resided in Nicaragua at that time? Monsanto, operated a herbicide formula plant since 1965. Plastics and the Gemina flour mill resided there was well. (Multinational Monitor, 1985)
Oliver North who was a high ranking official in the U.S. Marines defied the Congressional ban of assisting the Contras. When asked about his actions, President Reagan had a bout of amnesia. When Congress and the American public became aware of what had transpired in the arms deal and learned a new name in the English lexicon named Oliver North, President Reagan had tarnished his reputation. President Reagan became weak politically in the United States. (Henretta, 2012)
In 1996, a furor began after it the press had learned of a rumor that President Bill Clinton had an affair with a woman named Monica Lewinsky. Lewinsky was a former White House aide. President Clinton had gone on television and in a press conference had stated that “he had never had sexual relations with that woman.” Unfortunately, this is not the case. Several key witnesses to the investigation held by Special Prosecutor Kenneth Starr had come before a grand jury to give testimony.
Linda Tripp, a Pentagon employee had secretly tape recorded conversations with Lewinsky. White House employee, Secretary Currie had summoned a friend of President Clinton, Vernon Jordan to find Lewinsky a job. It was testified by a Secret Service agent that Lewinsky would make several trips to the Oval Office to ferry mail, when she worked for the Office of Legislative Affairs. During this same time, a woman named Paula Jones was suing the President for sexual harassment. Women named Kathleen Wiley and Jennifer Flowers had accused the President of groping as well. (CUNY, Brooklyn)
On August 17, 1998, President Clinton had to testify in front of a grand jury. This is the first time a President had to do so. On this same day, President Clinton went on national television to advise the American people that he had a relationship with Lewinsky. (CUNY, Brooklyn) After this admission, Republicans sought to have Clinton impeached due to improper conduct. However, the Republicans fell short on their impeachment vote. The damage had been done. This issue had kept Clinton from addressing affairs that concerned the American public. (Henretta, 2012)
What is the one theme that is resolute in two different scandals? Clearly the incidents are very different. One involves money and arms dealing. The other incident deals with marital discretion and inappropriate conduct. Both of these issues kept President Clinton and President Reagan from moving forward with any specific legislation that would have helped the American citizen. Also, Presidents did not tell the American people the truth. So in asking the question of what were the different outcomes that affected each President, the argument could be that the outcomes were the same. There were no significant laws or issues championed by either men at the time and they both did not tell Americans the truth.
In closing, the Iran-Contra affair was the more serious of the two scandals. The Iran-Contra affair involved three countries, the United States, Iran and Nicaragua. The scandal included the CIA, the U.S. Marines (Ollie North), and the President. The President kept the arms deal a secret from Congress who represents the people of the United States. The money supplied to the Contras was to buy more arms to fight the Sandinistas who were clearly voted into power by the Nicaraguan people. The United States cared more for the financial interests in Nicaragua than what the Nicaraguan people wanted.
CUNY, Brooklyn. (n.d.). The Clinton Impeachment, a Basic Chronology . Retrieved from CUNY Brooklyn: http://academic.brooklyn.cuny.edu/history/johnson/clintontimeline.htm
Henretta, J. E. (2012). America: A Concise History. In J. E. Henretta, America: A Concise History (5th ed., Vol. 2, p. 934). Boston, MA, : Bedford/St. Martin’s.
Multinational Monitor. (1985, April ). Taking Care of Business in Nicaragua: U.S. Business in Nicaragua. Retrieved from Multinational Monitor, Volume 6, Number 4 : http://www.multinationalmonitor.org/hyper/issues/1985/04/us.html
Noonan, P. (n.d.). Character Above All Essays: Ronald Reagan. Retrieved from PBS : http://www.pbs.org/newshour/spc/character/essays/reagan.html