Fighting For Your Future: The Presidency of Walter Mondale

This has been an excellent timeline so far, and does a good job showing how Reagan's first term could unravel.

The Republicans are being set up for a bad mid-term election in 1982. In our timeline, their losses were limited by incumbent party standards, losing 26 seats in the House of Representatives, but none in the Senate due to a favorable map. The GOP seem to have held most of the big state governorships going into 1982, and they held on to California, Illinois, and Pennsylvania, losing only Ohio, Michigan, and Texas.

According to Wikipedia, the Democrats actually got over 55% of the nationwide popular vote in the House of Representatives elections, and looking at the indivisual districts, they don't seem to have been able to do much better than they did historically. Maybe in a worse climate for the GOP they might pick up another half a dozen seats, but I went through about a third of the states and don't see where those gains would come from.

In the Senate, these are the races that the Republicans won with margins less than 7%, with the winning GOP candidate listed first:

Nevada Chic Hecht over Howard Cannon by 0.4%
Missouri John Danforth over Harriet Woods by 1.6%
Virginia Paul Trible over Dick Davis by 2.3%
Rhode Island Jack Chaffee over Julius Michaelson by 2.4%
Vermont Robert Stafford over James Guest by 3.1%
Connecticut Lowell Weicker over Toby Moffett by 4.3%
Minnesota David Durenburger over Mark Dayton by 6%
California Pete Wilson by 7% over Jerry Brown

I don't really see Jerry Brown winning. The three New England Republicans listed were quite liberal, so their defeats wouldn't lead to much change politically, other than by giving the Democrats organizational control of the Senate, which they could achieve with the defeats of the first five names on the list.

These are the gubernatorial races with margins of less than 4%:

Illinois Bill Thompson over Adlai Stevenson III by 0.1%
California George Deukmajian over Tom Bradley by 1.2%
Pennsylvania Dick Thornburgh over Allan Ertel by 2.7%
New Hampshire John Sunnunu over Hugh Gallen by 3.7%

I think the race in Illinois was so close that it definitely goes the other way. I think the political dynamic in California was differently enough from the national dynamic that the Republicans still have a good chance of taking this, they are actually more likely to lose Pennsylvania.
What are the following people up to?:
Dick Thornburg
Randy Newman
Charlie Daniels
Lee Iacocca
Bruce Springsteen
Howard Dean
Ann Curry
What are the following people up to?:
Dick Thornburg
Randy Newman
Charlie Daniels
Lee Iacocca
Bruce Springsteen
Howard Dean
Ann Curry
In order:
  • Running for re-election in 1982
  • Making music
  • Making music
  • Still the CEO of Chrysler
  • Making music
  • Still the Member of the Vermont House of Representativesfrom the Chittenden 7-4 district
  • Being a great journalist
Chapter 3


“I've spoken recently of the freedom fighters of Nicaragua. You know the truth about them. You know who they're fighting and why. They are the moral equal of our Founding Fathers and the brave men and women of the French Resistance. We cannot turn away from them, for the struggle here is not right versus left; it is right versus wrong.”

-- Reagan on the Contras, CPAC 1985​

“As long as I’m in charge, the United States will continue to pursue a sound policy of building allies in the Middle East. That includes Iraq. I don’t believe it is fair, or right, for Congress to try and dictate to the White House what our foreign policy objectives are. ”

Those were the words that had gotten Alexander Haig in his latest spot of trouble.

His public critics, most of them Democrats but some Republicans too, argued that Haig was undermining both the President he served, and the Congress. They, and much of the public, viewed Haig’s comments as evidence that he would ignore or try to circumvent the will of Congress, with respect to such things as the Prevention of Genocide Act, if it were passed by the 98th Congress – which was likely, as if the polls were to be believed, the next Congress would be firmly Democratic.

Haig immediately went into damage control, claiming that “of course we in the State Department will observe all laws passed by the Congress”.

But Haig’s enemies inside the White House, and there were many, pounced on the moment of weakness and sought to kick the former General while he was down.

Leaks and anonymous accounts from Reagan’s White House began pouring out to the media – horror stories of Haig’s overbearing style, his domineering personality in cabinet meetings, his lack of friends in the White House or at Foggy Bottom, his handling of the Israeli-Lebanon War and more.

Efforts were made to remind the news media and the public of past mistakes by Haig also – his controversial comments on a “nuclear warning shot” against the Soviet Union, his downplaying of the slaying of nuns by American allies in El Salvador and more.

It would only be a matter of weeks before Haig had decided that enough was enough. He privately told Reagan that he would resign in the new year and Reagan accepted it.

The powers that be in the White House decided that Defense Secretary Weinberger would become Secretary of State, a position he’d long sought, while his replacement as Defense Secretary was yet to be determined.

News of Haig’s impending departure and Weinberger’s ascendancy was leaked to the press only days later, causing another embarrassment for the Reagan administration.

In a press conference a few days later, a frustrated Reagan told the media: “I was going to have an opening statement, but I decided that what I was going to say I wanted to get a lot of attention, so I’m going to wait and leak it.”

This was yet another embarrassment for the embattled Reagan administration. But the lead up to the 1982 mid-terms would have one more surprise waiting around the corner.


On October 13th, 1982, a special 2-hour edition of ABC’s Nightline program aired to the public.

Its subject was the Contra rebels inside Nicaragua, who fought a campaign against the leftist Sandinista government.

This was the first major piece of news on the Contras to capture the American public, not least of all due to the man responsible for conducting interviews with local Nicaraguans on both sides of the conflict – Bill Stewart.

Stewart’s celebrity status made him one of the most known newsmen in the United States, and the fact he had returned to Nicaragua, where he had endured a vicious beating at the hands of soldiers there, meant that few Americans could ignore his report.

And it was a report which was utterly damning towards the Contras – claims that they bombed hospitals, schools, health clinics and civilians were backed up with footage and photos of wounded children, destroyed buildings and wailing civilians.

Interviews with Sandinista politicians, and figures inside the Contras revealed another chilling truth to the American public – the US government, or more accurately the CIA, had a hand in training and arming these rebels.

In particular, Stewart interviewed a Contra militia member and queried him about the large knife in his possession.

“That’s a very large knife you have there,” Stewart said, “Who gave it to you? What do you use it for?”

“An American gave me this knife. He was CIA or a commando or something.”, the man responded, with a chuckle, “I use it to kill people, to cut their throats”.

The interview and irrefutable visual evidence, presented by one of the most trusted and beloved faces in American journalism, destroyed the credibility of the Contras in the eyes of the American public.

The outcry among politicians inside the United States was swift

Senator Ted Kennedy called for an end to all US government aid to the Contras, and Senator Joe Biden referred to the Contras as “terrorist thugs”.

White House Press Secretary James Bradley was heavily criticized for claiming that Bill Stewart was “influenced or misled by the Sandinista regime into completely misrepresenting the Contra freedom fighters and what they stand for.”

Eventually, the criticism got to a point where Ronald Reagan felt it necessary to give a radio address defending the Contras.

“Good evening, my fellow Americans. Tonight, I’d like to speak with you regarding a topic that has been hotly debated these past few days – the Contra Freedom Fighters and our policy inside the Latin American nation of Nicaragua. Now, you might have heard allegations and accusations of improper, some claim terroristic, behavior from our Contra allies in their struggle against the oppressive Sandinista regime.

Perhaps worse than that, you’ve heard that these same alleged acts of brutality have been sanctions, and even taught to them by our own intelligence services. Let me just say, right now for all of you listening at home, nothing could be further from the truth. It is a fact that the Contras are engaged in a violent struggle against their Marxist-Leninist oppressors. And it is a fact that we are helping them in this effort through material aid and training.

But neither the training, nor any aid provided by us, was used to target or attack civilian targets inside Nicaragua.It is the goal of the Contras to liberate the people of Nicaragua from the communist puppet government that is presently denying them their democratic rights, and other such freedoms that we take for granted here in the United States. This goal could never be achieved if the Contras were to attack the very people they are trying to liberate.

In their task, I truly believe they are the moral equivalent of our Founding Fathers. And perhaps we have forgotten that the American Revolution was not won by men and women who begged and pleaded for freedom. No, George Washington and his fellow revolutionaries knew in their hearts that freedom is worth fighting and dying for. In that sense, our Founding Fathers are perhaps the original Contras. And those of us who stand with them in their struggles are Contras too.

And if we turn out back against our Contra allies, what then? Will we allow the forces of Marxist-Leninism to take root here in our backyard? Will we allow the Sandinista regime to expand and spread through Latin America and reach its way up to us?

I don’t believe the American people would stand for such a thing, and neither would I. In that sense, I believe we are all Contras. Rather than spreading salacious rumors, I believe we should come together to support our friends in Latin America, so that they might one day be free. That is all they are asking for – not for our troops. They are asking, as Churchill did during the Second World War, for the tools to finish the war themselves.

To deny them the chance to claim their freedom goes against everything we believe as Americans.”

Reagan’s speech was well received by conservatives and cold war hawks but did little to stem the tide of opposition toward the Contras by the wider public.

It appeared that once again, the Reagan White House was on the opposing side of an issue with the American public.

With the mid-terms on the horizon, Republicans braced for the culmination of the present administrations many mistakes and unpopular activities.


There were many stories to come out of the mid-term elections of 1982.

Reagan’s recession, the multiple foreign policy controversies, the continuing “malaise” from the late 1970s – but perhaps nothing was quite as curious as the resurgent power of unions, who made themselves seen and heard in ways not seen in years.

Following Reagan’s controversial dismissal of PATCO strikers, and the World Trade Center plane crash that followed, there was a groundswell of anger amongst trade unionists and blue-collar workers alike.

Reagan’s policy of mass firings followed by the appointment of inadequate replacement workers and overworked staff to pick up the slack had been met with disaster. Those in the union movement used the outrage generated from the event and turned it into something productive – a renaissance in union organizing.

“We have to stop what happened in New York from ever happening again,” said AFL-CIO President Lane Kirkland in a stump speech given us trade halls all throughout the United States, “and that can only come about when the Government, unions, and private industry come together and negotiate for the good of us all. It can’t happen by bullying or heavy-handed tactics by the President or anyone else. Ronald Reagan’s class war has already resulted in hundreds of lives loss, are we going to allow any more?”

That last line often resulted in a loud response of “No!” from the crowd.

In trying to break the back of unions and signal to employers that strong arming unions was an effective tactic, Reagan had courted disaster and given the trade union movement its biggest shot in the arm in generations.

Reports would be made public that Reagan’s decision to fire PATCO strikers rather than negotiate, coupled with the World Trade Center plane crash and associated damage to New York, and disruption of the Stock Market, cost billions of dollars more than if he had accepted the demands of the union.

Union leaders created councils of unemployed union members to act as union organizers and activists, and new members were required to sign up one sympathetic friend or family member. Former PATCO members fired by Reagan were essential figures in this effort.

The reinvigorated union movement campaigned hard against Reagan’s policies in 1984, criticizing the PATCO strike, the continued struggles in the civil aviation industry, his appointments to the National Labor Relations Board, his economy policy that had resulted in recession and more.

They campaigned heavily against Republicans, and generally lent their support to union friendly Democrats in key races. They wanted to, in the words of Kirkland, “send a message to Ronald Reagan – if you want to wage a class war on us, we’ll fight back”.

The unions had seen a sharp rise in membership since the events of early 1981, and this new, well organized campaign was sure to have an influence in the mid-terms.


Another figure who had risen from the ashes to challenge Ronald Reagan’s first two years in office was none other than former Vice President Walter Mondale.

Fighting Fritz campaigned aggressively, all across the nation leading up to November 2nd, 1982. True to his nickname, he leveled blistering attacks against Reagan’s performance as President, blaming him for the economic recession, the death of the ERA, soaring unemployment and interest rates, cutting social security, trying to gut Medicare, favoring the rich, a cruel and incompetent foreign policy, as well as attacking the union movement.

In a speech before the Human Rights Campaign Fund, Mondale claimed that, ''of all the principles the Reagan Administration is weakening, the most important in the long run may well be this country's commitment to universal human rights”.

Mondale visited the site of the World Trade Center, still in the process of being repaired, and called it “Ronald Reagan’s greatest failure”.

He campaigned in the South, the Midwest, and the West Coast. He made an effort to be in as many states as possible, appearing on local news and in newspapers.

He sought to redeem the Carter administration in the eyes of the public, telling audiences across the nation: “'We told the truth, obeyed the law and kept the peace”.

But for as important as these midterms were, Mondale had another reason for campaigning – he was raising his profile and networking for the 1984 election. With Reagan’s presidency in such a state, Mondale saw a golden opportunity to make his run for the White House and hoist the banner of liberalism up again for another generation, as Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, and Jimmy Carter had done.

But first, they had to clear the way by a strong showing in these midterms.

Mondale was optimistic about the chances of many exciting Democrats, and even privately began looking at promising candidates for a running mate, should he win his party’s nomination in 1984.

In particular, Tom Bradley’s campaign for the Governorship of California excited Walter Mondale. To have an African American elected to the Governorship of the largest state in the union would be a watershed moment in the history of the United States. He could just imagine how proud Hubert Humphrey would be.

With Bradley solidly ahead on the polls riding a wave of support, he looked like he just might pull off the victory.


November 2nd, 1982 was a referendum on Ronald Reagan’s Presidency to that point, and a clear message was sent – voters wanted change.

Democrats, who already controlled the House of Representatives, saw an additional 31 seats added to their total, resulting in a strong majority of 274 seats.

Meanwhile, Republicans were left with 160 seats, with the lone member of the Conservative Party, William Carney, causing with Republicans.

The results in the Senate, which Republicans controlled, was even more disheartening.

Despite a favorable Senate map, Democrats made considerable gains in the Senate, with a net gain of 8 seats.

Incumbents John Danforth, John Chafee, Harrison Schmitt, Robert Stafford, David Durenberger, and Lowell Weicker lost re-election to their Democratic challengers.

Of the three Senators who retired in this election, 2 of the seats were won by Democrats.

In New Jersey, Frank Lautenberg defeated Millicent Fenwick to replace interim appointee Nicholas F. Brady. The retiring incumbent, Brady, had been appointed in April of 1982, following his predecessor’s conviction for taking bribes.

In Virginia, Dick Davis narrowly defeated his Republican opponent, Paul Trible, to replace retiring incumbent Harry F. Byrd Jr.

Bucking the trend, in California, Pete Wilson narrowly defeated the controversial governor Jerry Brown to become the junior Senator from California.

This Senate result in California was a small bright spot, but the results of the state’s gubernatorial election was yet to be determined.


As Mayor of Los Angeles, Tom Bradley had the perfect base from which to launch a campaign for the Governorship of California. Since the early 1970s, he’d been one of the most visible men in the state, and built a powerful coalition of black, Latino, Asian and Jewish voters, alongside church leaders and white liberal voters.

George Deukmejian, California’s Attorney General and the Republic nominee for Governor, accused Bradley of being anti-police, and cutting 600 police from the streets.

The attack was effective, and despite being a former police officer himself, ate into his double-digit lead. Furthermore, Deukmejian criticized Bradley for the rising rates of murder and robbery in Los Angeles.

However, the economy remained the number one concern for California voters come along day, and most residents were frustrated with economic performance under Reagan.

Still, Bradley maintained a 6-point lead on the eve of the election day. Exit polls supported the relatively clear Bradley victory, leading to some news organizations to project a Bradley victory early in the night.

However, the election itself proved far closer than the exit polls predicted.

While Bradley won the majority of votes cast on election day, but absentee ballots ate into his lead substantially.

It would be several weeks, and a recount, before the result would be known to California voters. In the end, Mayor Tom Bradley had won with a razor thin 0.3% vote margin ahead of Deukmejian.

With his victory, Tom Bradley had become the first-ever elected African American governor. The state that had produced Ronald Reagan’s political ascendancy would now be governed by the first popularly elected African American governor.

Bradley’s election was international news, and a major cause for celebration among Democrats, but even more so amongst the wider African American community.

In his victory speech, Bradley spoke of unity and the need for Californians to come together.

“The time is now for all of us from across this Golden State to bridge the divide that exists between the land we live in, and the land we want for our children. Together we will turn our dreams into reality, and I look forward to working with people of all parties, backgrounds, and beliefs to build a better California. ”

Bradley was joined by other victories newly elected Democratic Governors, 9 in total including himself.

They were:
  • Adlai Stevenson III of Illinois
  • Allan Ertel of Pennsylvania
  • Bill Clinton of Arkansas (avenging his loss from 1980)
  • Bill Sheffield of Alaska
  • James Blanchard of Michigan
  • Rudy Perpich of Minnesota
  • Bob Kerrey of Nebraska
  • Richard Bryan of Nevada
  • Dick Celeste of Ohio
  • Mark White of Texas
  • Tony Earl of Wisconsin.
Hugh Gallen was able to successfully win re-election, which brought the Democrats total number of Governors up to 38, while Republicans only held 12. Gallen would survive a near fatal blood infection following the election, but he would return full time to his duties in early 1983.

All things considered, however, for as many victories as Democrats enjoyed during the 1982 midterms, none were as sweet as Tom Bradley’s historic triumph. It signaled that a whole new era in American politics had begun.

Reagan’s Revolution had faced a liberal counterrevolution. What this meant for 1984, few could say, but the nation and the world would watch the results intently.

The full results in the Senate were as follows:


Arizona: Dennis DeConcini (D) wins re-election (D hold)
California: Pete Wilson (R) wins an open race, replacing S. I. Hayakawa (R) (R hold)
Connecticut: Toby Moffett (D) defeats incumbent Lowell Weicker (R) (D gain from R)
Delaware: William Roth (R) wins re-election (R hold)
Florida: Lawton Chiles (D) wins re-election (D hold)
Hawaii: Spark Matsunaga (D) wins re-election (D hold)
Indiana: Richard Luger (R) wins re-election (R hold)
Maine: Interim appointment George J Mitchell (D) elected to full term (D hold)
Maryland: Paul Sarbanes (D) wins re-election (D hold)
Massachusetts: Ted Kennedy (D) wins re-election (D hold)
Michigan: Donald Riegle (D) wins re-election (D hold)
Minnesota: Mark Dayton (D) defeats David Durenberg (R) (D gain from R)
Mississippi: John C. Stennis (D) wins re-election (D hold)
Missouri: Harriet Woods (D) defeats incumbent John Danforth (R) (D gain)
Montana: John Melcher (D) wins re-election (D hold)
Nebraska: Edward Zorinsky (D) wins re-election (D hold)
Nevada: Howard Cannon (D) wins re-election (D hold)
New Jersey: Frank Lautenberg (D) defeats Millicent Fenwick (R), replacing incumbent Nicholas F. Brady (R) (D gain)
New Mexico: Jeff Bingaman (D) defeats Harrison Schmitt (R) (D gain from R)

New York: Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D) wins re-election (D hold)
North Dakota: Quentin Burdick (D) wins re-election (D hold)
Ohio: Howard Metzenbaum (D) wins re-election (D hold)
Pennsylvania: John Heinz (R) wins re-election (R hold)
Rhode Island: Julius C. Michaelson (D) defeats incumbent John Chafee (R) (D gain from R)
Tennessee: Jim Sasser wins re-election (D hold)
Texas: Lloyd Bentsen (D) wins re-election
Utah: Orin Hatch (R) wins re-election
Vermont: James A. Guest (D) defeats incumbent Robert Stafford (R) (D gain from R)
Virginia: Dick Davis (D) defeats Paul Trible (R) to replace Harry F. Byrd Jr (I) (D gain from I)

Washington: Henry M. Jackson (D) wins re-election (D hold)
West Virginia: Robert Byrd (D) wins re-election
Wisconsin: William Proximire (D) wins re-election
Wyoming: Malcolm Wallop (R) wins relection (R hold)

DEMOCRATS: 52 (+8)




Democratic seats
: 274 (+31)

Republican seats: 160 (-31)


With the Democrats sweeping victory in 1982, the gains made by Reagan had almost completely evaporated.

Robert Byrd would be assuming the role of Senate Majority Leader, and Tip O’Neil had tightened his control over the House of Representatives.

Reagan, who’d already struggled to implement his agenda in the Congress, would face obstruction all the way leading up to 1984.

In a brief address to the press, Reagan lamented that while some races were close, his party had been dealt a blow. All the same, he promised to work with the next Congress “to pass an agenda that would get the government off the back of the people and get this nation back to work”.

Following the Republican Party’s dismal showing, there was a major internal debate inside the White House as to how Reagan would proceed.

Reagan’s California loyalists argued that the President should do what he did when faced with an overwhelming Democratic state legislature in California – compromise with them where possible and double down on popular positions, rely on tough-on-crime policies and strong conservative rhetoric to keep the Republican base happy.

Those newer in Reagan’s circle, who entered his orbit during his entrance into national politics, argued for an agenda of total resistance, relying extensively on the President’s veto powers, and claiming that the Democrat’s tax and spend agenda would result in even worse economic conditions.

Reagan, as he always did when faced with internal division, tried to chart a course between the two options, to make both groups happy. Oftentimes, this resulted in neither group being satisfied.

Reagan’s White House, already a den of dysfunction, was sent into a tailspin. With the impending exit of Alexander Haig, a major cabinet reshuffle could hopefully offer a semblance of order to a deeply troubled administration.

Or perhaps this was yet another shift that would doom Reagan’s Presidency. Time would tell.


The final nail in the coffin of Reagan’s annus horribilis was the passage of the Boland Amendment in December of 1982.

As part of the House Appropriations Bill of 1982, which was attached as a rider to the Defense Appropriations Act of 1983, the Boland amendment sated that “no funds available to the Central Intelligence Agency, the Department of Defense, or any other agency or entity of the United States involved in intelligence activities may be obligated or expended for the purpose or which would have the effect of supporting, directly or indirectly, military or paramilitary operations in Nicaragua by any nation, group, organization, movement or individual”.

In effect, this completely prevented the Reagan administration from sending money or aid to the Contras.

The Boland Amendment, named for its author, Democratic Congressman Representative Edward Boland, essentially forbade Reagan’s administration aiding the Contras efforts to overthrow the Sandinista government.

The amendment, and the extensive nature of the wording, was brought about due to strong opposition to the Contras among the American people following Bill Stewart’s expose. Edward Boland wanted to be absolutely certain that the White House could not support the Contras any longer – such an effort would badly damage American credibility abroad, and be against the wishes of much of the American public at home.

Reagan, wary of his weakened position following the disastrous midterms, signed the bill.

However, he began to tout private enterprise efforts to fund the Contras, through private entities such as the Nicaraguan Democratic Force and the World Anti-Communist League. Within weeks of the Boland Amendment, millions of dollars were pouring into these groups to fund the continued efforts of the Contra guerrillas.

Of these efforts, Reagan said:

“Private citizens and supporters of freedom around the globe are now the Nicaraguan peoples’ best hope. The new Democratic Congress has seen fit to strangle the Contras' efforts to defeat Soviet-backed tyranny in their homeland, but the American people have shown they will not abandon our friends in Nicaragua or anywhere else. As it has always been throughout our history, where Washington politicians fail, the American people step up to do what is right.”

As 1982 ended and 1983 began, the year did not start off on a positive note. The stress of the past 2 ineffective and troubled years had been too much for White House Deputy Chief of Staff Michael Deaver, who already hated living in Washington, DC. He would leave at the start of the new year. He would be replaced by Edwin Meese, who was serving as Counselor to the President until his appointment to the position.

Any hopes of the 1983 starting off better than 1982 had ended when the 98th Congress met and sought to rectify one of the great Reagan controversies of the previous year.

Another aspect of Reagan’s foreign policy, closer relations with Iraq, was dealt a blow in January of 1983 when the new 98th Congress reintroduced the Prevention of Genocide Act.

The Prevention of Genocide Act 1983 maintained the goal of its predecessor – to punish Saddam Hussein’s regime for its gas attacks of the Kurds and genocidal repression of population of Khuzestan.

Again championed by Jesse Helms, the act would do the following:
  • Requires the U.S. Executive Director or representative at all international financial institutions to vote against all loans to Iraq.
  • Prohibits the provision of any assistance, the sale of any kind of military equipment, the provision of any credits, or the provision of any credit guarantees to Iraq.
  • Prohibits the sale or transfer to Iraq of any item subject to export control by any agency of the United States.
  • Prohibits the importation of any oil or petroleum products produced in Iraq.
These sanctions could be waived by the President, only if proof was given that Saddam had stopped his genocidal activities. But that was highly unlikely, and both the White House and Congress knew it.

The act was again sent to Reagan’s desk, who again vetoed it. But this time, the veto was overridden by the Congress. It was the first time in the 20th century that a President had his veto overridden on foreign policy legislation.

With yet another embarrassment, Reagan and his White House staff could not hide their displeasure.

With the departure of Alexander Haig, Casper Weinberger was appointed to the position of Secretary of State with little opposition. As he was the incumbent Secretary of Defense, however, a replacement had to be found.

Reagan’s White House staff had the perfect candidate in mind.

They did not want to take anyone out of the House or Senate, given the recent losses suffered. While the mid-terms had been devastating for Republicans generally, for one man, an opportunity presented itself.

Former Governor of Texas Bill Clements was one of many Republican politicians to be ousted from office in 1982. Prior to being elected Governor of Texas, he served as Deputy Secretary of Defense, and briefly as Acting Defense Secretary in the Nixon and Ford administrations.

He had a wealth of executive experience as Governor and had done the job before.

Clements appointment to the position of Secretary of Defense was met with some opposition among Democrats, but he was accepted by the Senate all the same.

With the departure of Haig, and with Weinberger and Clements now in place, Reagan looked forward to a new and better year in 1983.

However, he was not yet ready to abandon the Contras, or his plans to make a reliable ally out of Iraq. Israel was privately furious with the United States for allowing Iraq to decisively win the war with Iran, but if Iraq could be brought into the fold, things would improve considerably.

Weinberger and National Security Advisor William P. Clark Jr both tilted towards Iraq during the Iran-Iraq War in any case, so Reagan’s desire to build a relationship between the two nations appealed to them.

Reagan made clear that his two top priorities in the new year was to keep the Contras afloat in Nicaragua and maintain the strategic opening that had come about with regard to Iraq.

In making this proclamation, Reagan committed perhaps the gravest mistake of his Presidency.
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This is truly great. You are capturing the momentum of this perfectly.

For example, is the PATCO strike leading to a disaster really enough to overcome Reagan’s ‘84 margin? Not on its own. But it’s enough for the unions to Greek rejuvenated and for the Democrats to do better in the midterms. And that’s enough to panic Reagan — make him feel threatened — which gets him to double down on the contras and this Iraq plot. And THAT can be enough for Fritz.

Amazing work!! Cannot wait to see where this goes next.
This is truly great. You are capturing the momentum of this perfectly.

For example, is the PATCO strike leading to a disaster really enough to overcome Reagan’s ‘84 margin? Not on its own. But it’s enough for the unions to Greek rejuvenated and for the Democrats to do better in the midterms. And that’s enough to panic Reagan — make him feel threatened — which gets him to double down on the contras and this Iraq plot. And THAT can be enough for Fritz.

Amazing work!! Cannot wait to see where this goes next.
Thank you, my friend!
Chapter 4 New


"I like Mondale, actually. I would vote for him. But I think in this election, the only person who is going to beat Ronald Reagan is Reagan himself."

-- Hunter S. Thompson, in a speech at UCLA, February 1984
“Today I declare my candidacy for President of the United States.

I do so with thanks to the people of Minnesota. Because of you, for twenty years I have been privileged to serve in this Capitol, in the United States Senate, and in the second highest office in the land. Today I ask your help again.

In the small communities of southern Minnesota where I grew up, we believed in some old American value's that don't need any updating.

When I look back on all the troubles my parents had losing the farm, the Depression, sickness--what strikes me is how our beliefs pulled us through. My dad was a minister. And my mother filled our home and our church with love and music.

We were rural people: we knew that hard work was the only way to make it. And we knew, as O. E. Rolvaag put it, "No matter where we've come from, we all have the same job--to push together for the goal that mankind has been seeking ever since it was the first day…We're here to build for a greater justice among men and women."

That's what Minnesota is all about.

Our country, too, is built on community. We depend on one another--children on parents; cities on farmers; civilians on soldiers; seniors on workers; citizens on public servants; the sick, the handicapped, and the unemployed on us all.

With these values, we've accomplished miracles. Each new challenge--rebuilding Europe, conquering space, defeating hunger--we’ve met.

But now we in this generation must meet our own challenges.

A generation ago, this country stocked the shelves of the world. Now it's hard to find a basic American industry in shape for the future.

Once we were building the most ambitious highway system on earth. Now our economy is dodging potholes.

Once our scientists were sending us to the moon. Now there are fewer physics teachers than school districts.

Once this abundant country was nearly self-sufficient. Now our energy supply depends too much on a foreign cartel.

Once we were rich, and our allies were poor. Now they are strong, too, and to lead them, we must persuade them.

Once the nuclear age was dominated by us. Now the arms race threatens the fate of the earth.

We know we can't solve our own problems by repeating our parents' answers. As John Gardner once said, "A nation is never finished. You can't build it and then leave it standing like the pharaohs did the pyramids. It has to be built and rebuilt. It has to be re-created in each generation by believing, caring men and women. It is our turn now. If we don't believe or don't care, nothing can save the nation. If we believe and care, nothing can stop us.

Nothing will stop us. Because the future is made for America--Name an advantage that the future requires, and you'll see an asset we already have.

In the years ahead, everything will depend on economic growth: our jobs, our defense, our fight for social justice.

To get our economy growing again will take people--the skills, discoveries, creativity, and the spirit of all Americans.

We must become an America where children master basic skills again; whose parents are partners with schools again; whose teachers are rewarded and raise standards again; whose students get the financial aid they need again; whose graduates have tools for a lifetime of learning; whose employers invest in a lifetime of training; and whose educators steer this generation toward excellence.

We must become an America where students speak the language of science; whose engineers invent the future; where the arts and humanities enrich our spirit; where libraries and laboratories are the best in the world; and where scientists train the next generation of genius.

We must have an America whose schools teach the languages of the globe; whose colleges teach the cultures of the world; whose diplomats speak the languages of their hosts; whose exporters speak the languages of their markets; and whose fluency launches a new generation of growth.

Next, the future will require international competitiveness. And our nation has the capacity to compete again.

The heart of competitiveness must be a strong new national policy to strengthen entrepreneurship, small business, and free enterprise.

We must have an America where entrepreneurs have the capital to get going; inventors have the risk-takers to back them; businesses have the talent to staff them; products have the foreign markets they need; and capitalists create a new generation of jobs.

I offer a Presidency that promotes exports aggressively, tears down barriers to the sales of our services, and insists that our trading partners open their markets as wide to us as we open ours to them.

I propose an era when harbors are being deepened, bridges strengthened, highways repaved, and railroads rebuilt.

I propose a nation whose factories are the most efficient in the world; whose merger barons stop shuffling assets, and start modernizing equipment; and whose short-term profits become long-term investments.

I propose an America where labor and management put the old bitterness behind them; workers are retrained for the jobs of the future; quality is rising, and absenteeism is falling; and government is a force for restructuring and renewal.

Next, I seek the Presidency to restore our global leadership.

Our President must understand and bolster all our real advantages: military effectiveness, economic strength, energy independence, moral authority, alliances that no enemy can weaken, and defenses that no nation dare challenge.

We must be an America whose social justice at home attracts friendship abroad, and whose voice condemns repression--from the camps of the Russian Gulag to the jails of the Latin generals.

We must see the world as it really is--an arena for a competition America can win, where our freedom, our values, and our achievements are a magnet for all the world.

Finally, I enter this race not just to seek a victory, but to point toward sanity.

Our determination to reduce the nuclear risk must be unquestioned in Europe and around the world again.

We must stand by the ABM treaty, resubmit the SALT treaty, and negotiate a comprehensive test ban treaty.

We must block the spread of nuclear weapons to new nations, and control exports that can be turned into bomb factories.

We must have a President who masters the arms control process, does the hard bargaining with the Soviets, negotiates a mutual and verifiable nuclear freeze, and at long last reverses this mindless, wasteful madness.

This is the nation's agenda--and mine. I ask for your mandate to seize the American advantage--to invest in our values, our talent, our competitiveness, our strength, and our survival.

No President can do that alone, and so I ask for something more: I ask the American people to give their best.

I call for stronger families. There isn't a single problem that can be solved without the values we learn at home: to work hard, tell the truth, obey the law, and cherish our faith.

I call for tougher discipline. You can't become a biochemist by osmosis: it takes excellence. You can't deter crime by ignoring it: it takes punishment.

I call for cooperation. Everyone must contribute; all must sacrifice. When we fight amongst ourselves and pit American against American, we all suffer.

And I call for realism. There is a long haul ahead. Politicians must stop peddling quick fixes, and all of us must remember that education, training, research, enterprise, and all things that count take time.

Americans have not lost their knack for greatness. As Barbara Tuchman has written, "The urge for the best is an element of humankind as inherent as the heartbeat."

But when people do their best, their effort must be rewarded. Today that bargain is not being honored enough.

Too many families are suffering the consequences of high deficits--record real interest rates, rising taxes, unemployment, and bankruptcy. All across the nation, our states are being cruelly forced to raise taxes and slash services, weakening our federal system.

We must have an America where working people don't have to pay more so that the privileged can pay less. I call on Congress to chop those deficits down, scale the defence budget to reality, repeal the scheduled tax cuts for the wealthy, repeal indexing, and keep our tax system progressive.

Too many Americans are losing their trust in government. They expect their President to faithfully execute the laws of the land. Yet they see this Administration cynically undermining and betraying the laws protecting our air, our water, and our land.

To earn public trust, our government must be on the side of the vulnerable. We must continue the long American march to broader liberties. Before this decade is over, I want to go to an inauguration where a President swears to "preserve, protect, and defend" a Constitution that contains the Equal Rights Amendment.

Too many people tell me they feel swept away by the tidal wave of special interest money that is swamping our political system. And I agree.

To dramatize the need for change, my campaign will accept no contributions from political action committees. And I will work to slap controls on PACs, clamp ceilings on campaign spending, close the independent committee loopholes and finance Congressional campaigns publicly.

Ours must be a government of the people, by the people, and for the people. I say it is time to declare that the government of the United States is not up for sale. It belongs to the American people, and we want it back.

If we restore trust, government can act.

While government can be a problem, it is not the problem. Human suffering, a faltering economy, a dangerous arms race, a divided America: these are the problems.

Today, there are American families sleeping in cars, searching for work, and lasting the grapes of wrath: these are our true problems. I believe in social decency, not social Darwinism.

What I am saying is this: If we are to pursue the goals that strengthen our nation, we must have a strong, effective, caring government, worthy of public trust.

I know I do not begin this journey alone. I begin it here with you, my friends who started me in public life and who have sustained me over the years. I start it with my wife, Joan, and our children, and my family. You've helped me before; please help me once again.

I know we will win. We have a plan for the future. We have everything we need to renew our country. But the American people understand that we also need a President who knows what he's doing.

I do --thanks to you. I served as Attorney-General for four years, and I know state government. I served in the United States Senate for twelve years. Thanks to you, and the American people, I was proud to serve under President Carter as Vice President.

I have the experience. I know where the talent is. I know the White House. I know how to shape a government. I know how to manage. I know the Congress. I know how to defend this country. I know how to search for peace. I know who our friends are. I'm on to our enemies. I know our people. And I know myself: I am ready. I am ready to be President of the United States.

I am ready, and so are the American people.

I've traveled this country more than any living American. I know what our people want. They want to get on with it.

We've had Vietnam; it's over. We've had Watergate; it's behind us. We've tried quick fixes; they don't work. We want our edge back. Schools must teach again. Americans must work again. Convicted criminals must go to jail again. Our nation must lead the world again.

Americans want to get going. They're confident. They're ready. And so am I.

Thank you very much.

I am ready, and so are the American people.”

With these words on February 21st, 1983, Walter Mondale had launched his campaign to take back in the White House.

With unemployment nearing 12%, a severe recession, Democratic control of both Houses of Congress, and Reagan’s approval rating at an abysmal 31%, the prospects of a Democratic victory in 1984 looked promising.

However, he was hardly the only Democratic hopeful to notice this. California Senator Alan Cranston and Colorado Senator Gary Hart had both announced their candidacies already, and former Governor of Florida Reuben Askew would join the race only days following Mondale’s own announcement.

The former Vice President sought to strike while the iron was hot, hitting the campaign trail and meeting with constituency groups all across America. He went to factories, college campuses, local city halls, and more, preaching the ideals of the liberalism that he had

“Ronald Reagan quotes Franklin Roosevelt”, Mondale would claim, “but he governs like Herbert Hoover”.

That line, suggested by Mondale’s campaign manager Bob Beckel, rarely failed to provoke applause or laughter from a crowd.

Mondale didn’t see any major candidates who might threaten his rise to the nomination, or at least, not at this point. Cranston had too many eccentricities, Askew was too socially conservative, and Hart was a relative unknown.

While more candidates were likely to jump into the race, for now, Mondale believed he was a clear front runner.


March saw a number of events that heightened Cold War tensions. On the 8th of March, Reagan addressed the National Association of Evangelicals in Orlando, Florida.

There, he gave perhaps one of his most famous speeches, in which he declared the Soviet Union “an evil empire”:

“Yes, let us pray for the salvation of all of those who live in that totalitarian darkness—pray they will discover the joy of knowing God. But until they do, let us be aware that while they preach the supremacy of the State, declare its omnipotence over individual man, and predict its eventual domination of all peoples on the earth, they are the focus of evil in the modern world .... So, in your discussions of the nuclear freeze proposals, I urge you to beware the temptation of pride—the temptation of blithely declaring yourselves above it all and label both sides equally at fault, to ignore the facts of history and the aggressive impulses of an evil empire, to simply call the arms race a giant misunderstanding and thereby remove yourself from the struggle between right and wrong and good and evil.”

Through this speech, Reagan made clear his opposition to peace movements, such as the Nuclear Freeze. It was the height of Reagan’s ideological fervor and anti-communist rhetoric.

This was pounded when, on the evening of 23rd of March, 1983, Ronald Reagan gave a speech on his latest defense program – the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI):

“Let me share with you a vision of the future which offers hope. It is that we embark on a program to counter the awesome Soviet missile threat with measures that are defensive. Let us turn to the very strengths in technology that spawned our great industrial base and that have given us the quality of life we enjoy today.

What if free people could live secure in the knowledge that their security did not rest upon the threat of instant U.S. retaliation to deter a Soviet attack, that we could intercept and destroy strategic ballistic missiles before they reached our own soil or that of our allies?

I know this is a formidable, technical task, one that may not be accomplished before the end of this century. Yet, current technology has attained a level of sophistication where it's reasonable for us to begin this effort. It will take years, probably decades of effort on many fronts. There will be failures and setbacks, just as there will be successes and breakthroughs. And as we proceed, we must remain constant in preserving the nuclear deterrent and maintaining a solid capability for flexible response. But isn't it worth every investment necessary to free the world from the threat of nuclear war? We know it is.

In the meantime, we will continue to pursue real reductions in nuclear arms, negotiating from a position of strength that can be ensured only by modernizing our strategic forces. At the same time, we must take steps to reduce the risk of a conventional military conflict escalating to nuclear war by improving our nonnuclear capabilities.

America does possess -- now -- the technologies to attain very significant improvements in the effectiveness of our conventional, nonnuclear forces. Proceeding boldly with these new technologies, we can significantly reduce any incentive that the Soviet Union may have to threaten attack against the United States or its allies.

As we pursue our goal of defensive technologies, we recognize that our allies rely upon our strategic offensive power to deter attacks against them. Their vital interests and ours are inextricably linked. Their safety and ours are one. And no change in technology can or will alter that reality. We must and shall continue to honor our commitments.

I clearly recognize that defensive systems have limitations and raise certain problems and ambiguities. If paired with offensive systems, they can be viewed as fostering an aggressive policy, and no one wants that. But with these considerations firmly in mind, 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.

Tonight, consistent with our obligations of the ABM treaty and recognizing the need for closer consultation with our allies, I'm taking an important first step. I am directing a comprehensive and intensive effort to define a long-term research and development program to begin to achieve our ultimate goal of eliminating the threat posed by strategic nuclear missiles. This could pave the way for arms control measures to eliminate the weapons themselves. We seek neither military superiority nor political advantage. Our only purpose -- one all people share -- is to search for ways to reduce the danger of nuclear war.

My fellow Americans, tonight we're launching an effort which holds the promise of changing the course of human history. There will be risks, and results take time. But I believe we can do it. As we cross this threshold, I ask for your prayers and your support.

Thank you, good night, and God bless you.”

Democrats immediately jumped on Reagan’s proposal. Mondale accused Reagan of trying “to turn the heavens into a battleground” while Senator Ted Kennedy accused the Reagan administration of “reckless Star Wars schemes”.

Thus, the Strategic Defense Initiative became primarily called by the nickname ‘Star Wars’ or the ‘Star Wars program’. This would severely undercut public confidence in the program.

With the recession hitting its rock bottom, and unemployment hitting 12%, the American people were frustrated that Reagan was pursuing some fanciful, possibly dangerous goal of lasers in space while millions were out of work and the economy was in shambles.

Still, March would mark the worst of the recession. The economy would begin to improve through the rest of 1983.

For now, however, Reagan had to endure criticism over his latest endeavor to reform America’s defense system.

In truth, he had yet to have any major foreign policy victory – he had not made any substantial negotiations with the Soviets, and although he had sought to restore the strength and prestige into the spirit of America’s military following the embarrassments of Vietnam, he had yet to be successful in that effort.

He could only hope that the current policy of aiding the Contras and building relations with Saddam’s Iraq could bear fruit.


In early April of 1983, William P. Clark, and a small team of others inside the National Security Council, including Oliver North, landed in Baghdad using fake Irish passports, transported by a Saudi Arabian plane. There, they would meet with Iraqi officials and begin negotiating over a period of three days.

The plan, developed by North and Clark, involved sending American weapons through Saudi contacts, chiefly Adnan Khashoggi, to Saddam’s Iraq. In exchange, Saddam would agree to not influence global energy markets with his newfound supply of oil from Khuzestan in such a way that would damage the US economy or national security. Furthermore, he would agree not to produce any nuclear weapons with the French-backed nuclear reactor they intended to build. Clark also sought assurances that Saddam would avoid direct attacks on Israel, so long as they were covertly being supplied with weapons by the US.

Saddam agreed to all these demands, and exchange, received the first in would become many shipments of arms and spare parts to repair arms already in Iraq’s possession. These arms would be sold to Saddam at a substantial markup, and the excess profits would then fund the Contra’s guerrilla activities.

Oliver North believed the plan quite ingenious and said in an Iraqi hotel room that their excursion to Baghdad with fake names and passports “felt like something out of a James Bond film”. That was North in a nutshell – ambitious, hungry for adventure, and confident to the point of being foolhardy.

And in this instance, he was completely right. The plan itself was like something out of a spy thriller – it involved secret code names, offshore shell companies, Swiss bank accounts and other such details that would make the case irresistible to the news media and the public.

Clark himself was not nearly so jovial about the exercise. They were directly violating both the Boland Amendment, and the Prevention of Genocide Act.

If word got about this deal, it could destroy Reagan’s presidency.

However, it was Lebanon, not Iraq, that would provide the next headache for the Reagan administration.

On the 18th of April, 1983, an explosion rocked the US Embassy in Beirut, killing 63 people. It was later determined that a suicide bomber working on behalf of the Hezbollah terrorist group drove a van into the compound and detonated it near the entrance of the main building.

International condemnation was swift, with Reagan calling it a "vicious terrorist bombing" and a "cowardly act," saying, "This criminal act on a diplomatic establishment will not deter us from our goals of peace in the region.”

Iranian President Banisadr denounced the bombing also, calling Hezbollah “followers of Khomeini’s false revolution” and denied any involvement, claiming that “Iran seeks only peaceful co-existence with other nations”.

Banisadr had long disagreed with the idea of exporting the revolution, even prior to the coup that had placed him in power. He had reason to fear Hezbollah as well – they were followers of Khomeini’s ideas, and it would surely not be long before they turned their attention to the new Democratic Republic of Iran.

With their ability to produce oil severely impacted by the loss of Khuzestan, and after the chaos of a war with Iraq and a civil war internally, the last thing that Banisadr needed was a conflict with the United States.

He still resented America, and claimed, both publicly and privately, that US imperialism was the greatest threat to Iran. But pragmatism had to be the way forward for the new Iran.

Privately and discreetly, Banisadr got word to US officials that he would work to stem the tide of support from Iranian groups if Reagan agreed to remove US forces from Lebanon.

The less Americans in the Middle East, the better.

Reagan, as he often did, was able to twist this event into something the American people could accept, by virtue of his effective, positive oratory:

“Good evening, my fellow Americans. I wanted to speak to you about events in Lebanon yesterday. The cowardly terror attack on embassy was designed to make us rethink our effort to bring peace to that troubled region of the world. Tonight, I can affirm to the American people and the world that this effort has failed.

In fact, it has brought the US and the other nations of the world closer together. Leaders on the Middle East have seen the extent that terrorist groups will go to carry out their evil deeds, and they know, as we know, that there is no one they will not target. No man, woman, or child is out of bounds when it comes to acts of terror.

In trying to tear us apart, these terror groups have brought the United States and Mid-East Governments together. We’ve seen an outpouring of grief and support from the leaders and peoples from nations such as Saudi Arabia, Israel, Iraq, Lebanon, and yes, even the new government in Iran – we might not be allies with all of these nations I just mentioned, we are all bound together by the threat of radical terrorist action.

It is for this reason that I am announcing the next phase in our plan to bring peace to Lebanon – it involves the phased withdrawal of US troops, and a bolstering of UN coalition forces in Lebanon. This is far from a retreat, it is a rethinking of our current strategy – we will redouble our diplomatic efforts for peace, while sharing the load for security and peacekeeping operations with the other nations of the world.”

Reagan’s speech was met with a largely positive reaction from Congress, who largely believed, in the words of Barry Goldwater, it was “time to bring the boys home” from Lebanon.

With that, the next few weeks saw a gradual withdraw of US forces from Lebanon, as the new Iranian government quietly worked to cut off all private aid from Iranian sources to Hezbollah. Most of this aid came from sectarian groups who largely hated or directly conspired against President Banisadr.

He publicly celebrated the “retreat of America’s imperial forces” from Lebanon, but privately recognized that their shared opposition to Khomeini-ism made them reluctant, uneasy allies in private.

It was yet another uneasy alliance the Reagan White House had to manage.


As 1983 rolled on, tensions between the United States and Soviet Union only increased.

On September 1st, the Korean Air Lines Flight 007 was scheduled to travel from New York to Seoul via Anchorage, Alaska.

However, a navigational mistake saw the KAL flight enter Soviet Airspace, and it was shot down by a Soviet Su-15 interceptor. Among those killed in the attack was Georgia Congressman Larry MacDonald, also President of the John Birch Society.

The Soviet leader, Yuri Andrapov, on the advice of his defense minister Dmitriy Ustinov, remained completely silent about what had transpired. However, intercepted Soviet communications quickly revealed the truth.

Reagan released these communications to the public and gave a speech on the 5th of September, which he called the downing of the airliner a “crime against humanity must never be forgotten, here or throughout the world”.

Democrats in Congress and union officials questioned whether a lack of experienced air traffic control staff contributed to the disaster, but there was no evidence to suggest this and that line of investigation was dropped. The public response among the American people, and much of the world, was anger directed at the Soviet Union.

To many Americans, this act justified Reagan’s description of the Soviet Union as an “Empire of Evil”.

A US-Soviet Summit between Secretary of State Casper Weinberger and Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko on the 8th only served to exacerbate tensions. Secretary Weinberger, following the conference, stated that “Gromyko’s responses today seem to me, as though he is a man trying to cover up a horrible crime.”

Reagan also ordered the Federal Aviation Administration to revoke the license of Aeroflot Soviet Airlines, preventing it from operating in the United States.

The official line of the Soviet Union was that the flight was an American spy mission, and they offered no apology for the attack, instead blaming the CIA for what it alleges was a “criminal, provocative act".

Anger on both sides was near a boiling point.

US-Soviet relations had scarcely been worse. The remaining months of 1983 would prove to be the most dangerous period in the Cold War, comparable only to the Cuban Missile Crisis.
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Pop Culture Intermission: Superman III New

Pop Culture ITTL: Superman III​

“A new alien menace threatens on Earth – with Superman under his control! Who will save us now?”

-- The tagline to Superman III (1983)​

November of 1983 saw the release of Superman III.

The troubled nature of the production would become legendary among fans, particularly with the rise of the internet in the 1990s.

In particular, the influence of one Richard Pryor proved critical in shaping the film.

Pryor had made no secret of his love for the Superman film series – he had gone on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson on numerous occasions and gushed over both films, stating he literally cheered at the screen while watching the previews for Superman II.

As a result, the Salkinds, who had produced the previous Superman films and there producing Superman III, reached out to Pryor and got his involvement. Pryor was a massive star at the time, and as such, a comedic script was built around him.

Upon receiving the script, Pryor hated it. Wanting a more serious role, and he requested that if a script was going to be built around him, it should be similar to the two Superman films he enjoyed.

Thus, extensive re-writes were undertaken to change certain elements of the film, including the main villain – the basic premise as envisioned by Ilya Salkind would resemble his original vision – the evil supercomputer, Brainiac, would split Superman into two halves – one good and one evil, and Superman would need to contend with both Brainiac and Evil Superman.

Brainiac would be played by veteran actor Ian Holm, whose performance as the android Ash in Alien made him perfect for the role of Brainiac. Margot Kidder’s public comments about the Salkinds put her at odds with the two producers, and her role in the film was minimised in favor of a new interest – Lana Lang, played by Annette O’Toole, who happened to love the Superman comics.

Other elements, such as Supergirl and Mr. Mxyzptlk were removed from the script completely. Furthermore, the planned name ‘Superman vs Superman’ was changed to Superman III after producers of Kramer vs. Kramer threatened a lawsuit.

Still, the new script had seen a shift away from the comedic tones of earlier versions, and toward something more serious.

Everyone involved hoped this would be the right decision.


The film opens in the city of Metropolis, with Superman (Christopher Reeve) stopping an out-of-control train which threatens the lives of innocent civilians. Meanwhile, Gus Gorman (Richard Pryor) a satellite technician and computer expert, intercepts what he believes to be the transmission from an alien ship headed for Earth.

No one believes him, so he goes to the Daily Planet where he is similarly mocked. However, he meets mild mannered reporter Clark Kent. Kent briefly interviews him to be polite, but the two get on well, as Gorman is a major fan of Superman. Clark eventually says he must cut the interview short – he must speak with his boss about securing time off to attend his high school reunion. He promises he will finish his interview with Gorman when he returns.

Kent then goes to speak to his boss, Perry White (Jackie Cooper) and secures a visit to Smallville for himself and his friend, Jimmy Olsen (Mark Maclure). Lois Lane ( Margot Kidder) meanwhile, leaves for Bermuda.

As Clark and Jimmy arrive in Smallville, a disaster at a chemical plant causes a fire that Superman must put out. Jimmy’s leg is injured during the incident, and he is returned to Metropolis.

Clark Kent attends his high school reunion and re-connects with childhood friend Lana Lang (Annette O’Toole) who is now divorced. She is harassed by Brad Wilson, his former bully and her ex-husband. While visiting Lana, Superman saves Brad from being killed by a combine harvester, who apologizes to Lana. In the process, Lana figures out Clark is Superman.

Superman and Lana have a brief, tender moment, where Superman tells her that he often struggles with balancing his two personas. But this moment is interrupted by the arrival of Brainiac (Ian Holm) in a large, skull shaped ship descending on the sky above Smallville.

Superman flies up to the ship to confront Brainiac. The green skinned, bald alien reveals himself to be a despotic conqueror bent on collecting the knowledge and technology of every race in the universe.

He tells refers to Superman as Kal-El, and tells him that although Earth has little value, he seeks to enslave Superman and use him as his champion in conquering other races, and to add the information of Krypton that he has already collected.

Superman refuses, but is hit with an energy blast of Red Kryptonite – this splits Superman in two – the mild mannered, powerless Clark Kent, and an evil, uncaring, all-powerful Kal-El.

Clark Kent is beamed back down to Earth, and Brainiac starts on his quest to absorb all the knowledge of Earth before destroying it. Brainiac’s ship eventually comes to hover over the top of Metropolis.

This causes technology to go haywire – traffic lights flicker, missile guide systems threaten to fire, lights turn off and chaos is widespread as Brainiac takes control of Earth’s electrical items.

Gus Gorman, with his computer expertise, is able to prevent atomic missiles from being fired for the time being, and other such catastrophic events.

However, Evil Superman arrives in a darker costume, telling the citizens of Earth to submit to Brainiac. This causes Gorman and others to lose hope.

Meanwhile, Clark and Lana travel to Metropolis, as Clark recalls that a man, Gus Gorman, tried to warn him about the impending arrival of Brainiac but he and many others refused to listen. He states Gorman may be their last hope. Clark also expresses frustration at his current powerless state, but Lana tells him that his strength does not come from his alien background, but is the result of the strong moral character that she has known since their childhood together in Smallville.

Clark and Lana arrive in Metropolis, and find Gorman, who is still depressed as he believes his hero has fallen to evil. Clark tells Gorman that he doesn’t believe that the man claiming to be Superman is the real thing, and Gorman agrees.

Gorman eventually figures out a way to block Brainiac’s signal, which is controlling most of the world’s computers and electronics, but they will need to go to the highest point in Metropolis – the Daily Planet building - to find out a way to broadcast it

Clark, Lana and Gus make their way the Daily Planet, but are stopped by Evil Superman. Evil Superman attacks the trio, and tosses Lana from the top of the Daily Planet. This gives Clark the motivation he needs to regain his powers, and he transforms into the classic Superman costume and saves Lana just in time.

Superman battles and defeats his evil counterpart, and then fashions the Daily Planet globe into a giant gold radar dish to deliver the signal that breaks Brainiac’s control over Earth’s electronic devices.

Brainiac’s ship attempts to flee, but Superman catches up to it.

Superman again faces down Brainiac, who blasts him with Red Kryptonite – this has no effect, as Superman has learned to fully accept and appreciate all aspects of his identity. Superman attempts to apprehend Brainiac, who self-destructs his ship in response, and perishes along with it.

Superman narrowly escapes the blast, and returns to Earth, where he shakes hands with Gus Gorman and kisses Lana Lang.

The film ends with Superman flying in the sky, as he winks to the camera and the classic theme song plays.


Upon release, the film performed relatively well at the box office, on a budget of $48,000,000, it made back $150,000,000.

Critical reception was more mixed however – many critics found the villain, and the presence of a threatening, evil Superman, too scary for children. And they felt that many of the themes of duality between Clark Kent and Superman were a retread of Superman II.

Still, the special effects were groundbreaking for the time - the miniature work and special effects used for Brainiac's skull shaped spaceship still hold up today - and performances were praised. Christopher Reeve by this point was a natural in the role, and proved he could be an effective villain when playing the Evil Superman. Anette O’Toole was commended for her chemistry with Reeve, and was a likeable love interest. Many felt Pryor’s comedic talents were wasted, but his performance was adequate and would lead to more serious roles. However, Ian Holm’s Brainiac received considerable praise – the cold, calculating, threatening performance was a stark contrast to Gene Hackman’s maniacal, greedy, and exuberant Luthor.

In particular, his ability to convey a cold, focused evil while under considerable makeup and prosthetic work (to mimic the green, alien appearance of the Brainiac character) impressed reviewers.

In retrospect, the film has received more praise among critics and fans alike for its the darker tones. The scene where Superman first boards Brainiac's ship is considered by many future reviewers as the highlight of the film - it employed a unique, synth based score and oozed a chilling, unsettling atmosphere which introduced the film's main villain.

Overall, everyone involved, including Christopher Reeve, proved to be quite happy with the film in spite of its divisive standing among contemporary critics. In the aftermath in the movie's release, Reeve promised he would do one more film to complete his tenure as the Man of Steel.
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What are the following people up to?:
Bill Gates
Steve Jobs
Bernie Sanders
Rita Wilson
Tom Hanks
Lester Holt
Hillary Clinton
Cory Booker
Jeff Sessions
Russell Long
Jeffrey Epstein
What are the following people up to?:
Bill Gates
Steve Jobs
Bernie Sanders
Rita Wilson
Tom Hanks
Lester Holt
Hillary Clinton
Cory Booker
Jeff Sessions
Russell Long
Jeffrey Epstein
Please stop doing this in every TL. In addition to being incredibly annoying, this places a burden on the writer. In any case, half the names are non sequiturs. Who the fuck is Rita Wilson?