Ronald Wilson Reagan (Part 78)(1981 Orsini McArthur murder case part 3)(The Conspirator Part 13, Mary Surratt Part D)

Picture of Ronald Reagan as a baby with his older brother Neil (Moon) Reagan.


(Picture from the Ronald Reagan Library)

Ronald Reagan with his older brother Neil (Moon) Reagan. (Circa 1912)

Second Reagan-Mondale presidential debate 1984

October 21, 1984

The Second Reagan-Mondale Presidential Debate

MS. RIDINGS: Good evening from the Municipal Auditorium in Kansas City. I am Dorothy Ridings, the president of the League of Women Voters, the sponsor of this final Presidential debate of the 1984 campaign between Republican Ronald Reagan and Democrat Walter Mondale.

Our panelists for tonight’s debate on defense and foreign policy issues are Georgie Anne Geyer, syndicated columnist for Universal Press Syndicate; Marvin Kalb, chief diplomatic correspondent for NBC News; Morton Kondracke, executive editor of the New Republic magazine; and Henry Trewhitt, diplomatic correspondent for the Baltimore Sun. Edwin Newman, formerly of NBC News and now a syndicated columnist for King Features, is our moderator.


MR. NEWMAN: Dorothy Ridings, thank you. A brief word about our procedure tonight. The first question will go to Mr. Mondale. He’ll have 2\1/2\ minutes to reply. Then the panel member who put the question will ask a followup. The answer to that will be limited to 1 minute. After that, the same question will be put to President Reagan. Again, there will be a followup. And then each man will have 1 minute for rebuttal. The second question will go to President Reagan first. After that, the alternating will continue. At the end there will be 4-minute summations, with President Reagan going last.

We have asked the questioners to be brief. Let’s begin. Ms. Geyer, your question to Mr. Mondale.
Central America

MS. GEYER: Mr. Mondale, two related questions on the crucial issue of Central America. You and the Democratic Party have said that the only policy toward the horrendous civil wars in Central America should be on the economic development and negotiations, with perhaps a quarantine of Marxist Nicaragua. Do you believe that these answers would in any way solve the bitter conflicts there? Do you really believe that there is no need to resort to force at all? Are not the solutions to Central America’s gnawing problems simply, again, too weak and too late?

MR. MONDALE: I believe that the question oversimplifies the difficulties of what we must do in Central America. Our objectives ought to be to strengthen the democracies, to stop Communist and other extremist influences, and stabilize the community in that area. To do that we need a three-pronged attack: one is military assistance to our friends who are being pressured; secondly, a strong and sophisticated economic aid program and human rights program that offers a better life and a sharper alternative to the alternative offered by the totalitarians who oppose us; and finally, a strong diplomatic effort that pursues the possibilities of peace in the area.

That’s one of the big disagreements that we have with the President — that they have not pursued the diplomatic opportunities either within El Salvador or as between the countries and have lost time during which we might have been able to achieve a peace

This brings up the whole question of what Presidential leadership is all about. I think the lesson in Central America, this recent embarrassment in Nicaragua where we are giving instructions for hired assassins, hiring criminals, and the rest — all of this has strengthened our opponents.

A President must not only assure that we’re tough, but we must also be wise and smart in the exercise of that power. We saw the same thing in Lebanon, where we spent a good deal of America’s assets. But because the leadership of this government did not pursue wise policies, we have been humiliated, and our opponents are stronger.

The bottom line of national strength is that the President must be in command, he must lead. And when a President doesn’t know that submarine missiles are recallable, says that 70 percent of our strategic forces are conventional, discovers 3 years into his administration that our arms control efforts have failed because he didn’t know that most Soviet missiles were on land — these are things a President must know to command.

A President is called the Commander in Chief. And he’s called that because he’s supposed to be in charge of the facts and run our government and strengthen our nation.

MS. GEYER: Mr. Mondale, if I could broaden the question just a little bit: Since World War II, every conflict that we as Americans have been involved with has been in non-conventional or irregular terms. And yet, we keep fighting in conventional or traditional military terms.

The Central American wars are very much in the same pattern as China, as Lebanon, as Iran, as Cuba, in their early days. Do you see any possibility that we are going to realize the change in warfare in our time, or react to it in those terms?

MR. MONDALE: We absolutely must, which is why I responded to your first question the way I did. It’s much more complex. You must understand the region; you must understand the politics in the area; you must provide a strong alternative; and you must show strength — and all at the same time.

That’s why I object to the covert action in Nicaragua. That’s a classic example of a strategy that’s embarrassed us, strengthened our opposition, and undermined the moral authority of our people and our country in the region. Strength requires knowledge, command. We’ve seen in the Nicaraguan example a policy that has actually hurt us, strengthened our opposition, and undermined the moral authority of our country in that region.

James McAvoy and Alexis Bledel were in Savannah filming their new movie, The Conspirator, when our cameras caught them locking lips. Bledel plays McAvoy’s wife in the film.

The film “The Conspirator” is an excellent film and I have been studying up on Mary Surratt ever since then:

* The undersigned members of the Military Commission detailed to try Mary E. Surratt and others for the conspiracy and the murder of Abraham Lincoln, late President of the United States, do respectively pray the President, in consideration of the sex and age of the said Mary E. Surratt, if he can upon all the facts in the case, find it consistent with his sense of duty to the country to commute the sentence of death to imprisonment in the penitentiary for life. **
In 1996 the Pelican Publishing Company published an excellent book on Mary Surratt’s life. It’s called Mary Surratt: An American Tragedy by Elizabeth Steger Trindal. Trindal’s book argues convincingly for Mary’s innocence. The picture of Louis Weichmann on this page came from p. 69 of Trindal’s book. The source of the picture is the David Rankin Barbee Papers, Georgetown University Library, Washington, D.C.In 2008 another excellent book on Mary was published. The book is entitled The Assassin’s Accomplice: Mary Surratt and the Plot to Kill Abraham Lincoln written by Kate Clifford Larson. Larson’s book argues convincingly for Mary’s complicity with Booth.I would like to say thank you to Laurie Verge, the Surratt House Museum Director, for her help with certain dates and other particulars on this page.CLICK HERE to listen to an online interview with Laurie Verge.

In the fall of 2009 production began on a historical drama entitled The Conspirator, the story of Mary Surratt. Robert Redford is the film’s director, and actress Robin Wright portrays Mary Surratt. Also in the cast are James McAvoy, Kevin Kline, Alexis Bledel, Evan Rachel Wood, Tom Wilkinson, Justin Long, and Toby Kebbell. The film debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival in September 2010. It will be in theaters in April 2011. Please visit the American Film Company’s website on The Conspirator.

In 2009 Watermark Films released a short film entitled The Killing of Mary Surratt. The film is receiving critical acclaim and has won several awards.

THE EXECUTION – JULY 7, 1865, AT 1:26 P.M.
Left to right: Mary Surratt, Lewis Powell, David Herold, and George Atzerodt.

It has been 150 years since the beginning of the Civil War that started in April of 1861 at Ft Sumter.

Civil War Drummer Boys

Today we feature a picture of Civil War drummer boys. The picture shows the Bealeton Virginia Drum corps, 93d New York Infantry. The picture was made in 1863. It always amazes me how children sometimes as young as 9 or 10 years old marched into combat in the Civil War.
09 – Little Rock: The Politics of Murder   Who hired the hitman that killed Alice McArthur in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1982? Was it her husband, a criminal defense attorney, or his mistress Mary Lee Orsini? Bill McArthur met Orsini at the crime scene of her husband’s murder. Despite a flimsy alibi, she was never charged in the murder and retained Bill as her personal attorney. After Alice’s murder, Mary Lee and two other defendants were convicted…but Bill was never indicted. We probe the still hotly controversial case. Narrated by Paul Winfield.
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