Iran-Contra Speech - March 4, 1987
The low point of President Reagan's second term broke on the heels of the 1986 midterm elections. It was revealed that the United States had been involved in an extremely complex series of transactions, including sales of arms to Iran -- the subject of an arms embargo -- in an apparent attempt to free hostages and raise funds for performing an end-run around the congressional ban on aid to anti-Communist Nicaraguan rebels. The president's approval rating took a hit, dipping below 50 percent even during a time of brisk economic expansion.
In November 1986, Reagan took to the airwaves, and denied that any arms had been traded to secure the release of hostages. But as revelations spilled out, it became apparent that just that had occurred. In February, his approval ratings were upside-down, and there was talk of impeachment in the air. In March of 1987, the president once agains spoke to the American people, revealing that arms were, in fact, traded for hostages. As Reagan put it, "this runs counter to my own beliefs, to administration policy, and to the original strategy we had in mind. There are reasons why it happened, but no excuses. It was a mistake." The president's approval ratings never fully recovered, but they did cross the 50 percent threshold by years' end, and remained high enough to enable him to see his vice president elected to succeed him at the end of 1988.