End of the Reagan Era

Toward the end of Reagan's tenure as president, it was reported that he dozed off during cabinet meetings and spent less and less time on presidential duties. The Iran-Contra affair had weakened his political clout, and Congress openly rejected some of his initiatives. Congress overrode a presidential veto of a civil-rights enforcement bill and refused funding for Contras military operations.

On July 13, 1985, over 160,000 supporters gathered in Philadelphia and London to watch Live Aid, a rock concert aimed at raising funds for famine relief in Ethiopia. Performers included Mick Jagger, Tina Turner, Queen, Phil Collins, Bob Dylan, Paul McCartney, Sting, Madonna, and U2 among others. It was one of the largest television broadcasts of all time: an estimated 1.5 billion viewers, across 100 countries, watched the live broadcast.

But Reagan's successors, not the president himself, would have to address the government spending that had begun under the president dubbed “the Gipper.” Vice President George Herbert Walker Bush won the election of 1988 against Democratic rival Michael Dukakis, the governor of Massachusetts. Bush came across as a more patriotic campaigner than his rival, and though he took some flack for his choice of Senator Dan Quayle as running mate (against Senator Lloyd Bentsen), he triumphed. Many did not see Quayle as presidential material, and he became fodder for late-night comedians, further eroding public confidence.

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