"Well, when the president does it, that means that it is not illegal." -- former president Richard Nixon, quoted by Bruce Morton
- The Iranian Shi'ite religious leader Ayatollah Khomeini is expelled from Iraq, where he had been living in exile for years. Khomeini relocates to France, where he helps engineer the Iranian revolution of 1979. Khomeini rose to power in Iran by opposing the draconian economic policies of the Shah, which were understood by the public to have been largely crafted by American advisors and served mainly to enrich the Shah and his financial cohorts in Iran and the US. Street protests were met with brutal repression, including the deaths of thousands of Iranians, and Khomeini was imprisoned. Ongoing demands for Khomeini's freedom led to his release and exile in Turkey and then Iraq in 1964, where he lived for the next several years. In 1977, further rebellions explode throughout Iran after the assassination of Khomeini's eldest son by the Shah's secret police. The Shah, hoping distance would interfere with Khomeini's aid to the growing Iranian rebellion, requested he be expelled from Iraq. That request was granted, and Khomeini then moved to a hamlet in France where he lived until his return to revolutionary Iran in 1979. (A Timeline of Oil and Violence)
- George H.W. Bush leaves the CIA early in the year and begins putting together a campaign for the 1980 presidential nomination. His campaign will eventually feature a number of fired and disgruntled CIA officials and employees; many observers will say that Bush's campaigns more closely resemble a CIA coup attempt than an attempt to democratically win an election. (Kevin Phillips)
- One of the biggest losses to the Middle East is the role of Beirut as the center of cosmopolitan Arab commerce and culture. Author Anthony Sampson writes of the effects of the 18-month war between Christians and Muslims in Lebanon: "The great city of Beirut, which had been the hub of Middle East commerce, had become a ruined shell, its gutted skyscrapers staring out, with blank holes instead of windows, across the desolate port. It had become a lethal laboratory of the world arms trade. Beirut was always unique in the Middle East for its cosmopolitanism and free trade; it was the city where everything was for sale. It was appropriate that it should become the center for the free trade in weapons, flowing in from all corners of the world. Money could be quickly transmuted into guns; and the most prosperous city in the Middle East had become the most deadly." 40,000 to 60,000 people died in this war, more than the combined casualties of all four Arab-Israeli wars. (Kevin Phillips)
- In large part because of the Equal Opportunity Employment Act, which prompted the FCC to require broadcast companies to hire more women, Dallas's NBC Channel 5 hires Karen Parfitt (later Karen Hughes) as a reporter. In 1980, Hughes will be assigned to cover the Bush presidential campaign. Later, after joining the Reagan campaign as a spokeswoman, Hughes will describe herself as an "army brat," but the description is incomplete. For several years, she lived in Panama's Canal Zone, where her father, a major-general, held a high position in military society. Hughes lived in a world of gala dinners, servants, and visits from powerful political and business leaders. (Laura Flanders)
- Conservative Christian evangelist, psychologist, and author James Dobson founds the organization Focus on the Family, which will grow into one of the most influential organizations of the Religious Right. Dobson is the author of the controversial 1970 child-rearing guide Dare to Discipline, which garnered great support among Christian readers but drew protest from others over its harsh, often violent methods of child punishment. The organization begins in a small office in Arcadia, California, but later moves to Colorado Springs, where it becomes the center of a nexus of right-wing Christian organizations. The organization promotes "traditional family values," and opposes gay rights, abortion rights, and socially conservative policies. As it grows, it will become more and more politically involved. Dobson's daily radio show is broadcast on thousands of radio stations worldwide, and has garnered a large and dedicated following.
- By 2004, he will be acknowledged as the US's pre-eminent political evangelical figure, taking credit for delivering the presidential election to George Bush, and leading the fight to defeat former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle. The Internet magazine Slate will dub him "the Republican kingmaker." On January 1, 2005, Dobson told Democratic senators that he would prevent their reelections in 2006 if they blocked conservative appointees to the Supreme Court. "He singled out six Democrats up for re-election: Ben Nelson of Nebraska, Mark Dayton of Minnesota, Robert Byrd of West Virginia, Kent Conrad of North Dakota, Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico and Bill Nelson of Florida," according to the Washington Times. Interestingly, none of these senators will put up much of a fight against the 2006 nominations of conservatives John Roberts and Samuel Alito to the court. Later that year, Dobson will become the object of ridicule by many when he voices his public objection to the "gay agenda" of the popular children's cartoon "spongeBob SquarePants." In response to criticisms that the tax-exempt organization is too involved with politics to comply with the law, the organization insists that it leaves all of its political work to its sister organization, the Family Research Council, headed by anti-abortion spokesman Gary Bauer. Dobson no longer heads FOTF, but still maintains his position of power: as Salon's Christopher Ott writes, "Dobson is the prime mover of all this righteous, revolutionary progress, and he is considered an authority on every subject. He has to be -- like Lenin's, Dobson's movement is not one that can tolerate controversy or originality. Its adherents are supposed to line up and know what to do without being told."
- Not all are enamoured of Dobson. Barry Lynn is executive director of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State and a longtime Dobson watcher, calls Dobson "a genuinely megalomaniacal figure." (In Focus' welcome-center film, Dobson compares his decision to build the Focus on the Family campus in Colorado Springs to the founding of the Temple at Jerusalem.) "He has a very strong belief in his own near infallibility," says Lynn. "Before you think he's just a grandfatherly figure who wants to help your kids grow up, you better know just how extreme his views are." Even more critical is Gil Alexander-Moegerle, a Focus co-founder, former co-host for the radio show, and one of the most senior executives for the ministry during its first 10 years. Alexander-Moegerle calls Dobson "a tremendous threat to the separation of church and state." He says that there is a "cultlike worship of Jim" within Focus, and last year he wrote a book called James Dobson's War on America. Alexander-Moegerle says that Focus' original mission was one he supports: to create "communications products" that would help families to raise their children and build lifelong marriages. But his criticism of Dobson's foray into politics is strong: "I think the kindest thing you can say about Dobson's politics is that he's very ignorant. It is also accurate, though, to say that he is mean-spirited, divisive and intolerant." Alexander-Moegerle once suggested to co-host Dobson that they bring guests to the "Focus on the Family" radio show who were Christians but who nonetheless held opposing viewpoints. Dobson rejected the idea. "Jim's response was, 'That will never happen on this broadcast. This is my broadcast. It promotes my view, and Phil Donahue can do the kind of stuff you're describing,' ...I've always looked back on that moment as characteristic of the various pieces that go into the worldview of a megalomaniac...I think 'megalomaniac' is not too strong a word to use." (Wikipedia, Wikipedia, Salon)
- January 20: Democrat Jimmy Carter, a moderate from Georgia, is sworn in as President of the United States. One of Carter's first initiatives is to revive the moribund Middle East peace process. (Dan Cohn-Sherbok)
- Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld suddenly finds himself out of a job. He becomes CEO of pharmaceutical giant G.D. Searle, known for such products as Dramamine, Metamucil and an early birth control pill. Under Rumsfeld's aggressive leadership between now and his departure in 1981, the firm streamlines itself, and makes both himself and the company exceedingly wealthy. (PBS)
- May 17: Menachem Begin and the Likud Party win control of the Israeli government, breaking a decades-long hold on power by the more moderate Labour Party. Begin, a former Irgun terrorist, immediately adopts a more confrontational and aggressive foreign policy, insisting that Israel has the right to control the West Bank (Judea and Samaria) and curtails the UN-mandated withdrawal from the Sinai Peninsula. An undeterred Anwar el-Sadat tells the Egyptian parliament that he is willing to go anywhere for peace; Sadat accepts an invitation to visit Israel in November, marking the first time that an Arab leader visits Israel. Though Sadat eloquently implores Israel's legislative body, the Knesset, for peace between Israel and the Arab world, the private meetings between Begin and Sadat are far more rancorous. (Dan Cohn-Sherbok)
- June: After a failed attempt to win a US congressional seat, George W. Bush sets up his own oil firm, Arbusto Oil in the same Midland, Texas Petroleum Oil building that his father used to work from. (Bush's failed campaign is marked by campaign rallies advertising free beer, a tactic used by his Democratic opponent to indicate Bush's lack of "high character." Bush will call it his first encounter with "cheap-shot politics, but learned the valuable lesson that it isn't wise to anger the Baptists of Texas with fraternity stunts.) One of his Arbusto backers is James Bath, a Houston aircraft broker who represents bin Laden family interests and other Saudi interests in the US. Salem bin Laden, eldest of the bin Laden sons and the head of the huge family construction firm, is another major partner in the firm, and has hired Bath as his business representative in Texas. Another Saudi investor is Khalid bin Mahfouz, a major shareholder in the now-infamous Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI), which would later be found complicit in money laundering, fraud, drug and arms trafficking, support of terrorism, management of prostitution, tax evasion, smuggling, the sale of nuclear technologies, and more. (Other backers include George W.'s grandmother Dorothy Bush, RiteAid chairman and rising New York Republican Lewis Lehrman, and William Draper III, a corporate executive and Bush family friend who will later be named by Bush I to head the Export-Import Bank.)
- Salem bin Laden will die in an unexplained flying accident near San Antonio in 1988. The 50 investors who put up $4.7 million to start up the company are, in Bush's words, "mainly friends of my uncle" who "did pretty good," although they lost most of the money they invested in the company. Jonathan Bush, George W.'s uncle, raises money for Arbusto from political supporters of the Reagan-Bush administration. The time is not propitious for startup oil companies; many quickly die off, but Arbusto stays afloat due to large cash contributions from family connections and international contributors interested in building relations with the Bush family. Arbusto never produces any oil to speak of, but the company provides its founders with lucrative tax shelters. (In These Times, Project Censored, Consortium News, Bushwatch, American Free Press/Killtown, Joe Conason, Ian Williams, Mark Crispin Miller)
- September: Unrest in Iran provokes the Shah to declare martial law. He grants amnesty to several exiled religious and resistance leaders, including the Ayatollah Khomeini, to try and calm the populace. (Decades History Timeline)
- September 11: South African anti-apartheid leader Stephen Biko is beaten unconscious by police inside a police van, and is driven to Pretoria, where he will die the next day. (Amy and David Goodman)
- November: George W. Bush runs for a seat in the US House of Representatives, winning the Republican primary but losing to Democrat Kent Hance. Texan voters have trouble with the younger Bush, many seeing him as too preppy, too Yalie, and not "Texan" enough to represent their state. Kevin Phillips writes in his examination of the Bush family, American Dynasty, that George W. Bush's 1978 loss of a House seat, his father's 1980 loss to Ronald Reagan, and his father's 1992 loss of the Presidency to Bill Clinton, turned on the same axis -- the Bush boys were too preppy, too Yalie, and too connected to old Northeastern business interests. Bush learned his lesson: if he wanted to be successful in Texas politics, he would have to remake himself into a "real Texan." Phillips writes, "But only a little more than a year after the dust of 1992 settled, George W. Bush was running for governor of Texas in the 1994 election. Moreover, he was now displaying a cultural and political persona quite unlike his father's, one that promised a real chance to restore both his family and the Republican Party to power in 2000. Bush still relied on the four mainstays of his father's establishment: finance, oil and energy, the military-industrial complex, and the national security-intelligence community. These power bases were quite compatible with the increasingly southern base and the conservative ideological evolution of the Republican Party. What was different was Bush's nonelite demeanor: the cow country accent, the rumpled clothing, the chewing tobacco, the style of religiosity, the moral fundamentalism, the outsider language, the disdain for the Harvards and the Yales, the six-gun geopolitics, and not least the garb of a sinner rescued from drink and brought to God by none other than evangelist Billy Graham."
- According to his own statements, the worse his oil business did, the more he became involved in Bible study. After his fortieth birthday, in 1986, he claims to have sworn off drinking altogether. Interestingly enough, in 2003, Al Franken will ask Donald Evans, the Secretary of Commerce and a longtime friend of the Bush family, about the Bible-study camp; according to Evans's interview with Newsweek, he and Bush took part in "a scriptural boot camp; an intensive, yearning study of a single book of the New Testament, each week a new chapter, with detailed reading and discussion in a group of ten men. For twy years Bush and Evans and their partners read the clear writings of the Gentile physician Luke -- Acts, and then his Gospel." In their discussion, Evans says he knows virtually nothing of the story of Acts ("so, you know what Acts is about." "...No.") and misidentifies the parable of the tablets as coming from Acts, not Matthew. It leads one to wonder just what Bush and Evans did with those two years of "intensive study." (Bushwatch, Kevin Phillips, Al Franken)
- November: Dick Cheney wins election as Wyoming's only member of the House of Representatives. He will serve 10 years in the position. One of his most memorable moments as a congressman is his vote against making the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. a national holiday. (Nationmaster)
Newt Gingrich wins Congressional seat, in precursor of GOP attack politics
- November: Newt Gingrich wins a seat in the House of Representatives from his home state of Georgia, on a platform of returning America to traditional moral values. His campaign is a forerunner of later Republican attack politics: he calls his Democratic opponents "sick," "grotesque," "loony," "stupid," "corrupt," "anti-family," and "traitors." He states, "The left-wing Democrats represent the party of total hedonism, total exhibitionism, total bizarreness, total weirdness, and the total right to cripple innocent people in the name of letting hooligans loose."
- Gingrich successfully manages to avoid questions about his own service record (he successfully dodged the Vietnam draft) and his own family values. After having an affair with a campaign worker in 1976 and 1977, he left his first wife Jackie, his former high school math teacher, while she was hospitalized with cancer, telling her she wasn't pretty enough to be a First Lady; in 1980 his ex-wife, who stood loyally by Gingrich through two failed political campaigns and numerous affairs, will successfully sue Gingrich for failing to pay child support. Gingrich is also a known womanizer who will eventually divorce his second wife Marianne (one of his mistresses while married to his first wife) to marry his latest paramour, Congressional intern Callista Bisek. The campaign worker that he had an affair with in '76-'77, Anne Manning, later says that Gingrich's preference is for oral sex, so that he can truthfully say that he never slept with another women -- a practice that Salon reporter Stephen Talbot says many call "the Newt Defense" that can be boiled down to four words: oral sex doesn't count. In 1995, he will tell the Washington Post, "In the 1970s, things happened -- period. That's all I will say." Manning, who at the time was married to a professor at Gingrich's college, West Georgia, calls Gingrich "morally dishonest" and "bad for America." Interestingly, in 1995, Gingrich was confronted at a book signing in Los Angeles by a man who waved a Bible and shouted, "I want to know here where it says that oral sex doesn't count as adultery." The fellow was, in Talbot's words, "hustled out of the bookstore by the Secret Service before Gingrich could answer his theological question." Marianne Gingrich said of Newt in 1996, while they were still married, "I don't want him to be president and I don't think he should be."
- He will serve 20 years in the House. In 1983 he will found the Conservative Opportunity Society; that same year, he wins notoriety by demanding the expulsion of fellow representatives Dan Crane and Gerry Stubbs over a scandal involving sex with underage Congressional pages. In 1987, an investigation begun by Gingrich will result in the resignation of House Speaker Jim Wright; ironically, Wright's resignation over improprieties involving a book deal echoes in a similar, but far more lucrative, book deal engineered by Gingrich himself in the following years. Gingrich's 1994 "Contract With America" was the spearhead of the GOP's attempts to legislate their agenda in spite of the Clinton administration's own priorities.
- He will lead his party's charge to impeach Clinton in 1998, but shortly thereafter will be forced to leave office after it is revealed that he has carried on his own series of illicit sexual affairs with a number of Congressional interns. One of Gingrich's lasting creations is his new paradigm of Republican campaign strategies, heavily influenced by GOP political operative and dirty trickster Lee Atwater. He creates a handbook for candidates sponsored by his political action committee, GOPAC (later dissolved among a plethora of campaign finance charges), that includes a dictionary of terms and phrases: Democrats are to be referred to, according to Gingrich, as "sick," "corrupt," "anti-flag," "liberal," and most controversially, "traitors." (GOPAC will later withdraw that term from the handbook, though Gingrich and other GOPAC candidates will continue to use it whenever they like.) Interestingly enough, Atwater displays the same contempt for the voters he works to attract, in private referring to them as "extra-chromosome conservatives." (Wikipedia, New York Times/Daily Howler, Salon, Joe Conason, David Brock, Hilton and Testa)