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The Reagan Papers?
June 7, 2001 4:06 PM   Subscribe

The Reagan Papers? "The confidential memos, letters and briefing papers passed among Ronald Reagan and his top advisers were to have come out in January -- 12 years after Reagan left office, as established by post-Watergate laws.

But the White House counsel's office asked the National Archives to delay the release until at least June 21 so government lawyers can look at the files that researchers and others are waiting to dig through. "
posted by owillis (12 comments total)

 
Sure would be nice to find some iran-contra info that Lawrence Walsh couldn't dig up. I'd love to see data that backed up the evil that is Bush Sr's pardon of Weinberger. While it would nicely put the whole Marc Rich issue in perspective, I'm sure all the good bits have been hit with the broad stroke of a permanent marker in the name of national security.
posted by machaus at 4:49 PM on June 7, 2001


White House officials say the Reagan documents are the first that would have been released under a presidential records law passed in 1978. They say care must be taken to make sure it's done right.

And, why exactly, was Carter's papers grandfathered out of this law?

Can't wait until 2013!
posted by ljromanoff at 5:01 PM on June 7, 2001


I'm sure that passing as law and going into effect were two different things. Would GWB doing the Jumble really be that interesting?
posted by machaus at 5:34 PM on June 7, 2001


I'm sure there's not much in these files (smoking guns and all), but they should be released....
posted by owillis at 5:49 PM on June 7, 2001


I'm sure that passing as law and going into effect were two different things.

True - it just seems a little odd that a law passed three years before Carter left office would not apply to him. No big deal really, I don't think there's any deeply held secrets from the Carter administration that we don't know about now, I'm just curious.

Would GWB doing the Jumble really be that interesting?

I was actually referring to our former Commander-In-Chief. 2013 is 12 years after Clinton left office.
posted by ljromanoff at 7:05 PM on June 7, 2001


Carter. UFO. Peanuts.

That's all I can....

[statements redacted]
posted by owillis at 7:58 PM on June 7, 2001


ljr, it's typical for this sort of thing to have to wait for an election to apply. Had Carter been re-elected in 1980 and served until January, 1985, then this would have applied to that administration's records (but not the 1977-1981 administration).

Basically, that ensures that Congress can't undermine the current administration by willy-nilly changing its legal standing. Under Nixon (sorry to bring that up), Presidential records were legally private; this law made them public records subject to public oversight. The code actually allows the President to set the term, "not to exceed 12 years".

Actually, I suppose Congress could have ordered it to apply to the Carter administration, but there wasn't an emergency and besides :) the Democrats controlled both houses, so politically they wouldn't have been likely to permit it. I can't recall immediately what the legal arguments might have been. Still, make your own judgement about what has been made available in any event.
posted by dhartung at 8:18 PM on June 7, 2001


I heard the bastard felt lust in his heart once. But now we'll never know for sure...
posted by jpoulos at 8:23 PM on June 7, 2001


Because they knew a Republican would be elected in the 1980 elections, and that the whole endless Iran-Contra thing would happen -- in 1978. Those damned Congressional Democrats were clairvoyant. (Actually, Congress didn't get along well with Carter. I don't recall that myself, although I remember the giant rabbit and Miss Lillian and Billy, etc., but the record shows that they didn't get on so well. Reagan had more luck in his first couple of years, with pretty much the same group. Think of how a couple consisting of opposites can sometimes get along better than a pair with lots in common, and you are on the path to understanding.)
posted by raysmj at 8:35 PM on June 7, 2001


ljr, it's typical for this sort of thing to have to wait for an election to apply. Had Carter been re-elected in 1980 and served until January, 1985, then this would have applied to that administration's records (but not the 1977-1981 administration).

Oh, I'm well aware that that sort of thing happens. I'm just surprised that in the wake of Watergate that any of these sort-of "truth in government" laws didn't go into effect immediately - or that it took until 1978 to pass this one, for that matter. One would think that the politically smart thing for the Congress to do at the time would be to get as many of these sort of laws passed and in effect as quickly as possible.
posted by ljromanoff at 6:39 AM on June 8, 2001


ljr: Not so sure it's connected to Watergate (and the Pentagon Papers case), to which such laws often linked, but the "sunshine law" trend that the states and some local governments spearheaded in the late 1970s. The states were an influence on the federal government here, in other words, rather than vice versa. It's of course not at all unusual to get movements like that going at a grass-roots level first (progressive reforms of the early 20th Cent., e.g.). This still may have a connection to Watergate, but it's also the growth of urban media and affluence and education and journalism/communications schools and free speech movements, etc., etc. Watergate's effect may have just been to speed up the process.
posted by raysmj at 9:22 AM on June 8, 2001


According to this BookNotes interview, it happened after Nixon vs. Administrator of General Services [case docket] wound its way to the Supreme Court, where the earlier 1974 emergency ruling seizing Nixon's papers was upheld.

But Ray's also right: this was part of a sunshine trend, including the FOIA.

The decision indicates the type of access and timetable that such records typically had prior to the 1978 law, and presumably is very similar to what Carter agreed to.

Granted, it still doesn't answer why they had to wait until the election; Jason may know the answer, whether there's been a USSC ruling on this sort of thing, but I suspect it's merely tradition, and possibly careful avoidance of a Constitutional crisis in having a new law apply to records created in the past.
posted by dhartung at 1:28 PM on June 8, 2001


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