Pishposh From the 1980s — Reviewing the Decade’s Big Stories

By Michael Fumento

The American Spectator, March 1990
Copyright 1990 the American Spectator

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Gas Pains

In the beginning of the 1990s gasoline is selling for less in real terms than it did in the beginning of the 1980s, in great part due to President Reagan’s deregulation of oil prices that helped bring about the worldwide glut that persists today.

Estimating $1.50 [per gallon of gas] is totally, totally optimistic. — Dan Lunberg, New York Times, February 27, 1980

Five things that are going to happen ... $2.50-a-gallon gas. That is, if we’re lucky and act soon. Delay, linger and wait [before imposing a dollar-a-gallon tax] and $3.50 is more likely. — Malcolm Forbes, Forbes, January 5, 1981

It would be prudent for any American contemplating the purchase of a new car to assume that gas will cost $2 per gallon within a few years and $3 per gallon during the vehicle’s lifetime. — Lester Brown, Worldwatch Institute, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, March 1980

One thing is for certain: prices will continue to rise. We’re dealing with a scarce, finite commodity, one that will be running out in a couple of decades. Traditional criteria of supply and demand don’t apply. — Secretary of Energy Charles W. Duncan, U.S. News & World Report, February 25, 1980

All available evidence points to a serious risk of a serious energy crisis in the middle or late 1980s.... Putting it simply, there is the very great likelihood of a major world depression. — Ulf Lantzke, Executive Director, International Energy Agency, New Republic, February 25, 1978

There is a dwindling supply of energy sources. The prices are going to rise in the future no matter who is President, no matter which party occupies the administration Washington, no matter what we do. — President Jimmy Carter, March 31, 1979

The Ice Age Effect

In which we find that the "greenhouse effect" is only the latest temperature fad.

It is 12,500 years since the last ice age ended, which means the next one is long overdue. When the ice comes, most of northern America, Britain, and northern Europe will disappear under the glaciers.... The right conditions can arise within a single decade. — Fred Hoyle, Ice: The Ultimate Human Catastrophe, (Continuum Publishing, 1981), inside jacket.

... the atmosphere has been growing gradually cooler for the past three decades. The trend shows no indication of reversing. — Time, June 24, 1974

... the overall cooling trend is unmistakable and in coming years it will profoundly affect agriculture, geopolitics and human survival worldwide. — Dr. Reid Bryson, People, November 24, 1980

For years now, climatologists have foreseen trend toward colder weather — long range, to be sure but a trend as inevitable as death.... According to [one] theory, all it would take is a single cold summer to plunge the earth into a sudden apocalypse of ice. — Rolling Stone, May 12, 1983

The solution is to warm up the ocean... — Fred Hoyle

Arms Reduction, RIP

For better or worse, the missiles are coming down in Europe.

The "Zero Option," unveiled with great fanfare by Reagan in November 1981, was ingenious: It offered what appeared to be maximum arms limitation on an equitable basis — zero missiles on both sides.... It also, however, killed the prospect of any agreement. It was palpably unbalanced and non-negotiable.... In short, there remains no basis for an INF agreement, and hence none for resumption of INF talks. INF is dead. — Raymond Garthoff, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, December 1984

... the administration’s famous "zero option" was clearly non-negotiable. By calling upon the Soviet Union to dismantle not only all of its new SS-20s but also all of the old intermediate-range missiles (SS-4s and 5s) they were created to replace, the administration could hardly have expected to create the basis for agreement.... — Sen. Joseph R. Biden (D-DE), Arms Control Today, October 1986

Reagan’s challenge to the Soviet Union ... could lead Soviet policy makers to take higher risks; it fuels anger, obduracy, and defiance... Soviet leaders will continue to pursue [a] very dangerous direction in their foreign policy: to await, or create, occasions for reasserting themselves and confirming to the world that they are not being pushed around by the U.S. One such occasion was their withdrawal from INF negotiations to which, I believe, they will not return... — Seweryn Bialer, New York Review of Books, February 16, 1984

... the prospects for arms control have never been bleaker. — Spurgeon Keeney, Arms Control Today, July-August 1985

For many years, Reagan had mocked traditional efforts by Democrats and Republicans at arms "control." They only sanctioned slower growth in the superpowers’ nuclear arsenals, he said. He wanted more — to reduce the weapons [but] Reagan has not fulfilled his lofty goal... he advanced totally unrealistic and one-sided proposals to the Soviets... — David Hoffman, Washington Post Magazine, November 30, 1986

So sweeping was the change that the Reagan Administration sought in arms control that it deserved to be called a revolution. In fact, members of the Administration used that word to describe what they were trying to accomplish.... That meant altering if not scrapping the diplomacy that had held sway since the 1950s, discrediting if not discarding the agreements that earlier administrations had signed, and mistrusting if not purging many public servants who were identified with the old order. But the new policies, quite simply, had not succeeded in their own avowed terms.... The Reagan revolution in arms control was over. — Strobe Talbott, Deadly Gambits (Alfred A. Knopf, 1984)

The Once and Future Non-President

Wasn’t George Bush supposed to be doing American Express Card commercials by now?

The conservative era, such as it was, is coming to an emphatic close... Dukakis, who ready is beating Bush, is becoming a better campaigner and acquiring stature. ... Bush [is] the Republicans’ Mondale — invincible in March, unelectable in November. — George Will, Washington Post, March 10, 1988

... a strong economy may not help Bush much as he would hope. White House polls reveal he gets little credit for the Reagan recovery; at the same time, he suffers from guilt by association when voters contemplate a deficit-ridden future. — U.S. News & World Report, May 23, 1988

... the cycles of recent political history argue that having opted for one extreme for the last eight years, the voters will now be ready to swing back in the other direction. The elections of 1986, when Democrats swept back into control of the Senate, were harbinger of the shifting preferences. — William Greider, Rolling Stone, February 11, 1988

Stunned by an embarrassing third-place finish behind Sen. Dole and religious broadcaster Pat Robertson in the Iowa caucuses Monday and gasping for a chance to display strength and leadership, the Bush campaign is on the defensive ... his national effort in peril... — Wall Street Journal, February 12, 1988

Some of [Bush’s] aides concede that it could — too late for Mr. Bush to recover from the Iowa caucuses. — New York Times, February 16, 1988

The essential problem with the Bush campaign [is] the man himself. His "message" builds on his loyalty to Ronald Reagan, but his rhetoric evokes images of following rather than leading. His stump speech — delivered in disjointed sentence fragments and punctuated by jittery mannerisms does little to command respect or confidence.... Try as he might, Bush has not attained the stature that a successful candiate needs. — Time, February 22, 1988

[Bush] finds himself badly trailing Michael Dukakis — due in large part to the ways women perceive him, his party and the economy. And after eight years in which female voters have been among the first to identify key issues on the national agenda — such as war and peace, Social Security and economic fairness — some Democrats now consider their judgments significant enough to predict victory. "For the first time" says Democratic pollster Peter Hart, "women will put us over the top." — U.S. News & World Report, July 4, 1988

All the signs point to a Democratic victory in November. — New Republic, February 29, 1988

... one senses a growing belief in Washington that the Democratic ticket will win, even if last-minute voter doubts wind up making the election reasonably close. — Kevin Phillips, Christian Science Monitor, August 2, 1988

Bush is in danger of seeming to be an Anthony Eden, an elegant, decent, loyal subordinate who had to wait in the wings too long, being useful in foreign affairs while whatever political skills he once had atrophied. — George Will, Newsweek, January 18, 1989

I’m starting to miss him already. — Ann Lewis, Director Americans for Democratic Action, Wall Street Journal, January 2, 1987

Solidarity, RIP

Lech Walesa, we hardly knew ye.

The end came quickly, if not unexpectedly. In the wood-and-marble chamber of Poland’s Sejm (parliament) last week, row upon row of Deputies lifted their right hands high. By an overwhelming vote, they decreed the death of Solidarity, the 9 million-member independent union federation that for 16 months had shaken the entire Soviet bloc with its bold cry for freedom. — Time, October 18, 1982

Scarcely a Solidarity leader of importance is free. The organization’s Warsaw headquarters is shuttered, its nationwide structure destroyed. If Solidarity survives at all — and its chances are slim — it will be through small cells that operate clandestinely. — U.S. News & World Report, March 29, 1982

Lech Walesa: alive, well, and being greeted by a VIP.

It is useless to shout the usual denunciation of Communism as an oppressive system or to characterize Wojciech Jaruzelski as the incarnation of the Devil. Nor does it do the left much good to express uncritical praise for Solidarity and its leaders, as if they played no role in the tragedy... Solidarity was noble, humane and idealistic in the broad sense, but painfully inept in its tactictics and strategy. It failed to appreciate that there were limits to its power — notably those imposed by a massive Soviet Army to the east — which dictated the need for compromise. — Sidney Lens, Nation, December 18, 1982

... there remains a nagging feeling that the union overplayed its hand: it sought too much, too soon in a corner of the world where change itself is feared and fought. — Newsweek, December 28, 1981

... the view that Solidarity went too far has been echoed by some respected Western observers and commentators. "Change, too, has its limits," charged Bundestag Member Freimut Duve, a member of the West German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt’s Social Democratic Party. "Lech Walesa should have recognized them long ago." — Time, February 1, 1982

... speaking of Solidarity in terms of a real and organized force today is a misunderstanding. — Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski, New York Times (interview), September 29, 1985

There are voices today, even in the ranks of the Polish opposition, proclaiming that Solidarity, the trade union that tried to be everything to everybody, has lived out its day, that new forms of social innovation have to be worked out to meet new needs and new possibilities. — New Republic, February 15, 1988

Some bright spots relieve the current bleak landscape. Decades of disappointment and frustration have not engendered a reactionary frame of mind, nor whetted a desire for the apparent freedoms afforded by capitalism. On the contrary, the average Pole seems surprisingly enlightened about the dangers that lie in the Western direction. ... Many are skeptical of trading the overt suppression of freedom they experience for the more subtle curbs of capitalism. — Progressive, January 1985

Capitalism on the Ash Heap of History

The "pet rock" of 1989 was pieces of the Berlin Wall.

[One] result of world development is an acute all-round weakening of capitalism and a fresh sharpening of its general crisis.... by 1980, our country will leave the United States far behind in industrial and agricultural output per head of the population. — Nikita Khrushchev, Report on the Programme of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union to the 22nd Congress of the CPSU, 1961

The general crisis of capitalism has continued to deepen. - Leonid Brezhnev, Report of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union to the 24th Congress of the CPSU, 1971

A further aggravation of the general crisis of capitalism was witnessed during these [past] years. — Leonid Brezhnev, Report of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union to the 26th Congress of the CPSU, 1981

The general crisis of capitalism is deepening. The sphere of its domination is shrinking inevitably, its historical doom becoming ever more obvious. — Mikhail Gorbachev, The Program of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union: A New Edition, 1986

... the scientific and technological revolution, whose distant effects are unforeseeable, enabled capitalism ... to postpone its historically inevitable end indefinitely. — Kim Tsagolov, D. Sc. (Philosophy) Soviet Military Academy International Affairs (Moscow), December 1988

The AIDS Apocalypse

In 1986, the federal Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta estimated one to 1.5 million AIDS infections nationally. It has since dropped that figure slightly to 945,000 to 1.4 million, with the chief of AIDS surveillance admitting the real number could be as low as 750,000. The World Health Organization estimates current worldwide AIDS virus infections at five million.

One leading medical school on the West Coast had published a study which shows that the actual number of AIDS victims is from 3 to 10 times the CDC "official statistics." That would mean ... 14 million may be walking around with the antibodies indicating that they have been exposed to the disease. — Dr. James McKeever, The AIDS Plague,(Omega Publications, 1985)

By the end of 1986, there will be approximately 350,000 persons suffering severe debilitating physical and mental illnesses as a result of AIDS infection who are not included in the total of AIDS cases reported by the CDC. — Gene Antonio, The AIDS Cover-Up?, (Ignatius Press, 1986)

The experts [World Health Organization] predict that 100 million will be stricken by 1990. — Time, December 1, 1986

Research studies now project that one in five — listen to me, hard to believe — one in five heterosexuals could be dead from AIDS at the end of the next three years. That’s by 1990. One in five. It is no longer just a gay disease. Believe me. — Oprah Winfrey, The Oprah Winfrey Show, February 18, 1987

The Missing Missing Children

A 1985, the FBI released statistics indicating that in the previous year, 30,000 children nationwide had been reported is missing — most for very brief periods of time with most of the rest snatched by non-custodial parents — and that fifty-seven had been forcibly abducted by strangers.

1.8 MILLION MISSING CHILDREN — cover of Child Snatching, by Michael W. Schaefer, (McGraw-Hill, 1983)

...some estimates of lost children [per year] run as high as 2 million. — USA Today, editorial, April 27, 1984

More than 100,000 children are abducted each year. — Jeff Riggenbach, "Lost: 100 Children Every Day," USA Today, April 27, 1984

According to CHILD FIND, an estimated 1.8 million children become missing in the United States every year... Perhaps the most disturbing figure reported by CHILD FIND is that each year hundreds of children are buried in unidentified graves ... an estmated 3,000 are murdered each year. — Children Today, January-February, 1984

Estimates on the number of children abducted by strangers range from 25,000 to 50,000; the range of those taken by the noncustodial parent is even wider, from 100,000 to 300,000 each year. — Grace Hechinger, Street Smart Child, (Facts on File Publications, 1984)

Of the approximately 1.8 million children who are reported missing each year ... anywhere from 6,000 to 50,000 [are] presumed to be victims of "stranger abduction," a crime of predatory cruelty usually committed by pedophiles, pornographers, blackmarket-baby peddlers or childless psychotics bidding desperately for parenthood. Only few cases are solved. Even fewer stranger-abducted children are recovered alive. — Newsweek, March 19, 1984

Afghanistan: Born to Lose

The Soviets beat a retreat from Afghanistan in 1989.

The mujahedin can never be strong enough drive the Soviets out of Afghanistan. — Russell Watson et al. "Inside Afghanistan," Newsweek, June 11, 1984

[Newsweek reporter Patricia J.] Sethi actually convinced Karmal to grant her an unprecedented helicopter tour of a key Soviet battle zone... And Sethi’s report provided the outside world with the first piece of solid evidence that the Soviets are indeed gaining ground against Islamic guerrillas. . . It’s this dedication to excellence that’s resulted in Newsweek winning over 600 awards for journalistic achievement. — in-house advertisement in Newsweek March 18, 1985

For the guerrillas, the war is an uphill strugle. Despite the support they receive from the United States, the anticommunist insurgents can never hope to defeat their better equipped adversaries. — Newsweek, March 23, 1987

Five years after the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan, Kremlin leaders are as convinced as ever that the war against Moslem tribesmen can be won despite mounting costs in blood and money... Nobody contemplates withdrawing under fire without victory as the US. did in Vietnam.... Defeating the Soviet Army is an impossible dream. — Nicholas Daniloff, U.S. News & World Report, December 24, 1984

Afghanistan is not the Soviet version of Vietnam. Only a country with a free press and the right to assembly can have "a Vietnam." — Richard Cohen, "Why Aid Afghanistan?" Washington Post, January 2, 1985

"The Soviets’ Vietnam." — title of Richard Cohen column in the Washington Post, April 22, 1988


Read Michael Fumento’s additional work on these topics.