Historic Documents of 1988

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Edited by: CQ Press

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    Preface

    Historic Documents of 1988 carries through a seventeenth year the project Congressional Quarterly began with Historic Documents of 1972. The purpose of this series is to give students, scholars, librarians, journalists, and citizens convenient access to documents of basic importance in the broad range of public affairs.

    To place the documents in perspective, each entry is preceded by a brief introduction explaining the historical background, the main points, reactions to the document, and in some cases subsequent developments. We believe these introductions will become increasingly useful as the issues recede from public view.

    Historic Documents of 1988 contains official statements, Supreme Court decisions, reports, special studies, speeches, presidential debates, international agreements, papal pronouncements, impeachment charges, and an arctic explorer's field notes. These are documents related to events that we judged to be of lasting significance or interest. Where space limitations prevented the publication of a full text, we chose excerpts that convey the document's essential thoughts.

    Documents published in this volume reflect the big events of 1988. Election-year politics held the national spotlight, while numerous peace initiatives and goodwill gestures marked the international scene.

    George Bush became the first vice president in this century to be elected directly to the American presidency. As the successor to Ronald Reagan, Bush extended Republican control of the White House for at least four more years. But his victory was not accompanied by a Republican majority in the House or Senate. Democrats continued their hold on Congress, and enlarged it slightly in the November 1988 election. This volume records highlights of the election campaign and its outcome.

    The nation's political concerns, aside from the election, focused on federal budget deficits and the growing national debt. Many of the nation's lending institutions remained insolvent but not officially bankrupt, as the government searched for ways to replenish depleted deposit-insurance funds. Also in 1988, federal authorities received but took little action on several studies into the causes of the October 1987 stock market crash.

    After years of discussion and debate, Congress extensively revised the nation's welfare system to add work incentives. The year opened with the United States and Canada signing a trade treaty to make the two countries virtually one market. Canadians debated the question most of the year and gave their assent in a national election that amounted to a referendum.

    For much of the world, 1988 was peaceful. The level of hostility and distrust declined in many regions, perhaps most of all between the United States and Soviet Union. Two meetings between President Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev were marked by a newfound and sometimes exuberant harmony. They signed a missile-reduction treaty in Moscow in May, and Gorbachev announced further unilateral reductions when he addressed the United Nations in December. He spoke to the General Assembly of a new era of Soviet cooperation with the West.

    Gorbachev had set out on an even bolder program in his homeland. In 1988 he went further than before in challenging old ideology and loosening the government's rein on Soviet society in the hope of reinvigorating a stagnant economy. He signed an international pact for the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan.

    Cease-fire agreements stopped the seven-year war between Iran and Iraq, and at least temporarily ended the fighting between the Nicaraguan government and U.S.-aided “contras.” In southern Africa, the principals in the related areas of strife signed a peace pact that was years in the making. It called for an end to a civil war in Angola and for the formation of an independent Namibia, free from South Africa's control. In the Middle East, the Palestinians' uprising in Israeli-occupied territories drew support from Arab capitals for the Palestine movement's assertion of “statehood.”

    As major new developments in such issues unfold, Historic Documents will chronicle them, along with new matters of great public interest.

    HoytGimlin, Editor

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