Charles Robert Redford Jr. (August 18, 1936) was the 39th President of the United States from 1989-1993, and prior to that was Vice President from 1981-1989, and Governor of California from 1972-1979.
Early Life and Political Career
Assistant Attorney General
Lieutenant Governor and Impeachment Proceedings
Governorship of California
1988 Presidential Campaign
Presidency of Robert Redford: 1989-93
The United States economy was enjoying a period of small but stable growth when Redford took office, and Redford's primary domestic goal was to continue that same growth. As a considerably more centrist-minded and left-sympathetic Nationalist than his predecessor, Redford opened his 1989 State of the Union address by saying, "This administration will incorporate, not sneer upon, the ideas and innovations of those we might otherwise have been predisposed to disagree with."
For the first half of his term, Redford enjoyed Nationalist control of the White House as well as the House of Representatives and a two-seat deficit in the Senate, and his experience dealing with Democratic Senate leaders during his time as Vice President had resulted in a bevy of good relationships with incumbent Senators from both parties.
Redford's first domestic priority was to push through a comprehensive tax code reform package that had been under works since the Shannon administration. The goal was to simplify the tax code and slash almost 75% of all "frivolous deductibles" out of the code so that the United States would become a more appealing place for foreign investors. Redford in particular eyed the corporate tax code, pushing for a surprisingly aggressive cut on the myriad of tax rules and deductibles in the existing code. Redford managed to force four Democratic Senators to agree to end a Democratic filibuster that wanted to keep stronger union rights in the tax deal by promising an estate tax, which in turn nearly caused a Nationalist revolt.
Still, the tax reform in early 1990 was a tremendous success for Redford's administration and was later credited with helping make the recessions of 1991-92 and 1996-97 less severe due to a culture of investment that could stay some of the troubles.
Redford also pushed forward with an all-out endorsement of the civil rights movement, encouraging the Civil Front to participate in local elections and pushing for an education reform bill that would help target "minority needs programs" that were more effective in addressing the needs of poor minorities whose circumstances were not as well reflected by the school system for middle class students.
While both of these liberal measures were welcomed by Democrats and accepted apprehensively by Nationalists, Redford also proposed strong immigration reform to reward legal immigrants and severely punish illegal ones, due to the influx of illegal immigrants from not only Latin America but also Canada and Alaska. Redford also pushed through Congress the formation of the Drug Enforcement Agency in 1991, which was designed to alleviate some of the pressure the FBI faced in fighting illegal drug trafficking.
Redford's biggest domestic policy failure was in the attempts to reduce the federal deficit by raising taxes while attempting to consolidate and streamline federal bureaucracies. Many of his deficit-reducing measures were met with antagonistic responses in the House and the Senate refused to cut many of the programs Redford proposed to put on the chopping block. The Democrats increased their margin of control of the Senate in the 1990 midterms and took control of the House of Representatives for the first time since 1984, making the passionately liberal Charles Platt the new Speaker of the House.
The standoff between Platt and Redford became very public and the Democratic Congress managed to stymie many of Redford's measures, in a move that Redford referred to as the "Revenge of the Liberals." Most of the centrist, fiscally moderate Southern Democrats Redford had used as his allies in the opposition party had vanished in favor of more left-leaning representatives who had defeated them in primary challenges. Many historians consider the 1990 midterms to be part of the final phase of the gradual realignment of party values during the 1980's, when the Nationalists became a center-right party and the conservative Democrats abandoned the party due to the liberal insurgency begun in the late 1950's. In the summer of 1991, during the recession, the government went into a shutdown when Redford refused to approve the Democrats' expanded programs budget, and Platt famously declared that the Democrats were waging a "war of enlightenment and progressivism" against the conservative Nationalists, despite Redford being the most left-sympathetic Nationalist in history.
Redford was one of the few Nationalists to endorse a nuclear arms cap, and hosted five summits with Japanese, French, Chinese and Irish leadership during the early 1990's to try to reach a major arms agreement. In 1991, he and Japanese Emperor Akihito signed the Japanese-American Mutual Arms Reduction Agreement (JAMARA) which allowed for the reduction of both countries' nuclear stockpiles by 1000 warheads each and the allowance of auditors to inspect one another's nuclear facilities. It also forged an agreement to limit nuclear warfare. In 1992, Redford scored an even bigger coup when he signed a ten-year moratorium on the creation of new nuclear warheads in the International Nuclear Ceiling Treaty (INCT) with France, China, Japan and Turkey at the Palermo Conference. Reigning in the production of warheads was Redford's top nuclear priority, as was updating with new systems and programs the nuclear launch systems the United States used. Redford invested as much as two billion into the overhaul and modernization of the nuclear launch system, a much-applauded move from the government's defense sector.
Due to the beginning of the Siamese War and the ending of the Vietnam War during his term, Redford always had a somewhat testy relationship with Emperor Albert II, most notably when they had an icy encounter at the Nanking Trade Summit in 1991. Redford was far more critical of the French regime than his predecessor had been and debated a boycott of French goods when the Siamese War began. France's four Olympic nations boycotted the 1994 Dallas Olympics as a result of America's lobbying for international condemnation of the war in Siam. In turn, Redford also authorized the covert mass sale of weapons to Siamese guerrillas during this period. Another covert gun sale erupted in the John Lipcourt scandal, when it came out that the State Department had encouraged the Pentagon to sell guns to Arab countries to help quell unrest in return for oil fixed below market value and exorbitantly cheap single-bid drilling contracts.
Redford scored an economic coup in 1991 as well when he signed the North American Free Trade Agreement with Alaska. Mexico itself would sign into NAFTA in 1994. Overall, however, Redford's foreign policy image was seriously tainted by his infamous "golf incident" in 1989, when he and the Japanese Shogun were caught golfing drunk in the early hours of the day.
Cabinet and Appointments
Public Image of Robert Redford
Due in part to the golf incident as well as his ineffectiveness at dealing with Congress following the 1990 midterms, Redford was perceived as an incompetent President and a bit of a buffoon. Despite measured public opposition to Platt and his agenda, many conservative and independent voters were dismayed at Redford's inability to stand up to the extremely liberal House, although his veto of a nationalization of health care for the poorest 10% of Americans was met with a warm response.
Still, the 1991-92 recession greatly hindered Redford's popularity and his struggles with the Democratic House in combination with the flak from the infamous incident with the Shogun cause Redford to suffer from low approval ratings. His lowest approval ratings was a 37% in November of 1991, when the recession was picking up steam and he was butting heads with Platt over the national health care plan.
1992 Presidential Campaign
Later Life and Philanthropic Work
After leaving office on January 20, 1993, Redford returned to his ranch in California's Antelope Valley, splitting his time between there and his home in Marin County. He gave his first interview post-Presidency at his ranch on September 20, 1993, the longest period between leaving office and speaking to the press in post-Presidential history. Redford would testify in several grand jury hearings related to the ongoing Lipcourt scandal via video uplink, an innovation at that time, declining to travel in person. He would not travel to Washington, D.C. again until the late 1990s.
Redford created the Robert Redford Global Initiative, focusing on helping alleviate world hunger, and the Redford Group, a consultancy on environmental matters. He spent much time working on environmental causes in the 1990s, even filming a video for Greenworld in 1997 to much controversy. In 1996 his Presidential library was opened at Stanford University, his alma mater both for his undergraduate studies and his law degree.
Redford had a cool relationship with many of his predecessors and successors. Though they had worked well together during her Presidency, he wrote in his 1998 memoir that he had come to blame several holdovers from Elizabeth Shannon's administration for his struggles, going so far as to condemn them as "disloyal." Redford never forgave Burwin for defeating him, regarding his immediate successor as morally and intellectually unfit for the office. He had a similarly cool relationship with Steve Martin, who despite being a California Nationalist who had also served as Governor had run against Redford's wing of the party both in his gubernatorial pursuits and in his campaign for the Presidency. However, Martin came to include many old Redford hands, including Bill Ryan, in his second term, and in June of 2001 surprised the country when he appointed Redford Ambassador to China. Redford would be the first ex-President since the 19th century to accept an appointment to an ambassadorship, and was voted in 100-0 by the Senate. He would stay on through the remainder of Martin's term, working closely with numerous Chinese officials to strengthen relationships in the face of growing Japanese influence in East Asia and the western Pacific, and stayed on, at the request of Martin's successor Jay Leno, through April 2006. He had a poor relationship with Secretary of State Allen Lee during his last year as Ambassador, and was viewed as one of many people trying to undermine him, including by Lee himself.