Misleading the Nation

Only 13 times in 30 years has a U. S. president called a joint session of Congress. It's the sort of occasion reserved for making proclamations, pushing policy, declaring national emergencies.

With House committees cutting in half his military aid proposal for El Salvador and threatening to cut off funding for covert CIA activities against Nicaragua, Reagan was feeling the pinch. On April 27 he pulled out all the stops and appealed to Congress to support his bellicose policy in Central America.

To convince the policy makers and his television audience of the crisis "next door," Reagan pointed out that El Salvador is closer to Texas than Texas is to Massachusetts, and Nicaragua is closer to Miami than Miami is to Washington, D.C.

But the man's sense of geography is not perfect. Launching into the most rhetorical part of his speech, he stated, "...let me set the record straight on Nicaragua, a country next to El Salvador." Perhaps Mr. Reagan should be set straight--Honduras separates the two countries; though if Reagan's perception were true it would certainly lend more credence to his theory that massive arms shipments are making their way from Nicaragua to El Salvador.

Perhaps he misread his map or his cue cards. But misreading a map is one thing, and misleading the nation is quite another, with consequences far more dangerous. Reagan's speech was an exercise in the latter. Distortions of the truth and outright lies were the backbone of his speech and form the very foundation of Reagan's policy in Central America.

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