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Welcome to the Détente and Rapprochement Page!


1. Richard Nixon
2. Gerald Ford
3. Jimmy Carter
4. Ronald Reagan
5. Review Questions

Everything (and more) you ever wanted to know from 1969 to 1989.

Détente: term for the general reduction in the tension between the Soviet Union and the United States and a thawing of the Cold War, occurring from the late 1960s until the start of the 1980s.

1. Richard Nixon


Richard Milhous Nixon (Republican)
  • Born: 9 January 1913
  • Birthplace: Yorba Linda, California
  • President from 1969-1974
  • Vice President: Spiro Agnew
  • Was a Quaker.
FUN FACT: Nixon was the only person elected twice to the offices of vice president and president. He was also the only President of the United States to have resigned from the office.


Domestic Policy:
  • Once in office, Nixon went to work on reforming the economy:
    • There existed growing rates of unemployment and inflation
    • Vietnam war placed additional strains on the economy
    • The GNP stagnated, which translates to poor economic growth
    • He first tried to raise taxes while cutting spending
      • Had reverse effect on economy, indicative of a necessary change in approach
    • He then instituted a 90-day freeze on prices and wages
      • Proceeded to set guidelines for wage and price increases
    • Began deficit spending to stimulate economic growth
  • Also focused on integration of schools
    • The debate on integration was driving a wedge between liberal democrats and Southern Democrats
    • Nixon was quoted as calling the law “color blind”, and began a program of integration in schools
      • Set up local committees made up of both black and white members to ease the transition with as little animosity and violence as possible.
  • The Feminist Movement
    • During the ‘70s the Feminist movement took on an increasingly aggressive stance
    • The Women’s Stride for Equality took place on the 50th’s anniversary of women’s suffrage in 1970 where thousands of women participated
    • There was significant government action to further the cause, including:
      • Congress passed Title IX to end sex discrimination in any educational program supported by the government which led to more opportunities for women’s athletics in schools, universities, and professional sports
      • Supreme Court decisions played a huge role in the advancement of women’s equality in the following cases:
      • Reed v. Reed (1971) and Frontiero v. Richardson- both verdicts opposed discrimination in legislation and employment based on gender
      • Roe v. Wade (1973)- allowed abortion under the pretences that the decision to end a pregnancy was a woman’s constitutional right of privacy
      • ERA - The Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution declared “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex”, but ultimately did not receive adequate ratification with only 38 states.
      • Significant opposition to the Feminist movement included: Phyllis Schlafly and supporters who fought to end the ERA, and President Nixon’s veto of nationwide public day care, blame for the rising divorce rate, and the Catholic Church against abortion.
  • Nixon was President during the Moon landing, a monumental event in world history.
    • He also approved the Space Shuttle Program, an important action in terms of continuing American interests in space travel.

Foreign Policy:


  • Before even beginning to discuss Nixon’s foreign policy it is necessary to explain the influence of Henry Kissinger.kissinger.jpg
      • Born in 1923 in Germany to Jewish parents.
      • Moved to the United States in 1938, fleeing the Nazis
      • Graduated from Harvard in 1950 summa cum laude.
        • Fun fact (since these seem to be so popular): Though Kissinger was once rumored to have been the only person to have earned a perfect GPA at Harvard, it has since been discovered that he received one B in his senior year. Clearly he succumbed to Senioritis (gasp).
      • He served as both National Security Advisor and Secretary of State to Nixon.
        • He negotiated the removal of American troops from Vietnam in 1973 under Nixon’s policy of Vietnamization.
          • Nixon's Vietnamization called for 540,000 U.S. troops to withdraw gradually leaving the burden of fighting to the South Vietnamese, with some help from the U.S. in weapons, training, and advice.
          • Nixon Doctrine- United States would honor its existing defense commitments, but in the future, other countries would have to fight their own wars without the United States.
          • Nixon negotiated a cease-fire in 1973, but soon North Vietnam took over the entire area.
  • Nixon and Kissinger together attempted to improve relations with Communist nations through détente.
  • This came as a welcome relief to Americans, who were tired of decades spent with a sense of impending war.
    • Out of this policy came the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT) and the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty.
    • Kissinger and Nixon made trips to Communist China, ending two and a half decades of diplomatic isolation, and joining the two nations in an anti-Soviet alliance.Kissinger_Mao.jpg
    • Kissinger convinced Nixon of the necessity to accept Communism as a permanent entity, and rather than focusing energies on combating it, to attempt to benefit from its existence.
  • *Note: The Watergate incident was an isolated incident, involving some of Nixon’s men breaking into the Democratic party headquarters. However, the term is used to discuss all of the illegal activity that took place during the Nixon administration, seeing as how it led to the investigations that revealed it all – believe me, there was plenty of it (not really a fun fact, but still worth knowing).
  • Fun Fact: Richard Nixon was a member of the Barnaby Jones Fan Club, an old detective show that aired on CBS. Ironically enough however, it became apparent that all the sleuthing didn't teach him how to cover his own tracks well enough.
  • The Watergate Break-In
    • On June 17, 1972, five men, all employed by Nixon were found breaking into the Watergate complex, which was serving as headquarters to the Democratic party.
      • They were returning to repair telephone wire taps that had been installed on a previous break-in.
    • As a result of the break-in, and its connection to Nixon's re-election campaign, the Senate began a series of investigations into the Nixon administration and many of its practices. They found:
      • A White House "Dirty Tricks" group
      • A list of Nixon enemies
      • A unit designed specifically to infiltrate private buildings and install illegal wiretaps
    • The investigation led to the arrest, trial, and conviction of many White House advisors, and forced the President to fire some of his most important advisors.
    • It soon became apparent that Nixon himself would be forced to account for his implicity in the crimes.
      • The discovery of taped Oval Office conversations was the proverbial nail in the coffin that was Nixon's presidency
      • Despite repeated attempts to claim "executive priviledge" over the tapes to prevent them from being entered into evidence, the Supreme Court ruled that they must be relinquished. He turned the tapes over on July 30, 1974.
    • Richard Nixon Resigned from the office of the President of the United States on August 9, 1974. This was an action taken to avoid having to actually be impeached for his involvement in criminal action.NixonResignationLetter.gif.jpg
    • Nixon's resignation letter -- clearly he was only talkative when it came to plotting illegal activities.

  • With the resignation of Nixon came the appointment of Ford.

2. Gerald Ford408px-Gerald_Ford.jpg

Gerald Ford 1974-1976, Republican, V.P. Nelson Rockefeller
  • Born: 14 July 1913
  • Birthplace: Omaha, Nebraska
  • Religion: Was an Episcopal
  • Died: 26 December 2006
Fun fact: Name at birth: Leslie Lynch King, Jr
  • Note: Ford became the first unelected President in United States history when he was chosen to replace Vice President Spiro Agnew after he resigned and assuming the role of President when President Nixon resigned.

  • Was not well received by the American public due to the fact that he had been chosen, not elected, and he was seen as a “dumb jock” who was unfit to assume the role of Commander in Chief
  • Many choices that he made caused his reputation to sink further such as the full pardon he granted to President Nixon for any crimes committed during the Presidency and his “grant of amnesty” to the men who evaded the draft, allowing them to return.
    • Democrats were outraged by these grants, for many accused Ford of pardoning Nixon based on their friendship, and Ford’s critics made it seem inevitable that he would not be elected in ‘76
  • Racial Issues of the Seventies
    • Supreme Court also had a hand in deciding major changes in race relations
    • Miliken v. Bradley case in 1974 rules that desegregation plans could not force students to change school districts
      • Emphasizes “white flight” to suburbia, leaving poor whites against fighting each-other in the cities
    • Another issue was “Affirmative Action” which became known as “reverse discrimination” where minority groups are being given better oppurtunites for job offers and educational opportunities
      • Supreme court decided that Alan Bakke, who was white, should be accepted at U.C. medical school on a majority of 5 to 4 because he accused the admissions counsel to be using reverse discrimination
      • They vaguely stated that any admission should not be decided based on race, yet minority status could be factored into the decision
      • The only black Supreme Court Justice, Thurgood Marshall, began to worry that the ignored issue of racial preferences would undo the achievements of the Civil Rights Movement
    • Native Americans set out for their rights by example, except to separate themselves from the American reign and society
    • In the case of United States v. Wheeler in ’78 ruled that Native American tribes had a “unique and limited sovereignty”, which was ruled by Congress but not by states.

  • Wished to enhance Nixon’s policy of détente with the Soviet Union and met with 34 other nations in Finland to formulate the Helsinki Accords which: put an official end to World War II, recognized the Soviet installed boundaries of the Eastern European nations, and lessened the tension of trade between the East and West, and protected the basic human rights of those participating in the exchange.
  • U.S. critics of détente believed that it was only a “one-way street” by sacrificing many resources and protection from the Soviet Union while receiving nothing in return of equal significance.
    • The American public became increasingly frustrated as the Soviet Union continued to violate human rights, exemplified in their prohibition of Jews wishing to emigrate; however the President stubbornly held on to détente.
  • In 1975 with the steady withdrawal of U.S. troops, South Vietnam finally fell to the Communist North.
    • Remaining American troops were hurriedly evacuated along with 140,000 South Vietnamese refugees. Although the war left American turf unscathed, it damaged the nation’s power and reputation.

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3. Jimmy Carter

Jimmy Carter, Democrat, V.P. Walter Mondale
  • Born: 1 October 1924
  • Birthplace: Plains, Georgia
  • Best Known As: 39th President of the U.S., 1977-81
  • Name at birth: James Earl Carter, Jr.
    Carter gained initial popularity with the image that he was the exact opposite of President Ford, with the campaign “I will never lie to you."
    However he only won a narrow victory with a 51 % majority, with massive support from African Americans, 97% of whom voted for Carter
  • Created a new cabinet level Department of Energy and cut taxesHis popularity soon began to wane when he also pardoned 10,000 draft evaders and it seemed that he failed to communicate sufficiently with Congressional leaders before acting.

* He tended to keep a group of fellow Georgians close by during decision making, and the original support he received for being an outsider to Washington scandal now turned to distrust from being an outsider to Washington and the government within it.carter.jpg
      • He advocated a Human Rights Foreign Policy
      • Carter supported the Black oppressed majority in African countries such as Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and South Africa
        • President Carter is best known for his achievement in orchestrating peace between President Anwar Sadat of Egypt and Prime Minister Menachem Begin of Israel at Camp David in Maryland.
          • Israel withdrew from territories taken during the war of 1967 and Egypt promised to respect Israel’s rightful borders.
      • He also resumed full diplomatic relations with China after thirty years, and handed ownership of Panama Canal back to the nation of Panama that would be taken in effect by year 2000.
  • Economic crisis and its connection to Diplomatic Turmoil
    • After a recession during Ford's presidency which featured a deflation of currency, the inflation rate increased once more during Carter's presidency. The United States was in heavy debt due to a heavy dependency on expensive foreign-imported oil
    • The U.S. was becoming increasingly dependant on foreign trade as a whole and could no longer return to economic isolation; as the percentage of the GNP that foreign exchange accounted for rised from 10 to 27%.
    • Defecits reached almost 60 Billion dollars by 1980 and it was becoming extremely expensive to borrow money from the banks with increased interest and prime rates
    • Due to this defecit, Carter tried to push the importance of Conservation of Energy on the public, which became inevitable when Iranian militants revolted against the oppressive Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlevi who was installed by the U.S. government. With their extreme anger towards Western intervention, oil became scarce among the foreign markets and OPEC increased their prices.
      • Fun Fact: Americans had to resort to only buying gas on only certain days and waiting on impossibly long lines to get it. Where would we be without our available, albeit expensive, gas each day?
    • Carter seeked advice from many leaders at Camp David on how to deal with the Oil Crisis, and disappointingly firste four more cabinet member and kept his fellow Georgians in office closer than ever.
    • In 1979 he met with Soviet Leader Leonid Brezhnev to finally sign the SALT II aggreements to limit the amount of weapons both nations had in their arsenals, but it was not ratified to to Senate discontent and when anti-American mobs penetrated the U.S. embassy in Teheran, Iran, and kidnapped the embassadors, demanding the return of the exiled Shah.
    • Americans worried about the effects that the instable Persian Gulf had on the Soviet Union due to their close proximity, then the Soviets invaded Afghanistan.
    • Carter placed an embargo on U.S. exports to the U.S.S.R of food and technology and boycotted the Olympic games in Moscow.
    • He proposes to form a "Rapid Deployment Force" to be ready for any crisis overseas, and there was the possiblity of coed draft in the future
    • Afghanistan became "Russia's Vietnam"
    • His failed attempt to rescue the Hostages of Iran led to 8 rescuers being killed=== = = By some people's standards, Carter was one of the nation's cutest Presidents (namely Noreen and Kerry). He certainly was one of the most peace-oriented, if nothing else.
  • Born: 6 February 1911
  • Birthplace: Tampico, Illinois
  • Died: 5 June 2004 (natural causes)
  • Best Known As: An Actor/40th President of the United States, 1981-89
  • Fun Fact: Was nicknamed "Dutch" in high school

  • From Hollywood to Washington
    • Graduated during the Great Depression could not find work in Chicago
      • Hired as a freelance sports announcer for WOC in Davenport, Iowa
        • Surging popularity from radio broadcasts in the Midwest followed
        • While on assignment covering the Cubs spring training in California he launched his acting career.
    • Landed big roles in films such as Knute Rockne - All American and King's Row.
      • In the ’40’s Reagan served in the U.S. Armed Forces in WWII
        • He was discharged as Captain in 1945
      • After the War his movie career faded.
        • Was hired as a spokesman for GE
    • Learned to captivate audiences with speeches
    • Reagan became a highly sought after spokesman
      • He continued to host a television show while taking jobs speaking for all sorts of political activist groups
      • Gave a prominent televised speech in favor of Barry Goldwater’s presidential campaign in 1964
    • In 1966 California conservatives wanted Reagan to run for Governer
      • The largely conservative California public elected the actor in a minor landslide (58% of the vote)
        • As governor he sought large budget reforms to end the financial struggles in the state..
          • He cut government spending
          • Increased College Tuition
          • And Increased the income tax
    • 1968 Presidential Push
      • Reagan made a feeble attempt at the presidential office in 1968 by winning support of several southern republican delegates.
      • Ultimately Nixon was chosen to run over Reagan
        • The result left many republicans believing Reagan would make a good future candidate
      • He was offered positions in several cabinets but refused to serve.
    • He was re-elected as Governor in 1970 with 53% of the vote
      • His second term as Governor was defined by a welfare reform
        • He made the requirements to receive state welfare tighter
      • This required the “able” to seek employment
      • And consequently allowed for increased aide for the needy
    • Reagan Runs Again
      • In 1975 Ronald Reagan declared his intentions to run for the Republican ticket to the 1976 presidential elect
        • Unpopular policies for the party as Governor hurt Reagan and Ford got the nod
        • Reagan gracefully accepted defeat and continued to gain popularity
    • He immediately became the republican front runner for 1980 after Ford lost to Carter
    • Reagan wins the presidency
      • Reagan a still popular figure even after Carter won the election ran a newspaper column
        • Reagan’s column questioned Carter’s policy and more skeptics grew as well as Reagan’s national identity
      • In 1979 he announced again his intention to run for the president
        • Appearing a hard nose conservatist he easily won the 1980 nomination and chose George Bush Sr. to be his running mate
        • After dismissing issues of his old age (68) Reagan began a hard campaign against incumbent Carter
      • After a debate victory in late October the election was all but over
        • Reagan won in a landslide (51% popular vote, and 489 electorates)
rwr.jpgReagan the President
  • "Reaganomics"
    • Ronald Reagan was an original believer of the New Deal and much of his early political views were reminiscent of Teddy Roosevelt. This ideology though was apparently lost by the time he became president. As evident in his economic policy Reagan believed in a weak central government, a very laissez faire style, and was one of the most conservative presidents to date.
      • THEORY
        • In theory Reagan's economic policy was perfect (most theories are.) He favored a supply side system. This gave benefits to the higher tax brackets (the rich.) The idea was a trickle down effect. That eventually excess funds would reach the market place and stimulate new production of goods, services and ultimately create jobs
        • Really the success of "Reaganomics" is debatable. The plan did back fire. The U.S. entered a recession that was rivaled only by the Great Depression. Unemployment reached nearly 11%. Many blame Carter's "tight money" policy for the recession, but nonetheless the gap between the rich and poor widened for the first time in nearly a century, and an end did not seem close. In addition the U.S. budget made them fall into a gross international debt, the biggest one on the globe.
  • Diplomacy
    • The Cold War heats up, for now
      • Reagan took a different approach to the continually dragged on Cold War situation. As the soviets continued to invade countries like Afghanistan, Reagan decided the "war" must end. As all presidents before him, he came up with a brilliant plan. To go on a shopping spree and max out the USSR's Visa. Basically Reagan wanted to lead a super expensive arms race and force the soviets into bankruptcy.
    • Star Warsdr_evil.jpg
      • Reagan's plan was headed by the Star War's defense. He was to commission a series of space laser beams that could intercept any soviet missile fired at the U.S. before it reached American soil (Take that Dr. Evil.) While many laughed at this idea clamoring it to be outrageous and impossible, other feared it could disrupt the balance or power and force war upon the U.S. (the old who strikes first conundrum)
    • Other Foreign Issues
      • Israel
        • The Israeli's invaded neighboring country Lebanon to remove Guerrilla camps threatening Israeli's. Reagan intervened sending U.S. aide to Israel. A suicide attack on U.S. forces left 200 dead.
      • Nicaragua
        • The Sandinistas, a liberal activist group successfully over took the old government and instituted communist policies
Reagan Win's again!

  • Without much competition Ronald Reagan once again took the presidency in 1984
  • Second Term Diplomacy
    • The Cold War just got a little colder
      • With the death's of three prominent Soviet leaders the government of the USSR fell into the hands of Mikhail Gorbachev. Gorbachev instituted many western policies and ideas to Russian society. He allowed for freedom of speech, instituted a free-market economy and even planned to hold elections. Reagan was pleased with the Russian ruler's policies of glasnost and peristroika and in 1985 the two agreed to ban intermediate-range nuclear forces in Europe. The cold war seemed to be near it's end.
      • Also Reagan was pleased with the end of Filipino dictator Ferdinand Marcos' rule. He was eliminated by Corazon Aquino.
    • The Whole Iran thing
      • In 1985 it was also revealed that the U.S. had in fact sold weaponry to enemy Iran in exchange for American hostages, the profits in turn went to aiding Nicaraguan rebels. Whoa so Reagan who had previously claimed to never deal with terrorists, sells them weapons then uses the money to support "contras" in another country. Investigations followed and found that Reagan was not properly following his own policies.
  • On the Home Front and what happened with that "Reaganomics" policy
    • The trickle down theory, well it didn't work. Instead of increasing revenue and raising money the United States was in debt, big time. Meanwhile the gap between the rich and the poor grew, and there was no money left for future welfare programs.
  • Affirmative Action
    • Reagan elected three new Justices to the Supreme Court, including Sandra Day O'Conner, the first woman to serve.
      • He combated affirmative action, believing that in fact whites became the victims reverse discrimination. Land mark cases such as Ward’s Cove Packing vs. Arizona and Martin vs. Wilks confirmed Reagan's ideals and made it nearly legally impossible to prove racial discrimination in the employment process.
  • Abortion
    • As the modern era continues to approach abortion became front and center
      • In '73 Roe v. Wade effectively legalized abortion, but that did not stop many facilities from attempting to limit it's availability. New cases such as Webster vs. Reproductive Health Services hurt the right of choice and limited the ease and availability of abortion. These two cases would become the basis for future abortion crises in America.
  • The Democrats come rushing in
    • In the 1986 midterm elections the Democrats took control. From here on Reagan pretty much became a lame duckrubberduck.jpg

Review Questions

1. The 1973 Supreme Court decision in the case of Roe v Wade
(A) Marked the end of the Court’s liberal view in support of the rights of suspected criminals
(B) Was strongly opposed by the National Rifle Association
(C) Was very controversial and precipated strong political reactions both pro and con
(D) Has been supported by each president since 1973
(E) Was the Court’s most sweeping decision in favor of the civil rights of African Americans

2. All of the following occurred during the presidency of Richard Nixon EXCEPT
(A) The fall of Saigon to the North Vietnamese
(B) The Watergate break-in and consequent congressional hearings
(C) The resignation of Vice President Agnew
(D) Diplomatic overtures to the People’s Republic of China, including a presidential visit
(E) An attempt to end the Arab-Israeli conflict in the Middle East through shuttle diplomacy

3. Which of the following was a result of the supply-side economic policies adopted during the Presidency of Ronald Reagan?
(A) A large decrease in the trade deficit
(B) A large increase in the national debt
(C) A steady decline in Dow Jones stock index
(D) A rapid increase in the rate of inflation
(E) An agreement to reduce military expenditures during his presidency

4. The American Hostage Crisis in Iran was precipitated by
(A) The American government allowing the deposed Shah of Iran to come to the United States for cancer treatment
(B) Jimmy Carter’s involvement in arranging the Camp David accords between the Egyptians and the Israelis
(C) American air strikes against Iran’s ally, Libya
(D) American support for Israel’s 1980’s invasion of southern Lebanon
(E) American attempts to overthrow the newly emplaced government of Ayatollah Khomeini

5. Reaganomics is most closely associated with
(A) The “trickle-down” theory
(B) The “controlled growth” theory
(C) The “bobble up” theory
(D) New Deal reform economics
(E) Fair Deal progressivist economics

6. The Saturday Night Massacre refers to
(A) Nixon’s firing of Watergate special prosecutor, Archibald Cox, and his staff, in October 1973
(B) The bombing of the Marine Corps barracks in Lebanon by a suicide truck bomber in October 1983
(C) Reagan’s bombing of military bases in Libya in April 1986
(D) Oliver North’s destruction of files related to the Iran-Contra scandal the day before his office was searched by the FBI
(E) The slaughter of Vietnamese villagers in My Lai by American soldiers under the command of Lt. William Calley

7. The Iran-Contra affair upset most Americans because it involved
(A) Illegal support for the Contra rebels in Nicaragua
(B) Illegal support for government backed “death squads” in El Salvador
(C) A presidential coverup similar to, and to some extent worse than, the Watergate Affair
(D) Trading arms to Iran for release of American hostages
(E) Providing funding for Contra rebels to be trained by Iranians in terrorist tactics to be used against Nicaraguan government

1- C
2- A
3- B
4- A
5- A
6- A
7- D

More Review Questions

1 Richard Nixon tried to reverse certain political and social trends of the recent past. His efforts involved all of the following EXCEPT?

A.strategies to discredit student protesters and other critics.
B.diplomatic initiatives to reduce tensions with those communist regimes that the containment policy had sought to contain.
C.political maneuvering to get union workers and Southerners to switch to the Republican party.
D.legislative efforts to expand federal government control over how states spent their allocations from federal revenues.

2 George McGovern, the Democratic nominee for the presidency in 1972, alienated the traditional working-class backbone of the Democratic party?
A.by advocating a cut in Social Security.
B.when he advocated a continuation of the Vietnam War.
C.when it was discovered that he had undergone psychiatric care.
D.by appealing to racial minorities, feminists, and other social/political protestors

3 Gerald Ford's main liability in the 1976 presidential election was?
A.his inexperience in foreign policy
B.the Republican party's position on civil rights.
C.the war in Vietnam
D.the Watergate scandal

4.President Ford's foreign policy included support for all of the following EXCEPT?
the SALT II agreement.
B.the Helsinki agreement on European boundaries.
C.the continued rapprochement with China after the death of Mao Zedong.
D.the abandonment of United States mediation efforts in the Middle East.

5.Which of the following made the Ford administration different from any other in the history of the United States?:
A.the vice president was also the Attorney General.
B.President Ford made no appointments to the Supreme Court.
C.neither the president nor the vice president had been elected to office.
D.Congress asserted power in the field of foreign policy.

6.The Helsinki Accords, signed by Gerald Ford and leaders of thirty-four other nations?:
A.pledged signatories to guarantee certain basic human rights.
B.rejected the Soviet-directed boundary of Poland.
C.proved to many Americans that détente was still a two-way street.
D.was condemned by West Germany as meaningless.

7.Which of the following contributed to Iranian Ayatollah Khomeini's hatred of the United States?:
A.while he was in exile, the American government had regarded him as a Communist rather than recognizing him as a Muslim fundamentalist.
B.the CIA had put the Shah of Iran in power and had trained his ruthless secret police.
C.he had been subjected to prejudice and harassment many years earlier as a graduate student in the United States.
D.he had been the target of CIA-sponsored assassination attempts on three different occasions in the 1970s.

Answer Key