A Criticism of the Opening Salvo
The White House scheduled President Reagan's first press conference on January 29. 1981, nine days after he took the oath of office and the American hostages were released from Iran, and two days after the White House welcome home ceremony for the hostages, the act that ended the last visible traces of the Carter years. Also, on January 28, Reagan met his first foreign head of state, Jamaican Prime Minister Edward P. G. Seaga. The press conference took place seven days before Reagan's first major economic address to the nation, scheduled for 9:00 P.M. Eastern time on February 5. The networks aired the session live at 4:00 P.M. Eastern time, two hours before the regularly scheduled evening news broadcasts.
The president's prepared opening remarks contained a rehash of stale information and two minor announcements that did not demand a personal appearance. The president apologized that Secretary of Treasury Donald Regan had, the day before, "sent to Congress a request to raise the debt ceiling to $985 billion." Reagan continued: "The administration took this action with great regret, because it's clear that the massive deficits our government runs is one of the root causes of our profound economic problems. . . . We've lived beyond our means and then financed our extravagance on the backs of the American people."1 He reminded reporters, "The clear message I received in the election campaign is that we must gain control of this inflationary monster."
The Treasury Department had already asked the previous Congress to