American Civil Liberties Union - A legal rights-advocacy organization, the ACLU became an issue in the 1988 campaign between Republican George Bush and Democrat Michael Dukakis. During the campaign, Dukakis had referred to himself as a "card-carrying member of the ACLU," a label that Bush quickly exploited in a successful effort to brand Dukakis a liberal out of touch with mainstream political values. See Debate History, 1988.

Affirmative Action: A common campaign issue through much of the 1980s and 1990s, the role of governmental action in promoting the inclusion of under-represented groups in areas such as business, higher-education, and government continues to be controversial campaign issue. See Debate History, 1992 & 1996.

Beirut Bombing: On October 23, 1983, 241 U.S. Marines and sailors were killed when a car filled with TNT blew up the Marine headquarters at Beirut International Airport in Lebanon. With this event, among others, in the background, President Ronald Reagan's leadership became an issue in his reelection bid against Democrat Walter Mondale. See Debate History, 1984.

Congressman John Anderson: Illinois Republican member of the U.S. House of Representatives who ran as an Independent candidate for president against Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan in 1980. See Debate History, 1980.

President George H. W. Bush, 1989-1993: As the incumbent vice president under Ronald Reagan, George Bush mounted an aggressive 1988 campaign against Democratic candidate Michael Dukakis that many analysts felt raised the stakes for negative campaigning. The fallout from negative political advertisements and speeches occasionally spilled over into the presidential debates. Running for re-election in 1992, Bush was accused of not being aggressive enough in his criticism of Democratic candidate Bill Clinton. Visit the Bush Presidential Library at See Debate History, 1984, 1988, & 1992.

President George W. Bush , 2001-present: George W. Bush is the 43rd and current President of the United States. His four-year term as President began on January 20, 2001. He is currently seeking a second term, which would last until January 20, 2009. Before assuming the presidency, Bush was a businessman and served as Governor of Texas from 1995 to 2000. He is the son of former President George Herbert Walker Bush and the brother of Florida Governor Jeb Bush.

President Jimmy Carter, 1977-1981: As the former Democratic governor of Georgia, Jimmy Carter was little known in 1976. After strong showings in the Democratic primaries, however, he won the nomination and then beat incumbent president Gerald Ford in a close election. Carter's image as a Washington, D.C. outsider who would "never lie" to the American people appealed to voters tired of political scandal. Visit the Carter Presidential Library at See Debate History, 1976 & 1980.

President William J. Clinton, 1993-2001. As the Democratic challenger in 1992 and the incumbent in 1996, Bill Clinton excelled in conveying warmth and empathy as a debate participant. He did especially well in the "town-hall" formats, where his people skills were best used, and his campaign team actively promoted the development of the "town-hall" debate style. See Debate History, 1992 & 1996.

The Deficit: A common election year issue through the 1980s and 1990s, the deficit represents the gap between how much money the federal government collects and how much it spends. In the 1980s, as the federal government spent more than it collected, the gap grew wider and wider. Policy issues like tax cuts, defense spending, and government entitlements were often proposed or attacked on the basis of their possible impact on the growing budget deficit. Ross Perot gained unprecedented popularity as a third party candidate by speaking plainly and bluntly about the dangers of the deficit and the need to balance the federal budget. See Debate History, 1980, 1984, 1988, & 1992.

Senator Bob Dole: Former Republican member of the U.S. Senate from Kansas who ran as the Republican presidential candidate in 1996 and the Republican vice presidential candidate in 1976. See Debate History, 1996.

Governor Michael Dukakis: Former governor of Massachusetts and Democratic candidate for president in 1988. Dukakis had a reputation for being a "passionless" technocrat, a reputation enhanced in his debates against George Bush. See Debate History, 1988.

Eastern Block: The communist countries of Eastern Europe that were largely considered to be under the political and economic influence of the Soviet Union. These countries included Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania, Yugoslavia, and East Germany. In his infamous debate gaffe of 1976, incumbent president Gerald Ford stated that the countries of Eastern Europe were not dominated by the Soviet Union, a comment many campaign analysts found to be grossly uninformed. See Debate History, 1976.

Energy Crisis: Arab oil-producing nations (OPEC) imposed a total ban on oil exports to the United States in October of 1973 with the start of the Arab-Israeli War. The ban was lifted on March 18, 1974, but the energy crisis continued through much of the 1970s. See Debate History 1976 & 1980.

Congresswoman Geraldine Ferraro: Former Democratic member of the U.S. House of Representatives from New York who ran as the vice presidential candidate with Walter Mondale in 1984. She is the first woman to be a major-party candidate for the vice presidency. See Debate History, 1984.

President Gerald Ford, 1974-1977: In 1973, President Richard Nixon appointed Gerald Ford, then a congressman from Michigan, to the vice presidency upon the resignation of Spiro Agnew, Nixon's vice presidential running mate in 1968 and 1972. Upon Richard Nixon's resignation from the presidency on August 9, 1974, Ford became president, thus becoming the first person to ascend to the presidential office without having been elected to either the vice presidency or the presidency. Although initially well behind Democratic challenger Jimmy Carter in the 1976 election, Ford managed to make the election close, although he still lost. Visit the Ford Presidential Library at See Debate History, 1976.

Vice President Al Gore, 1993-2001: Democratic politician who served as the forty-fifth Vice President of the United States from 1993 to 2001. He ran for President in 2000 following Bill Clinton's two four-year terms, and won the national popular vote but was defeated by the Republican candidate George W. Bush in a close election whose outcome remained uncertain for over a month pending legal arguments over vote-counting procedures in Florida. See Debate History, 2000

Helsinki Agreement, 1975: A foreign policy issue in one of the 1976 debates between incumbent Gerald Ford and challenger Jimmy Carter. A question about the Helsinki Agreement led to Ford's gaffe concerning Soviet domination of Eastern Europe. See Debate History, 1976.

Iranian Hostage Crisis: On November 4, 1979, the American embassy in Tehran, Iran was over-run by militant students and, among others, 63 American hostages were taken. In return for the release of the hostages, the leader of Iran, the Ayatollah Khomeini, demanded that the United States return the former Shah of Iran, who had been overthrown in an Islamic revolution earlier that year. 52 of the hostages were held for 444 days and were finally freed on January 20, 1980, moments after Ronald Reagan was inaugurated president. At the time of the only debate between incumbent Jimmy Carter and challenger Ronald Reagan, the hostages had been held almost a year. See Debate History, 1976.

President John F. Kennedy, 1961-1963: As a Democratic senator from Massachusetts, Kennedy was not as well know as his opponent for the presidency, Richard Nixon, who was vice president at the time. Kennedy also suffered from a reputation as being too young and immature to be president. Therefore, he eagerly sought out and agreed to a series of debates with Nixon, the first ever presidential general election debates between the major party candidates, and, therefore, the first presidential debates to be televised as well. Visit the Kennedy Presidential Library at See Debate History, 1960.

Nikita Khruschev: Leader of the Soviet Union from 1954 until 1964. Khruschev and the Soviet Union were key issues in the 1960 debates between John F. Kennedy and Richard M. Nixon. See Debate History, 1960.

Misery Index: A "statistic" coined by Jimmy Carter during his presidential campaign of 1976. Meant to be a concrete measure of the failure of President Gerald Ford's economic policies, the misery index was ultimately used against Carter when, as president, he debated Republican Ronald Reagan in 1980. See Debate History, 1976, 1980, & 1992.

Vice President Walter Mondale, 1977-1981: Former Senator from Minnesota who was Jimmy Carter's vice president. He also was the Democratic candidate for president in 1984. See Debate History, 1984.

President Richard M. Nixon, 1969-1974: As the Republican presidential candidate in 1960, Nixon, who was then the incumbent vice president, participated with John F. Kennedy in the first presidential debates in American history, which also happened to be the first televised presidential debates. Nixon lost a close election to Kennedy in 1960, but was eventually elected to the presidency in 1968. There were no general election presidential debates in 1968 or 1972, the year Nixon won re-election. See Debate History, 1960.

H. Ross Perot: Independent presidential candidate in 1992 and the Reform Party candidate in 1996. Perot was a third party participant in the presidential debates of 1992; however, he was not permitted to participate in the 1996 debates. See Debate History, 1992.

Persian Gulf War, 1991: In August 1990, the country of Iraq invaded Kuwait, an ally of the United States. President George Bush organized a multi-national coalition that began an air war on January 17, 1991, and a ground war on February 24, 1991. Lasting only 100 hours, thousand of Iraqi soldiers were killed or captured with little loss of life to the US troops. However, Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein remained in power. Although President Bush enjoyed enormous popularity in the weeks following the conclusion of the war, the failure to remove Hussein from power became an election year issue. See Debate History, 1992.

Presidential Pardon of Richard M. Nixon: On September 8, 1974, President Gerald Ford pardoned ex-President Richard Nixon for any federal crimes he committed as president. See Debate History, 1976.

Presidential Pardon for Vietnam War Draft Evaders: On January 21, 1977, newly inaugurated president Jimmy Carter pardoned those who had evaded the Viet Nam war draft. President Ford had extended a limited amnesty in September of 1975. See Debate History, 1976.

President Ronald Reagan, 1981-1989: As a former actor, Reagan was known as the "Great Communicator." He was amiable and genuine, but also strong and pointed when need be. As the Republican challenger in 1980, Reagan closed his debate with incumbent Jimmy Carter with a simple question: Are you [the American people] better off now than you were four years ago? Faced with inflation, high interest rates, a continuing energy crisis, and low American prestige abroad, many Americans felt that they were not better off, and Reagan won election. In 1984, questions arose concerning Reagan's ability to lead given his age, which then was 73. However, Reagan was able to use his trademark humor and affable presence to deflect the issue, and he beat challenger Walter Mondale in a landslide. Visit the Reagan Presidential Library at See Debate History, 1980 & 1984.

SALT I - Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty, 1972: See Debate History, 1976.

SALT II - Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty, 1979: See Debate History, 1976 & 1980.