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Unprecedented, Insider’s View Features Fascinating Revelations Of How Forces Within The White House Competed For The Heart And Soul Of The Reagan Presidency

George Shultz
TURMOIL & TRIUMPH: THE GEORGE SHULTZ YEARS offers a rare, inside look at American government at the highest levels, introducing viewers to a remarkable man who served his country during an unforgettable time in America’s recent history.  Featuring extensive interviews with George Shultz, who served as Secretary of State under Ronald Reagan, as well as former Secretaries Henry Kissinger, Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice; Senators Edward Kennedy, Sam Nunn and Richard Lugar; Mikhail Gorbachev and others, this new three-part series presents a never-before-seen look at the inner workings of the Reagan White House.

Award-winning authors and distinguished historians Richard Reeves and Walter LaFeber provide perspective on the personalities of not only Reagan, but First Lady Nancy Reagan and others in the Administration, capturing the intrigue and infighting as advisors compete for the ear of the President over historic issues like Iran/Contra and the Star Wars Space Defense Initiative.

TURMOIL & TRIUMPH premieres on three consecutive Mondays — July 12, 19, and 26, 2010 — at 10PM ET on PBS (check local listings.)

Shot on location from Geneva to Reykjavik, from the Kremlin to the halls of the State Department in Washington, D.C., the sweep of history is revealed through the memories of Shultz, former cabinet members, personal witnesses, journalists, historians and exclusive archival materials.  The series brings to life the gripping tensions of these times; the fear of war in the Middle East, the shock of the barracks bombing that killed 241 Marines, and the delicate manipulations of summitry that ended the Cold War and helped determine the future of peace on the planet.

Throughout, TURMOIL & TRIUMPH reveals how George Shultz’s relentless determination combined with his use of national strength made him one of the most effective Secretaries of State in the nation’s history, respected and admired by lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.  The series also looks at the forces that shaped this remarkable man, from his boyhood in New Jersey, through his service in the military, his rise to Dean of the University of Chicago School of Business to his work today as a passionate and tireless advocate for nuclear disarmament. 

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Episode One -  “A Call to Service”
“If I could pick any man for any job in this country, I’d always start with George Shultz.”
— Henry Kissinger

George Shultz and Ronald Reagan

It’s 1982 and President Ronald Reagan has selected George Shultz to replace Alexander Haig as Secretary of State. “Ronald Reagan could not stand personal confrontation and Haig lived on personal confrontation,” says author and historian Richard Reeves.  “So it’s a miracle he lasted even a year and a little more.  George Shultz had the most impressive resume in the country when Reagan called him.” 

When Shultz takes office the world is in turmoil:  the Cold War has returned with a vengeance and relations between the U.S. and the Soviet Union are at their lowest point in a decade. The USSR has nuclear-armed missiles aimed at targets in France, England and Germany.  America has a new enemy in Iran, and right wing militiamen known as “Contras” are working to unseat the Communist government of Nicaragua.  In Lebanon, the Middle East is about to explode in a bloody civil war.

Despite all of these challenges, Shultz is uniquely qualified for the job.  As The Washington Post’s Don Oberdorfer points out:  “As far as I know, he is the first and perhaps only economically trained secretary of state that we’ve had in our history.  Politicians expect and hold out to the public that they can change things over night.  Economists know that is not so.” 

Episode One introduces the new Secretary through the details of his early life, his service as a U.S. Marine, his academic career as a free market economist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and as Dean of the Business School at the University of Chicago and his early cabinet posts as Secretary of Labor and Treasury under President Nixon.  Following his resignation from the Nixon cabinet, his experience as President of worldwide engineering and construction firm Bechtel gives Shultz extensive international contacts and diplomacy skills, critical experience for what lay ahead.

As he is sworn in, the war in Lebanon presents a dangerous diplomatic challenge.  Shultz throws himself into the process of shuttle diplomacy and against all odds makes progress.  Meanwhile, Secretary of Defense Casper Weinberger openly opposes Shultz’s initiatives for a peacekeeping force, creating tension in the White House.

“The institutional interests of the State Department and the Defense Department are always at odds,” states Reeves.  “So there is never a time where the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of State get along well because they’re always poaching on each other’s territory all the time.  And Weinberger was a world class poacher.”

In the midst of one crisis, a second boils over when it is discovered that the CIA is secretly aiding Nicaraguan Contra rebels. Through it all, Shultz clings to one goal: to bring Ronald Reagan and the Soviet leaders together for the first time.  Despite strenuous opposition from many of Reagan’s advisors, Shultz secretly arranges for Reagan to meet the Soviet Ambassador.  

As the episode concludes, the Secretary is soon drawn back to the Middle East, where the successes of his skillful negotiations are shattered with the tragic bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut. Two hundred forty-one Marines are killed.  It is a tragedy Shultz will remember as the darkest day of his career as Secretary of State.

Episode Two - “To Start the World Again”
“I have no doubt in my mind that George Shultz did go to Ronald Reagan and say, “There is a lot of funny business going on around here.  You better do something about it.”
— Historian Richard Reeves

A ceremonial welcome greets Shultz and Reagan on their first trip together to Japan, but as they arrive back in the U.S. Philippine dissident Nimoy Aquino is assassinated and this important island nation is thrown into turmoil.  Reagan views Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos as a friend and ally in the fight against Communism, while Shultz increasingly sees Marcos as a cunning politician who is allowing his country to fail. In September 1982 Marcos teeters on the edge of defeat.

Shultz with Reagan and Casper Weinberger

Inside the White House, Cabinet members continue to vie for the President’s attention, putting forth competing tactics to achieve the administration’s goals.  Reagan is taken with the Contras, a group of rebels fighting the Communist government in Nicaragua. While Congress had ruled out the use of Defense Department or CIA funds to help the rebels, some advisors keep bringing the issue to Reagan’s attention.  “Reagan loved the Contras because they’re the kind of guys who are the good guys in the movies,” says Reeves.  “And he really believed that they were something like the men who came down the hill and conquered.  And beyond that, it was almost all kind of romantic imagination in his mind.”

Another important goal is to obtain the release of the American hostages in Lebanon. Reagan is desperate to free them, but has stated publicly that there would never be any kind of payment to secure their release. Still, some are secretly working behind the scenes on a trade. Shultz firmly opposes an Iran hostage deal but others prevail, and the arrangements go forward. In a complicated plan, cash raised from the sale of arms to Iran is funneled to the Contras.                                                 

As Reagan is sworn in for his second term, Shultz works to set up a summit meeting with the new Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev.  Shultz, unlike others, viewed Gorbachev’s ascension as a unique opportunity to bring Soviet and American leaders to the bargaining table.  Casper Weinberger, CIA Director William Casey and others are opposed, but Shultz prevails, engineering the historic summit meeting in Geneva.  The Geneva meeting proves to be successful, paving the way for future summits.

While Reagan and Shultz are in Geneva, the situation in the Philippines erupts when Aquino’s widow, Corazon “Cory” Aquino is elected as President but Marcos declares himself the winner.  Ignoring White House staff objections, Shultz persuades Reagan to abandon Marcos and recognize the democratically elected Corazon Aquino as the new Philippine leader.

Episode Three – “Swords to Plowshares”
“If you pay for getting hostages back all you’re doing is inviting people to take more hostages.  It’s commerce without end... I really laid it on... I thought I’d never talk to a President of the United States like that.”
— George Shultz

On the 4th of July 1986 Ronald Reagan is at the peak of his popularity. Shultz is in the midst of preparations for the summit meeting between Reagan and Gorbachev, set to take place in Reykjavik, Iceland. 

Shultz and Gorbachev

But news breaks that the United States was indeed trading arms for the Nicaraguan Contras to get the hostages out of Iran, and Newsweek reveals that the CIA is mining the harbor in Managua.   Shultz must once again confront President Reagan. There are congressional hearings and on “Face the Nation,” Shultz risks his job by telling the truth.                                                                                                               
As the Iran-Contra scandal grows, the summit meeting continues in Iceland as these two world leaders meet each other face to face for a second time to determine the future of a nuclear world. Tempers flare as Shultz realizes that Reagan will not give up the Star Wars Space Defense Initiative even if Gorbachev agrees to destroy all Soviet nuclear weapons. Gorbachev says, “If we could agree to ban research in space, I'd sign in two minutes.  It's laboratory or nothing!” Reagan scribbles a note to Shultz asking:  “Am I wrong?”   Shultz replies: “No, you are right.” As the two world leaders part in dejection Gorbachev says: “I don't know what more I could have done.”  Reagan replies:  “You could have said yes.”  Still, out of the disappointment, Reykjavik leads to the most significant nuclear arms reduction pact of the Cold War and is the pinnacle of Shultz’s career in government service.

George Shultz and Nancy Reagan

Soon after Reykjavik, Shultz travels to Moscow to begin the conversations that will lead to the next summit and the signing of a significant arms control agreement in Washington. “He asked Gorbachev to come in a half hour early one morning,” said Walter LaFeber, Cornell historian and author. “And Shultz brought in some pie charts and put them in front and delivered a lecture as a business school dean to the leader of the Soviet Union.”  Shultz reveals: “I basically said to the Soviet leaders, ‘We’re moving into a new age.  It’s going to affect you.  It’s going to affect us.  It’s the information age.  It’s changing everything. And if you continue with a society that’s closed and compartmented, then you will not be able to take part effectively in the information age.’”

“What he was telling Gorbachev on that morning was, ‘If you don’t do this you’re going to become a second rate power—economically and then militarily.’ And Gorbachev bought into that,” LaFeber adds.

In January 1989, George Shultz leaves the State Department. He returns to the world of ideas as a Fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. His committed search for peace and security continues as he travels the world as a passionate advocate for nuclear disarmament. 

TURMOIL AND TRIUMPH: The George Shultz Years presents the bold sweep of a turbulent period of American history, providing a detailed examination of the pivotal events of the times and those who led the country through them.

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