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Both Reagan and Nixon pursued a domestic policy that, at least rhetorically, deemphasized the role of the federal government. Nixon's "Southern Strategy" was part of a larger process of devolution that aimed at rolling back many of the reforms of the Great Society, which he and his supporters saw as wrong-headed and wasteful. Reagan, on the other hand, took office claiming that government spending was out of control, and threatened the nation's future. He thus scaled back many social welfare programs, though he, like Nixon, emphasized the importance of military spending in the context of the Cold War. Both men also reached out to foreign leaders while emphasizing American military preparedness. Nixon held summits with Leonid Brezhnev and became the first United States president to visit China. Reagan held talks with Soviet premier Mikhail Gorbachev in an effort to thaw Cold War tensions. At the same time, however, Reagan also emphasized a vigorous policy of rolling back Communist gains around the world, and specifically refuted the policy of detente articulated by Nixon and Henry Kissinger. Finally, both men's presidencies underwent major scandals. Nixon's involvement in Watergate led to his resignation, while the final years of Reagan's presidency were marred by Iran-Contra scandal, in which members of the administration illegally brokered arms deals with Iran while funneling the proceeds to anti-Marxist rebels, known as "Contras" in Nicaragua. A major difference between the two presidencies was Reagan's ability to communicate with the American people. He was composed and genial in front of the camera, and Nixon famously was not, a shortcoming that, even before news of Watergate broke, kept him from forming the same sort of bond with many of the American people that Reagan had.
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