President Ronald Reagan strode in to his first press conference a mere five days after being sworn in as president. And right on cue, ABC’s Sam Donaldson, who would make his bones as a Reagan press adversary, asked this question:
“Mr. President, what do you see as the long-range intentions of the Soviet Union? Do you think, for instance, the Kremlin is bent on world domination that might lead to a continuation of the cold war, or do you think that under other circumstances detente is possible?”
Without missing a beat, the new President — a staunch critic of years of “detente” with the Soviets that he saw as a long-running sham — said this (emphasis added):
"Well, so far detente's been a one-way street that the Soviet Union has used to pursue its own aims. I don't have to think of an answer as to what I think their intentions are; they have repeated it. I know of no leader of the Soviet Union since the revolution, and including the present leadership, that has not more than once repeated in the various Communist congresses they hold their determination that their goal must be the promotion of world revolution and a one-world Socialist or Communist state, whichever word you want to use.
"Now, as long as they do that and as long as they, at the same time, have openly and publicly declared that the only morality they recognize is what will further their cause, meaning they reserve unto themselves the right to commit any crime, to lie, to cheat, in order to attain that, and that is moral, not immoral, and we operate on a different set of standards, I think when you do business with them, even at a detente, you keep that in mind."
Suffice to say, the assembled White House press corps was stunned. Reagan biographer Steven F. Hayward recalls: “There was an audible gasp among the press corps in the briefing room.."