“There’s a Bear in the Woods”: Ronald Reagan’s 1984 campaign ad revisited

ronald reaganIt is ironic that is was just thirty-years ago that a political ad was run by President Ronald Reagan titled “There’s a Bear in the Woods”. Today we are seeing that bear reemerge from the woods. The bear is hungry for territory where it may prey on the weak, feed vociferously and expand its influence. That bear then was named the Soviet Union. That bear today is named Russia.

Russian influence in the Middle East, Eastern Europe and South America is on the rise. Since 1984 Russia has invaded: Afghanistan, Georgia, Crimea and is on Ukraine’s door step. We are facing a new “Red Dawn”.

This is the same bear, same ideology, with the same goals but a different face that Reagan’s ad was speaking to.


There have been many comparisons made between President Barack Obama and President Vladimir Putin. Pundits miss what is really the focus of each leader. Putin has a global view, while Obama has a local view. By that I mean Putin thinks and acts globally with Russian sovereignty first and foremost in his mind. Putin acts in the best interests of Russia, to protect its borders, expand its power and become a world leader using military force.

President Obama is focused domestically. His social programs, domestic policies and political power are totally aimed like a laser on government expansion internally. Obama is adept at community organizing. Foreign policy, expanding American influence globally is not his forte. Military force is not in President Obama’s lexicon of options. He may say it is, but actions (like Putin’s) speak much louder than words.

Now that the bear has come out of the woods, who will stop him? That is the question.

John Greer lists this ad in his Attack Ad Hall of Fame. Greer writes:

The Reagan campaign aired the ad. “There is a bear in the woods. For some people, the bear is easy to see. Others don’t see it at all.” The script goes on to say that we need to be as strong as the bear and that we should not risk being unprepared. Who is the bear? The Soviet Union? Probably, but since it’s not clear, some argue that the spot is not negative. It’s an interesting ad and one that probably was run because of Reagan’s huge lead over Mondale. It’s subtle meaning just makes it not very informative.

RELATED STORY: A Ukraine divide: Congress, world leaders debate how to counter Russia

EDITORS NOTE: The featured photo is by John Cummings. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.