0
   

The Muse of Malaise

 
 
Reply Tue 6 Jul, 2004 08:20 am
DURING THE FUNERAL CEREMONIES for President Reagan, few people mentioned the fortieth president without paying tribute to the job he did in dispelling the national mood that he met at the start of his mission: the enervation and horror, the malaise and bad feeling, the gloom and despair. The person most representative of this mood was carefully not mentioned: James Earl Carter. What was also not mentioned was that Carter was key to the legend of Reagan, symbolizing the darkness in which Reagan shone brighter, the ashes from which he would rise.

Carter is surely one of the worst failures in the history of the American presidency, but he is a failure of a special sort: He did not overreach, as did Lyndon Johnson, or seek to deceive, as did Richard Nixon. Rather, like Herbert Hoover, he seems a well-meaning sort overcome by reality. But while Hoover was blindsided by the depression, Carter failed on a broad range of matters and faced few crises he didn't first bring on himself. Most presidents, even the good ones (sometimes especially even the good ones) leave behind a mixed record of big wins and big errors, but with Carter, the darkness seems everywhere: He is all Bay of Pigs and no Missile Crisis, all Iran-contra and no "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall."

PBS, whose American Experience series on the presidents has done some fascinating things with such novelistic lives as those of Reagan, Kennedy, Nixon, Johnson, and both the Roosevelts, seemed (in a two-part series first aired two years ago and now reappearing) at a loss for how to handle this long dirge-like story, and, to its credit, the program did not flinch from portraying his actual presidency as the total disaster it was. In the end, however, it made a stab in the direction of uplift by portraying his post-presidency as a heart-warming success, the tale of a man who turned defeat in the cruel world of power into a lifetime of unselfish service.

This is the conceit ripped into shreds by Steven F. Hayward in his new book, The Real Jimmy Carter, which maintains that in his current carnation Carter is as wrongheaded and hapless as ever, that he has learned nothing at all from his-tory, and, in his new guise as a globe-trotting statesman, is reprising his role as a bringer of chaos, this time on the stage of the world.

Using a process of selective exclusion, PBS gives Carter credit for hammering away at Habitat for Humanity and raising money to fight diseases in Africa. Hayward concedes this, but then paints a less pleasant picture: Carter the ex-president has been more destructive than Carter the president, and, if possible, still more annoying, undermining later presidents with the ruthless ambition that marked his career.

Carter began, in the contentious post-civil-rights era in the deep South, by beating Carl Sanders in the 1970 race for governor of Georgia, by running as a segregationist, at least by implication: portraying himself as a "redneck" and cultivating the endorsement of Lester Maddox. Once elected, he used his inaugural speech to stun both the state and the nation by declaring that the time for segregation was over, and disowning, in effect, his prior campaign. It may have distressed his original voters (whom he no longer needed), but it was a huge hit with the national press, which may have been his target, and overnight it made him a red-hot political property. Time magazine, which had planned a general story on the new class of southern governors, suddenly came out instead with a story on Carter--with a cover that made him resemble John Kennedy.

continued
 
NeoGuin
 
  1  
Reply Tue 6 Jul, 2004 09:31 am
People are just mad because Carter won an award Bush will never win and has now made very difficult foir any American to win (Unless Noam Chomsky gets hsi due)

The Nobel Peace Prize.

Also, I wonder when Thunder's Mouth Press (<i>The Nations</i> publishing arm) will take aim at St. Ronnie.
0 Replies
 
joefromchicago
 
  0  
Reply Tue 6 Jul, 2004 09:39 am
Re: The Muse of Malaise
Noemie Emery wrote:
This is the conceit ripped into shreds by Steven F. Hayward in his new book, The Real Jimmy Carter, which maintains that in his current carnation Carter is as wrongheaded and hapless as ever...

Carter's "current carnation?" Does this mean that he has forsaken his former forsythia? Or perhaps he has bidden his begonias begone? One may say that Carter wears his heart on his shirtsleeve, but we now know that in his lapel can also be found his current carnation.
0 Replies
 
disenter512
 
  -1  
Reply Sun 11 Jul, 2004 10:24 am
All men mess up rich or poor, with power or without!
Reagen and Carter were both great Presidents: And each had their share of mistakes. Don't feel that you have to point out the wrong in these mens lives. When men die friends, family and fans wish to remember them at their best. Sadly, most leaders don't get this luxury. I doubt Clinton will live down his mess up.
The fact is the GOP loved Reagen and they wanted to remember him at his best. When Clinton is gone he will be remembered by the left for something or another. But since I don't like the guy I will be tempted to remember his faults, the fact is he was the president and had an impact on this Country and my life if I like it or not and for that he deserves respect. I hope you can show that same general respect for the late MR. Reagen!
0 Replies
 
Foxfyre
 
  1  
Reply Sun 11 Jul, 2004 05:46 pm
Jimmy Carter had the mistortune to preside over double digit inflation, sky high interest rates, long lines at gas stations, and an alcoholic brother that insisted on being seen. None of these were his fault of course, but just like all presidents, he's stuck with the blame for what happened on his watch.

His real legacy was a serious decimation of the military--Reagan got hit with the deficits when he had to rebuild it--and a foreign policy in shambles culuminating in the embassy staff being taken hostage in Iran for what - 444 days?

Carter did get Arafat and Israel to talk to each other. So did Clinton. So has Bush. Carter will get the most credit for that. It won't have any long range effect for any of them.

The one thing I'll remember about Carter most was that he was just a really pleasant guy who didn't have a clue how to fix the problems he faced, but who never lost his cool and didn't ever really make anybody mad.

Reagan still makes my heart go pitter pat. He inspired confidence, courage, hope, inspiration, and pride with a few well placed one liners. So much good was accomplished during his eight years, some of which has been grossly misrepresented and some which he will never get credit for. He remains to me the greatest president of my lifetime to date, and I do believe will go down in history as one of the top 10 greatest.
0 Replies
 
NeoGuin
 
  1  
Reply Sun 11 Jul, 2004 08:14 pm
Carter may be one of the few presidents whose accomplishments as a citizen excede what he did in office.

Reagan, as I posted to my 'blog may have succeeding in becoming a "Messaih" to the Right. A person whose can't be shown in a negative light; except by folks like Amy Goldman and Ted Rall.
0 Replies
 
hightor
 
  3  
Reply Wed 10 Nov, 2021 09:13 am
Here's an interesting discussion with two presidential biographers who supply plenty of background details which effectively counter the biased hatchet job by Steven F. Hayward on which the OP bases his opinion:

The Surprising Greatness of Jimmy Carter

Quote:
Jimmy Carter has long been cast as one of America’s least-effective modern presidents—blamed for failing to tame inflation, solve the energy crisis, or free the American hostages in Tehran. His crushing reelection defeat in 1980 sealed the downbeat narrative.

But that negative assessment is beginning to change. Recently, Washington Monthly contributing editor Timothy Noah hosted a conversation between Jonathan Alter and Kai Bird, two journalists who just published major biographies of America’s 39th president. Each approached Carter from a different angle, but both arrived at a similar conclusion: Jimmy Carter is seriously underrated.

Alter and Bird both dispute that Carter was weak or lost in the weeds, as he has so often been portrayed. Carter brought more positive change to the Middle East than any president in the decades before or since; signed more legislation than any post–World War II president except LBJ; and warned of the dangers of climate change before the threat even had a name. Carter’s human rights policy played a huge and largely uncredited role in the collapse of the Soviet Union—more so, perhaps, than any policies enacted by his successor Ronald Reagan.

What follows is an edited transcript. We promise an absorbing and informative read about some recent history that you almost certainly don’t know as well as you think you do—assuming you remember it at all.

(...)



bobsal u1553115
 
  3  
Reply Wed 10 Nov, 2021 09:33 am
@hightor,
Even more important than being a 'great' President, Carter is a good human being.
0 Replies
 
oralloy
 
  -3  
Reply Wed 10 Nov, 2021 09:41 am
@hightor,
Isn't Kai Bird that character who spouted all those falsehoods about Hiroshima and Nagasaki?

Why should we believe anything that he has to say about Mr. Carter?
hightor
 
  3  
Reply Wed 10 Nov, 2021 11:23 am
@oralloy,
Quote:
Why should we believe anything that he has to say about Mr. Carter?
"Should" implies some necessity and that's not a good way to approach a topic like this, as if one were obligated to believe anything. Relax – feel free to draw your own conclusions. Take note of claims by the author and the evidence provided. If you know that purported statements of fact are provably false, that would be justification to "disbelieve". It's possible, however, for opinionated people to agree on facts but come to different conclusions. I really doubt that Mr. Bird would be using any the same arguments when writing about Pres. Carter as he did when commenting about the use of atomic bombs against Japan. Any assessment of plausibility should be based on the rational presentation of facts, and more importantly, the truthfulness of the facts themselves. Concerning Hiroshima and Nagasaki, was it your difference of opinion with Mr. Bird, rather than logical or factual errors in his reasoning, that led you to dismiss, sight unseen, his viewpoint on the Carter presidency?
oralloy
 
  -4  
Reply Thu 11 Nov, 2021 01:08 am
@hightor,
hightor wrote:
Concerning Hiroshima and Nagasaki, was it your difference of opinion with Mr. Bird, rather than logical or factual errors in his reasoning, that led you to dismiss, sight unseen, his viewpoint on the Carter presidency?

I had actually not remembered his exact transgressions. His name just rang warning bells with me.

But now having gone back and reviewed his nonsense, he states a lot of highly malicious half truths that can only be designed to promote falsehoods.

Some of the falsehoods that his half truths promote are:

There were no warning leaflets dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki until after they were nuked.

There was no prediction of a million American soldiers killed (and millions more maimed and wounded) in an invasion of Japan.

Japan was trying to surrender before the atomic bombs were dropped.

More than 95% of the dead at Hiroshima were civilians.

The 1995 Smithsonian exhibit was inaccurate for saying that Hiroshima was a military target.

The atomic bombs were dropped on Japan primarily so that we would not have to share Japanese territory with the Soviets.

Truman was given a list of options, any one of which would make Japan surrender, and Truman could have ended the war without using atomic bombs just by picking a different option from the list.
0 Replies
 
hightor
 
  2  
Reply Thu 23 Feb, 2023 01:48 pm
Jimmy Carter’s ‘malaise’ speech was wise, profound, and four decades too early

David French wrote:
On July 15, 1979, President Jimmy Carter emerged from days of isolation to deliver the most important and memorable address of his life. Carter had canceled vacation plans and spent more than a week cloistered at Camp David, where he met with a “steady stream of visitors” who shared their hopes and fears about a nation in distress, most immediately thanks to another in a series of energy crises.

Carter, however, discerned a deeper problem. America had a wounded heart. The president believed it suffered from a “crisis of the spirit.” The speech was among the most unusual in presidential history. The word that has clung to it, “malaise,” was a word that didn’t even appear in the text. It was offered by his critics and has since become something close to official history. Everyone above a certain age knows immediately and precisely the meaning of the phrase “the malaise speech.”

I believe, by contrast, the best word to describe the speech would have been “pastoral.” A faithful Christian president applied the lessons he’d so plainly learned from years of Bible study and countless hours in church. Don’t look at the surface of a problem. Don’t be afraid to tell hard truths. Be humble, but also call the people to a higher purpose.

The resulting address was heartfelt. It was eloquent. Yet it helped sink his presidency.

Read the speech now, and you’ll see its truth and its depth. But, ironically, it’s an address better suited to our time than to its own. Jimmy Carter’s greatest speech was delivered four decades too soon.

The ostensible purpose of the speech was to address the energy crisis. Anyone who remembers the 1970s remembers gas lines and the helpless feeling that our nation’s prosperity was dependent on foreign oil. Yet that was but one of a seemingly endless parade of American problems.

By 1979, this country had experienced a recent string of traumatic political assassinations, urban riots that dwarfed the summer riots of 2020 in scale and intensity, campus unrest that makes the current controversies over “wokeness” look civil and quaint, the defeat in Vietnam, and the deep political corruption of Richard Nixon. At the same time, inflation rates dwarfed what we experience today.

When he addressed the nation, Carter took a step back. With his trademark understated warmth, he described his own period of reflection. He’d taken the time to listen to others, he shared what he heard, and then he spoke words that resonate today. “The symptoms of this crisis of the American spirit are all around us,” he said, and he described symptoms that mirror our current reality.

“For the first time in the history of our country a majority of our people believe that the next five years will be worse than the past five years,” Carter said. (Meanwhile, last year a record 58 percent of Americans told NBC News pollsters that our nation’s best years are behind it.)

There was more. “As you know,” he told viewers, “there is a growing disrespect for government and for churches and for schools, the news media, and other institutions.” He was right, but compared to now, Americans were far more respectful of virtually every major institution, from the government, to the news media, to the private sector. Only the military fares better now in the eyes of the public.

Then there was this gut-punch paragraph:

- We were sure that ours was a nation of the ballot, not the bullet, until the murders of John Kennedy and Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. We were taught that our armies were always invincible and our causes were always just, only to suffer the agony of Vietnam. We respected the presidency as a place of honor until the shock of Watergate.

When we read these words after the contemporary onslaught of mass shootings, the anguish of the Afghanistan withdrawal, and the turmoil of two Trump impeachments, you can again see the parallels today.

We’re familiar with political speeches that recite the litany of American challenges, but we’re not familiar with speeches that ask the American people to reflect on their own role in a national crisis. Carter called for his audience to look in the mirror:

- In a nation that was proud of hard work, strong families, close-knit communities, and our faith in God, too many of us now tend to worship self-indulgence and consumption. Human identity is no longer defined by what one does, but by what one owns.

There is a tremendous amount of truth packed into those words. But there was a problem: Carter correctly described a country of mutual, interlocking responsibilities between the government and the people. Yet he was ultimately unable to deliver the results that matched his pastoral message.

For all the scorn heaped on Carter later, the speech was successful, at first. His approval rating shot up a remarkable 11 points. Then came chaos — some of it Carter’s fault, some of it not. Days after the speech, he demanded the resignation of his entire cabinet. (He ultimately fired five.) It was a move that communicated confusion more than conviction.

Then the world erupted. In November, Iranian militants stormed the U.S. Embassy and took dozens of Americans hostage. In December, the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan and at least appeared to secure the country quickly and easily. Contrary to popular remembrance, Carter did not respond with weakness. The defense buildup for which Ronald Reagan is remembered actually began under Carter. And in April 1980, he greenlit a daring attempt to fly into the heart of Iran and rescue American hostages by force.

It was not to be. Mechanical problems scrubbed the mission far from Tehran, and in the confusion of the withdrawal, two aircraft collided, and eight American servicemembers died. American gloom deepened. The nation seemed to be moving from defeat to defeat.

The failed rescue was a hinge moment in history. It’s hard to imagine the morale boost had it succeeded, and we know the crushing disappointment when it failed. Had the Army’s Delta Force paraded down New York’s “Canyon of Heroes” with the liberated hostages, it would have probably transformed the public’s perception of the president. But just as presidents own military victories, they also own defeats. Carter’s fate was sealed. Reagan carried 44 states, and on Inauguration Day — in a final insult by Tehran — the hostages came home.

The story of the next 10 years, moreover, cast Carter’s address in a different light. The nation went from defeat to victory: Inflation broke, the economy roared, and in 1991 the same military that was humiliated in the sands of Iran triumphed, with assistance from its allies, over an immense Iraqi Army in a 100-hour land war that astonished the world.

The history was written. Carter was wrong. There wasn’t a crisis of confidence. There was no malaise. There was instead a failure of leadership. Better, or at least luckier, leaders revived a broken nation.

Yet with every passing year, the deeper truths of Carter’s speech become more apparent. His insights become more salient. A speech that couldn’t precisely diagnose the maladies of 1979 more accurately describes the challenges of 2023. The trends he saw emerging two generations ago now bear their poisonous fruit in our body politic.

Carter’s central insight was that even if the country’s political branches could deliver peace and prosperity, they could not deliver community and belonging. Our nation depends on pre-political commitments to each other, and in the absence of those pre-political commitments, the American experiment is ultimately in jeopardy.

In 1979, Carter spoke of our civil liberties as secure. They’re more secure now. A generation of Supreme Court case law has expanded our rights to free speech and religious liberty beyond the bounds of precedent. In 1979, Carter said that the United States possessed “unmatched economic power and military might.” That assertion may have rung hollow to a nation facing a Soviet Union that seemed to be at the peak of its power. But it’s unquestionably true today.

We’re free, prosperous and strong to a degree we couldn’t imagine then. Yet we’re tearing each other apart now. The words that didn’t quite capture the moment in 1979 land quite differently today:

- We are at a turning point in our history. There are two paths to choose. One is a path I’ve warned about tonight, the path that leads to fragmentation and self-interest. Down that road lies a mistaken idea of freedom, the right to grasp for ourselves some advantage over others. That path would be one of constant conflict between narrow interests ending in chaos and immobility.

With these words, Carter raised the question, what is our freedom for, exactly? While we want to better ourselves and our families, we cannot become self-regarding. We have obligations to each other. We have obligations to our community. The best exercise of freedom is in service to others.

Yet one of the stories of our time is the abuse of liberty, including the use of our freedoms — whether it’s to boycott, condemn or shame — to try to narrow the marketplace of ideas, to deprive dissenters of their reputations and their livelihoods. A porn-saturated culture luxuriates in its own decadence and exploitation, and then wonders why hearts break and families fail. And as Carter noted, our huge wealth cannot heal the holes in our hearts, because “consuming things does not satisfy our longing for meaning. We’ve learned that piling up material goods cannot fill the emptiness of lives which have no confidence or purpose.”

At the start of this piece, I used the word “pastoral” to describe Carter’s speech. But there’s another word: prophetic. His words were not the clarion call necessary for his time, but they are words for this time. As Jimmy Carter spends his last days on this earth, we should remember his call for community, and thank a very good man for living his values, serving his neighbors, and reminding us of the true source of strength for the nation he loved.

nyt
0 Replies
 
hightor
 
  3  
Reply Sat 18 Mar, 2023 02:39 pm
A Clandestine Trip and a Four-Decade Secret: An Untold Story Behind Jimmy Carter’s Defeat

Nearly 43 years later, a prominent Texas politician said he was an unwitting part of a mission to sabotage President Carter’s campaign.

Quote:
WASHINGTON — It has been more than four decades, but Ben Barnes said he remembers it vividly. His longtime political mentor invited him on a mission to the Middle East. What Mr. Barnes said he did not realize until later was the real purpose of the mission: to sabotage the re-election campaign of the president of the United States.

It was 1980 and Jimmy Carter was in the White House, bedeviled by a hostage crisis in Iran that had paralyzed his presidency and hampered his effort to win a second term. Mr. Carter’s best chance for victory was to free the 52 Americans held captive before Election Day. That was something that Mr. Barnes said his mentor was determined to prevent.

His mentor was John B. Connally Jr., a titan of American politics and former Texas governor who had served three presidents and just lost his own bid for the White House. A former Democrat, Mr. Connally had sought the Republican nomination in 1980 only to be swamped by former Gov. Ronald Reagan of California. Now Mr. Connally resolved to help Mr. Reagan beat Mr. Carter and in the process, Mr. Barnes said, make his own case for becoming secretary of state or defense in a new administration.

What happened next Mr. Barnes has largely kept secret for nearly 43 years. Mr. Connally, he said, took him to one Middle Eastern capital after another that summer, meeting with a host of regional leaders to deliver a blunt message to be passed to Iran: Don’t release the hostages before the election. Mr. Reagan will win and give you a better deal.

Then shortly after returning home, Mr. Barnes said, Mr. Connally reported to William J. Casey, the chairman of Mr. Reagan’s campaign and later director of the Central Intelligence Agency, briefing him about the trip in an airport lounge.

Mr. Carter’s camp has long suspected that Mr. Casey or someone else in Mr. Reagan’s orbit sought to secretly torpedo efforts to liberate the hostages before the election, and books have been written on what came to be called the October surprise. But congressional investigations debunked previous theories of what happened.

Mr. Connally did not figure in those investigations. His involvement, as described by Mr. Barnes, adds a new understanding to what may have happened in that hard-fought, pivotal election year. With Mr. Carter now 98 and in hospice care, Mr. Barnes said he felt compelled to come forward to correct the record.

“History needs to know that this happened,” Mr. Barnes, who turns 85 next month, said in one of several interviews, his first with a news organization about the episode. “I think it’s so significant and I guess knowing that the end is near for President Carter put it on my mind more and more and more. I just feel like we’ve got to get it down some way.”

Mr. Barnes is no shady foreign arms dealer with questionable credibility, like some of the characters who fueled previous iterations of the October surprise theory. He was once one of the most prominent figures in Texas, the youngest speaker of the Texas House of Representatives and later lieutenant governor. He was such an influential figure that he helped a young George W. Bush get into the Texas Air National Guard rather than be exposed to the draft and sent to Vietnam. Lyndon B. Johnson predicted that Mr. Barnes would become president someday.

Confirming Mr. Barnes’s account is problematic after so much time. Mr. Connally, Mr. Casey and other central figures have long since died and Mr. Barnes has no diaries or memos to corroborate his account. But he has no obvious reason to make up the story and indeed expressed trepidation at going public because of the reaction of fellow Democrats.

Mr. Barnes identified four living people he said he had confided in over the years: Mark K. Updegrove, president of the L.B.J. Foundation; Tom Johnson, a former aide to Lyndon Johnson (no relation) who later became publisher of the Los Angeles Times and president of CNN; Larry Temple, a former aide to Mr. Connally and Lyndon Johnson; and H.W. Brands, a University of Texas historian.

All four of them confirmed in recent days that Mr. Barnes shared the story with them years ago. “As far as I know, Ben never has lied to me,” Tom Johnson said, a sentiment the others echoed. Mr. Brands included three paragraphs about Mr. Barnes’s recollections in a 2015 biography of Mr. Reagan, but the account generated little public notice at the time.

Records at the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum confirm part of Mr. Barnes’s story. An itinerary found this past week in Mr. Connally’s files indicated that he did, in fact, leave Houston on July 18, 1980, for a trip that would take him to Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Israel before returning to Houston on Aug. 11. Mr. Barnes was listed as accompanying him.

Brief news accounts at the time reported on some of Mr. Connally’s stops with scant detail, describing the trip as “strictly private.” An intriguing note in Mr. Connally’s file confirms Mr. Barnes’s memory that there was contact with the Reagan camp early in the trip. Under the heading “Governor Reagan,” a note from an assistant reported to Mr. Connally on July 21: “Nancy Reagan called — they are at Ranch he wants to talk to you about being in on strategy meetings.” There was no record of his response.

Mr. Barnes recalled joining Mr. Connally in early September to sit down with Mr. Casey to report on their trip during a three-hour meeting in the American Airlines lounge at what was then called the Dallas/Fort Worth Regional Airport. An entry in Mr. Connally’s calendar found this past week showed that he traveled to Dallas on Sept. 10. A search of Mr. Casey’s archives at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University turned up no documents indicating whether he was in Dallas then or not.

Mr. Barnes said he was certain the point of Mr. Connally’s trip was to get a message to the Iranians to hold the hostages until after the election. “I’ll go to my grave believing that it was the purpose of the trip,” he said. “It wasn’t freelancing because Casey was so interested in hearing as soon as we got back to the United States.” Mr. Casey, he added, wanted to know whether “they were going to hold the hostages.”

None of that establishes whether Mr. Reagan knew about the trip, nor could Mr. Barnes say that Mr. Casey directed Mr. Connally to take the journey. Likewise, he does not know if the message transmitted to multiple Middle Eastern leaders got to the Iranians, much less whether it influenced their decision making. But Iran did hold the hostages until after the election, which Mr. Reagan won, and did not release them until minutes after noon on Jan. 20, 1981, when Mr. Carter left office.

Mr. Barnes identified four living people he said he had confided in over the years: Mark K. Updegrove, president of the L.B.J. Foundation; Tom Johnson, a former aide to Lyndon Johnson (no relation) who later became publisher of the Los Angeles Times and president of CNN; Larry Temple, a former aide to Mr. Connally and Lyndon Johnson; and H.W. Brands, a University of Texas historian.

All four of them confirmed in recent days that Mr. Barnes shared the story with them years ago. “As far as I know, Ben never has lied to me,” Tom Johnson said, a sentiment the others echoed. Mr. Brands included three paragraphs about Mr. Barnes’s recollections in a 2015 biography of Mr. Reagan, but the account generated little public notice at the time.

Records at the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum confirm part of Mr. Barnes’s story. An itinerary found this past week in Mr. Connally’s files indicated that he did, in fact, leave Houston on July 18, 1980, for a trip that would take him to Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Israel before returning to Houston on Aug. 11. Mr. Barnes was listed as accompanying him.

Brief news accounts at the time reported on some of Mr. Connally’s stops with scant detail, describing the trip as “strictly private.” An intriguing note in Mr. Connally’s file confirms Mr. Barnes’s memory that there was contact with the Reagan camp early in the trip. Under the heading “Governor Reagan,” a note from an assistant reported to Mr. Connally on July 21: “Nancy Reagan called — they are at Ranch he wants to talk to you about being in on strategy meetings.” There was no record of his response.

Mr. Barnes recalled joining Mr. Connally in early September to sit down with Mr. Casey to report on their trip during a three-hour meeting in the American Airlines lounge at what was then called the Dallas/Fort Worth Regional Airport. An entry in Mr. Connally’s calendar found this past week showed that he traveled to Dallas on Sept. 10. A search of Mr. Casey’s archives at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University turned up no documents indicating whether he was in Dallas then or not.

Mr. Barnes said he was certain the point of Mr. Connally’s trip was to get a message to the Iranians to hold the hostages until after the election. “I’ll go to my grave believing that it was the purpose of the trip,” he said. “It wasn’t freelancing because Casey was so interested in hearing as soon as we got back to the United States.” Mr. Casey, he added, wanted to know whether “they were going to hold the hostages.”

None of that establishes whether Mr. Reagan knew about the trip, nor could Mr. Barnes say that Mr. Casey directed Mr. Connally to take the journey. Likewise, he does not know if the message transmitted to multiple Middle Eastern leaders got to the Iranians, much less whether it influenced their decision making. But Iran did hold the hostages until after the election, which Mr. Reagan won, and did not release them until minutes after noon on Jan. 20, 1981, when Mr. Carter left office.

The House and Senate separately authorized investigations and both ultimately rejected the claims. The bipartisan House task force, led by a Democrat, Representative Lee H. Hamilton of Indiana, and controlled by Democrats 8 to 5, concluded in a consensus 968-page report that Mr. Casey was not in Madrid at the time and that stories of covert dealings were not backed by credible testimony, documents or intelligence reports.

Reached by telephone this past week, Mr. Sick said he never heard of any involvement by Mr. Connally but saw Mr. Barnes’s account as verifying the broad concerns he had raised. “This is really very interesting and it really does add significantly to the base level of information on this,” Mr. Sick said. “Just the fact that he was doing it and debriefed Casey when he got back means a lot.” The story goes “further than anything that I’ve seen thus far,” he added. “So this is really new.”

Michael F. Zeldin, a Democratic lawyer for the task force, and David H. Laufman, a Republican lawyer for the task force, both said in recent interviews that Mr. Connally never crossed their radar screen during the inquiry and so they had no basis to judge Mr. Barnes’s account.

While Mr. Casey was never proved to have been engaged in any October surprise deal-making, he was later accused of surreptitiously obtaining a Carter campaign briefing book before the lone debate between the two candidates, although he denied involvement.

News of Mr. Barnes’s account came as validation to some of Mr. Carter’s remaining advisers. Gerald Rafshoon, who was his White House communications director, said any interference may have changed history. “If we had gotten the hostages home, we’d have won, I really believe that,” he said. “It’s pretty damn outrageous.”

Mr. Connally was a political giant of his era. Raised on a South Texas cotton farm, he served in the Navy in World War II and became a confidant of Lyndon B. Johnson, helping run five of his campaigns, including his disputed 1948 election to the Senate that was marred by credible allegations of fraud. Mr. Connally managed Mr. Johnson’s unsuccessful bid for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1960, then worked for the ticket of John F. Kennedy and Mr. Johnson. Mr. Connally was rewarded with an appointment as secretary of the Navy. He then won a race for governor of Texas in 1962.

He was in the presidential limousine sitting just in front of Mr. Kennedy in Dallas in November 1963 when Lee Harvey Oswald opened fire. Mr. Connally suffered injuries to his back, chest, wrist and thigh, but unlike Mr. Kennedy survived the ordeal. He won two more terms as governor, then became President Richard M. Nixon’s secretary of the Treasury and ultimately switched parties. He was a favorite of Mr. Nixon, who wanted to make him his vice president or successor as president.

Mr. Connally was indicted on charges of perjury and conspiracy to obstruct justice in 1974, accused by prosecutors of taking $10,000 to support a milk price increase, but acquitted by a jury.

Along the way, Mr. Connally found a political protégé in Mr. Barnes, who became “more a godson than a friend,” as James Reston Jr. put it in “The Lone Star,” his biography of Mr. Connally. The son of a peanut farmer who paid for college selling vacuum cleaners door to door, Mr. Barnes was elected to the Texas Legislature at age 21 and stood at Mr. Connally’s side for his first speech as a candidate for governor in 1962.

With Mr. Connally’s help, Mr. Barnes became House speaker at 26 and was later elected lieutenant governor, a powerful position in Texas, only to fall short in his own bid for governor in 1972. He urged Mr. Connally to run for president in 1980 even though by then they were in different parties.

After Mr. Connally’s campaign collapsed, he and Mr. Barnes went into business together, forming Barnes/Connally Investments. The two built apartment complexes, shopping centers and office buildings, and bought a commuter airline and an oil company, and later a barbecue house, a Western art magazine, a title company and an advertising company. But they overextended themselves, took on too much debt and, after falling oil prices shattered the Texas real estate market, filed for bankruptcy in 1987.

The two stayed on good terms. “In spite of the disillusionment of our business arrangements, Ben Barnes and I remain friends, although I doubt that either of us would go back into business with the other,” Mr. Connally wrote in his memoir, In History’s Shadow,” shortly before dying in 1993 at age 76. Mr. Barnes, for his part, said this past week that “I remain a great fan of him.”

Mr. Barnes said he had no idea of the purpose of the Middle East trip when Mr. Connally invited him. They traveled to the region on a Gulfstream jet owned by Superior Oil. Only when they sat down with the first Arab leader did Mr. Barnes learn what Mr. Connally was up to, he said.

Mr. Connally said, “‘Look, Ronald Reagan’s going to be elected president and you need to get the word to Iran that they’re going to make a better deal with Reagan than they are Carter,’” Mr. Barnes recalled. “He said, ‘It would be very smart for you to pass the word to the Iranians to wait until after this general election is over.’ And boy, I tell you, I’m sitting there and I heard it and so now it dawns on me, I realize why we’re there.”

Mr. Barnes said that, except for Israel, Mr. Connally repeated the same message at every stop in the region to leaders such as President Anwar el-Sadat of Egypt. He thought his friend’s motive was clear. “It became very clear to me that Connally was running for secretary of state or secretary of defense,” Mr. Barnes said. (Mr. Connally was later offered energy secretary but declined.)

Mr. Barnes said he did not reveal the real story at the time to avoid blowback from his own party. “I don’t want to look like Benedict Arnold to the Democratic Party by participating in this,” he recalled explaining to a friend. The headlines at the time, he imagined, would have been scandalous. “I did not want that to be on my obituary at all.”

But as the years have passed, he said, he has often thought an injustice had been done to Mr. Carter. Discussing the trip now, he indicated, was his way of making amends. “I just want history to reflect that Carter got a little bit of a bad deal about the hostages,” he said. “He didn’t have a fighting chance with those hostages still in the embassy in Iran.”

nyt
0 Replies
 
 

Related Topics

Obama '08? - Discussion by sozobe
Let's get rid of the Electoral College - Discussion by Robert Gentel
McCain's VP: - Discussion by Cycloptichorn
Food Stamp Turkeys - Discussion by H2O MAN
The 2008 Democrat Convention - Discussion by Lash
McCain is blowing his election chances. - Discussion by McGentrix
Snowdon is a dummy - Discussion by cicerone imposter
TEA PARTY TO AMERICA: NOW WHAT?! - Discussion by farmerman
 
  1. Forums
  2. » The Muse of Malaise
Copyright © 2024 MadLab, LLC :: Terms of Service :: Privacy Policy :: Page generated in 0.03 seconds on 07/23/2024 at 09:41:29