Sunday Gazette-Mail from Charleston, West Virginia on June 13, 1976 · Page 59
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June 13, 1976

Sunday Gazette-Mail from Charleston, West Virginia · Page 59

Charleston, West Virginia
Issue Date:
Sunday, June 13, 1976
Page 59
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Page 59 article text (OCR)

This was the u-eek the voters of Ohio and .\eu Jersey put the final crucial weights to the scales, and the amorphous opposition to Jimmy Carter evaporated. By all the .signs, the Democrats had themselves a candidate for president but what, precisely, did they have? Here is an unusual portrait, textured in detail, of the man icho, 17 months ago. came as a stranger. By Saul Pelt The .4s!t(ici(ittd Clearly, he is the most infuriating candidate for president in years. He came out of nowhere and now. 17 months later, stands at the brink of the Democratic nomination. George McGovern did the same thing four years ago but McGovern had an issue called Vietnam. Issues today, however, are as shapeless as the electorate. Ergo, it must be the personality of Jimmy Carter, but what is that? He is not easily understood and he is impossible to pigeonhole. He is a white farmer from Georgia, who wins black votes north and south, a man whose father couldn't abide racial integration, whose mother could and did. loudly and publicly. He is a product of a tiny, claustrophobic town, with a single one-block business street reminiscent of "The Last Picture Show." but a man. still, of outrageously varied tastes, a quoter of Reinhold Niebuhr. a lover of gentle poetry and country rock, who sometimes uses words like "optimize" and. God help us "prioritize." »· HE IS A POLITICIAN with the temerity, or the naivete, to say "I will never lie" to a country at the nadir of its trust. He is a highly intelligent man sophisticated in the ways of politics and image-making who says, nonetheless, when asked, that he was "born again in Christ." He is a Southerner, who may at last bury Appomattox. an intellectual, a liberal in many things, which makes him. according to one nasty view of Dixie, a minority within a minority within a minority. He is the son of a compelling woman, who joined the Peace Corps at the age of 67 and. if there is a Carter administration, will prove the freshest breeze to hit Washington since Alice Longworth took up residence. He is a deeply religious Baptist, who still teaches Sunday school with shoulder-holstered Secret Service men in attendance, a Baptist whose beer-drinking brother goes to church only under forced draft, whose sister is an evangelist and faith-healer with a masters degree in psychology, whose second sister paints, rides a motorcycle and moves about with a free spirit in Plains. Ga.. population 648. He is a bland campaigner, a soft-sell moralist, the kind of engaging Fuller brush man you might let in the front door, maybe even for coffee. Gently but repeatedly, he tells us that neither Vietnam nor Watergate was the fault of we, the people. He comes in like a friendly young doctor, making, of all things, a house call: he smiles, he chats, he does not burden us with complicated thought and leaves the household reassured that the illness is not terminal. HE IS A CANDIDATE for president who says we live in an unjust society, whose first priority on election would be the managerial aspects of the presidency. He is a candidate who remains, after 17 months of intensive campaigning and hordes of reporters pursuing him with a lie detector in one hand and a Rorschach test in the other, a man who remains evidently confident, quiet and serene at the core. He is, therefore, unlike you or me or the myriad analysts analyzing him. and perhaps that is his worse affront. James Earl Carter Jr., insists on being called Jimmy, which is a misleading invitation to intimacy. He is not. off the platform, a man who invites t h a t . He is charming, courteous, attentive and responsive but there is a circle within that remains curtained. Time magazine concluded there was "something unknowable about him: an inner man that is not revealed and may never be revealed." That may or may not be special. To this day. after reading all the experts from Harry Hopkins to Eleanor Roosevelt, we do not know what Franklin Roosevelt was "really like, inside, down deep." Perhaps we are left with the fact that there is something unknowable about many people, most especially people with the drive and hunger it takes to run the inhuman obstacle course to the White House. They frequently surprise us. Who would have thought that Herbert Hoover, the great h u m a n i t a r i a n who fed Europe, would not. as president, see fit to feed his hungry countrymen? Who could have guessed that Harry Truman, former haberdasher, who shook visibly at the thought of replacing Roosevelt, would prove one of the boldest presidents in history? Who would have dared predict it would be Richard Nixon who would reopen the door to Communist China? In any case, people who find mystery in Jimmy Carter mystify him. He does not shrink" from shrink-type questions and. to a recent interviewer who apologized for trying to probe the inner man. he said. The Challenger Stands in Front oi' the Prize Jimmy Carter Is "Going to Like Living" in White House "help yourself." Or was it "hep yourself".' ' · "I AM VERY CAREFUL about what I say." he said, pale blue eyes roaming the New Jersey landscape during a campaign swing. "And I try to tell exactly what I think and I haven't tried to withhold anything. "Those who understand the South would understand a major portion of me. Those who understand a farm boy or a Plains Georgian would understand a major portion about me. Those who understand the Baptist faith would understand a lot about me." "You don't regard yourself as particularly complicated?" "No. I really don't. But I do have people come up to me and say I don't understand how you can like classical music and Dylan Thomas and Reinhold N e i b u h r and also Bob Dylan, the Allman Brothers, the Marshall Tucker band and Charlie Daniels. I can't explain why I like different kinds of music or different kinds of literature or why I memorize certain poems and don't memorize others. I can't explain it but that doesn't make my mysterious." "Is there any part of the presidency that awes or frightens you?" "No. 1 don't think so. The complexity of it is something that I recognize, and that appeals to my interest in organizing meticulous things, in long-range p l a n n i n g , coordination and management. I guess that comes from an engineering and scientific background. »· "I ENJOYED EVERY DAY of being governor. When we drove away from the governor's mansion after a very combative, innovative and controversial administration. I told Rosalynn (his wifei how I never did get up a single morning in four years that I didn't look forward to getting to the office. It was an exciting and challenging experience for me. "I may be too much inclined to extrapolate that experience into the White House. I recognize that the order of magnitude of the responsibilities are much greater. But I don't look forward to it with any trepidation or fear or doubt." "You appear to be a man with few regrets about anything. True?" Jimmy Carter laughed. "I don't know about thaU I'm a fairly methodical person. I have a fairly well es- tablished sense of peace with myself. If I do my best and fail I don't have any regrets. When 1 fail because I made a personal mistake or didn't make an adequate effort then I do have regrets." "You appear to be a man thoroughly prepared for victory." "I'll be prepared for either victory or defeat. I think the most pressing need for me right now is to prepare for victory." "But are you prepared emotionally for defeat?" "Yes. sir." "After all this effort?" "I was before I began thecamapign. and I still am. 1 don't intend to lose. If I should, I could accept, it. It would not be a bad life to spend the rest of my days in Plains." "Have you ever been sorry you said, Til never tell a lie.' "? Quickly. "No. I've been surprised thai it arouses any interest . . . I never thought about it being controversial, and I don't have any regrets. No. There's been a great scurrying around,trying to go back to 1960. 19GI. when I first got involved in politics, to look up old clippings to see il I still say the same things now that I did 15 years ago. And I've emerged fairly well unscathed. I think." »· DOWN IN PLAINS, GA., the lady known thereabouts as Miss Lillian, who is now 711. enjoys the full prerogative of her age, candor. Dressed in a blue p a n t s suit and sneakers, settled into a high back chair, she leveled big round eyes at a visitor and allowed as how she wished her son had never said, "I'll never toll a Ho." "He doesn't lie. II just wasn't necessary tn say it. That's self-evident and .self-serving. It's your deeds that count, not words It's l i k e saying over and over. ' I ' m a Christian. I'm a Christian.' That. loo. is self-evident." Her son's no-lie: proclamation set off a reaction which may say as much about our times as it docs about him. Almost nobody, it seems, is ready to believe that anybody never lies. Jody Powell. Carter's press secretary, insists the general public was not disturbed but concedes that "for other politicians and the media it was like throwing a snake in their laps." Watergate behind them, reporters began digging furiously. As of this writing, it seems fair to say that nobody has yet found anything with which to hang Carter. It also seems fair to sav. on the evidence. L.T. Anderson New, Chastened 'Bad Guy' When John Ehrlichman testified before Sam Ervin's Watergate committee, he bared his teeth in a smile that was very close to a snarl, and turned a million viewers against him before they heard what he had to say. There is a new and chastened Ehrlichman now. News pictures never show the celebrated snarl-smile, and his comments amount to a low key admission that there was a great deal wrong with the Nixon administration. One shouldn't forget that Ehrlichman. like most of the other Bad Guys, has written a book. His publisher may have told him to lay off hostility until the money is in the bank. I tend to believe, however, that he is resigned to the facts. EHRLICHMAN WENT the almost unlimited hangout route last week when he was allowed to plug his novel, The Company, in a New York interview doubtless arranged by his literary agent. The book got generally good reviews. It is a roman a clef in which "President Richard Moncton" is Richard Nixon and "Carl Tessler." a nationaisecurity, is Henry Kissinger. So far, 1 have avoided reading any'fef the books produced by the Nixon gang for the pur- pose of defraying legal expenses. I would prefer giving my contribution directly to Rabbi Korff. Anyway, in the book-plugging interview, Ehrlichman was asked several questions aboU life in the Nixon White House, and some of his comment ought to go into the record. Ehrlichman said he was at first offended by Nixon's incredible vulgarity of speech, but got used to it. "It wasn't just profanity with him. but a form of psychic reinforcement." That's pretty much what 'the Rev. Billy Graham said of the man who said he was appalled by Harry Truman's cussing. Ehrlichman isn't sure Nixon is as anti-Semitic as the White House tapes suggest he is. He was "antieverything." Ehrlichman said. The former president engaged in such ethnic characterizations as "Jews are dishonest Shylocks," "Blacks are intellectually inferior," and "Polacks are dumb." But Ehrlichman said he couldn't be sure Nixon actually believed what he said. *· WHAT ABOUT AGNEW? Ehrlichman's comment doesn't support Spu-o Agnew's recently mounted crusade to estab*- 1 '. that he is innocent of all charges except one involving income tax evasion. Ehrlichman said he was "stupid" about Agnew. overlooking the significance of ai Agnew aide's instruction to the General Services A d m i n i s t r a t i o n to make sure any contract awards for the state of M a r y l a n d he routed through the vice presidential office. Ehrlichman, who was close enough to Nixon to know more about him than Carl Bernstein and Robert Woodward could ever learn, should have written a cruelly honest nonfiction book about his years in the Nixon White House. Edgar Allan Poe said many persons could make their fortunes if they are willing, at middleage, lo sit down and write autobiographies which omit no vile details. Whatever we may think of John Ehrlichman, Ihe language owes him honor for the colorful image-"Let him hang there, twisting slowly, slowly in the wind." It was said of Pat Gray, briefly head of the FBI and something of a boob, who destroyed evidence of a crime. Even if he hadn't made a fine contribution to the language I would prefer Ehrlichman to certain other Watergate figures, notably Charles Colson. When scoundrels find God, they should have tiie grar^lo do it quietly. Ehrlichmin. at least, hasn't roped God in on anything. that he has not been above coaxing, pushing or. al least, nudging the facts. The record fails to document the savings which Carter claims he made as governor of Georgia through reorganization; opinion is divided among state officials over the efficiency il brought; and the question of whether he reduced the number of state agencies f r o m liOO to 22, as he claims, seems lost in the fuzz of who's doing the counting and by what definition. In any case, the a r g u m e n t over his claims tends to mute the fact that many people in Georgia think J i m m y Carter gave them an honest, progressive administration, free of corruption, distinguished in its appointments, enlightened in its social programs, and effective in its environmental and consumer acts. »· PEOPLE IN GEORGIA w i l l tell you that the first lime out. in Iffifi, he ran for governor as a liberal and lost: the second time, in li)7(), he ran as n candidate who tended to attract considerable conserva- t i v e support and won. On e l e c t i o n , he proved to be a l i b e r a l governor, which some Georgians took lo be an act of courage, others, an act of betrayal. Throughout, lie was an activist, a stubborn, tenacious lighting governor who left a trail nf lovers and haters. He was also the man who rose at his inaugural in the capital Sherman burned and declared, "i say to you quite frankly that the time lor racial discrimination is over." ami he began appointing blacks to important positions and lie saw to it that a portrait nf a Georgian named Martin Luther King was hung in the statehouse. "How would you describe Jimmy Carter to other psychiatrists'" The q u e s t i o n was put to Dr. I'eter Bourne, a nonpracticing psychiatrist, who worked for Gov. Carter in a state drug program and remains a close friend and part of his inner circle of advisers Bourne declined to supply a clinical picture but said: "Ho is hard to get to know. He is not given to srn;:ll t a l k , or having a beer with the boys or a n y t h i n g f r i v o l o u s He has immense inner strength and self-discipline. He can take tremendous stress and his single-mindedness is unbelievable." At the age of 5, James Earl Carter Jr., decided he wanted to go lo Annapolis. At 18. he went. At 29. a young nuclear submarine officer who used to talk seriously about becoming chief of naval operations (light years away), he went home on the death of his father and took over the family peanut farm. He plunged into studies of modern agriculture, expanded the opera- , (ion to include warehousing and fertilizer and b u i l t it all up i n t o a m i l l i o n - d o l l a r business. He was elected to the state senate in 1962 and 1964. In 1966. at 7:30 of the morning after he lost his first try for governor, he sought out the support of a state legislator for the next, gubernatorial election four years hence. A month after that he started campaigning and never stopped. No audience was too small for the hands h a k i n g Carter and his w i f e - barbershops, beauty parlors, restaurants, stores, gas stations, as well as churches, black and white, civic groups, football crowds, livestock and tobacco sale barns. No radio or TV station was too small. If anybody needed a last-minute replacement on a talk show, there was Jimmy Carter in the doorway, smiling and ready. In a l l . he- made 1,800 speeches and with his wife shook the hands of more than 600,000 people, which was half the state electorate and a helluva lot of hands. »· S O M E W H E R E IN 1972, h a l f w a y through his one term as governor, he began to have a notion. By this time he had met Richard Nixon, Edward Kennedy, Hubert Humphrey, Ed Muskie, Henry Jackson, George McGovern and George Wallace, This led to a discovery. "Hugh," he told a cousin, "you know thwy're just like you and me." He lost his awe of the office, the man in it and the others buzzing around it. Why .Sij»/f/rty (ia/r urrent A \ f fairs sfmi, \\ cst I'irgiuia -- J u n e 13. 1 ( )76 not Jimmy Carter? One day in the governor's mansion, harcfnot in blue jeans and a T-shirt alter a lennis match, he talked with Miss Lillian. "Jimmy, whal are you guing In do when your lerm is up?" "I'm going lo run for president." "President of whal?" "President nf the United Slates, and I am going lo win." J i m m y Carter, his mother sa.w. was never lacking in confidence. With a small group of slratugi.'jlwfft laid mcliniltuisly detailed planXffe studied the presidency, tlicjwrtfigraphic makeup, pasl voting reconfs and major inlerests ol every cine of the 4,')ii congressional dis- (riets. lie studied the campaign platform of every man who had ever run for president, win or lose. He announced his candidacy in December. 1974, exciting a yawn from coast to coast. In j u s l the f i r s t e i g h t m o n t h s nl 197!j, he visited more than hall the slates, some several times, talking, listening, shaking hands, a happy Willy Lornan introducing himself to the territory, massaging potential campaign workers, cozying up to potential contributors, milking the media wherever possible. He ran in .'iO ol the !!1 p r i m a r i e s , won 17. and traversed the whole incredible g a m u t from J i m m y Who? to Stop Carter to Nobody Can Stop drier. How he did it is anybody's guess. One explanation is his slow, patient, exhaustive campaign of saturation. Another is this one by James Reston nl The New York Times: "The struggle between belief and unbelief has been going on in America for a very long time. The old faith may have been destroyed but the longing for f a i t h remains. Kven in Mr. Lincoln's day. he felt that we were 'bereft of laith but terrified of.skepticism.' " One is left with a kaleidoscope of images from the life and time:; of Jirnmy Carter. His favorite verse from Bob Dylan: Hey, hey, Woody Guthrie, I wrote you a song 'Bout a funny nl' world that's a-comirf along. Seems sick an' it's hungry, it s tired and it's torn, It looks like it's a-dyin' an' it's hardly been born. Miss Lillian frowned at the reporter's question. "No. I never said that he 'is a beautiful cat with very sharp claws.' But I don't disagree with the thought. He looks so soft and kindly until you hit the steel. If he's really angry he does have sharp claws." As a young state senator, Carter defied the stereotype of the American politician. At the end of a day, he and two other senators used to gather in an Atlanta hotel room and over a drink did not talk about politics or women but listened to a record- ing-^-f Dylan Thomas reding his pocty. (Please turn to Page 4E)

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