Who would every have thought that the two gentlemen circled around the stereo with us, playing Allman Brothers and Lynyrd Skynyrd albums, would become President and Vice President of the United States?
Where have the years gone? It seems like only a few years ago that we were seated a circle of logs around a campfire at Unicoi State Park. Hamilton Jordan, the governor’s executive secretary, was on my right. About six feet further was the governor, Jimmy Carter.
The previous spring, Jimmy and Ham had selected what they thought to be the cream of Georgia college students to be Jimmy’s first student interns – the state’s future leaders. At the end of the summer Jimmy invited us to a weekend retreat in the Georgia Mountains, where he would tap our youthful idealism to create goals for the state in the 21st century. What would the United States be like in the year 2000?
We got almost everything wrong. We envisioned racial discord to be a thing of the past. There would be a permanent NASA base on the moon. People would be driving electric cars and the United States would be energy independent due to solar and wind power, plus more efficient drilling of oil wells within nation’s territorial boundaries. We did not anticipate the personal computer, the internet or the cellular phone. However, we did get one thing right. Pocket calculators would become almost as powerful as mainframe computers that then filled whole buildings.
That weekend was merely the end of the first chapter of a remarkable period when I sat in the front row, the deacon’s bench of history, as it unfolded in my presence. Well, how many architects can say that they have danced with both Roselyn and Amy Carter?
I was not a part of history, but was so close that I saw the intimacies of a great man’s life, which the national media never seemed to recognize. Few humans can match the combination of intellect, energy, inquisitiveness and humility of Jimmy Carter.
The careers of everyone in that specially selected group rose like meteors when we were in our 20s and 30s. I was certain that one of my friends, a direct descendant of General, Governor, and Senator John B. Gordon, was destined to be President by 1992. However, after the 1996 Olympics, a dark shadow came over Georgia. All of us were swept aside in our respective professions by strange events and are now non-entities.
The campaign for president
We flash forward three years. I had graduated from Georgia Tech and spent a period of time working in Sweden. About two months after I got back from Sweden, Chip Carter and his first wife, Caron, invited my girlfriend and I over to their garage apartment at the Governor’s Mansion for a casual Saturday afternoon social
Within a few minutes after we arrived, Jimmy walked into the apartment, wearing a red Winston Cup jacket and carrying an enormous stack of 33 1/3 RPM records. Miss Roselyn had kicked him out of the Governor’s Mansion. She had invited over a group of ladies for tea and didn’t want to hear rock music in the background.
We spent the next hour or so analyzing the music of these two new Southern Rock bands, the Allman Brothers and Lynyrd Skynyrd. Then, a man, about 30 years old, opened the glass-paned door of the apartment without knocking. He shouted, “Hey Jimmy, my plane arrived early and Roselyn said to come over here. I have my nephew with me, too.”
We thought, “Who is this jerk and his nephew, interrupting our party?”
The grimaces on our faces quickly turned to frozen smiles and standing at attention, when Jimmy said, “I would like y’all to meet one of the youngest men ever to be elected to the US Senate, Joe Biden of Delaware. He was just sworn in a month ago.”
Jimmy explained that Biden was asked to run because it was thought that no Democrat had a chance against the incumbent, heavily supported by Richard Nixon. Biden’s campaign had virtually no money and was given no chance of winning. He won.
Joe Biden became increasingly antsy as we continued to listen and dance to the new sound of Southern Rock. Finally, in a stuttered voice he said, “Jimmy, I hate interrupt the fun, but can we go somewhere and talk about what I mentioned on the phone?”
Jimmy smiled and responded, “No need to leave. Everyone here is family except Anne and Richard. They need to be here, too.” He smiled again. “I can’t decide which one of them is going to be governor and which one senator.”
The conversation shifted to Watergate. I told them that within five days after the burglary, the Swedish press and television news was saying that Richard Nixon and his staff ordered the break-in. Jimmy smiled and said, “Well, the Swedes are mad at us because of Viet Nam, but I wouldn’t doubt if someone in the CIA was involved. I can’t imagine the President knowing about it in advance . . . maybe afterward.”
Joe Biden then asked us what we thought about Jimmy running for national office. We all thought that he would make a great senator after serving as governor for two terms. Biden listened for awhile then asked to make an important statement. “Jimmy, I am here on behalf of the Democratic National Committee to ask you to run for president in 1976.”
There was stunned silence. Both Anne and I agreed afterward that Jimmy didn’t have a snowball’s chance in Hades. No Southerner could be elected president, especially a young governor. Obviously, my gifts of prophecy were equally as inaccurate in politics as they were at Unicoi State Park, concerning the establishment of a moon base.
Behind the scenes in the Carter presidency
What the national media to this day has never realized is that although Jimmy had no experience in a national office prior to being elected President, he had behaved like a head of state when traveling overseas on behalf of Georgia’s commerce. It was Jimmy Carter that established Georgia in the international trade scene. He was the first American government leader ever in history to give a press conference in Spanish in a Latin American country. After word got out about his fluency in Spanish, the remaining countries on his tour treated him and Roslyn like they were the president and first lady.
Jimmy got along well with moderate Republicans and Democrats. They shared a dream of stopping inflation, balancing the budget, making the United States energy independent and bringing peace to the Middle East. Jimmy came very close to balancing the budget his last year.
Virtually all the economic reforms that contemporary bloggers assign to Ronald Reagan, while demonizing Jimmy, were actually implemented by the Carter Administration. Price fixing by the airline, trucking and energy industries were ended by the Carter Administration. Paul Volcker was appointed Chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank Board by Jimmy Carter, not Ronald Reagan.
The only difference is that Jimmy did not believe in the trickle-down theory. He refused to back massive tax reductions for the rich that Reagan later pushed through. As a result the deficit began increasing again under Reagan’s presidency.
It was a clique commanded by Senator Ted Kennedy that sought to undermine the Carter Presidency throughout the four year term. Kennedy thought that if he made Carter look like a inept yokel, the American public would forget Kennedy’s role in the death of Mary Joe Kopechne at the Chappaquiddick River bridge. That didn’t happen. However, in the meantime, Kennedy made sure that all of Carter’s important legislative programs, such as the Energy Independence Act, were stalled in Congress.
There really was a “Northeastern Liberal Media” back then, and they crucified this southern president, any chance that they could. It was also the Kennedy clique that constantly spread false rumors about the behavior of Carter’s staff, in particular, Hamilton Jordon and Transportation Secretary Bert Lance. Jordon was convicted by the press of being a drunk, womanizer, cocaine user and a boor among ambassadors’ wives. None of these events ever took place.
Lance was eventually forced to resign from his office because once as a banker, he had accepted a dairy cow as collateral on a loan. The loan was paid back on time and in full, but the liberal media harassed Lance so much that he quit.
It is well documented by Gary Sisk in the book, October Surprise, that immediately before being nominated for Vice President, George Herbert Bush, former CIA Director, traveled to Paris to meet with officials of the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Government. Bush promised the Iranians that if they would not release the imprisoned personnel of the American embassy in Tehran, the Reagan Administration would give them the military aid that they needed to defeat Iraq. It was a done deal. None dare call it treason.
There is one enigmatic event involving George H. Bush at the beginning of the Carter Presidency that we may never fully understand. As outgoing CIA Director, Bush was briefing newly sworn-in President Carter on the activities of the CIA in the Ford Administration. Carter asked him about the UFO’s investigated in Project Blue Book, because as governor and his state trooper guards had actually seen a flying saucer moving a few feet above them, while traveling on a lonely South Georgia road.
Bush moved closer to Carter and whispered words that most of the people in the room could not hear. Jimmy Carter literally began weeping and folded his head in his hands. The meeting ended suddenly. What did he hear?
Brother Jimmy, they really never got to know you.