was documenting that for 2 california that they took in 1850 one. amazing trip. they went from new york down the atlantic coast by steamship and hiked across panama to the jungle and up again the steamship. it was an amazing journey and thinking about that part of the west, california to the southwest, it gripped me. and general grant and lt. grant, two weeks behind junius crossed at the same part of the isthmus and hiked through the same jungle trail. he lost 100 men to cholera on
that trip. i always wondered, what would have happened if and when. have died of cholera on that trip as so many of grant's men did two weeks later. would we be talking about the ford theater today? >> let's thank nora citone. >> she is a historical researcher with a focus on nineteenth century america. for more information visit noratitone.com. >> julian zelizer recounts the presidency of jimmy carter. julian zelizer reports on the 39's president's difficulty maintaining support from
congress do to what author contends were legislative decisions that were unwelcome by many of the democrats president carter needed for support. this is at the miller center for public affairs at the university of virginia. the talk is just over one hour. >> it is a pleasure to be here as always. when republican john mccain wanted to in salt his opponent in the 2008 election he warned that barack obama's presidency would be like a genie carter second term. the joke didn't need any explanation. democrats responded by pointing to the differences between obama and president carter, not by defending the former president. even if carter became known for having one of the most active post presidential careers in american history, his time in
the white house remains the symbol of presidential leadership. over the past few months there have been many commentators who have compared obama to carter rather than fdr, lyndon johnson or ronald reagan. the point is clear. in contemporary political debate and most history textbooks, carter is consistently remembered as a president who failed to articulate a compelling political vision and was unable to hold his party together. the image of a worn down carter holds up in the white house, desperately trying to resolve the iran hostage crisis into the final hours of his term became almost as iconic as the images of president john f. kennedy huddled with his brother robert, trying to avert a nuclear war during the cuban missile crisis.
with all the praise given to ronald reagan and what he achieved in 1980, there is a sense that carter's political in implosion offered an opportunity succeeded in 1980. the story that best captures the position of jimmy carter toward the end of his presidency, took place in the summer of 1979. the story is not the infamous malaise speech that he delivered in july but rather a story about a rabbit. in august, press secretary joan powell in formally told the associated press reporter brooks jackson a story that carter had told him. the president had been on vacation in spring in georgia and while he was fishing on a canoe a rabbit tried to make its way onto carter's boat.
the president batted the rabbit away with his paddle. jackson liked the story and published a humorous peace which he sent out on the wire. some of the networks picked up on the story and the washington post published it right on the front page. the title was rabbit attacks president. what started as an innocent story turned into another political headache for president carter. he was in such bad shape by that time that the story actually mattered. republican senator robert dole of kansas who was planning to run in 1980 joked that the president should, quote, apologize for bashing a bunny in the head with a paddle. are am sure the rabbit intended the president no harm. 4 singh was simply doing something a little unusual, trying to get aboard the
president's boat. everyone seems to be jumping ship. in this book i wanted to try to understand what went wrong. i wanted to move beyond the standard historical account that carter was just inevitably doomed to failure. many argue that carter was incompetent, that he was weak, that he was unable to lead. the conventional portrait depict carter as a tone deaf moron who never displayed any political skill. a man who was primarily fortunate to find himself in the right place at the right time after the shock and trauma of watergate and his weakness as a leader became painfully evident as soon as he was given the responsibility of governing. but these interpretation ignores the powerful factors that could have made carter a success. his was in fact a presidency
with considerable potential. he was an exceptionally smart man who had a very good grasp of the major public policy challenges of the day. he could be very engaging and few failed to be dazzled by his wide smile. at least early on he sometimes demonstrated a real capacity to understand the mood of the electorate and what voters wanted, whether this was the desire for some kind of anti-establishment politics in 1976 or the need for a new moral framework such as human rights for debating policy. he could be a shrewd political operator with a very good feel for electoral politics, both when he was in georgia and also nationally as he successfully defeated many powerful and more
well-known democratic figures in the 1976 primary. many issues such as race relations and welfare reform carter had the ability to see the potential compromise at a time that more liberals and conservatives were moving farther and farther apart. where senator george mcgovernor failed campaign in 1972, losing in a devastating landslide defeat to richard nixon plea personal carter pulled it off. carter was also politically appealing as the face of the new -- the increasingly urban cosmopolitan and racially tolerant forces of the region. he was a member of a group of moderate governors in south carolina and reuben askew of florida who represented the potential for democrats to regain the south after the
passage of the civil-rights act in 1964. legislation that convinced president lyndon johnson just and away, for many generations to come. we must also acknowledge that carter had to govern in a political time. americans elected carter at a moment for the democratic party. out of the 1960s, without any clear sense of direction and with fundamental disagreement over the key issue that the party faced ranging from foreign policy with regard to the soviet union, two issues like human rights. the struggles over vietnam, and rifts among the different factions in the party's.
which once had remained relatively united by shared royalty and new deal policy and anti communism. congressional reform during the 1970s greatly fragmented power in the house and senate after watergate and made it more difficult in our congress worked to control these factions. the nation faced an enormous crisis in the 1970s as stagflation, and devastated americans where they would find their next paycheck. the energy crisis board down on the nation and leaving americans feel they were out of control of many of the basic goods and items that they needed on a weekly basis.
hostage crisis in iran. the soviet invasion of afghanistan. it generated similar -- about the ability of the united states to influence events abroad. carter could be a very skilled politician. in georgia he had been able to break the entrenched corrupt democratic machine to win his way into the state legislature and gov.ship. a recount in my book is 1962 run for the state senate when he took on the quintessential southern machine politician who was very good and even had his people in voting booths warning that their housing would get burned down if they voted for carter. carter could contest the election and win. during the 1976 democratic primary, carter was the first
candidate to really grasped how the nomination process change in the post george mcgovern europe. he mastered the iowa caucus and the politics of the television media to bring down more established figures like lawrence udall, henry scoop jackson, he understood how to use his own biography and his own image to powerful effect such as when he changed out of his formal suit before appearing in the media after he had won enough delegates to ensure the nomination. he put on his trademark jacket to convey that even -- he was the front runner. the same jimmy carter who voters were longing for. his message was perfectly tailored for frustrated americans in the close of the watergate age and played all of
the different caucuses and primaries, not just of iowa and a skillful manner even dealing with people like mayor daley of chicago in true fashion to win over his support. one of my favorite moment in the general campaign against president ford came in the fall of kickoff week. general ford chose a rose garden strategy where he would stay in the white house to look presidential. and vice-presidential pick robert dole, that became a figure it -- pivotal figure in the fall campaign often standing in for ford at a regional events. carter scheduled an appearance at the 500 stock race. when carter staffers learned that dole had already been invited as well they negotiated during the heated exchanges and agreement whereby carter arrived
in the rear car twice and dole would arrive in the front. when dole was introduced there were some polite she is. when the announcer introduced carter, 70,000 fans stood up, yelled and cheered and waved their arms in boisterous support. bowl went around the track and walked up to the vip. where both candidates were initiated. carter finished his and unexpectedly walked into the pit. then he went into the grandstand and staff with fans. despite significant concerns from the secret service about safety. in the vip section, the event turned into a pretty massive opportunity to highlight the difference between the parties. within the context of difficult times carter had many accomplishments during his presidency that the office is
forgotten. president carter recently reminding everyone with the publication of his diary and comments in the media of the president pushed some very comprehensive energy programs, some of the most comprehensive programs that had been proposed until that time and 3 today. some of these policies would not get through congress but the ones that did like solar energy were considered essential through today and the ideas themselves triggered decades-long debate over how the government could help conserve resources. he persuaded congress to pass a major ethics reform in 1978. they created the most stringent investor dory mechanisms that existed to monitor executive-branch corruption. the deregulation of the airline, launched a new era of public
policy, expanded to other areas. in 1977, constituted the first major successful effort to rectify taxes and benefits to approve the fiscal health of the program. carter succeed in politics, there is another story about government reorganization that revealed how carter could operate when he was interested in doing so. in december of 1976 after his election he met with texas congressman jack brooks, chairman of the house committee on government operations, and told the congressman he intended to seek authority to reorganize the federal government with greater efficiency. the legislation that carter wanted that would give him this authority, presidents since
harry truman received this from congress but in 1973 congress and for the first time refused to extend this measure because capitol hill was tired of richard nixon's continual efforts to circumvent the legislative process, opposed to any extension of executive power. president elect carter wanted data for any back and he justified the request in the post watergate rhetoric of the time. he wanted to cut federal agencies, combine federal agencies, reduce the number of civil servants and d. regulate certain areas of policy because he said most people found the bureaucracy too remote, too complex and intrusive. congressman brooks was not pleased with what he heard from carter. the chairman repeatedly interrupted carter during our conversation to say the government would reorganize
according to the interests and vision of congress, not the president. pulling out records she collected in 1960s congressman brooks said gov. lyndon johnson was the greatest arm twister washington has ever seen and he didn't like to get beat on capitol hill. look at this list. he was never successful in getting more than 1-third of his proposed reorganization plans through congress even with this special procedure. if you win this argument, mr president, on legislation, you still won't have anything to show for it in the end. carter looked at brooks with that steal the face and promised the american people he would do this and would not put this aside. the conversation became so tense that carter's adviser stepped in and moved them to a different topic. carter didn't forget the encounter.
on january 7th, he met with the new speaker of the house, tip o'neill and the majority leader jim wright from texas to tell them that if any committee chair saw reorganization proposals he would use every ounce of his power to move bill around them. he singled out congressman brooks. without hesitation speaker o'neill looked at the president and responded this would be the worst thing you can do, mr president, particularly catholic fellow like brooks. he doesn't get mad be personally gets even. you don't even know your throat is cut into you turn your head. that didn't scare carter. after his encounter with bob brooks carter reached out to republicans who were more favorably disposed to plan because it promised to reduce big government. carter then used the republican votes he had to win enough democratic votes and obtain a coalition to pass the measure.
democrats were scared by the point of looking like opponents of government decisions the so they moved closer to carter's position. the month after the election congress passed a measure carter wanted an even brooks went along with one minor concession that the administration gave. the institutional as asian of human rights and foreign policy also generated excitement among many americans who had been disillusioned by the cynical richard nixon and henry kissinger and gerald ford. most important in the middle east carter brokered a durable peace agreement between the egyptians and the israelis that lasted over three decades and with no other president has been able to replicate. when push came to shove carter could play politics quite well on foreign policy and domestic policy to build senate support for the ratification of the
panama canal treaty in 1978. carter send senators to panama so they could be there by military leaders, local residents and business leaders on the importance of the treaty. he addressed audiences in key states and local communities to build pressure on senators using state of the art town hall meeting technology and remote telephone connections and exploited division among conservatives on this issue. is easy to forget carter scored big victories in his first two years after his first 1 hundred days. he had approval ratings approaching 69%. washington post columnist joseph pratt noted republicans and independents like him as well as the democrats do. the biggest problem for carter is he didn't enjoy being a party leader. this is a major theme i explore in the book. like it or not presidents are the leaders not only of their
country but their party. if they are unable to build strong political coalition and strengthen their party through their policy choices and the timing of their decisions they risk finding themselves isolated and alone when crisis strikes and opposition mounts. one of the problems carter faced was he picked policies based on his own presidential agenda and policy ideas without giving that much attention to what it would mean for the party and what political implications would be. in 1978 the president used an enormous amount of political capital to push unpopular panama canal treaties through the senate. the trees were crucial in carter's mind if the u.s. wanted to rebuild trust among latin americans. these were never very popular. the only people who give a damn are the ones who oppose it, one
staffer said. the first lady warned her husband he shouldn't touch this until his second term but she realized her warning fell on deaf ears. the senate did ratify the treaty by one vote and carter claimed a major victory but conservatives were able to use that victory despite their loss to rally support. financial support and membership support with conservative groups. the battle over the ratification energized conservative organizations such as the american conservative union. the conservative caucus and the committee for the survival of congress who use the panama canal treaty to raise money. it is not the issue itself we are fighting for one activist said. this is an excellent opportunity to seize control of the republican party. it is patriotism, one conservative said about the
battle. domestic policy, carter won passage of energy reform legislation though it was watered down and defined the party along regional lines. congress enacted the ethics reform act which created the office of the independent counsel. they did deregulate the airlines and reform social security but these were not initiatives that generated much excitement among middle and working-class americans who were struggling to make ends meet. carter never recovered from the 1978 midterm elections. democrats retained control of congress and had sizable margins, they only lost three seats in the senate and 15 in the house. a new court of republicans tied to the conservative movement won in those midterms such as newt gingrich and georgia. their victory was perceived as a defeat for democrats. several members, senators who supported the panama canal
treaty were defeated and they were defeated by candidates who had been bankrolled by conservative organizations. we changed the focus of politics in america from their ground to our ground said new york representative jack kemp. we carter shifts to the right starting in december of 1978. he announces that inflation and deficit reduction rather than unemployment would be his top domestic concern and the administration calls for sizable increases in defense spending and a more aggressive posture towards the soviet union. carter also had trouble dealing with congress and the personal level. he didn't like the give-and-take of legislative politics. congressional staff famously didn't help the situation. frank more, congressional liaison, had limited experience
on capitol hill and constantly made embarrassing blunders. one member was not told the president would be appearing in the district until they learned about it on radio. and was quite infuriated with the administration for having this happen. at one breakfast hosted by the president with members of congress only sweet rolls were served instead of a full breakfast, a symbol that he was toning down the office. speaker tip o'neill's massachusetts with a rather large -- yelled vice-president mondale, i didn't get this through sweet roll. i want a breakfast and i'm not coming back unless i get a meal. o'neil didn't trust the southern politician and once said to the speaker the southern politician was a street hawker who can skin you alive with a charm. in contrast, no. legislators were far more blunt and
rambunctious. one of carter's most controversial decisions was to oppose some proposals for over 300 water project across the country that president ford approved in the final budget. carter dismissed the proposals as congressional pork and said they were not good projects for the environment and send a letter stating 19 of the project had been cut. congress was furious. these funds were essential to their constituents and one of the people affected on carter's list was at the powerful chair of the senate finance committee. the senate would overturn many of carter's proposals. finally carter had trouble keeping liberal democrats in his coalition. the essential story of much of his presidency. the tension developed between liberal democrats and a president who wanted to position himself as a centrist and go
beyond the orthodoxy that the party had been offering until the 60s. we see the trouble he had maintaining peace with liberal democrats through his relationship with senator ted kennedy. relationship parenthetically that still bothers president carter as it emerged in one of the first conversations following the release of his new white house diary. again carter represented the center, almost an early rivers and of what president clinton would try to do in the 1990s and was very conscious and deliberate about saying he wanted to avoid traditional left/right divisions on most issues. soon as he started the presidency he showed a willingness to challenge the liberal interest groups like organized labor. he brought the maverick outsider mentality into the white house and proposed initiatives such as energy conservation which many liberal democrats at the time
did not like because of their effect. on foreign policy carter refused to be pinned down by some of the cold war orthodoxy and sometimes pleased the left on issues like improving america's standing in central america, he could also cause tension by making tough remarks toward the soviet union. in contrast senator kennedy of massachusetts represented the liberal wing of the democratic party. kennedy remained committed to most of the policies and ideas that had come out of the great society. at a time when some members of the party were backing away from lyndon johnson's legacy kennedy defended issues like racial equality, voting rights and anti-poverty programs. kennedy was particularly dangerous to republicans because he was also a shrewd politician and a new how to round up votes and seen some of the damage caused by the left wing during
the 1960s and was determined to work within the political process rather than outside of it. he was also open to new ideas like deregulation of the economy that didn't fit into traditional patterns of democratic thinking. if kennedy and carter had worked together the results would have been explosive but the relationship didn't work and carter was unable to nurture the alliance and in the end it became a huge liability for the administration. the first clash was on health-care. liberal democrats in this period led by organized labor and thought that national health care had to be the top priority for the administration in 1977. a single payer system that would cover everyone in the country. in his first year carter decided to postpone action on health care saying it is stabilizing the economy and tame inflation has to come first.
kennedy and carter had a series of conversations, ultimately leaving kennedy to say carter loved to give the appearance but nothing more. carter finally told kenny in 1978 that he would not pursue health care reform for the time being. carter had displayed a failure of leadership on this issue. kennedy also became very frustrated with the administration's decision to focus more on inflation than unemployment after 1978. liberal democrats argued the government needed to focus on jobs because middle and working-class americans were suffering from a staggering challenges but on oct. 20 fourth, 1978, carter made a televised speech in which he called for spending cuts, wage price guidelines and other measures to control inflation and the anger from the left was
palpable. in a midterm convention in december 1978 kennedy told fellow party members that sometimes the party must sail against the wind rather than giving in to conservative pressure and he said carter -- the struggle with liberals and on foreign policy by 1979, after the 78 midterm elections kennedy criticized the administration for becoming too hawk with a soviet union and failing to articulate a clear vision on foreign policy. after the soviet union invaded afghanistan in december 1979 and carter takes a tough posture calling for a buildup of military pressure in the persian gulf, to combat soviet aggression kennedy delivered a speech at georgetown university where he castigates carter for his helter-skelter policy and
warned exaggeration and hyperbole are the enemies of sensible foreign policy. as carter was forced to confront the burgeoning conservative movement during his final year as president, a series of difficult policy challenges and the oil embargo to the iranian hostage crisis, carter had organizational energy that liberal democrats provided. kennedy directly challenged carter in the democratic primary in 1980. in march of 1980 kennedy won the new york primary which energized his campaign. the primary took place a few weeks after the un security council had voted on a resolution stating that israel should dismantle settlements in occupied territories which they said included jerusalem. when the u.s. ambassador voted in favor of the resolution many
jewish organizations were furious. carter apologized to the secretary of state defended the decision. many jewish voters in new york expressed their acre by voting disproportionately for kennedy and ran important constituency in the new york primary is. there were many other factors at work because this reflected a general a anger among democrats toward the administration. the primary reflect a broad problem that by 1980 carter had alienated himself from much of his own party. the washington post columnist david broder noticed the longer kennedy campaigned the more he seldom like the authentic voice of 1960 liberalism. a passion for what he called economic democracy and social justice that found expression in intervention activist government programs. carter does defeat kennedy in the end and shows he remains a
formidable campaigner but the primary took a toll on many democrats as they were less comfortable with this president. in the final jab at carter kennedy delivered a rousing speech at the democratic convention in 1980 that called on the party to review its commitment to the founding principle of economic justice and reminded his audience that our cause has been since the days of thomas jefferson, the cause of the common man and the common woman. the crowd gave him a standing ovation. madison square garden in new york city was filled with chants of teddy, teddy. carter paled in comparison. started on a wrong note with a teleprompter that broke. he couldn't see the text and his delivery was mechanical and choppy. he worried the audience was not listening and his speech ended the machine that was supposed to drop.
on to the convention floor now function and nothing came down. a large number of democrats appeared onstage alongside carter to show their support and the crowd waited for kennedy. and they waited. it took over 15 minutes for kennedy finally to appear and reporters took this opportunity one last time to discuss tension that emerged in the democratic party. kennedy finally walked onto the stage, raised his fist to the massachusetts delegate. he shook carter's hand and walked away after a few minutes. kennedy actually practiced a more enthusiastic embrace but decided not to do it. nor did he lived carter's arms for the traditional sign of unity. after kennedy started to walk off the crowd started to shout again, we want ted so vigorously that kennedy turned for an
encore. at that point had looked like carter was chasing kennedy down only to have kennedy put his hand on the president's shoulder. carter would never forgive kennedy for failing to heal the division that emerged in the party. the comment that carter made recently reflects how bitter those tensions were. ronald reagan, republican nominee in 1980 took notice of what happened. if that is the best they can do on unity he said, they have a long way to go. when carter conceded in 1983 against unusually early in the evening when the voting ended in california where there was important democratic congressional races speaker tip o'neill exploded at white house official frank more. you guys came in like a bunch of jerks and i see you will go out the same way. the story of carter is a story about the continued centrality
of party leadership in the white house. especially democrats in a conservative age. more than anything else the failures on that front to put carter in to such a deep hole that made an otherwise harmless story about a swamp rat that seem like a symbol for a presidency. carter himself recently admitted that one of the things i could have done better was i could have been a better leader for the democratic party. i just didn't feel comfortable. thank you. [applause] >> julian zelizer has agreed to answer a few questions in the remaining time. will those of you who would like to ask questions please cue up in the back of the room and we will make a number of them. julien, i would like to check
off the questions by asking you about carter's post presidency. in your book you seem to place special emphasis on his work as an election observer in the ortega at the feet and his relationship he developed with jim baker and others and that george h. w. bush's white house is returning point in his march to become a central player on the world stage in the post presidency. can you talk some about his involvement as a man of peace and his post presidency generally? >> he goes to georgia and will establish the library at emory university which using as basically a base for diplomatic negotiation. one of the things i think about carter is he felt a bit
liberated once he left. given this was a man who didn't like the political part of his job in terms of dealing with his party, he felt freer once he could deal with policy, say whatever he wanted to say and not worry about his accountability to democrats or the voters. the work he does in 1989, 1990 is very important. ironically, his work with george h. w. bush which puts him on the scene not just as someone who has a lot to say about foreign policy but could be quite effective particularly in convincing ortega to step the results of the election. a lot of his concern over voting and the election process really dates back to his time in georgia. the story about 1962 he is
exposed to the enormous corruption of the local political system and extends into his post presidential career. he has continued with the middle east with korea to be an important player and has redefined what a president does. at the same time his tendency toward controversy and poured a drink many of his supporters has continued with his statements on the middle east. most of the policies are extension of what he wanted to do as the president freed from the political apparatus he was never great at dealing with. >> one of the things i was interested to hear you talk about was his born-again faith and the politicization of christianity over this time and how maybe it with a straight from the beginning but voters went for ronald reagan instead of what the dynamics are with that. >> that was very important.
in 1976, when carter runs, he was very open and very forthcoming on his faith. carter used his biography very effectively. a lot of the ads on his web site, living room candidate, they pulled ads from every campaign dated to 52 or 54. a lot of carter's ads are about him. face was one of the things he sold. he saw an opportunity and his advisers to attract evangelical voters who were becoming more political at the time and who weren't yet in either of the political parties and his willingness to talk about his face which sometimes backfired, but at other times were very successful and attracted new constituents into the party. evangelicals in part and it is
an important part of his 76 victory. most of the 76 victory is the old democratic coalition. organized labor, african-americans but that is pivotal. by 1980 what you have is not evangelicals who voted for carter and leave him but a different group of evangelicals have mobilized. by 1979, 1980, jerry falwell and the moral majority. they take many of carter's issues like the treatment of private schools in the south as like the panama canal treaty with support for a much more conservative version evangelical christian politics. by the end, that aspect carter brought with him in 1976 is less important not because people who voted for him had left but spawned a new population that
saw ronald reagan despite a personal background that is not as hospitable as jimmy carter as a candidate of choice. that is very important and you see religion in the political theater very clearly during that 76 campaign. >> early on you mentioned that obama's detractors will use the jimmy carter analogy. to what extent do you feel that this is fair or unfair in comparison to the problems that face carter and then faced obama? >> the comparison has only accelerated since 2008 and in the last few months it has been front and center again. i know the president will be here today. during a midterm which bears some resemblance to 78. in general when someone says this president would be like
president a, the time was very different. president has a closer relationship with democrats. his approval ratings are still higher than carter's were at this point. finally, obama still has a much bigger legislative record that he has accomplished. carter did not have health care or something of that size. there are fair comparisons in terms of some of the problems that he faces. the first is the difficulty of communication as president. there has been a certain failure that obama has suffered from in his first two years to communicate what his policies are about, to communicate feeling of sympathy and connection on some of the economic issues. whether it is fair or not in the modern environment is a different question but the problem has been there.
carter would say things and he immediately people would see someone who was moved. they are both extraordinarily intelligent but they don't have that skill. a second comparison, i wrote this pre obama. but obama has put his party in a difficult position as well. there's a similarity. obama went for some of the issues he thought were most important for the country. he often put the concerns of the democratic party, the political concerns as a secondary issue. by choosing something like health care reform early on, you almost insure a politically explosive act. just look at the history of health-care and if you overload congress with very controversial policies you don't solve baseline economic issues, you will end up in a situation like
you face today. both carter and obama suffered through that. both energize the movement that ultimately in carter's case defeated them and we will see with jimmy carter. those are two fair similarities in terms of their leadership and finally on that last point, in both presidency's about midway through their first term we see the emergence of a pretty vibrant and effective conservative opposition. carter did trigger this. there were many sources for conservatism but the used his policy as a way to rally support and they used carter himself as a figure to define what conservatism would be about. you are seeing some of that as well right now through the tea party. people like sarah palin, a similar phenomenon. carter finally, i am sorry,
carter's relationship with liberals in the democratic party, not the far left, was very strange. i do think it became a problem for carter. he has dismissed it. he said liberals like kennedy were too far out. didn't understand compromise or how to get bills through. in his case it became a huge political liability by 1989 to have of this support. we see the same thing with obama. enormous tension. not with moveon.org but with speaker nancy pelosi and the people he has been depending on, a series of bad the time comments to press secretary by him as well has left strains on capitol hill. that is where i see some similarities as well. >> thanks for a great talk. the most recent issue of the nation, rick pearlstein has a
survey of political history of the 1970s and one of the common threads he seems to find in all these histories is a characterization of the decade as an age of diminished expectations. usually we hear that carter subscribe to that analysis. did you find that to be true? and if so what did you find to be the principal source of his belief in that kind of analysis? >> i don't know if carter had diminished expectations. i was thinking about that. certain areas of government carter did have diminished expectations what government could do to solve social problems or diminished sense even of what the u.s. could accomplish around the world. carter was very ambitious as well. he believed ultimately that a kind of complex set of government policies could fundamentally transform how
america used energy and america's relationship with the middle east. he believed that human rights was not just some idea but you could literally institutionalize its concept. foreign policy would be geared toward political rights of people in all different sorts of countries. he kind of creates new institutions in the state department to make this a reality. that was very high expectation about what the united states could achieve. the ethics reform which is usually not -- historians don't write about this and we often forget because ultimately many people didn't like having an independent prosecutor. they think of kenneth starr or lawrence walsh depending on your political perspective but it was an ambitious idea in terms of trying to diminish, regulator and contain executive-branch corruption. in the aftermath of watergate
this was a very serious problem. that is a grand expectation about why government could achieve. i am not sure -- i see the image of carter and the malaise speech people point to where he basically is lecturing americans on their need to deal with it and understand the limits of what they are going to have. that said there's a lot in carter that is not diminished at all. sometimes it cost political problems. too much for many democrats. it is not what they wanted to focus on. >> as a veteran -- let me congratulate you on an outstanding presentation today. could you talk a little bit about the supporting cast, what were the strengths and weaknesses of carter's cabinet, his relations with the cabinet
and his vice-president? >> he has two sides of his team. the most famous side is the georgia mafia, the group of people who had been with him since 1966 when he runs for congress unsuccessfully, ranging from people like hamilton, his political mastermind, david axelrod of the carter era who puts together the plan for 1976 and constantly thinking of the political implications and everything that happens. to eisenstaedt who is a domestic political adviser and also back in georgia to -- he bring them in. some have problems adjusting to washington. some don't have a smooth
transition from what politics was like in georgia. carter was more familiar with the train. we are used to people he was interacting with to washington. they were blindsided by the kind of political attacks they were facing from democrats, not just republicans as well as media. they were very skilled. i think they put together a good campaign in 76 but in the early years guiding him, pretty effectively. that is combined with a more establishment. we often think carter just has that team with the attack on him. he just brought georgia in and they didn't know what they were doing but he also had as establishment as you can get if you had to draw a cartoon he would be the person who is involved in politics in washington politics in the 60s, guiding and a on international policy and the national security council adviser.
people like carol brown who did bring a wealth of experience. in the end carter allowed limited room. he was a president who centralized decisionmaking. he heard ideas from everyone but didn't change the facts until the end of his presidency because he wanted to make these decisions himself. it was a mixed group he had and some of the problems i talked about were not just his but reflection of the people -- i can't get enough of patrick. del. the image of carter as politically inept, he really elevates the role of the pollster to a pretty high level. he is involved in almost every decision and tracking every crisis, an amazing thing that i found on the middle east.
we know that carter puts together campaign meetings and ultimately brokers the accord with the egyptians and the israelis. but from the start they are very calculating about how they will sell this to the public particularly the jewish community and they put together this sophisticated counterlobby within the united states to make sure by the time the treaties are signed or any peace agreement is reached there would be political support. is an incredible out reprogrammed sending administration officials to synagogue, constantly bringing officials from the jewish community, extensive poll data which is not an unsophisticated president at all and in fact those around him please pursue very conscious about working on this. >> given the political climate out of which jimmy carter was elected and paralleling that with obama's election where people were fed up with was
going on before and wanted change these think carter had a chance to be considered a success or would he have had to do something really amazing the way obama probably won't be considered a success even though he has done a lot already? >> he could. the expectations and jimmy carter were very high too. we hear about obama's campaign of change but that is what carter did. the enormity of watergate in terms of dissolutioning americans in politics was greater than president bush and. by the 1970s un period of disgust with the american political system as intense as anything we have gone through. tales of corruption that are unequal and carter ran a campaign where the basic message was trust me. i am different. that was the core. trust me. the expectations were quite high and that he would be a different kind of politician.
after the inauguration, walks through the streets to get out of the limo as a sign that his presidency would not be like all others. his efforts on reform were again pretty bold at the time. the reflection that he understood voters didn't want the same kind of politician. did this inevitably doom him to failure? i don't think so. i came to it that way. not just the expectation but i had a similar bias but i saw earlier in his presidency he had some successes and some pretty good poll numbers early on. it is more about miscalculation politically and failure to counteract the opposition that was rising rather than a belief that it is impossible to live up to the expectation that he himself set forth. >> you mentioned in the iran hostage crisis and the iconic
image of carter hunkered in the white house but you didn't say anything more about it in the talk. if you were to do some counterfactual history and say carter was able to bring those hostages home either diplomatically or militarily, could that have made a significant difference or was that just a sideshow? >> he said that. i have the quote in the book. he is flying home after reagan is inaugurated. for those who don't remember, hostages are held, the final year of his presidency. most of the operation involves carter privately trying to negotiate a deal of military rescue effort. carter does negotiated deal in the final days of his presidency and is completed before reagan is inaugurated. in the end of the iranians litell