President Jimmy Carter made a foray into the South last week to pick political cotton. Once considered a fortress of strength for the Georgia-born president, even the South has looked pregnable in recent months. So Carter took the opportunity to do some politicking in Georgia and Florida before heading home to Plains, Georgia, to rest and contemplate a summer that may have wrecked his chances for re-election.
Carter stopped first in Atlanta, where he had served as governor for four years, to make an appeal for an end to the conflict between U.S. blacks and Jews, raging since Carter, under pressure from Jewish voters, accepted the resignation of Andrew Young as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations in the wake of a surreptitious meeting with a Palestinian observer. Said Carter: “Black Americans and Jewish Americans have worked side-by-side for generations in the service of human rights, social justice and the general welfare. Both groups have suffered too much pain, too much persecution, too much bigotry to compound that suffering in any way.”
Carter acted on the advice of Stuart Eizenstat, his top domestic-policy adviser, who had suggested that he speak out on the Young affair, which was dividing the nation as well as the Middle East. While many blacks blamed the Jews for forcing the resignation of Young, many Jews were incensed that a U.S. official would even consider talking to the Palestinian representative. The disaffection of blacks and Jews could be politically disastrous for Carter.
That night Carter flew on to Tampa for some strong talk on U.S. energy at a boisterous town meeting. He was generally well received, with the exception of a pair of hecklers who claimed to represent the Revolutionary Communist Party. (They were booed by the audience and ejected by the Secret Service.)
Then it was on to Plains to ponder the woes of the summer. Starting with the cancellation of his July 5 address to the nation on energy, it was a season when nothing could go right for Carter. When he finally did speak on energy—10 days later—he was effective. But he quickly deadened the impact of his words with a botched cabinet shuffle that totally overshadowed his energy speech. Just when the furore over that shuffle had subsided the Young affair erupted. Then, last week, when it seemed things could get no worse, Hamilton Jordan, Carter’s chief of staff, was accused of snorting cocaine.
But if it was any consolation to Carter, some of his chief rivals for the presidency were having their own problems. California Governor Jerry Brown, expected to challenge Carter for the Dem-
ocratic nomination, was being blasted in the press for his association with left-wing celebrities Jane Fonda and Tom Hayden and there were no signs his campaign was taking off.
Republican front-runner Ronald Reagan was also in trouble with the loss last week of Lyn Nofziger, a key aide, from his campaign staff. Nofziger apparently disagreed with other campaign staffers who want to moderate Reagan’s hard, right-wing image to appeal to voters at the centre of the political spectrum.
It is Senator Edward Kennedy, however, who concerns Carter the most, even though Kennedy has not been campaigning. He spent the month of August relaxing at Cape Cod and has only one public engagement outside Washington scheduled in the next two months. But, while the general remains far from the front, his armies march on. Draft-Kennedy campaigns have begun in 30-odd states across the union and he has done nothing to discourage them. It appears Kennedy can have the nomination if he wants it.
To meet the challenge from Kennedy, Brown, Reagan and others, Carter is working hard on his presidential image. But he will be confronted by problems of government, not image, when he returns from Plains to Washington this week. The Senate will resume arguing over his SALT treaty with the Soviet Union, and Congress has yet to pass his proposed windfall profits tax on the oil companies. He must also deal with a stagnating economy and may face more cutbacks in oil supplies from Arab countries. It is a daunting list of troubles—one that may cause Carter to look back fondly on the summer just past.
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