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A Carter-Kennedy conspiracy?

At the funeral last week for Coretta Scott King, a lot of people took the opportunity to bash President Bush and his policies while they had the spotlight. One particular instance struck me as odd at the time, and I found myself speculating if there might have been a bit of subtext to the message. And the more I thought about it, the more likely I thought it might be true.

President Carter, in his statement, cited the example of the surveillance and harassment Dr. and Mrs. King suffered in the 1960's, and used that as an example of the sorts of abuses he felt might be committed under President Bush's watch. As expected, it brought the usual responses: Bush's critics lauded it, his defenders denounced it as inappropriate and wildly inaccurate, and a few folks pointed out that the King surveillance was done at the direction of Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, with the approval of Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Baines Johnson -- all Democrats.

Which left me wondering if Carter had intended just that to happen.

Earlier this week I said some kind things about Carter personally. That was in the context of slamming him politically, and I was attempting to follow Winston Churchill's adage of "when you have to kill a man, it costs nothing to be polite." But Carter is only human, and not above petty spite on occasion.

Let's look back at 1980. Jimmy Carter was running for re-election as president, but he was in deep trouble. Under his watch, the economy had tanked, our reputation around the world was in shambles, and the nation was essentially being held hostage by Iran. Meanwhile, the Soviets had invaded Afghanistan, and we were seemingly impotent to do anything about it. Carter's chances of winning a second term were slim.

At that moment Ted Kennedy made what was possibly the single worst decision of his political career: he challenged Carter for the Democratic nomination. It was a decision that, arguably, destroyed the presidential ambitions of both men, along with nearly a generation of Democrats.

Kennedy never really had much of a chance at the presidency after Chappaquiddick, but a lot of the party faithful, seeking a return of Camelot and past Democratic glories, convinced Ted that 1980 was his big chance to be the savior of the party and rescue it from Carter's incompetence. It was actually going along quite swimmingly (if you'll pardon the word) until he was interviewed on TV by Roger Mudd. Mudd tossed him what should have been a softball question -- "why do you want to be president?" -- and Teddy had absolutely no answer. Instead of trotting out the stock answers of duty and love of country, or even the honest answers of family obligations and a sense of entitlement, Ted simply babbled incoherently, driving a final nail into the dreams of another Kennedy administration.

But Teddy did achieve one thing: he further weakened Carter, who was decisively crushed by Ronald Reagan in 1980. It's arguable whether or not Carter could have staved off Reagan without Kennedy's challenge, but it certainly didn't help.

And with Reagan's landslide (49 44 states!), the Democrats found themselves utterly shut out of the White House for 12 years, as Reagan handily crushed his 1984 challenger (Walter Mondale), and then his vice-president beat Michael Dukakis in 1988. It wasn't until 1992 that the Democrats regained the Oval Office.

And that brings up another point that must rankle Carter. Bill Clinton, like he, was a southern governor who was elected president. But Clinton was far more successful as president than Carter was -- and Clinton, unlike Carter, chose to embrace the Kennedys instead of keeping them at arms' length.

So I am left wondering: when Jimmy Carter was preparing his remarks for Mrs. King's funeral, loading up the grenades he'd toss at President Bush, did he also sneak in one to throw in Ted Kennedy's lap? Did he intend to, in some way, remind folks that the acts he was citing as so despicable were done by those two martyred icons of the Democratic party, Ted's brothers?

I have no way of knowing. Hell, I don't know if anyone besides President Carter himself truly knows. But I have my suspicions...

(Reagan's electoral victory corrected -- thanks, NJC, for catching my typo. Reagan won 44 states in 1980, 49 in 1984.)


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Comments (20)

Carter has a memory like an... (Below threshold)
Charles Bannerman:

Carter has a memory like an elephant when it come to slights or what he perceive as a slight from other people. He will never forget even the smallest unintentional reference to his administration. You can bet that he has a list of every unflattering utterance bade about him and he will repay them double.
As I a said in a previous comment, Carter a snake, he is vidictive, he is mean to the bone, he speaks with a forked tongue and he is out to get anyone who has bested him. The man is a loose cannon and is very damaging to the country and his fellow democrat.
Maybe Carter should be in a rubber room.
Chuck

(44 states!)... (Below threshold)
NJC:

(44 states!)

Hmm. Al Sharpton tried to s... (Below threshold)

Hmm. Al Sharpton tried to say that it was the Democrats who conducted wiretaps of Mrs. King only to try and deflate the argument that Carter was in fact trying to get Bush with it. However, he didn't mention the Kennedys himself, Bill O'Reilly did.

Carter lied about the wiretaps the day before the funeral, only to mention them again at the funeral. His comments on the wiretaps were carried by the wires the day before, massaging them into the people who would attend the funeral.

I think it is kind of obvious what Carter was doing.

Oh yeah, Carter may have de... (Below threshold)
EXDemocrat:

Oh yeah, Carter may have denounced his good ole' Southern Baptist ties. But, he didn't give up the judgemental attitude. That kind of stays under the skin forever.

The idiot has many problems... (Below threshold)
John S:

The idiot has many problems, but immortality isn't one of them. We'll be rid of Carter soon enough. Although I must say I'm shocked that Teddy's liver is still operating. Another one where I'm counting the days...

But Clinton was far more... (Below threshold)
Phinn:

But Clinton was far more successful as president than Carter was ...

I have to disagree. Carter was far more successful in implementing his agenda. Clinton passed no legislation of any major significance in his entire 8 years, except welfare reform and habeas corpus reform, both of which were Republican initiatives.

The reason Carter was not successful in absolute terms was that his agenda sucked harder than Monica Lewinski, thus leading to gas shortages, stagflation, Islamic revolution in Iran, etc. Clinton would have been revealed to be as much of a miserable failure if he had passed any of the things he wanted. (Rationing of medical services would have been fun!)

Clinton was far more popular, not successful. But that was because he had a masterful group of PR personnel working for him to demonize the opposition and portray them (us) as a threat to their way of life (such as it is), plus a sympathetic press, of course.

While it raise an interesti... (Below threshold)
Steve L.:

While it raise an interesting idea, I'm not sure that this was anything more than it appeared on the surface. The average American is well-versed enough in history to know that the King wiretaps were ordered by a Democrat. People stil idolize the Kennedy family (less Teddy-boy) despite all that is known about them. I believe that Carter was making the assumptions that:

1. The average American believes that the Democrats are the saviors of minorities and the Republicans "hate black people."

2. Because of the time elapsed, people will believe that it was the Democrats that pushed for civil rights legislation in the '60s rather tha the Republicans.

As a result, it must have been those bastard Republicans that were spying on King and now grandmas from Muskogee, Oklahoma. He counted on his buddies in the press to not point out that this was an extremely crass thing for an ex-President to say at a funeral but rather to show that line over and over again. Hopefully, this woill lead the average American to say, "Wow. If he believes tis enough to say it at such a solemn time, I bet it is worse than even that."

President Clinton was perce... (Below threshold)

President Clinton was perceived as more popular, thanks in no small part to the media. However, the majority of American voters in both 1992 and 1996 voted for his opponent than they did for him. While President Bush (41) and Senator Dole ran arguably poor campaigns (especially the latter), one has to wonder how close each race would have been had Mr. Ross Perot had not been in the fray.

A spot-on post, Jay, nonetheless.

Clinton passed no legisl... (Below threshold)

Clinton passed no legislation of any major significance in his entire 8 years, except welfare reform and habeas corpus reform, both of which were Republican initiatives.

Aren't you forgetting NAFTA?

Sadly, NAFTA could be chara... (Below threshold)
George:

Sadly, NAFTA could be characterized as a Republican initiative, too.

Let's look back at 1980.... (Below threshold)
CarScenic:

Let's look back at 1980. Jimmy Carter was running for re-election as president, but he was in deep trouble. Under his watch, the economy had tanked, our reputation around the world was in shambles, and the nation was essentially being held hostage by Iran.

Funny how history repeats itself...

I find it somewhat interest... (Below threshold)
CorporateLeech:

I find it somewhat interesting that when civil and liberal leaders unite at a civil and liberal activist's funeral and they talk about civil liberties, equality, and peace that you characterize that as "bashing Bush".
I think that says more about Bush than it does about the invited speakers.

Good post. Thank God Teddy ... (Below threshold)
Jess:

Good post. Thank God Teddy never had a chance of becoming President. I remember Carter's presidency, surprised? LOL I remember long gas lines, inflation, it was rough, and I was a kid back then! I always thought Carter was a nice guy, he did a lot for Habitat and I respected that. But the thing is no amount of good deeds can possibly outweigh the lack of character and integrity one shows when doing what he did at CSK's funeral. I thought it was despicable. It's like he's grabbing at straws to create a legacy for himself. Sorry Jimmy, the jig's up, your legacy is far ahead of you.

I find it somewhat inter... (Below threshold)

I find it somewhat interesting that when civil and liberal leaders unite at a civil and liberal activist's funeral and they talk about civil liberties, equality, and peace that you characterize that as "bashing Bush".

Were you out of the room or something?

"President Carter, in his s... (Below threshold)
Chris:

"President Carter, in his statement, cited the example of the surveillance and harassment Dr. and Mrs. King suffered in the 1960's, and used that as an example of the sorts of abuses he felt might be committed under President Bush's watch."

Did he? I haven't read the full transcript of his remarks, but not one report that I read said he mentioned Bush in any way in connection with his comments about wiretaps. And wiretaps were a big part of the way in which King was abused by the government, so it was relevant to say. It's only the right wing blogs who are making the connection to Bush.

I'd be interested to read the part where he "used that as an example of the sorts of abuses he felt might be committed under President Bush's watch."

"Under his watch, the econo... (Below threshold)
Just John:

"Under his watch, the economy had tanked, our reputation around the world was in shambles"

That wasn't under his watch: that's how he got elected in the first place. Does no one remember ford's "WIN" buttons?

There's a chicken-egg probl... (Below threshold)
Dodd:

There's a chicken-egg problem with saying Kennedy's challenge ruined Carter's chances. That may be true, but a primary challenge to an incumbent President pretty much always indicates a weak incumbent anyway (especially weakness with the vase - compare and contrast Bush 41, 1992 and Bush 43, 2004, for instance). Carter was basically doomed before Kennedy stepped in, just as Bush 41 was in trouble before Buchanan began his vanity campaign. Both challenger's could be said to have put the nail in incumbent's coffin - requiring him to expend resources early and subjecting him to several extra months of very public bashing. But neither would've happened unless the incumbent was already looking like he was on the ropes.

That wasn't under his wa... (Below threshold)

That wasn't under his watch: that's how he got elected in the first place.

ROFLMAO!

You're right, as a matter of fact -- Carter it was who invented the misery index in 1976 to use against Ford.

And four years later Reagan was able to use it to even more devastating effect against Carter, because during Carter's presidency all of those problems got worse.

Just John, Jimmah just called -- he respectfully asks that you kindly stop trying to defend him.

Can you handle this? Read ... (Below threshold)
michelle:

Can you handle this? Read on....

I think a little more perspective is needed when addressing the comparison that right-wing bloggers and now some mainstream journalists (Howard Kurtz) have been making between the Wellstone Memorial and the Coretta Scott King Funeral.

To this day, there are still a lot of people, including Democrats, who've bought the right wing line on the Wellstone Memorial.

Specifically, that it was a cynical, premeditated political event that included endless booing of Republican politicians who came to pay their respects to their fallen colleague. I wrote a pretty detailed account of the Wellstone Memorial in my book Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them, and nothing could be further from the truth. I did write that "reasonable people of good will were genuinely offended." The memorial was raucous and a couple of speakers said some things that were inappropriate - basically, let's win this (upcoming Senate) election for Paul.

There were also honest Republicans of good will, including Jim Ramstad - the Congressman from the Minneapolis suburban district I grew up in - who acted like human beings and cut the speakers who offended (Rick Kahn and, to a lesser degree, Mark Wellstone) a little slack because they understood that Rick had lost six very close friends and Mark had lost his father, mother, and sister.

The chapter was mainly about how cynically Republicans used the memorial politically as they complained that the Democrats had used it politically. And how the mainstream media, many of whom had neither attended the memorial nor seen it on TV, bought into the Republican spin.

Mainly, there was a lot of lying. Rush Limbaugh claimed that the audience was "planted," when, in fact, Twin Cities' radio and TV had to tell people to stay away because Williams Arena was jammed to capacity three hours before the Memorial was scheduled to begin. Thousands were crowded into an overflow gym to watch on a screen and thousands watched outside on a cold, late October night.

A pained Limbaugh asked his audience the day after the memorial: "Where was the grief? Where were the tears? Where was the memorial service? There wasn't any of this!"

This was a lie. I was there. Along with everyone else, I cried, I laughed, I cheered. It was, to my mind, a beautiful four-hour memorial.

I didn't boo. Neither did 22,800 of the some 23,000 people there. This has been a much discussed, much lied about aspect of the memorial. A number of Republicans, like Peggy Noonan and Weekly Standard writer Chris Caldwell claimed that 20,000 people had booed Trent Lott. (Caldwell claimed that 20,000 people booed a whole litany of people who weren't booed at all.) We'll never get an actual count - but I'd say about two hundred people booed Trent Lott when his face came on the Jumbotron. This was about a minute after 23,000 people cheered for Bill Clinton when his face appeared on the Jumbotron.

The Jumbotron was carrying the C-SPAN feed, and unless you were watching live, you almost certainly have never seen the moment that Trent Lott was booed. That's because none of the cable news shows repeated it. That's because you can't hear him being booed. And that's because so few people booed him. Also, I swear, it was a good-natured "kill the umpire" boo, (and Lott actually grinned) but I could never prove that. What I have proven is that you couldn't hear the boos on TV because on my book-on-tape I played the audio of the C-SPAN video to compare the 23,000 cheering for Clinton with the smattering of boos for Lott, and you CANNOT hear the boos.

Caldwell, who never saw the memorial, also wrote that there was almost no mention of the others who died on the plane. That was complete bull. There were beautiful eulogies for Will, Tom, and Mary.

Kellyanne (Fitzpatrick) Conway went on TV the day after the memorial and told a nationwide audience that the Jumbotron instructed the crowd "when to cheer and when to jeer." (The speeches were close-captioned and would indicate when there was LAUGHTER and APPLAUSE.)

Even though the words on the closed captioning followed the speaker's words by five or so seconds and were often misspelled, Sara Janecek, a Minnesota Republican lobbyist, said the speeches on the Jumbotron were proof that the speeches had been written and vetted by the cynically politically motivated Democrat who ran the event. Actually, the people who spoke at the Wellstone memorial were all chosen by the families of those who died. No one's speech was vetted. The Wellstone people had all spent the previous five days going to funerals. It never occurred to them to vet the speeches. The irony is that because they weren't thinking politically, they opened themselves to being accused of staging a political event..

It was the Republicans that tried to cheapen Paul Wellstone's life by dishonoring his death. It was the right-wing media, not the friends and family who spoke at the memorial or the people who came to it, that seized an opportunity to use a tragedy for political gain.

Now to the King funeral, which I did not see in its entirety.

Coretta Scott King was 78 when she died. Her death followed a long illness and was not a big shock. Her family and friends had had time to prepare for her death and had not lost five other friends and/or family members in a tragic plane crash.

Four presidents spoke. One of them, Jimmy Carter, made a passing reference to the fact that Martin and Coretta King had been the victims of domestic wiretapping by the government. Was it a shot at President George W. Bush, who was sitting right behind Carter? Probably. Was that inappropriate? Maybe.

Would Coretta Scott King have enjoyed the moment? I don't know. You know who would have a better idea than me? Jimmy Carter. He knew Mrs. King. Those who are currently complaining - most of whom claim to be offended on her behalf - didn't know her at all.

Coretta Scott King was a political woman. Most of those complaining on her behalf are against everything she stood for. In her later years she spoke passionately on behalf of affirmative action. Should her family have been offended that President Bush didn't mention this and apologize for it? Should they have been offended that the first President Bush didn't mention that he had campaigned for Congress in 1964 against the 1964 Civil Rights Bill and didn't apologize for that?

I don't think so. I think they were happy the two Bush Presidents showed up and paid their respects. I think they were also happy that Carter mentioned the wiretaps and that Joseph Lowery mentioned that there had been no WMD's in Iraq. Because that's probably what their mother would have wanted.

But I don't know. You'd have to ask them.

I wrote a pretty detaile... (Below threshold)

I wrote a pretty detailed account of the Wellstone Memorial in my book Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them
Gee, "Michelle", it is common when quoting someone, to attribute the words to the author.

Granted, I've alwasy thought Al was a little a girl, so maybe you did write it...

Working on the assumption that you are not the author, do you see any irony in denouncing Kurtz and others for viewing these funerals through a political eye by quoting another partisan with a political agenda?

No?




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