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Stuart E. Eizenstat: 2018 National Book Festival

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>>Eric Hoplin: I’d
like to welcome everyone to this exciting session, this
author’s series here today with Stuart Eizenstat. My name is Eric Hoplin. I’m the head of the External
Relations at Wells Fargo. And I’m really honored
to be here today in part because I brought
my three young boys. They’re so excited
for this session. They’re so excited to meet
authors and to celebrate reading and to celebrate literacy. You know, at Wells Fargo,
we find, we think literacy and education and
reading is so important. In fact, they’re the building
blocks of a successful and an enriching life. And that’s why we’re proud,
once again, for the eighth year in a row, to be the
charter sponsor of the National Book Festival. In fact, we focus on reading
all throughout the year. Last year, Wells Fargo, we
gave out more than 57,000 books and our team members read to 104,000 children
all around the country. Now, I have to tell you, if
you’re looking for fun things to do at the National
Book Festival today, after this session,
I would suggest to go all the way
downstairs to the basement to the America Reads
Pavilion and there, there are Wells Fargo
volunteers that are going to host great activities
for the entire family. In fact, my boys and I, we just
did a horse bouncy racing game. They beat me. They’re a little younger than I
am, a little faster than I am. It’s so much fun but
we’ve got great authors that are reading to children. We have an audio book section, arts and crafts,
and so much more. So come on down to
that pavilion. But without further
ado, I’m very excited to introduce this panel. Wells Fargo is so excited to
be a part of this program. And of course, I want to turn it over to our moderator
this morning. He’s the Co-chairman of
the National Book Festival and of course, we all know the
incomparable David Rubinstein.>>David M. Rubinstein: Thank
you very much [applause]. So thank you very much. So how many people, how
many people here lived through the Washington
DC in the Carter years? How many people were
living in Washington? Okay. How many people worked
in the Carter administration? Okay. How many people
have met Jimmy Carter? Okay. Well, we have a
terrific person to talk about the Carter administration,
the Carter White House, and Jimmy Carter
and my former boss. I was one of his deputies
at the White House with Stuart Eizenstat. Let me give Stuart an
introduction before we talk about his book which
has come out now. It’sPresident Carter,
the White House Years
. And I highly recommend
it to people. Let me talk about
Stuart’s background. Stuart is a native of Atlanta,
went to Grady High School where he was an All-American
basketball player. Yes, that’s true,
All-American basketball player. He then went to University
of North Carolina where he did not play
basketball but he tried out in the freshman year
and concluded he’d be better as an academic performer. And he graduated Phi Beta Kappa. He then went to Harvard
Law School and from there, he later came into the Johnson
White House and worked there for President Johnson. And then in 1968, campaigned
for Hubert Humphrey. He then went back to
Atlanta, practiced law there. Became a partner in a firm
called Hall Goldstein. And then he got to know somebody
who was running for governor of Georgia named Jimmy Carter. He got involved in helping
him in that election campaign and then later, he got involved
with helping Jimmy Carter in his 1976 campaign for
president of the United States. And he was his principal
policy adviser. And then he was the principal
domestic policy adviser during the four years at
the White House. Since that time, Stuart has
served in government as well, in the Clinton administration, serving as initially
our Ambassador to the European Union, later as
the Undersecretary of Commerce for International Trade. Later then, as the
Undersecretary of Economic Affairs at the
State Department and then later, as Deputy Secretary of Treasury. During the Obama administration,
he served in an ex-officio role as a person who helped deal with
a Holocaust asset collection and has done incredible work
in making certain that people who had assets taken away from them during the Holocaust
have them given back to them, to the rightful owners. Stuart is the father of two
sons and the grandfather of eight grandchildren. Is that right? And he has written
several other books but let’s focus today
on this one. So Stuart, thank you
very much for coming. The Carter administration
ended roughly 40 years ago. So why did you wait almost
40 years to write this book about President Carter and how
did you have the time to do it? You have a job as a
partner in a law firm. You’ve been practicing law for
a number of years in Washington as well in Covington
and Burling. How did you have time to do
this and was it a labor of love or was it difficult
going back through some of the difficult times
of the Carter years?>>Stuart Eizenstat:
It was a labor of love. As you remember very well
and painfully, in 1980, President Carter suffered
the greatest political defeat of any incumbent
president in modern times. And since then and up until
the time of the publication of this book, that
meant for many people that he had a failed presidency. And I decided it was time
to write a reassessment of the Carter presidency,
warts and all. It’s honest and candid about the
mistakes but it also recognizes, in my opinion, that he
was the most accomplished and under-appreciated one-term
president in American history. Seventy percent of our
legislation passed. [ Applause ] And Walter Mondale,
his vice-president, put it very succinctly. We told the truth. We obeyed the law and
we kept the peace. But there’s so much more
than that, okay [applause].>>David M. Rubinstein: Well,
let me ask you about this. By the way, was this
an authorized book that Jimmy Carter
asked you to do this?>>Stuart Eizenstat: It is absolutely not
an authorized book. I’ve conducted 350
interviews, five times with him from 1991 through 2013. I interviewed people who
were positive and negative, who were detractors
and supporters. And I have and I think
the authenticity, David, of the book depends not only on
these interviews but the fact that I kept over 5000 pages
of contemporaneous notes on 103 legal pads
of verbatim notes of everything I saw and I heard. And I called it as
it was and I told him when I started writing
this book, I was going to do
it warts and all. And if I didn’t do that, then the positive aspects
would be discounted and I think he understood this. He maybe shirks a little
bit at some of the warts but I think he overall has been
very supportive of the book and recognizes that it does
give a new reassessment of the Carter presidency. And interestingly, David, his
political hero was Harry Truman. And he took his famous
slogan, “The buck stops here,” and put it on his
Oval Office desk. Both left the White
House highly unpopular. Truman is now remembered
more for his achievements than his failures and I hope my
book will have a similar impact on Carter as president, not just
as an admired former president.>>David M. Rubinstein:
Usually, people who work in White House staffs, they
write one of two types of books. They are, “I’m great but
the president wasn’t great,” or [laughter] “I’m great and
the president was great.” But you wrote one that
says, “I’m just pretty good but not perfect,” and
about Carter, you said, “He was pretty good
but not perfect.” So when you had to
relive your mistakes and relive his mistakes,
was that painful?>>Stuart Eizenstat: It
was painful but I wanted it to be an honest book and
I did not decide the name of this book, if they had only
listened to me [laughter]. Now I could have said because
David was my immediate deputy before he was the
David Rubinstein. And I could have said that
all of the successes were due to your recommendations.>>David M. Rubinstein: Right.>>Stuart Eizenstat: So
the failures, to mine.>>David M. Rubinstein:
Hardly the case.>>Stuart Eizenstat: But I’ve
decided not to do that as well. You know, I mean, it is a book which is honest about
my mistakes. I didn’t, for example, catch
inflation early enough. I didn’t give him
the right advice when Burt Lance was declining. There were a number of things
that I made mistakes on as well and I think, again, that
gives it a credibility.>>David M. Rubinstein:
Okay, so let’s go back to when you first
met Jimmy Carter. When did you first meet him?>>Stuart Eizenstat: This is a
good story about how in politics and perhaps, in life as well, one should follow one’s
heart and not mind. So after a year in the
Johnson White House and then a half-a-year as Hubert
Humphrey’s Research Director in the ’68 campaign
against Nixon, when he lost, I went back to Atlanta,
my hometown. Clerked for a federal
judge and made a beeline for the sumptuously
well-appointed office of former Governor Carl Sanders
who was going to run again. He was odds-on favorite. I said, “I’m a hometown boy. I worked in the White House
for Johnson and Humphrey. I’d like to help you.” He didn’t need my help. He gave me a very brief meeting
and a high school friend said, “You ought to meet a former
State Senator, Jimmy Carter, who has run unsuccessfully once
in 1960 and is running again. And I said, “No, I’ve made
a commitment to Carter. Well, he badgered me so much. I finally did. And the meeting could not
have been a greater contrast with Carl Sanders
who was well-coifed in a well-upholstered office. But Jimmy Carter, I met
him in a very stark office that had one table, two
metal folding chairs. He was dressed in khaki pants and an open shirt
and work boots. But what attracted me, David,
and it was an attraction that has remained to
this day, is first, he was highly intelligent. But second, I saw him
as someone who had come from a gnat-infested hamlet of
500 people in Southwest Georgia but understood the urban
problems of Atlanta. He favored mass transit. He favored education. And most important for me,
he favored civil rights. He said, “The time for
discrimination is over.” And that sold me on him. And he took that into
his governorship. That was, in fact,
the key ingredient of his inaugural
address as governor. He put Martin Luther King’s
portrait in the State Capitol which I can assure you,
was highly unpopular. And civil rights
became an enduring part of his presidential
legacy as well. And so then, and again, as a
sort of humorous moment, in ’74, he was appointed by Bob
Strauss, the Chairman of the Democratic
National Committee to head the Congressional
Campaign Committee for the ’74 election and
he asked me to present, produce a series
of issue papers. We did about 25 or 30 on every
issue critiquing the Nixon administration and
giving alternatives that Democratic candidates
could run on. When we finished that, I
called him up and I said, “I’d like to take you
out to lunch, Governor. I’ve got an idea.” We sat at this restaurant in
Underground Atlanta and I said, “Look, I’ve got sort
of wild hare. If you run for president,
there’s going to be a need for a Southern on the ticket. If you win a few
Southern primaries and knock George Wallace out, perhaps you’ll get
the second post.” And he said, in his toothy
grin, “I’m going to run and I don’t intend
to be vice-president. Would you like to join my
presidential campaign?” [Laughter] So from ’74 on,
I became his policy director and the rest is history.>>David M. Rubinstein:
How did you, how did you — you were practicing law
and how did you have time to practice law and also
help him in the campaign? What did you tell
your law partner?>>Stuart Eizenstat: The same
way, David, that people say, “How can you be on
20 nonprofit boards? How can you run a
major corporation?”>>David M. Rubinstein:
Right [laughter].>>Stuart Eizenstat: And that
is the good Lord put 24 hours in a day.>>David M. Rubinstein:
All right, so you did that. Now, Carter’s strategy
was fairly unique. It was to focus on Iowa. Many people hadn’t realized
that Iowa was so important. What was his strategy
on Iowa and actually, did he win Iowa or not?>>Stuart Eizenstat: So why
did Carter win the nomination against well-financed,
well-known congressmen and senators like Udall and Bayh and so many others,
Scoop Jackson? It was for two or three reasons. First of all, he was an
indefatigable campaigner. He campaigned before the Iowa
caucuses for a hundred days and before anyone knew that the
Iowa caucuses meant anything. They were, after all, only
caucuses, not a primary. He understood that under
the new McGovern rules which had just come into effect, that the party bosses
would no longer be able in smoke-filled rooms
to choose a nominee. The people were going to get it. And so he went to homes. He carried his own bags
and he went, again, in a hundred different
instances and Rosalynn as well. But there’s a second
reason he won. And that is, he, alone among
the Democratic candidates, recognized that what the
American people wanted in the presidential election
of ’76 was not a revival of LBJ’s Great Society. And having worked for Johnson, it’s something I
would have liked. No, that’s not what
people wanted. In a post-Watergate era,
they wanted honesty, integrity, transparency. And when he promised,
“I’ll never tell a lie. A government is as
good as its people.” That’s what struck at the
cords of people’s hearts. And did he win Iowa? This is, again, an
interesting story. He got 27% of the vote in Iowa. Birch Bayh got 13%. Undecided got 60% [laughter]. Headlines, “Carter Wins
Iowa” and that vaunted us on to New Hampshire and
into the White House.>>David M. Rubinstein: And
as I remember, I recall, I think that the amount
of votes he got to get that percentage was about
11,000 or something like that. Today, it takes about
100,000 to win Iowa. So it’s much smaller. So he goes to New Hampshire
and all of a sudden, he wins New Hampshire. Is that right?>>Stuart Eizenstat:
He wins New Hampshire and New Hampshire allows
itself the same kind of retail politicking that you
can do in Iowa, house-to-house, small town meetings,
town hall meetings. They want to know
that you’re there.>>David M. Rubinstein: Right.>>Stuart Eizenstat: And so
again, he used that same thing. Government is as
good as its people. Ethics reform, moral
high ground. But then, he began
to broaden it. After all, he was running
at a Democratic primary. He talked about the
need for education. He talked about the
need for investment.>>David M. Rubinstein: And
what was the Peanut Brigade?>>Stuart Eizenstat: So after
we won in and I put quote, unquote — “won” in Iowa, a so-called Peanut
Brigade was started by a woman named Dot Padgett. He had been, of course,
a peanut farmer, and they got together
hundreds of people from Georgia who went door-to-door
in New Hampshire, literally door-to-door,
handing out his literature. And this Peanut Brigade
plus his whole family and Rosalynn being an
incredible campaigner. And this was an interesting
story in and of itself. When he ran for governor,
Rosalynn was so shy, she literally shook
on the podium. She could hardly speak. She evolved into a
tremendous campaigner. And by the way, a
great First Lady. Only the second First Lady after
Eleanor Roosevelt to testify in Congress and this on her own
legislation of mental health. So she was an enormous asset. The Peanut Brigade
really spread the word and got him door-to-door
in New Hampshire.>>David M. Rubinstein: Are you
amazed at after all these years, people still call her
Rosalynn, Rosalynn?>>Stuart Eizenstat:
It’s Rosalynn. It’s Rosalynn but it’s Rosalynn.>>David M. Rubinstein: Okay,
so he wins New Hampshire. He’s moving forward
to get the nomination. All of a sudden, the liberals in
the party say, “Wait a second. This moderate or conservative
could be the nominee of the party.” Did they try to come together
and get one candidate?>>Stuart Eizenstat: So the rest of the crowd made a
fundamental mistake. They said, “Let’s let
Carter do the dirty work of getting George Wallace,
the segregationist governor of Alabama, out of the race. We’ll give him a clear field in
North Carolina and in Florida. Then we’ll take him on.” By then, it was too late. When we won North Carolina
and we won Florida, we developed a momentum
that was almost unstoppable but there were two
huge road bumps on the way to the nomination. The first was that going into
the first northern primary in Pennsylvania, we had
to broaden the message. He was not just a
Southern candidate. And he incorrectly thought
the way to do it was appeal to perhaps the worst instincts
of the white working class. And so he used the term,
“preserving the ethnic purity of ethnic neighborhoods” —
Polish, Czech and so forth. That caused an uproar. Here was a virtually unknown
candidate and even the mayor of Atlanta, Maynard
Jackson, said, “This is not the
Jimmy Carter I know. Maybe we got the wrong guy.” He was saved by one
absolutely crucial thing. Andrew Young had been the
first congressman elected from the Deep South
since reconstruction. And I have helped him and my
late wife, Fran, had helped him. I called Andy up and I said,
“Andy, you know Carter. You know that he’s
not a racist.” Andy got Daddy King, that’s
Martin Luther King Senior — Junior had already
been assassinated — head of the Ebenezer Baptist
Church, who knew Carter. We had a big rally in
Piedmont Park in Atlanta. Daddy King put his arms around
him, embraced him and said, “Jimmy, we know you’re
a good man. We know what you mean
and we support you.” And that was over. And then the other, of course,
in the general election, was a Playboy interview.>>David M. Rubinstein: Now, who
advised him to give an interview to Playboy and what
did he say to Playboy that got him in trouble?>>Stuart Eizenstat:
First of all, there were not very
many volunteers who will say they’re the ones
who recommended it [laughter]. This is one case
where it was not me. It was Jody Powell, his Press
Secretary and Gerry Rafshoon, his Communications Director. And why? It was because they had
the sense, as we were broadening to go country-wide,
that he was seen as an uptight Baptist Southern. And they had to show
that he was a real guy.>>David M. Rubinstein: Okay.>>Stuart Eizenstat:
So what better place to do that than Playboy? Now actually, the
interview was very anodyne. Basic policy questions, the
kind you and I worked on dozens of policy papers for him on. The problem was as the reporter
was leaving his house in Plains, Carter thought his
tape recorder was off. And so, as he’s going
out the door, he said, “By the way, you’re a Baptist. What is the Baptist
view of sex?” And thinking the tape recorder
is off, he said, “Well, you know, Jesus said that
of course, a man and a woman in marriage should not have
sex outside of marriage. But man are honest, they will
have lust in their heart.” There it was, headline,
Playboy interview with a provocative
model on the front, “Carter, Lust in Your Heart.” Well here, the whole image
that had been built up and a realistic image of
a happily married man, a real religious
man, was busted. And that all really
was a very big setback.>>David M. Rubinstein: But he
overcame that and ultimately, he moves forward
to the nomination. So he gets the nomination
in New York City but before the nomination
can be given, he has to pick a vice-president. Why did he pick Mondale?>>Stuart Eizenstat: So he picked Mondale
for several reasons. First, there was a very thorough
interviewing process done by his lawyer, Charlie
Kirbo in Atlanta. And Mondale won for
several reasons. The first is he did
his homework. He read Carter’s book,
Why Not the Best
. He read everything about him. The chemistry was
there, both with Joan, his wife, and Rosalynn. He needed a Northern liberal. He needed someone
experienced in the Senate. He needed someone who was strong with the constituency
groups he was weak with — Jews, organized labor
and liberals. But there’s a humorous
part to this too. There were several other
candidates who vied for the job. And one made the mistake of
saying, “By the way, Jimmy. You should know —
thinking this would help — one of my distant relatives
was General Sherman.” [Laughter] Well, the march through Georgia is still
remembered to this day. That did not help. The other one said, “You know,
I want you to know that one of my favorite foods
is blue-eyed peas.” [ Laughter ]>>David M. Rubinstein: Right.>>Stuart Eizenstat:
So [laughter], Mondale did not say
“blue-eyed peas.”>>David M. Rubinstein:
So Mondale is selected and then the general election
campaign against the incumbent but never again elected
President Gerald Ford. There were presidential debates. Now there had never been
presidential debates before except in John Kennedy’s –>>Stuart Eizenstat: In 1960.>>David M. Rubinstein: — 1960
but why did Carter agree to it? Who challenged who
for the debates and how did you prepare
Carter for the debates?>>Stuart Eizenstat:
So we challenged Ford because we thought it
was important to go on to a national stage and demonstrate we could
go toe-to-toe with him. And you and I helped prepare
briefing books for him. And I have to say again,
in one of my mistakes, I prepared a briefing book
and I’m not exaggerating, that was six inches thick. I mean, that’s not how you
brief a president for a debate. You give him questions
and answers and repose. He refused also, out
of hubris, to practice. Absolutely no practice. The first question
and the first debate in Philadelphia was a softball. We had run against
the “Ford recession” against unemployment
and high inflation. The first question so
predictable is, “Mr. Carter, what would you do
for the economy?” He totally blew the answer. I mean, I almost
fell off my chair. What saved us was
the second debate. In the second debate which
was the foreign policy debate, Ford was asked the following
question, “What do you think about the Soviet domination
of Eastern Europe?” We’re in the Cold War. And Ford says, “There
is no Soviet domination of the Soviet Union.” And Max Frankel from the
New York Times
says, “Now, did I hear you correctly? Are you saying the Soviet
Union doesn’t dominate Eastern Europe?” “Yes, that’s what I mean.” What he meant didn’t
dominate the Soviet people. Carter just latched
onto it and he said, “I think the Czech Americans
and the Polish Americans and the Ukrainian Americans
would very much disagree.” Of course, they do. And Ford didn’t realize and
I interviewed Jim Baker, one of the 350 people
who was interviewed, who was his campaign manager. And he said for three days, they tried to convince Ford he
had made an egregious mistake. He needed to apologize
and he didn’t. That really turned the
tables and it showed that this one term Georgia
governor could handle the job as well as a 25-year
congressman in the White House.>>David M. Rubinstein:
So Carter gets elected and when he’s elected, he says,
“Okay, I had a secret group that was preparing
for my election, a pre-election transition group. I’m now going to have
them run the transition and presumably the government.” And then there were the people
working at the campaign. So what happened
in the transition between the two groups clashing
about who was really going to run the transition?>>Stuart Eizenstat: Well,
this was a forerunner of the organizational
problems that I like to talk about in the White House
because unbeknownst to us, Carter had asked Jack Watson,
a very, very talented attorney and Charlie Kirbo’s partner, to have a separate
transition group working on the same policies you and I
were working on in the trenches. But when you work 24 hours
a day, seven days a week and your candidate wins, you
expect to have a major job. Well, so did the people in
this other transition group. And there was a tremendous
clash between them that was resolved only in the last few days
before we took over. So it caused a real problem. But on a more positive
note during the transition, Mondale reluctantly decided
to run for vice-president because his mentor, Hubert Humphrey had been
humiliated by Lyndon Johnson. Humiliated — not
allowed in the meetings. He often waited half-an-hour,
the Vice President of the United States
in front of the staff of like Joe [Inaudible]
for a meeting. He was not given access
to secret documents. He wanted to make sure
that didn’t happen. So he sent Carter and
the transition a memo with 10 requests, access to all
papers, access to all meetings, one-on-one lunches
in the White House. And Carter approved
every one of them and added one additional one. And that is, anyone who knows
anything about real estate, its location, location,
location. It’s the same in politics. He moved the Vice President’s
Office to where it is today, right down the hall
in the West Wing and that location
said everything about Mondale’s stature.>>David M. Rubinstein: Now,
Carter didn’t really know most of the people he selected
to be cabinet officers. How did he actually
select the cabinet?>>Stuart Eizenstat: The
cabinet was selected in part by Ham Jordan, who was his
de facto chief of staff, by Kirbo and by Mondale. And Mondale got a lot of
the people he had known, Bob Birkeland, Adams and
others into the position. Now, the key two positions and
here was my first disagreement as he was coming into office. So I was the only campaign
aide who Carter allowed to sit in on the post-election
CIA briefings in Plains. He was now president-elect. And during one of the
breaks in the briefings, we went off to the
side of his house. He said, “Stu, I’m thinking of
appointing Cy Vance as Secretary of State and Zbig Brzezinski as
my National Security Advisor.” And of course, because I
had coordinated all policy, I worked on foreign policy. We had a foreign policy group. I said, “Mr. President,
either one would be great for that position but
together, they would be poison. It won’t work.” And he said, “Why?” And I said, “Because
Cy is a dove on the Soviet Union
and Zbig is a hawk. And you will have great
difficulty reconciling it.” And he said, “I like
differences of opinion. I can handle it.” The fact is it created a
dissonance on foreign policy that was not resolved until the
Soviets invaded Afghanistan, Christmas 1979 when
Carter clearly landed into the hardline
camp of Brzezinski.>>David M. Rubinstein: So
Carter was criticized early on for having a bunch
of Georgians who were inexperienced. You had worked in
the White House but you were still
only 34 years old. The others were actually
younger than you. Do you think Carter
made a mistake at having so many Georgians who had
no experience around him?>>Stuart Eizenstat: It’s
actually 33 but that’s okay.>>David M. Rubinstein:
Thirty-three [laughter]? Okay.>>Stuart Eizenstat: But yes, the answer is every president
brings his campaign staff with him. It’s the Boston mafia
with Kennedy. It’s the Austin mafia
with LBJ and so forth. But the difference is those
were people who knew Washington, who had themselves
been in the Congress or in central positions. So Carter came in without
one day’s experience, have never been in the
White House, brought people into the White House as his
top aides who had never been in the White House, and then
made the fatal error thinking that the real problem with
Watergate was Bob Haldeman, Nixon’s chief of staff
who kept everyone away. And that was not the problem. The problem was Haldeman
was a crook [laughter]. The chief of staff is essential
and Ford, also, after the pardon of Nixon, when he
became president, he had been a congressman. He didn’t want a
chief of staff either. The first weeks of the Ford
presidency were chaotic and Dick Cheney told me
in one of the interviews, he became his chief of staff that they gave Cheney a broken
bicycle wheel when he was going out as staff to show that
the system that Ford had and that Carter ended
up adopting which is called the
spokes, the wheel where five or six presidential
aides have equal access and there’s no chief
of staff was wrong. And he left that broken bicycle
wheel on [Inaudible] offices and said, “It’s a mistake. Don’t do it.” But Carter didn’t listen. And he didn’t have
a chief of staff and he didn’t have an
experienced chief of staff. Reagan learned the lesson. What did Reagan do when he won? He also was inexperienced
in Washington. He had Jim Baker, who had
been the campaign manager of his opponent, George H.W.
Bush as his chief of staff. That made all the
difference in the world.>>David M. Rubinstein: So
Carter is elected president of the United States, the
first Democratic president in eight years. The Congress are
controlled by the Democrats so the Democrats just do
whatever Carter wants. Is that right or it didn’t
happen that way [laughter]?>>Stuart Eizenstat:
Maybe if it was Republican but this is a Democrat.>>David M. Rubinstein: So why
didn’t they like him better?>>Stuart Eizenstat:
First of all, they did. One of the things and the
myths that I try to puncture is that he was unsuccessful
with Congress. Congress passed almost 70%
of his legislation according to two independent surveys,
just under the percent of the legendary Lyndon Johnson. The problem was, however,
that he proposed, David, so much at the same time,
so many major priorities — welfare reform, tax reform,
health insurance and so forth, Panama Canal, Seoul Treaty — that it got lost and he had
not the capacity of showing that half-a-loaf was a victory. He was so moralistic that
compromising became difficult. So we achieved an enormous
amount but it always paled in comparison to
what we had proposed. And the Democratic Party was
very much split between — he had two bases,
Southern conservatives and the Northern liberals. And in the Senate, in
particular, Tip in the House, Tip O’Neill — they
passed everything. The Senate became an Indian
burial ground for a lot of his legislation
because of this division. In the end again, we achieved a
lot but it was done with a lot of blood on the table.>>David M. Rubinstein: How
about Carter’s working style? Did he like to be
briefed orally? They liked to read memos? Did he like to call the
staff in and ask questions?>>Stuart Eizenstat: So
David, you have been a CEO, just stepped down, and you
interview CEOs for your program. The president of the United
States is the chief executive officer of the largest
enterprise in the world. Trillions of dollars of
revenue, of expenditures, tens of millions of employees. But the president
constitutionally has very few powers. He’s the commander-in-chief
and that’s it. Carter failed to recognize
it was his weakness but also his strength for reasons I’ll
mention in a minute. He failed to realize
that the president has to be politician-in-chief. He has to take the relatively
weak constitutional powers, unite his party, coax people
to support him, schmooze, do the small favors, notes
on birthdays, a project here and there to get a vote. He had great difficulty
doing that. He saw the job as more
of an academic job. He made decisions
by written memoranda and he read voraciously. He always wanted more and
more and more information. He would sometimes circle our
decision memos with misspellings and grammatical errors. Now mind you, that’s a lot
better way to make decisions than what we see in tweets
but still [laughter], it was — it was a problem. And the human contact on
decisions is important. It empowers cabinet officers. It empowers the Congress. When they see the president, when he can see the
pressures personally –>>David M. Rubinstein: Right. So the best way to
convince Carter was to say, “This would help
you politically.”>>Stuart Eizenstat: Ham
Jordan told me very early on, he had been Carter’s
principal supporter and aide and the genius behind
the ’76 campaign. He said, “Stu, I want to
give you an early lesson in the White House. Never say, Mr. President, this decision will help you
politically or you’ll lose.” He had a very odd
view of politics. He was a ferocious
campaigner but he wanted to do what he considered
the right thing politically and then hope that the political
chips ultimately would fall his way. Again, failing to recognize
you have to marry politics and policy all the time. So again, we never
said, “Mr. President, this decision will
help you politically.” Now that was his weakness
but it was his strength. Because of that, he
was willing to take on issues others wouldn’t
— the Panama Canal Treaty, the Middle East peace
process, the energy policy — knowing it would
hurt him politically, knowing it would be bloody.>>David M. Rubinstein: Did he approve people
using the tennis courts? That was a rumor always.>>Stuart Eizenstat:
Well, I mean, this is — this is such a myth. The fact is, he was incredibly
generous to us as a staff. He did things that no
other president did. He allowed his senior staff
to have Camp David which, by the way, he almost sold along
with the presidential Sequoia as a way of saving money. But he let us use that on
weekends which was a godsend. And he let his staff
use the tennis court. He only said, “Sign
up so I’m not on or Rosalynn’s not on
at the same time.” The notion that he micromanaged
the schedule is just incorrect but it fit in with this notion
of excessive attention to detail that was actually an act of
huge generosity to his staff.>>David M. Rubinstein:
So let’s talk about what some people would
say was his greatest success, Camp David. He tried to get in the middle of
the Middle East peace process. He invited Sadat and
Begin to Camp David. Was that an idea that
everybody thought was good and how did he actually
pull that off over a 13-day period of time?>>Stuart Eizenstat: So Anwar
Sadat, the president of Egypt, made a historic trip to
Jerusalem to start the process. Then an impasse developed. They simply couldn’t resolve
their major differences. He wanted everything
back from the Sinai. So Carter, in an
act of desperation, thinking that Sadat’s whole
historic effort would fail, took a risk that almost all of his advisers advised
him not to do. He invited them to the presidential
retreat at Camp David. Through 13 agonizing
days and nights, Carter personally
wrote 20 drafts. He negotiated separately
with Menachem Begin, the prime minister of Israel
and with Sadat because they were like two scorpions
in the bottle. They never met except the
first day and the last. And then he added
two personal touches. And compare that with some of
the summits we’ve seen recently. Number one, the first of
the Sundays of the 13 days, he took them to Gettysburg, to
the battlefield to demonstrate that five wars were enough. Sadat was a general. He knew Pickett’s charge. And Begin was so moved, he actually verbatim did
the Gettysburg Address. And then the last Sunday, we
were very close to an agreement but not there, the 13th day. And Begin said, “Mr.
President, I’ve had it. No more compromises. I’ve got an El Al
plane waiting for me. Get me out of here.” He called it a luscious
concentration camp. Carter knowing that this
would blow up the Middle East and his own presidency,
knowing what Begin loved which was his grandchildren,
he got eight photographs of himself, Sadat and
Begin at Camp David, personally autographed them, walked them over to Begin’s
cabin, handed it to them. And saw tears well
up in Begin’s eyes as he read each of his names. He put his bags down and said,
“I’ll make one last try,” and the rest is history.>>David M. Rubinstein: Right,
so they got the agreement. They came down with it to
the White House [applause]. But then it still took time
for Carter had to go back to the Middle East and
do some of the summit –>>Stuart Eizenstat: Yes
and this was even more. Everybody thinks the end
of it was Camp David. Camp David was a framework. It wasn’t a binding treaty. There was supposed to be
three months to finish it. In six months, they
still hadn’t. So Carter took another risk. And this was unanimously
opposed. He went back to the
region to try to put this back
into a formal treaty. And again, it looked
like we had failed. The last day, Carter was
in the King David Hotel. He was — already
got his bags packed. The air space was
cleared for Air Force One. Begin calls and says,
“Mr. President, I’d like to come see
you for breakfast.” Carter not expecting it,
says to us in the lobby, “Would you please entertain
the Prime Minister while I get dressed and ready?” So Begin says to us, “You know, this is a very famous
hotel, the King David.” I said, “Yes, I understand.” He said, “No, not for
the reasons you think. When I was head of the Irgun
during the British occupation, I blew this hotel up [laughter]. Don’t worry. I’m not going to do it while
the President is here.” But that breakfast
ended up sealing it. And then we had a treaty
that has not been violated in any iota for 40 years
central to Israel security.>>David M. Rubinstein: Okay.>>Stuart Eizenstat: And the –>>David M. Rubinstein:
For 40 years, the treaty has not
been violated. There’s peace between
Egypt and Israel. And why is it that
Carter is not that popular in the Jewish community?>>Stuart Eizenstat: All right,
so this is very painful for me as a member of the
Jewish community. Here’s a president that
gave Israel its first peace with its most powerful Arab
enemy, Egypt, who broke the back of the Arab boycott with the
Arab boycott legislation, who was the unquestioned father of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial
Museum, who championed the cause of Soviet Jewry and got
a doubling of immigration and saved Natan Sharansky’s
life during his trial. And who saved 50,000
Iranian Jews during the Ayatollah’s reign. And yet, he gets the lowest
percentage of Jewish votes of any Democratic candidate. Why? First because to achieve
that peace in the Middle East, there was a lot of glass
that had to be broken, a lot of pressure
was put on Israel. Second, he had very
difficult relations with Rabin and particularly with Begin. Begin was the first Likud
prime minister after 30 years of Labor prime ministers who
believed that Israel had a claim to everything between the
Mediterranean and the Jordan. And this was very
difficult for him to accept. And so there were
repeated clashes and most important perhaps,
he analogized the plight of the Palestinians to the
plight of the African-Americans with whom he grew up in a county
that was two-thirds black, where he played with them but
couldn’t go to school with them. And he said to me
in my interview, “The white police
treated blacks better than the IDF treated
the Palestinians.” Now, I’ve argued with him
about the [inaudible]. That was his belief. He saw it through
civil rights lenses and then the final coup
came 30 years after he left with his book,Apartheid
or Peace
and that really sealed the verdict.>>David M. Rubinstein: So
let’s switch for a moment to the Iranian’s hostage crisis. The Shah leaves Iran,
forced out. Carter ultimately lets him
in to the United States. Why did he let him do that and
why did Carter not do anything for one year in terms
of the hostages and leaving the White House or why did he make the hostage
crisis such a big thing?>>Stuart Eizenstat: So I don’t
think it’s fair to blame Carter for the Iranian revolution
any more than it would be fair to blame Eisenhower for
the Castro revolution or Obama for Mubarak falling. But we made huge mistakes. The first was letting the
Shah in for medical treatment. Now this is the worst failure
in intelligence history. The CIA did not know that the
principal ally we had put back on the throne in 1953 had lost
his political support at home and was getting cancer
treatments for five years. So he wants to come in
for cancer treatments. Carter is the last holdout. He said to us point blank,
“I think if we let him in, the radicals will try to
capture our hostages.” And everybody said including
Rockefeller, David Rockefeller and Kissinger outside who
were organizing the effort, “You can’t let an ally
of 30 years down.” So he let him in and the
hostages [inaudible]. Then the mistake was we — I recommended and Brzezinski
recommended immediate military action, not bombing but
manning the harbors, keeping the oil from coming out. He refused. He said to the hostages’
families, “My first priority is
getting your loved ones out safe and sound.” He did but at great
political cost. He holed himself up in the White
House and that really showed that he was a prisoner, a
hostage himself and then of course, the failed rescue
effort doomed the presidency. And it was not due to
too few helicopters. He ordered two more than
was ordered by the military. It was because four
military services, David, had never practiced the
whole exercise together.>>David M. Rubinstein: Right,
so despite all these problems, Carter was the nominee
of his party. He had a contest against
Ted Kennedy in 1980. Do you think had
Kennedy not run, Carter might have been
a stronger candidate in the general elections?>>Stuart Eizenstat:
There’s no question about it. I mean, Ford, in
part lost in ’76 because Reagan challenged him. It split the party and it was
over national health insurance which just was not
affordable at this time. Kennedy never reconciled
after the convention. There was no holding of hands. He didn’t campaign
with him actively. That would have made
a huge difference. At the end, however,
it was inflation and the hostage crisis
that did [inaudible].>>David M. Rubinstein: So
I remember thinking then, I was 31 years old
and we wanted to run against Ronald Reagan
because he was 69. I thought, “How can
anybody 69 possibly be able to do anything?” I’m now 69 so it doesn’t
look as bad as it did then but [laughter] why did we want
to run against Ronald Reagan?>>Stuart Eizenstat: We wanted
to run against Ronald Reagan but we thought that he was
a trigger-happy cowboy, a grade B movie star
from California. And Jess Unruh, who we
called in, he was the head of the California
Democratic Party said, “You’re underestimating
this guy. He’s a great politician.” We didn’t realize
how great he was. Now what happened was we got
at Fox in terms of the debate. We agreed with only eight
days left to debate him. And that debate was failed because it took away
the fear factor. Because we had inflation,
because we had, you know, the Iran crisis, all the
good things we had done had gone obscured. So we ran a very negative
campaign against him. And he was very loquacious,
very you know, sincere, very articulate. It took away the fear factor
and our polls went down. But here’s the interesting
thing which nobody recognizes in this landslide loss. The last weekend before
the Tuesday election, by all independent polls,
we were even or ahead. So the halo effect
that Reagan got from the debate had evaporated. And then here’s where
Iran comes in again. We’re in Chicago, 3:00 o’clock
in the morning, at the Hilton. The White House calls and
says, “Be ready in 45 minutes. The President’s going
back to the White House. There’s a new offer
from the Iranians.” And I begged him not to go. I said, “Look, you
can look at it here. It’s not going to
be satisfactory.” And it wasn’t. He went back. It brought the whole thing
back, the whole Iranian thing and his polls collapsed. And all the good things
— energy security, the greatest environmental
president ever, all the ethics laws
which were there, the modern vice [inaudible]
going to China, normalization, human rights and
foreign policy — all of these things
were forgotten because of the hostage crisis.>>David M. Rubinstein: How is
Jimmy Carter’s health today?>>Stuart Eizenstat: Jimmy Carter’s health
today is remarkable. He’s 94 in October, October 1st. He announced three years ago
that he had metastatic melanoma. We thought it was the end. I went down to see him. It was a day or two
before he got immunotherapy which is a new precision
medicine that it’s not like chemotherapy. It activates the immune system. Three years later, knock on
wood, he’s as good as ever. He travels. He’s articulate. He’s been given a
new lease on life and it’s really a wonderful way of [inaudible] blessing
[applause].>>David M. Rubinstein:
Well, my — we haven’t had time for
questions from the audience because we ran out of time. But I hope you all think this
was an interesting story. I highly recommend this book by Stuart Eizenstat
on President Carter. Thank you very much, Stuart.>>Stuart Eizenstat:
Thank you, David. [ Applause ]

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