[Posted by WLS]
The 1976 election of Jimmy Carter was just before I came of age politically, and I have no recollection of the issues of the day or the politics of the season.
But, Novak in his memoirs goes back to some of the earliest columns he wrote about Carter, one in the December 1975 before Carter shocked the Dem. establishment by winning in Iowa — and recalls how he pointed out with stark clarity the fact that the future President was a LIAR. His column pointed out 9 specific lies told by Carter in a couple of different forums, all of which he was able to fact check before reporting them.
Novak recalls one of Carter’s first appearances on Face the Nation in December, 1975. Carter was asked about the pending campaign finance legislation that would, for the first time, limit contributions to candidates. Carter responded by saying he was in favor of the legislation, and as a long-time member of Common Cause he had played a role in the formulation of the ideas behind the legislation. Novak had reported on campaign finance issues for several years, and had never before heard Carter’s name — he didn’t even know who Carter was until he announced his presidential bid.
He checked with Common Cause and found that Rossalyn Carter had joined the organization, but not Jimmy Carter. Further, no one connected to the pending legislation could remember Jimmy Carter being involved in any fashion.
Next, Carter was asked about his decision to challenge Henry Scoop Jackson for the nomination only 4 years after Carter had given the nominating speech on Jackson’ behalf at the 1972 Convention. Carter made reference to his “long-standing” friendship with Jackson going back to the time Carter worked under Adm. Hyman Rickover on the nuclear submarine program and Jackson was a member of the House Armed Services Committee.
When Novak checked with Jackson’s staff, they said Jackson had never met Carter before he was elected Governor of Georgia, and that its unlikely that Carter, as a mere Lt. in the Navy would have had any high level involvement with Rickover or Congress on the development of the nuclear submarine program, though he certainly went through the training on the military side. He spent only 2 years in the nuclear program, attached to two different subs before his father died and he resigned his commission to return home to run the family business. http://www.military.com/Content/MoreContent?file=ML_jcarter_bkp
At another forum with some newspaper editors, Carter was asked again about his relationship with Jackson, and in giving his answer he made reference to his many breakfasts with the then late Sen. Richard Russell of Georgia over the years. Novak contacted Russell’s former staffers, and they said Carter was “greatly exaggerating” the extent of his relationship with the Georgia political legend Russell.
Carter also made mention during this session with editors about his involvment in reaching a compromise on the Atlanta voluntary school busing in the early 1970s. But, people who participated in the negotiations from start to finish could recall Carter only attending one session, and his only contribution being that he opposed forced busing. An unnamed member of the NAACP called Carter’s claim regarding having helped the sides to reach a settlement “a damn lie.”
Carter also told the editors that two policy experts giving advice to his campaign were the former Secretary of the Dept. of Health, Education and Welfare Wilbur Cohen, and the former Undersecretary of State, George Ball. Novak knew both and asked them about the claim.
Cohen told Novak that he spent one day with Carter in Georgia when he was Governor — in 1973 — two years before Carter made the claim.
Ball told Novak that he had breakfast with Carter one time, several months before Carter made the claim.
Novak’s column recounted all these episodes and the responses from Novak’s sources, and included comments from political “enemies” in Georgia that Carter was well known as a liar in the state’s political circles.
Novak then goes on to relate another Carter appearance some weeks later on Face the Nation. The format at the time had two CBS television journalists joined by one non-CBS print journalist to do the questioning. From the mid-60’s to the mid-70’s, Novak was the print journalist most frequently requested by CBS to participate. But he came to the Carter appearance with loaded questions.
First, he asked Carter about a favorite applause line he used in his stump speeches when he claimed that US Ambassadors in the Ford Administration were really fat, bloated, ignorant Nixon contributors who didn’t even speak the language of the countries where they were posted. Novak asked Carter if he was willing to identify any such Ambassador by name. Carter hemmed and hawed over how often he really made such a claim during his stump speeches, but Novak pressed him. When Carter still refused to answer, Novak pointed out that only 4 US Ambassadors in the Ford Administration had contributed to Nixon, three of them spoke the language of the country where they were posted, and the fourth was enrolled in language school at the time. He asked Carter if his criticism was inaccurate and unfair. Carter had no response.
Novak’s last question of the really set Carter’s teeth on edge. Referring to a Carter campaign pledge to cut the defense budget by $7-8 billion (not sure what that would be in today’s dollars), and his frequent complaint that the military was bloated with too many post-Vietnam Generals and Admirals, Novak asked if Carter knew how much of the defense budget went to paying the salaries and benefits of Generals and Admirals. Carter again fixed an unsmiling stare at Novak, and stated that he did not have those numbers in front of him. Novak told him that .04% of the defense budget went to such expenses — approximately $41 million — and asked if Carter didn’t owe the public more specific and accurate information about his plan to cut the defense budget.
Again, Carter had no answer.
Novak goes on to state that notwithstanding the fact that he was the most-often invited guest as a print journalist on Face the Nation, his appearance that Sunday questioning Carter in 1975 was his last. He was never again called by CBS. He only learned later that Carter’s staff complained that Novak was biased against Carter, and stated that Carter would never again appear on the show if CBS continued to use Novak as a questioner.
Again, I’m not Bob Novak’s agent, but if you like politics and political history that you might not have been old enough to understand or appreciate, Novak’s memoirs are fascinating.