Jimmy Carter - The outsider in washington





Early on, Carter devoted much of his energy to building popular support. He made great efforts to demonstrate that he was a "people's president," not an "imperial" one. He preached against the sin of pride and spoke of his own limitations. As one commentator observed, he sought in a variety of ways to dramatize "the qualities of morality, frugality, simplicity, candor and compassion for which the voters had been searching." He hoped to restore confidence in government as well as to establish confidence in himself; he cultivated "the people" rather than "the interests," suggesting that the former were good, the latter bad. He relied heavily on both television and direct contacts to accomplish these objectives. And he seemed quite successful.

At the same time and although Carter had campaigned as an "outsider," a critic of America's leadership of the recent past, he drew into his administration people with experience, including experience in Washington. Cyrus Vance became secretary of state; Harold Brown, secretary of defense; James Schlesinger, presidential assistant for energy; and Joseph Califano, secretary of health, education, and welfare. The president also courted business executives, appointing W. Michael Blumenthal as secretary of the treasury. Corporate law, as usual, was also well represented, this time by Vance, Califano, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Patricia Roberts Harris, and Attorney General Griffin Bell; academia supplied Brown, Harris, Secretary of Commerce Juanita Kreps, Secretary of Labor Ray Marshall, and Zbigniew Brzezinski, the national security adviser. Secretary of Transportation Brock Adams and Secretary of Agriculture Bob Berglund were former congressmen; Secretary of Interior Cecil Andrus had been governor of Idaho. Most had served previously in the national capital. The many roles played by Robert Strauss, a former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, symbolized the importance of established people in the administration. Obviously, Carter's hopes of building support with the establishment outweighed any desire to enlarge his image as an outsider.

Some outsiders did hold important positions in the administration. In particular, the White House staff was dominated by Georgians, including Hamilton Jordan, Jody Powell, and Stuart Eizenstat, who had worked with Carter at home but had never served in Washington. Carter recognized their lack of experience there but had great confidence in them.

The president was quite sensitive to and supportive of the demands of politically active blacks and women. There were now more than forty-three hundred blacks in elected office, more than four times as many as a decade earlier, and they were sufficiently numerous in Congress to have their own caucus. Blacks had moved forward at an especially rapid pace in southern politics, where the number of black voters doubled in the thirteen years following passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. And blacks, including Juanita Kreps and Patricia Harris, had some influence in the Carter administration. Wade H. Mc-Cree served as solicitor general, Clifford L. Alexander was the first black secretary of the army, Mary Berry was the top official in Washington on educational matters prior to the establishment of the Department of Education, Eleanor Holmes Norton chaired the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and Franklin Delano Raines served on the White House staff.

Andrew Young, as United States ambassador to the United Nations, was the most prominent representative of the political advance of southern blacks. He, in fact, was quite conscious of what he represented. "We were protest and now we are it ," he proclaimed to a largely black audience in 1977. A clergyman and one of Martin Luther King's aides, Young, in 1972, had become the first black elected to Congress from Georgia since Reconstruction. By 1976 he had allied with Carter, helping him move to victory. After the latter moved into the White House, Young became ambassador to the United Nations and emerged quickly as an outspoken and controversial member of the administration, criticizing racism, advocating majority (black) rule in southern Africa, and proclaiming that the American civil rights movement contained lessons of value for black Africans. Eventually, in 1979, Young would become too controversial and would be forced to resign, but Carter would replace him with another black, Donald F. McHenry.

Although Carter refused to endorse all features of the women's movement, he did give it considerable support. He objected to child care centers and abortion, and Congress, supported by the president, Secretary Califano, and the Supreme Court, restricted the use of public funds for abortions, making it difficult for poor women to obtain them. On the other hand, Carter put women in important positions and appointed two, Kreps and Harris, to his original cabinet and a third, Shirley Hufstedler, secretary of education, when that post was created in 1979. Another woman, Patricia Derrian, played a leading role in the human rights campaign, and still others, including Margaret ("Midge") Costanza, Anne Wexler, and Mary Berry, as well as the president's wife, served significantly. Rosalynn Carter, for example, campaigned for ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment. Even more important, she was a close adviser to her husband.

At the same time that he appointed both newcomers and veterans of the Washington scene, Carter hoped to improve the performance of government. He wanted to raise its ethical level and relied heavily on rhetoric for this purpose. He wished also to make it more efficient and effective, and thus, as he had in Georgia, he pushed for government reorganization, eventually enjoying some victories in this area.

At first, Carter's methods seemed to enhance his popularity. By March, over 70 percent of the people, according to the pollsters, approved of his performance. When the battles over policy became hotter, he slipped some, but in July, more than 60 percent of the people still approved. By fall, however, less than 50 percent approved, and by May 1978, the figure was below 40 percent. Carter, it seemed obvious, had not ended the leadership crisis.





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