I remember Ted Kennedy announcing his candidacy for the Democratic nomination for president in 1980. It was an unusual candidacy because there was already a Democrat in the White House and he intended to run for a second a term. That president was Jimmy Carter, poor man. Poor haughty man.
But it was Kennedy's own announcement that could not have been more mortifying. On television one night he was questioned by Roger Mudd. I believe he lost the nod right then and there. He couldn't even explain why he was running.
Now, the then incumbent president Carter has written another apologia, mawkish and arrogant at once. It is called White House Diary, and it has received near zero currency. But it puts the blame for his loss on Teddy. Not only that: Jimmy puts the blame for the defeat of his health care legislation on Teddy, too.
In the Boston Globe this morning, Michael Kranish adds to this self-serving tale the complaints of Carter's vice president, Walter Mondale, also in a new memoir, The Good Fight: A Life in Liberal Politics. Sounds thrilling, doesn't it?
In his book, Mondale noted that he attended Kennedy's memorial service last year and 'I mourned his death deeply.' But the wounds of their 1980 battle remain. Mondale recounted how Kennedy called in November 1979, confirming speculation Kennedy would seek the Democratic nomination. Mondale said he told Kennedy that such a fight would 'tear the party apart and it's going to be hard for us to win in November.
But not, for God's sake, because Teddy had run and lost in the Democratic primaries.
Carter lost because inflation was above 10%, and unemployment was close to 7.5%, and you couldn't get gasoline at the gas station. Moreover, our diplomatic personnel were still in captivity after a year in Tehran. And Carter himself had declared the country in spiritual crisis...and it was, because of him.
The New Republic endorsed congressman John Anderson as an Independent for president.
And I? For whom did I vote. Ronald Reagan. Anybody was better than Carter. And anybody still is.