From .......... GOVERNING AMERICA - An Insider's Report

By Joseph A. Califano, Jr.


pages 13-14 ............... STARTING UP

FROM THE time I left my job at the White House as President Lyndon Johnson's staff assistant for domestic affairs in 1969, I knew that if I ever returned to government service, I would like to be Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare. But in light of Jimmy Carter's persistent attacks on Washington insiders during 1976, I never thought he would offer me the opportunity - until he chose Fritz Mondale, a personal and political colleague of mine since 1975, as his vice-presidential running mate. Then, shortly after the Democratic National Convention, in late July 1976, Patrick Anderson, a Washington novelist and the first Carter speechwriter, called me:

The next day Mondale introduced me to "Governor Carter" over the phone.

After a few other comments, Carter left Mondale and me on the phone to talk about the speech.

page 14 .............. GOVERNING AMERICA

''It's really important for you to help on this. I want Carter to get to know you," Mondale said, signaling as only a political friend can the potential ahead. Pat Anderson called two days later to say,

Carter also wanted to see me in New Hampshire.

I greeted Jimmy Carter beside his airplane in Manchester at mid-morning on August 3, 1976. We rode together to the shopping center where he was to speak. When we got in the car, an aide showed Carter that day's issue of the Manchester Union Leader, William Loeb's right wing paper. Two vituperative front-page stories excoriated Carter. His face tightened with a hint of controlled rage as he read them. I thought to myself, this was something we would never do with Lyndon Johnson just before he was to deliver a speech; his temper would almost certainly overwhelm his discretion. As I looked at Carter to my right in the back seat, his eyes were so calculating I assumed he was more self-controlled.

When Carter stood up, he ad-libbed for fifteen angry minutes that this was likely to be one of the dirtiest campaigns in history, that the Republicans would stage an "almost unprecedented vicious personal attack'' on him. I was not sure whether he was truly angry or had decided to use this as a way of positioning himself for the future, and I didn't know him well enough to ask. He then recited his prepared text on the family, with a "pledge to you that every statement I make, every decision I make will give our families a decent chance to be strong again" and the announcement that I would be his advisor on the family and make a report to him. After the speech Carter and I lunched alone at a house adjoining the Manchester Hotel. Only one lunch was delivered: steak, some vegetables, and a big bowl of fruit. Carter pressed me to join him, cut the steak in half, and divided the single portion of vegetables. We talked for almost two hours.

He first told me about himself in the cadences of a man who had done this many times. I was struck by how deeply religious he appeared and wanted to appear, how confident he was of defeating President Ford, how politically innocent about the difficulty of achieving massive reform in the national government. When I suggested the increased difficulty in moving the Congress in the wake of Vietnam and Watergate, Carter recounted an experience with the Georgia legislature.

Even though I was to underestimate the intractability of the Congress, I knew the candidate was overconfident.


GOVERNING AMERICA - An Insider's Report

from the White House and the Cabinet

By Joseph A. Califano, Jr.

Published by Simon and Schuster 1981

ISBN 0-671-25428-6