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    Anecdotal Observations On History & Politics

    Entries in Jimmy Carter (7)


    NYC's Last Federal Bailout

    Mayor Bloomberg's warning, that New York could meet a similar fate as Detroit, comes at an coincidental time -- August 8th marks the 35th anniversary of the signing of New York City's last Federal Loan Guarantee Bill, the final of several bailouts which set the city back on the path to solvency. President Jimmy Carter signed the bill outside City Hall in 1978, with Senator Javits, Senator Moynihan, Governor Carey and Mayor Koch:

    "People in other parts of the country have sometimes been jealous of the achievements of New York, and there were a few around our Nation who were willing to see the big city taken down a peg or two. I know how New Yorkers feel about that"


    Primary Season Tribute: 1976-2008

    I cut a "greatest hits" montage of Primary Season Moments from the campaigns of 1976 - 2008 for The Chris Matthews Show and First Read at NBC. Featuring Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush, Teddy Kennedy, Walter Mondale, Gary Hart, Michael Dukakis, Bob Dole, Pat Buchanan, Al Gore, George Bush, John McCain, John Kerry, Howard Dean, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. A fun retrospective for political junkies, check it out here:

    Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy



    Jimmy Carter's Controversial Playboy Interview

    Presidential candidate Jimmy Carter caused a stir in 1976 when he gave a controversial interview to Robert Sheer for Playboy magazine. After admitting that he had "committed adultery in my heart many times," the Georgia Governor encountered serious political fallout that threatened to derail his underdog campaign. His comments were as follows:

    Christ said, "I tell you that anyone who looks on a woman with lust has in his heart already committed adultery." I've looked on a lot of women with lust. I've committed adultery in my heart many times. This is something that God recognizes I will do—and I have done it—and God forgives me for it. But that doesn't mean that I condemn someone who not only looks on a woman with lust but who leaves his wife and shacks up with somebody out of wedlock. Christ says, don't consider yourself better than someone else because one guy screws a whole bunch of women while the other guy is loyal to his wife. The guy who's loyal to his wife ought not to be condescending or proud because of the relative degree of sinfulness.

    While he said his comments were "just part of being a human being," and that Playboy Magazine was "just another forum," voters across the country were aghast and negative reactions flowed into the mailboxes of newsrooms across the country. Some choice words for the president-to-be: 

    If this is the 'born again' christian we've heard so much about, I'm glad he's not teaching Sunday school to my grandchildren. -St. Petersburg Times Reader

    I am in a state of shock. I disagree with everything he said and I think it's unfortunate he said it. -Daughter of Democratic Senator and former VP nominee in 1952, John Sparkman

    I had some doubts about voting for him, but I certainly can't now. -Monroe, LA

    Whether Carter was merely over-sharing or attempting to live up to his pledge to "never lie," he remained unapologetic as the controversy hit the fan. A few defended his candidness, comparing his "shacking up" quote to first lady Betty Ford's frank comments on premarital sex:

    In the Vice Presidential Debate, Republican Veep Nominee Bob Dole attempted to capitalize on the Playboy interview, saying, "I couldn't understand frankly why he was in Playboy magazine, but we'll give him the bunny vote," at 5:03 below:



    Jimmy Carter Attacked By Swimming Rabbit

    While pond fishing in Plains, Georgia in the spring of 1979, Jimmy Carter reported to his staff that he was confronted by a swimming rabbit and further claimed that the animal was intent on getting into the President's boat. Described as, "fairly robust," the rabbit was swimming "without any difficulty".
    The White House staff didn't believe the President at first. However, as far fetched as the story seemed, the scene was captured by a White House photographer -- and the president himself ordered that a print be made to prove the skeptics wrong. The below photo is courtesy of the Carter Presidential Library:
    Carter's late Press Secretary Jody Powell described hearing about the incident in his 1986 book The Other Side of the Story:
    The President was sitting with a few of us on the Truman Balcony. He had recently returned from a visit to Plains, and we were talking about homefolks and how the quail were nesting and similar matters of international import.
    Suddenly, for no apparent reason -- he was drinking lemonade, as I recall -- the President volunteered the information that while fishing in a pond on his farm he had sighted a large animal swimming toward him. Upon closer inspection, the animal turned out to be a rabbit. Not one of your cutesy, Easter Bunny-type rabbits, but one of those big splay-footed things that we called swamp rabbits when I was growing up.
    The animal was clearly in distress, or perhaps berserk. The President confessed to having had limited experience with enraged rabbits. He was unable to reach a definite conclusion about its state of mind. What was obvious, however, was that this large, wet animal, making strange hissing noises and gnashing its teeth, was intent upon climbing into the Presidential boat.
    Later describing the confrontation, Carter defended his use of a paddle to swat the ferocious animal away, "I had a paddle in the boat, so when the rabbit got closer to me to recognize it, and I saw that it was going to attempt to climb into the boat with me, I thought that would be an unpleasant situation for both me and the rabbit. I did not hit the rabbit, I just splashed water toward him and he finally veered his course." Upon close inspection, Carter's adroit use of his paddle to fend off the rabbit can be seen in the photo, as well as a clear view of the intruder:
    Powell, for reasons still unknown today, leaked the story to the press later in 1979 -- a move that ensured severe national embarrassment for the President. The former press secretary describes leaking the story and the aftermath: 
    Several months later I was chatting with Brooks Jackson, one of the White House correspondents for the Associated Press, over a cup of tea, as I remember. For reasons that I still do not fully understand, I told him about the President and the rabbit. I was the one who leaked the killer rabbit story.

    Although an experienced reporter, Brooks also failed to appreciate the significance of what he had heard. He did not rush to file an "urgent" story. In fact, he continued the conversation for some period of time and several more cups of tea. Not until the next day did he get around to sending this gripping account out over the wires to a waiting public. And even then it was a pleasant, lighthearted piece. Although he may not admit it now, I had the definite impression at the time that Brooks thought it was nothing more than a mildly amusing incident, too.

    We were soon corrected. The Washington Post, exercising the news judgement that we in the White House had come to appreciate so keenly, headed the piece President Attacked by Rabbit and ran it on the front page. The more cautious New York Times boxed it on page A-12. That night, all three networks found time to report the amazing incident. But that was just the beginning...

    ...It was a nightmare. The story ran for more than a week. The President was repeatedly asked to explain his behavior at town hall meetings, press conferences, and meetings with editors...

    ...There was talk of a suit under the Freedom of Information Act to force release of the picture showing the President, paddle and rabbit in close proximity...

    ...Shortly after the Reagan administration took office, they stumbled upon a copy of the picture -- apparently while searching for a foreign policy -- and reopened the old wounds by releasing it to the press.

    Carter later explained to Howard Kurtz on CNN that Jody Powell was likely drunk when he spilled the beans to Brooks Jackson: 
    Dubbing the rabbit "PAWS," (JAWS was hot at the boxoffice) the press had a field day, and many cartoonists depicted the scene, like the below image from the Tri City Herald:

    And here's a very rare JAWS parody movie poster from 1980: