Kennedy Memoir Settles Scores With Carter, Others

Posted September 14, 2009 at 1:48pm

Despite a reputation for magnanimity, the late Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) appears to have been able to hold a grudge with the best of them, according to his new memoir. Kennedy painted former President Jimmy Carter as a shallow, petty politician while calling out supposed “supporters— who abandoned Kennedy during his 1980 presidential bid.In “True Compass,— Kennedy portrays Carter as unwilling to listen to others. “Clearly, President Carter was a difficult man to convince — of anything. One reason for this was that he did not really listen. He loved the appearance of listening,— Kennedy wrote.Kennedy also faulted Carter for using summertime “colloquies— at the White House not only to remind guests that the Carter family did not drink, but also to demonstrate his grasp of policy minutiae. “The first thing you would be reminded of, in case you needed reminding, was that he and Rosalynn had removed all the liquor in the White House,— Kennedy said.Of the actual events hosted by Carter, Kennedy’s description makes them appear almost as tedious seminars, so buried in the details of a topic as to be no longer useful. “For the next three hours Jimmy Carter would conduct a seminar: on Africa, for instance. He would let you know that he knew every country in Africa and the name of every president of every country in Africa … They were informational — you could say they were nothing if not informational. But they were so broad-gauged as to not be of much specific importance. They were personal tours de force, and every one of my colleagues recognized them as such, designed to impress us that the president knew so much minutiae.—Kennedy also accused Carter of acting with “timidity— on health care. “True Compass— says the Carter administration never appeared interested in moving broad reforms and describes an hourlong meeting with Carter in which the president refused to appoint Watergate figure Archibald Cox to the federal court because Cox had backed Morris Udall for the 1976 Democratic nomination. “He said he could never, ever support Archibald Cox, he said, because Cox had supported Morris Udalll. … His words had a certain ring that I have always remembered. It seemed as though Carter were experiencing real pleasure in telling that he was not going to support Archibald Cox,— Kennedy wrote.Kennedy also makes note of the fact that several of his high-profile supporters abandoned him during his ill-fated run for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1980, including Rep. Dan Rostenkowski (D-Ill.), Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-N.Y.) and New York Gov. Hugh Carey (D), all of whom had urged him to run. “At Eunice’s Special Olympics in New York State, Pat Moynihan had made a big point of pulling me over and saying I had to run. He’d said he’d do anything for me. In a New York meeting, Hugh Carey has said the same thing: I had to run. He’d do anything for me. But once my campaign got started, I never heard from either of them again,— Kennedy said, adding of Rostenkowski that, “At a gathering of Democratic congressional leaders at the White House, I spotted Rostenkowski. It seemed that he was avoiding me. I called him up the next day, but I couldn’t get him. Four days later, he announced for Carter, who had pushed through funding for Chicago’s transit system.—