Jimmy Carter 1976-1980


July 4 Bicentennial "celebration"

Energy crisis since 1973 Yom Kippur War caused OPEC oil embargo; severe recession; largest peacetime budget deficit of $66.4b; environmental movement strong; DDT sales banned 1972 due to Rachel Carson's 1962 Silent Spring, "a strange stillness" had replaced sounds of birds; Growing criticism of detente since 1975 fall of Saigon. Jimmy Carter emerged victor in 30 state primaries as the outsider candidate. Carter/Mondale nominated by Democrats in New York; Ford/ Dole by Republicans in Kansas City, not Nelson Rockefeller; Ford said in Sept. 23 debate, 1st since 1960, that Eastern Europe was not under Soviet domination; Carter said in Playboy magazine that he has looked on women with lust his heart - 1
Carter won 50% to 47.9%; 297-241 electoral votes


Carter's populist image:
  • inauguration walk with wife Rosalyn
  • spoke at solar-powered stand, no Hail to the Chief
  • inaugural address declared "a new spirit"
  • fireside chat Feb. 2 with sweater, town meeting in Clinton, MA, call-in radio show Mar. 5, stayed in people's homes
  • sent Amy to DC public school
  • 1st order - pardon draft evaders

  1. Energy - "moral equivalent of war"
  2. Human rights
  3. Government reform
  4. Negotiation rather than confrontation

James Schlesinger new Secretary of Energy; Cyrus Vance Secretary of State; Brzezinski at NSC
Inflation and unemployment rose to 7%; Dow fell 194 to two-year low of 800
but special interests blocked energy reforms - only Clinch River breeder reactor passed
Bert Lance of OMB resigned due to campaign loan scandal
B-1 bomber cancelled, but debate over SALT II - ABC Evening News July 1, 1977
Sept. 7 - Panama Canal treaties signed with Omar Torrijos
Oct. - UN Covenants on Human Rights with Ambassador Andrew Young - new emphasis on 3rd World
Nov. - NOW march with Susan B. Anthony II, Bella Abzug, Betty Friedan for ERA needing 38 states to ratify by 1982
Elvis overdosed, but Travolta danced disco, OJ went to Puerto Rico, and good Luke won over evil Darth Vader in the premier of Star Wars May 25, in new Dolby stereo sound.


Camp David summit with Sadat, Begin - Carter's "finest hour" - 2 Frameworks: Sinai returned to Egypt, West Bank and Gaza, "autonomy" to PLO - Congress lifted embargo on military aid to Turkey Sep. 26
Russians and Cubans in Ethiopia against Somalia
Ayatolla Khomeni orchestrated riots in May against Shah of Iran and planned for return from French exile in Feb. 1979
Billy became lobbiest for Kaddafi's Libya and arranged sale of C130 planes made by Lockheed of Georgia
OPEC raised price of oil 50%; U.S. paid extra $20 billion
California passed Howard Jarvis's Prop 13 property tax freeze in June
Inflation rose to 10%; budget deficit to $48.8 billion; 9.5% discount rate


Carter called for a "New Foundation"
Budget of $531b raised defense 10%, cut deficit in half
Congress approved sale of F-15 jets to Saudi Arabia
Carter trip to Mexico Feb. 14-16 - made comment at luncheon with Jose Lopez Portillo "I was afflicted with Montezuma's revenge"
no immigration reform until 1986
Diplomatic relations with China began, but also Taiwan Relations Act
Deng Xiaoping visit to Harlem Globetrotters and U.S. - "new pathway" of normalization
but China attack on Vietnam; 260,000 boat refugees to U.S.
Egypt-Israeli peace treaty finally signed Mar. 26, but no Palestinian agreement

Uganda ousted Idi Amin in Apr.; 1st black majority vote in Zimbabwe (formerly white-controlled Rhodesia)
oil from Nigeria increased, despite military regime and previous suppression of Biafra
trade with South Africa increased, despite apartheid and suppression of Namibia
Exchange of 2 KGB spies for 5 dissidents; same day trade talks started for most-favored-nation status denied by Jackson amendment since 1973    


Vienna summit with Brezhnev in June; signed SALT II treaty that set equal ICBM limit at 2250 and allowed Backfire bomber but not cruise missiles - "window of vulnerability" opposed by Congress - cartoon
Carter appeased conservatives with 200 MX missiles in 4600 silos, but high $33b cost
Jon Voight and Jane Fonda win Oscars for Coming Home that was produced by IPC (Indochina Peace Campaign) with husband Tom Hayden; Jane critical of Best Picture winner The Deer Hunter as showing a "racist" view of the war. IPC financed production of the film China Syndrome released March 16, just as the trial against Kerr-McGee began for exposing Karen Silkwood to plutonium in Oklahoma (photo of Silkwood and her car published in Time March 19 with caption "Wreckage of the death car after mysterious crash in 1974.")

Three-Mile Island shutdown Mar. 28 due to a "turbine trip" at 4 am caused by clogged mineralized water cooling valves; the automatic safety system caused a "scram" or shutdown of the reactor, but stuck water valves allowed radioactive water to escape into the containment building, and site emergency declared at 6:55 am, xenon 133 gas released (not dangerous iodine 131); Walter Cronkite reported that night "the first step in a nuclear nightmare" and the press reported a possible "China Syndrome" meltdown; only 1000 millirems in the plant on Mar. 29 (Chernobyl in 1986 released 1000 rems); hydrogen gas bubble formed in containment building Mar. 30 and 100,000 fled Harrisburg area (but no evacuation ordered); map of danger area published in Newsweek.

Three Mile Island gas bubble in Unit 2 for 6 days; on Apr. 1 Carter visited control room with PA Gov. Richard Thornburgh; protesters demonstrated outside the plant and the NRC began investigation of Babcock & Wilcox, citing violation of rules requiring shutdown if valves not working

May 30 - faulty engine mount bolt on DC10 caused Flight 191 crash in Chicago, 274 die
75,000 truckers shut down highways; ignite nation's 1st energy riot in Pennsylvania
Carter silent; cancelled TV speech; purged Cabinet; finally made speech July 15 about a "crisis of spirit" - press said "malaise" - same day that Skylab fell into Indian Ocean

  • July - Shcharansky tried and convicted in USSR
  • Aug. - Sandinistas overthrew Somoza in Nicaragua
  • Aug. - Andrew Young resigned - had met with PLO
  • Sept. - Russian Brigade in Cuba - SALT II dead
  • Oct. - El Salvador coup
  • Nov. - Iran seized hostages
  • Dec. - Russians invaded Afghanistan


  • State of the Union speech Jan. 23 - Carter Doctrine pledged "all necessary measures" to defend Persian Gulf
  • Inflation rose to 16%, deficit tripled to $75b
  • Paul Volcker appointed to Fed - interest rate rose to 20%
  • Op. Eagle Claw desert hostage rescue attempt led by Charles Beckwith, founder of the Delta Forces in '77, failed Apr. 24, 1980 - 8 killed - Muskie replaced Vance
  • Mariel boatlift began April 21 and continued despite Carter's prohibition order May 14 and efforts by the USCG - 124,776 Cubans by Sept. 23 (plus 30,000 Haitians)
  • Miami race riot May 17 killed 18 people in Liberty City
  • Mount St. Helens exploded May 18
  • Venice summit with 6 Allies ended June 23 in failure
  • "global indifference"
  • Carter cancelled wheat sales, ordered boycott of summer Olympics
  • Military budget increased 20% to $106b
  • U.S. Hockey team defeated Russia Feb. 22; won its 1st gold medal in the winter Olympics - "do you believe in miracles? Yes!" Miracle on Ice

Carter lost the "Amy debate" on TV

Reagan/Bush defeat Carter/Mondale 50.7% to 41%; 489-49 electoral votes

No White House Christmas tree lights until hostages freed

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