WATERTOWN — On Nov. 18, 1975, 51-year-old Jimmy Carter made his rounds in the city, radiatin…
Editor’s note: This story is a republication of a Nov. 19, 1975, story in the Watertown Daily Times about presidential candidate Jimmy Carter’s visit to Watertown’s Rebel Room bar. Times staff writer Bert Gault covered the campaign stop of the 51-year-old who would become the 39th president of the United States and be awarded the 2002 Nobel Peace Prize for work finding peaceful solutions to international conflicts and advancing democracy and human rights.
The sign in front of the Holiday Inn said, “Welcome Jimmie Carter.”
Jimmy Carter — a former nuclear physicist, peanut farmer and former governor of Georgia — stood casually in a basement room at the Holiday Inn, telling about 50 Democratic officials and workers that he will be the next president of the United States.
Jimmy Carter — looking older and smaller than his publicity pictures indicate — sat on a platform in the WWNY television studio facing four reporters, explaining in his smooth, controlled drawl why he should be the next president of the United States.
Jimmy Carter — breaking the monotony of television appearances and Democratic gatherings — joined in the laughter and music at the Rebel Room, not complaining when one reveler favorably compared his profile to that of John F. Kennedy, who was the president of the United States.
He’d been saying it all day Tuesday in Albany and Utica, now in Watertown, and later in Syracuse.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that I will be the nominee,” Mr. Carter said in the 15 minutes taped for Tuesday’s “Sounding Board” on Channel 7.
“And there’s no doubt in my mind that I will be elected president,” he said, as if talking about the weather. (It’s going to rain, you know.)
The governor repeated his pledge of the day: There will be two candidates for the Democratic nomination left in the running by the time the field moves into New York for the April 6 primary.
“I’ll be one of them,” he said. “I don’t know who the other one might be.”
In Albany earlier, he ad said the other candidate would be former Sen. Fred Harris of Oklahoma, Rep. Morris Udall of Arizona, Sen. Birch Bayh of Indiana or Sargent Shriver, the 1972 vice presidential candidate.
He plans to eliminate Alabama Gov. George C. Wallace in the Florida primary March 9. Apparently, nobody ever heard of Sen. Henry Jackson of Washington, or Hubert Humphrey, for that matter.
But it doesn’t really matter who the other candidate will be, he said.
“The nominee of our party, who will also be our next president, will be a nuclear physicist who grows peanuts in Georgia,” he said.
The 51-year-old candidate was in the second day of a four-day swing through the Empire State, part of what he called his 250-day, 1975 portion of the presidential campaign.
This year, he said, is devoted to rounding up workers, delegates and money.
His schedule — from a 6:26 p.m. Monday arrival in Albany to a 2:01 p.m. Thursday departure from Buffalo — included 10 meetings with party officials, nine television tapings, seven news conferences, six speeches and two sessions with newspaper editorial boards.
Jimmy Carter doesn’t raise his voice. He speaks slowly, confidentially, his blue eyes twinkling, his face wrinkling into an extended smile.
He can say “my daddy” in one sentence and “my father” in the next, mixing the homespun approach out of tiny Plains, Ga., with the urbane and intellectual delivery of a man who helped develop the world’s first atomic submarines.
“There’s nothing special about me,” he assured the Democrats. “I grow the best certified seed peanuts in the country.”
Mr. Carter has made up his mind about a lot of things, but his style refuses to allow him to force his opinions on you. He sprinkles his talk with the friendly qualifiers: “maybe you won’t agree,” “I probably shouldn’t say this in New York,” “I don’t really know that much about this, as you may have detected by now.”
— The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the attorney general should be removed from politics, and the rest of the government should be opened up under “sunshine” legislation;
— The executive branch should adopt his “zero-based budgeting,” in which every department and agency must justify its continued existence every year;
— Welfare costs should be borne by the state and federal governments, and the multiplicity of welfare programs should be reduced to single-payment plans for persons truly in need;
— The federal government should not insert itself between New York the city and New York the state, agreeing to help shore up the state’s financial picture as the means of pulling the city out of its fiscal dilemma;
— The “massive, nuclear arms races” should be halted, but, utilizing a strong navy and a common will, foreign policy should be conducted with “firmness, openess and predictability.”
He’s been asked the same questions, given the same answers so many times that the words flow out on their own.
At WWNY and at the Holiday Inn, he used exactly the same words to lead into his answer on a question involving forced busing of students to achieve school integration: “The best thing that has happened to the south in my lifetime has been the passage of the civil rights acts.”
He said he is against forced busing and urged northern cities to find the cooperation between white and black factions that southern cities have accomplished after two decades of turmoil.
Jimmy Carter and his entourage, including Secret Service and a trio of national news reporters, spent two hours in Watertown.
He was, amazingly, on schedule. He was the first presidential hopeful to hit the north country. He will not be the last.
Democrats were impressed, they said, but non-committal, waiting for the senators and representatives and governors and others to come asking for their votes, their labor, before making up their minds.
People want a president they feel they can trust, he said, they want a president who is one of them.
Did the former governor of Georgia who raises peanuts have a drink with the folks?
“No, but he ate the popcorn.”
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