Archive for the ‘Journalism’ Category

DEBATES CENTRAL TO 1976 CAMPAIGN

Thursday, February 28th, 2019

By Barry Jagoda

In the election year of 1976, presidential candidates Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford agreed to a historic resumption of presidential campaign debates, which had not been held since the famous contests between Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy in 1960.

The leading academic authority on presiden
tial debates, Professor Sidney Kraus of Cleveland State University, wrote, “Just as the Kennedy-Nixon confrontations were credited with tipping the balance in favor of the Democratic challenger, the Carter- Ford debates were instrumental in securing Carter’s slim margin of victory” 16 years later.

“The debates were a central element in the 1976 election,” Carter told Kraus. “As perhaps nothing else could have, they provided an opportunity for the American people to weigh the merits of the candidates. President Ford had come to office only two years before, without
a chance to define his views in a national campaign.  I had never held national office and was relatively unknown.”

Ford told an audience at the University of Michigan, “I think the fact that we did debate … makes a strong case for their being held in the future.” And so they have been, with faceoffs held every four years, down to the present.

Inside the Carter-Mondale campaign we saw debates not only as an important chance for our challenger to be present on the same stage with the incumbent, but also as a good opportunity to show the American people the lightning mind of Jimmy 
Carter. Though there was 
the normal apprehension
about such highly focused
 events, the Carter campaign
 was prepared to win, with the
normal confidence we all had in Carter’s
ability to prevail in such a contest. The chance to get a level playing field with President Ford was welcome.

The debate’s sponsor, the League of Women Voters, had chosen various sites around the country at locations with some historic importance. Philadelphia had been a natural choice for the Bicentennial year. San Francisco, site of the signing of the United Nations charter, was selected for the second debate because the subject was to be foreign policy. Two other venues turned up that were just right for the vice presidential debate and for the final presi- dential encounter: The Alley Theater in Houston and Phi Beta Kappa Hall on the campus of the College of William and Mary, respectively.

Our entire campaign staff, led by Hamilton Jordan, went into preparation mode. Briefing materials were overseen and provided by Carter’s principal policy advisor, Stuart Eizenstat, with input from many sources. Once the “briefing books” had been prepared, candidate Carter took possession of them for exhaustive study. Normal campaign events were put on hold for several days prior to each encounter, giving our candidate plenty of time to review the great issues of the day.

Staff members, led by Jody Powell, turned to logis- tics. In addition to Powell, Carter’s debate negotiators included media advisor Gerald Rafshoon and television advisor Barry Jagoda, author of this article. As we met with a team from the Ford campaign, a principal issue for us was to ensure that the two debaters would appear on stage equally—no presidential seal for Ford, no television coverage showing a 6-foot-tall Ford looming over our 5-9 candidate, and no questioners who might show favoritism. In a series of pre-debate encounters, representatives of the two candidates were able to work out such issues.

In the first debate, held on Sept. 23 at the Walnut Street Theater in Philadelphia and moderated by the distin- guished NBC News broadcaster Edwin Newman, some will remember a 27-minute delay when the audio on the network (pool) broadcast went silent, for largely technicalreasons. Just as Jerry Rafshoon got ready to go on stage to brief Carter, the sound came back.

The second debate, moderated in San Francisco’s Palace of Fine Arts Theater on Oct. 6 by NPR’s Pauline Frederick, would be remembered for President Ford’s “gaffe.” Answering a question from Max Frankel of the New York Times, Ford asserted, “There is no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe.” Responding vigorously, Carter said, “I would like to see Mr. Ford convince Polish- Americans and Czech-Americans and Hungarian-Americans that those countries do not live under the domination and supervision of the Soviet Union behind the Iron Curtain.” Ford’s comment and Carter’s rebuke overwhelmed anything else from the second debate and gave almost
 all fair observers the opportunity to say that Ford was the loser in the encounter. More than 70 million viewers had tuned in, and a few days later President Ford said
he had made a mistake in his characterization of the Soviets and Eastern Europe.

Just over a week later, on Oct. 15, Sen. Walter Mondale faced off against Sen. Robert Dole in the first-ever vice presidential debate, held on the stage of Houston’s Alley Theater. Post-debate polls indicated that partisans of each ticket would claim victory in the contest. Dole had been known as a “hatchet man,” and Mondale had a reputation as a strong-minded, ethical, even-handed political figure.

An estimated 45 million viewed the Mondale-Dole debate. Then, as now, we in the Carter-Mondale campaign camp were certain that Sen. Mondale had well advanced chances for our ticket.

Barbara Walters moderated the final debate, Oct. 22 at the College
of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. The questioners were syndi- cated columnist Joseph Kraft, Washington Post editorial writer Robert Maynard, and Los Angeles Times Washington bureau chief Jack Nelson. Televised in 113 nations around the globe, it reached another estimated 70 million Americans.
With the Nov. 2 Election Day then only 11 days away, the race had tightened. President Ford closed by asking the electorate to say, “Jerry Ford, you’ve done a good job, keep on doing it.” Gov. Carter, in his closing remarks, said, “Mr. Ford is a good and decent man, but he’s beenin office now more than 800 days, almost as long as John Kennedy was in office. I’d like to ask the American people what’s been accomplished? A lot remains to be done.”

The rest, as is said, belongs to history.

About the author: Barry Jagoda was Jimmy Carter’s television advisor during the 1976 campaign and special assistant to the president for media and public affairs in the White House. Earlier he had been an award-winning writer and producer at NBC News and CBS News. Later he was a high technology media executive and recently retired as director of communications at the University of California, San Diego. With his wife, Karen, Jagoda resides in La Jolla, California.

LESSONS FROM OUR OWN HISTORY

Thursday, April 13th, 2017

by Barry Jagoda

Reunions to celebrate the “good old days” are privileges of growing older. Three such emotional, memorable events have been experienced in April, 2017.

Joining 200 high school friends and acquaintances brought back warm memories of growing up in the suburbs of Houston 50 years ago.

Then, after 40 years, getting back with Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter—in Atlanta and in Plains—reminded one of the power of the ideas, the moderation and the passion that enabled the election of the 39th President of the United States in 1976.

And a 50th reunion of the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University marked a passage back to 1966-1967 underscoring what had helped turn a young Texan into a reporter—a professional journalist–with commitments to keeping an eye on government.

___________

As the poet John Dunne wrote, “Make new friends, but keep the old—for these are silver and those are gold.” Friendships and bonds of attachment characterize these reunion meetings. As one participant, viewing a photograph from our adolescence, wrote, “We could not possibly have been that young but now it is impossible that we are that old.”

As one survives into an eighth decade a wise friend from earlier times now writes, “Health is Everything,” appreciated less if one currently suffers from no debilitating illness.   And, the half-joking admonition from another half-century long pal, “If you do get sick make sure it is something they can fix,” becomes more real as one ages into the 70s and beyond.

The luckiest among us may be those who still have meaningful family connections—children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews. A very few still have a living parent. At some time in the growing up process we leave childhood homes, with their rules and their unconditional love. We develop our own set of values and new aspirations. And now, looking back over the decades, pictures of “what formed us” become clearer.

Neuroscientists and others puzzle over the competing claims of nurture and nature—our genetic inheritance and our lived life experiences. But in the lingering last years of life one sees overlap, the near impossibility of sorting out just what came along with our embryos versus what we have learned over the ages. Curiously, though, as a wise friend jokes, “At age 30 I thought I knew all the answers but now, at 70, I realize how very little I know.” This charming comment is not necessarily true: A wonderful discovery of older age is to find new old mistakes to correct, new life-lessons that can still be gained.

A goal of life, as expressed by psychologist Abraham H. Maslow, is to become “self-actualized,” to be dependent on one’s inner life for meaning, perhaps the opposite of David Riesman’s “other-directed” personality. But none can deny the deep benefits of the power of “significant others,” who have come into our lives and—with luck—are still there, in real life or influencing us from the grave.

It is perhaps at night as one tumbles off to sleep that there is best the realization of how fortunate one might be to have another with whom one might share the slings and arrows—as well as the ice cream—of being human. But life lessons are still there to be had: An art gallery curator’s recent comment helps put this into perspective with a summing up of culture that transcends, yet also populates: Asked the meaning of art, the gallery expert explains, “Art fills the soul.” And, “Where is the soul?,” asks the skeptical journalist. “The soul is where love and joy reside,” says the wise professional.

Another approach to the soul is often associated with teachings from the various religions. Listen to the Ten Commandments or understand the urgency of the teachings of the Islamic Prophet. Knowing that such creation stories are all about us, hard to miss, one can fall back, perhaps, on the Golden Rule, dealing with others as one would hope to be treated.

For a secular individual—having no belief in a deity—there is the additional challenge of sorting through ideas inherited from the centuries to find one’s own values, ethics, moral principles. And herein is a great virtue of being a mere human being. It is said that we each have primitive brains, derived intellectually from the Darwinian tradition. Our rational faculties are even taken over by these earlier constructs which try to focus us. As this understanding may be true, the human challenge is shown to be even more difficult.

Finding decency is a quest not to be undervalued. But for an older human the chance for a second look—a glance back—makes a reunion another chance to mull over what has come before. One might revel in the good fortunes but not forget what may have gone wrong. Perhaps too late for much change but at least having history’s lessons for intellectual satisfaction.

 

 

 

 

 

 

CAMPAIGN FOR WHITE HOUSE WAS THRILLING JOURNEY

Thursday, December 29th, 2016

Reminisce below was first published in the Inauguration Issue, 40 years later, of the Carter-Mondale Letter:

by Barry Jagoda

Several of us from the Carter campaign press staff grouped together in the chill just a few steps from the Inaugural platform, waiting for the swearing-in of President-elect Carter and Vice-President-elect Mondale. Most of us had worked together for the past year responding to reporter’s questions, setting up candidate speaking locations and being of general assistance as Carter and Mondale traveled the country.  Now we could hardly contain our excitement in the final moments of our passionate work.

As the new officials took their oaths of office, our group, Kate King, Beth Lumpkin, Casey Cornell, Randy Lewis and others migrated toward the motorcades. In the last such candidate movement some of us had come from Blair House with Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter. Now we were ready to join up with the first official presidential journey.

Hitching a ride from the West front of the capitol to the White House seemed like a normal procedure—a traveling process in which many of us had participated hundreds of times over the months of 1976. But, of course, this was a different: the first Presidential motorcade! Most of us were surprised, as were the huge crowds, when Jimmy and Rosalynn exited their limo and walked up Pennsylvania Avenue.

For me it had begun in the weeks preceding the New Hampshire primary.   What a momentous beginning to a year of campaign stops and media events. As Governor Carter and I climbed into his car on the Primary evening of January 24 the generally recognized top reporter covering Jimmy Carter’s incredible effort, James Wooten, of the New York Times, leaned his head into the back seat window to quietly announce, “Governor, I think you have just won the Democratic nomination.” Wooten, normally quite restrained, uttered these unthinkable words.  Governor Carter looked up, flashed the now famous smile,  “Thanks Jim.  Good deal!”  Months later, of course, Wooten’s prognostication would turn into reality.

On that January night, the candidate and I were headed for the anchor positions of CBS News Walter Cronkite, and the other major broadcast operations to have the New Hampshire victory celebrated and made officially unofficial. This was a pattern we were to follow for the next months: Making it easy for the networks to give Carter the bounce that came from winning elections state by state all the way down through the primary nominating process.

Along with Jerry Rafshoon and Jody Powell, the three of us formed the Carter campaign debate negotiators, arguing out the details of those crucial events with representatives of our opponent, the incumbent president, Gerald Ford.  Cool and collected Carter outpointed Ford as did Mondale in his debate with Senator Robert Dole.

And suddenly it was election night, with the Carter team in Atlanta’s World Congress Center. The thrill was deep and passionate.

Over the next three months, while the President-elect in Plains and Atlanta mulled over and selected officials for the government, hundreds of reporters and office-seekers converged on our transition headquarters” in Washington, hoping for access and consideration. The days and weeks flew by.  Suddenly, it seemed, the new President’s motorcade left the inaugural festivities at the Capitol heading for the White House.

Deputy Press Secretary Rex Granum and I could hardly believe our circumstances: As the new President reviewed the Inaugural Parade, we stood on the White House lawn. Rex said, “Well, I guess we better get over to our offices and get on with it!” As always, Rex was serious and his words gave me a shake of reality.

Having been named Special Assistant to the President, when I opened the top desk drawer of my new workplace, there was a note from the predecessor occupant: “Here I wrote President Nixon’s resignation speech,” were the words from Raymond K. Price. “So, I wish you and your colleagues good luck,” his short message concluded.”

On the first full day of the Carter Presidency, Deputy Special Assistant Rick Neustadt and I had the privilege of hosting his father, the great scholar of the Presidency, Professor Richard Neustadt, to breakfast in the White House.  We asked, “What is the secret to Presidential Power?” Quickly Professor Neustadt answered, “Keep your options open!”

A few days later, along with others, I received as a gift from Rex’s father, Iver Granum, one of the flags that had flown over the Capitol during the Inauguration. It all seemed like a few moments in American history, the capstone of a brilliant political campaign and the beginning of the Carter Years

Barry Jagoda was Special Assistant to President Carter for Media and Public Affairs. He recently retired as Director of Communications for the University of California, San Diego.

 

 

MODERATION IN PURSUIT OF VIRTUE IS NO VICE

Monday, April 4th, 2016

By Barry Jagoda

As an open society the United States is mixed economically, culturally, socially and with regard to belief. With no fixed agreement on the very greatest issues of human exchange it becomes crucial for government, and for a responsible public, to be moderate so no particular segment of society feels entirely excluded from the process.

Generally American politics reflects this mixture of values but in contested elections, on the left and on the right, one can see deviation, often leading to subordination of a party or candidate who occupies one extreme or another. These extremes show up in other elements of our life but political conflict gets more attention and we are currently undergoing a historic polarization. These gulfs can be seen throughout our culture.

But in 2016, particularly in the Republican presidential nominating process, all of the candidates—17 in total at one time—have run to the right of center. And, as the process winds down, the leading two candidates are far to the right or leaning in that direction. The Democrats have seemed more moderate but from the perspective of the GOP, their more liberal opponents must seem just as deviant.

Republican candidates for public office have tended to find corners of darkness for their anti-government message while Democrats have bounced from calls for a remaking of political society to underscoring the need for more balance.

Passion is a great driver in public life but it can easily cause proponents of one perspective to alienate their fellow citizens. It was this very danger that gave the lie to the famous comment from a right-of-center Presidential candidate, Barry Goldwater, when he said, “Extremism in pursuit of virtue is no vice.” But whose “virtue,” what “extremism” and what sort of “vice?”

Questions such as these, with a variety of answers depending on initial assumptions, lead to bad public policy. The answers—for a healthy society—require moderation.

This is why the economy works best when government is joined with private sector entities to accomplish projects when possible. Mixing funding from public sources—such as for artists, scientists, public broadcasting—with creative forces from the private economy becomes crucial for start-up projects. And with Constitutional requirements for freedom of religion the main role of the public sector is to shield these organizations from restrictions.

Perhaps in no other system does the collective power of government—at local, state and federal levels—come to play a supporting role providing a social safety net. Mixing good jobs with poverty reduction, and underpinning minimum housing, food and clothing, provides a huge role for government but as a supplement to the disorganized private work forces.

Ironically it is with institutions of religion that one can best see how a mixed system works. Because of the very great diversity in religious belief—and because there must be an open platform for each of these traditions—here the wider public sector simply plays an enabling role. In other cultures, where the religion is proscribed and imposed, clashes of values are much more likely. The American system, however, allows for a variety of belief and even protects the 20 percent of citizens who profess no supernatural values.

But American history, through 250 years has seen perpetual conflict between those who had acquired wealth or substantial economic assets and others who have fought for a larger share for those outside the financial circle of influence. With the “establishment” in perpetual fights with the underclasses, with leaders in the various religious sects on the defensive against those who question faith, and related arguments between the “haves” and “have nots,” society has been in turmoil for most of its modern history.

The story becomes quite murky when candidates for public office take on a populist tenor thereby fooling segments of the population who feel left out by government. This is a particular problem in primary voting for national office when candidates seem willing to say anything or do anything to attract their base of voters, often found in extreme pockets at the left or at the right.

It is for this reason that political scientists barely joke when they say “There are two positions in American politics: The moderate position and the wrong position!”

Barry Jagoda is a San Diego-based journalist and international consultant. He was an award-winning writer and producer at NBC News and CBS News, and a founding contributing editor of the highly regarded Texas Monthly magazine.

WHAT CAN JOURNALISM DO WHEN POWERFUL SOCIAL FIGURES LIE?

Thursday, December 17th, 2015

by Barry Jagoda

Three movies out this December capture among the most profound issues that can be faced in a free society: What happens when high public and private officials lie? How can objective journalism respond to leaders who feel comfortable with factual distortions?

The short answer is that assertions, from elected and appointed public and private leaders—as well from others in positions of power and responsibility—often must be reported. But in many, perhaps most, cases such statements must be verified. This is because leaders often intentionally, or through mistake or ignorance, distort the truth.

Journalists have a responsibility to report the views of leaders but official, and often questionable, statements must be reviewed and vetted against facts.

An aphorism, about truthfulness, once sounded by Ronald Reagan, is relevant: As the late President put it about potential foreign leaders: Trust but Verify.

Dramatic attention is being drawn to these issues by movies out this season: The films are “Truth,” about CBS News Correspondent Dan Rather’s efforts to expose favorable military treatment given to George W. Bush; “Spotlight,” the true story about the courageous investigation by the Boston Globe,” exposing the Cardinal and Catholic leadership in Boston for sheltering 90 pedophilia priests; and “Trumbo,” the spectacular film revealing and reminding of the damages caused to our people and country by the Red Scares of the 1950s.

The best of the three films, “Trumbo,” demonstrates the great difficulty of vetting statements by lying politicians, and what happens when free speech rights are destroyed by official demagoguery. This is the story of Hollywood creative artists whose left-wing political opinions were silenced by official Washington’s invocation of “Red fears.” These were false charges that the United States was in danger from internal enemies loyal to the Soviet Union. The crime of stifling opinion was made possible by vicious office-holders personified by Wisconsin’s Senator Joseph McCarthy, a notorious liar, whose charges of contempt of Congress ended up in jail terms for ten Hollywood artists whose mistake was to express their opinions about American politics.

“Spotlight,” a wonderful movie, is the true story of how an investigative reporting team from the Boston Globe overcame huge cultural and local political odds to name 90 priests who had been found guilty of sexual molestation of parishioners. To get to the truth the Globe’s “Spotlight” reporting team had to take on the Catholic culture of Boston and years of official lies by the Cardinal and other church leaders. The best of our journalists learn they must often challenge authority, even at the risk of peril to their careers and their emotional balance. This film is a classic look at the process of “telling truth to power,” which had the result of pulling back years of despicable behavior by priests and their church bosses.

The most painful story from among the three movies is the true tale of what happened when CBS News Correspondent Dan Rather and his team of producers set out to show favoritism doled out to a young George W. Bush. The CBS team had learned that, Texas military national guard officials found a non-combatant role for the son of the then President George H.W. Bush. The CBS reporting came as the younger Bush was himself seeking re-election as U.S. President. The movie shows how the reporters were stymied by lies and cover-ups with the result that Rather, who had been the top reporter at CBS News, was fired from his job when errors were discovered in reporting procedures. In this case “Truth” was sacrificed to political power. The lying, and cover-up by young Bush—and family political allies–was left to stand.

Trying to hold powerful figures to a standard of truth and accuracy is particularly dangerous in an age when journalism organizations have come under financial pressures from a vastly changing media environment. With cable news channels adopting partisan political ideologies leaders often have an open microphone for their distortions. The rise of the Internet with unchecked digital outlets, particularly wide-open, often feckless “social media” expression, had exponentially increased opportunity for political and civic distortion.

A free and open society must have procedures for ensuring factual communication. Competing political and business entities can be helpful in creating a climate of honesty. These three film stories dramatically demonstrate that the front-line of defense for integrity in society often depends on an increasingly rare “fearlessness” from a free press.