11. Editorial Note

In addition to Zbigniew Brzezinski’s September 27, 1976, memorandum concerning the second Presidential debate between President Gerald Ford and Democratic nominee Jimmy Carter, scheduled for October 6 (see Document 10), other members of the Carter-Mondale campaign staff drafted briefing memoranda and books for Carter to use in his debate preparation. Copies of the memoranda and briefing books for the second debate are in the Carter Library, 1976 Presidential Campaign, Issues Office, Issues Office—Stuart Eizenstat, Box 9, Debates—Briefing Material [2] and Carter Library, 1976 Presidential Campaign, Issues Office, Issues Office—David Rubenstein, Box 45, Briefing Book—September 24, 1976; ibid., Briefing Book—9/28/76 [1] and [2], and ibid., Debates—Reviewed [1] and [2].

Under a September 28 memorandum, adviser Stuart Eizenstat sent Carter the final briefing book, noting that advisers Richard Holbrooke, Robert Hunter, David Aaron, and Nicholas MacNeil had produced the content. Part I of the briefing book included the general comments and strategy section. In this part, the authors concluded: “You ‘win’ this de[Page 54]bate if you establish that you are a credible and competent potential world leader, in whom Americans can have confidence. You want to convey that you understand the issues and have command of the facts, that you can be trusted by the voters to preserve the peace, to keep America strong, and to project a sense of direction for a world that still needs American leadership. Stress your own experience—travels, visits with foreign leaders, Trilateral Commission, Naval.” (Carter Library, 1976 Presidential Campaign, Issues Office, Issues Office—David Rubenstein, Box 45, Briefing Book—9/28/76 [1])

The second Presidential debate took place on October 6 at 6:30 p.m.in the Palace of Fine Arts Theatre in San Francisco and was broadcast live on radio and television. National Public Radio (NPR) correspondent Pauline Frederick moderated the debate, while Associate Editor of The New York Times Max Frankel, Baltimore Sun diplomatic correspondent Henry Trewhitt, and National Broadcasting Company (NBC) diplomatic correspondent Richard Valeriani posed questions to the candidates. Following Frederick’s brief introductory remarks, Frankel asked Carter to address his criticisms of the foreign policy of the Richard Nixon and Ford administrations. Carter, drawing upon several of the themes contained in the briefing book, responded that the debate offered an opportunity to discuss leadership, character, and vision. He continued:

“Our country is not strong any more; we’re not respected any more. We can only be strong overseas if we’re strong at home, and when I become President, we’ll not only be strong in those areas but also in defense—a defense capability second to none.

“We’ve lost, in our foreign policy, the character of the American people. We’ve ignored or excluded the American people and the Congress from participation in the shaping of our foreign policy. It’s been one of secrecy and exclusion.

“In addition to that, we’ve had a chance to become now, contrary to our long-standing beliefs and principles, the arms merchant of the whole world. We’ve tried to buy success from our enemies, and at the same time we’ve excluded from the process the normal friendship of our allies.

“In addition to that, we’ve become fearful to compete with the Soviet Union on an equal basis. We talk about détente. The Soviet Union knows what they want in détente, and they’ve been getting it. We have not known what we’ve wanted, and we’ve been out-traded in almost every instance.

“The other point I want to make is about our defense. We’ve got to be a nation blessed with the defense capability that’s efficient, tough, capable, well organized, narrowly focused fighting capability. The [Page 55] ability to fight if necessary is the best way to avoid the chance for or the requirement to fight.”

Valeriani returned to this theme later in the debate, asking Carter if he really believed that the United States was not the “most respected country in world,” or if the statement was campaign rhetoric. Carter answered:

“No, it’s not just campaign rhetoric. I think that militarily we are as strong as any nation on Earth. I think we’ve got to stay that way and continue to increase our capabilities to meet any potential threat. But as far as strength derived from commitment to principles; as far as strength derived from the people, the Congress, the Secretary of State, the President, sharing in the evolution and carrying out of a foreign policy; as far as strength derived from the respect of our own allies and friends, their assurance that we will be staunch in our commitment, that we will not deviate, and we will give them adequate attention; as far as strength derived from doing what is right, caring for the poor, providing food, becoming the breadbasket of the world instead of the arms merchant of the world—in those respects we are not strong. Also, we will never be strong again overseas unless we are strong at home. And with our economy in such terrible disarray, and getting worse by the month—we have got 500,000 more Americans unemployed today than we had 3 months ago; we have got 2½ million more Americans out of work now than we have when Mr. Ford took office—this kind of deterioration in our economic strength is bound to weaken us in the world.

“And we not only have problems at home but we export those problems overseas. So, as far as the respect of our own people toward our own Government, as far as participation in the shaping of concepts and commitments, as far as a trust of our country among the nations of the world, as far as dependence of our country in meeting the needs and obligations that we’ve expressed to our allies, as far as the respect of our country, even among our potential adversaries, we are weak. Potentially we are strong. Under this administration that strength has not been realized.” (Public Papers: Ford, 1976–77, Book III, pages 2409–2410 and 2426)