153. Memorandum From the President’s Special Assistant (Jordan) to President Carter1



I hope that you will review the attached memorandum from Pat Caddell.2

I have checked around on the support for the return of the Crown as well as the opposition to it. There is no way to discern scientifically how Hungarian Americans feel about this issue. But basically, my feeling is that those who have feelings about it oppose the return of the Crown overwhelmingly. Former government officials and educated Hungarians may have a more enlightened view of this matter, but the average Hungarian American is opposed to this action because the alleged benefit to the people of Hungary has not been explained and is difficult to explain. Their reaction to our return of the Crown is emotional and not an enlightened view. I wish you could have stayed at the meeting to hear the former Mayor of Budapest describe what the Crown means to him.3 It was emotional and very touching.

We mislead ourselves to think that the Hungarian-American community is closely divided on this issue. It is not. If it were, you would not have had members of Congress and the leaders of all of the Captive Nation organizations protesting this decision.

It is one thing for us to suffer domestically with a group of people in pursuit of a major policy that is important to us and the world (the Mideast, for example). It is quite another for us to suffer politically for an action that has very little—if any—redeeming features. We are alienating the Hungarian community in this country in hopes of gaining [Page 466] some intangible benefit from the Communist regime in Hungary. The political trade-offs do not seem acceptable to me.

Our policy in the Middle East has cost us the support of American Jews in states like New York, California and Florida. The Panama Canal treaty has hurt us in the South with conservatives. I would argue that these issues are worth the political costs.

But now, we have hurt ourselves in the industrial states of the Midwest through an action that has very little benefit. We have taken a position on an emotional issue that will cost us dearly in the future with Hungarian-Americans and other Eastern European groups. These people who are immigrants and the families of immigrants will not forget easily or quickly what we have done.

With the Panama Canal treaty upcoming and the prospects for a SALT II treaty good, it seems ridiculous to sacrifice the moral and political authority of your Presidency for such an issue. We should husband our political capital and spend it sparingly and wisely. At a time when we are low in the polls and involved in many important controversial issues, we have expended our political capital unwisely on this issue.

You have so many things to do and many pressures on you. I hate to present this problem to you in such a way, but if the people responsible for your foreign policy decisions don’t develop some political sensitivity, we are going to be in trouble on the big issues that matter.

  1. Source: Carter Library, Chief of Staff Files, Hamilton Jordan’s Confidential Files, Box 34B, Hungary—Crown of St. Stephen. Personal and Confidential. Carter initialed the memorandum indicating that he saw it.
  2. Dated November 9, attached but not printed. The memorandum is not from Pat Cadell, but from John Gorman of Cambridge Survey Research and analyzes the effect of voters from East European backgrounds. A 20-point swing in Carter’s favor, Gorman wrote, would have given Carter a win in California, Illinois, and New Jersey. A swing in the other direction would have cost Carter New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. The survey concluded that “without the significant support of East European voters in the 1976 election Jimmy Carter would not have been elected President.” Jordan also forwarded the attached memorandum to Brzezinski. (Ibid.)
  3. See Document 152.