114. Memorandum From the Assistant to the President (Jordan) to President Carter 1

  • RE: UPDATE ON PANAMA CANAL/REVISED WORK PLAN

Present Situation

Although it has not been translated into positive votes or commitments, I feel that we have regained some of the political momentum on the treaty that was lost over the past couple of months. I attribute that to several factors:

Clarifying statement.2 This undercut the arguments that had become the focus of the Birchers and the right-wingers. We were on the defensive for several weeks, but this statement turned things around.

Novelty of the organized mail campaign has begun to wear out. This is not meant to suggest that the mail has not had a tremendous impact on the Hill. It has, but the Senators have recognized it for what it is. [Page 325] They are over the initial shock of receiving large number of letters against the treaty.

Some shift in public opinion polls. Although it seems to have stalled at around 30–35%, the Senators no longer have to deal with polls that show the opposition 10 to 1.

Some significant breakthroughs in the South. We now have public commitments from Hollings of South Carolina and Morgan of North Carolina. This has created a better atmosphere in the Senate for other Southern Senators to consider supporting the treaty.

Good state briefings. The extensive briefings have created a better atmosphere among opinion leaders and political figures in each state.

Generally, good editorial support and favorable press. The newspaper support for the treaty has been decisive. Also, the specials on the treaty (Bill Moyers, public service specials, etc.) have been very positive and helpful.

Still, we face a tough fight to win on ratification.

The Next Step

It was my thinking that we would continue our present posture until after the energy bill3 was completed by the Congress. Now that that process is likely to continue late until the year, I believe that we have to begin to shift gears now in terms of our efforts to educate the American people. If we wait until after Christmas, we have a conflict with your foreign trip4 and then after the first of the year we get into a period of time that will be preoccupied with preparation for the budget, the State of the Union speech, etc.

For that reason, I would suggest that we begin now to think and plan for:

An Address to the Nation in December.

Some private meetings with individual Senators while the Congress continues its work on energy.

You might review this work plan and make notations.5 We need to do a national media campaign. Our Citizens’ Committee has raised some monies for this, but they will only be able to raise the funds they [Page 326] need if you will agree to give them 30–45 minutes late some afternoon in Washington for a reception.6

_______ Agree to do reception.

_______ Disagree.

  1. Source: Carter Library, Chief of Staff, Hamilton Jordan’s Confidential Files, Box 36, Panama Canal Treaty, 10, 11, 12/77(1). Confidential; Personal.
  2. See footnote 8, Document 106.
  3. Presumably a reference to the National Energy Act (a composite of five different laws) signed by Carter on November 9, 1978.
  4. Carter visited Warsaw from December 29–31; Tehran from December 31, 1977, to January 1, 1978; New Delhi and Daulatpur-Nasirabad from January 1–3, 1978; Riyadh from January 3–4, 1978; Aswan on January 4, 1978; Paris, Normandy, Bayeux, and Versailles from January 4–6, 1978; and Brussels on January 6, 1978.
  5. The November 1 work plan with Carter’s notations is attached but not printed.
  6. Carter checked the agree option and initialed in the right margin. According to the President’s Daily Diary, Carter met with representatives of the Panama Canal Citizens Committee on October 17 from 11:47 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. (Carter Library, Presidential Materials, President’s Daily Diary)