151. Memorandum From Multiple Senders to President Carter1




A strategy of dealing with undecided Senators one by one is not yielding results. The undecideds are reluctant to announce their intentions individually because of the great amount of press attention such a move would elicit.

We will continue to make individual contacts, but we have adopted a companion strategy that we hope will prompt some movement. We are encouraging key undecideds on each side of the aisle to approach their undecided colleagues urging them to coalesce around a package of understandings and announce their intentions to support the Treaties contingent upon Senate approval of the understandings or something similar. By taking the plunge as a group, each Senator in the group should be able to limit his individual exposure.

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Three groups are underway—two inspired by us and one organized by Senators themselves:

1. Warren Christopher is working with Senator DeConcini and indirectly with Senator Ford. If something can be worked out, Christopher will urge the Senators to approach Zorinsky and Hatfield. Christopher is optimistic.

2. Senator Heinz has agreed to try to put together a Republican group consisting of himself, Bellmon, Brooke, Schweiker and Roth. He has already drafted two acceptable understandings. Bellmon and Schweiker are cosponsors of one. The Vice President meets with Heinz this morning for breakfast to provide some inspiration.2 Roth is an unlikely participant. Schweiker is the real target. Much will depend on Bellmon’s active participation.

3. A third group has begun a tentative dialogue at a staff level. Senator Nunn’s staff member organized the initial meeting last Friday.3 The group is likely to include Long, Nunn, Talmadge, Cannon, Burdick and possibly Roth. With the exception of Nunn, these are hard-liners. They are exploring amendments as well as understandings. We are taking tentative steps to get access to this group to provide some direction. Obviously, this is delicate.

The groups are not well-defined.

There will be some overlap and changing positions throughout the week. We will keep you informed.


We have 59 sure votes for the Treaties and 4 more probables (Ford, Nunn, Brooke and Heinz) for a total of 63. The opponents have 24 sure votes against. They will probably get Burdick, Cannon, Melcher and Stevens, as well, for a total of 28. The latter are carried on our L-list, but they appear lost.

The remaining 9 Senators are our primary targets. All are included in the groups we discussed above, but their individual situations are discussed below.


1. Hatfield (Montana)

The First Lady is extending an invitation to Senator and Mrs. Hatfield to have dinner with you this week. The Senator will be informed that you intend to discuss the Treaties with him. You will have [Page 389] to make a direct personal appeal for his vote. You should recommend to Hatfield that he help us put together a state briefing on the Treaties for his key constituents.4

Melcher is the fly in this ointment. The Senator is telling Hatfield he should attack Baucus as a liberal and use the latter’s support of the Treaties against him in the primary.

Senator Hatfield is known to be interested in the Federal judgeship if he loses the primary to Baucus. We think Melcher has promised to recommend him for the job. However, before he died, Lee Metcalf had recommended someone else for the vacancy. Metcalf was a good friend of yours who supported you on all major issues, including the Panama Canal Treaties. We do not know if Hatfield is aware that Metcalf had recommended a very capable Montanan for the judgeship which he covets.

2. Long

The Senator is concerned about waterway user charge legislation. You should talk to Secretary Adams today about this situation and urge him to deal directly with Senator Long on this issue. The Secretary has been using Senator Domenici as an intermediary in the negotiations, urging Domenici to be as flexible as possible. If an agreement is reached, we fear Long will attribute it to Domenici’s good will rather than ours.

Senator Long is sounding much more supportive now. He has said repeatedly he will support the Treaties if we need him.

3. Zorinsky

Senator Zorinsky will take his much-anticipated poll in Nebraska within the next 10 days. He has said if the poll shows movement in favor of the Treaties, he will support them. He has also stated he personally supports approval of the Treaties. We have helped him draft questions for the poll.

It would be very persuasive to Zorinsky and others if Prime Minister Begin could comment favorably on the Treaties when he is in the United States.5

We are continuing a steady stream of contacts by business people with the Senator.

4. Bellmon

The Senator has indicated privately he is leaning in favor of the Treaties, but wants to wait until the last minute to make his move. Our business friends have made numerous contacts with him.

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We should leave Bellmon alone for the time being and let Senator Heinz try to include him in his group of undecideds. Senator Baker is monitoring him closely.

5. Roth

Senator Roth is the most negative of all our undecided Republicans. However, Irving Shapiro feels Roth will eventually support the Treaties. Shapiro is not close to Roth, but has suggested others (e.g., the President of Hercules) who are good friends of his. Sol Linowitz has followed up on those suggestions.

Treaty advocates other than Shapiro have received favorable impressions of Roth’s position.

The Senator is known to be upset over disapproval of funding for an alcoholism treatment center in Delaware. We will talk with Secretary Califano about this problem.

6. Schweiker

The Senator’s position is a mystery to everyone. We suspect he remains undecided. Kissinger spoke with Schweiker by telephone last week and received favorable vibrations. He will speak with him personally later this week.

We can help bring him into the fold by consulting with him on a more regular basis about the coal strike. He reacted favorably to Dan Tate’s call Saturday night.6

Senator Heinz will be working on Schweiker, as well. Numerous GOP leaders in Pennsylvania have contacted him (e.g., Governor Scranton, Thomas Gates).

7. DeConcini

The Senator’s position softened perceptibly last week. Warren Christopher may be able to talk him into using an understanding or reservation rather than an amendment to solve his political problems. Outside groups and individuals have made numerous contacts with the Senator. He is responding best to the substantive discussions about the Treaties conducted by Christopher.

8. Randolph

Senator Byrd has given us a list of veterans’ group leaders, many of whom are harassing Randolph. He wants us to invite them to the White House so that you can talk with them about the Treaties. We suggest you do this later this week.

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The Senator continues to leave the door open on the Treaties, but he has told many of the business executives who have contacted him that a positive Treaty vote will cost him his election.

The citizens committee has made some progress with veterans in West Virginia, but they remain a major problem.

9. Talmadge

We are arranging for Henry Kissinger, Admiral Holloway and General Brown to talk with Talmadge this week. The Senator respects the opinions of all three.

We also suggest you invite the Senator in for breakfast as early as possible some morning this week. As you know, the Senator is an early-riser and respects those who share this habit.

The Senator stopped making negative comments on the Treaties last week, but still doubts their wisdom. Senator Laxalt foolishly announced to the press last week that Nunn and Talmadge were the key votes on the Treaties. Talmadge will react unfavorably to that comment.


1. Senators L−

Senators Ford and Nunn are trying to maneuver themselves into position so they can support the Treaties. Ford may be willing to help DeConcini put together a group of undecideds. Nunn has approached Baker and Roth about an amendment deleting the sea-level canal provision. We will try to discourage this approach, but it may be necessary to moderate our opposition to such an amendment in order to get Nunn and others.

State reports such an amendment would require a second plebiscite. However, Torrijos thinks he can win again, if that is the only amendment.

We suggest you have Senators and Mrs. Nunn over for dinner this week. Frank will be talking to him as well.

2. Senators Leaning−

As you know from your conversation with Burdick, he is very negative. We do not think we should spend much more time on him or on Senator Cannon. Senator Long may be able to get one or both Senators to join him on an acceptable package of reservations or understandings, but we doubt it.

Senator Melcher is our biggest disappointment. He is likely to vote against and will try to take Hatfield with him. Last week, a House subcommittee raised funding levels for the MHD facility in Montana. We strongly suggest that Secretary Schlesinger write the Chairman of the full committee today expressing his genuine reservations about the facility and urging that funding be cut back to the figure reflected in your budget.

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Senator Stevens made a very negative speech about the Treaties on the Senate floor last week. We will draft a letter expressing your disappointment with that speech.7 However, we are not optimistic.

  1. Source: Carter Library, Plains File, President’s Personal Foreign Affairs File, Box 3, Panama Canal, 9/77–5/79. Administratively confidential. Sent by Moore, Tate, Beckel, and Thomson. Copies were sent to Mondale and Jordan. Carter initialed the top-right corner of the memorandum and wrote: “Frank.”
  2. An unknown hand placed an asterisk at the end of this sentence and wrote beneath the paragraph: “went well.”
  3. March 3.
  4. An unknown hand wrote in the right margin: “Hatfield will not be at State dinner.”
  5. Begin met with Carter at the White House on March 21. See Foreign Relations, 1977–1980, vol. VIII, Arab-Israeli Dispute, January 1977–August 1978, Documents 232 and 234.
  6. March 4.
  7. Not found.