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CNN SPECIAL REPORTS

Race For The White House: Reagan v. Carter. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired February 23, 2020 - 21:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[21:00:00]

MAHERSHALA ALI, NARRATOR: You don't look like a typical Commander in Chief and your rivals say you don't act like one either.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RONALD REAGAN, 40TH U.S. PRESIDENT: The Carter administration lives in a world of make-belief.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ALI: Your presidency is under threat.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TED KENNEDY, FORMER AMERICAN SENATOR: There's a malaise in the leadership of the American people, and we're going to take--

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ALI: You have one chance to swing this race in your favor. Do you do what's right for your fellow Americans or what's right for you? Over to you, Mr. President.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JIMMY CARTER, 39TH U.S. PRESIDENT: We face a grave situation in Iran.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ALI: The U.S. embassy has been seized by Iranian students. The American diplomatic staff are now prisoners.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CARTER: More than 60 American citizens continue to be held as hostages. We're using every available channel to secure their release.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WALTER MONDALE, U.S. VICE PRESIDENT, 1977-81: There's an ancient principle of diplomatic immunity, which means that embassies are off- limits. So we were shocked by it. I couldn't believe it was possible.

BARBARA A. PERRY, PRESIDENTIAL STUDIES DIRECTOR, MILLER CENTER, UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA: Americans felt helpless that this had happened. It felt as though the United States was losing its power in the world.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ALI: The perpetrators are supporters of Iran's revolutionary leader, Ayatollah Khomeini. They're outraged by President Carter's decision to admit Iran's former dictator into the United States.

TIMOTHY NAFTALI, CLINICAL ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR OF PUBLIC SERVICE NEW YORK UNIVERSITY: Jimmy Carter's humanitarian gesture to the Shah of Iran, who is dying of cancer, angered the Iranian revolutionary students. For the Iranians in 1980, the great Satan was carter.

ALI: Not that he's Mr. Popular back home.

PATRICK BUCHANAN, DIRECTOR OF COMMUNICATIONS, REAGAN ADMINISTRATION: There was a feeling that jimmy carter was a failed President. We had 21 percent interest rates, 13 percent inflation, 7 percent unemployment, zero percent growth.

JON WARD, JOURNALIST & AUTHOR: You begin to see gas lines forming across the country, which lead to violence. People are shot. people are stabbed.

LEAH WRIGHT RIGUEUR, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR OF PUBLIC POLICY HARVARD KENNEDY SCHOOL: And here you have Jimmy Carter really trying to juggle all of those things, particularly at a moment where the nation just does not have confidence in being America anymore.

ALI: As the election approaches, carter needs his party behind him. instead, he feels the chill of growing discontent.

SUSAN ESTRICH, DEPUTY NATIONAL ISSUES DIRECTOR, KENNEDY CAMPAIGN: Jimmy Carter spent much of his presidency seeming to reject the culture and values of the Democratic Party.

MARY FRANCES BERRY, ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF EDUCATION, CARTER ADMINISTRATION: He was a fiscal conservative. That was a problem. Sometimes people would say that if Carter had a quarter or a half dollar, he would squeeze it until the eagle choked.

RIGUEUR: In particular, the liberal wing of his party feels very deeply that Carter has thrown liberalism under the bus. And so they begin to turn their attention to other politicians who they feel like really embody the qualities of leadership they want from a President, and the figure that people really circle around is Ted Kennedy.

JULIAN ZELIZER, PROFESSOR OF HISTORY & PUBLIC AFFAIRS PRINCETON UNIVERSITY: Whereas, President Carter veered to the center, Kennedy was this crystal clear liberal lion.

BERRY: Kennedy was the kind of guy, if he walked in a room, you knew he was there. Carter, if he walked in the room, you might not notice that he was there until somebody said, President of the United States, and you said, oh, President of the United States. [21:05:00]

WARD: Ted Kennedy and Jimmy Carter might as well have been raised on different planets. Jimmy Carter aged six was running around on a farm in Southwest rural Georgia. His house didn't have running water or electricity. Ted Kennedy, about the same age, is living in a massive mansion in London. His father is the Ambassador to the United Kingdom. And Teddy Kennedy lacks for nothing.

Jimmy Carter looks at Teddy Kennedy and sees an entitled playboy. Ted Kennedy looks at Carter and sees basically sees a hick who is in over his head as President.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KENNEDY: Today, I formally announce that I am candidate for President of the United States.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MONDALE: I was deeply upset. I thought this will divide the party. It threatens the democratic control of the presidency.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Iowa Republican debate.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ALI: Republican hopefuls are also squaring off. At the first big show piece of their primary calendar, there is one notable absence.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I wish Governor Reagan was here, oh, how I wish he was here.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ALI: Ronald Reagan is at home in sunny California.

NAFTALI: Ronald Reagan is the heir apparent in the Republican Party. Ronald Reagan is the man to beat on the Republican side.

ZELIZER: He had been a Hollywood actor. He had been the Governor of California where he had earned a national reputation as a new voice in the Republican Party.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REAGAN: Let's get a real leader in the White House.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BUCHANAN: Reagan had run so strong in '76 against Ford that he was the preemptive nominee. He was the favorite. And so the decision was to keep out of the debates and coast to the nomination, which they thought they could do.

CRAIG SHIRLEY, REAGAN BIOGRAPHER: And the six candidates spend 90 minutes pounding on Ronald Reagan.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think he has other ideas about how he wants to run, if indeed he's running, and I think he is.

ROBERT DOLE, SENATOR FROM KANSAS: I want to say to Governor Reagan, wherever you are, I hope you're having fun tonight, because we are.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIRLEY: By ducking the debate, Ronald Reagan dramatically boosts the stock of George Bush.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE H. W. BUSH, 41ST U.S. PRESIDENT: We have a $2.3 trillion economy. It can work.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PERRY: George Bush as a World War II hero in the Pacific. He had served as Director of the Cia, or envoy to China. But he's not well- known on the national scene.

James Baker, BUSH CAMPAIGN MANAGER: We were an asterisk in the polls. Nobody knew who he was. Nobody.

BUCHANAN: George H.W. Bush ran a terrific campaign. And I can remember that morning of the Iowa caucuses, I was on an elevator and there's bush and he said, hey, Pat, I've got the big mo. And he meant the big momentum.

SHIRLEY: It's a shocker to the world, and I mean a shocker to the world. George Bush wins the Iowa caucuses.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: Because of what's happened in Iowa, we're going to go all the way to the White House.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZELIZER: And it played into these fears, was Reagan really up for this. Maybe he saw a political heavyweight like people thought.

BUCHANAN: I ran into a reporter in Iowa and he so told me, Pat, he's a straw man. You punch him and straw comes out.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How big is the wound to Governor Reagan?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ronald Reagan for president is effectively dead.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[21:10:00]

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CARTER: I am not going to resume business as usual until our hostages are back here free and at home.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ALI: As the hostage crisis passes 100 days, President Carter's strategy to defeat Ted Kennedy is not to campaign at all.

THOMAS DONILON, HEAD OF DELEGATE OPERATIONS, CARTER CAMPAIGN: The President undertook what was called the Rose Garden Strategy. And what that meant was he wasn't going to actively campaign while the hostages were in Tehran.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DOROTHEA MOREFIELD, WIFE OF HOSTAGE: The President told us what we wanted to hear that the hostages are the only issue at stake here.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

Robert SHRUM, SPEECHWRITER, KENNEDY CAMPAIGN: The Carter message was, a vote for Carter is a vote for freeing the hostages, standing up to the Ayatollah.

ZELIZER: All of a sudden, America rallies behind the President.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President Carter finished first with 45 percent of the vote.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Carter has 638, Kennedy has 385.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ALI: The Rose Garden Strategy pays off. Carter races to victory in a string of early primaries. But he's not the only one running ahead of his rival.

PERRY: GEORGE bush is only 55 and a very young-looking, very athletic 55. Ronald Reagan is 68 years old.

NAFTALI: Many people assumed that a man was is 68 was too old to assume the mantle of the presidency of United States.

SHIRLEY: Bush is doing jumping jacks pushups, saying, let's see Reagan come and do this. Reagan is pissed about this.

ALI: Reagan wants to steal back the show with a televised debate. Bush is wary.

PERRY: George Bush knows right now he's the frontrunner, so why should he put up with other challengers in the party taking pot shots at him?

ALI: Hoping to sway his rival, Reagan proposes a one-on-one debate, and offers to pick you want check.

PERRY: And now bush can just share the stage with the great actor Ronald Reagan and show how good he is on his feet.

ALI: Terms are agreed, but Reagan has a trick up his sleeve.

PERRY: Then at the last minute Reagan decides that instead of a one- on-one debate he wants all of the Republicans who are running to be part of the debate.

SHIRLEY: Ronald Reagan wants it opened up to the other challengers under the guise of fairness.

BAKER: But bush was very committed to the idea that he had given his word and this was the way it ought to be.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: He challenged me to a one-on-one, that's what I'd like to do.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NICOLE HEMMER, ASSISTANT PROFESSOR IN PRESIDENTIAL STUDIES MILLER CENTER, UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA: And so there's a fight brewing before this debate about who is actually going to be included.

SHIRLEY: The debate is scheduled for 7:30 and by 8:15 there's still no candidates. It's hot in there. Instamatics are flashing. The tension is just terrific.

[21:15:00]

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BAKER: Finally, Reagan comes in. He's followed by all these other candidates.

PERRY: George Bush, he doesn't know what to do. He's frozen, and is looking very much like the second banana in this debate.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REAGAN: I asked these gentlemen to come out here and make this a debate, including all of the candidates.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BAKER: Reagan starts talking about how important it is to include everybody in the debate.

HEMMER: The crowd is on his side. But the debate moderator wants to play by the rules.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would the soundman please turn Mr. Reagan's mic off for a moment?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HEMMER: Remember, Reagan paid for this debate.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REAGAN: Keep this on. Mr.--

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You turn that microphone off please.

REAGAN: I am paying for this microphone.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HEMMER: You see a real flash of passion from Reagan, and it's clear that whatever else comes out of this debate, that's going to be the moment everyone remembers.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REAGAN: I am paying for this microphone. I am paying for this microphone. I am paying for this microphone.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BUCHANAN: Everybody out there watching on television saw that replayed again and again and they said, "The Gipper" is back.

NAFTALI: It was for all intents and purposes the end of George H.W. Bush's serious effort to be the nominee in 1980. And it was a sign that Ronald Reagan was a political maestro.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The 100th day, the last American reporter out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The problem on day 100 is basically the same as it was on day one, which is nobody knows what Khomeini or the militants will do.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Carter is bogged down, unable to solve the hostage crisis.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Iranians now are threatening to hold the American hostages forever.

WALTER CRONKITE, AMERICAN BROADCASTER: Khomeini's statement, to, quote, "Fight America Until Death," shattered the real hope in this prolonged crisis.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STUART EIZENSTAT, CHIEF DOMESTIC POLICY ADVISER, CARTER ADMINISTRATION: Walter Cronkite ended eve single one of his reports, "day 103, day 205, day 307, with the hostage crisis." It was like a drip of poison every single day.

ZELIZER: You started to hear more people criticize the President for being weak on defense, criticizing the President for not having a forceful response, and this gives Kennedy a little boost.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KENNEDY: Why wouldn't Jimmy Carter want be right here?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ALI: Ted Kennedy surges forward, winning the New York and Connecticut primaries.

WARD: The Carter campaign is incredibly frustrated, because they felt like they had Kennedy on the mat.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KENNEDY: No more American hostages and no more Jimmy Carter!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WARD: But instead of a knockout punch, the boxing match is going to continue to go on and on and on.

ALI: Carter has suffered a bruising blow at the hands of his rival and still America is relying on its Commander in Chief to bring the hostages home.

ZELIZER: There is a decision that's made to try a military operation. It's called "Operation Eagle Claw."

NAFTALI: The mission would take a rescue team into Iran where they would pick up the hostages and take them out to safety.

EIZENSTAT: The rescue was a courageous thing for carter to do. But everything that could go wrong, did go wrong.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[21:20:00]

ALI: On April 24th, 1980, Commander in Chief Jimmy Carter launches an audacious operation to rescue the hostages.

NAFTALI: 10:30 a.m. Eastern standard time the helicopters entered the Iranian airspace.

EIZENSTAT: The Joint Chiefs asked for six helicopters. Carter added two more, eight. One helicopter turned back because the warning light showed a hydraulic failure, a second had a rotor blade problem.

NAFTALI: Another hit a sandstorm and had to return to the USS Nimitz.

BERRY: It was as if Carter was - as they say in the South where I'm from is, as he was snake bit. Things were always going wrong.

NAFTALI: They had eight helicopters, needing only six. Who would have assumed the three helicopters would go wrong?

WARD: So at that point they decide they have to abandon the operation.

NAFTALI: But the failures and tragedies didn't end there.

WARD: As they begin to withdraw, a helicopter collides with one of the transport planes and there's an explosion and eight people die. Jimmy Carter gets a phone call. His face just sort of goes blank and he looks crestfallen.

MONDALE: A horrible blow to him. I don't think he'll ever get over it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CARTER: To the families of those who died or who were wounded, I want to express the admiration I feel for the courage of their loved ones.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERRY: After that whenever you went over to White House there was this increasing air of gloom that sort of settled in like a fog.

ALI: From August 14th, Ronald Reagan arrives at the republican national convention.

RIGUEUR: Reagan has this really sunny optimism at a moment when the American people are dealing with a real crisis of confidence.

[21:25:00]

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REAGAN: I had a dream that Jimmy Carter asked me why I wanted his job. And I told him I didn't want his job. I want to me President.

(APPLAUSE) Ali: Reagan has fended off George Bush to bring his White House dream one step closer to reality.

REAGAN: thank you very much.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BAKER: The primary had become quite bitter, quite divisive.

SHIRLEY: The untold secret of the Reagan/Bush relationship is that Reagan didn't much like George Bush.

ALI: But guess who he picks as his running mate?

SHIRLEY: George Bush has more foreign policy experience than Reagan, he is more moderate than Reagan, so picking him made sense.

STUART SPENCER, REGAN CAMPAIGN MANAGER: He was competitive. He would always come down to the decision that made more sense in terms of winning.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REAGAN: I pledge to you to restore to the federal government the capacity to do the people's work without dominating their lives.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BAKER: Reagan was all about limited government, lower taxes, strong economy, strong defense.

BUCHANAN: He was a real authentic conservative and we had come to believe that Reagan was the leader of our national movement.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REAGAN: We'll make America great again.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ALI: President Carter seems to have the nomination in his grasp, or so he thinks.

SHRUM: Senator Kennedy won a lot of the primaries at the end, the big states, California. But we were so far behind in delegates, we couldn't catch up.

LESLIE FRANCIS, WHITE HOUSE DEPUTY CHIEF OF STAFF: The delegate advantage was almost 2 to 1, Carter over Kennedy. WARD: Carter invites Kennedy to the White House, expecting a white

flag of surrender.

ZELIZER: Kennedy would have none of this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) KENNEDY: I welcomed the opportunity to tell the president I have every

intention of continuing in this campaign as a candidate. Okay, someone's--

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FRANCIS: The fact that Senator Kennedy stayed in the race, it pissed us off. It was, and I think unforgivable.

ALI: Kennedy makes a last grab for victory by trying to tear up the rule book.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KENNEDY: I come here to seek a free and open Democratic convention.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID AXELROD, SENIOR ADVISER, OBAMA ADMINISTRATION: The rules of the Democratic Party bound delegates to the candidate for whom they were elected and to install Kennedy as the nominee they would have to change the rules and give people a chance to vote for another candidate even if they were committed to Carter.

ESTRICH: We traveled and met with our delegates and we told them we're coming to fight for the heart and soul of the Democratic Party, don't be afraid to stand up for what you believe in. We were going in strong.

ALI: Carter's forces desperately fight to block Kennedy's last ditch bid for the nomination.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DIANNE FEINSTEIN, MAYOR OF SAN FRANCISCO: I say to you as a Democrat who worked for John F. Kennedy, but who is now a carter delegate, that we don't change the rules after the game has been played.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WARD: It is basically a minute by minute, hour by hour political trench fight for the Carter forces, trying to make sure that not one delegate deserts them, because one delegate can lead to a tickle, can lead to a flood.

DONILON: We set up a pretty sophisticated operation with the delegates. And I remember one of my assistants saying, we're going to enclose all the wires to the phones in copper tubing. I said, why are we going to do that? Isn't that going to cost lot of money? He said, because if we don't, someone's going to cut the wires.

ALI: There is reason to be paranoid. Ted Kennedy had some heavy weight supporters.

AXELROD: Jane Byrne, the Mayor of Chicago, flew in with a rough bunch. And they kind of parachuted in the convention and went out on the convention floor and started trying to button hole Carter delegates to change their votes.

Suddenly a brawl erupts, because there was great hostility between the Kennedy and Carter forces. And it was just complete mayhem.

EIZENSTAT: A wounded veteran said to us, I haven't seen such sweat and anger since World War II

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[21:30:00]

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The great State of Arkansas casts six votes for Senator Ted Kennedy and 25 votes for the next President of the United States, President Jimmy Carter.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WARD: The Carter forces maintained their delegate lead and Carter is now finally the victor.

ALI: Kennedy had seen the writing on the wall.

WARD: AFTER Kennedy concedes, he is not going away quietly.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KENNEDY: Someday, long after the signs come down and the crowds stop cheering, may it be said of our campaign that we kept the faith.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ESTRICH: I remember standing on the floor of the convention, listening to the stories that teddy told, and crying my eyes out.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KENNEDY: The work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives and the dream shall never die.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHRUM: I could see this vast ocean of people cheering, clapping. It's one of the most extraordinary sights I've ever seen in my lifetime. And I think for Carter, it was a big problem, because it set a very high expectation for what he had to do in his acceptance speech.

[21:35:00]

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CARTER: I thank you for the nomination you've offered me.

(END VIDEO CLIP) PERRY: Jimmy Carter is not on his game somehow and goes on to give

praise to Hubert Horatio Humphrey, the former Vice President of the United States, who had cancer fairly recently.

GREG SCHNEIDERS, AIDE CARTER CAMPAIGN: This is a guaranteed of (inaudible). This is a guaranteed emotional tug at this crowd.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CARTER: We're the party of a great man who would have been one of the greatest presidents in history, Hubert Horatio Hornblower.

PERRY: Did he say "Hornblower"?

CARTER: Humphrey!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FRANCIS: I think every one of us on the podium sort of gasped.

WARD: It's as if at every step, Carter's attempts to not only be the victor, but appear the victor are going horribly wrong.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is still a large balloon carrier that will not empty itself. They've got one net holding those balloons down.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZELIZER: Even when he's done the balloons on the roof, don't fall when they're supposed to fall.

SCHNEIDERS: The speeches had not gone well from our perspective. So what we hoped is to put a big bow on it and say, ah, yes, but all is forgiven.

FRANCIS: And we're waiting for Senator Kennedy's arrival in the hall to join everybody onstage.

ALI: Ted Kennedy's motorcade is stuck in traffic on the other side of Times Square.

FRANCIS: We wait and we wait and we wait.

WARD: During that time, the cheering, the singing, the music almost dies out. And Carter's aides are calling everybody and their mother onto the stage to try to keep some sense of momentum going in the hall. Finally, Kennedy arrives. Carter wants Kennedy to get on the stage with them and hold his hands together in a sign of unity.

SHRUM: I said to Kennedy, now, remember, you're going to raise his hand. And he said yes.

WARD: But instead of Kennedy raising hands with Carter, he shakes his hand, but does not raise it up in the air. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's no embrace.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No holding of hands, no "V" for victory.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHNEIDERS: I thought, enough already, give it up. You've made your point, now think about the party.

FRANCIS: It was in fact a middle finger to Jimmy Carter by a poor loser.

WARD: And Teddy White, famous journalist, said that it was as if Kennedy had showed up at the wedding of his chauffeur. Kennedy was too proud to admit defeat and so in return, he actually humiliated Carter in front of the entire country. Carter looks pathetic.

Kennedy sent a clear signal to people that he was not 100 percent behind Jimmy Carter. So Kennedy backers were given permission to basically not unite behind their nominee.

ALI: It's been a disastrous convention for Carter. But as he embarks on the fall election, he has one reason to be optimistic - his opponent.

WARD: If Jimmy Carter thought Teddy Kennedy was a playboy, he thought Ronald Reagan was a total lightweight.

PERRY: Reagan has to show that he's not a stupid actor, that he is not too old, that he's not too muddle-headed to be President.

ALI: Reagan takes aim at carter and misfires.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REAGAN: I'm happy to be here and he's opening his campaign down in the city that gave birth to and is the parent body of the Ku Klux Klan.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HEMMER: First of all, that wasn't true.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The city that gave birth to the Ku Klux Klan was not Tuscumbia. The Klan was founded in Pulaski, Tennessee.

HEMMER: Second of all, it turned white southerners against him.

ZELIZER: He also makes a statement about vegetation causing pollution.

SPENCER: That was a faux pas, and they played it pretty big. And we went to California, went on here to Claremont colleges. And from a big oak tree he's hanging a four by eight sign that says, chop me down before I kill again. Now, that said it all. That said it all.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(Crowd Chants "Educated Reagan")

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ALI: Reagan's gasp come gift wrapped from President Carter.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CARTER: He wants to cut down all the trees in the United States. He said that's where pollution comes from.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[21:40:00]

DONILON: I don't think Carter really could imagine himself losing to Ronald Reagan.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ALI: Ronald Reagan's blunders are damaging his campaign, but his aides hope he can fight back with a winning performance on live TV.

SPENCER: I had confidence in Reagan in debate, because to me, a debate is as much visual as it is context. How you handle yourself, what you look like, et cetera. And boy, you know, Reagan wins that one going away.

ALI: President Carter buckles down for a debate that will take place just one week before the election.

WARD: Carter, as always, is confident in his own intelligence. He thinks that he will outclass Reagan simply because he can explain things better.

EIZENSTAT: I had prepared a briefing book with foreign and domestic questions and answers.

WARD: It's a very detailed book which gives Carter background on policy, but also gives him lines of attack.

SHIRLEY: And they produced three sets of volumes. One for Carter's review, one for Walter Mondale's review, and then a third backup copy. And the third backup copy one day just disappears from the Carter White House.

[21:45:00]

ALI: The mastermind of the theft is never proven. But there is one chief suspect.

SHIRLEY: In preparation for writing my book on Kennedy (ph) campaign, I went through the registration book for people coming to visit individuals at the Reagan campaign, and around the same time, the Carter briefing books go missing. A man signs in, then picks up a check for $1,500 for professional services.

ALI: And he's not your typical Reagan man.

SHIRLEY: Paul Corbin was fiercely loyal to the Kennedy family. He hated Jimmy Carter and he wanted to get Reagan elected in 1980 and then Ted Kennedy defeats Ronald Reagan in 1984. Ted Kennedy knew nothing about what Paul Corbin was doing.

WARD: It shows how deeply many in the Kennedy camp hated Carter. They actually wanted a Republican who, many thought, might be unfit for President to win the presidency.

SHIRLEY: He, of course, denied it but in all likelihood Paul Corbin gave the briefing books to Bill Casey, the Chairman of the Ronald Reagan campaign.

BAKER: Bill Casey had put a black book on my desk. All he said was, here, you might want to give this to your debate people. I probably should have said, where did you get this, Bill?

EIZENSTAT: Did that book that they stole make that much of a difference? I can't say that. But when you know the strategy, the tactics, the arguments, the counterarguments of your opponent, it gives you an enormous advantage.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Please welcome President Jimmy Carter and Governor Ronald Reagan of California.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PERRY: It's the most-watched presidential debate in history at that point. So the stakes are high for both candidates.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Both of you have expressed the desire to end the nuclear arms race with Russia. but through vastly different methods. You cannot both be right. Will you tell us why you think you are?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ALI: The President's team has been preparing him for this very question. They want Carter to paint Reagan as a nuclear cowboy and himself as a safe pair of hands.

EIZENSTAT: We had a full scale debate preparation, cameras, someone playing Reagan. A question is asked, what would you do about the spread of nuclear weapons?

RAFSHOON: And he said, talked to my daughter Amy about this and she told me that at school, that they know the greatest threat to the country is nuclear arms.

EIZENSTAT: Well, we all laughed. This is going to trivialize a very important issue.

RAFSHOON: I present he is a (inaudible) that's not a good idea. Hamilton jumps on him, and Jody jumps on him, and Caddell jumps on him. And I said, "OK, guys, he gets it, he's not going to use that."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CARTER: I had a discussion with my daughter Amy the other day before I came here. I asked had her what the most important issue was?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RAFSHOON: Bingo!

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CARTER: She said she thought nuclear weaponry.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RAFSHOON: Ah! Awe.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CARTER: And the control of nuclear arms.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

EIZENSTAT: Oh, no. we've got a major problem on our hands.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, Mr. President.

CARTER: Thank you, sir.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WARD: That turn after turn, Carter overestimates his own abilities and that overconfidence really leaves him vulnerable.

ALI: Undeterred, Carter presses on.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CARTER: Governor Reagan, as a matter of fact, began his political career campaigning around this nation against Medicare.

PERRY: Carter thinks it's a winning strategy to accuse Reagan of wanting to cut Medicare.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) CARTER: Social security benefits should not be taxed and that there

would be preemptory change in the standards by which social security payments are made to the retired people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PERRY: The only way is he's saying it in such a way that's dogmatic and overly detailed and not very relatable.

WARD: and Reagan's skill is in deflecting these attacks and coming across as being comfortable with himself on the stage.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CARTER: Governor Reagan, again, typically, is against such a proposal.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Governor?

REAGAN: There you go again.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WARD: That moment, it's remarkable. It's a four-word line, but it pushes the President offstage.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REAGAN: Next Tuesday, all of you will go to the polls, you'll stand there in the polling place and make a decision.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PERRY: Reagan ends his final statement with the coup de grace against Jimmy Carter.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REAGAN: I think when you make that decision it might be well if you would ask yourself, are you better off than you were four years ago?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[21:50:00]

SHIRLEY: That freezes the election right there. It's Carter's status quo versus the Reagan change. He didn't win because of the briefing books. Reagan won the debate, because he came across as talking to the concerns of the American people.

BAKER: There was no better person on television ever than Ronald Wilson Reagan.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REAGAN: We can turn this country around and we can turn our economy around, and the time to do it is now. (END VIDEO CLIP)

ALI: The White House looks within Reagan's grasp, but this election may be decided by players on the other side of the world.

PERRY: What if the Iranians release the American hostages and give Jimmy Carter a huge victory just before the election takes place?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

EDMUND MUSKIE, SECRETARY OF STATE: We have seen during the past 12 hours several developments in the hostage issue.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

EIZENSTAT: I get a call at 3:00 o'clock in the morning from the White House operator. Air Force One is going to leave in 45 minutes to go back to Washington be ready.

ALI: Two days before the election, they Iranian parliament offer to release the hostages with conditions.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Action taken by the parliament has the apparent approval of the Ayatollah Khomeini and the leaders of the armed militants who stormed the U.S. embassy nearly a year ago.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[21:55:00]

EIZENSTAT: The Iranians wanted money, they wanted an apology.

ZELIZER: They want to be immune from any kind of legal prosecution for what had happened and Carter's resolute that he can't do that. So carter feels that he has to tell the country.

ALI: The Carter's last chance to get the hostages home before election day has vanished. But his advisers think he can turn to it his advantage.

EIZENSTAT: We were urging him, and I would say, begging him to really attack Iranians for trying to give us an inadequate offer. All of us said, be tough. this can actually help you of you can turn a lemon into lemonade.

ZELIZER: Carter is hearing from advisers that you have to think politically about how the handle this. You have to make a statement, which is defiant in part so you can be victorious in the election.

RAFSHOON: And he says, we don't play politics with this. He was concerned that our rhetoric would jeopardize the safety of the hostages.

MONDALE: That those hostages - that was more important than winning or losing as far as we are concerned.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CARTER: We are within two days of an important national election. let me assure you that my decisions on this crucial matter will not be affected by the calendar.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HEMMER: Carter was really committed to doing the right thing, and that was great for a Sunday school preacher. It wasn't necessarily good for a President running for re-election.

EIZENSTAT: We were all very depress that had he did that. He didn't have the right political instinct at the right time.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CARTER: We are pursuing it through diplomatic channels.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZELIZER: The announcement is absolutely devastating at that moment in the campaign. Carter's support starts to plummet.

RAFSHOON: As one person has said, if this little guy Carter can't handle a two-bit Ayatollah, I'm going on take chance on the cowboy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ladies and gentlemen, the President elect Ronald Reagan!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ALI: Exactly one year after the start of hostage crisis, Reagan turns America red in a political tsunami.

BUCHANAN: 44 states to six - people were stunned at the magnitude of the victory. It was just an historic and astonishing triumph.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Governor Reagan, we just wanted to show you what the map of United States looks like as of 8:00 o'clock tonight.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RIGUEUR: A genuine conservative affiliated with a conservative ideology that had been at the margins of the party had now taken center stage.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REAGAN: When that began to slide, I thought that maybe the world was

going out just I was getting in.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BAKER: Reagan was the that's right person to restore America's pride and confidence in itself.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CARTER: I promised you four years ago that I would never lie to you, so I can't stand here tonight and say it doesn't hurt.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

EIZENSTAT: The day after the election, we were all as low as hound dogs and he and said, "Get your chins off the floor. We're going to make this the best transition out."

DONILON: He immediately went back to work and worked tirelessly to secure the agreement to get the hostages released.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REAGAN: The orderly transfer of authority is nothing less than a miracle.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZELIZER: Reagan is giving this powerful piece of oratory and gives a compliment to Carter.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REAGAN: Mr. President, I want our fellow citizens to know how much you did to carry on this tradition.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WARD: And the camera cuts to Carter, and you can tell his mind is completely focused on whether the hostages have gotten out or not.

NAFTALI: The hostages were sitting in the planes at the end of the runways waiting for Ronald Reagan to be President.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REAGAN: God bless you, and thank you. Thank you very much.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The situation is this. The hostages have left Tehran, we are told, my air.

FRANCIS: Reagan is inaugurated at noon, January 20, 1981. The hostages are released minutes later.

DONILON: The Iranians, I think, purposely tried to deny our President Carter as much credit for this as they could.

NAFTALI: What a punishing blow that must have been to Jimmy Carter. But in the end, all of the hostages returned safely, not one of them died. It wasn't good for him politically. But it's hard to argue with the success of that approach.

DONILON: President Carter put what's right and moral above politics. And you could not change that. And in retrospect, you wouldn't have wanted to change it.