Jimmy Carter photo

Remarks at a Campaign Appearance in Columbus, Ohio

October 16, 1976

Chairman Steve Kovacik, and my good friend, Marvin Warner and Chairman Paul Tipps, Howard Metzenbaum and other distinguished candidates for public office in Ohio, I listened with great attention and a sense of brotherhood or commonality to your fine candidates for the Supreme Court. The major word in both their brief but very pointed addresses was the word "apathy"—the concern about our people not taking an interest in government. It's my major concern.

Shortly before John Glenn went on his historic trip to China, the only senator invited by the Majority Leader to go, I had a chance to spend the night with him and Annie, and we had a long talk about what our nation is and what it ought to be and how important to our country is the active, dedicated, even sacrificial investment in the electoral process of leaders like ourselves in this crucial year. Others look to us for inspiration and others look to us for guidance and others look to us for an example of whether or not we care enough about our country to make a sacrifice as we approach the time to decide on the future of our own lives, our own families, our own communities, our own great country.

John Glenn is a good man, and I know that next year he's going to be joined in Washington by Howard Metzenbaum, and you're going to have two senators with a heart. As John Glenn often points out when I'm present, he's come down to Plains to visit me, and I've been to Columbus to visit him. He was the most famous person who ever showed up in Plains when I was deciding about my running mate, and he held the world's record until Robert Redford came a little later and then the turnout at the airport—I'll have to say—was a little bit higher for Robert Redford.

But I've had a good chance the last 21 months to learn about this country. One place that I have always felt was close to me was Ohio. I've been here many times, as you know, and so has my wife Rosalynn, and so has my son Jack and so has his wife Judy and so has my son Chip and his wife Caron and so has my son Jeffrey and his wife Annette and so has my Aunt Sissy and my sister Ruth.

Tonight we have a group of Georgians who are here—we call them the Peanut Brigade. They've been campaigning for me at their own expense ever since the early stages of the New Hampshire primary last winter. They are working people. They take their annual vacation. They pay their own expenses. They charter a bus or buy a ticket on an airplane—tourist class— and they go to a state like your own, and they drive around the state, stand in factory shift lines and go to private homes and go to churches or county fairs or go to socials or anything else where people might be, and they tell Ohioans and others, "We know Jimmy Carter, and we have confidence in him." There's a group of the Peanut Brigade here tonight, and they have already traveled over 3,000 miles in Ohio. They have found the same thing I did when I first came here—a state with a mind of its own—a state with a great historical background—a state that's been the birthplace of many great ideas for our country—of Presidents, astronauts and many others—a state that quite often is a presidential battleground because nobody can take you for granted—a state with perhaps, at least this afternoon, the greatest baseball team in the world. And I'm very proud to be here with you again.

When the primary season was over, Ohio was my 30th this year. I was in every primary if we could win a single delegate, and it was not an easy thing to run a campaign at that time. No one's ever done it before in the history of our country, and the outcome was in doubt, but when the last primary day closed, Ohio was in my column. I had 1,200 delegates the day before, and people saw the results in Ohio and then began to call me on the phone— Governor Wallace, Mayor Daley, Senator Jackson and many others—and they said you did so well in Ohio, you have our support. And it was just a short time later that I had 1,700 delegates pledged to me, and I thank Ohio for your confidence in me. You gave me a nomination, and at the convention, I was sitting in my hotel room again, strangely enough lonely with my grandson, 1 year old, on my lap and Amy trying to join him there, and the rollcall of states was being held, and I was hoping—and my hopes were finally realized—when I did go over the top, it was Ohio again. I'll never forget it.

But I'm not through with you yet. We have another test coming on November 2, and I'm looking for Ohio to put me over the top and make me President.

Tonight, I'm going to speak very briefly about a concept—I haven't made this speech before exactly. There's a Bible verse that says, "For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, then who shall prepare himself for the battle." In Biblical times and also now, if there is no leadership, a nation or people drift. Our country is drifting. We have no clear purpose. We have no clear vision of what our nation will be in the future. We have no clear and consistent analysis of the cause of our past and present problems. We have no concept of excellence or greatness that inspires us as individuals to join that hope to make our own lives greater or more significant. It's not a complicated thing—leadership. It's based on two basic principles.

The first one is innate competence. The American people are competent. We believe in the work ethic. We believe in individuality. We believe in self-reliance. We believe in proper management. We still have the pioneer spirit. We have a clear concept of what our lives ought to be, but our government in Washington doesn't mirror those characteristics of the American people.

In the last 8 years, there's been kind of a wall built around Washington—the center of our government, and we feel that we can't quite penetrate that wall. There's a horrible, bloated bureaucratic mess where our government ought to be. This is not consonant with what Americans are. It's not compatible with what our government ought to be. We need a tough—we need a well organized government—not disorganized. We need a clear assignment of responsibility and purpose. This can be done.

If I'm successful in November, and I don't intend to lose, next January, we're going to have an efficient, economical, well-organized, purposeful, manageable government, and you can depend on it.

There are those who say it's impossible, but it isn't. I'm a farmer; I'm a businessman; I'm a nuclear engineer; I'm a planner. That is one basis for hope of success, but the major basis is that the American people are ready, and the Congress is ready, and I'm ready to make those changes.

We need to have tough budget analysis.

In Georgia my first year in office, I put into effect zero-based budgeting, which means that every year, you strip down the government to zero and you start from scratch, and every program which spends the taxpayers' money has to rejustify itself annually. You have an automatic weeding out of the old and obsolete programs. You have an automatic detection of overlapping and duplication and waste, and you have an automatic assignment of priorities so that in the next budget cycle, you spend your money not on what was necessary 50 years ago, but what's going to be necessary next year. That's going to be instituted as soon as I'm in the White House.

Another thing that we don't have in this country is plans for the future. President Ford and the Republican Administration have no plans, no concepts in the field of energy. We're the only developed nation in the world that doesn't have a comprehensive energy program. We have no concept of what we hope to achieve in the field of transportation or agriculture or education or welfare or health or taxation. This is a devastating obstacle which prevents cooperation between the federal, state and local levels of government and between government at all levels and the business and professional and labor and agricultural and educational and scientific communities. We've got to have clear plans to show us a goal so that we can reach them at the end of 2 years or 4 years or 5 years or 10 years or even more. We did this in Georgia. It worked very well. It works in many other states, and it can and it will work in Washington.

There's no reason that we should fall down on the concept of management and competence. We can have a government that's efficient and economical. I'd like to remind you tonight that nowhere in the Declaration of Independence or the Bill of Rights or the Constitution of the United States or the Old Testament or the New Testament do you find the words "economy" or "efficiency." You find a lot of other words that are even more important. Words like "truth" and "fairness" and "justice." Words like "hope" and "idealism" and "commitment" and "brotherhood." Words like "compassion" and words like "love" and words like "human rights." Those words have been forgotten lately, but they're important, and they're crucial, and they go hand in hand with proper management. It's not right for the strongest economic nation on earth to have the highest unemployment rate. Our unemployment rate is higher than that of Great Britain. It's higher than that of Germany. It's twice as high as that in Italy—three or four times higher than that in Japan, and this tears people apart and it destroys the concept of the family structure.

In the last 2 years alone since Gerald Ford has been in office, we've had 2/2 million Americans join the unemployment rolls. In the last year 500,000 Americans have become unemployed. That removes the dignity of a man or a woman who's able to work, who wants to work, but can't find a job.

The Republicans for historical periods have felt that the best way to control inflation is to keep people out of work. We know better, but they haven't controlled inflation even with high unemployment. We now have an inflation rate, as judged by last month's wholesale price index figures, at the double-digit level—11 percent. We in this room are blessed by God with a superior stature in the community. Almost all of us—perhaps all—have financial security. We're socially prominent. We have political influence. But there are many others who don't, and a retired person living on a fixed income or a wage earner who can't negotiate a new contract every year is constantly robbed, and that means a lower quality of food or maybe abandoning a lifetime home. It means buying cheaper clothes, or if it's a grandmother, it means giving a cheaper Christmas present to her grandchildren. This again destroys the dignity of mankind. It is not necessary if we care.

We know as business people the importance of a balanced budget. I've worked all my life. My people have lived in Georgia 210 years. We've all been farmers, and we are tight with our own money, and in our business, we balance the budget. I was governor 4 years. The budget was balanced, and we had a good surplus. Last year we had a $65 billion deficit—the highest deficit in the history of our country—a greater deficit than all 8 years put together under Kennedy and Johnson. In fact, in the last 8 years under Nixon and Ford, we've accumulated a greater national debt than all the other 192 years put together. This is not part of the American consciousness, character or commitment. And I can tell you that at the end of the next 4 years, the budget of the United States is going to be balanced.

There are those who say that this is a heartless statement.

It's not. Historically, we've been able to have this kind of budget management if our people are at work. Harry Truman was in office 7 years. He didn't have an average deficit—he had an average surplus of $2 billion a year. When he went out of office, the inflation rate was less than 1 percent, the unemployment rate was less than 3 percent, the interest on an FHA home loan, 4 percent. Kennedy and Johnson [were] in office 8 years together, the average inflation rate about 2 percent. When Lyndon Johnson went out of office and Nixon went in, the unemployment rate was 3.3 percent, and Nixon inherited from Johnson a balanced budget.

But the point is we'll never have a balanced budget—we'll never have an end to this inflationary spiral as long as we have 7 1/2 or 8 million people out of work who are looking for jobs. That must be changed, and it will be changed next year. The American people are not selfish, but they want to feel that they are treated fairly. They don't want a special favor, but there are a lot of ways that this government under the Republican Administrations has not been fair.

Our tax structure—it's not fair. The surest income to be taxed is the income earned from manual labor. On an average, a family that makes over a million dollars a year pays a lower percentage of their income in taxes than does a family that makes less than $10,000 a year. In the last reporting period, there were 3,200 people in this country that made over $50,000 a year and paid no taxes. Over 800 made more than $100,000 and paid no taxes. About 250 made over $200,000 and paid not a nickel in income taxes. And when they don't pay their taxes, the ones who pay them are the ones who can find no hidden loopholes in the laws.

So we need tax reform to make it fair. And if I'm elected in November, and I intend to be, next January we're going to have comprehensive tax reform to make it fair for a change, and you can depend on that, too.

The last point I want to make is this. I was in Detroit the day before yesterday, and I made a speech about crime. The high crime rates are a symptom of a sick society. And our crime rates are very high. In the last 8 years, they've gone up more than 55 percent. In the last 2 years alone, the serious crime rates have gone up 27 percent. There are a lot of reasons—I won't make a whole speech on that—but we have lost respect for the government aspect of enforcing the law. The highest law enforcement in this country is the Attorney General. Under this Nixon-Ford Administration, we've had two Attorneys General who were indicted and convicted of serious crimes, and we've seen brought on our government a continual series of disgraces. The average person feels that they're not treated fairly under our present system of justice. If an average working family had a young man caught with some marijuana or involved in a hit and run accident, that young man would likely go to prison. If a powerful or rich person had the same thing happen to one of his children, the chances are that child would never see the inside of a prison. The rich, the powerful, the constant criminal quite often can escape. When I became Governor of Georgia, there was a drug pusher in Atlanta who had been indicted 52 times. He had been convicted over half those times. He had never spent a day in prison, and only after a young white boy died in a home with an overdose of heroin, did that criminal finally go to spend the first day in prison.

I'm not a lawyer, but I know the reason and the need for better respect for the law, better administration in our courts, clearer, briefer but surer sentences, quicker trials and a commitment to backing our police officers and also a commitment on the part of society at all levels to support enforcement of the law.

Not too long ago, Mr. Ford went down to Miami to make a speech to the police chiefs of our country and to a great deal of applause, he said, "If I am elected President, beginning next year, I'm going to have a 100 day program of crusade against crime." Mr. Ford has been in office 800 days; he's got another hundred days between now and next January. He's going to make full use of it because he'll be through, but he ought to do something about crime now instead of waiting until next year.

I want to say just one thing about foreign affairs. We've lost our commitment as a government not as a nation to basic human rights. I never thought I would see the President of our country refuse to see a man who epitomizes the search for human freedom. But Mr. Ford, under the pressure of his Secretary of State and the Soviet Union, refused to welcome to the White House Alexander Solzhenitsyn. I intend to win in November, and when I am elected and go to the White House next January, I'm going to invite Alexander Solzhenitsyn to come by and see me.

In the debate last week on foreign affairs, Mr. Ford said unequivocally on two occasions, and he reconfirmed it with his Press Secretary the following morning and again 2 days later, that Eastern Europe was not under the domination of the Soviet Union—that Poland and other countries were autonomous and free. Now after 5 or 6 days, he said he misspoke. I happen to know that as long as 15 or 20 years ago, Mr. Ford had this same belief—that Eastern Europe was free of Soviet domination. I think our country is a kind of beacon light that ought to provide a concept of what freedom is. We know that Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Poland, East Germany are not free, and those who have been there, and I'm one of them, have seen the Berlin Wall, not only in Berlin but all down the separation between East and West Germany. It's a horrible sight, particularly out in the open fields where swaths have been cut through the forests and a high steel fence with guardposts are there and concrete barricades so that no truck or pickup truck or automobile can possibly crash through the fence. This separates the free world from the other world, and it's a devastating blow to those who have suffered from a lack of freedom not to know that the President of the United States recognizes their plight and at least serves as a place where they can trade, as a place where Radio Free Europe can talk to them, and Radio Liberty, and where an enforcement of the Helsinki Agreement can be assured. We've not had that kind of leadership in recent days, in recent weeks, in recent months, but it must be restored, and if I am elected in November, and I intend to be, next January, we will once again be a beacon light for human rights throughout the world, and you can depend on that.

We've seen the first demonstration in our nation's history of permitting foreign countries to circumvent our Constitution and our Bill of Rights with the Arab boycott. A lot of people think the Arab boycott concerns oil. It's not an embargo of oil. The Arab boycott means that Arab countries tell American businesses, "You can't trade with us unless you sign a paper saying that you have not and will not trade with Israel, that you have not and will not trade with us if American Jews either own your company or help to manage it and that you have not and will not buy any spare parts from a company which may have traded with Israel." The President of the United States and his top officers in the government have fought legislation that would eliminate that disgraceful and disgusting practice. American businesses have been forced to yield. Now I intend to win in November, and when I go to the White House next January, the Arab boycott will stop, and you can depend on it.

The last thing I want to say to you is this: Did any of you watch the debate last night? Our polls that I have heard from today showed that Senator Mondale was an overwhelming winner. He makes me jealous. He did so well it makes me jealous, and I'd like to point out to you that he epitomizes to me a concept of the Democratic Party. The first responsibility I had was to choose a Vice Presidential running mate. The first responsibility Mr. Ford had after the nomination was to choose a Vice Presidential running mate, and I believe that any American watching the debate last night could assess the difference in the quality of those two men. I would trust Walter Mondale to be President in a minute, and I'm very, very proud of him, and I told him last night I was. This is a country that cries out for competence; it cries out for compassion; it cries out for restoration of our principles and our beliefs and our commitments to a standard of excellence and greatness that will make us all proud again.

I see no reason why the President and the Congress can't cooperate, mutually respecting the constitutional delineation of authority. I see no reason why the federal, state and local levels of government can't recognize once again that the officials there represent exactly the same constituents. I see no reason why we can't bind together once again our nation's wounds and pull the different kinds of Americans together in a spirit of unity and strength because we still have a country that's built up on diversity. That's not a sign of weakness. The United States is not a melting pot because, when people come here, they don't give up their individuality or their ethnic history or commitment to backgrounds and all become the same. The United States is much more like a mosaic of different colors put together in a pattern that makes a source of inspiration. It doesn't matter when we came here— 2 years ago, 20 years ago, 200 years ago—that doesn't matter. What matters is why we came here and what we do after we come. But I can tell you we can lose all these things I've described to you—competence, compassion, fair taxes, system of justice, management, health care—if we don't shape the outcome of the election November 2.

Now, you are not running for President, and I'm glad you're not, but it's just as much your country as it is mine, and if you care about your country, if we've made mistakes that you never want to see made again, if there are difficult questions that you want to see answered, if you don't want to be ashamed of our government, if there are hopes or dreams or aspirations in your own lives or lives of your children that you'd like to see realized, I hope this next 2 1/2 weeks that you as leaders will make a sacrificial effort to turn out the people in your state to vote, to work, to shape the future of your own lives and your own families and your own country. Because I want to see us in this 2OOth birthday of our country prove to the rest of the world, that's very important, but more importantly, prove to our own people who live here that we still live in the greatest nation on earth.

Thank you very much.

Jimmy Carter, Remarks at a Campaign Appearance in Columbus, Ohio Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/347575

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