ON SECOND THOUGHT, maybe it's not such an odd match after all. Here comes the visiting Libyan delegation, untutored and zealous, suffused with the naive faith of the newly rich that their money can but anything, absolutely anything. And there goes Billy Carter, the president's jolly, loose-lipped, hard-eyed brother -- who is always a ready seller. He has provided his clients with a guided tour of Atlanta, some introuctions and champagne, which they, being good Moslems, do not join him in drinking.
The visit to Atlanta got off to a fitting beginning when Mr. Carter, awaiting his customers, stepped out of his limousine and committed a public indecency of a minor sort against the side of a building. That was followed by other public indecencies of a sort that were, we'd say, less minor. He called for a new era of American-Libyan friendship with the shrewd geopolitical observation that "there's a hell of a lot more Arabians than there is Jews." A little farther down the road he offered the thought that "the Jewish media tears up the Arab countries full time, as you well know." Mr. Carter's views are evidently very similar to those expressed from time to time by Col. Muammar Qaddafi, the president of Libya. Co. Qaddafi has given substance to his opinions over the years by harboring and financing a wide range of terrorists, but especially those whose targets are Israel. As long as his support for terrorism continues, American opinion of him is not likely to change, even though he might hire intermediaries even more skilled than Mr. Carter.
Whyc come to think of it, did the Libyans choose Mr. Carter, whose interest in North Africa has not previously been visible to the naked eye? The Libyans come from a tradition where personal connection is everything. Other Americans in the public eye -- Spiro Agnew for one, Bert Lance for another -- have been able to find Arab clients anxious for their counsel and assistance. Why not brother Billy?
Throughout the rest of their trip, the Libyans' guides and sponsors will be the Qccidental Pertroleum Company. It has operated in Libya for many years, and when Co. Qaddafi began to put pressure on the oil companies in 1970, Occidental was the first to give in and meet his terms. There has been a cordial relationship ever since. But beyond Occidental, the Libyans don't know many Americans. They have no ambassador in this country. Full of revolutionary purity, they profoundly mistrust the other and more experienced Arab delegations here. Education, we think, is not going to be cheap for the Libyans. They are likely to go on thinking for some tine that they can buy access to high places and, as the Billy affair indicates, there will always be Americans ready to encourage them in that thought.
As gratuitous exploitation of a name and connection, the Billy Beer fiasco was bad enough. With this venture into free-lance foreign felations, the other Mr. Carter has promoted himself from a mere embarrassment, as a presidential relative, to an active nuisance.