The "crisis" of Soviet troops in Cuba has receded quickly and quietly and is no longer prime time news.
But it remains an interesting episode for what it revealed about the impulses and attitudes of the presumptive candidates for president in 1980.
The Washington Post asked each of them how he would have dealt with the issue had he been in President Carter's shoes.
All who responded found fault with Carter's handling of the affair. Some criticised him for "backing down," others for being too belicose. But their own prescriptions, for the most part, were mild in tone, cautious and unwarlike.
Republican John B. Connally, for example, has a reputation for "toughness." As president, he said, he would have "drawn the line on the presence of Soviet troops in Cuba and the western hemisphere." But beyond that the only actions he recommended were postponement of the Senate debate on the strategic arms limitation treaty and a request to Congress for a 6 percent increase in the Pentagon budget.
None of those responding to The Post's inquiry suggested military action of any kind by the United States except Republican Rep. Philip Crane (Ill.) who proposed, as one option, a naval blockade of Cuba of the sort imposed during the Cuban missile crisis of 1962.
Dissent from a different viewpoint came from Democratic Gov. Edmund G. (Jerry) Brown Jr. of California. "The presence of 3,000 Soviet troops in Cuba," he said, "does not appear to constitute a threat to this nation's security." The issue, he suggested, was distorted by Washington and no evidence was ever produced to show that "the Soviet military force in Cuba is either larger than before or armed in a different fashion. Without that evidence, the president's actions appear more a political hype for domestic consumption and are more provocative than productive.
" . . . As for Cuba, the United States must recognize that its revolutionary regime could be an example to other Latin Americans confronted by corrupt and repressive governments. The primary task of the United States in the Americas is to support real democratic forces and tendencies so that the alternatives do not necessarily become Fidel Castro and his Soviet Allies."
George Bush, a Republican, was also critical of Carter's handling of the issue. It should never have become, he said, "a public and potentially destructive confrontation."
Rather, said Bush, "the correct approach was to exert quiet but intense pressure; to inform the Soviet leadership that there could be no progress on the wide array of issues important to both sides until we were satisfied that the combat troops had been removed."
Howard H. Baker Jr. (Tenn.), the Republican leader in the Senate, deplored Carter's failure to "act firmly and decisively." His own approach, he said, would have been to seriously consider "suspending consideration of most-favored-nation trading status for the Soviet Union, imposing tighter restrictions on the transfer of high technology to the Soviets, freezing negotiations on limiting military deployment in the Indian Ocean, or declaring the 1962 U.S.-Soviet agreements on Cuba null and void. . . ." He would not have postponed the SALT debate.
His colleague and fellow candidate, Republican Sen. Bob Dole (Kan.), disagreed on SALT. Dole would suspend debate on SALT, resume reconnaissance flights over Cuba, suspend the export of high technology items to the Soviet Union, defer any consideration of most-favored-nation status for the U.S.S.R. and "increase our military presence in areas around the Soviet Union, including an enlargement of our forces in the Indian Ocean."
Republican Rep. John Anderson (Ill.), like Brown, criticized Carter for magnifying "out of proportion" the troops-in-Cuba issue. "It was a hasty judgment to insist that the status quo had to be changed . . . Having created an unnecessary crisis, the president is to be commended for having then turned to calm and patient diplomacy to resolve it."
Like Crane, Republican Sen. Larry Pressler (S.D.) took a more bellicose line. He would have made the SALT treaty hostage to the removal of the troops, would have canceled computer technology sales to the Russians and would have expanded surveillance of both Cuba and the Soviet Union. He also would "make it clear that we would ultimately move towards an economic blockade."
Three of the presumptive candidates -- former president Gerald Ford, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) and former California governor Ronald Reagan -- did not respond to The Post's request for a statement.