A multitude of voters, as yet unnumbered, have said that they lean toward Jimmy Carter because they are afraid of what the ferocious Ronald Reagan might do. I have said that I lean away from Carter because of what Carter has already done. Those inclining toward Carter fear what might be; I fear what is. Still more, I fear that more of the same -- pulled from Carter's magic hat -- will end in disaster both at home and abroad.
At home the early signs of a disaster are already bleeding us. Carter has given us inflation, unemployment, recession. He has made America poorer. At the end of his first term, Herbert Hoover was given the boot for such a showing. Yet it is said that Carter is not quite as bad as Hoover and, besides, he claims to have kept the peace.
Well, did he keep the peace for the American hostages? Twice within 10 months our Tehran embassy was invaded. Twice Americans were taken captive. Carter either does not learn from experience or he learns exceedingly slowly. Did he keep the peace in other places? What of Libya and Pakistan, where our embassies were also invaded and burned? Is it really accurate for his campaign to claim that no Americans have been killed fighting while he was president? What about Ambassador Adolph Dubs, who was kidnapped and murdered in Kabul on Feb. 22, 1979? And what about Cpl. Steven J. Crowley and Army Chief Warrant Officer bryan Ellis? They were murdered along with two Pakistani employees of the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad when it was taken over on Nov. 21, 1979. There has also been a host of Americans wounded in these extraordinary fracases, and of course there were the eight Americans who lost their lives in the Iranian desert and whose bodies were then desecrated by the holy man's pious followers.
In the evil days before Carter brought us peace, American diplomats only had to endure an occassional flag-burning. Now hostile mobs burn our embassies and maul our diplomats, tourists, businessmen and newsmen. Is this peace? Under Carter, more Americans abroad have been terrorized than at any time since the sinking of the Lusitania, in whose aftermath -- let us remember -- Woodrow Wilson ran for reelection on the slogan, "He Kept Us Out of War."
The words of Ronald Reagan might frighten some voters, but let them consider Carter's deeds, deeds that have been particularly reckless toward the Soviets. After all, the Third World can only put the torch to our embassies; Moscow can put the torch to all of us. When Carter came to office, relations with the Soviets were still stable. Today they are more dangerous than at any time since the 1973 Middle East war. Here, Carter's bungling is to blame.
In the early days, the days of his flower-child foreign policy, Carter spoke of "the elimination of all nuclear weapons from this earth." The course he actually followed has not been all that different from the course of his economic policies. It has been a course of wiggle and wobble: one day a dove, one day a hawk, now he coos again. This dizziness has utterly destroyed the Soviets' confidence in his word, so much so that last week Tass, the official Soviet news agency, derided his sudden renewed affection for SALT II.
America has avoided direct hostilities with the Soviets for over three decades through a policy of deterrence based on the credibility of our military and the credibility of our president. Carter has destroyed both. He came to office promising to cut back our military. Here he succeeded, and we now lack the strategic edge that we have held against the Soviets throughout the postwar period. He came to office promising a new diplomatic approach. Here too he succeeded, and we have now lost credibility with the Soviets and, for that matter, with many of our allies.
Carter's diplomatic approach to the Soviets has been one of bluff and reversal, thus rendering him contemptible in their eyes. In diplomacy, this is a dangerous course. At the outset, he bluffed the Soviets on human rights. Yet when they called his bluff during the trials of Anatoly Scharansky and Alexander Ginzberg, Carter capitulated. Then, Carter related deployment of the neutron bomb to Soviet deployment of the SS20. The Soviets proceeded with the SS20 and again Carter hunkered down. Carter declared the Soviet military presence in Cuba "unacceptble" and then accepted it. And when the Soviets invaded Afghanistan, Carter solemnly withdrew the SALT II treaty, saying he would have "to assess Soviet actions." The Soviet actions grew more brutal, and again Carter backed down. Lask week he was actually heard singing hymns to the treaty's wonders and denouncing the fierce Reagan for opposing it. With this, the Soviets began to ridicule him. Is the man who established this pattern of behavior really preferable to Ronald Reagan?
Some voters fear Reagan because of remarks Carter has presented to them, remarks gathered from a period of nearly 15 years, a period in which our strategic balance and our credibility were far more secure. But wars rarely start over mere words. They begin over deeds. They begin when foreign policy is mismanaged, and when leaders are encouraged by the erratic behavior of their adversaries into finally going too far. When Carter finally decides to bluff no more, how will the Russians know?