Candidate Ronald Reagan, in his well-rehearsed 1980 debate with President Carter, anticipated and rebutted Carter's pointed criticisms on defense spending, arms control and a host of domestic issues detailed in hundreds of pages of Carter staff materials that were in the possession of Reagan aides.
According to the documents released by the White House yesterday from the files of two Reagan aides, Carter had been urged, for example, to highlight what were described as steady cutbacks in defense spending during the previous two Republican administrations. But Reagan was ready in the debate, challenging Carter's statistics and accusing him of cutting defense budgets proposed by both President Ford and Carter's own Democratic Congress.
The documents showed some striking similarities between the language in the Carter camp's debate strategy documents and a briefing book prepared by Reagan's staff for his rehearsed counterattacks. Reagan's briefing book warned that Carter would accuse him of "skimping" on conventional armed forces, the same word used in a Carter camp paper.
Reagan's debate briefing book, which had not been made public previously, also shed new light on Reagan's tactics.
"Show righteous indignation in responding to Carter's attacks or innuendos that you are dangerous," James A. Baker III, now the White House chief of staff, advised the Republican presidential nominee. ". . . Humor or a confident smile can also disarm Carter when he thinks he's got you where he wants you."
The largest batch of papers released by the White House yesterday were Carter debate strategy papers on defense and foreign policy issues. Office of Management and Budget Director David A. Stockman said "it is my strong impression that this document was among the material delivered to me by the Reagan campaign" before he rehearsed Reagan for the debate with Carter.
Stockman stated that "the large package of Xeroxed pages" also contained papers that were similar in "substantive content" to the domestic issues section of the final debate briefing book prepared for Carter. These papers, which were not released by the White House, were provided to The Washington Post by former Carter aides.
Here is a comparison of key issues as framed in the Carter staff drafts released yesterday by the White House from the files of Reagan aides, in the final Carter debate briefing book, in the Reagan debate briefing book, and in the Oct. 28, 1980, debate in Cleveland: Carter Staff Draft
"I am eager to compare my defense record of steady, sustained increase over the last four years with the record of under-investment and decline during the previous eight years of two Republican administrations.
"The real Republican record, from fiscal years 1970 through 1977, shows that outlays for defense in constant dollars--the measure of how much we are actually spending for defense--declined every year. During the eight years prior to my administration defense spending declined in real terms--after inflation--about 35 percent . . . . Eight consecutive years of decline cannot be reversed overnight."Carter Briefing Book
"I reversed a decade of decline in spending on our defenses from 1968 to 1976."Reagan Briefing Book
"Carter will also claim RR Ronald Reagan inaccurate re Ford defense record and Carter accomplishments . . . . Carter says he resolved Trident disputes, canceled B1 because doubtful it could penetrate Soviet defenses, favored a workable basing system for the MX . . . . Carter is wrong in each instance . . . . Make sure audience asks itself: Why did Carter try to cut defense budgets, oppose congressional pressures to increase defense until the presidential campaign."Reagan in Debate With Carter
"Well yes, I question the figure about the decline in defense spending under the two previous administrations in the preceding eight years to the administration . . . . I also would like to point out that Republican presidents in those years, faced with a Democratic majority in both houses of the Congress, found that their requests for defense budgets were very often cut.
"Now, Gerald Ford left a five-year projected plan for a military buildup to restore our defenses, and President Carter's administration reduced that by 38 percent . . . . Mr. Carter had canceled the B1 bomber, delayed the MX, delayed the Trident submarine, shut down the Missile Man--the three--the Minuteman missile production line, and whatever other things that might have been done." Carter Staff Draft
"Unlike Governor Reagan, I would not abandon the arms control process, which has taken so many years to construct. That would be the consequence of his adament sic opposition to the SALT II treaty . . . .
"Unlike Mr. Reagan, however, I do not advocate a policy of American military superiority over the Soviet Union . . . . It would mean the end of arms control . . . . It would mean an uncontrolled, open-ended, and enormously expensive arms race . . . . It would mean that we would have to skimp on conventional forces, where we need to improve, and to concentrate on a race in strategic weapons . . . . Gov. Reagan's impulse for military superiority must be seen for what it is: unrealistic, simplistic, dangerous . . . . Unlike Governor Reagan, I do not regard balanced, verifiable arms negotiations, such as the SALT II treaty, as 'appeasement.' "Carter Briefing Book
"The SALT process, and the SALT II treaty, which Governor Reagan would abandon, are the products of three Republican and Democratic administrations . . . ."Reagan Briefing Book
"A supportable SALT II treaty was 90 percent complete under President Ford . . . . Dem. Chairman Senate Budget Committee Fritz Hollings thinks the administration is 'wrong as it can be about SALT II.' Senator Henry Jackson, the ranking Democrat on the Armed Services Committee, said that 'to enter into a treaty that favors the Soviets, as this one does, on the ground that we will be in a worse position without it is . . . appeasement in its purest form' . . . .
"Carter claims RR position on military superiority will lead to all-out arms race, skimping on conventional forces. Response: Not so. The Russians need to be accommodated until they give up their idea of being top dog . . . . SALT II is fatally flawed and would not gain Senate consent. Goal of beginning meaningful arms reductions that are equitable, verifiable . . . ."Reagan in Debate With Carter
"Now, I have not blocked the SALT II treaty, as Mr. Carter and Mr. Mondale suggest I have. It has been blocked by a Senate in which there is a Democratic majority . . . .
"Now, to suggest that because two Republican presidents tried to pass the SALT treaty--that puts them on its side--I would like to say that President Ford, who was within 90 percent of a treaty that we could be in agreement with when he left office, is emphatically against this SALT treaty. I would like to point out also that senators like Henry Jackson and Hollings of South Carolina--they are taking the lead in the fight against this particular treaty . . . .
"And I would say to the Soviet Union, we will sit and negotiate with you as long as it takes to have not only legitimate arms limitation, but to have a reduction of these nuclear weapons to the point that neither one of us represents a threat to the other. That is hardly throwing away a treaty and being opposed to arms limitation . . . .
"And to suggest that the SALT II treaty that your negotiators negotiated was just a continuation, and based on all of the preceding efforts by two previous presidents, is just not true." Carter Briefing Book
"During the first three years of my administration, 8.8 million new jobs were created--more jobs than were created in any other administration in history and twice as many as during the previous Republican administration."Reagan Briefing Book
"8 million unemployed now--highest since Great Depression. If all the men and women out of work stood in line (2 feet apart), the line would stretch from New York to Los Angeles."Reagan in Debate With Carter
"President Carter also has spoken of the new jobs created. Well, we always, with the normal growth in our country and increase in population, increase the number of jobs. But that can't hide the fact that there are eight million men and women out of work in America today, and two million of those lost their jobs in just the last few months." Carter Briefing Book
"My administration has done more to reduce waste and inefficiency than any administration in history . . . .
"I want to draw a sharp and clear line between my program, my vision of the future, and those for whom 'eliminating waste' sometimes sounds like a code word for eliminating government completely . . . . Governor Reagan has provided no specifics about what he would cut; he says nothing more than we need to eliminate waste and abuse."Reagan Briefing Book
"Comprehensive assault on waste and inefficiency, including . . . Spending Control Task Force (chaired by Weinberger, former OMB director) to submit detailed report during transition on elimination of waste, extravagance . . . . When Sec. Joe Califano resigned last year, said massive fraud still plagues federal health, welfare."Reagan in Debate With Carter
"Well, most people, when they think about cutting government spending, they think in terms of eliminating necessary programs or wiping out something, some service that government is supposed to perform. I believe that there is enough extravagance and fat in government. As a matter of fact, one of the secretaries of HEW Health, Education and Welfare under Mr. Carter testified that he thought there was $7 billion worth of fraud and waste in welfare and in the medical programs associated with it . . . . We have a program for a gradual reduction of government spending based on these theories, and I have a task force now that has been working on where those cuts could be made." Carter Briefing Book
"My opponent, on the other hand, bitterly opposed the enactment of Medicare, just as now he opposes national health insurance . . . . My record here is in stark contrast to the views of Governor Reagan. He opposes NHI, and helped lead the unsuccessful fight to defeat Medicare when it was being considered by the Congress."Reagan Briefing Book
"Carter Attack Lines . . . . RR at one time opposed Medicare and Medicaid, and now opposed comprehensive national health insurance, yet there are so many individuals who can't afford private care."Reagan in Debate With Carter
"When I opposed Medicare, there was another piece of legislation meeting the same problem before the Congress. I happened to favor the other piece of legislation and thought that it would be better for the senior citizens and provide better care than the one that was finally passed. I was not opposing the principle of providing care for them."