The hundreds of documents made public during the past week about preparations by the Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan camps for the 1980 presidential debate show how painstakingly both sides plotted every feint and counterpunch of the closely watched contest.
Each candidate was armed with a wealth of negative news clippings, selected statistics and pointed quotations calculated to embarrass the opponent. The documents also show that the Reagan camp, which had obtained much of Carter's debate briefing materials, successfully anticipated and parried many of the Democratic president's planned lines of attack.
The documents found in the files of Reagan campaign officials include more than 500 pages of draft copies of Carter White House briefing materials on foreign policy and defense issues under such headings as "Military Superiority," "Neutron Bomb," "Rapid Deployment Force," "SALT Treaty," "Soviet Compliance," "Iran: Hostages" and "Defense of the Persian Gulf."
Many pages consist of sample questions and answers, along with anticipated charges by Reagan and suggested rebuttals by Carter. For example: "Charge: The decline in Republican defense budgets was not so great as we have said it was. Rebuttal: Measured across the years 1970 to 1977, and in constant dollars, defense spending fell more than 35 percent."
The Carter drafts also include excerpts from newspapers, television broadcasts, the Congressional Record, campaign speeches, news releases and news conferences. An example: "A Reagan administration might not be concerned with pursuing a nuclear non-proliferation strategy: 'I just don't think it's any of our business.' Washington Post, Jan. 31, 1980."
The Carter papers also include considerable technical data from congressional hearings and articles from the trade publications Aerospace Daily and Aviation Week.
The final Carter debate briefing book is a more concise volume closely resembling a script and contains more than 200 pages on foreign policy and domestic issues. Each topic contains an opening question, a defense of Carter's record, Reagan's likely response and concluding remarks.
Office of Management and Budget Director David A. Stockman, who has said he rehearsed Reagan for the debate with the help of a "pilfered" copy of the Carter briefing book, said in a memo released by the White House this week that "the substantive content" of the briefing book "is similar to material made available to me prior to the debate rehearsals."
The chapter on energy, for example, says that "Governor Reagan simply does not understand the complicated issues presented by nuclear power . . . . And just this year, Governor Reagan said that 'all of the waste in a year from a nuclear power plant could be stored under a desk.' "
Another section, called "Carter Rebuttals to Reagan Statements," said, "Reagan: Inflation rose from 4.8 percent in '76 to 18.1 percent in the first three months of this year. Rebuttal: No denying inflation is up--largely because of OPEC . . . ," the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries.
In the nationally televised debate on Oct. 28, 1980, Reagan accused Carter of blaming inflation on OPEC and other culprits rather than on his administration.
On another page, the Carter briefing book said, "Reagan: Pursued anti-production energy policies throughout administration. Rebuttal: Coal production will reach highest level, exceeding 800 million tons for the first time in history . . . . " Reagan countered this point in the debate even before Carter cited the statistic, blaming administration red tape for throwing 22,000 miners out of work.
Carter's briefing book also provided him with "Key Lines to Use at Beginning of Comments to Reagan," such as: "Governor Reagan seems to have a predictable, knee-jerk response to every situation . . . . That kind of thinking has gotten us into trouble before . . . . I do not believe Governor Reagan would make that proposal if he appreciated the complexities involved . . . . That is a great idea--if you make $200,000 a year!"
To highlight his experience, Carter was urged to say things such as, "I worked first-hand with Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin to build this peace."
Finally, Carter was given 28 "key Reagan quotes," from welfare recipients ("freeloaders wanting a prepaid vacation plan") to the minimum wage ("has caused more misery and unemployment than anything since the Great Depression").
Reagan's debate briefing book, which the White House also released this week, is a well-organized, 71-page primer that includes such chapters as "Carter Attack Lines," "Defense on Reagan Flip-Flops," "Broken Promises from the 1976 Debates," "Carter Misstatements" and a pointed comparison of Reagan and Carter's gubernatorial records in California and Georgia, respectively.
The book also provided Reagan with the following tactical advice.
"Be yourself. Don't hesitate, however, to attack Carter strongly on his record or to diffuse with disarming humor his personal charges when they become overblown. Focus the thrust of each answer on Carter's incompetence and weak record . . . . Use selected examples of Carter's mismanagement of government, his misstatements and flip-flops."
". . . Our advantage lies in the fact that you are the best electronic media candidate in history . . . . Reagan will appear robust and vigorous by comparison to Carter, who will likely appear bleached out and tense . . . .
"Carter's Attack Strategy: Suggest Reagan would be a dangerous man in the White House. Reagan's Response Strategy: Respond with righteous indignation; no one wants peace more than I."
Some of Reagan's responses were drafted to the last detail:
"Use a combination of 'Mr. Carter' and 'President Carter' with more frequent use of 'Mr. Carter' . . . . Work Republican vice presidential nominee George Bush into your responses . . . . Avoid appearing too defensive when responding to a sharp attack . . . . Looking directly at Carter in such instances may be very effective."
The book warns of such "Carter attack lines" as "RR economic proposals are wildly inflationary . . . . RR has been insensitive to the needs of blacks and other minorities . . . . RR believes that pollution is caused by . . . trees, volcanoes, etc."
It advises Reagan to quote Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) and other Carter critics, while sharpening his own lines of attack. On the economy, for example: "Another four years of Carter inflation will mean that goods will cost twice as much as when he was elected."