The terrorists who invaded the U.S. Embassy in Tehran turned out to be as irrational and unpredictable as their beloved leader. Their actions have been enough to give Americans nightmares.
In my own bad dream, I was summoned to the White House to face an angry president who said, "You have been the American official charged with the responsibility for dealing with the ayatollah ahd his faithful students. How did you manage to get things into such a mess?"
I woke up protesting, "Who, me? I didn't make any wrong moves, boss. Honest I didn't. These guys are just nutty as a fruitcake. There's no way to deal with them. An agreement with them isn't worth ziz."
The next thing thing I knew, my wife was shaking me and asking me, "Who is this woman Liz you were calling out to?" To escape from that third-degree, I got up, brought in the morning newspaper, and began reading about the "urban guerrillas" who took hostages in the Dominican Embassy in Bogota. They may turn out to be an even worse bunch of cutthroats than the studious terrorists in Tehran. One can only guess what they will do next.
Preparing an up-to-date commentary on the activities of either band of desperadoes, whether for broadcast or publication, is an almost hopeless undertaking. By the time one can begin giving his opinion of what they've done, they've done something worse.
When Sen. Howard Baker was asked to comment on Monday's disappointing news on what President Carter ought to do next, his reply was not that of a man who is a prominent political opponent of the president.
Instead, Baker said he thought the president was doing everything he could for the hostages. He added that he would support the president in whatever future actions Mr. Carter might think appropriate. And he said the best contribution he, personally, could make at this point would be to just shut up and say no more.
I found myself wishing I could reach into the radio and shake Howard Baker's hand. He had put into words the thoughts that are in the hearts and minds of millions of Americans in both political parties.
There are a hundred options open to the president, and a hundred variations on each of them. If King Solomon were alive, he might know which plan and which variations would, in time, prove to be the wisest.
But Solomon isn't here to counsel us, and our president must make his decisions as best he can. He must feed into his mental computer all the facts and advise he has gathered, add a dash of hope and prayer, and then test the computer's decision against his own intuition.
Right or wrong, he must do something, even if that something consists of nothing more than issuing the order, "We must try again. We must be patient. We must not risk making things worse by descending to the level of our adversaries -- at least, not yet."
In the end, all other alternatives may fail, and the only response to terrorism that remains may indeed be to descend to the level of the terrorists. But the judgment as to when "the end" has been reached must lie solely with the president. And as Sen. Baker indicated, the most useful role the rest of us can play is to let Mr. Carter know we're with him. Even the Republicans among us are confident that he will do his best to act wisely. Therefore we now stand behind him. And if it is God's will that things should not work out well, we will not second-guess him. One cannot do better than his honest best, however inadequate -- or brilliant -- that may be.
President Truman used to keep on his desk an 8-ball that carried the words, "The buck stops here."
The face behind the desk is different today, but the rules of the game remain unchanged. Just as there was nobody to whom The Man From Independence could pass the buck, there is nobody to whom Carter can pass it. i
Whether they're wise or unwise, somebody must make our decisions. Somebody must have the last word.
And common sense says the ultimate decisions must be made by the person who, because he was elected president, has access to the best factual information, the most informed advice and the most dependable clandestine intelligence.
For better or for worse, that man is now Jimmy Carter. A lot of people who didn't vote for him must now pray for him and hope that the Lord will take him by the hand. GONE WITH THE WIND
Leave it to Bob Orben to find humor in the news from Iran. Orben thinks there's a practical solution to the problem:
"Let's have all the 'students' at the embassy take out student loans," he writes. "Very shortly, they will neither be seen nor heard from again."