Why Political Reporters Wrote So Many Good Stories About Jimmy Carter

Vic Gold, who mixed politics and writing during a long career in Washington, has an interesting post on his website suggesting Reubin Askew would have made a better President than Jimmy Carter and what determined their political futures were the airlines.

Askew, who died March 13, was elected governor of Florida in 1970, the same year Carter was elected governor of Georgia. Here’s how the Washington Post saw Askew, and here’s how Vic saw the political lives of Askew and Carter diverge:

“Airline travel in the South half a century ago was best characterized by the frequent flyer’s complaint that if he died and went to heaven, he’d have to layover in Atlanta. This was true of national reporters sent down to cover the political and social upheaval taking place in the region during the ongoing civil rights revolution. A layover in Atlanta? What better way to spend time in the Georgia capital than visiting its progressive new governor, Jimmy Carter, and getting his views on the state of the nation?

“So it was that after more than a year of interviews with stopover national correspondents, the always available Carter was hailed on the cover of Time magazine as the leading voice of the New South.

“Meanwhile, a few hundred miles downwind as the crow and Delta Airlines flew (but didn’t stopover), another new face of the changing South, Reubin Askew, was running the show in Tallahassee, Florida.”

Vic concludes: “James Thurber once wrote an alternative history describing the fate of a frustrated young Napoleon born thirty years after the French Revolution, his gift as a great military leader unused and unwanted. For Reubin Askew it wasn’t a matter of living in the wrong time, however, but in the wrong place. Had Delta or United marked just a few of their flights from New York and Washington for stopovers in Tallahassee, we might be looking back at the good old days when President Askew was in charge.”


  1. Victor Gold says

    Reg Murphy told me that if Georgia law at the time hadn’t prevented Carter from running, he would have had to run for reelection and been decisively defeated. The biggest difference between Carter and Askew was that Carter, though professing born-again goodness, harbored deep resentments, which he displayed in his relations with the Georgia legislature and Congress. Askew, whom I got to know, was a populist who harbored no ill will—he genuinely liked people. But he was passionate and organized enough to get things done.

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