In 1980, Democratic President Jimmy Carter lost in a landslide to Ronald Reagan, 489-49 in the Electoral College. So naturally, Democrats concluded that Reagan had committed treason in order to steal the election, to wit: His campaign had conspired with Iranian ayatollahs to prevent 52 American hostages from being released until after the election.
And who can blame them? Carter’s economic policies had produced a 21% interest rate, a 17% mortgage rate and a 15% inflation rate in the coveted “hat trick” of presidential incompetence. His brilliant strategic ploy of abandoning the Shah of Iran had led to a 154% spike in oil prices and Islamic lunatics seizing our embassy and holding Americans hostage in Tehran, where they remained for 444 days, until Carter was safely removed from office.
Resistance Is Futile!:…
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With all that going for them — plus that old Mondale magic –Democrats were dumbstruck that they lost the 1980 election. What other than a dirty trick could explain it?
The Democrats’ theory was that a month before the election, members of Reagan’s campaign had clandestinely met with representatives of the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in Paris and offered to sell him weapons in exchange for a promise not to release the hostages, thus denying Carter a huge election eve triumph.
In other words, liberals believed the Islamo-fascist cutthroats who had been toying with Carter like a cat with a ball of yarn wanted Carter replaced by someone stronger, like Reagan. How else to explain the fact that, minutes after Reagan’s inauguration, the hostages were released?
The lunatics behind the “October Surprise” conspiracy theory might have spent their days in obscurity, talking to super-computers of the future — as one theorist claimed she did — except that, after a decade of periodic eruptions in in disreputable publications like The New York Times (Flora Lewis, August 1987), The Nation (Christopher Hitchens, July 1987), and Playboy magazine (September 1988), the Times began flogging the story in 1991, beginning with a lengthy op-ed by Columbia University professor Gary Sick.
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Sick had been President Carter’s principal aide on Iran during the hostage crisis, which would be like being FDR’s chief adviser on “sneak attacks” in December 1941. Columbia hired Sick as a professor, apparently unable to find Carter’s aide in charge of gas prices.
Soon, other news outlets such as PBS’s “Frontline” and ABC’s “Nightline” began treating crazies howling at the moon as if they were serious intel sources. Carter himself called for a “blue-ribbon” commission to investigate, saying, “it’s almost nauseating to think that this could be true.” (Which is ironic because that was my reaction, word for word, upon learning that Carter had been elected president.)