In the early evening of May 20, a massive thunderstorm swept across the northern sections of Metro Atlanta. It struck almost without warning, and within an hour it was gone.
As I sat at home with no power, enjoying the rare quiet that comes when there are no electronic distractions, my cell phone rang, reminding me that there is no way to turn everything off these days.
It was a friend telling me that Hamilton Jordan, former chief of staff to Jimmy Carter, had finally lost a valiant, graceful, powerful battle against cancer. The phone just kept ringing after that. With no television, no phones, no Internet, I did what came natural to me. I drove to my office where there was power and wrote this column.
I understand that in the past few decades we have become such a polarized nation that it is impossible to extol the virtues of someone associated with a former Democratic president -- particularly an active and often colorful former president such as Jimmy Carter -- without triggering partisan feelings. Well, get over it. Hamilton Jordan taught a lot of lessons.
We all need to be reminded of the human side not only of politics and public service, but of the common bonds we all share.
Jordan -- along with former Carter Press Secretary Jody Powell and a handful of others, including media executive Gerald Rafshoon -- cobbled together and implemented a plan that in the mid-1970s seemed impossible. They turned the one-term governor of a then-small Southern state into the alternative for which a demoralized post-Watergate America was searching.
Make no mistake. Had there been no Hamilton Jordan, there might never have been a President Jimmy Carter.
OK, I hear my conservative readers saying, "So?" Well, the answer is that Jerry Ford was no big-time conservative, and although he was a nice man, Ford's defeat paved the way for a political cycle that later delivered Ronald Reagan.
Had Ford won another term, I doubt the Republican Party would have recovered for another 20 years.
As for Carter, as I've said before, many of the problems attributed to his presidency -- massive inflation, an impossible situation in Iran, a growing energy crisis -- were all inherited from the administrations of Richard Nixon and Ford.
But enough about Carter. This is about Hamilton Jordan.
He had the courage of his convictions. He believed in the plan he created for Carter's upset takeover of the Democratic Party and the White House in 1976. He took the potshots and slights that came his way from a Washington establishment that resented not only Jordan and Powell, but also close friends of Carters like former Office of Management and Budget Director Bert Lance.
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