With news today that Obama may have tried to influence the Iraqi government to “delay an agreement on a draw-down of the American military presence“, it’s almost impossible to not to think of Reagan being accused of negotiating with the Iranians to “delay” release of American hostages until his inauguration.
Now, as much as I think Carter was a horrible president (and even worse as an ex-President) he did do a few things right. One is that he spent his last day and night in office working tirelessly for the release of the hostages.
The election was long over.
In Lou Cannon’s Reagan, (out of print?) it is described this way:
…Jimmy Carter was doing his utmost to free the hostages during his last hours as President. Reagan aides had cooperated, joining the defeated President during the transition to send a single message to Iran which said, in effect, “Don’t expect a better deal from Ronald Reagan.” The negotiations had nonetheless dragged on, to the consternation both of Carter and the Reagan team. “The best thing that could happen to us would be to have the hostages free when we took office,” Reagan’s counsellor Edwin Meese had said privately three days before the inauguration. It almost happened. At one point during the long night before the inauguration the release seemed so assured that Carter and his aides drank a champagne toast to the captured Americans. But it was a premature celebration. By dawn, Carter had recognized that he would no longer be in office by the time the hostages left Iran. (pp. 20-21)
Of course the more dastardly charge is that Reagan was in contact with the Iranians before the election, urging them to hold the hostages just a little longer to keep Carter’s ratings down. In fact, as early as June, it was a fear of the Reagan campaign that Carter himself was delaying the release so it would be an “October Surprise” and tried to preempt such a surprise by bringing it up to reporters. Thinking that Carter would do such a thing is pretty rotten too. (p. 293)
However, accusing Carter of such isn’t exactly be accusing him of a crime, whereas accusing Reagan of doing it before taking office is. Both accusations stink.