Drawing the Line at the Big Ditch: The Panama Canal Treaties and the Rise of the Right

Drawing the Line at the Big Ditch: The Panama Canal Treaties and the Rise of the Right

by Adam Clymer
     
 

View All Available Formats & Editions

ISBN-10: 0700615822

ISBN-13: 9780700615827

Pub. Date: 02/26/2008

Publisher: University Press of Kansas

Considered one of America's engineering marvels, the Panama Canal sparked intense debates in the 1970s over the decision to turn it back over to Panama. In this remarkable and revealing tale, noted journalist Adam Clymer shows how the decision to give up this revered monument of the "American century" stirred emotions already rubbed raw by the loss of the Vietnam

Overview

Considered one of America's engineering marvels, the Panama Canal sparked intense debates in the 1970s over the decision to turn it back over to Panama. In this remarkable and revealing tale, noted journalist Adam Clymer shows how the decision to give up this revered monument of the "American century" stirred emotions already rubbed raw by the loss of the Vietnam War and shaped American politics for years.

Jimmy Carter made the Canal his first foreign policy priority and won the battle to ratify the Panama Canal treaties. But, Clymer reveals, the larger war was lost. The issue gave Ronald Reagan a slogan that kept his 1976 candidacy alive and positioned him to win in 1980, helped elect conservative senators who made a Republican majority, and fueled the overall growth of conservatism.

In telling the story of America's reconsideration of the 1903 treaty that gave it control of the Canal "in perpetuity," Clymer focuses on the perspectives of six key players: Presidents Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, and Ronald Reagan, Senate Minority Leader Howard Baker, political candidate Gordon Humphrey, and Terry Dolan of the National Conservative Political Action Committee. His narrative illuminates many aspects of American politics during the Ford and Carter years-especially regarding Senate elections-that have been largely overlooked. And his chronicling of the emergence of political action committees on the right reveals their often-awkward relationship with the GOP and the uneasy alliances that helped the Republicans win control of the Senate in 1980.

Clymer explores how the uproar over the Canal episode foreshadowed perennial partisan attacks over intense, emotional issues from abortion to gun control to same-sex marriage. He also shows that people who hated the idea of giving up the canal gave birth to the NCPAC approach of beating up on an incumbent long before an election, often assisted by independent spending and outside advertising.

As Clymer argues, "The Panama Canal no longer divides Panama. But the fissures it opened 30 years ago have widened; they divide the United States." His even-handed account offers new insight into the "Reagan Revolution" and highlights an overlooked turning point in American political history.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780700615827
Publisher:
University Press of Kansas
Publication date:
02/26/2008
Edition description:
New Edition
Pages:
296
Product dimensions:
6.31(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.01(d)

Table of Contents

Preface: "Pluck and Luck Conquered All": A Canal for the American Century

1. "In Perpetuity": Years of Dispute and Diplomacy

2. "No Constituency to Help": President Ford Negotiates

3. "What a Shot in the Arm!" Ford Upsets Reagan Despite the Canal

4. "We Bought It. We Built It. It's Ours and We Are Going to Keep It": The Canal Issue Brings Reagan's Recovery

5. "Thank God for Those People in 1976 Who Headed Off That Loss of Freedom": Reagan Loses but Wins Republican Hearts

6. "Delay Invites Violence": Carter Inherits and Seizes the Issue

7. "I Wanted to Treat Panama Fairly": Carter Underestimates American Dismay

8. "Conservatives Can't Lose": The Canal Unifies the Right

9. "Draw the Line at the Big Ditch": The Anti-Treaty Message

10. "What If They're Right?": Reagan Holding Back

11. "Why Now? And Why Me?": Howard Baker and the Treaties

12. "Be Tolerant and Patient in Bringing People Around": Byrd's Advice While in Panama

13. "A Measure of Our Strength, Not Our Weakness": The Senate Advises and Consents

14. "Come On and Watch Me Lose My Seat": Gordon Humphrey and teh New Right Sink Tom McIntyre

15. "I Haven't Found Anybody in Iowa That's for the Treaties": Roger Jepsen on the Issue That Made the Difference

16. "We Supported the Tough Conservative, the Business PAC Was Always for the Establishment": The PACmen Come

17. "A Group Like Ours Could Lie through Its Teeth and the Candidate It Helps Stays Clean": NCPAC Takes on the Incumbents

18. "ACU Could Go Out of Business by Election Day": The Canal Cuts Both Ways

19. "I Hope That It's Over as an Issue": Reagan on the Canal after Ratification

20. "They Never Wanted to See Another Panama Canal Ad": The North Carolina Senate Campaign

21. "Is Idaho Up for Grabs?": The Canal, NCPAC, and Steve Symms Defeat Frank Church

22. "Cold Water on Some of His Supporters": The Canal Finishes a Weakened Talmadge

23. "A Senate Majority Made All the Difference in the World": Canal-Elected Senators and Baker GIves Reagan a Chance to Govern

24. "We've Made a Difference": Reagan Changed the Nation, without the Canal

Notes

An Essay on Sources

Acknowledgments

Index

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network

     

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >