Trying to Out Carter Carter

Stanley_Cloud_Tries_to_Out _ Carter_Carter

TIME’s man in Washington tries to blend in with the President to-be. © 1976 Ken Hawkins

 

In journalism, one of the things early learned is that a reporter or photographer should dress for the occasion that he or she is covering.

If you’re working a State dinner at the White House, the appropriate garb is a tux…or at the minimum – a dark suit.

You want to blend in.

To be accepted into the “frequency” of the event.

Conversely, when covering a PGA tournament, a polo shirt and shorts will do nicely.

Surely, Stanley Cloud learned how to blend in early in his career.

In the summer of 1976, Stan was a TIME magazine national political correspondent based in the Washington bureau of magazine.

Stan’s New York editors decided that there was to be a cover story on a southern governor – Jimmy Carter to be exact – as he ran for the Democratic Party’s nomination for President of the United States.

There was to be a one on one interview with the upstart nominee-to-be and Stan was just the writer to do it.

The interview was to take place not at Democratic Party headquarters, not at Washington’s Hay-Adams hotel sitting across from the White House – but in Georgia – a hundred plus miles south of Atlanta in Plains.

That’s seriously South Georgia.

Stan – like many representitives of the national press – was spending so much time in Plains that they had become semi-permanent residents of the Best Western Motel in nearby Americus, Georgia. as there was no lodging in the small farming town of Plains.

I can only imagine what Cloud, of west coast sensibilities and Washington style, thought the first time he motored down Highway 85 through Senoia and Gay, and past Roosevelt’s “Little White House” in Warm Springs where a polio – stricken president came for therapy.

Cloud had become well-acquainted with Carter early in the campaign and this was to be an important meeting for both reporter and candidate.

The nation’s leading newsmagazine carried political weight and story depth that broadcast news couldn’t dream of, and a cover was worth its’ weight in political gold.

The morning of the scheduled interview, I arrived a half hour early at the candidates home at 1 Woodland Drive.

The Carter home is modest, spacious and comfortable, sitting in the shade of a yard of towering pines.

Once past the new Secret Service checkpoint, Governor Carter greeted me at the door as he had in times before.

Rosalynn was in her “duster” housedress in the kitchen making coffee.

Amy sprawled on the shag carpet playing a board game with herself.

I went to work and busied myself photographing the candidate as he took calls on the phone in his study.

At the appointed hour of 9:00 a.m. – not a minute early nor late – the doorbell rang announcing the visitor from Washington.

The governor – dressed in his everyday field work ensemble of a blue denim shirt, denim jeans and boots walked Stan back into the brightly lit sunroom then looked the writer up and down then flashed his trademark Carter grin.

Cloud, too, had the same blue denim workshirt and jeans.

“Looks like you tried to out – Carter Carter, Stan!” exclaimed the governor.

Then looking down at Cloud’s bright white sneakers and then his own worn red clay-stained work boots and said “But you didn’t quite get it all right!”

The two men erupted into laughter and the interview began.

My lesson learned was one my wife could have told me.

Always get the details right – especially the shoes.

-KH

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