[MUSIC] Not long after John Kennedy's assassination, Democrats almost everywhere began to assume that at some point there would be a Kennedy restoration. Another Kennedy in the White House. Instead, a little known former one term governor of Georgia burst onto the scene with narrow wins in Iowa and New Hampshire in 1976. And before anyone knew all that much about him, Jimmy Carter was the Democratic candidate for president and the heavy favorite to win in November. Carter represented a clean break with the past. Carter could not be called the inheritor of the JFK mantle in any tangible sense. If anything, the election of a man from the south recalled Lyndon Johnson. And the outcome contradicted the widespread expectation, since Kennedy's assassination, that somehow, some way, the next Democratic president would reinstate and continue what had been lost on November 22nd, 1963. Perhaps Carter's inability to fill the bill made his conflict with the Kennedys inevitable. Of course you have to say, who could have filled the bill except for a Kennedy? Carter's one true, if slight connection to John Kennedy, was through his mother Lillian, often called Miss Lillian. She'd been an alternate delegate to the 1964 Democratic National Convention, and she brought home the very emotional story of RFK's tribute to his assassinated brother. Jimmy Carter remembers that to this day. >> Well, my mother, particularly, she was the active politician in the family. She was very deeply committed to the Kennedys. Much more than I was, I have to say. I was, I was just almost entirely a farmer then, and not very interested in, in politics, although my daddy had been in the state legislature. But Mama was a very prime commit committed person to Kennedy. And I remember when they had the convention that one of the Kennedy family members, I think it was I think it was Robert came and thanked my mother for her overt support. >> Lillian Carter joined JFK's Peace Corps and spent two years in a small village in India between 1966 and 1968. Pretty impressive for someone of a somewhat advanced age. Many of the attacks on Carter were reminiscent of those on Kennedy himself. Many were centered on religion, except a different religion. Carter's fundamentalist Evangelical Christianity was as alien to many Americans in 1976 as Catholicism had been for most Protestants back in 1960. Even as he was praising John Kennedy, and using Kennedy for his own purposes, Jimmy Carter was clashing with other Kennedys. An early indication of the friction that would define Carter's relationship with Senator Ted Kennedy emerged during that campaign. Perhaps feeling a bit of replacement envy, Kennedy charged Carter with being quote intentionally indefinite and imprecise on a host of issues. Just as JFK would not have been elected without his face offs with Nixon, Jimmy Carter might well have lost his close battle with Ford, had it not been for the incumbent President's debates with Carter. Which included a big gaffe in a mid-October debate, the so-called Free Poland gaffe. There is no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe, and there never will be under a Ford administration. >> I'm sorry. I want. Could I just [INAUDIBLE]. Did I understand you to say, sir, that the Russians are not using eastern Europe as their own sphere of influence and occupying most of the countries there. And, and making sure with their troops that it's, that it's a Communist zone. Whereas on our side of the line, the Italians and the French are still flirting with the possibility of. >> I don't believe Mr. Frankle, that the Yugoslavians consider themselves dominated by the Soviet Union. I don't believe that the Romanians consider themselves dominated by the Soviet Union. I don't believe that the Poles consider themselves dominated by the Soviet Union. Each of those countries is independent or autonomous. It has it's own territorial integrity. And the United States does not concede that those countries are under the domination of the Soviet Union. As a matter of fact, I visited Poland Yugoslavia, and Romania to make certain that the people of those countries understood that the President of the United States and the people of the United States are dedicated to their independence, their autonomy, and their freedom. >> Like John F. Kennedy, Jimmy Carter gained the White House on a thin mandate. On November 2, 1976, Carter was elected with just 50.2 % of the national vote, in a close electoral college margin of 297 to 240. President Ford yielded gracefully, despite a bitter campaign. Carter was still nearly unknown to Washington when he arrived to take the oath of office in January 1977. As Jimmy Carter would learn to his dismay, he could not dictate even to a heavily Democratic congress. Especially when he was a stranger in their midst. Many members of congress, including Ted Kennedy, were much more liberal than Carter. And now the Democrats, again, ruled the roost in Washington. They were determined to extend the New Deal and the Great Society, in ways that a more conservative budget balancing Carter disliked. There are some exceptions, of course, but Jimmy Carter's struggles and crises in the White House were considerably different than the ones that had gripped John Kennedy and his three immediate successors, for the most part. A persistent energy crisis that began in the Nixon-Ford years, actually deepened and dragged the American economy lower. The Watergate inspired in to the Imperial Presidency kept Carter on a shorter leash than his predecessors, and he was stripped of some of the majesty of the Executive Office. In addition, I think you could say, the Vietnam hangover made Americans wary of any attempt by Carter to take any military action to commit the country to prolonged involvement abroad. At first, Carter believed that a large Democratic Senate majority would help speed his programs to passage. But he hadn't counted on the determined opposition of Ted Kennedy as his term wore on. As Jimmy Carter said to me recently in a lengthy interview quote. >> The first year that I was in office, Kennedy had the best voting record of any member of the household senate, in supporting my proposals. >> : But then Kennedy began derailing bills that had originated in the Oval Office, even some he mostly agreed with in principle. >> : But the last two years I was in office, he was always opposing anything I did even including comprehensive health care. Jimmy Carter was overcome by events that spun far out of his control. From high inflation, interest rates, high unemployment, the Iran hostage crisis, and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Carter appeared incapable of dealing with these problems, although one wonders if any president could have tackled all those at once. The United States, though, began to take on the image of the pitiful, helpless giant.