There are a great many caveats, but nevertheless something to talk about on a Saturday night:
It has been more than four decades, but Ben Barnes said he remembers it vividly. His longtime political mentor invited him on a mission to the Middle East. What Mr. Barnes said he did not realize until later was the real purpose of the mission: to sabotage the re-election campaign of the president of the United States.
It was 1980 and Jimmy Carter was in the White House, bedeviled by a hostage crisis in Iran that had paralyzed his presidency and hampered his effort to win a second term. Mr. Carter’s best chance for victory was to free the 52 Americans held captive before Election Day. That was something that Mr. Barnes said his mentor was determined to prevent.
His mentor was John B. Connally Jr., a titan of American politics and former Texas governor who had served three presidents and just lost his own bid for the White House.
- The sourcing is limited.
- Previous investigations haven’t turned much up.
- We have no idea whether the contacts were at all consequential, and indeed there are good reason to believe that they weren’t; the Iranians had lots of good reasons to hate Jimmy Carter without any help.
I will say that the story lends strong support to the idea that there was interest among supporters of Ronald Reagan in reaching out to the Iranian regime and delaying the return of the hostages, much in the same sense that we have strong evidence that there was interest in 1968 in preventing a pre-election deal at the Paris Peace talks, and that there was interest in 2016 in what the Russians might be able to offer on Hillary Clinton. “Politics stops at the water’s edge” has always been an axiom for suckers.