The Reagan difference
At that dramatic moment when President Carter conceded his political defeat, the people around him were members of his personal household. There were some members of his Cabinet in the background, but those nearest were his family and those associates whom he had brought with him from Plains and Atlanta to Washington and who, for the most part, will be going back to Georgia.
It was one of those scenes which tells a good deal about the past and which helps to explain the present. Mr. Carter ran the presidency that way. In essence it was a one-man performance aided by family retainers. He did try in the beginning to attract to his governing team persons of general stature, but of those with names and reputations how many remained to the end?
The most prominent name on Mr. Carter's original Cabinet list was that of James Schlesinger, who had held a galaxy of high government posts in the Nixon and Ford administrations. Cyrus Vance was known and respected among people in government in Washington and in New York. Harold Brown had a reputation in academic and technical quarters. Michael Blumenthal, as executive officer of Bendix, was known in corporate circles.
Harold Brown is the only one of those persons with anything like a national reputation who has remained to the end. Vance resigned over the disastrous military attempt to rescue the hostages. He had opposed the operation. Schlesinger and Blumenthal were fired, in effect for thinking for themselves. It was not easy for a person of individual stature and importance to do a job during the Carter administration.