THIS from Jimmy Carter's diary during the frantic days...

Salmagundi

August 05, 1993

THIS from Jimmy Carter's diary during the frantic days when he was trying to woo Sen. Dennis DeConcini to support the Panama Canal Treaty, a key achievement of his presidency:

"Senator DeConcini came by, and I asked him to help me with the treaties."

That entry, dated March 9, 1978, reflected Mr. Carter's efforts to talk the Arizona Democrat out of an amendment to the treaty that would give the U.S. the right to intervene in Panama to ensure operation of the canal even after it passes into the possession of that country on Dec. 31, 1999.

Then this entry, dated March 15, 1978: "I had to call General Torrijos [the Panama strongman.] He was planning to blast the Senate and reject the Panama treaties outright because of some amendment language that DeConcini insisted upon. I don't like the language either."

But the senator refused to delete the words "in Panama" and President Carter feared he would lose the DeConcini vote needed for a two-thirds Senate majority. By mid-April, Mr. Carter decided it would be "impossible to deal with DeConcini directly from the White House" and turned the wooing of his crucial maybe vote over to the Senate leadership. In the end the senator voted with the president, who listened to the roll call over the radio and described himself as "exhausted, exhilarated and thankful." But he also added in his autobiography, "I wondered if the results would justify the terrible political costs and the effort we had to exert."

Perhaps President Clinton wondered the same thing this week as he wooed and won Senator DeConcini's vote for his economic plan, even to the point of citing his name -- and his name only among all members of Congress -- in his address to the nation Tuesday night.

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