Long before the presidential election campaign of 1976, a prescient Atlanta bureau chief of The Christian Science Monitor Kept pressing his Editor (me) to take seriously an unknown Georgian Called Jimmy Carter.
He didn't do too well. It took far too long for the Boston office to recognize that the man in the field had not gone off his rocker and was, in fact , giving us early warning about a very viable candidate.
Happily, or unhappily, depending on one's point of view, the editors of major newspapers were not alone in not taking seriously enough Jimmy Carter's presidential candidacy.
Averell Harriman, for instance, the Democratic elder statesman, declared that Jimmy Carter "can't be nominated; I don't know him, and I don't know anyone who does."
Where we all went wrong was in dismissing Jimmy Carter as a lighweight political amateur who could not make it with the American people.
But Mr. Carter made shrewd strength out of his obvious weakness. He made his inexperience the centerpiece of his campaign: "I'm not a lawyer, I'm not from Washington, I haven't served in the Congress."
It's this kind of political jujitsu that CBS correspondent Jeff Greenfield pinpoints in his tongue-in-cheek (some of the time) handbook on how to win at politics.
The easiest way to get into the political game, he asserts, is to:
* Have a great deal of money.
* Know people with a great deal of money.
* Attend an elite university, preferably an upper crust law or graduate school.
* Know someone well placed in politics.
From there on are chapters on various aspects of the game.
In "Choosing Your Campaign Issues," for example, the candidate is warned never to make his central them specific, and never to put a price tag on his ideas.
In "How to Use the Press," the candidate is urged never to lie, which seems eminently good advice, but then is given some questionable counsel about how to plant self-serving anecdotes. The candidate is told (probably correctly) that the press is bewitched by character and detail, and that the press therefore (alas, probably also correctly) neglects to make a detached examination of what a candidate intends to do with the office he is seeking.
There are other chapters of advice such as "How to Debate" and "How to Attack Your Opponent," some of them springing from Mr. Greenfield's own experience as a legislative aide and campaign worker before his present journalistic detachment.
Some of its is wise. A lot of it is informative. Much of it is just plain fun -- and don't we need thatm in this presidential election race?
The $64 question is: Is it fair to publish such a how-to book when only Jimmy and Ronny are left in the race? For if they'd been able to read it, it might have been Teddy and George, or Jerry and Howard, or even Jerry and Jerry . . . .