NEW YORK -- The failed hostage rescue mission to Iran probably was the biggest factor in President Carter's defeat in the November election, Hamilton Jordan said in an article published Saturday.
'The president's chances for re-election probably died on the desert of Iran with the eight brave soldiers who gave their lives trying to free the American hostages,' Jordan wrote in the current issue of Life Magazine.
Carter's principal political adviser said another adviser, Tim Kraft, told him after the election in a discussion on matching government campaign funds, 'We should have taken that $30 million and bought three more helicopters. That would have made the difference.'
'An oversimplification?' Jordan wrote. 'Maybe, because we had other serious problems, particularly the economy. But in a way the hostage crisis had come to symbolize the frustration of the American people.'
He also said network news coverage of the hostage crisis' first anniversary -- which coincided with election day -- 'added up to a subtle but powerful statement against us.'
Jordan said presidential pollster Patrick Caddell believed the coverage 'had triggered an emotional response that we were going to feel at the polls.'
In his wide-ranging article, Jordan also wrote that Carter was baffled, if awed, by Sen. Edward Kennedy's refusal to admit defeat in his bid to unseat Carter as the Democratic presidential candidate.
He quoted Carter, 'Well, personally I wish he would get out of the race, but he has shown me a great deal of courage. We have beaten him all over the country and the press has given him a hard time, and he continues to fight. I have to give him credit for being tougher than I though he was.'
He said Carter felt that Kennedy's refusal to stand with Carter on the podium at the convention after Carter's renomination showed that Kennedy 'had the opportunity to be a gracious loser -- and he was not.'
On the president's brother, Billy, Jordan said the younger Carter 'was never malicious, but some of the things he did had costly consequences ... Billy's involvement with Libya had wrecked our summer strategy of keeping the president in a non-political and substantial position.'