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Carter calls Kissinger 'liar' in private interview

BOSTON -- Former President Jimmy Carter said Helmut Schmidt would 'stab you in the back' and called Henry Kissinger a 'liar' in a 1981 off-the-record interview published by the Boston Globe.

Carter, speaking with reporters in Plains, Ga., 10 days before leaving office, also called former State Department spokesman Hodding Carter a 'creep' and warned the appointment of James Watt as interior secretary 'could be a catastrophe,' the newspaper said Sunday.

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Carter described Israel's Menachem Begin as one of the most 'difficult' people he dealt with. He said Schmidt, the former West German chancellor, was friendly face-to-face but would 'go home and stab you in the back.'

The former president described Kissinger as 'brilliant and devious.

'He's a liar and everyone in the Mideast knows he lies. (Syrian President Hafez) Asad, (Jordan's King) Hussein, (Egyptian President Anwar) Sadat, they all know he lies,' Carter said.

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The president and his wife, Rosalynn, met with eight reporters who had covered his presidency, including Globe reporter Curtis Wilkie, at a dinner party arranged by the reporters at a French restaurant outside Plains, Ga., on Jan. 10, 1981.

It was understood the session would be off the record, the Globe said. But Globe Assistant National Editor Adam Pertman said Wilkie 'did not feel a need to call Carter' before releasing the story 'since the spirit of the off-the-record interview ... had been broken already' by Carter's book 'Keeping Faith.'

Carter had high praise for his deputy secretary of state, Warren Christopher, whom he called his administration's 'finest public servant.'

Carter said Christopher, who negotiated an end to the Iranian hostage crisis, was better than the president himself. He said he did not choose Christopher to succeed Vance because he needed a prominent figure like Edmund Muskie to command respect overseas.

Carter was especially critical of then incoming secretary of state-designate, Alexander Haig.

He said he 'made a mistake' by retaining Haig as commander of NATO. 'He was political, and I always had the feeling he was running for president.' Carter also said Haig had not been loyal to the Democratic administration.

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Wilkie said he and the other reporters did not take notes at the session, but got together later and 'compared recollections of quotes and made records of his remarks.' Wilkie said he filled 20 notebook pages with details of the session.

The spirit of the off-the-record interview was broken because not all of Carter's remarks at the dinner jibe with what he says in his memoirs, the Globe reported.

At the dinner, Carter described Cyrus Vance as being too 'reticent.' He said Vance, who left the Carter administration in the spring of 1980, botched a mission to China in 1977 by failing to formalize relations with the People's Republic of China.

He said he had to send his national security adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski, to finish the job.

Carter is easier on Vance in his memoirs, saying he was sent for 'exploratory discussions' and attributing the lack of progress to the fact the Chinese government was in a period of transition and 'still not well acquainted with me or my policies.'

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