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Rosalynn Carter: Bitter at 1980 loss: Wishes her husband would run again

By
HELEN THOMAS, UPI White House Reporter

WASHINGTON -- Rosalynn Carter says a woman vice president is 'a good idea' but she has doubts that this is the right time.

Mrs. Carter was asked for her views on a woman vice president, her current lifestyle and her hopes for the future in an interview given in connection with the publication this month of her memoirs, 'First Lady from Plains.

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Democratic presidential candidates have said they would consider placing a woman in the No. 2 spot on the ticket in the November election. Asked about this, Mrs. Carter said:

'It's a good idea. But I dont know ... I have my doubts about whether this is the right time. I want the Democrats to win. I want the strongest ticket. I don't know if the time has come for a woman. ...

'I think the most important thing is to beat Reagan. I think it's a tragedy what he has done. I feel sorry for who follows him in office.

'The gap between the rich and poor ... the horrible mess he has made of foreign policy. Jimmy made the world a safer place with the Panama Canal Treaty, the Camp David agreement and SALT 2.'

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The former first lady makes it plain in her book that she does not like to lose elections and acknowledges her bitterness when President Carter lost to Reagan in 1980.

In fact, she says in the last paragraph: 'I would be out there campaigning right now if Jimmy would run again. I miss the world of politics. Nothing is more thrilling than the urgency of a campaign -- the planning, the strategy sessions, getting out among people you'd never otherwise meet -- and the tremendous energy it takes that makes a victory ever so sweet and a loss so devastating.

'I'd like people to know that we were right, that what Jimmy Carter was doing was best for our country, and that people made a mistake by not voting for him. But when all is said and done, for me, our loss at the polls is the biggest single reason I'd like to be back in the White House. I don't like to lose.'

In the interview, she said acknowledged her bitterness. 'You lose in November. It took three months to get over it. I was really bitter at first. You learn to accept it. My house (in Plains, Ga.) has become a refuge.'

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As for the 1984 campaign, she said, 'I really get upset about the Democrats,' referring to the race between Walter Mondale and Gary Hart for the presidential nomination.'

The Carters have long been on the record as supporting Mondale, who served as vice president in the Carter administration. 'I think Mondale is going to be a much stronger candidate' as a result of the struggle with Hart, she said. But she said that if Hart is the nominee, 'I'll work for him.'

Asked if she would like her husband to run agin, she said, 'Oh, yes, I would. I think the country needs him, but he won't. He's so wrapped up in what he is doing.'

Does she harbor any political ambitions of her own?

Mrs. Carter's book dwells heavily on her childhood in Plains, along with many painful memories from her growing-up years.

She speaks with admiration of 'Miss Lillian,' Carter's mother who died last year, although the rumors in Washington and Plains of their relationship was that it was often a tug of war.

'I can understand how that started,' Mrs. Carter said. 'She was very strong and I was strong. People would think we would clash. By the time she was back in Plains (after being a fraternity house mother at Auburn, and a member of the Peace Corps in India) all our patterns were set. There was never that competition. She was so wrapped up in her own life.'

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The view in Washington was that Mrs. Carter and her sister-in-law, the late evangelist Ruth Stapleton, were very close. But in her book, Mrs. Carter writes that although they had been close friends, Mrs. Stapleton became very jealous when she married her brother.

Mrs. Carter said that she talked over that part of the book with Mrs. Stapleton before she died of cancer last year, and Mrs. Stapleton said: 'Well, you can just tell them I hated you then.'

But they patched up their differences in later years and became fast friends.

Mrs. Carter said that daughter Amy, now 16, had the hardest time adjusting to small-town life in Plains after her years in Washington. 'We worried about her all the time,' she said.

'I'm sad about this election,' she quoted Amy as saying. 'I don't want to go home to Plains. You may be a country girl, but I'm not. I was raised in a city.'

Amy is now attending a girls academy in Atlanta and no longer has Secret Service protection. 'She's totally happy,' said Mrs. Carter.

Asked in looking back if she would have done anything different during her White House years, she said: 'I don't know Jimmy has taught me you do the best you can and you don't look back with regret. I never have looked back.'

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