Miller Center

Bert Lance

Speaker: Bert Lance
Date: May 12, 1982

As one of Jimmy Carter's closest and most trusted advisors, Bert Lance offers a penetrating look at Carter, on both an individual and professional level. He begins with the origins of his relationship with Carter in 1966 and his tenure as head of the Georgia Highway Department from 1970 to 1973. The majority of the session is dedicated to the Carter presidential years. Lance describes his role in staffing the White House and Cabinet, and participating in regular cabinet meetings in the early period of the administration. He examines Carter's management style and the decisions not to have a Chief of Staff and to have a small White House staff with only a few Washington DC insiders, which Lance characterizes as a costly error on Carter's part. He discusses his interactions with the legislative branch and the administration's failure to cultivate better relations with Congress, which Lance foresaw as a potential problem early in the presidency. Considerable time is spent discussing Carter as a politician, with Lance asserting the Carter is very political when seeking office, but generally does not like politicians and makes his decisions based on what is right, not what is politically expedient. Lance admits that during his short tenure (and for the remainder of the first year), the administration took on more policies than they could handle – water projects, stimulus package, energy bill, B-1 bomber, etc. Yet, for all of the accurate criticisms levied at the administration, he maintains there were major differences between how the presidency was viewed by the public and how it actually worked. Lance concludes by asserting that Carter could have been a great president if events such as the energy shortage and the Iran hostage crisis had not hurt him.