GOP traded hostages for votes in 1980


Super Anarchist

It has been more than four decades, but Ben Barnes said he remembers it vividly. His longtime political mentor invited him on a mission to the Middle East. What Mr. Barnes said he did not realize until later was the real purpose of the mission: to sabotage the re-election campaign of the president of the United States.

It was 1980 and Jimmy Carter was in the White House, bedeviled by a hostage crisis in Iran that had paralyzed his presidency and hampered his effort to win a second term. Mr. Carter’s best chance for victory was to free the 52 Americans held captive before Election Day. That was something that Mr. Barnes said his mentor was determined to prevent.

His mentor was John B. Connally Jr., a titan of American politics and former Texas governor who had served three presidents and just lost his own bid for the White House. A former Democrat, Mr. Connally had sought the Republican nomination in 1980 only to be swamped by former Gov. Ronald Reagan of California. Now Mr. Connally resolved to help Mr. Reagan beat Mr. Carter and in the process, Mr. Barnes said, make his own case for becoming secretary of state or defense in a new administration.

The hostage crisis in Iran hampered Mr. Carter’s effort to win a second term.Credit...Associated Press
What happened next Mr. Barnes has largely kept secret for nearly 43 years. Mr. Connally, he said, took him to one Middle Eastern capital after another that summer, meeting with a host of regional leaders to deliver a blunt message to be passed to Iran: Don’t release the hostages before the election. Mr. Reagan will win and give you a better deal.



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Then shortly after returning home, Mr. Barnes said, Mr. Connally reported to William J. Casey, the chairman of Mr. Reagan’s campaign and later director of the Central Intelligence Agency, briefing him about the trip in an airport lounge.

Records at the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museumconfirm part of Mr. Barnes’s story. An itinerary found this past week in Mr. Connally’s files indicated that he did, in fact, leave Houston on July 18, 1980, for a trip that would take him to Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Israel before returning to Houston on Aug. 11. Mr. Barnes was listed as accompanying him.

Brief news accounts at the time reported on some of Mr. Connally’s stops with scant detail, describing the trip as “strictly private.” An intriguing note in Mr. Connally’s file confirms Mr. Barnes’s memory that there was contact with the Reagan camp early in the trip. Under the heading “Governor Reagan,” a note from an assistant reported to Mr. Connally on July 21: “Nancy Reagan called — they are at Ranch he wants to talk to you about being in on strategy meetings.” There was no record of his response.

Mr. Barnes recalled joining Mr. Connally in early September to sit down with Mr. Casey to report on their trip during a three-hour meeting in the American Airlines lounge at what was then called the Dallas/Fort Worth Regional Airport. An entry in Mr. Connally’s calendar found this past week showed that he traveled to Dallas on Sept. 10. A search of Mr. Casey’s archives at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University turned up no documents indicating whether he was in Dallas then or not.

Mr. Barnes said he was certain the point of Mr. Connally’s trip was to get a message to the Iranians to hold the hostages until after the election. “I’ll go to my grave believing that it was the purpose of the trip,” he said. “It wasn’t freelancing because Casey was so interested in hearing as soon as we got back to the United States.” Mr. Casey, he added, wanted to know whether “they were going to hold the hostages.”

None of that establishes whether Mr. Reagan knew about the trip, nor could Mr. Barnes say that Mr. Casey directed Mr. Connally to take the journey. Likewise, he does not know if the message transmitted to multiple Middle Eastern leaders got to the Iranians, much less whether it influenced their decision making. But Iran did hold the hostages until after the election, which Mr. Reagan won, and did not release them until minutes after noon on Jan. 20, 1981, when Mr. Carter left office.


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The term “October surprise” was originally used by the Reagan camp to describe its fears that Mr. Carter would manipulate the hostage crisis to effect a release just before the election.

To forestall such a scenario, Mr. Casey was alleged to have met with representatives of Iran in July and August 1980 in Madrid leading to a deal supposedly finalized in Paris in October in which a future Reagan administration would ship arms to Tehran through Israel in exchange for the hostages being held until after the election.


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Mr. Barnes said he had no idea of the purpose of the Middle East trip when Mr. Connally invited him. They traveled to the region on a Gulfstream jet owned by Superior Oil. Only when they sat down with the first Arab leader did Mr. Barnes learn what Mr. Connally was up to, he said.

Mr. Connally said, “‘Look, Ronald Reagan’s going to be elected president and you need to get the word to Iran that they’re going to make a better deal with Reagan than they are Carter,’” Mr. Barnes recalled. “He said, ‘It would be very smart for you to pass the word to the Iranians to wait until after this general election is over.’ And boy, I tell you, I’m sitting there and I heard it and so now it dawns on me, I realize why we’re there.”


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Mr. Barnes said he did not reveal the real story at the time to avoid blowback from his own party. “I don’t want to look like Benedict Arnold to the Democratic Party by participating in this,” he recalled explaining to a friend. The headlines at the time, he imagined, would have been scandalous. “I did not want that to be on my obituary at all.”

But as the years have passed, he said, he has often thought an injustice had been done to Mr. Carter. Discussing the trip now, he indicated, was his way of making amends. “I just want history to reflect that Carter got a little bit of a bad deal about the hostages,” he said. “He didn’t have a fighting chance with those hostages still in the embassy in Iran.”


Without a doubt, Reagan knew, and he learned the trick from Nixon, who sent the dragon lady, Anna Chennault, to the Paris Peace Talks to scuttle it. Nixon did it to end Hubert Humphreys's bid for the presidency.
That delay lasted for four years and unnecessarily ended the lives of 20,000 American servicemen. This remained a secret locked up in both the Johnson and Nixon libraries until Conservative writer George Will fleshed it out in 2014.


yes this was the first time in 1980

the rerun is much better known
it was called IRAN-CONTRA

but the same people did it
one of the best known was a col o north
yes was a crook but pardoned by raygun

the Gop cheats
nixon in 68 as said above
and again with watergate in 72

ford tryed and failed
raygun as above

the bush one we don't know

BuSh2 cheated by courts and counts
rump cheated tryed a putsch and failed

Gop always cheats some we caught
some hope to cheat again in 24

look out

Bus Driver

Bacon Quality Control Specialist



Super Anarchist
The news is old. The evidence is new.
With the evidence it would be nice if a hostage or two sued the Rs for pulling this shit.
I'm guessing a lot of the players are long since dead.
I'm sure there's a few PACs with lots of funds and lawyers to make this go away.
Seriously though- they did this so they could- win?
Hostages can remain hostages because it makes the DemocRATS look bad.
That sort of thinking is so fucked right up, but here we are.


Super Anarchist
Yeah, I knew there were rumors before of this deal, but I find the headline and new evidence topical. The electoral shenanigans the GOP is employing to maintain and even increase power while demographics signal the erosion of their base, and popularity of their policies is at an all time low.

Putting Trump into context of previous Republican electoral cheats (Nixon, Reagan, Bush with the Brooks Bros riot) is instructive.