As we continue to debate what constitutes stealing a Presidency, Ben Barnes, a former close associate of the late John Connolly—Texas Governor, Democrat-turned-Republican, the man wounded during the assassination of President Kennedy and Secretary of the Treasury under President Reagan—revealed this week that he believes he took part in a secret mission by Connolly to sabotage Jimmy Carter’s re-election. Barnes says that Connolly went to “one Middle Eastern capital after another” in the summer of 1980, telling regional leaders to get a crucial message to Iran’s leader that the nation should not release the 52 U.S. citizens taken hostage from the American embassy until after the election, which Reagan would win and proceed to give Iran “a better deal.”
The New York Times has the details here in (for a change) straightforward reporting. As we all know, Reagan won, and won handily. Nobody can know if the hostage crisis was the reason for Carter’s defeat; after all, Jimmy was not having a very successful term in any respect. Nor, apparently, does anyone know if Connolly’s alleged message ever was relayed to Iran, or if it was, whether it had any influence on Iran’s actions.
The Times makes a strong case that Barnes is telling the truth, though Barnes has no diaries or memos to corroborate his account. For one thing, there is no reason for him to make the story up. For another, the Times spoke with four living individuals who confirmed that Barnes, who is now 85, shared the story with them years ago. Another part of the account that tends to make his tale credible is that William J. Casey, the chairman of Ronald Reagan’s 1980 campaign and later director of the Central Intelligence Agency, was involved. Casey was a shady figure, and his participation in a scheme like this would be in character. Still, there is no evidence besides Barnes’ word.
1. The story has obvious similarity to the despicable actions of Richard Nixon to sabotage Vietnam peace talks and undermine Lyndon Johnson’s Presidency. That has been confirmed, and is arguably the worst blot on Nixon’s record, which has several.
2. If Barnes’ account is true, Connolly’s actions as well as Casey’s were treasonous. Regarding Barnes’ participation, if he really was clueless about Connolly’s purpose, he was also guiltless.
3. Remarkably, the Times doesn’t suggest that Ronald Reagan was aware of Connolly’s plot, or that he was ever told about it. But Reagan did appoint both Casey and Connolly to important positions in his administration.
4. Ethically, Barnes was obligated to inform the the Justice Department about Connolly’s actions the minute he learned about their purpose. Obviously he didn’t. The Times doesn’t say when Barnes became aware of what he had participated in (if that’s what it was). Barnes doesn’t say either; the Times story makes it seem like Barnes eventually put some pieces together and figured it out without being informed or seeing any definitive proof. Barnes said he did not reveal what he believed 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,” the Times says he recalled explaining to a friend. “I did not want that to be on my obituary at all.”
5. Discussing the trip now, Barnes says, is his way of making amends to Jimmy Carter. “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.”
How about amends to the country? Barnes clearly has a guilty conscience. Making the revelations now are for his benefit, not anyone else’s., and certainly not Carter. Jimmy might hear this, explode in fury, “I KNEW IT!!!!” and keel over dead of a stroke.
6. Barnes explains his very late revelation this way:
“History needs to know that this happened. I think it’s so significant and I guess knowing that the end is near for President Carter put it on my mind more and more and more. I just feel like we’ve got to get it down some way.”
But Barnes saying it is so doesn’t make the story verified history. Unless some hard evidence is uncovered, his story is like many others in American history: intriguing, unconfirmed evidence that casts doubt upon, but doesn’t disprove, the historical record.
7. The House and Senate separately authorized investigations into rumors of covert efforts to sink Carter’s efforts to release the hostages. A bipartisan House task force led by a Democrat, Representative Lee H. Hamilton of Indiana, and controlled by Democrats 8 to 5, concluded in a consensus 968-page report that stories of covert dealings were not backed by credible testimony, documents or intelligence reports.
8. Finally, it must be said that if true, Barnes’s story would indicate a treasonous act whether Connolly’s message had any impact on the fate of the hostages or the results of the 1980 election or not. The results are just moral luck. Connolly’s actions are just as unethical, indeed illegal, whatever the results turned out to be.
5 thoughts on “So John Connolly Secretly Undermined U.S. Efforts To Get Iran To Return Its American Hostages In 1980…”
This is a longtime conspiracy theory. I first read about it in the early 90s. Just without so many names attached.
The linked article mentions that, hence the House and Senate study. But if a participant in the conspiracy confirms a conspiracy, then it is more than a theory, and more than a rumor.
In today’s world such reports can be moneymakers. I wonder how many MSM shows will try to book him to provide more fodder for progressive hate toward the GOP.
He had an opportunity to confirm this theory years ago and didn’t. Trying to confirm it now reeks of politics. When you wait until the person you want to accuse is dead you lose any credibility you might have had.
I agree and was going to comment similarly but you made the point just as well.
I always look for the monetary motivation behind these 40-year-old post hoc confessions.