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Drawing the Line at the Big Ditch: The Panama Canal Treaties and the Rise of the Right

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Published on Mar 22, 2010

Political events in the United States often have unintended consequences for American politics and for the country as a whole. The long-term consequences of the Panama Canal debates of the 1970s was examined by Adam Clymer, former chief Washington correspondent for the New York Times, who discussed his book, "Drawing the Line at the Big Ditch: The Panama Canal Treaties and the Rise of the Right."

Considered one of America's engineering marvels, the Panama Canal sparked intense debates in the 1970s over the decision to turn it over to Panama. Clymer showed how the decision to give up this monument of the "American Century" stirred emotions already rubbed raw by the loss of the Vietnam War and shaped American politics for years. Jimmy Carter made the Panama Canal his first foreign-policy priority and won the battle to ratify the treaties. However, the author revealed, the issue gave Ronald Reagan a slogan that kept his 1976 candidacy alive and positioned him to win in 1980, helped elect conservative senators and create a Republican majority, and fueled the overall growth of conservatism. Clymer's narrative illuminates many aspects of American politics during the Ford and Carter years, offers insight into the "Reagan Revolution" and highlights an overlooked turning point in American political history.

Speaker Biography: Adam Clymer is author of "Edward M. Kennedy: A Biography" and co-author of "The Swing Voter in American Politics" and "Ronald Reagan: The Man, The President." His writings have also appeared in the Nation, The New Republic and other journals.

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