Jimmy Carter: What people forget is that the original treaty with Panama was written and signed without any Panamanian ever seeing it. It was never fair to the Panamanians, and most people recognize that. President Johnson gave his word of honor to the Panamanians: “We will have a new treaty.” So did President Nixon and President Ford. But it was only when I got into office that I was foolish enough to push it to a conclusion. The treaty is very fair to our country and to the Panamanians. It gives us first priority in using the Canal. It gives us the right to defend the Canal against external threats, not only in this century but even in the next century. And it forms a sharing partnership in operating the Canal. When I was there during the Panamanian elections, which we helped to conduct, I visited the Canal and the American leaders there, and they told me that the Canal was in better shape than it had been in many, many years. Because the Panamanians, knowing that they now have a share in the future of the Canal, were much more enthusiastic in upkeep and maintenance and learning how to be the leaders in ways that they hadn’t been before. This was the worst political battle I ever got into. It was more difficult to get the Panama Canal Treaties ratified by two-thirds of the Senate of the United States than it was for me to get elected president in the first place. It was a very deep and bitter political battle, and many people still haven’t gotten over it. I never go through a week of my life now that I don’t get letters from people condemning the Panama Canal Treaties. Still, and this is I don’t know how many years later. 1978? Thirteen years later. But it was a good thing to do.