Re-Hab Carter Image
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Jimmy Carter was not as bad as you thought
We should rethink Jimmy Carter's presidency
Matt Sky's exclusive interview with former President Jimmy Carter that appeared here on And Magazine showed him helping natives in Africa cure life threatening eye diseases, and this is only one of many projects Carter has undertaken to make the world a better place. Jimmy Carter surely qualifies as the busiest, most idealistic of all former presidents living or dead.
But the public still widely believes him to have been a weak president while in office, and this should be corrected. Carter, a decent, honest and energetic man, had his flaws and failures as all presidents do. But the American people should re-think his tenure. He was a much better president than he was given credit for being.
In fact I would give Carter the "Dan Quayle Award" for being unfairly maligned by history as a weak and ineffectual president. Remember Dan Quayle, the vice president under George Bush Sr., the first Bush president? Those liberally leaning snobs in the media and particularly in Hollywood had a field day bashing Quayle as a stupid nonentity, in particular, the 1990's TV Show Murphy Brown starring Candice Bergen
That show slandered Quayle with a vengeance.
True, Quayle misspelled the word "potato" during a visit to a grammar school and mis-corrected a little boy who had spelled it right on a blackboard (the media had a ball with this), and did some other off-center things. But how many past vice presidents who were colorless on the surface can you even recall by name? The liberal media bashing of Quayle was so unfair even they (liberals) later admitted it was.
Carter suffered the same calumny from the right. It's time for the public to rehabilitate Carter's image as president. You can say it two ways. He was not as bad as you thought, and he was probably better than you thought.
Much of Carter's difficulties in office were based on nothing more than superficial appearances. Compared to the tinsel, Teflon-slippery, joking, shallow, roguish, devil-may-care charm of a Ronald Reagan, who always had an amusing Hollywood story to deflect substance, Carter seemed to the public to be too serious, too brooding, too introspective, too hesitant.
He gave one the impression he was in over his head in office, and that times were bad.
First, Carter stepped into office inheriting situations that were not his creation including inflation, recession and an energy crisis. The current president, Obama, could easily be castigated and has been for the same things, most of which accelerated during the tenure of George Bush Jr., Obama's predecessor.
For the American people to imagine that a new president can step into office and magically do away with a bad economy that is a result of perhaps 15 years of evolving market fluctuations and perhaps ill-advised deregulatory practices undertaken by Congress, over a full decade before the current bad (you think) president stepped in, is just as stupid as some of the voters.
Let's look at some of Carter's alleged failings.
In 1979 extremists in Iran took 52 American diplomats at the American embassy in Tehran and held them hostage for 444 days. Carter's handling of the situation in the eyes of the public seriously damaged his presidency.
Carter attempted a military rescue of the hostages in 1980, but recalled attack helicopters before they could strike on the advice of commanders on the ground after some of the helicopters were damaged and one turned back because of dust. This left too few remaining to successfully carry out the mission.
This does not sound like weakness or appeasement of Iran to me.
Carter then decided on economic sanctions and "non-war" pressure instead. Eventually, the hostages were released. Because cooler heads (including Carter's) prevailed, war and perhaps a million casualties that could have resulted from the United States, a Christian nation, having to occupy a Muslim nation and fight a 20-year insurgency---was averted.
Those hostages owe their lives to Carter's eventual lower-key handling of the situation.
Ironically, the hostage crisis contributed to Carter's defeat by Reagan, who got credit for the hostage release because it took place just after he took office. Reagan would also be falsely given credit for the collapse of the Soviet Union because it took place on his watch.
In reality, the Russians fell apart on their own without help from Reagan.
At the televised presidential debate between the two men, the differences could not be more stark. Reagan mockingly told Carter "There you go again," as Carter was making a point. Carter was too much of a gentleman to respond in kind like I would have by saying, "Don't patronize me Dutch (Reagan's nickname). I saw you in that movie Bedtime for Bonzo. You sucked!"
Carter did what he could while in office to quell global conflicts including signing the Camp David Accord in the Middle East, and giving back the Panama Canal to Panama. Reagan, who was against the transfer, said "We stole the Panama Canal fair and square."
Carter also signed a missile nonproliferation treaty with the Soviets.
Carter was "Green" long before the term became popular back when green was considered being a tree-hugging communist traitor by the right wing. He turned down the thermostat at the White house and wore a sweater and encouraged energy conservation. For this, a to-the-right-of-Genghis Khan conservative angrily once told me, "He (Carter) wants everybody to ride a bike."
Carter's conservation efforts are standard practice today.
Carter called a boycott of the Olympics after Russia invaded Afghanistan. The Russians retaliated by boycotting the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. Again, this doesn't sound like weakness.
Again, Reagan, showing his one true genius, being able to portray jolly, happy, devil-may-care toughness, got elected by promising better economic times, and then proceeded to bankrupt the country by raising the national debt more than any president in history, a whopping 67 percent increase.
To this day he is hailed as a fiscal conservative.
Since leaving office Carter won the Nobel Prize and has taken part in activities from negotiating with North Korea and the Middle East for peaceful resolutions, to advancing human rights causes and eradicating disease in impoverished Third World Countries---with the resulting good will for the U.S. from people who receive this help.
Reagan on the other hand kicked back to his millionaire ranch in Santa Barbara and twiddled his thumbs.
I think now it's time for Jimmy Carter to again say, "There I go again!"
John Sammon, : John Sammon is a writer whose experience includes newspaper reporting, magazine writing, personality profiles, interviews, celebrity interviews (Clint Eastwood), historical pieces, investigative and crime. He was selected “Most Valuable Reporter” for California’s oldest continually operating newspaper, and covered the weekend crime beat for a daily newspaper in Nevada. If you beat your wife on Friday, he wrote about it and got you in deep trouble on Saturday. He covered business,... (more...)