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Carter Contrary

Earlier this week, I took a brief moment to take a swipe at President Carter, both at his presidency and his post-presidency. My esteemed colleague, Mr. Drummond, felt some kind of obligation to respond to my piece, and cited a few examples where President Carter acted in a way that not only deserves defending, but praise. It was a decent, thoughtful, considerate piece, and I feel obligated to answer it in a likewise fashion.

DJ, you ignorant slut.

Actually, I have no disagreements with DJ's piece. Yes, Carter was well-intentioned. He has some seriously malicious bones in his body, and carries grudges as well as any, but as president he went in with the best of intentions and no larceny or corruption in his heart.

Yes, Carter did pretty good on the budget. He was the closest thing to a budget hawk the Democrats have fielded in a long time, and rooted out a lot of crap that had no business being in there. He also rooted out a few things that needed restoring once he was out of office -- the B-1 bomber and the US Navy were among those that felt his axe. Further, for all his "hawkishness," the federal deficit continued to grow under his stewardship.

Yes, I give him full marks for the botched Delta Force raid in Iran. The reasons that mission failed were purely mechanical, not in concept or authorization. It's one of the rare cases where I will give Carter an "A for effort."

But the whole Iran situation that led up to that attempt? I wish there was a lower grade than F. Yes, the Shah was a bad guy, but he had been our bad guy for a long time. To toss him aside, even after his ouster, when he was a weak, dying man, was contemptible. And let's not forget Carter thought it would be a good thing for Ayatollah Khomeini to return to Iran.

In fact, I view that act of weakness -- allowing the Shah to fall, abandoning him, allowing Khomeini to return and take charge, and doing essentially nothing for the 444 days (the above raid excepted) they held our embassy and our hostages -- as the first major failure of the US to stand against militant Islam, and inviting the decades of attacks on us by militant Islam that followed.

And it wasn't just the Middle East. Around the world, anti-Americanism was all the rage. It was seen as safe and easy and cool to bash the United States.

Economically, Carter was an utter disaster. It was so bad, that economists had to invent whole new ways of measuring the suck. "Misery Index." "Triple Doubles." "Stagflation." Maybe it's unfair to blame him for them, but it's certainly fair to say that old Peanut-Breath didn't help.

Carter also led to tremendous growth in the federal bureaucracy. He created the Departments of Energy and Education, two mistakes that really ought to be rectified.

Carter gave away the Panama Canal, setting the stage for the 1989 invasion of Panama and the capture of Manuel Noriega, a situation that led to all kinds of legal headaches that continued for years.

One of his most important advisors was his daughter Amy -- who was nine when he took office.

His arrogant and sanctimonious attitude led him to try to treat Congress as subservient to him, and poisoned his relations with that co-equal branch. (Not that I'm against bashing Congress, but there are right ways and wrong ways to pull it off.)

He tried to pull all US forces out of South Korea, leaving that ally vulnerable to re-invasion and conquest from the North.

And that barely touches the surface.

I bear a special animosity for Carter. He was the first presidential administration I can remember (I'm less than a week younger than Amy Carter), and I remember it all too well. Jimmy, I lived through your administration. And sadly for you, I remember large parts of it all too well.

No, Jimmy Carter wasn't 100% bad. No, he wasn't the worst president we ever had.

But damn, he certainly ranks up there. And for whatever reason he's suddenly decided to rewrite history and whitewash his legacy.

Sorry, Jimmy. No deal.


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Comments (28)

Yet again, I persue my one ... (Below threshold)
Andrew X:

Yet again, I persue my one man crusade to link one article to every posting I read about Djimmi Carter. No one comes close to nailing him in a page and a half than the unfortunately currently afflicted Christopher Hitchens.

You wanna talk about Carter? You GOTTA read this:

http://www.slate.com/id/2166661/

(For easy find, google 'Hitchens+Peanut Envy')

I can definitely say Carter... (Below threshold)
WildWillie:

I can definitely say Carter is without doubt the worst president I lived under. Obama is almost tied and will probably surpass him. Talk about "holier than thou" attitude and smugness. He is very self absorbed and actually believes the millions that think he is a disaster as a president are wrong. I haven't fallen for his meek act. He is just as ruthless or more so then the average politician. ww

I will never forgive Carter... (Below threshold)
hermie:

I will never forgive Carter for giving political legitimacy to that murderous terrorist Arafat. Decades after getting the Nobel 'Peace' Prize, Arafat continued leading his terrorist thugs, stealing from his own people to support his and his wife's lavish lifestyle; yet Carter continued to praise Arafat as a man of 'peace'.

Carter's problem with Khome... (Below threshold)
SShiell:

Carter's problem with Khomeini was that he could not fathom that a man of God could be evil. Carter wrote a letter to each and every General officer of Iran's military, pleading with them to give Khomeini a chance. Within one year of Khomeini's return each and every one of these men and their families were dead!

I have stated on more than one occasion that when he dies I will pour a bottle of wine over his grave to honor him. I will drink it first . . .

Carter's killer question he... (Below threshold)
Faith+1:

Carter's killer question he couldn't answer, "Are you better off today than you were 4 years ago?"

Obama's killer question he can't answer, "Are you better off today than you were 4 trillion dollars ago?"

Carter is a study in contra... (Below threshold)
wolfwalker:

Carter is a study in contradictions and inconsistencies. At least, his presidency is. His ex-presidency is much easier to figure out: despite all his efforts and good intentions, his presidency failed so totally that it drove him nuts.

Regarding Operation Eagle Claw (the Delta Force hostage-rescue mission): There's a story I saw in a book once, which I've never been able to confirm or refute, that Carter planned a much larger hostage-rescue op after Eagle Claw failed -- an op that amounted to a short-term invasion rather than a mere commando raid. He canceled it after the Soviets learned of it via the Walker spy ring and prepared a counter-op that would probably have given them control of Iran.

On foreign policy, Carter labored under a huge handicap. It was the very depths of the Cold War, when the planet was basically a huge chessboard with the US and the USSR as the players. And the Walker spy ring gave the Sovs the ability to know Carter's moves in advance, and counter them as he made them. I've sometimes wondered if that had a permanent effect on him. Being president has always required a really big ego. It must be really crushing for a guy with that big an ego to be so consistently outmaneuvered by the opposition.

I want to point out one bit... (Below threshold)
jim2:

I want to point out one bit of what seems to be deceit recently by Carter.

In his broadcast interview, he very proudly proclaimed that he had "not ordered or sanctioned the firing of one bullet or the dropping of one bomb during [his] term in office. (my attempt to quote his exact words)

So, how did he expect the hostage rescue to happen?

In other words, his bragging assertion was possible only because of the failure of that attempt to happen, including the deaths of some of the troops involoved.

I consider that deceit.

The Shah of a Iran was a "b... (Below threshold)
Jim Addison:

The Shah of a Iran was a "bad guy" in what context, exactly? Sure, he brutally repressed the islamist extremists - perhaps now the world understands why? The western press used the euphemism that he was arresting "pro-democracy" activists, but they were all Khomeini followers or Soviet agents - there was no significant secular movement to be repressed.

Compared to the other leaders in the region, except for Israel, he was downright enlightened, and did more to bring Iran into the modern world than any other muslim monarch or dictator. Infrastructure was built, schools, women treated civilly. He was also a dedicated and faithful ally to the US and to Israel, a key regional bastion in the Cold War fortress, keeping the Soviets away from the warm-water port they had coveted since czarist times.

And yet when he was dying, Carter wouldn't grant him permission to come to the US for medical treatment, for fear of offending the pagan madmen. Yeah, Carter was just a lovely fellow . . . from Satan's point of view.

I admire the fact that you and DJ look for the best in Carter. If you see anything there, however, it is a complete illusion. The Carter legacy is weakness and fecklessness abroad, economic weakness at home, promoting and justifying hatred towards Israel, condoning and enabling islamic extremists, and generally being a loathsome character.

I expect he is something of a hero to Obama, who seems intent on continuing Mr. Peanut's evil work.

It has been suggested that ... (Below threshold)
Jeff:

It has been suggested that Carter may have gotten some bad medical news lately and is simply trying to get his legacy buffed up ...

I think that it would have ... (Below threshold)
galoob:

I think that it would have been better for the country had Gerald Ford been reelected, as it would have strengthened the moderate Republican party which served the nation so well, particularly in the Eisenhower years. Maybe if that had happened, the GOP would not be the hard right, moving to proto-fascist, party it is today.

Carter bashing is overwrought, though. Carter was hated by the Beltway crowd because he was a southerner, a cultural conservative, and basically a military man and an engineer rather than a lawyer. He didn't drink and party in Georgetown and was a bit of a prig. This was the cause of a lot of his bad press - style.

He also reaped a lot of what Johnson and Nixon sowed in the economy. When you borrow and spend to finance a war in Vietnam, a war on poverty, and all the new federal departments Johnson and Nixon started, the currency is going to be debased.

I don't know how Carter gets bashed on the hostage crisis, when as JT fairly points out Carter tried a reasonably military solution, which he took responsibility for, when Reagan sold weapons to Iran not only after the hostage crisis but after the Marine barracks bombing in 1983 done by Iran-sponsored Hezbollah. Reagan and his right wing "hero" Ollie North get a pass on that.

Robert Gates also said he was impressed by Carter when he was on the inside:

Gates's 1996 book, "From the Shadows," is now being combed for insights into the new defense secretary's thinking, how he might run the Pentagon and what he's had to say about his past bosses.

When it comes to Carter, it isn't that Gates, a career Sovietologist who rose to become CIA director, is a closet dove. Rather, he thinks Carter was far tougher on Moscow than is generally recognized.

"I believe the Soviets saw a very different Jimmy Carter than did most Americans by 1980, different and more hostile and threatening," Gates writes. In both conventional weaponry and in the nuclear arena, he argues, Carter would "provide a strong foundation for Ronald Reagan to build upon." By contrast, Gates describes the first president for whom he worked, Richard Nixon, as "by far the most liberal" of the group. (Gates also shows a bit of dovish ankle, revealing that before leaving the CIA to work in the Nixon White House, he marched in a May 1970 antiwar demonstration.)

Most of all, writes Gates, who was the national intelligence officer for the Soviet Union at the time, Carter's emphasis on human rights cast a spotlight on the Soviets' greatest vulnerability. The rights theme, Gates says, made Carter "the first president during the Cold War to challenge publicly and consistently the legitimacy of Soviet rule at home." In his view, these were "the first steps" toward the beginning of the end of the Soviet Union.

It is amazing how some peop... (Below threshold)
mag:

It is amazing how some people see them selves so different then others. Here is Carter making it sound like he was the greatest thing since sliced bread...but it appears from what I have read and hear about him that most people do in fact have a very, very poor opinion of him as a man, president, and ex-president. Me included.
What is really telling...is his critizism of other presidents...I mean it show how bad he is..you just don't do that. No class.
But a man with his ego, and then have the country vote him out of office in such big numbers, well he must be very bitter and angry...it certainly shows.
PS: I see Obama doing the same thing in a few years....

"...he went in with the bes... (Below threshold)
GarandFan:

"...he went in with the best of intentions and no larceny or corruption in his heart."

A fool is still a fool.

Sort of like a drunk who stumbles into a china shop. "He didn't MEAN any harm".

I have no use for Carter an... (Below threshold)
MarineSentry:

I have no use for Carter and disagree with nearly everything he did. Only Obama will be a worse president than Carter. Carter's post-presidency activities have been disgraceful. One of his worst acts was, I recall, probably his first official act as president -- pardoning the Vietnam-era draft-dodgers. That was one of the most reprehensible acts ever committed by a U.S. president. Let me explain.

Young American males of draft age in the Vietnam era had three choices:

1. Serve in the armed forces.
Pros: You remain an American citizen, eligible to vote and hold office; eligible for veteran's benefits, etc.
Cons: You can get killed, as 58,000 did. Career interrupted, unless military career chosen.

2. Refuse to serve, go to jail.
Pros: Chance of death is greatly reduced.
Cons: Criminal record, lose right to vote, hold office, own firearms; career interrupted and probably impacted negatively for life.

3. Flee to Canada, Sweden.
Pros: Chance of death minimal, remain free, pursue career uninterrupted.
Cons:You can never return to U.S. without being arrested and facing jail.

With one stroke of the pen, Carter removed all the cons from choices (2.) and (3.). He changed the rules after the game had been played. This was not just an insult to those who served, but also rewarded those who essentially had abandoned our country.

I and many others will always remember this despicable act and will never forgive his treachery.

Galoob, learn your history ... (Below threshold)
WildWillie:

Galoob, learn your history instead of spouting about what might have been. The post is on Carter. Try to focus. And on the hostages, they were waved in our face for over a year which strengthened and in fact grew the Islamic Radical movement which we paid for. Thanks Jimmah. ww

MarineSentry -Thus... (Below threshold)
jim2:

MarineSentry -

Thus, it would seem, did Carter create Senator and Presidential Candidate Kerry.

Another thing to add to the list ....

I miss George W.. At this ... (Below threshold)

I miss George W.. At this rate, I'll miss Jimmy by Christmas....Woodrow Wilson by Valentine's Day.

I think Jay`s animus to Car... (Below threshold)
Steve Crickmore:

I think Jay`s animus to Carter is over the Middle East more than anything. When Carter took over, in January 1976 we already had rocketing oil price/ eneregy crisis. Remember he walked up Pennsylvania Ave wearing only a cardigan on his inauguration. As for the hostages, they all got alive. They would have gotten out earlier if Reagan through the October surprise -I know it is controversial, but I believe it happened- if the Reagan/Casey team hadn't secretly negotiated in Paris, to delay their release. And Carter never sold arms to the Ayatollah Khomeini as "we don't negotiate with terrorists"-except when we do Reagan did, and it was ton of weapons too, to get the couple of American hostages out from the Hezbollah in Lebanon. And this is admitted and heavily documented. There is no denying this.

Jay dismisses Carter's "human rights" foreign policy. Instead, we get Reagan cosing up to and arming bloody military dictators and their death squads, the dirty wars in latin America, an absolute disgrace. Even our embassies were appalled. How can you overlook this?

Steve, you cannot spin away... (Below threshold)
WildWillie:

Steve, you cannot spin away the triple doubel. Unemployment, inflation and interest rates were all in the double digits. The gas lines lines were in 78-79, way past Ford. The hostages, which lived under torture and threats of being killed for over one year cannot be blamed on Reagan. Quit reading Daily Kos and pick up a history book. We cannot rely on mights, maybe, should, could have, likely or un-named sources for accuracty. Carter had a very miserable presidency. He should be thankful that Obama is in because I have a feeling Obama will surpass Carter as the worse president in modern times. No doubt. ww

He was the worst I ever saw... (Below threshold)
Saterp:

He was the worst I ever saw...until now.

crickmore: They would have ... (Below threshold)
Drago:

crickmore: They would have gotten out earlier if Reagan through the October surprise -I know it is controversial, but I believe it happened- if the Reagan/Casey team hadn't secretly negotiated in Paris, to delay their release."

With this statement, crickmore betrays his insanity.

Yep.

Insanity.

IN-SAN-I-TY

Drago, I suppose <a href="h... (Below threshold)
Steve Crickmore:

Drago, I suppose this is all insane,

You are not that wet behind the ears, are you?

At that time, we had word back, because you always have informed relations with the devil," Copeland said. "But we had word that, 'Don't worry.' As long as Carter wouldn't get credit for getting these people out, as soon as Reagan came in, the Iranians would be happy enough to wash their hands of this and move into a new era of Iranian-American relations, whatever that turned out to be."

In the interview, Copeland declined to give more details, beyond his assurance that "the CIA within the CIA," his term for the true protectors of U.S. national security, had an understanding with the Iranians about the hostages. (Copeland died on Jan. 14, 1991, before I could interview him again.)

Secret Meetings

Much of the controversy over the October Surprise mystery has centered on several alleged secret meetings in Europe between senior Republicans - including then-Reagan campaign chief William Casey and Reagan's running mate George H.W. Bush - and Iranian officials, including senior cleric Mehdi Karrubi.

A variety of witnesses, including Iranian officials and international intelligence operatives, have described these contacts, which have been denied by Bush and other top Republicans.

Though official U.S. investigations have generally sided with the Republicans, a substantial body of evidence - much of it which has been kept hidden from the American people - actually supports the October Surprise allegations. [For details, see Robert Parry's Secrecy & Privilege.]


Ghotbzadeh, in an Aug. 18, 1980, letter to the Majlis, wrote that "another point to consider is this fact. We know that the Republican Party of the United States in order to win the presidential election is working hard to delay the solution of the hostages crisis until after the U.S. election."

Ghotbzadeh argued for a quicker resolution of the crisis so Iran's new Islamic government, which had consolidated its power in part because of the hostage crisis, could "get on with other more pressing affairs than the hostage issue."

He added, that "objection to this argument is that it will be in line with the policy of the Republican Party leaders and supporters of Rockefeller and Reagan. [But] if we leave this issue unsolved, our new government will be constantly under pressure and may not be able to succeed in its affairs. In light of this consideration it is better to settle this crisis."

After Reagan entered the White House, U.S. weapons were again flowing secretly to Iran through Israel. For instance, Northrop's affidavit stated that even before Reagan's inauguration, Israel had sounded out the new administration regarding its attitudes toward more weapons shipments to Iran and got "the new administration's approval."
I give Jimmy Carter credit ... (Below threshold)

I give Jimmy Carter credit for one thing and one thing only. Between him and then-Gov. Jerry Brown, I had no choice but to register Republican when I turned 18.

And Crickmore, you're a lunatic. The "October Surprise" B.S. is based on the idea that Carter's CIA would cooperate with then-private citizen George Bush by making a spy plane available to him.

Seriously. Dude. Get help.

ak, you're forgetting that ... (Below threshold)

ak, you're forgetting that Bush was a former CIA director at that point, and had top-secret connections that would let him work around Carter and his appointees to... oh, forget it. I can't even type that with a straight face.

Crickmore, I put believers in the "October Surprise" right up there with 9/11 truthers and Obama birthers -- conspiracy nuts who are NOT to be taken seriously, but rather to be intensely and fiercely mocked and derided and insulted at every opportunity.

Crick, you can't even count, and you expect us to go along with you and Lyndon LaRouche on that insane scheme?

I used to think you were one of the sane ones at Blue, but now I see you were just as nuts as Wee Lard -- but nowhere near as malignant.

J.

crickmore: "Drago, I suppos... (Below threshold)
Drago:

crickmore: "Drago, I suppose this is all insane,.."

Yes steve. It is insane.

And your "performance" this evening has demonstrated to one and all that you are out of your little gourd.

Not that your insanity was difficult to discern prior to this. Let's just say that you decided to dress up in your nice little crazy-boy high-heels and hoof it on down main street for all to see and marvel at.

Insane.

Insane.

Insa...well, you get the idea.

And quoting Ghotbzadeh as a reputable source!!!

Hilarious!

Hey, why don't you just Fidel what he thinks, or Chavez, or Kim Jong il, or any other "reputable" source!

LOL

Wow, you've just gone over the cliff.....(like the Dems congressional campaigns for 2010!)

BTW Jay, I'm in complete ag... (Below threshold)
Drago:

BTW Jay, I'm in complete agreement with you on your take of Carter's Presidency.

It always amazes folks when I inform them that Jimmah had some good ideas when it came to budgetary matters and, even though I do have a military background (not that you can tell now!), I appreciated Carter's rooting out some of the waste in the Pentagon and the Procurement process.

Folks sometimes forget that even Bush I (HW) SecDef (none other than the Dark Knight) Dick Cheney cancelled my Navy Aviation's beloved A-12 program!!

Back to Carter, I always appreciated his attempt to instill zero-based budgeting and line-item veto.

Of course, on foreign policy Carter was a knucklehead.

One of my favorite anecdotes was the meeting arranged by Walter Mondale between many American Jewish leaders and other dem hawks who were concerned about the direction of Carters foreign policy regarding the Jewish refusniks in the Soviet Union and Israel/Arab world relations etc.

Mondale marched the leaders in, Carter blasted them, the AmericanJewish leaders and Dem hawks walked out, and just a short time later one of those life-long dems (Jeanne Kirkpatrick) found herself at a dinner party where she was seated next to the Republican candidate for President, Ronald Reagan.

Prior to that meeting, the intellectual Kirkpatrick had believed what many lefties had always said about Reagan. But during that dinner, which lasted for hours, she was impressed by the breadth of knowledge and intuitive understanding of the world that Reagan possessed. Just a short while later, she joined the Reagan team and never looked back.

Of course, crickmore thinks Reagan was a treasonous guy who, somehow, impossibly, was the force behind the mythical "October Surprise".

Crickmore, you will never live this one down.

Nor should you.

Crazy boy.

I know all too well abou... (Below threshold)

I know all too well about the abuse the Navy took during the Carter Administration. I was on Active Duty at the time. Training Squadron in Texas and a Medium Attack Squadron based at NAS Whidbey Island and embarked in USS Ranger. We refer to it as the "black years." Yes. We. Do.
I do not personally know anyone who served in that period that has any respect for or anything civil to say about Jimmy Carter.

WildWillie,The une... (Below threshold)
Highlander:

WildWillie,

The unemployment rate never came close to 10 percent under Carter. It did, however, surpass 10 percent under Reagan for six or seven straight months. Why do you think 1982 was such a tough year for Republicans?

Next time, don't spout off rubbish that you think "might" be true, hoping not to get caught.

One of Carter's major achie... (Below threshold)
Highlander:

One of Carter's major achievements was forging a lasting peace between Egypt & Israel.




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