Looking Eternity In The Face

Anyone else wondering if Jimmy Carter recently got some bad news at the doctor’s? Because his latest attempt to reform rewrite his personal history has a suspiciously “gotta tidy up loose ends while I still can” smell to it.

In his recent PR blitz, he’s trying to rewrite the history books on his presidency and post-presidency into being… well, something less than a disaster.

Sorry, Jimmy. Too many of us lived through those years, and our memories don’t quite match up with your little fantasy.

I have a special reason to resent this. One of the revisions Carter wants to push is that he tried, 30-odd years ago, to push for universal health coverage, but was stopped by Teddy Kennedy. It’s been about a year since Teddy finally overpowered the astonishing preservative powers of alcohol and drove off The Final Bridge and plunged into The Pond Beyond, and I’ve been glad that his legacy is finally closed. To hear that he saved us decades of anguish by sabotaging Carter’s plans (presumably to keep Carter weak for Ted’s own abortion of a 1980 presidential run) bothers me. Plus, I simply don’t believe it — this was something Teddy championed all his life. To think that he would toss it aside in pursuit of an office he really didn’t want to hold doesn’t fit almost everything we know about him.

Carter’s behavior after we (well, my elders — I was too young to either vote for or against him) kicked him to the curb, though, has set the new standard for “worst ex-president.” For several years, he was good enough to largely stick to the established model — he wrote his book, lent his name to some good causes, built some houses for poor people, and mostly avoided the limelight. (Part of that, undoubtedly, was because he left such a stench of fail in his wake.) But after the freshness wore off the stink, he decided he missed the attention and power, and he shoved himself back on to the world stage.

Early in our nation’s history, we had one particular asshat by the name of Dr. George Logan. At the time, we were having particularly touchy relations with France — “touchy” being my term for what others call the “Quasi-War.” Logan, a pacifist, went to France and tried to improve relations between the two nations. In response, Congress passed “The Logan Act,” which banned private citizens from engaging in private diplomacy with other nations.

Sadly, the Act has never been tested in court. Had it been, then Carter’s freelance diplomacy (mainly in North Korea, but in other places as well) which caused the Clinton and second Bush administrations such headaches might have been averted.

Jimmy Carter wants us all to remember him as a nice guy, an honest guy, selfless Christian who worked all his life towards peace and understanding and caring for the poor. Unfortunately for him, too many of us remember not what he wishes to project, but what we actually saw — a petty, sanctimonious, weak, small-minded, wrong-headed, anti-Semitic, pompous, jerk who rode Watergate into office, and his own ineptitude rode him out.

Mr. Carter, right now your standing is “the worst Democratic president in modern history” and “the worst ex-president in history.” The only hopes for that changing are not in trying to rewrite your own past, but that Bill Clinton and Barack Obama’s futures.

Get off the stage, Jimmy. Give up the limelight. Stop trying to convince us to believe you and our own lying eyes. To steal a line from a talk-show host, it’s time for you to go home and pray for a peaceful death.

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