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A Failed Former President By: Ben Johnson
FrontPageMagazine.com | Friday, November 18, 2005


The only thing more painful than listening to Jimmy Carter lecture President Bush on how to conduct a successful presidency was living through his disastrous attempt to turn his advice into reality.

As I noted earlier this week, Carter has channeled his hatred of non-leftists, secular and religious, into a glut of slanders in his new bestseller, Our Endangered Values. He charges his opponents with, among other things, countenancing female circumcision, defending the murder of federal judges, torturing innocent Islamofascists, and forcing North Korea to manufacture nuclear weapons. Jimmy once again offers himself as the nation’s savior-by-acclamation, leading his errant people, like a latter-day Moses, to the Promised Land. Every time he flashes his toothy grin before an adoring interviewer, the American people should ask why they should listen to anything he has to say. Jimmy Carter’s presidency could be summed up by a Billy Joel couplet: “Ayatollahs in Iran/Russians in Afghanistan.” However, this would omit so much: “malaise,” the misery index, soaring interest rates, a “helpless giant” foreign policy, stagflation, gas lines, record deficits, and killer jackrabbits. The former president doesn’t ignore his record in his book; he lies about it.

Carter provides a portal into his alternate reality in chapter one, where he insists, “As a Southern moderate and former career naval officer, I espoused a conservative fiscal policy and a strong defense.” [1] Insert laugh track. He boasts, for instance, that he brought religious liberty to China (on p. 26), although his book hit #1 on the New York Times bestseller list the week Chinese Communists sentenced three Christians to a total of six-and-a-half years in prison for distributing Bibles. His tome is replete with such Carter revisionism.

 

Above all else, Our Endangered Values book drips with self-congratulation for his enlightened racial views and clear intimations his opponents are bigots. Modern “fundamentalists” – especially the conservatives Carter relentlessly smears – have made “racial reconciliation” a defining priority. Evangelicals don’t need racial tolerance lectures from the man who campaigned for governor of Georgia as a self-proclaimed “redneck”; whose campaign distributed a photo of gubernatorial opponent Carl Sanders being embraced by black basketball players to a Ku Klux Klan rally; who pledged to invite George Wallace to Georgia; [2] and who said he was “proud” to have Lester Maddox as his lieutenant governor in 1970, calling him “the essence of the Democratic Party.” As Maddox’s successor, Carter turned criminals loose as part of “a competition over who could reduce his prison population the most.” [3]

 

In 1972, he promised – then broke his promise – to the newly crippled George Wallace to nominate or second him at the 1972 Democratic National Convention, jumping at the opportunity to give the nomination speech for Henry “Scoop” Jackson. But Jimmy had just begun his self-promotion. According to his son, Jack Carter, the governor had his surrogates lobby aggressively to become ultra-leftist George McGovern’s vice president. Carter had invited McGovern and fundraiser Morris Dees to the governor’s mansion, where this “Southern moderate” soon “found himself much more compatible with George McGovern than he had expected.” [4]

 

The peanut farmer chartered his own course to the Oval Office by hoodwinking Southern conservatives. Twenty-five years after being chased out of the White House, Carter has discovered the perils of evangelical “marriage” to politicians. He writes such “a political marriage is in conflict with my own belief in the separation of church and state – I would feel the same even if the marriage were with Democrats.” [5] His actions tell another story. His self-described “campaign autobiography,” Why Not the Best? – which he wrote to advance his 1976 presidential run – was published by Broadman Press, the publishing arm of the Southern Baptist Sunday School Board. Carter admits, “They print all the Southern Baptist literature, and I had some influence with them as a member of the Baptists’ Brotherhood Commission.” During the North Carolina primary, he had his sister, Baptist evangelist Ruth Carter Stapleton, write a letter “to her extensive network of religious friends and contacts around the country” in which she declared:

 

My reason for writing you is to acquaint you with an important facet of Jimmy, one that couldn’t possibly be pursued with any depth by the press and television, and that is his quality of deep personal commitment to Jesus Christ and his will to serve Him in whatever capacity he finds himself…please pray for Jimmy. And if you share my feelings that he is the best candidate, I urge you to actively support him. [6]           

 

After finding people responded positively to the term “Born Again,” Carter wore his religion on his sleeve as he snookered evangelicals into enthusiastically supporting his campaign. Pat Robertson, Tim LaHaye, and the vast majority of “fundamentalists” Carter now derides campaigned tirelessly for Carter in 1976. Carter may have conveniently forgotten; the evangelicals certainly have not. Carter belittles Robertson by name three times in his book, LaHaye once. [7] Common mythology aside, Carter actually won the Southern Baptist vote in 1976 and 1980. [8]

 

The Foreign Policy Fiasco

 

Upon his inauguration, he provided a “strong defense” by slashing defense spending $6 billion (in 2003 dollars) in the first two years of his administration, canceling the B-1 bomber, and decimating the U.S. fleet. [9] Gerald Ford warned this would devastate military preparedness in their second debate but was instead remembered for quipping, “there is no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe.”

 

Carter boasts as president he set about “convincing the Soviets of our ability and resolve to respond.” [10] Unfortunately, his response was naïvete and unilateral surrender. Carter failed to consult either the Pentagon or the Kremlin before removing U.S. missiles from South Korea within hours of his inauguration, a move Brezhnev interpreted as weakness rather than conciliation. In 1979, Brezhnev refused to remove Soviet submarines and aircraft from Cuba.

 

Carter now frets, “A recent announcement of withdrawal of U.S. troops farther away from the demilitarized zone has caused increasing concern in South Korea that hard-line leaders in Pyongyang and Washington might precipitate the threatened conflict.” Hard-liners “in Pyongyang and Washington,” Mr. President? [11] Beyond his reprehensible equation of President Bush with Kim Jong-il, Carter apparently forgot that he offered to remove all troops from South Korea during his presidency.

 

His “positive inducements” and warnings about America’s “inordinate fear of Communism” led the Soviets, and Cubans, to believe the Third World was fair game. In his book, Carter praises himself for “establishing diplomatic relations” with Cuba in 1977. [12] That policy consisted of standing by as Castro kept Cuban soldiers fighting in Angola and sent 16,000 more to Ethiopia. He cut off aid to El Salvador, which was fighting a Communist insurgency, but gave more than $90 million in aid to the Nicaraguan Sandinistas. He soon halted diplomatic recognition of our allies on Taiwan and recognized Beijing in their place. The man who declared “human rights is the soul of our foreign policy” showered accolades upon Tito, Ceausescu, Ortega, and Kim il-Sung (the last, after his presidency). [13]

 

Meanwhile, brother Billy tried to open trade relations with Libya in 1978 after depositing a generous $220,000 “loan” from Qaddafi. He registered as an agent of a foreign government two years later. (Billy exerted no influence over his brother, although Jimmuh made his teenage daughter an ad hoc nuclear advisor.)

 

Carter further demonstrated his mettle by surrendering the Panama Canal after a few riots. Ports at either end are now controlled by a front for the Chinese military: Hutchison Whampoa Ltd., and this month, President Bush had to plead for “equal access” to the canal. More troubling, it now stands at risk of a potential terrorist attack. In 2001, the canal was visited by Adnan Gulshair El Shukrijumah, a 30-year-old Saudi-born al-Qaeda terrorist dubbed “the new Mohammed Atta.” Last summer, this most-wanted operative surfaced in Honduras, possibly recruiting for the strike. In response, a dozen nations participated in a simulated terror assault on the isthmus. [14]

 

The ex-prez now asserts he did a better job of collecting international intelligence than Bush-43. “It was quite different when I was there,” he told Tim Russert. He called his CIA chief “Stansfield Turner, a notable man…an admirable person in every respect, and he gave me unequivocal intelligence regularly…We didn’t have any secret intelligence agencies established within the Defense Department” that already had “a commitment to go to war with Iraq.” To this day, he says, “there hasn’t been any allegation of impropriety” of his use of intelligence.

 

Stansfield Turner gutted the CIA, cutting 820 human intelligence positions. Without assets of its own, Langley had to rely on the intelligence agencies of foreign governments. Thus, on New Year’s Eve 1977, Carter would toast the Shah’s Iran as “an island of stability in one of the more troubled areas of the world…[due] to the respect, admiration and love which your people give to you.” Eight months later, the CIA issued the report Iran in the 1980s, in which Carter’s spooks surmised, “Iran is not in a revolutionary or even a ‘prerevolutionary’ situation.” As tensions mounted, Carter withdrew U.S. support from the Shah, turning Iran into a beacon of hope for jihadists around the world. Before admitting the exiled Shah to America, he accepted Iranian guarantees they could secure our embassy, one of the costliest miscalculations in the history of American foreign policy. If al-Qaeda was emboldened by American reversals in Beirut and Somalia, one can only imagine their glee at the 14-month-long hostage crisis. Carter ultimately agreed to pay a ransom of $8 billion (of which, Iran netted $3 billion), [15] although Ronald Reagan’s toughness and resolution was the decisive factor in ending the crisis.

 

Nonetheless, in his book Carter presumes to advise George W. Bush on how to deal with Iran. [16] Without Carter’s policies, the Iran-Iraq war would not have raged for nearly a decade; the United States would not have had to form an unsavory alliance of convenience with Saddam Hussein, in order to hem in the mullahs; Hezbollah would not receive $100-$200 million a year from Tehran’s coffers; al-Qaeda would not have received training in Iran in 1992; and Iran’s nuclear ambitions, if they existed, would be of no consequence to the West whatsoever.

 

Jimmy Carter’s presidency was the lowest point of American prestige in modern history. The missteps he made during those critical years continue to threaten the United States and the West.

 

The Domestic Disaster

 

Today, Carter’s foreign policy failures nearly obscure the mess he made of his country in every other way. President Carter enacted his “conservative fiscal policy ” by running annual deficits more than twelve times larger than Richard Nixon’s and increasing the federal debt by 42 percent, more than previous president who had not fought a world war. Had his agenda been implemented, that total would have been higher yet. (Before Hillarycare, he proposed a national health insurance plan, in 1979.)

 

In Our Endangered Values, Carter advises Bush on how to achieve “far more savings” on the price of oil. [17] Average gas prices more than doubled during Carter’s presidency, reaching $1.25 a gallon by election day 1980, or roughly $3.00 a gallon today. Carter’s price controls gave us gas lines, shortages, and rationing. Prices continued to rise until Reagan abolished price controls by executive order. Rather than stand up to OPEC during the 1979 gas crisis, Carter cracked down on the American auto industry, and blamed the American people for their “crisis of confidence” in his incompetent leadership.

 

Carter has discussed his views on reducing abortion through a combination of social welfare spending (such as WIC, which he created) and economic prosperity. [18] However, abortion increased to near-record highs under Carter, skyrocketing from 1.3 million in 1977 to nearly 1.6 million in 1981.

 

President Carter’s economic genius created the situation that, by 1980, interest rates stood at 21 percent, inflation at 13.5 percent, unemployment at 7 percent, and the “misery index” he coined during the 1976 campaign reached 20.5 percent.

 

Carter was so vulnerable a half-hearted primary fight from a wounded Ted Kennedy presented a major challenge. During his re-election campaign, the best pitch he could make was, “I'll be a better president in the next four years.The New Republic (which endorsed John Anderson that year) editorialized, “He has made our society less prosperous without making it more generous. He has made this country less respected and feared abroad without making it more loved.” Jimmy Carter pulled out all the stops, even dispatching Armand Hammer to negotiate for Soviet interference in his race against Ronald Reagan. (Hammer told Ambassador Anatoly Dobrynin, “Carter won't forget that service if he is elected.” Perhaps this was what he meant about showing the Soviets he intended “to respond.”) Still, to this day, Carter excuses his landslide defeat by slandering columnist George F. Will.

 

The Post-Presidential Peril

 

It has long been an unwritten rule for former presidents not to criticize the incumbent officeholder, especially on foreign policy. Those who have broken that law in the last 100 years include Herbert Hoover, Jimmy Carter, and, as of yesterday, Bill Clinton. History has judged all as failed presidents. But no former president actively sabotaged the foreign policy of a sitting president before Jimmy Carter.

 

Carter began his long history of interfering in his successors’ affairs in 1984 by again suggesting Dobrynin interfere in a U.S. election, this time on behalf of Walter Mondale. During the meeting, Carter complained, “there would not be a single agreement on arms control, especially on nuclear arms, as long as Reagan remained in power.” He and other Democrats maintained relations with the Soviets out of concern that Ronald Reagan was an extremist.

 

Before Operation Desert Storm, Carter wrote a letter to UN Security Council members, asking them to oppose the war. Five days before military operations were to commence, he again wrote to Syria, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt, “I urge you to call publicly for a delay in the use of force while Arab leaders seek a peaceful solution to the crisis.”

 

However, it was during the Clinton administration that his personal diplomacy reached its zenith. Carter writes that, in 1994, when North Korea began threatening to build nuclear weapons, he left on negotiations “with the approval of President Bill Clinton” [19] Clinton allowed Carter to visit, after Al Gore pushed for the trip. However, as President Bill Clinton tried to convince Pyongyang all options were on the table including a military response, Carter “unilaterally” promised that even economic sanctions would not be forthcoming. When asked about this discrepancy, President Clinton told reporters, “None of us have talked directly with President Carter. We don’t know what he said.” [20] For once, Bill Clinton sounded believable. Carter’s behavior in North Korea led a Clinton administration Cabinet member to call him a “treasonous prick.”

 

During his 1994 trip to North Korea, Carter found time to bolster the image of the Stalinist enclave, saying he didn’t see anyone starving, and the well-stocked groceries of Pyongyang reminded him of the “Wal-Mart in Americus, Georgia.” Soon, he worked out agreement to give Pyongyang 500,000 metric tons of oil, tons of grain, and a light-water nuclear reactor – and he pressed the Clinton administration for a weaker agreement yet. The unverifiable agreement Carter designed allowed North Korea to develop as many as half-a-dozen nuclear weapons – which he now blames on George W. Bush.

 

Despite his previous betrayal, Clinton sent Carter to Haiti the following September to restore Marxist Jean-Bertrand Aristide to power. Carter was to tell Lt. Gen. Raoul Cedras an invasion would follow imminently if he did not step down. He instead legitimized Cedras, allowed him to stay past the deadline, and offered his own policy views on CNN – before reporting to the White House. When Clinton finally called his bluff by launching “Operation Restore Freedom,” Carter said he was “distressed.” (The move worked; Cedras resigned. Aristide proved no better than his predecessors.)

 

Carter has hobnobbed with murderous tyrants throughout his post-presidency. He once pounded out a speech delivered by Yasser Arafat. In 2004, he certified dubious election of pro-Castro strongman Hugo Chavez.

 

However, he distinguished himself for useful idiocy by visiting Castro’s Cuba in 2002. Then as now, he opposed the Cuban embargo while acknowledging “the benefits of Cuba’s superior services in education and health.” [21] At this time, then-Undersecretary of State John Bolton stated Castro had some form of biological weapons research in progress, an allegation dating back to the Clinton administration. From overseas, Carter called him a liar, because he had not seen evidence of these programs during his tour. Condoleeza Rice quickly responded, “That’s not how biotech weapons work. And they’re actually very easy to conceal.”

 

Carter’s crusade to embrace every two-bit thug in the world garnered him a 2002 Nobel Peace Prize, awarded on political grounds, as Carter opposed Operation Iraqi Freedom. Gunnar Berge, chairman of the Nobel Peace Prize committee, said the honor “should be interpreted as a criticism of the line that the current administration has taken.” Carter was happy to administer the criticism in a speech pointedly criticizing U.S. policy on Iraq.

 

He has escalated his criticism ever since. In a 2004 “Hardball” interview, Carter told his former speechwriter that Operation Iraqi Freedom was like the Revolutionary War, because “in some ways the Revolutionary War could have been avoided. It was an unnecessary war.”

 

Now in 2005, Carter has launched this book tour to convince the American people George W. Bush is leading the nation over the precipice and smear the Southern Christians he once courted, all the while feigning concern over Democrats and abortion. His book is a roadmap to the familiar oblivion he forced upon this nation and the world during his misrule. Nonetheless, the American Left now encourages the greatest president since Ronald Reagan to accept advice from the worst president since James Buchanan. [22]

 

This is part two of a series of articles on Jimmy Carter’s new book, Our Endangered Values. Click HERE to read Part One.

 

ENDNOTES:

1. pp. 7-8.

2. Bourne, Peter G. Jimmy Carter: A Comprehensive Biography from Plains to Post-Presidency. (NY: Lisa Drew/Scribner,1997), pp. 192-3.

3. “Tim Russert Show.” Saturday, November 5, 2005. CNBC. An identical account is found in his book, Our Endangered Values, p. 79.

4. Bourne, p. 225.

5. Carter, Jimmy, p. 39.

6. Bourne, p. 304.

7. Robertson on pp. 20, 60, and 67, LaHaye on p. 113.

8. Carter, Stephen. God’s Name in Vain. (NY: Basic Books, 2000), pp. 46-47. Carter won 59.1 percent of the Southern Baptist vote in 1976 to Gerald Ford’s 37.6 percent, and 50 percent in 1980 over Reagan’s 46.6 percent.

9. D’Souza, Dinesh. Ronald Reagan: How an Ordinary Man Became an Extraordinary Leader. (NY: The Free Press, 1997), p. 143. 

10. Carter, Jimmy, p. 149.

11. pp. 110-111.

12. pp. 102-103.

13. Ambrose, Stephen. Rise to Globalism (NY: Penguin Books, 1993 ed.), pp. 281-302.

14. This author recognizes good people were on both sides of the Panama Canal debate, particularly William F. Buckley Jr. and George F. Will. However, these problems would have been unthinkable under U.S. control.

15. Ambrose, pp. 295, 297, 302.

16. Carter, Jimmy, p. 142.

17. pp. 167-168.

18. pp. 71-78. Nearly all media appearances have discussed the abortion issue; to his credit, he has said he does not believe in Partial Birth Abortion. It is unknown where the courage of his convictions were when President Clinton repeatedly vetoed the PBA ban and banished pro-life Pennsylvania Governor Robert Casey from the 1992 convention.

19. p. 107.

20. Gertz, Bill. Betrayal: How the Clinton Administration Undermined American Security (Washington, D.C.: Regnery Publishing, Inc., 1999), p. 116.

21. p. 104.

22. Grant and Harding may have been weak and corrupt, but they didn’t set totalitarianism on the march, decimate the U.S. economy, and transform an allied nation into an exporter of Islamist fundamentalism – all in one term. The presidency itself was a weaker institution in their day. By the modern era, the American president acted as leader of the free world. In that capacity, Carter choked during the most strategic moment of the Cold War. If the sundering of the Union would not have sanctioned slavery and diminished America’s role in advancing liberty throughout the world in the following century, Carter would qualify as the worst president ever.

 

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Ben Johnson is Managing Editor of FrontPage Magazine and co-author, with David Horowitz, of the book Party of Defeat. He is also the author of the books Teresa Heinz Kerry's Radical Gifts (2009) and 57 Varieties of Radical Causes: Teresa Heinz Kerry's Charitable Giving (2004).


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