Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Annals of naïveté 

So, I'm in the middle of Natan Sharansky's The Case for Democracy (I am, admittedly, the last blogger in the world to have read it) and I stumble across this passage, in which Sharansky describes an encounter with Jimmy Carter soon after Sharansky's release:
As far as peace [between Israel and the Arabs] depending on [Arab] democracy, Carter said Israel should not wait. "It's true," he said, "Assad is a dictator. But you can rely on him. He never lied to me. If you sign an agreement, he'll keep it. When I was president, I visited Syria. Our intelligence knew that Assad had violated one of his obligations on a security-related issue. When I raised the question with Assad, he emphatically denied it. Before leaving for the airport, I told people in our delegation how disappointed I was because Assad never lied to me before and now clearly he was. But on the way to the airport, Assad called to apologize. He told me he had checked the point I raised and that he had been mistaken. He promised to correct the problem."

"So you see," Carter told me, "he never lies. If he signs an agreement with Israel, he'll keep it."

"Our intelligence knew that Assad had violated one of his obligations," yet because he confessed it after having been caught we should take this as evidence that Assad does not lie and will keep his agreements? This anecdote, it seems to me, is rather precise evidence that Assad did lie and would not keep his agreements.

Assuming Sharansky's account is accurate, it reveals that Jimmy Carter was -- in that moment, at least -- either astonishingly naïve or very arrogant. He was naïve if he believed what he said about Assad, and he was arrogant if he did not believe what he said about Assad but thought that Sharansky would buy his absurd argument.

It is amazing that Jimmy Carter was ever president of the United States. It is more amazing that memories of his incompetence have dimmed to the extent that the Democrats felt comfortable trotting him out at their national convention last year.


By Blogger DonSurber, at Wed Sep 21, 07:26:00 AM:

Nice point. We often overlook dictators tolerated by the left.  

By Blogger Cardinalpark, at Wed Sep 21, 09:01:00 AM:

Carter was an idiot and an embarrassment and continues to be. He was an atrocious president. The current generation that seems to harbor some bizarre admiration for him does so out of complete ignorance over his incompetence and the woeful period of his presidency.  

By Blogger Viatrix, at Wed Sep 21, 09:23:00 AM:

With that and other quotes in the Sharansky book, and the regimes he has supported today, he displays some of the most astonishing naivete--nay, utter cluelessness--in modern history. I never cease to be amazed that someone with less than a kindergarten-level understanding of people managed to become President and continues to be lauded.

The day Carter ever comes out in ringing endorsement of a US election may just be the day I need to move.  

By Blogger Counter Trey, at Wed Sep 21, 10:22:00 AM:

Yeah, but he's a very good carpenter.  

By Blogger Catchy Pseudonym, at Wed Sep 21, 11:55:00 AM:

Carter has done more and continues to more for people than all the recent presidents combined. The Carter Center does an extraordinary amount of work throughout the world. That's where the admiration comes from. All the people slamming him, are insignificant specks of uselessness compared to the humanitarian goals this man as worked to achieve.

He may be naive, but he truly cares about people and has spent his last years busting his ass to achieve something.

Can't wait to see the large humantiarian goals W. sets for himself when he gets out of the White House. Maybe he can convince people that picking up kindling on a billion acre wanna-be cowboy ranch is a great humanitarian acheivement.  

By Blogger TigerHawk, at Wed Sep 21, 01:05:00 PM:

I do not denigrate Carter's good works since he has been president. His mistake was in believing that the presidency of the United States has anything to do with good works, at least in the charitable do-gooder sense. It is catastrophic to believe that, and even more catastrophic to act on those beliefs.

That having been said, it is not at all clear that Jimmy Carter and George Bush have a substantially different cognitive model for looking at the world. Both believe in the transformational power of principle. Dubya is far closer to Carter in his grasp of cause and effect than most conservatives would willingly acknowledge (how's that for a radical statement that will make nobody happy).

Indeed, that would make an interesting blog post...  

By Blogger john, at Wed Sep 21, 01:28:00 PM:

I agree that Carter is a loser....but what about GW "looking into the eyes of Putin" and seeing a "good man"? Naivete is a bi-partisan trait in our Presidents...  

By Blogger Catchy Pseudonym, at Wed Sep 21, 03:30:00 PM:

Comparing Bush and Carter in any respect will cause certain people's heads to explode. Do you really want that on your conscience? Plus I heard if Carter and Bush were to touch, they would explode with enough force to power all of the Northern Hemisphere for 30 years. I think I read that in National Geographic or something.  

By Blogger Cassandra, at Fri Sep 23, 03:46:00 PM:

Oh for Christ's sake.

I voted for Carter. You appreciate people for their qualities.

Carter is a good man, but he is completely incapable of seeing that other people do not behave as he does. That makes him an ineffective decision-maker and leader. It makes him a disaster as an executive and a complete travesty as an advisor - a position where you want a pessimist, not an optimist.

He is a wonderful ambassador - he is great at reaching out to people - at being hopeful. Put him to work anywhere where we need kindness, optimism, gentleness. He has those qualities in abundance.

Keep him far, far away from anything that requires cold, hard analysis or cynicism. He has shown over and over again that he will dither forever before coming to a decision and will refuse to see anyone's bad side. His penchant for inductive reasoning is inimical to firm resolve - he sees three sides to everything.

I recognize the beast when I see it, being one myself, but I'm a harder creature than he is.  

By Blogger cakreiz, at Sun Sep 25, 07:23:00 AM:

"Keep him far, far away from anything that requires cold, hard analysis or cynicism." Bingo, Cass. If you need a warm fuzzy, ya call Jimmy. If you need cold, hard reality, forget it. He's a well meaning fool. Voted for him in 76 (I was naive then). By 80, he was my third choice.

The Bush/Carter similarity issue is intriguing but a bit askew. As an example, Carter would've seen Saddam as redeemable. GWB had no such illusions. His illusion was that the Iraqis would embrace Americans as liberators- he was incredibly naive in this sense. Maybe it's because both men are Christian true believers.  

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