Sunday, May 22, 2011

The inspiring humility of Jimmy Carter 

Jimmy Carter is back in the self-assessment game:

In an interview with NBC's Brian Williams, former President Jimmy Carter, who has been a target of the right through the years, lauded his own post-presidency, telling Williams, "I feel that my role as a former president is probably superior to that of other presidents."

I wonder what those accomplishments are. The really awesome deal he negotiated with North Korea on behalf of the Clinton Administration? You know, the one where he bagged his own president.
Carter negotiated an understanding with Kim Il-sung, but went further and outlined a treaty, which he announced on CNN without the permission of the Clinton White House as a way to force the US into action.

Or, perhaps he means his constant siding with the Palestinians against our ally, Israel (respect for "traditional allies" never having been very important for Jimmy Carter). Or, maybe, he means his sickening legitimization of Hugo Chavez' fraudulent re-election in 2004, a betrayal of democracy if there ever was one.

Jimmy Carter is one of the most relentlessly tedious, incompetent, and superficial people ever to occupy the White House. No amount of books, speeches, and "diplomatic interventions" can alter that basic fact, proven again by Carter's own measurement of his "post-presidency."

What a maroon.


By Blogger darovas, at Sun May 22, 11:15:00 PM:

You quoted one section of the Wikipedia article, but you conveniently left out this part:

"[The Carter Center] also works to improve global health through the control and eradication of diseases such as Guinea worm disease, river blindness, malaria, trachoma, lymphatic filariasis, and schistosomiasis. It also works to diminish the stigma of mental illnesses and improve nutrition through increased crop production in Africa. A major accomplishment of The Carter Center has been the elimination of more than 99% of cases of Guinea worm disease, a debilitating parasite that has existed since ancient times, from an estimated 3.5 million cases in 1986 to 3,190 reported cases in 2009."

Does eradicating Guinea worm disease count as an accomplishment?  

By Anonymous tyree, at Mon May 23, 12:01:00 AM:

Yes, next question?  

By Anonymous Daran, at Mon May 23, 01:51:00 AM:

Ah, Wikipedia, an unbiased reference source. Claiming other peoples accomplishments has always been a favorite pass-time of the left, so without corroborating evidence it is safest to assume that the Carter Center assisted in getting rid of the Guinea worm. Well at least they did something useful.  

By Blogger TigerHawk, at Mon May 23, 06:32:00 AM:

Darovas, the point, of course, was not that Carter had done nothing good. I am sure he has. But much of what he has done has also been bad. More to the point, he seems most proud of his diplomatic interventions, which seem to me to weigh heaviest on side of failure.  

By Blogger TigerHawk, at Mon May 23, 06:43:00 AM:

Indeed, the claim is not even necessarily true. Herbert Hoover's post-presidential accomplishments were considerable (and, of course, his pre-presidential accomplishments far exceeded those of any post-war president, save, perhaps Eisenhower).  

By Blogger A Conservative Teacher, at Mon May 23, 07:48:00 AM:

Is his post-presidency even superior to his presidency? That's debatable? Although I guess that's like a game of 'what stinks less'- nobody really wins that sort of game.  

By Anonymous E Hines, at Mon May 23, 08:14:00 AM:

Jimmy Carter is one of the most relentlessly tedious, incompetent, and superficial people ever to occupy the White House.

And yet, here we are, giving this fool air time.

As to the wonderful Wikipedia cite, works to improve this, and works to improve that--it's easy enough to claim to work for a goal, but what has he actually done, what results has he actually achieved? Where are the substantiations, beyond the bald claims of outcomes?

Eric Hines  

By Anonymous Ignoramus, at Mon May 23, 09:12:00 AM:

What made Carter especially insufferable was his belief that he was always morally superior to (and smarter than) anyone else. If you disagreed with him, it was because you were bad and stupid. This rings out once again in his lead comment above: Jimmy always has to find a way to claim that he’s “superior.”

We’ve all seen the “Welcome Back Carter” T-shirts with Obama’s picture on them. There are lots of parallels between Carter and Obama certainly. Obama represents a kind of religiosity of the left. It may be godless, but there’s lots of dogma.  

By Anonymous Boludo Tejano, at Mon May 23, 09:28:00 AM:

My grandmother, a Yellow Dog Democrat, voted against Al Smith in 1928 because of his Roman Catholic faith. After some years of the Depression, she prayed to God to forgive her for having voted for Herbert Hoover.

I pray to God to forgive me for having voted for Jimmy Carter in 1976.  

By Anonymous Ignoramus, at Mon May 23, 10:09:00 AM:

Boludo, a lot of people voted like your grandmother back in 1928. The ultimate result was FDR.

Al Smith is much forgotten today but he was one of the more influential politicians of the 20th Century. He pioneered what became FDR's New Deal voter coaltion which has mostly lasted until today. It got Al the Democratic nomination in 1928. But he got beaten so badly over the Catholic thing that the Democrats turned to FDR in 1932.

Even Al Smith was left aghast at where FDR took the nation and he actively opposed FDR's New Deal policies. He actually campaigned for the Republican nominees in 1936 and 1940.

What might have been ...  

By Blogger darovas, at Mon May 23, 10:29:00 AM:

Jack, your OP mocked Carter's claims of significant post-Presidential accomplishments and asked what those accomplishments are, as if in fact there are none (or at least none which are positive). I imagine Carter himself feels that his work in sub-Saharan Africa is significant, so for you to ignore that aspect of his work is a bit disingenuous. I realize that many of us like our villains to be all bad, but a little nuance goes a long way when it comes to credibility.

Regarding Carter's post-Presidential diplomacy, you claim that Carter undercut Clinton, but how do you know this to be the case? Carter was sent by Clinton, after all. What exactly did Clinton authorize or urge Carter to accomplish? I suspect we may never know the full details.

I agree with your assessment of Carter vis-a-vis the Chavez recall election, and I think Carter has been dogmatically anti-Israel and his book, "Palestine: Peace not Apartheid", was awful. On the other hand, his Presidential achievement of brokering the 1978 Camp David Accords was the most significant result of Middle-East diplomacy of any President ever.

Carter has of course done much more work in Africa, Asia, and the Americas. Most of it is good in my estimation. It is grandiose for him to claim that his post-Presidential accomplishments are "superior", but his level of activity is impressive.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Mon May 23, 10:43:00 AM:

"Jimmy Carter is one of the most relentlessly tedious, incompetent, and superficial people ever to occupy the White House. No amount of books, speeches, and "diplomatic interventions" can alter that basic fact"

Indeed. It is even more likely that the books, speeches and "diplomatic interventions", not to mention the unfailingly self-important sheen that is so carefully overlaid to every little thing he does (The "Elders"? Come on.) prove the case of his tediousness, incompetence and superficiality.

Agreed: Carter is a maroon.  

By Blogger D.E. Cloutier, at Mon May 23, 01:04:00 PM:

I had dinner with Jimmy Carter and some Hollywood types in L.A. before Carter's first campaign for President. I told one of Carter's helpers — Jody Powell, I think; it was some guy with a girl's name — that Carter "could become President if he were a litte taller." (Actually Jimmy wasn't short; he just seemed that way to me.)

Well, Carter won. But I was right. He wasn't tall enough for the job. Even worse, he shrank over time.  

By Anonymous David Gillies, at Tue May 24, 12:31:00 AM:

Carter is a walking violation of the Logan Act. He is the most ex- of ex-Presidents. His vanity and hubris is unspeakable. He is a weak, vacillating, pusillanimous little nebbish of a man who is the most unworthy individual to ever occupy the Oval Office until the current incumbent, who seems to be bent on no more important task than making him merely the second worst President in history.  

By Anonymous Matt, at Tue May 24, 06:29:00 AM:

I don't know - I actually like Carter as an ex-President. I think he makes a much better ex-President than he did a current President. I'm quite glad he became an ex-President so quickly. In fact, I would go so far as to say, I'm even grateful that Carter is an ex-President. Although, I bet I'll like Obama even better as an ex-President after 2012.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Tue May 24, 07:27:00 AM:


By Blogger Assistant Village Idiot, at Sun May 29, 10:11:00 PM:

darovas, Carter is not the Carter Center. He didn't eliminate diseases. That he wished to be helpful in this is largely to his credit, but lets not think like politicians inventing the internet. The diseases is being eradicated; groups other than the Carter Center itself give it credit for "leading" in the eradication; there is reference to helping countries set up eradication programs, without specifics. They've clearly done something, but it's hard to tell what. And it is especially hard to see what part Jimmy has played in it.

To say that we may never know what Clinton wanted Carter to do in NoKo is technically true. However, I know of no one, left or right, who does not think that that Carter acted beyond his writ there.

Carter has traditionally been given much credit for the Camp David accords. I think that has recently come under reconsideration - I will try and remember where. I'd give Sadat more credit anyway.

To even mention out loud that one has compared oneself to other ex-presidents is beyond arrogance. Who is it who doesn't know that to even ask those questions is to wander into conceit? The Dunning-Krueger effect is in play.

BT, I voted for him in '76 as well. John Anderson in '80, though.  

By Blogger darovas, at Sun May 29, 11:20:00 PM:

Part of the problem with politics today is an extreme tendentiousness and lack of nuance which characterizes both sides of the spectrum. The importance of Carter's work on guinea worm disease is universally acknowledged. You can read about it here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dracunculiasis As for Camp David, all three major figures deserve credit, but Carter's role is widely acknowledged to be vital. See here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Camp_David_Accords

There will be historical reassessments of various details, but nothing is going to seriously affect Carter's legacy at Camp David.

Incidentally I find it amusing to note that many who nitpick over Carter's work in an attempt to deny him any accomplishments whatsoever will then blithely go and claim that "Reagan won the Cold War" or some other ludicrous thing. I believe that Reagan was a mediocre President and history will judge him as such.  

By Blogger Assistant Village Idiot, at Sat Jun 04, 12:01:00 AM:

darovas - "The importance of Carter's work on guinea worm disease is universally acknowledged." Except, as I said, he did no work. His agency did, which is a good thing and deserves credit. That it gets a wikipedia cite does not mean that it is "universally acknowledged."

"...nothing is going to seriously affect Carter's legacy at Camp David." What were you saying about lack of nuance? Facts, over time, often do affect legacy. I think you should read carefully what I actually wrote, not what you prefer to answer.  

By Blogger darovas, at Sat Jun 04, 11:36:00 PM:

Assistant Village Idiot, who do you think is behind the work at the Carter Center if not Carter himself? Both Carter and his wife are founders and Trustees of the Center. Carter does an enormous amount of traveling, meeting with leaders, etc. to promote the goals of the Center. If you go to the Carter Center website, for example, you can read the reports of his many trips (about half a dozen each year). In the fight against Guinea worm disease, the Carter Center took a leadership role. Carter visited the region several times, met with leaders. etc.

It is true that in any organizational hierarchy, the top echelon is often not directly "in the trenches". Carter himself may not have drilled new wells, or distributed water filters. That doesn't mean he did no work, of course. Your point is absurd.

As for Carter's role at Camp David, I'll just quote from one of the best modern Israeli historians, Benny Morris, from chapter 10 of his book, "Righteous Victims", where he discusses the Israeli-Egyptian Peace. After a long dissection of the details of the negotiations, he concludes:

"For Carter, their chief engineer, the Camp David accords represented a personal triumph. All who attended agreed subsequently that without his authority, mastery of detail, ready grasp of the issues, empathy, persuasive charm, and occasionally firmness, no agreement would have been possible."

What "facts" do you think have changed Carter's legacy? I ask because I read a great deal of modern Israeli history. Not just Benny Morris but also Ephraim Karsh, Tom Segev, Avi Shlaim, Anita Shapira, Michael Oren, et al. And not only books but Israeli media like Haaretz and Jerusalem Report. I haven't encountered any significant lowering of Carter's stature vis-a-vis the CDA. So I'm wondering if you are just bluffing or if you have anything substantial in mind.  

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