Well, former President James Earl Carter, Jr. finally received the Nobel Prize for Peace after he returned from his visit to dictator and mass murderer Fidel Castro in Cuba. The always righteous Carter lectured both the Bush administration and Castro, however obliquely, when giving an unprecedented address to Cuban university students, which was televised live and uncensored throughout Cuba. Carter, eager to win the Nobel Prize, chastised the Bush administration for continuing this country's economic boycott of Cuba, and he criticized Castro for not permitting free elections. His speech contained just a little something for everybody.
Jimmy Carter's disastrous presidency was the result of the aftermath of Richard Nixon's abuse of presidential power and the weakness of the 33rd degree Mason who succeeded him, Gerald Rudolph Ford, Jr. That Ford, who prematurely "liberated" Eastern Europe from Soviet domination in his second televised debate with Carter in October of 1976, came from thirty-three points behind Carter to finish four points behind in the national popular vote was a testament to the fact that many people were terrified of Carter's simple-mindedness and absolute inexperience in national governance. Indeed, Johnny Carson summed up Carter's naked ambition to be president when playing his Carnack the Magnificent seer during the Fall of 1976. Holding an envelope to his head in order to "divine" the answer to the question posed therein, Carson said, "Yes and no, pro and con, for and against." He opened up the envelope, saying, "Describe Jimmy Carter's position on three major issues." Carter was a waffler on issues long before the late former Massachusetts Senator Paul Tsongas called then Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton "the pander bear" in 1992.
Carter began his drive for elected office in 1966 when he ran for the Democratic nomination for Governor of Georgia. He finished last in the field of candidates in that primary, and denounced every single one of them as un-American, as R. Emmett Tyrell noted in The American Spectator in 1980. Carter won the governorship four years later, defeating former WSB-TV reporter Hal Suit in the general election. Carter's victory was hailed as the beginning of the "New South." Carter was not a segregationist as was the man he had succeeded, Lester Maddox (who was elected separately in 1970 as Carter's lieutenant governor, being unable to succeed himself as governor until terms then extant in the State of Georgia Constitution), or so it was contended. However, when campaigning in a largely white, blue-collar neighborhood during the Pennsylvania primary in April of 1980, Carter responded as follows to a question concerning the integration of neighborhoods: "I have always been in favor of ethnic purity." This prompted Maddox, who was also running for the Democratic presidential nomination that year, to say, "Us segregationists have been looking for a euphemism like that for a long time. Thanks, Jimmy."
Many Democrats understood how dangerous Carter was, a veritable southern-fried George McGovern who stood a chance to win in the general election in 1976 solely because of Nixon and Ford. That is why a number of old-line Democrats urged Minnesota Senator and former Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey to challenge Carter in the Pennsylvania primary. Unbeknownst, though, but to a handful of people was the fact that Humphrey was dying of pancreatic cancer. It is generally considered to be the case that Humphrey used the possibility of his candidacy as a wedge to get Carter to commit to taking on his protégé, Minnesota Senator Walter Frederick "Fritz" Mondale, as his Vice Presidential running-mate (which means that Carter's showcasing of seven possible running-mates was so much window dressing).
Jimmy Carter was then - and remains now - an utter opportunist. Although hailed by many as a man of principle, he was anything but that. Faced with an unwanted challenge from Massachusetts Senator Edward Moore Kennedy in late-1979 prior to the 1980 caucus and primary season, Carter said that he would not raise the issue of Chappaquiddick in his campaign (although it would have been legitimate for him to do so). Shortly after making that seemingly noble proclamation, Carter was asked at a town meeting at Queens College in Flushing, New York, in September of 1979 why Democrats should choose him over Senator Kennedy (who had yet to announce his candidacy, which he did in a most incompetent and inarticulate manner in an interview with Kennedy apologist Roger Mudd on November 3, 1979, the very day that the American hostages were seized by Mohammedan militants in Iran). Carter said, "Well, I have never panicked in a crisis." No, he did not raise Chappaquiddick directly, but everyone knew what he was saying.
Carter, who, as will be demonstrated below, gutted the defense of this nation and appeased our enemies no end, wrapped himself in the American flag following the seizure of the hostages, implying that it was un-American for Kennedy even to challenge him in the midst of the hostage crisis. Carter denounced Kennedy as being weak on defense and a free-spender on domestic programs that would bankrupt the nation. After he had secured the nomination, Carter denounced the Republican presidential nominee, former California Governor Ronald Wilson Reagan, as a warmonger who would starve the poor and the elderly. As one writer noted at the time, as Carter was flailing about and making wild charges against Reagan, "We tend to forget the ego that drives Carter to retain the power he sought so doggedly in the fields of Iowa in 1975. People forget that when Gerald Ford sent Air Force One to take Carter on a vacation following the 1976 elections, Carter said, 'This is the plane I've been waiting for."
Then President Carter gave a commencement address at the University of Notre Dame in 1977, the first year of his presidency, in which he declared that Americans had possessed for too long "an inordinate obsession with and hatred for communism." He stated that he intended to deal with the Soviets as earnest seekers of peace, which is more or less what McGovern said he intended to do in his 1972 campaign against Richard Milhous Nixon (McGovern's defense budget was premised on what he termed "the good intentions of the Soviet Union," no joke). Carter proved this to be more than mere rhetoric, especially when ignoring the dangers posed by both the Soviet Union and the People's Republic of China to the Panama Canal, when lending his support to the Sandinista revolutionaries in Nicaragua (at a time when their were truly moderate forces which could have replaced the corrupt and venal Anastasio Somosza), when refusing to support the forces opposing the communist tyrants in Namibia, and when negotiating SALT II (the Strategic Arms and Limitation Treaty) with Leonid Brezhnev in 1979 in Vienna.
The Stalinist-like Brezhnev was incredulous at Carter's naivety that he invoked the name of God to urge the United States Senate to go along with the agreements he had reached with Carter. "God will never forgive us if we do not conclude this treaty," Brezhnev stated in Vienna. Although baptized in the Russian Orthodox faith, Brezhnev had renounced a belief in God as a Bolshevik. He was playing upon Carter's Baptist roots to get his adversary to believe that he had convinced him, Brezhnev, to believe in God. Brezhnev's assessment of Carter as a weakling is what in part led him to believe that he could move Soviet troops in full uniform across a border outside of Eastern Europe into Afghanistan for the first time in the Cold War since Soviet troops crossed into the Azerbaijan part of Iran in early 1946 (President Harry Truman told Joseph Stalin to get those troops out of Iran or face an atomic bomb, which the Soviets did not have at that time; Julius and Ethel Rosenberg had yet to provide the Soviets with the assistance they needed). When the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan did take place in December of 1979, Carter told Barbara Walters, "I've learned more about the Soviets in the last three weeks than I have in the last three years." The man revealed a lot about himself with that statement, proving that his Notre Dame speech was no accident.
Carter was no less a disaster domestically. Although he had promised to cut the size of the Federal government, he added two new Cabinet departments, the Department of Education and the Department of Energy. This latter concoction succeeded in creating an artificial and unnecessary gasoline and natural gas crisis in June of 1979 by basing summer allocations of fuel upon February usage, thus creating long lines and inflated prices at a time when inflation was ripping through this nation's economy. His own "misery index" (which combined the unemployment rate with the rate of inflation) nearly doubled during his disastrous presidency. Aleksandr Solzhentisyn noted at Harvard University on June 8, 1978, that a man possessed of such a naïve view of the world and incapable of governing his own nation was pretty easy prey for the Soviets and the Red Chinese (whose government Carter formally recognized in December of 1978).
Although he was nominally pro-life (he did sign the Hyde Amendment into law, which was the first effort to limit Medicaid funding for abortion), Carter ("I have lusted in my heart") did hew the feminist line as president. He called the Democratic party platform "an albatross" around his neck after he lost his re-election bid in 1980 to Reagan, specifically citing its support for abortion as a reason he lost support among the "Reagan Democrats" (Catholic blue-collar white ethnics). However, he did nothing to remove support for abortion from the Democratic Party platform. All he was concerned about was the retention of power. Period.
True, Carter brokered the peace treaty between Egypt and Israel, which resulted in the return of the Sinai Peninsula to the Egyptians by the Israelis. However, this had more do with the courage of Anwar Sadat and Menachem Begin, who began the process on their own, than with Carter, who thought he was a shoo-in for the Nobel Prize for Peace. And it has been that continuing quest for the Nobel Prize for Peace that has driven Carter to go around the world to try to resolve disputes and to serve as a "poll watcher" in elections overseas. That he broke down and wept when his buddies the Sandinistas lost free elections in February of 1990 said a lot about where Carter's sympathies reside. He is to the core a man who truly believes that communism is not evil in and of itself, and that the United States was (and remains) wrong to use its diplomatic, military and economic might to oppose it.
Sure, what can be said of Jimmy Carter can also be said of George W. Bush and his father with respect to Red China, as I noted in last month's issue of Christ or Chaos. They are appeasers, too. No doubt. But Carter has taken it upon himself to try to remain in the limelight when he should have gone home to Plains and shucked peanut shells. He was an embarrassment as president, and he is an embarrassment and an irritant as a former president. His continued coddling of communist mass murderers is going to be part and parcel of the legacy he leaves behind when he dies. If a Papal visit did not bring real reform to Cuba, neither was Carter's. He should have stayed home and sat in his season seat at the stadium named for his fellow appeaser, Ted Turner.
Thomas A. Droleskey, Ph.D.
For past columns in The DAILY CATHOLIC by Dr. Droleskey, see Archives