A Forum for Opinions on News, Politics, and Life
April 26th, 2011
By Tom Carter
My friend Dan Miller had some fun with Jimmy Carter in the article just below, and with good reason. In recent years, anyway, President Carter has behaved in questionable ways, particularly on issues involving Israel and the Palestinians. When he launches off to places like North Korea, explicitly criticizing sanctions and implicitly criticizing U.S. policy, one has to wonder what motivates him.
Despite his flawed presidency and his somewhat erratic behavior, I’ve always had a soft spot for Jimmy Carter. (It doesn’t have anything to do with the fact that he bears a distinguished family name….) Beyond that, former U.S. presidents have always been and should be considered national treasures. It doesn’t matter whether one considers them to have been good presidents or not-so-good; they did the job, one of the toughest in the world, and they deserve our respect.
I followed Jimmy Carter’s political career from the early days. In 1966, I lived in Columbus, Georgia for about six months. As I had been doing since high school days, I read political news and commentary to a probably unhealthy extent. The election for governor of Georgia was in full swing, with the Democratic primary winner being virtually guaranteed to become governor. The eventual winner of the primary was Lester Maddox, a racist, segregationist, conservative buffoon. Carter, then a state senator, was one of the other candidates.
Although I didn’t vote in Georgia, I paid close attention to that Democratic primary. It was pretty clear that Carter was the best-qualified and by far the most intelligent of the candidates. It was also clear that a Maddox victory would be a smear on the state’s reputation. Not being able to restrain myself, even at that early age, I had a letter published in the Atlanta Journal (or was it the Constitution; they were published separately at that time). In the letter I opined that the best choice for Georgia was Jimmy Carter and that electing Lester Maddox would make Georgia “a pimple on the backside of America.” Maddox won the primary and became governor, and subsequent events proved the wisdom of my prediction.
Carter went on to win the governor’s race in 1970 and served four years. Then, of course, he became one of the darkest horses to win a presidential race in 1976. I voted for him that year with enthusiasm and again in 1980. What was not to like about him?
He’s a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, a nuclear engineer, and he was a member of the Navy’s elite nuclear submarine service. In order to achieve that status, he had to pass muster under the steely scrutiny of Admiral Hyman Rickover, whose infamously high standards for nuclear submariners meant that few could earn his approval. That Rickover approved of him was clear and objective proof of his rare intelligence and overall excellence as a leader and a technician. After he left the Navy, Carter proved to be a successful businessman-farmer, state legislator, and governor.
Compare his accomplishments and qualifications to those of our current president, if you care to. If ever a man should have made a good president, it was Jimmy Carter. But he didn’t.
There were several reasons why the Carter presidency wasn’t fully successful and resulted in his not being re-elected:
Looking at the whole man, in Jimmy Carter it’s impossible not to see someone of extraordinary intelligence and high moral standards who sincerely cares for other people. In addition, no one could credibly question his patriotism and love of country. Those characteristics have made him one of the most admired of our former presidents, and deservedly so. He’s made mistakes, true, and he’s taken positions that are regrettable. But no one, aside from me and you, is perfect.
I’ll always have a soft spot for Jimmy Carter no matter what. And looking at our current president and his two predecessors reinforces my respect for President Carter.
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