Hit & Run

Carter Country, Or, Why Kerry Will Lose, Part XXV


I agree with Jesse Walker that Clinton's speech was in many (maybe most) ways a masterpiece or, at any rate, a better case for Kerry than the Bay State Windbag has ever made for himself, or is likely to.

Yet for me the takeaway from last night--and another sign that Dems are out of touch with electoral reality--was the featured appearance by Jimmy Carter. Forget all the euphemisms people use for this guy--"he's the greatest ex-president of all time" and that sort of thing. That's a polite way of saying he's a big loser, an embarrassment to his party, his state, and his country. The only way he should have been at the DNC was swinging a hammer to build the sets.

Carter is the vestige of a hollowed-out America that is (thankfully) largely forgotten. For Christ's sake, Carter wasn't even a libertine in the '70s (a gloriously underappreciated decade), but a finger-wagging, sweater-wearing, thermostat-lowering, lusting-only-in-his-heart, Olympic-boycotting, grain-embargoing moralist who mispronounces "nuclear" with a panache matched only by the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

More specifically, Carter is the biggest recent presidential failure in terms of foreign policy. Bush may be a moron on this score, too, but no one doubts American power (though, to echo Clinton from last night, they may well be right to question its wisdom). To hear Carter talk about current problems in the Middle East is to revisit his bold triumphs in the region, most notably the fashion show of dozens of American hostages being paraded out of the U.S. embassay in Tehran (would that he talked about the one area of success in his presidency, the deregulation of key industries such as interstate trucking and airlines.)

If the Dems think Carter is qualified to speak on foreign policy, they're dumber than Sean Hannity and Ann Coulter put together and they've got a very tenuous grasp of the voting public old enough to remember a president who lost a fight with a killer rabbit.

The upside of this for the Dems and Kerry is that the audience for last night's spectacle was about as large as the viewership of the forgotten sitcom Carter Country. The downside means that Clinton's speech has also largely gone down the memory hole too.