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

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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.

NEXT: Humanity Is Beautiful. People Suck.

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  1. “If the Kerry camp was worried about their candidate’s foreign policy credibility…”

    The only credibility he has on foreign policy seems to be in your mind.

  2. ryan,

    thanks. of course i meant monetary policy. Sheesh, my bad. And I agree with michael about the rest of this thread…

  3. crimethink, if the RNC gives Lott a prominent prime time speaking slot, it would signal that they’re not concerned about their candidate’s standing with people who are concerned with racial issues. Which is why Lott is not going to get a prime time speaking slot. (Please, please let me be wrong about that).

    Well, Doug, there’s also the national polling. But yes, other than my mind and the consistent results of the polling, there really isn’t any reason to think Kerry has credibility on foreign policy.

  4. Carter spoke of his Israel policy, which was relatively quite successful . . .

    To the extent that it consisted nearly entirely of “Bribe Egypt to the tune of several billion dollars annually to play nice with Israel, even while airing state-sponsored versions of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion and continuing to tacitly foment terrorism,” sure. Roaring success.

  5. Is there something going on in Boston this week? I’ve stopped by Jimmy’s a few times to check on his still and Roslyn keeps sayin’ he’s up north.

  6. Hey, I liked Carter Country.

    It sure beat that cheap knock-off She’s the Sheriff.

    What?

  7. Phil, (re: Carter & the Levant)

    a) I hope you’re not implying you think bribery is somehow rare in US (or any other) diplomacy…

    b) perhaps I should have italicized relatively…among US Presidents in my lifetime (since Nixon), his efforts to slow the tide of blood & bile look relatively successful; especially as compared with W’s. I might even rank Bush’s dad up there(?). Granted it’s not a stellar group.

    Mostly Carter’s foreign policy was contiguous with that all presidents in the Cold War, and I’d venture to say less destructive than most. His screwups (I’d guess letting the Shah come here was the worst) were harldy out of line w/ the Dulles-Kissinger line of policy…

    Oh, and speaking of relatively, I seem to remember Sadat getting his brains blown out for taking the bribe, and, I guess, only “tacitly” fomenting terrorism…whatever that’s worth–mostly just depressing I guess.

    m

  8. In Carter’s defense, I have to say that his family was really entertaining.

  9. If the Kerry camp was worried about their candidate’s foreign policy credibility, they probably would have kept Carter hidden.

    But they’re not.

  10. Nick, I think you’re being manifestly unfair to President Carter. The link says he won the fight with the killer rabbit.

  11. crimethink: to enter a fight with a killer rabbit is to lose it.

  12. That’s no ordinary rabbit!

  13. It’s got big, sharp, pointy teeth

  14. Not to forget Carter’s evisceration of US intelligence via his appointment of Stansfield Turner as Director Central Intelligence – from whose depredations CIA has still not recovered.

  15. 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.

    Nick, that is a truly excellent sentence. Wish I’d written it. But at least somebody has.

  16. You also forget Carter’s blaming the American people for the economy during his tenure. The American people were living beyond their means according Carter and that was what was causing inflation. No not the asinine monetary and tax policies of the 1970s. No, it was the American people. Carter told America in so many words that it was no longer a great nation and was not worthy of his enlightened leadership. He followed this up after his presidency by committing treason in urging other countries to vote against the UN resolution authorizing the first Gulf War and being a toady to any and every leftwing dictator who came calling as well as the Saudi Royal family. Carter is, taking into account his entire lifetime, the nastiest human being to hold the office of the Presidency in my lifetime, worse than Nixon or Clinton. At least Nixon tried to redeem himself after he left office. Carter just further disgraced himself.

  17. Clinton of course pronounces the word “nuclear” the same way. Personally, I think it’s ridiculous that people harp on that.

    *I* think it sounds completely uneducated that people outside the South in the US can’t correctly pronounce the different vowels in cot and caught, for one thing. And their butchering of Duke, tune, Tuesday, new, and similar words. Y’all sound like slack-jawed morons when you fail to put the “y” sound in there where it belongs. At least the British get it right, on both counts.

  18. I thought the tall, thin, liberal former president on the West Wing, rudely berating John Goodman’s character in the limo on the way to the memorial service for another former president, was a direct knock at Carter, and the uncomfortable silence of Pres. Bartlett was the writers’ commentary on how the Democratic party has changed.

  19. I remember Gerald Ford turning the thermostat down to 68 degrees and wearing a sweater with a WIN (for whip inflation now) button. So I wonder if Nick’s got his 70’s sweater wearers mixed up, though I guess I wouldn’t be shocked if Carter did some of the same shit.

    I think the momentum for drug legalization was first derailed when someone accused Carter of not caring that some of his staff did drugs and instead of saying that as long as they didn’t do ’em on the job it was a matter for local law enforcement not him, he made a big nanny-esque stink and told his staff that they WILL obey the law…

  20. If the Kerry camp was worried about their candidate’s foreign policy credibility, they probably would have kept Carter hidden. But they’re not.

    Ah. So if the RNC features a speech by Trent Lott, that will just mean that the Bush camp isn’t worried about his racial issues credibility. Right?

  21. So much of what those who seek to blame American policy on why so many Arab/Muslims hate the US can be traced back to Carter. The collapse of the Shah of Iran’s regime. Carter initially put the US on the side of the Afghan mujahadeen (sp?)which supposedly birthed Al Qaeda. Carter’s administration was among the first to recognize Saddam Hussein’s takeover of Iraq in’79. And of course Carter mediated the Camp David accords, which is the basis of the majority of tangible financial and military support our country gives to Israel. I personally think most of these things were either realpolitik, or seemed a good idea at the time, but most of the people who wish to blame America for the present state of the world, cannot seem to acknowledge Carter’s role in formulating the US policies they hate.

  22. Making fun of Carter in the 70s and bringing up only the hostage situation and the killer rabbit just shows how silly some people can be. Yes, I mean that as a flame. Carter committed treason (ah, debate is treasonous), but Nixon the criminal somehow redeemed himself (ah, crime is okay)? Man oh man, the world of deceit you live in…

    Let’s keep in mind that Carter brought in Volcker as Fed Reserve chairman, and thus arranged for the fiscal policy which succeeded in overcoming stagflation. Plus, he’s the one (not Reagan) who began a serious military buildup after Vietnam. Saint Reagan gets a lot of credit for things started before his watch. As usual, the so-called liberal media aren’t liberal at all, since they play into the game.

    Carter was a great deal more effective and valuable as a president than most of you give him credit for. Sure, he made mistakes and was defeated by Saint Ronnie, but you guys are inappropriately critical…

  23. Rothko,

    You’re right that bringing in Volcker was great, but I think you mean “monetary policy”. Not only does the Fed have no control over fiscal policy, but the Carter admistration’s fiscal policy was a travesty.

  24. Jesus.

    for some reason I come to this site occasionally expecting some kind of intelligent conversation.

    Leave aside the ubersnarkiness, 30-year-old jokes, and positively goofy history. (the biggest recent presidential failure in terms of foreign policy...because obviously Desert One totally dwarfs, say, Reagan’s sponsorship of war criminals or BushII’s squandering of all moral credibility)(btw: Carter spoke of his Israel policy, which was relatively quite successful, and contrasted it with W’s nonexistent one…he didn’t address Iran, where he reaped the whirlwind from Cold War realpolitik dating at least to Eisenhower.)

    But beside all that, is this somehow serious political analysis? You expected Carter to be banned from the convention? Are you really that clueless? He’s one of two living Presidents from the party, a respected American, and a smart guy. He’s neither an embarrassing criminal like Dick Nixon nor ill/senile like Reagan after ’92. He got a mediocre time slot and delivered some useful indictments of Bush foreign policy–useful both as red meat to delegates and surrogate electioneering. All thoroughly unremarkable. This is supposed to evince the Dems’ political ineptitude and doom them to failure?

    Get a grip, Mr. Gillespie.
    m

  25. “But yes, other than my mind and the consistent results of the polling, there really isn’t any reason to think Kerry has credibility on foreign policy.”

    No doubt this will be gone shortly, but — I would bet a majority of the people being polled about Kerry’s foreign policy credibility would have answered incorrectly the question “Who is John Kerry” before the beginning of this year. To me that would make his ‘credibility’ not very deep or serious, and I think it is a perception that can and will be eroded over the course of the campaign.

  26. “But yes, other than my mind and the consistent results of the polling, there really isn’t any reason to think Kerry has credibility on foreign policy.”

    Well, not according to the ABC News poll discussed on Slate’s Kausfiles (the poll was dated 7/26, the Kausfiles entry 7/27). It has Bush as being trusted more to handle “terrorism” by 55% to Kerry’s 37%, and “Iraq” by 52% to Kerry’s 40%. Granted, “terrorism” and “Iraq” are not the whole of “foreign policy”, but it’s a safe guess that those are both pretty high on everyone’s list of foreign policy priorities.

  27. 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.

    No offense Nick, but you’re hardly anyone that should be throwing around the dumber than whatever

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