Foreign Policy

Jimmy Carter, Ever the Healer, Seeks to Soothe Own Criticism of Bush

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Just a couple of days after calling the Bush admin "the worst in history" when it comes to foreign policy, former President Jimmy "Why Not the Best" Carter is pulling back.

In an interview with the Arkansas Democrat-Gazetter, the Man from Plains, laid into Bush thus:

"We now have endorsed the concept of preemptive war where we go to war with another nation militarily, even though our own security is not directly threatened, if we want to change the regime there or if we fear that some time in the future our security might be endangered," he said.

Carter, perhaps best remembered now for fighting a killer rabbit to a draw, collapsing during a Fun Run, and overseeing a spectacularly too-little, too-late botched rescue attempt of the American hostages being held in Iran, also kicked Tony Blair around a little, calling the outgoing Brit PM "Abominable. Loyal. Blind. Apparently subservient." More here.

Bonus: Carter was being interviewed to talk up a line of audiobooks of Bible stories he's doing.

Well, what do you know? Carter's on the money regarding the preemptive war stuff. Or, less precisely, he's right to intimate that our general foreign policy above and beyond Baghdad needs a hell of a lot work. There's no overarching vision that allows for a coherent strategy that either the U.S. or other countries understand right now. This is a problem that began five minutes after the Berlin Wall fell, and we've yet to have a serious debate about what U.S. foreign policy should be like.

In any case, Carter's trying to take it back now. The man who boycotted the 1980 Olympic Games as a response to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan has now told NBC:

"My remarks were maybe careless or misinterpreted. But I wasn't comparing the overall administration and certainly not talking personally about any president."

More here. So the legacy of this latest Carter intervention may be more to burnish Carter's rep as a feckless statesman (and supporter of dictators even as he preached humanitarian foreign policy) more than directing substantive analysis on Bush's foreign policy.

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  1. I think someone pointed out to him that he’s high on the worst presidents list, too. With any luck, though, the next resident of the White House will make him (and Bush) look less inept.

  2. Pro Libertate,

    For the most part in order to be considered one of the worst Presidents one I think needs to have served two terms. James Buchanan is a notable exception.

  3. There’s no overarching vision that allows for a coherent strategy that either the U.S. or other countries understand right now.

    I thought that was the role of the “Bush Doctrine” (a term which the actual Bush administration may have never used).

    ____________________________

    Here’s a question: even if one were to approve of the “Bush Doctrine,” why would one also urge this particular administration to undertake it?

  4. For Mr Carter to insult President Bush is problematic.

    Repenting doing it is just plain stupid.

  5. No role has ever been more appropriate for Carter (or more fortunate for the rest of us) than his role as ex-President.

    Note that what I said can (and should!) be interpreted in more than one way.

  6. The worst president in history? Bubba Clinton because of his adulterous affair with Monica in the Oval Office, showing total lack of class and total disrespect for the office of the President.

    Next to worst president in history?
    Jimmy Carter – only because he DIDN’t have an affair in the Oval Office. In every other way he was the absolute worst president we ever had.

    It’s so sad to realize that Mr. Carter is senile, possibly suffering from mental illness when he stoops so low as to criticize a sitting president. His frustration with his own lame legacy is no excuse for him to take shots at President Bush.

    Isn’t he a member of the clergy, an ordained minister? Where’s his Christianity? I think he’d be wise to begin reading his Bible once again and not point fingers if he doesn’t want fingers pointed back at him.

    You can criticize someone else’s backyard only if your own backyard is clean and tidy.

  7. I suppose there can legitimately be different measures for “worst president.”

    I don’t think “having an affair” counts among them.

    Jimmy Carter wasn’t even the worst president of his decade. Which is not to say he was a good president, but let’s have a little perspective.

  8. The worst president in history? Bubba Clinton because of his adulterous affair with Monica in the Oval Office, showing total lack of class and total disrespect for the office of the President.

    Clinton is merely the first president to get caught having an affair in the White House. I’m sure plenty of Presidents have besmirched the fine and honorable office of the POTUS in a like manner.

  9. Yes, Carter was a bad president, and yes, he’s right that Bush’s foreign policy puts GWB high up on the terrible prez list.

  10. For some reason I’ve got a hankering for peanuts.

  11. V. Young – that comment was so full of it that if you plopped it in a diaper, the diaper would rupture.

    Please, Clinton is the worst because of his affair? What about JFK? Eisenhower?

    Carter the second worst? How many congressmen did he deport? How many wars did he get us into?

    Have you heard of Woodrow Wilson, who embroiled the U.S. in a World War unnecessarily? FDR, Kennedy, LBJ? Abraham Lincoln? Andrew Jackson?

    Please. Carter is not a good man. His participation in CPS which is a front organization set up by the Democratic and Republican parties to ensure their hegemony makes a mockery of all his “democratic” ideals. Clinton was a pretty bad man too. But to claim they are the worst of that crowd of gangsters is to whitewash history.

    There have been many far worse presidents.

  12. 50. Jackson

    49. Buchanan

    48. Bush

    47. Nixon

    46. Andrew Johnson

  13. Jimmy Carter wasn’t even the worst president of his decade.

    let’s call it a tie. otherwise, unusually, i’m in complete agreement. if blowjobs are the measure of a president, we should require castration before taking the oath of office.

  14. 50. (tie) nixon, carter

    49. roosevelt

    48. hoover

    47. kennedy

    46. bush ii

    45. bush i

    1. coolidge

    clinton stayed out of the bottom 10 sheerly by luck- the conflicts and scandals prevented him from doing even more stupid and awful things. to be fair, the same goes for congress during the clinton years.

  15. I am shocked at the lack of props for the president who “tried” hartdest to avoid “invitations of attack” on the USA!

    He was the appeasment poster-child of US foreign policy and needs a statue in the halls of reason right next to Chamberlain.

  16. Oh, Lamar, I am not going to explain props, appeasment or anything else in that post to you.

  17. You’re finally right, Montag. Carter is responsible for the modern equivalent of the Nazis. Just don’t ask me to define in any shape or form what that means….

  18. a statue in the halls of reason right next to Chamberlain.

    Are we talking about Wilt here?

  19. I daresay that lists that precisely place a president in his worserness are pointless. That said, I feel comfortable putting Carter and Mighty Bush Young in the lowest quartile.

    To be fair, although I have plenty of criticism to level at Clinton and his administration, the general rating of presidents doesn’t usually discount things like an uncooperative Congress. I tend to think that a Clinton with a Democratic Congress would’ve been at least ungood; however, that’s not the way it happened. He’s probably upper third quartile despite himself.

    This could easily become a how-bad-was-Nixon thread. I’m abstaining, but I welcome the impending chaos and turmoil.

    thoreau,

    It depends if we’re talking Carter or Clinton. Wait, no it doesn’t. I doubt Clinton compares in either quantity or quality to Wilt’s “appeasements”.

  20. “He was the appeasment poster-child of US foreign policy and needs a statue in the halls of reason right next to Chamberlain.”

    Yeah, Reagan’s support for Saddam, the Iranian mullahs, and the “Afghan Arabs,” combined with his foolish Lebanese adventure, sent a pretty loud message of appeasement.

    He should have been sending the Special Forces against the Islamists, like Carter did.

  21. Goodness, if Bush II is going to be excoriated for the manner in which he fought a war (and a little time is always better for historical evaluation) then surely the guy who got the majority of 55,000-plus names engraved on a black wall in the process of losing a war deserves some consideration.

    Now, I will give LBJ some credit for political courage, in the manner he was willing to sacrifice the support of his party’s southern constituency in pursuit of what he thought was best, although it is doubtful the party would have held together if LBJ hadn’t jettisoned that constituency, and there are some elements of the Civil Rights Act that are troubling, like the state prohibiting a private enterprise from associating with whomever it wishes.

    Unfortunately, however, the failure to continue U.S. Grant’s (an underrated President, btw) reconstruction policies, and the failure to fully enforce the Civil War Amendments led to a situation by the 1960s where encroaching on the right to free association became much more tenable. One injustice often leads to another.

    The fact remains, however, that tens of thousands of young Americans died fighting a war that LBJ knew early on that he did not have a winning strategy for. That’s pretty awful.

  22. For those old enough to remember.

    All sing along

    My president has a first name
    it’s J-I-M-M-Y
    My president has a second name
    it’s C-A-R-T-E-R
    oh I love to tease him every day
    and if you ask me why, I’ll say:
    cuz Jimmy Carter has a way
    of messing up the USA.

    Neville or Big Wilt
    one bated other mated
    appeasing no one.

  23. Yeah, but Carter told Jerry Falwell to go to hell. That counts for something. Not much, but a little.

  24. My only real complaint about Carter, which is what elevates him to worst in my book (with Bush 2 running a close second) is that, while he was in office, the United States was experiencing an inflation rate that approached South American excess… close to 20% per year. Talk about hurting those on fixed incomes, least able to afford it, and you have to pick Carter.

    CB

  25. LBJ had the grace not to inflict himself on us any further once he recognized that his war was a disaster. And what was Bush’s Civil Rights Act? USA PATRIOT?

    Still, I can see putting him in the bottom third.

  26. CB,

    Carter, like Bush 41, had the bad luck to take office just when his predecessors’ economic policy mistakes came home to roost.

  27. I suppose there can legitimately be different measures for “worst president.” I don’t think “having an affair” counts among them.

    Sigh. I suppose it is the worst offense, if you think, like a lot of Americans, that the President’s job is to be tantamount to a king, a shining example of moral rectitude.

  28. Well, Carter would know a bad president. Takes one …

    On the other hand, he could be right about Bush.

    Carter is the kind of guy you hate to find yourself agreeing with.

  29. “Carter, like Bush 41, had the bad luck to take office just when his predecessors’ economic policy mistakes came home to roost.”

    Interesting perspective. Wrong, of course, but interesting nonetheless.

    Ford might have inherited Nixon’s “economic policy mistakes”, but as the inflation rates show, he was able to reign that back in, until Carter took over.

    Let’s not be revisionist. The data’s here – http://inflationdata.com/inflation/Inflation_Rate/HistoricalInflation.aspx?dsInflation_currentPage=2.

    CB

  30. LBJ used to make cabinet members talk to him while he was sitting on the commode. With the door open. He should get points for that.

    I’m dubious about assigning much credit or blame to presidents for the economy.

  31. CB,

    The up and down between Ford and Carter’s terms is so much noise, compared to the normal rates of inflation before and after.

    And let’s not forget the timing of OPEC’s little act of economic warfare.

  32. Hell, Clinton should get points for getting a BJ in the office. However, some points should be subtracted for the quality of the girl involved. He could have done much better!

  33. An interesting statistic that was frequently in the papers at the end of the Carter ‘era’ was “his doubling of the women’s workforce”.

    Interesting in the fact that he didn’t hire any of them, but his economic policies (with cooperation of the Congress) did drive many single-income households into the ranks of dual-income through a desire for luxuries heat, clothing and food.

  34. Oh, and I have no idea if that saying was true or not, it was just repeated a lot.

  35. Pro Libertate,

    To me that always sound a bit like how European monarchies used to function.

  36. Grotius,

    Indeed. Gotta show those jokers who the boss is, right?

    Back to Buchanan. He set up the Civil War, but Lincoln may have spiked it–“In your face!”

  37. A Texan president, insecure about his intellect and hostile to the East Coast braniacs who surround him, using little stunts to remind them who’s boss?

    That’s sounds familiar.

  38. Big difference between LBJ and Clinton’s BJ.

  39. Texans are scary. Though I guess I’m about to vote for one. Uh, oh.

  40. Yes, Reagan’s Lebanon fiasco was the low point of his Presidency. However, given that the overarching concern of the day was a Soviet Empire still in an expansionist phase, it is not surprising that the Reagan Administration was inattentive to the nature of the internal politics of the Middle East. Using Islamist factions to help greatly weaken the Soviet Empire was smart. Abandoning Afghanistan in the manner that Bush I and Clinton did was not.

    When evaluating Presidents, it is useful to delineate between foreign policy and domestic policy, and to evaluate them in the context of the difficulties they faced upon taking office. I count Roosevelt as a great President because, while his domestic policies were largely ineffective, when not outright oppressive, he did have a positive effect on public morale upon taking office in the worst of situations. More importantly, when nearly every political current was working against the U.S. being active in the international arena, he recognized and acted upon what was taking place in Europe and Asia. Yes, the U.S. was woefully ill-prepared for WWII, and it was on Roosevelt’s watch that the greatest military disaster took place, with the U.S. remaining complacent after losing track of the Japanese Imperial Fleet following months of sabre-rattling. Matters could have been much worse with a different President, however.

    Along the same lines, Nixon certainly had the worst domestic policies of any post-war President. He should have been impeached for wage and price controls, and for naming Arthur Burns as Fed Chairman, and then intimidating him into some of the worst monetary policy imaginable. This is before Watergate is even mentioned. He did inherit a truly awful situation in regards to foreign policy, but, then again, if he and Kissinger really did sabotage the Paris talks during the ’68 campaign, and thus prevented the same settlement in’73 form occurring 4 years earlier, that is about as bad as it gets. I’m unsure if this is the case, however.

    Carter wasn’t a good President, but he did have really lousy luck in regards to oil prices, albeit with the aid of a clueless policy regarding Iran, before and after the Shah was removed. Like Reagan, however, the Soviet Empire was the primary foreign policy issue of the day, and Carter did take power right after the U.S, military had reached it’s post-war low point. To his credit, Carter did name Volcker Fed Chief (btw, one of the best things Reagan did was not apply any political pressure to Volcker, when the Fed Chairman was prescribing some very bitter medicine indeed), started the trend towards degulation, and did begin to help the military recover.

    Clinton’s Presidency, I think will be in the future be seen as one of lost opportunity. He inherited the office in about the most favorable conditions of any President in the 20th century, and while he didn’t screw anything up domestically (which is not an achivement to be underrated) his inattention and timidity, internationally, to the most pressing issue of his time in office, how the internal politics of the Persian Gulf and wider Middle East were expressed globally, proved to be very costly. Domestically, there was a real opportunity to do something useful regarding a trend that all prosperous western democracies face, the tendency to become gerontocracies, where the interests of the young are given short shrift, due to the politically powerful elderly and late middle-aged. A shame, really, but, again, one shouldn’t underrate the accomplishment of not fouling things up terribly.

    This post is entirely too long, but, in closing, one shouldn’t overlook what a truly awful President Woodrow Wilson was.

  41. btw, the recesssion that Bush I endured was among the most mild on record. Reagan’s economic policies were imperfect, most notably in how a moral hazrd was allowed to result in the S&L debacle, but the 1986 tax law might be the single best tax legislation enacted in the post war era, and Reagan deserves some credit for that, along with the Senators and Congressmen who championed it, of course.

  42. As a procedural comment, I think quartiles are the way to go. Break them off into tens and elevens and you can have a reasonable discussion. Start listing them individually and you start saying things like “well if he has X higher than Y I’m going to ignore everything else he says” or whatever.

    Having said that, Carter and Bush 43 are both in my bottom 11.

    Seriously all, how are Bush 41 and Clinton ending up in your bottom 11s? Have a little historical perspective. Bottom quartile is for people who’ve made the country significantly worse in a way that cannot be undone. And there are plenty to choose from. Like Wilson. And LBJ.

  43. If getting a hummer from an underling while married to someone else is no big deal, why didn’t Clinton admit to it right away? Why rake an innoncent woman over the coals , call her a liar, a tramp who just wants to take down a President? Seems like he was very susceptible to blackmail doesn’t it? Would make him a poor President in my eyes.

    As to Bush’s pre-emptive war, the press has done a great job of portraying it thus, and not as an end to the Gulf War which was of course started by Sadaam. I guess to the elites you can invade a sovereign country and be given an oil-for-food program to treat as your slush fund and everything is peachy, but stop such from occurring and you are an imperialist. Backwards world we live in.

  44. Will Allen,

    “btw, the recesssion that Bush I endured was among the most mild on record.”

    Yes, the same technology-driven productivity increases that sustained the go-go 90s helped get us out of that recession sooner.

    Which was very fortunate. Recessions caused by massive government debt tend to be nasty and long, because of the inflationary element.

  45. joe, I think one has to be careful about making simple causative claims regarding something as complex as the U.S. economy, ignoring for now the impact of fiscal policies on inflation, as opposed to the impact of monetary policies. In any case, Bush I suffered more from a very, very, tired campaign effort in 1992 than he did from any of Reagan’s policies, unless one wishes to count Reagan’s contribution to foreign policy playing a smaller role in ’92 election than in any Presidential cycle since 1936.

  46. Pro Libertate,

    Well, with the French court under Louis XIV* onward the whole ritual of helping a monarch get dressed, etc. was a way to infantalize the aristocracy. Then again, it also stripped the monarch of certain types of freedom and kept him hidden from the public in ways that undermined his authority.

    *Of course there were less extreme precedents for this behavior that Louis XIV drew on.

  47. Pro Libertate,

    Then again, to me it seems like the executive of any nation over time becomes an ever more remote figure from the public.

  48. Grotius,

    It’s funny that you mention Louis XIV, because I just heard him tell D’Artagnan about his authoritarian plans in my audio book version of The Man in the Iron Mask (unabridged–can’t abide abridgments). Bastard. Wish his twin brother had kept the throne 🙂

    I think the trend towards a more isolated and distant executive is a real problem, probably in republics as well as in monarchies.

  49. Damn, I left out Nixon from my list!

    All those futurama episodes must have warmed me to him.

  50. Pro Libertate,

    Well, if you have read or do read The Three Musketeers note that Louis XIII was a far more competent and interesting figure than Dumas describes. I never read The Man Iron Mask.

    I think the trend towards a more isolated and distant executive is a real problem, probably in republics as well as in monarchies.

    Definately.

  51. Clinton’s considered among the worst, because he got a blow job?

    Clinton must have been better than I thought.

  52. “Carter, like Bush 41, had the bad luck to take office just when his predecessors’ economic policy mistakes came home to roost.”

    Were you of sentient age during the Carter presidency?

    Jimmuh Cahtuh made a shitload of economic policy mistakes on his own. Remember his attempts to ration gasoline back in 1979 instead of relying on market forces to allocate supplies? How about the government-run synthetic fuels corporation he was pushing? His attempts to cram the metric system down our throats? The guy never saw a “problem” for which he didn’t think a new federal law or agency was the appropriate solution.

    And his self-congratulatory sanctimoniousness was grating beyond words. Preachiness and incompetence are a ghastly combination. If you haven’t read Joe Califano’s account of his White House years, do so; his story of how Carter sprnt time resolving disputes between White House staffers over who got to use the White House tennis court is maybe the best example of how Carter never grasped what being president is all about.

    Carter is right if he thinks GWB is a world-class turd. But so is Jimmuh.

  53. Harry,

    The one thing I liked about Carter’s administration (that I know about) was its efforts to curb federal spending on water projects.

  54. Harry,

    You seem to have a great deal of hostility towards the man. And, no doubt, he made his share of mistakes.

    Now, let’s look at that statement you quoted “Carter, like Bush 41, had the bad luck to take office just when his predecessors’ economic policy mistakes came home to roost.”

    Are you seriously claiming that setting up the synthetic fuels corporation caused the stagflation of the 1970s? That fuel prices weren’t driving up inflation until Carter tried rationing? That the metric system, his failure to be a libertarian, his management style, and his sanctimony are somehow relevant to the issue of inflation?

  55. Grotius,

    Why, then, I must give you a reading assignment (all from Oxford World’s Classics):

    The Three Musketeers
    Twenty Years After
    The Vicomte de Bragelonne
    Louise de la Valli?re
    The Man in the Iron Mask

    The best from the adventure standpoint are the first two and the last. However, The Vicomte de Bragelonne and Louise de la Valli?re deal a lot with life at the court and should be of interest to anyone who likes French history.

    Once you’re done, then you must read the unabridged Count of Monte Cristo (also the Oxford World’s Classic version–I insist).

  56. Pro Libertate,

    Yeah, but I already read The Count Of Monte Cristo and The Three Musketeers. 😉

    I found the latter pretty boring.

    However, The Vicomte de Bragelonne and Louise de la Valli?re deal a lot with life at the court and should be of interest to anyone who likes French history.

    I’ve read enough of what modern day historians and the primary sources have to say about that. There was a time when I thought that Henry IV’s fucking around or his weird as activities towards his son was amusing, but it kind of wore off.

  57. Pro Libertate,

    And by weird I mean Henry IV’s obsession with his son’s sexuality.

  58. Clinton got a blow job. Bush blew up a country.
    Which is the more significant event?

  59. I’m dubious about assigning much credit or blame to presidents for the economy.

    Agreed. Presidents sure do love to claim credit, though.

  60. Of course it ain’t really weird in the context of a monarchy that depends on heirs for continuation of the kingdom, stability, etc.

  61. Grotius,

    A couple of English kings had the same worry. And look at Elizabeth, who just skipped the natural heir and gave England the Stuarts. Though their failures probably can be partially attributed to Tudor authoritarianism. The Antonine emperors in Rome had it right–adopt the best candidate for the job, don’t hand it to your oafish son or evil nephew.

    You may be in trouble for finding The Three Musketeers boring–mon Dieu! I may have to challenge you to another duel. Tell me that you at least liked The Count of Monte Cristo.

  62. Pro Libertate,

    Yeah, I liked it.

    There was a Portugese monarch who (if I recall correctly) had to demonstrate in front of foreign ambassadors that despite his deformed nature (I can’t recall the nature of the issue) he could have sexual intercourse.

  63. Of course, the same passage in the Gospel that caused Jimmy C. so much anguish — the one where Jesus explains that lusting after a woman is akin to committing adultery — also says that calling someone a fool is akin to murder. So maybe that’s the reason he repented.

  64. Looking back, I’m left to wonder:

    Why did I start with 50? And why did edna follow me?

  65. Why did I start with 50? And why did edna follow me?

    Obviously, you were thinking of the co-Presidents: Rove, Hilary Clinton, Eleanor Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson’s wife (forgotten her name for the momnent), Seward, etc.

  66. “Clinton got a blow job. Bush blew up a country.”

    Wow, did you get that off a bumper sticker?

    How about this instead:
    Clinton blew up an aspirin factory. Bush blew up a country hosting the most dangerous terrorist organization we’ve faced so far.

  67. “I’m dubious about assigning much credit or blame to presidents for the economy.”

    Agreed. Presidents sure do love to claim credit, though.

    I reckon a President can do two things about the economy, leave it alone or screw it up.

    I don’t begrudge them claiming credit though, because they will surely get the blame.

  68. Pot Calls The Kettle Black!

    Story at 11:00

    Jimah was the worst president in many a full moon. My favorite screw up was the attempted rescue of the Iranian hostages. See those dratted Israeli’s had just pulled off the raid on Entebbe and they offered their assistance in our hour of need. Genius Carter told them we could handle it just fargin’ fine without them, thankee veryyyy much. Cuz we had SOOOOOO much hostage rescue experience and, well, the Jews just didn’t know poop from breakfast on that account.

    Loved the gas lines and the 23% interest rates too.

    He’s good with a hammer though, and I’ll give him credit for that. And that squirrel story just wasn’t true, he bled a lot for that too.

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