It’s no secret that I hold Jimmy Carter, America’s worst ex-president and quite possibly its worst president, in deep contempt. His administration accomplished something economists had thought impossible: a stagnant economy plagued with high unemployment and high inflation — "stagflation." In foreign affairs, American prestige and power hit a post-Vietnam nadir with the humiliation of the Iranian hostage crisis and the botched rescue mission; the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan; and the Soviet adventurism in Angola, Mozambique, and Nicaragua. And it was all capped by Carter coming down from the mountain like a prophet (take notes, Barack) to tell us that it was all our fault, that we had a "national malaise," a speech that nearly had Vice-President Mondale quitting the reelection campaign.
As an ex-president, he’s been just as bad: while pretending to be an American saint through his work with Habitat for Humanity, he interfered in the foreign policy of administrations of both parties, trying to undermine Bush the Elder’s coalition to expel Saddam Hussein’s forces from Iraq, boxing the Clinton Administration into a corner by conducting private (and illegal) negotiations with North Korea over its nuclear program in 1994, and trying again to undermine Bush the Younger’s anti-Hussein coalition in 2002-03. And he wrote a book about the Middle East in which he confirmed for the world that he is a self-righteous, mendacious fool and a borderline anti-Semite.
He makes Richard Nixon and James Buchanan look good by comparison.
But I didn’t take him for a complete idiot until I read this in Bret Stephens’ column in the Wall Street Journal:
"In a democracy, I realize you don’t need to talk to the top leader to know how the country feels," he said over the weekend, responding to a question from an Israeli journalist who noted that Mr. Carter had been snubbed by most of Israel’s top leadership and reprimanded by its president, Shimon Peres. "When I go to a dictatorship, I only have to talk to one person and that’s the dictator, because he speaks for all the people."
Can there be any plainer example of the Man From Plains’ utter naivety? A dictator speaks for the people because he has the guns, Jimmy, not because he represents them in any meaningful way. A Zimbabwean who expresses how he really feels is likely to have his skull split by Mugabe’s goons, not offer a sound-bite for CNN. No wonder Carter’s willing to lay a wreath at the tomb of the terrorist Yasser Arafat and meet with terrorist Khaled Meshal, the head of Hamas: to the American Saint, who made "human rights" a political mantra in the United States and the world, these sociopathic murderers and would-be genocidists are as much representatives of their people as elected prime ministers and senators represent theirs. In some fundamental way, he really thinks they’re moral equals.
John Podhoretz thinks Carter represents an archetypal realist, a cynical player of power-politics who finds it easier to deal with dictators than those messy democracies:
Here’s the thing about dictators: They are very easy to deal with. If you ask them to do something for you, and they agree, it gets done. They don’t have bothersome parliaments or independent courts or restive populaces to hinder their actions. And it is in part for this reason that realists have long looked suspiciously on democratizing as foreign policy. It isn’t just that they are dubious about the capacity of such societies to liberalize; it is also that for the United States, a tyranny may simply be a more practical partner.
Perhaps he’s right. It would certainly explain some of the travails of Carter’s foreign policy. But, I wonder. Carter is such a sanctimonious fool that he believes only he has the wisdom and moral authority to deal effectively with tyrants. This isn’t about helping people or putting US policy on a better path: it’s all about Jimmy Carter and validating his self-image as some modern-day Isaiah.
In truth, Jimmy Carter is a disgrace and an embarrassment to the United States, and it’s time for the government to go on record denouncing his foolish interference. Fausta links to Gay Patriot’s call for the Senate to censure Carter for his current trip to meet with Meshal. I agree and I intend to write my senators (Feinstein and Boxer, God help me.), though I doubt it will go anywhere. Still, if enough people make enough of a stink….
LINKS: Gateway Pundit has video of Carter explaining why it’s important for him to sit down with Hamas, and reports that even his fellow elders are embarrassed by his "mission."