I believe, similar to George H.W. Bush, Richard Nixon, Dwight Eisenhower and Harry Truman, the Jimmy Carter presidency, looks better in the history books, than it does when it was actually going on. I’m not saying President Carter was a great president. Because of course he wasn’t at least when you consider the issues he had to deal with and how little success he had dealing with them. But he was a president, who was ahead of his time, similar to Richard Nixon, saw things happening in the future. Which is what all very intelligent people can do and knew that those challenges and issues needed to be addressed right away.
Jimmy Carter, is known as a great ex-president, which he certainly is. With his work in dealing with human rights and environmental issues and energy policy. But as he’s said before, a lot of the work that he’s done as an ex-president, he started it as President, but ran out of time and wasn’t able to finish the job. As President, he not only wanted to get America off of foreign oil, but not be reliant on oil at all, or at least not as our sole main energy source. He did get and national energy policy out of Congress, that was reliant on renewable energy, including solar.
During a rough period in the Cold War, when Russia was trying to dominate and control Central Asia, that wasn’t part of the Soviet Union and invaded Afghanistan in 1979, President Carter, was talking about human rights and making human rights officially part of American foreign policy. The first American President to ever do that. Saying that human rights aren’t just an America value, or only something owed to Americans, but something that the whole world deserved. He brought peace between the Jewish State of Israel and the largest Arab country in the world, in Egypt. Almost forty years later, Israel and Egypt are still at peace.
The criticism’s against President Carter, are obvious. The economy, was never in good shape under his watch. He had four years to address it and really didn’t do anything that could help make the economy healthy again. His policy prescription was wrong. Talking about balanced budgets, when he had high interest rates, high energy prices, high unemployment and needed to put people back to work instead. Not knowing the situation on the ground in Iran and knot knowing how unpopular the Shah of Iran was and talking about him like a great man. When in fact he was an authoritarian dictator, who locked people up secretly, simply for opposing his regime. Which I believe is one of the reasons for the Iran Hostage Crisis in 1979-80. And essentially ruined his presidency.
And even though President Carter had a Democratic Congress, with large majorities in both the House and Senate, President Carter was a Southern New Democrat. The Bill Clinton of his generation, dealing with a Democratic Congress, that was moving away from the South and becoming heavily dependent on the North, as well as racial and ethnic minorities for support. The Democratic Party, developing a large McGovernite social democratic New-Left wing. That emerges in the late 1960s and grows throughout the 1970s. So I’m not not sure President Carter would’ve been able to deal with the economy effectively even if had the policies to do it.
President Carter, had his weakness’s. One of the best and most intelligent analysts when it comes to analyzing policies and problems. But one of the least effective when it came to addressing problems. And sometimes not being able to address problems at all. Like the economic malaise and the Great Deflation. High interest rates, plus high inflation, that wipes out whatever economic growth you might have. But he’s someone who was President during a time that perhaps the most skillful politician, with the best communication skills and principles, would’ve struggled to deal with effectively.
One of the differences between Jimmy Carter and Barack Obama, is that President Obama when times are tough, can also show people how things are good and getting better. President Carter, didn’t have that and didn’t have policies that made people feel better. But still, if you look at foreign policy, energy policy and how President Carter helped change the Democratic Party for New Democrats to be able to take over, he looks a lot better now, than he did thirty-five years ago.
VOA News: The Legacy of Jimmy Carter- The Preacher From Plains