James Earl Carter has referred to his tenure as post-president as superior to that of other presidents. Many have said that if we were to compare resumes, William Howard Taft may have to be considered the president with the greatest post-president career. Taft was nominated chief justice of the Supreme Court by Warren G. Harding. Others have said that John Quincy Adams votes and statements as a Congressman, post-presidency, led to the abolition of slavery. Carter built some houses, prevented a third world dictator from getting recalled, issued some “objective” statements about America’s place in the world during the administrations that followed him that some have seen as anti-American statements, and he brought Michael Moore to the Democratic National Convention. Carter has since backtracked on the “superior to that of other presidents” by saying that his “opportunity” is superior to most presidents.
As for his tenure in office, Carter was asked what he thought of the statement: ‘Obama is the worst president since James Earl Carter.’ “I can’t control what others say or think,” Carter replied. That is true, but you could refute them. You could say that negotiating and signing the “Panama Canal Treaties” that pledged to relinquish control of the Panama Canal to a third-world dictator was a wise one. You could say that ending the Russian wheat deal that may have lessened Cold War tensions and helped the U.S. Agricultural industry was a wise decision. You could say that your decision to do nothing during the Iranian Revolution that eventually gave rise to Radical Islam was a wise decision in hindsight. You could say that your policies during the Iran Hostage ordeal were wise, and that they eventually led to the release of the hostages moments after Ronald Reagan took office. Discoverthenetworks.org has provided a very concise summary of this moment in history:
“On New Year’s Eve 1977, Carter toasted the Shah’s Iran as “an island of stability in one of the more troubled areas of the world … [due] to the respect, admiration and love which your people give to you.” Eight months later, the CIA issued the report Iran in the 1980s, in which Carter’s intelligence experts surmised, “Iran is not in a revolutionary or even a ‘prerevolutionary’ situation.” As tensions mounted, Carter withdrew U.S. support from the Shah, turning Iran into a beacon of hope for jihadists around the world. Before admitting the exiled Shah to America, Carter accepted Iranian guarantees that the U.S. embassy in Tehran could be kept secure — one of the costliest miscalculations in the history of American foreign policy. As the subsequent 14-month-long hostage crisis dragged on, Carter ultimately agreed to pay a ransom of $8 billion (of which Iran netted $3 billion), although Ronald Reagan’s toughness and resolution was the decisive factor in ending the crisis.”
Instead of pointless and laughable attempts to defend his legacy, Carter decided to focus on a failed attempt to pass nationalized health care. What kind of world leader–of the most powerful country in the world–blames others for their failures? I don’t think it can be disputed that it takes a mighty ego, and a larger than life personality, to believe he can lead the most powerful nation in the world. What can be said of that same man who engages in petty, child-like accusations against deceased politicians who blocked his legislation? Rather than talk about the legislative defeat he took and how he could’ve done it better to win over the hearts and minds of representatives, this man decided to have a kick at the corpse of Senator Ted Kennedy? What must it be like to have voted for this man twice? There are some of you out there. Most Americans almost wish that Carter had passed nationalized health care back then, for it would’ve meant that we had a strong world leader (Ronald Reagan) who would’ve been able to overturn it. We don’t have the same assurances now.
Carter also claimed to have passed more legislation than any other president, save LBJ, during his tenure. I don’t know the statistics of this, but I know the results of his voluminous pieces of legislation: economic inflation (13.5%) that didn’t begin to subside until two years after he left office, annual deficits that ran twelve times larger than Nixon’s (42%), and these would’ve been much larger if Carter’s nationalized health care initiative had passed. Carter’s price controls led to rationing, a shortage on fuels and gas lines that were said to be a mile long in some cases, interest rates that stood as high as 21%, unemployment numbers as high as 7%, and a general misery index that tabulated as high as 20.5%. All of this resulted in a “crisis of confidence” and a general malaise among the citizens of the U.S. that led Carter to give a speech that blamed the American people for “worshipping self-indulgence and consumption.” How long did it take for us to recover from Carter’s legislative and policy successes? Some say that we still haven’t totally recovered from them.
Henry Kissinger summarized: ‘The Carter administration has managed the extraordinary feat of having, at one and the same time, the worst relations with our allies, the worst relations with our adversaries, and the most serious upheavals in the developing world since the end of the Second World War.'”
The (liberal) New Republic (which endorsed John Anderson that year) editorialized: “He [Carter] has made our society less prosperous without making it more generous. He has made this country less respected and feared abroad without making it more loved.”
After he left office, James Earl Carter built some houses for his Habitat for Humanity. These houses are now falling apart.
After he left office, he certified a vote that would’ve recalled Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez. The tabulation, according to Carter and Chavez, showed that Venezuelans were against the recall by a 59% to 41% tabulation. Exit polling by the highly regarded Penn, Schoen & Berland Associates found the exact opposite to be the case. Penn, Schoen & Berland Associates is seen as a largely Democratic firm as opposed to the easily manipulated software tabulations that Carter and Chavez trusted. Carter then went on to challenge the Florida election of George W. Bush. Unfortunately, most news outlets—liberal and conservative—have found that Bush won Florida and the election to recall Chavez was loaded with fraud and other improprieties.
Prior to Carter, former presidents did not comment on the current president’s initiatives and foreign policy moves. Hoover may have beat him to the precedent, but Hoover did nothing to attempt to sabotage his successor. Carter has done thing in his post-presidential tenure that even the Democrat President Clinton’s administration commented were treasonous. The idea that former presidents not criticize a current, sitting president was admittedly an old boy’s network, but it was also seen as an imperative agreement among the ex’s that suggested the being president was hard enough. It was also a silent, agreed upon notion that no current president needed the added pressure of being undermined by a former president. In other words, current presidents have to battle Congressman, Senators, local politicians, the media, the polls, and foreign leaders, they don’t need the added pressure of having to deal with someone who has been there and knows what they’re going through.
It has been said that the ego that it takes to be a president could no longer be maintained by James Earl Carter and his wife Rosalyn. If we put ourselves in his shoes, we have to imagine that it would be difficult for any of us to have our legacy diminished by so many for so many decades, especially if we managed to secure for ourselves the highest office in the land. We have to imagine how difficult parties and get togethers would be if we believed that even our friends and family were diminishing that which should be considered an incredible accomplishment. The question must be asked, based on Carter’s precedent, would we sell our souls to defeat such external and internal criticism?