Jimmy Carter: A different view of the 39th President

On Friday, the Carter Center released the following statement on the 98-year-old former President:

After a series of short hospital stays, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter today decided to spend his remaining time at home with his family and receive hospice care instead of additional medical intervention. He has the full support of his family and his medical team. The Carter family asks for privacy during this time and is grateful forthe concern shown by his many admirers.

Five years ago, I took a look at the 39th President and his time in office and here is what I came up with:

Image/White House

James Earl Carter, Jr, a Democrat from Plains, Georgia, was the 39th President of the United States.

I believe and will lay out my case, while the Republicans ridiculed and criticized him incessantly, particularly pre-Obama, he was actually better than most give him credit.

Let’s remember the cards he was dealt when he came into office. He took the White House two years after perhaps the most corrupt and the worst, and I’m not just talking Watergate, Presidents in Richard Nixon, one of the most liberal of the modern Presidents.

Nixon’s monetary and fiscal policies were disastrous and expanded federal involvement in a number of domestic areas–the United States unilaterally terminated convertibility of the US dollar to gold, rapid expansion of the money supply, wage and price controls, EPA and OSHA, etc.

In addition, he did not get us out of Vietnam as quickly as he could have.

We then had two addition years of bad economic policies with Gerald Ford and in 1976–enter Jimmy Carter.

First, President Carter had a much less interventionist, more restrained foreign policy–in fact, I believe not one bullet was fired in battle during Carter’s four years.

He pursued a decrease in military spending during his term and essentially ignored the bad advice of hawk National Security Advisor, the late Zbigniew Brzezinski (yes, the father of Morning Joe’s Mika).

While Brzezinski encouraged Carter in 1977 to side militarily with Somalia against the Soviet-backed Ethiopians on the Horn of Africa, Carter said no way to getting involved militarily in a region that had absolutely no strategic interest to the US.

He tried to pull US troops out of South Korea; however, Republican and Democratic congressmen and women criticized the President fiercely and tens of thousands of US military remain on the Korean Peninsula to this day.

He terminated military and economic aid in Nicaragua and tried to stop the US meddling in the country.

Some criticize the handling of the Panama Canal and Iran; however, Panama was and is a sovereign nation and no US Embassy hostages were killed in Iran. There is an argument to be made about the handling of Iran at that time, I get that.

Perhaps Carter’s biggest foreign policy mistake (again a Brzezinski brainchild) was the funding of the Afghanistan mujahideen–we see how badly that ended.

Economically, as I previously mentioned, Carter was dealt a tough hand. The outcome of Nixon’s horrible policies of easy money and cheap credit (sound familiar?) lingered through the decade into the next in the guise of stagflation.

Inflation was a huge issue during this period and Carter’s answer–Paul Volcker. The nomination of Volcker to head the Federal Reserve with a tight-money policy arguably led to the economic success of the Reagan years.

This was Carter’s priority–getting a handle on the severe inflation.

Ironically, Volcker was a significant part of Nixon’s liberal policies–inflation, dropping the gold standard and wage and price controls.

I would also argue that Carter was the last “budget hawk” to occupy the White House–eliminating pork barrel projects reforming welfare, not for increasing the minimum wage and refusing to support Ted Kennedy’s federally funded national health insurance for all (yes, this idea has been around Washington for decades).

I remember as a child and a teen in the 1970s, flying on an airplane was a treat, a luxury and families with our income just didn’t do it. Instead, we packed up the car to drive from the northeast to Disney World.

It was just too expensive to fly. Younger people today may find this to be foreign.

But thanks to President Carter, airline, trucking and energy was deregulated and we have reaped the benefits of that to this day.

His economic policies would preclude him from getting one vote today in today’s Democratic Party.

Unfortunately, Carter did create two massive bureaucracies–the Department of Energy and the Department of Education–two agencies that Republicans campaign on getting rid of every four years and never make an attempt at actually doing it.

This is just a summary of the good and bad of Jimmy Carter’s presidency. I would argue the good policies certainly outweigh the bad.

Unfortunately, the perceived Iran debacle and the brutal stagflation was just too much to get reelected.

One last thing…he was a genuinely humble and nice guy who would openly apologize and admit mistakes when he made them–you clearly do not see that anymore.


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