Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Jeff Jacoby: "Look in the mirror, Jimmy Carter"

Below, Fz has a rather sympathetic take on Jimmy Carter's recent comments about Bush. (Carter said, "I think as far as the adverse impact on the nation around the world, this administration has been the worst in history.") I'm inclined to be more critical. Bush may be the worst president on foreign policy in history, but Carter is right behind him. All his admirable charity work since then (leading the fight against numerous diseases in Africa, for example) doesn't change the fact that he was a failure in office. Check out Jeff Jacoby's harsh indictment of the Carter years in the Boston Globe (free registration required):

If "Pot Calling a Kettle Black" were a category in the Guinness Book of World Records, Carter would be a shoo-in for the upcoming edition. History's ultimate judgment on Bush may not be known for some time, but its verdict on Carter, who vacated the White House 26 years ago, seems clear enough. And that verdict is: Well, let's just say he would be well advised not to toss around phrases such as "worst in history" when the conversation turns to presidential performance.


It took Americans only four years to realize what a disaster Carter had been; they booted him out in 1980 by a 44-state landslide. "The worst in history," he says of Bush. Look who's talking.

Carter's poor judgement on foreign policy blunders wasn't limited to his time in office. He was right in opposing the current war in Iraq; but don't forget that, as Christopher Hitchens points out, he was against the first Gulf War as well:
Many people in retrospect think [George H.W. Bush] did a good job in assembling a large multinational coalition, under U.N. auspices, for the emancipation of Kuwait from Iraqi occupation. But Jimmy Carter used his prestige, at that uneasy moment, to make an open appeal to all governments not to join that coalition. He went public to oppose the settled policy of Congress and the declared resolutions of the United Nations and to denounce his own country as the warmonger. And, after all, why not? It was he who had created the conditions for the Gulf crisis in the first place—initially by fawning on the shah of Iran and then, when that option collapsed, by encouraging Saddam Hussein to invade Iran and by "tilting" American policy to his side. If I had done such a thing, I would take very good care to be modest when discussions of Middle Eastern crises came up. But here's the thing about self-righteous, born-again demagogues: Nothing they ever do, or did, can be attributed to anything but the very highest motives.
Where I disagree with Hitchens is on Carter's motives. I think Carter and Bush have much the same problem: their good intentions are attached to certain cluelessness about the way world actually works.

1 comment:

Fz said...

Hey, I never said Carter was a good president; I just said that he should be free to speak his mind.