The Muse of Malaise

Reply Tue 6 Jul, 2004 08:20 am
DURING THE FUNERAL CEREMONIES for President Reagan, few people mentioned the fortieth president without paying tribute to the job he did in dispelling the national mood that he met at the start of his mission: the enervation and horror, the malaise and bad feeling, the gloom and despair. The person most representative of this mood was carefully not mentioned: James Earl Carter. What was also not mentioned was that Carter was key to the legend of Reagan, symbolizing the darkness in which Reagan shone brighter, the ashes from which he would rise.

Carter is surely one of the worst failures in the history of the American presidency, but he is a failure of a special sort: He did not overreach, as did Lyndon Johnson, or seek to deceive, as did Richard Nixon. Rather, like Herbert Hoover, he seems a well-meaning sort overcome by reality. But while Hoover was blindsided by the depression, Carter failed on a broad range of matters and faced few crises he didn't first bring on himself. Most presidents, even the good ones (sometimes especially even the good ones) leave behind a mixed record of big wins and big errors, but with Carter, the darkness seems everywhere: He is all Bay of Pigs and no Missile Crisis, all Iran-contra and no "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall."

PBS, whose American Experience series on the presidents has done some fascinating things with such novelistic lives as those of Reagan, Kennedy, Nixon, Johnson, and both the Roosevelts, seemed (in a two-part series first aired two years ago and now reappearing) at a loss for how to handle this long dirge-like story, and, to its credit, the program did not flinch from portraying his actual presidency as the total disaster it was. In the end, however, it made a stab in the direction of uplift by portraying his post-presidency as a heart-warming success, the tale of a man who turned defeat in the cruel world of power into a lifetime of unselfish service.

This is the conceit ripped into shreds by Steven F. Hayward in his new book, The Real Jimmy Carter, which maintains that in his current carnation Carter is as wrongheaded and hapless as ever, that he has learned nothing at all from his-tory, and, in his new guise as a globe-trotting statesman, is reprising his role as a bringer of chaos, this time on the stage of the world.

Using a process of selective exclusion, PBS gives Carter credit for hammering away at Habitat for Humanity and raising money to fight diseases in Africa. Hayward concedes this, but then paints a less pleasant picture: Carter the ex-president has been more destructive than Carter the president, and, if possible, still more annoying, undermining later presidents with the ruthless ambition that marked his career.

Carter began, in the contentious post-civil-rights era in the deep South, by beating Carl Sanders in the 1970 race for governor of Georgia, by running as a segregationist, at least by implication: portraying himself as a "redneck" and cultivating the endorsement of Lester Maddox. Once elected, he used his inaugural speech to stun both the state and the nation by declaring that the time for segregation was over, and disowning, in effect, his prior campaign. It may have distressed his original voters (whom he no longer needed), but it was a huge hit with the national press, which may have been his target, and overnight it made him a red-hot political property. Time magazine, which had planned a general story on the new class of southern governors, suddenly came out instead with a story on Carter--with a cover that made him resemble John Kennedy.

Reply Tue 6 Jul, 2004 09:31 am
People are just mad because Carter won an award Bush will never win and has now made very difficult foir any American to win (Unless Noam Chomsky gets hsi due)

The Nobel Peace Prize.

Also, I wonder when Thunder's Mouth Press (<i>The Nations</i> publishing arm) will take aim at St. Ronnie.
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Reply Tue 6 Jul, 2004 09:39 am
Re: The Muse of Malaise
Noemie Emery wrote:
This is the conceit ripped into shreds by Steven F. Hayward in his new book, The Real Jimmy Carter, which maintains that in his current carnation Carter is as wrongheaded and hapless as ever...

Carter's "current carnation?" Does this mean that he has forsaken his former forsythia? Or perhaps he has bidden his begonias begone? One may say that Carter wears his heart on his shirtsleeve, but we now know that in his lapel can also be found his current carnation.
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Reply Sun 11 Jul, 2004 10:24 am
All men mess up rich or poor, with power or without!
Reagen and Carter were both great Presidents: And each had their share of mistakes. Don't feel that you have to point out the wrong in these mens lives. When men die friends, family and fans wish to remember them at their best. Sadly, most leaders don't get this luxury. I doubt Clinton will live down his mess up.
The fact is the GOP loved Reagen and they wanted to remember him at his best. When Clinton is gone he will be remembered by the left for something or another. But since I don't like the guy I will be tempted to remember his faults, the fact is he was the president and had an impact on this Country and my life if I like it or not and for that he deserves respect. I hope you can show that same general respect for the late MR. Reagen!
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Reply Sun 11 Jul, 2004 05:46 pm
Jimmy Carter had the mistortune to preside over double digit inflation, sky high interest rates, long lines at gas stations, and an alcoholic brother that insisted on being seen. None of these were his fault of course, but just like all presidents, he's stuck with the blame for what happened on his watch.

His real legacy was a serious decimation of the military--Reagan got hit with the deficits when he had to rebuild it--and a foreign policy in shambles culuminating in the embassy staff being taken hostage in Iran for what - 444 days?

Carter did get Arafat and Israel to talk to each other. So did Clinton. So has Bush. Carter will get the most credit for that. It won't have any long range effect for any of them.

The one thing I'll remember about Carter most was that he was just a really pleasant guy who didn't have a clue how to fix the problems he faced, but who never lost his cool and didn't ever really make anybody mad.

Reagan still makes my heart go pitter pat. He inspired confidence, courage, hope, inspiration, and pride with a few well placed one liners. So much good was accomplished during his eight years, some of which has been grossly misrepresented and some which he will never get credit for. He remains to me the greatest president of my lifetime to date, and I do believe will go down in history as one of the top 10 greatest.
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Reply Sun 11 Jul, 2004 08:14 pm
Carter may be one of the few presidents whose accomplishments as a citizen excede what he did in office.

Reagan, as I posted to my 'blog may have succeeding in becoming a "Messaih" to the Right. A person whose can't be shown in a negative light; except by folks like Amy Goldman and Ted Rall.
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Reply Wed 10 Nov, 2021 09:13 am
Here's an interesting discussion with two presidential biographers who supply plenty of background details which effectively counter the biased hatchet job by Steven F. Hayward on which the OP bases his opinion:

The Surprising Greatness of Jimmy Carter

Jimmy Carter has long been cast as one of America’s least-effective modern presidents—blamed for failing to tame inflation, solve the energy crisis, or free the American hostages in Tehran. His crushing reelection defeat in 1980 sealed the downbeat narrative.

But that negative assessment is beginning to change. Recently, Washington Monthly contributing editor Timothy Noah hosted a conversation between Jonathan Alter and Kai Bird, two journalists who just published major biographies of America’s 39th president. Each approached Carter from a different angle, but both arrived at a similar conclusion: Jimmy Carter is seriously underrated.

Alter and Bird both dispute that Carter was weak or lost in the weeds, as he has so often been portrayed. Carter brought more positive change to the Middle East than any president in the decades before or since; signed more legislation than any post–World War II president except LBJ; and warned of the dangers of climate change before the threat even had a name. Carter’s human rights policy played a huge and largely uncredited role in the collapse of the Soviet Union—more so, perhaps, than any policies enacted by his successor Ronald Reagan.

What follows is an edited transcript. We promise an absorbing and informative read about some recent history that you almost certainly don’t know as well as you think you do—assuming you remember it at all.


bobsal u1553115
Reply Wed 10 Nov, 2021 09:33 am
Even more important than being a 'great' President, Carter is a good human being.
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Reply Wed 10 Nov, 2021 09:41 am
Isn't Kai Bird that character who spouted all those falsehoods about Hiroshima and Nagasaki?

Why should we believe anything that he has to say about Mr. Carter?
Reply Wed 10 Nov, 2021 11:23 am
Why should we believe anything that he has to say about Mr. Carter?
"Should" implies some necessity and that's not a good way to approach a topic like this, as if one were obligated to believe anything. Relax – feel free to draw your own conclusions. Take note of claims by the author and the evidence provided. If you know that purported statements of fact are provably false, that would be justification to "disbelieve". It's possible, however, for opinionated people to agree on facts but come to different conclusions. I really doubt that Mr. Bird would be using any the same arguments when writing about Pres. Carter as he did when commenting about the use of atomic bombs against Japan. Any assessment of plausibility should be based on the rational presentation of facts, and more importantly, the truthfulness of the facts themselves. Concerning Hiroshima and Nagasaki, was it your difference of opinion with Mr. Bird, rather than logical or factual errors in his reasoning, that led you to dismiss, sight unseen, his viewpoint on the Carter presidency?
Reply Thu 11 Nov, 2021 01:08 am
hightor wrote:
Concerning Hiroshima and Nagasaki, was it your difference of opinion with Mr. Bird, rather than logical or factual errors in his reasoning, that led you to dismiss, sight unseen, his viewpoint on the Carter presidency?

I had actually not remembered his exact transgressions. His name just rang warning bells with me.

But now having gone back and reviewed his nonsense, he states a lot of highly malicious half truths that can only be designed to promote falsehoods.

Some of the falsehoods that his half truths promote are:

There were no warning leaflets dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki until after they were nuked.

There was no prediction of a million American soldiers killed (and millions more maimed and wounded) in an invasion of Japan.

Japan was trying to surrender before the atomic bombs were dropped.

More than 95% of the dead at Hiroshima were civilians.

The 1995 Smithsonian exhibit was inaccurate for saying that Hiroshima was a military target.

The atomic bombs were dropped on Japan primarily so that we would not have to share Japanese territory with the Soviets.

Truman was given a list of options, any one of which would make Japan surrender, and Truman could have ended the war without using atomic bombs just by picking a different option from the list.
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