Posted: 08/17/15 12:44
by Dave Mindeman
I know this isn't a common thing to say in Republican or Democratic circles, but I thought Jimmy Carter was a great President.
Now that he reveals he has cancer and will be undergoing treatment at 90 years of age makes it all the more important that we give him his due, now when he is here to take it in.
When he made his announcement, it was disappointing that right wingers took that opportunity to take some extra potshots at his tenure in the oval office and some less than complimentary personal shots as well.
The essence of Jimmy Carter is that he is a good man. We get all of these GOP politicians who have these insincere professions of faith and religion. But Jimmy Carter was the embodiment of living faith. And he didn't just talk about is faith, he lived it. I can't imagine a better example of the true nature of Christianity than the life of Jimmy Carter.
But even beyond that, his Presidency was a test of his character. Coming out of the Watergate era, Jimmy Carter felt an extra obligation to be honest to the American people....and he was to a fault.
He didn't rap things up in political doublespeak. When he saw a problem, he explained it. When he saw a mistake, he acknowledged it. When he thought we needed to improve something, he spoke up about it.
And you have to admire his dedication to the concept of world peace. His relentless and dogged pursuit of the Israeli-Egyption accords was nothing short of remarkable. Can you imagine how much more turmoil would be happening in that part of the world if Israel and Egypt had not laid a groundwork for communication and cooperation when they did?
Unfortunately, Jimmy Carter's Presidency will be forever linked to the Iranian hostage crisis. Carter could have used force and risked American lives to free them. It would have been controversial but it probably would have ended the crisis - with some casualties. But Carter was determined that none of these Americans would lose their life over this. And he kept his promise.
Yes, Ronald Reagan gets all the credit for their release in the public domain. But it is hard to imagine that Israel would send weapons to Iran without some kind of larger deal being arranged. Can you imagine the outcry from today's GOP when considering even the notion of arming a nation that was holding over 400 American hostages? Although it is not in the historical record that this was accomplished via back channel negotiations from Reagan officials, there is too much evidence that reveals this to be true.
There is another point to consider. It is hard to imagine that the Carter administration did not know this was going on. They could have exposed it and embarrassed the President-elect, but I think Carter looked upon this as a method of getting those hostages home unharmed. He was willing to take the personal embarrassment that came his way because of that deal in order to accomplish the goal of freeing those hostages.
Imagine that kind of self sacrifice today. It doesn't exist.
But Carter's greatest gift to America came after his Presidency. No one has done more for America's poor. No one has done more to promote free and fair elections world wide. No ex-President has ever become so personally involved in his projects and to lead by his own example. Yes, the Clintons and the Bushes have raised enormous sums of money for their ongoing work. But can there be a more shining example than President Carter wielding a hammer on the framework of a home being built for a poor family in need.
I can't imagine that history won't be kinder to President Carter. Looking back on years of war and turmoil to the relative peace and humanitarian push of the Carter years will be a contrast worth looking at.
It is easy for the political pundits to dismiss the Carter years as their version of failure. But President Carter kept the country together through some hard economic times and gave proper measured responses to international crisis.
There is no better image of achievement than the picture of Menachem Begin, Anwar Sadat, and Jimmy Carter locked arm in arm at Camp David. That was a message of hope in a battered world. It was a picture of strength and trust in American ideals.
And that is the picture of the President Carter I admire so much.