21 May 2007

President Peanut's Selective Amnesia

In the further adventures of Mr. Pot and Mr. Kettle, we find former President Jimmy Carter denouncing George W. Bush as "the worst in history." Bush-bashing being the proverbial fish-in-a-barrel sport du jour, it's understandable that the old peanut farmer would get in on the act. But while the Guardian hangs on Carter's every word - as it's prone to do with anything or anyone who could potentially embarrass the USA - both Carter and his fans seem to have overlooked the fact that until W came along, he himself was a prime candidate for Worst President. Maybe not worst ever, but definitely in contention with Warren G. Harding for worst of the 20th century.

Full disclosure: I voted for Carter in 1976, but in 1980 I abstained, being of the opinion that as bad as Reagan might be (bear in mind that this was when I was still an extreme leftist), he couldn't do any worse than Carter had. Much of the country appeared to feel similarly, because Carter was turned out of office in a landslide after only one term. Why? Well, you could tender any number of explanations, including a dismal economy, stagflation, international humiliation in the form of the Iran hostage crisis, and a great "national malaise" (as described by Carter himself, right around the time he made himself infamous for trying to fight off the "killer rabbit" with a canoe paddle. Regardless of which reason(s) you choose, it's safe to say that none of them involved people being satisfied with the job he was doing as President.

It's true that Carter has distinguished himself considerably more since leaving office than during his holding of it: his efforts on behalf of Habitat for Humanity and as a diplomatic intermediary come to mind. And no one has ever suggested Jimmy Carter was an unintelligent or unsophisticated man, which makes it all the more curious that he'd say something like this:
We [the USA] now have endorsed the concept of pre-emptive war where we go to war with another nation militarily, even though our own security is not directly threatened, if we want to change the regime there or if we fear that some time in the future our security might be endangered.
Um, this man used to be President and yet can say something so blithely ignorant of American history? Has no one bothered to inform him of the Mexican-American War, the Spanish-American War, the Vietnam War, innumerable military expeditions into Central America and the Caribbean, the Philippines uprising, and, arguably, the Korean War and the War of 1812? Say what you will about Bush's incompetence and foolhardiness in prosecuting the Iraq War, you can hardly argue that he's set some kind of precedent when it comes to interfering in other countries' affairs.

Ultimately, this could devolve into a catfight between two failed Presidents over which of the two was the bigger failure, but I suspect Carter's not viewing it that way. I suspect, rather, that he sees this as a golden opportunity to rehabilitate his own deeply sullied place in history by piling abuse on someone else who just might be worse. Understandable, of course, but not especially statesmanlike or, for that matter, Christian of him. And based on Carter's track record in office, his little hissyfit may ultimately backfire on him by reminding the American people of just why they got rid of him in the first place.

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