October 1 - Salute to Jimmy Carter!

Posted October 1, 2018

Of all the living presidents, Jimmy Carter seems to be one of the most generous and all-round wonderful people. He has worked on human rights and on Habitat for Humanity. He has become more and more popular and is ranked by some as the nation's greatest former president.

Which is interesting, because he is ranked quite low as a president. 

Here are some good things about Carter-as-president:

He was a hard worker, and he revived an old tradition of U.S. presidents trying to mediate difficulties between world leaders. He pardoned all the men who had evaded the Vietnam War. He faced some pretty huge problems - NOT of his own making - with courage and even idealism. And he was able to help restore a bit of public confidence in the presidency after Richard Nixon's scandals.

Here are some bad things about Carter-as-president: he was rather ineffective at working with Congress, he was more of a tinker-er when bold action and strong leadership were needed, he was unable to use forceful techniques to end the Iran hostage crisis, and many people think that the boycott of the Olympic Games that he led was a really bad idea.

Vice President Walter Mondale said about the Carter administration, "We told the truth, we obeyed the law, we kept the peace." And Carter added to that list, "And we championed human rights." Those are all really good things, although one would hope that those things would be the baseline for all presidencies, and that presidencies would be judged on how much positive change happened in addition to that baseline! However, we have seen from several examples of recent presidents, truth and lawfulness are not givens, and presidents who rule during times of peace are a rarity, and even supporting human rights is a challenge for some administrations!

Here's something I didn't know about Carter:

He ran as governor of Georgia and was viewed as being too liberal and too pro-racial-integration! The next time he ran for the governorship, he seemed to abandon many of his progressive values. He publicly opposed busing to achieve integration, he avoided making public appearances with black leaders, and he went after endorsements from powerful white people who were known racists.

And that time he won!

Once he actually was governor, Carter returned to his original progressive values. He called for the end of segregation, he appointed loads more black people to various positions, he promoted reforms in schools and prisons that were especially important to people of color. 

Now, here's my question: Was it a good-and-smart move for Carter to pretend to be more racist and conservative so he would be elected, so he would have more power against racism and conservative policies? Or was it a shameful flip-flop that is not justified by his successes in helping along the progressive and anti-racist causes? 

Bottom line:

No matter whether Carter's low rankings among presidents are deserved or not, no matter whether lengthier hindsight will cause future rankings to go up or down, no matter whether or not his Georgia governor's race maneuvers were justified...

...I think we can all agree that he is a wonderful former president that we're lucky to have!

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