"There is always a philosophy for lack of courage."—Albert Camus

Monday, June 01, 2015

1½ Reasons Why Jimmy Carter Wasn't So Bad

At Patheos, David Swarz tries to help reliably liberal scholar and Carter biographer ["Redeemer"] Randall Balmer's attempt to make a silk purse out of the sow's ear that was the Carter Era. Balmer should be given a medal for service to his party, ideology, and biographical subject. 
Swarz: [Balmer] points out that Carter’s presidency was sabotaged by events quite beyond his control—and that his significant accomplishments have been unfairly obscured.

Jimmy Carter's presidency was sabotaged not by events, but by Jimmy Carter the person. His failure was as a leader, a president's Job One, in his third-class temperament. Even an ideologically friendly press and a Congress controlled by his own party despised him.

On the 5 'significant accomplishments' Balmer lists:

1. Carter's commitment to human rights was nice, although in confronting only the free world's allies [allies of convenience if not necessity] for their sins but not the other bad actors of the world, Jimmy Carter only encouraged the enemies of human rights to invade Afghanistan and use proxies like the Sandinistas to replace one tyranny with another. And of course there's the brutal Ayatollah regime that replaced the arguably less wicked and certainly less dangerous Shah of Iran..

2. The Camp David Accords. Truly historic. The only question is how much credit Jimmy Carter gets for facilitating them: When a country wants peace with Israel, it gets peace. Anwar el-Sadat—the great man, may he rest in peace— did just that.

https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/biography/sadat.html:
Convinced that peace with Israel would reap an enormous "peace dividend," Sadat initiated his most important diplomatic ploy. In a speech to the Egyptian parliament in 1977, Sadat affirmed his desire to go anywhere to negotiate a peace with the Israelis. 

3. Giving back [giving away] the Panama Canal. Symbolically important to the Western anti-imperialist chattering class, but with no salutary effect in the real world except to necessitate Geo. HW Bush's surgical removal of the criminal Noriega regime.

4. Nuclear non-proliferation. Balmer takes a rather ¿huh? route in crediting Carter's halting nuclear initiative with Soviet Premier Brezhnev for Ronald Reagan's bold initiative with Gorbachev as "[Carter's] efforts would pay off in the 1980s."


Uh huh.

5. "A theology of limits." Can't even get near this one, sorry.* No debate could even be held on these terms--because these terms cannot even be agreeably defined.

In fairness, I'd have nominated President Carter for starting the Reagan Defense Buildup, which along with the refudiation of the Nixon/Kissinger policy of détente [the acceptance of the status quo of Soviet geopolitcal gains], brought about the close of the Cold War.

http://www.nytimes.com/1986/04/06/us/reagan-acknowledges-carter-s-military-buildup.html

You missed that one, Mr. Balmer. Although, as a qualified historian, I reckon you didn't miss it atall. Why, I'd bet it would make #1 on your The Worst Things about Jimmy Carter. Heh heh. 
_____________________________________
*Balmer: "While Carter’s invocation of Niebuhr sometimes led to race-baiting, his seriousness about Christian faith (which motivated many of the just-discussed policies) led to some remarkable sermonizing at the White House. Perhaps the most important (and politically reviled) was the so-called “malaise speech” of July 15, 1979. Near the end of his presidency (marred by economic stagnation and an energy crisis), Carter secluded himself at Camp David where he tried to make sense of it all. He read Scripture and Schumacher’s Small Is Beautiful. He met with Christopher Lasch, author of The Culture of Narcissism. He emerged from the compound speaking about “a crisis of the American spirit” in the tone of an evangelical jeremiad: “In a nation that was proud of hard work, strong families, close-knit communities and our faith in God, too many of us now worship self-indulgence and consumption.” 
“Human identity is no longer defined by what one does but by what one owns,” Carter sermonized, but “owning things and consuming things does not satisfy our longing for meaning.” Critics may have panned Carter’s idealistic approach to the energy crisis as politically naïve, but it was nonetheless a penetrating cultural critique. He was probably the most theologically profound president since Lincoln."

Oh, my. Lincoln, slavery and the preservation of the Republic, Jimmy Carter and the Energy Crisis [since obviated by good ol' American pluck and ingenuity, fracking technology!].

Sigh. Randall Balmer's invocation of the sublime Mr. Lincoln renders Jimmy Carter all the more ridiculous. Sorry, sir. Your subject is unworthy of your rhetorical skill.

2 comments:

jedpaschall said...

Tom,

I agree that Carter was not a very successful president if we look at his results, but I do think history will vindicate his energy policies. As much as I loved Regan, and think he and Kennedy are the best commanders in chief of the 2nd half of the 20th century, he did set back the renewable energy sector back by at least 15 years if not more.

While I am not a liberal, I do believe we have passed the peak of the cheap energy era. If we were further ahead of the curve on the issue of renewable/sustainable energy (as a part of a diversified energy portfolio), I think much of the geopolitical instability we see today, and in the past decade might have looked a lot different, especially in the Middle East and Central Asia.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Fracking rules! The myth of "peak oil" turned out to be just that. Geo-politically, OPEC's back is broken.

As for renewables, as soon as technology comes up with suitable batteries to store the energy, they'll be fine. The problem is, you need a full-blown power grid up for when the sun's not shining or the wind's not blowing.

http://www.forbes.com/sites/realspin/2013/03/14/germanys-green-energy-disaster-a-cautionary-tale-for-world-leaders/

Because renewable power sources have been so unreliable, Germany has been forced to construct numerous new coal plants in an effort to replace the nuclear energy it has taken offline. In fact the country will build more coal-fired facilities this year than at any time in the past two decades – bringing an estimated 5,300 megawatts of new capacity online. Most of these facilities will burn lignite, too, which is strip-mined and emits nearly 30 percent more carbon dioxide than hard coal.

In other words Germany is dirtying the planet in the name of clean energy – and sticking its citizens with an ever-escalating tab so it can subsidize an energy source which will never generate sufficient power.


You can't always throw money at a desired technology and have it appear. “Fusion is 50 years away and always will be.” The Manhattan and Apollo Projects were not assured of success--militarily the only goal was to beat the Nazis or Russians to it if it could be done atall. And even if Reagan hurt the development of renewables, there's been plenty enough time to catch up.

As for Carter, at the top I opine that his failure wasn't in his wrong-headedness as much as in his inability to lead anyone, including his own party. By the time he got wise to the Soviets and the Ayatollahs, it was too late.

Nice to hear fromya, Jed.