Book Review: The Real Jimmy Carter

carterThe Real Jimmy Carter: How Our Worst Ex-President Undermines American Foreign Policy, Coddles Dictators and Created the Party of Clinton and Kerry,  Hardcover – March 19, 2004 by Steven F. Hayward, Regnery, Washington DC.

Having lived through the years of the Carter “Malaise” and the subsequent Reagan recovery, I had never really spent much time reviewing the Carter presidency, mostly because it was a time that I’d like to forget.  However, the events that unfolded during his presidency have a huge bearing on the world as we see it today.

What Jimmy Carter’s legacy as president really is depends entirely upon which side of the ideological aisle you stand.  A look at Amazon’s posting for the book reveals that, of the 109 reviews, 54 rate the book good or great, 54 as terrible, and only one is in the middle.  Of the 54 who rate it terrible there are two camps.  Most are in the decidedly liberal camp.  The rest are bleeding heart conservatives who see Mr. Carter as a humanitarian and a peace prize recipient and think that there is no way he was so bad.

I have always said that Mr. Carter was a decent man, just a bad president.  After all, many people think I’m a decent man, too, but a terrible businessman.   And they are right, at least about my perception of being decent and about my business blunders.  You see, my business blunders can be summed up in two words: compassionate conservatism.  These two words form an oxymoron.  True conservatism is resolute, to the point of fighting for one’s beliefs.  It does not make concession for those who stand in the way of its principles.    Compassion, or mercy, pardons those who sin against its principles.  It forgives and forgets.  In the political realm, it goes farther than that by far and coddles it’s enemies, even endeavoring to make friends with them and hoping that enough love will lead them to change their ways.  It tries to find rationalizations for evil and hostile acts.

I have been a compassionate conservative.  What I have discovered is that I was casting my pearls before swine.  Mr. Carter has gone beyond that to the point of denying that America has any pearls to conserve and even by siding with the enemy.  Of course,  Mr. Carter was not really a conservative by any means.  Whereas Bill Clinton, his immediate protege (who sought to distance himself from Mr. Carter more and more for his own political survival), understood that the will of the people was at odds with his own and shifted course to ride the political wave of success (just barely),  Mr. Carter was stubborn enough in his liberal pandering to even alienate his own party.  He also didn’t have a backbone.  He spoke loudly and carried a soccer bopper, and he couldn’t even get himself to swing that.

Remarkably, this book reminds me of another which I have reviewed: Exposing the Real Jesse Jackson.  Mr. Carter had the advantage over Mr. Jackson in that he actually became President.  Mr. Jackson was more of a gangster at heart trying to get over.  But, in foreign policy snafus that he racked up after his presidency, Mr. Carter greatly resembles Mr. Jackson.

Is it fair to blame all the problems in the Middle East on Mr. Carter? Heavens, no!  But it is fair to say that his failure to act decisively as president led, in great part, to the festering of the jihadi sore that now infects the world.  And his failure to act decisively allowed North Korea to be a nuclear threat today.  And his failures in Central America created a lot of messes for future presidents to clean up.  And his failure to understand economics contributed greatly to the stagflation that clung to his presidency.  And his failure to show a backbone contributed greatly to the misery index of his constituents and is the primary reason that Reagan’s resolute demeanor contrasted so greatly and impacted the mood of the country so radically.

For anyone wanting to understand just how bad Jimmy Carter’s presidency was, understand that the current white house inhabitant has displayed a penchant for the same policies and a reticence to have a backbone or a vision in the Middle East.  (Unless, of course, his vision is to destabilize it and destroy American credibility.  Then he is doing a great job!)  However, with the cold war all but gone (unless Mr. Obama manages to single-handedly resurrect it), and there being little stability in the region when he took office, it has been harder to see clearly just how much Mr. Obama is really Jimmy Carter, Millennium Edition.  (That would make Clinton the Jimmy 98)  Mr. Obama has tried to emulate FDR, and certainly he has kept his promise to spend twice as much money that he doesn’t have.  And I am certain that he could easily keep us in depression for 14 years just as FDR did, given the chance.

But, Obama is no FDR.  Obama doesn’t have the backbone.  Obama doesn’t have the ability to stir a nation into the greatest conflict in history and eventual victory.  Obama doesn’t have the ability to unite a nation, only to divide it into little, warring factions.  Obama is a lesser edition of Mr. Carter.  Unlike Mr. Carter, he doesn’t even have the veneer of being a respectable person.  (Of course, just because one says one is good Christian and does good works doesn’t make it so.  So, I reserve judgement as to whether Mr. Carter really wins in that category.  And, perhaps, Mr. Obama plays Santa to little orphans and I haven’t heard about it.)

I found the book, overall, a very good read.  It provided a lot of background on the political movements of the day.  Of course it sought to make judgements about the facts of Mr. Carter’s formative years and political life and to use those facts to paint a motivation for his actions or lack thereof.  In that sense, it is always open to criticism.  No one can know the heart.  But “ye shall know them by their fruits.”  Certainly the fruits of Mr. Carter’s presidency were rotten.  The fruits of his continuing efforts to insert himself into the political arena have been quite sour as well.  And the fruits of his legacy are turning our to be the most rotten of all.

That being said, God bless Mr. Carter.  True faith and repentance will reap an eternal reward.  None of us is without mistakes.  God only help us to learn from our mistakes and not repeat them.

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