“Mr. Carter simply abdicated the whole responsibility of the presidency while in office. He left the nation at the mercy of its enemies at home and abroad. He was the worst president we ever had.” Eugene McCarthy
Eugene McCarthy and the USFA agree on almost nothing, but we agree on this one. If McCarthy feels that way about one of his fellow socialists, there must be some truth to the matter. If Jerry Brown is “Governor Moonbeam” then Jimmy Carter was “President Moonbeam.”
Jimmy Carter was elected because he was a Washington outsider and people were anxious for someone who was not associated with the people in Washington who they now regarded as corrupt. Even with that provenance he still barely defeated Gerald Ford in an extremely close election. Carter was a true believer and a strong believer in social justice who felt that his role in life was divinely inspired and that he therefore knew what was best for everyone. The fact that the electorate had replaced perceived corruption with incompetence did not occur to the people until it was too late.
Carter generally screwed up almost everything he got involved in. He had the complete control of Congress yet he alienated the Congress. He gave away the Panama Canal. He once filed a report that he had sighted a UFO. He inherited on inauguration an energy crisis, high interest rates and high unemployment and his actions only made matters worse. His only triumph was the Egyptian-Israeli Peace Treaty that he brokered through his personal efforts.
One example of his ineptitude stands out. The Shah of Iran was a dictator who suppressed opposition but the Shah was also a patriot and was making progress in bringing Iran into the modern world. During his reign he had increased personal income over ten times what it had been at the time of his taking power, he had implemented broad social and economic reforms including enhanced rights for women and minorities and was working toward constitutional reforms that would move the country toward democracy. He had also developed one of the world’s largest military powers that served as a bulwark against the Soviet Union. The Shah was a friend of the United States and supported their policies in the Middle East. While not perfect, Iran was becoming slowly westernized.
Carter didn’t care about progress in Iran. He was only interested in his naïve human rights agenda and constantly carped about human rights in Iran until finally Carter decided to cut off funds to support Iran that resulted in undermining the Shah’s position and led to his ouster in February 1979. Carter had pressured the Shah to release “political prisoners” whose ranks had included radical fundamentalists, communists and terrorists that have now become the opponents we face in the war on terror. The subsequent takeover of the government of Iran by religious fundamentalists ushered in the 444 day hostage crisis that helped cause Carter to lose the presidency. The takeover also caused long term problems in Iran that have persisted to this day and have required numerous U.S. government actions that were often futile and sometimes ridiculous. Thank you Jimmy Carter for leaving us with this mess.
Carter took the standard socialist position that economic problems can only be solved by massive government actions at the federal level and his efforts only increased the intensity of the recession. On taking office Carter proposed radical energy programs, redistributive tax reform, a consumer protection agency and labor law reform and got a stimulus package passed. First he tried to reduce unemployment by both increasing government spending and cutting taxes. Inflation skyrocketed so he changed his mind. He delayed the tax cuts and vetoed the spending programs that he himself had proposed to Congress, thus angering Congress. Then he changed his mind. He tried to ease inflation by reducing the money supply and raising interest rates. None of this worked. Inflation, interest rates and unemployment all continued to grow. The problems sowed the seeds of the Savings and Loan crisis and the inflation severely damaged retired people on fixed incomes. The lack of growth in the economy accompanied by high rates of unemployment and inflation created “stagflation”, a new situation in American economics.
Part of Carter’s solution to the energy problems was to create the Department of Energy, which accomplished nothing. He advocated a “windfall profits tax” (USFA note: another socialist gimmick – there are only profits) to prevent oil companies from overcharging consumers. In 1979 a major oil shortage in the United States took place because of instability in the Middle East (gee, we wonder who helped cause that instability). Carter also gave us the Department of Education, which, once again, accomplished nothing. He was perceived (correctly) as a weakling and that prompted our enemies to become more aggressive in foreign affairs.
Well we could go on but you have probably read enough. By the end of his term Carter’s popularity was lower than that of Richard Nixon at the height of Watergate and, mercifully for America, he was defeated by Ronald Reagan in 1980. Carter spent the rest of his life trying to atone for his failed presidency but he did it by doing some of the same inane things he had always done while in office and repeating the same failed mantras he had always uttered in life. George W. Bush is reported to have said “If I act like that when I’m in my 80s, please have me committed.”