Jimmy Carter Should Sit Down
In 2012 I began a column for The Virginian-Pilot this way:
For years, I thought there was nothing in the world I’d ever dislike more than Jimmy Carter.
And then I tasted goat cheese.
The piece was not about our worst president. It was about that ubiquitous, rancid dairy product that gourmands claim to enjoy.
I ended that column this way:
While Carter’s presidency was hard to swallow - especially for those of us trying to buy our first homes - the peanut farmer from Georgia has grown more palatable with time.
Reading these final words I am now filled with remorse. In fact, I’d eat a wheel of goat cheese if Carter would promise to just stay in Plains, GA and keep his trap shut.
But he won’t.
Let’s back up. Carter, 94, has been the recipient of piles of too-generous publicity since he left office. Some forgiving people like to say he’s our “greatest ex-president” because he helps build Habitat for Humanity houses and teaches Sunday school in his local Baptist church.
Those are good deeds, yes. But they can’t begin to make up for the damage done by Carter’s atrocious one-term presidency. For those with memory problems or who weren’t alive in the late-1970s, with Carter in the White House we suffered massive gas shortages, 18 percent home mortgages, record unemployment and our embassy staff was held hostage by Iranian revolutionaries in Tehran for 444 humiliating days. Oh, and Carter’s bungling attempts to rescue the hostages got eight servicemen killed.
Shoot, Three Mile Island experienced a partial nuclear meltdown in 1979 and although that wasn’t Carter’s fault - as far as we know - America’s worst nuclear accident did happen during his presidency and remains emblematic of the way many of us felt at the time: Edgy, worried, afraid a great calamity was about to befall us.
Yet just when we start feeling kindly to the former president he reminds us of why we loathe him: On Friday, as President Trump was meeting with world leaders in Japan at the G-20 summit, the toothy troublemaker from Georgia declared that Trump wasn’t the legitimate president because the Russians interfered to get him elected.
The Russians didn’t win the election for Trump. The Democrats did. They ran an unlikable, fainting, coughing, conceited harridan who was so sure of herself she didn’t bother to campaign in states with working-class voters. It’s that simple.
With his carefully timed bloviation, Carter not only demonstrated his stunted critical thinking skills - on full display from 1976 to 1980 - but he attempted to undermine Trump while the leader of the Free World was overseas.
This was bizarre behavior from a former president. Frankly, with a record as embarrassing as his, Carter should have the humility to refrain from criticizing any other American president.