Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Jimmy Carter: Popular?

John Sides notes that, whatever else one can say about Mitt Romney's "even Jimmy Carter" comment, as it happens Carter isn't particularly unpopular: the last poll John found, from January 2011, had a 53/37 approval/disapproval split on Carter's presidency.

The point John is making -- that comparing Barack Obama to Carter isn't apt to be a very successful campaign line -- is most likely correct, so I'm not going to get into that.

But I will note that 53/37 isn't especially good for a former president; a similar 52/42 was 5th out of the 9 most recent presidents who Gallup polled about in October 2010. In February of this year, Gallup asked about it differently: were presidents above or below average? 38% said Carter was below average or poor, beating only George W. Bush and Richard Nixon of the eight most recent presidents (adding BHO and omitting JFK and LBJ from the 2010 survey).

Moreover, and getting back a bit to John's point, it seems at least somewhat likely that people might like Jimmy Carter more than they like his presidency and the policies he pursued, and that some of his presidency approval ratings are really a reflection on his post-presidency. I suspect the way to get at that would be to ask more specific questions: approval on foreign policy, domestic policy, economic policy. My guess is that Carter would be hurt by that (and Nixon, for whatever it's worth, helped).

The other point I'd make about this, which is not at all relevant to the 2012 campaign, is that my guess is that Carter's popularity won't outlast him. Carter is one of four postwar presidents who benefited from a sustained organized effort to improve his reputation after he left office. Two of those, Carter and Nixon, were essentially one-man operations; the other two were campaigns on behalf of Kennedy and Reagan. I wish I had more numbers easily accessible on this, but for what it's worth...Nixon died in 1994. In 1999, Gallup had a 22/41 above/below average ratio for him. Awful, but it's getting worse; this year, the ratio was 14/55. Now, it's not a huge change, and it's certainly possible it's just statistical noise, but my guess is that Nixon probably helped himself by pumping out seemingly serious policy books and making seemingly serious policy pronouncements during the 20 years he lived after the White House, mainly by making it likely that the most recent mention people had seen about him was positive. Once that ended, the odds are very strong that the last mention people have seen of Nixon is Watergate. Similarly, if the last thing you've seen about Jimmy Carter is the post-presidency do-gooder stuff, you're apt to think well of him, but if the last thing you've seen is about gas lines, inflation, hostages in Iran, and the 1980 election then you probably won't be as thrilled.


  1. I wouldn't be so sure about opinions of Carter, Jon.

    Carter has now lived 31+ years beyond his presidency. So, essentially, almost everyone under the age of about 40-45 ONLY remembers his post-presidency (if they even recognize his name at all!). So, I'm not sure there's much residual memory for it all to snap back to once he's gone.

    The other thing Carter has in his favor is that, try as a person might, you can't really dislike him personally. He's a genial and fairly nice-seeming guy. Nixon? Not hardly.

    So, people like Carter as a person, don't remember a fairly blah presidency from 32 years ago, and infer that he was a fine president. Nixon is a thorougly odious individual who was impeached...the two things go together so well that it's easy to remember "Nixon? Oh yeah, that dirty bastard."

    Now, if we find ourselves with stagflation or gas lines or Iran in the news a lot, Carter will come up, and people will likely not be as kind. But, absent those things, he's a generic nice old man.

  2. I agree with Matt here. Many people (correctly or not) see Carter's failure in 1980 as a consequence of unfortunate circumstances in Iran and the economy. Folks under the age of 35 are more likely to think of him as a kind grandfatherly figure with progressive ideas about the Middle East rather than as an incompetent President.

    Also, I think the comparison between Nixon and Carter rings hollow: Nixon was many, many times worse. Watergate was a major moment in American history; Stagflation was not. To many people Carter may have been a bad President, but Nixon was downright evil.

    I think the much better comparison is Carter to Poppy Bush. Even though he ultimately failed to win a second term, Bush's favorability ratings have climbed since 1992, even without a sustained effort to boost his reputation in the public eye. He'll be remembered as a kind old man who tried his best, but was defeated by circumstance and a transformative leader in the opposition party.

    1. Carter's stagflation hurt the lives and prospects of millions of Americans. Who exactly did Watergate hurt? Maybe Daniel Ellsberg?

      Most people have no idea what Nixon did (or didn't do) at Watergate beyond a vague "he was involved in some kind of cover-up." You are right that he is regarded as "downright evil" but that can't possibly be caused by his actual actions as people can't even begin to describe what they were.

      Prof Bernstein should concede that there has been a post-Presidential campaign to demonise Nixon (and one against Carter too, for that matter). The anti-Nixon campaign has been more successful than the anti-Carter one for two reasons. Firstly, it is near-universal on the left, who control so much artistic output - consider the portrayals of Nixon in, for instance, Futurama and Watchmen. There is no possibility of any Carter equivalent to that.

      Secondly and perhaps more importantly, because Carter's policies make him a mainstream liberal today, so mainstream liberals want to defend his honour, whereas Nixon has no defenders. Nixon ought to be a hero to the Democrats, because his policies - ending Vietnam, lots of federal spending, rapprochement with China, price controls, loose monetary policy - are pretty much exactly the equivalent of what they want to do today. However, they will never defend him, simply on party-line grounds. Republicans, meanwhile, reject the Nixon agenda, and so are equally uninterested in defending him.

    2. I agree with most of what you say. I think there is a strong partisan inclination still today for Democrats to defend Carter (see Fallows' recent piece, or even the fact that Presidential candidates will court his endorsement in the primary), while Republicans feel no such obligation towards Nixon.

      Since we are talking about popular opinion regarding the Presidents, I think it's helpful to remember how little normal people know or care about Presidents that served decades ago. Carter ranks up there with Ford and Coolidge as the most forgotten Presidents of the 20th century, while Watergate is a seminal moment in American history. To children learning American history today, stagflation is a footnote, while the first resignation of a sitting President is taught as a major turning point regarding the people's trust in government and the power of the press.

      I doubt many people -- especially those 35 and younger -- can name a single specific event or issue from Carter's time in the White House. Nixon, however, will always be stained with Watergate, even if most people don't know the details of his involvement.

      This is why I think the better comparison for Carter is Bush 41. After both men have passed on, Americans (particularly those who lived most or all of their lives after their terms) will be left with no strong feelings one way or the other about them. They were terrible enough to lose their bids for a second term, but unlike other Presidents who didn't serve two full terms they didn't touch off a Great Depression or resign in disgrace.

    3. Anon: you can't seriously type the question "who did Watergate hurt?"

      The man tried to fix an election. When that got mucked up, he fired anyone and everyone he could who was looking into it.

      I don't think there's a rational person out there who would argue that Carter was intentionally trying to harm the economy. Nixon was intentionally trying to subvert the rule of law.

    4. Firstly, whatever else he may have been accused of, Nixon most certainly did not try to fix an election.

      Secondly, I repeat my question: who did Watergate hurt? Were any lives lost? Did anyone suffer or go hungry? Was anyone outside Washington even remotely affected? Daniel Ellsberg had his privacy breached, and there are probably one of two others, but the actual harm done was trivial. Now, Carter certainly didn't intend to cause suffering, but that's the thing about intentions.

      Now, you can say that Nixon did wrong even though no harm was done - and I'd agree with you! But given that, I find it hard to regard Nixon as "many, many times worse" than Carter in terms of public morality. We are all better off with a competent if shady President than an incompetent but honest one.

  3. I wonder how much of Nixon's declining ratings is due to the GOP moving hard to the right. Maybe Republicans who in past years might have rallied to Nixon out of partisanship now disapprove him because his policies to them seem like socialism. I'd be you'll see something similar in regards to George W. Bush if it isn't happening already.

  4. 1. I find it quite easy to dislike Carter personally.

    2. No, Carter wasn't as terrible a president as Nixon. But he was pretty bad, and I'd expect, over time, his polling numbers to reflect that, more or less, as long as it remains the elite consensus (which I think it has, both among academics and in the popular press).

    3. And again: most positive Carter stuff out there is self-generated. That will stop when he stops self-generating those stories, and while it's not as if his presidency will be in the news a lot, it will show up a lot more than his post-presidential career will.

  5. The poll that John Sides was citing is here:

    I recommend looking at the demographic breakdowns (which they have for all the presidents they polled about). Carter has neutral to positive numbers in every region, educational, income and ideological group other than Republicans, conservatives, and "Tea Party supporters." (Even "Tea Party neutrals" approve of him.) Most telling to me is age: He's at 55% approve / 32% disapprove among people under 50, i.e. those too young to have seen his presidency as adults. Among those 50+, opinions are about tied (52% approve / 48% disapprove, which I expect is the poll's margin of error).

    BUT, note this: if you break that group between those currently 50 - 64 (who would have been teens and young adults, no older than 32, during Carter's presidency), and those currently 65+ (i.e. in their 30s and above during the presidency), opinion divides again. The younger group is 55%/45% favorable, and the older group just the reverse.

    I don't know, I'm guessing the older folks were hit more directly by economic conditions of the late '70s, like high mortgage-interest rates. Or maybe people in general are just (a) nostalgic for their youth and (b) crankier with age. Still, the higher numbers with the younger groups could suggest that Carter's better reputation will outlast him and his current "campaign."

    And one other point: Carter is vastly more popular with low-income people (under $50K/year), at 61% approve / 30% disapprove. Among the better-heeled, opinion splits evenly. This suggests that once the Occupy revolution is complete, and people look back with horror on this New Gilded Age post-1980, Carter could be seen as a hero or prophet, the last president trying to stop or delay the rule of our One-Percent Overlords. Anyway, a guy can dream.

  6. Here's the Wikipedia page for Jimmy Carter. As you might expect, its quite lengthy, in spite of which, the period after Carter's re-election loss (a blowout in a race he was leading on Labor Day) to the founding of the Carter Center in 1982 is blank. What did he do? Go home and cry?

    Among other things, in the immediate aftermath of that loss he went to upstate New York and worked as an evangelist for the (Presbyterian, IIRC) church. Humble stuff, including a bunch of door-to-door work. I guess his hagiographers overlook that narrative because it fails to convey their desired image of St. Jimmy? Too smalltime?

    Maybe I'm naive, maybe I'm just not personally invested in the Left Triumphant, but I find that decision on Carter's part really charming. Not for the building of the church, but because it seems to fly in the face of all the reasons that everyone hates or distrusts the guy.

    Speaking of which, if you believe Carl Bernstein's A Woman in Charge (biography of HRC), Team Clinton has despised Carter for 35 years, ever since President Carter ordered the airlift of Cuban refugees into Arkansas, which the Clintons blame for WJC's first gubernatorial re-election loss. I'm sure Carl Bernstein doesn't know what he's talking about :), also I'm sure that the Clinton Monster doesn't dominate professional opinion on the left - actually, the sarcasm fails me, of course the Clinton Machine casts a long shadow, and so - to the extent Carl Bernstein is basically correct - you can probably look no further for why the conventional left distrusts Carter than that the Clintons hate him.

    Speaking of which, in his post-Presidential life, Clinton set up the Clinton Global Initiative, an ostensibly noble and appropriately post-Presidential thing to do. Even Clinton's most fervent supporter must recognize that the guy's a junkyard dog, and thus the "official" initiative is quite likely, at least in part, a front for his "real" global initiative, bagging international babes who would never give him the time of day as a humble Oxford student.

    That's a bit harsh on Clinton, but no one ever argues as such, though Carter meets with similar skepticism constantly. Probably because Clinton hates him, and the left takes their cue from Team Clinton (whether they concede as much or not).

    1. Wait a minute. Door-to-door work? You mean somebody in 1981 heard his doorbell, answered the door, and there was the recent past president of the Untied States? On his doorstep? Literally?

      Cool. :-)

      I didn't know that, CSH, so thanks for the info. Also I think your theory about the Clinton influence is plausible, although in the polling internals I cited earlier, Democrats approve of Carter 74% to 19%, which puts him about level with Clinton, higher than LBJ (64/24) and lower than the sainted JFK (90/6). Don't know what to make of that, just FYI.

    2. @CSH: really, charming? See, to me that seems of a piece with the whole nauseatingly self-righteous control-freak anything-you-can-do-I-can-do-better purer-than-thou Carter -- the one Michele Bachmann campaigned for, the one who personally oversaw the scheduling of the White House tennis courts, the one who wouldn't sully himself by learning how to talk to anyone in the Federal government, couldn't be bothered to interact with Democratic-aligned interest groups, and has spent his entire post-Presidency looking down from his mountaintop on the rest of us poor sinners. I respect him as a person about as much as I respect Pat Buchanan as a person.

      Or, as the kids say -- one man's charm is another man's smarm.

      But hey, that's just me.

    3. P.S. @CSH Of course, and as you already know. WJC-qua-human being grosses me out, too. Which shouldn't be surprising, since in a pretty substantial way you'd have to be a psychopath to run for President.

    4. Wow, tough crowd. So, out of curiosity, what should a president do if s/he's got 30+ years of retirement ahead?

    5. Actually, I think I do know what to make of the polling internals I cited earlier. Granted, it's not many data points, but what they suggest is that the default approval rating for a past Dem president among Democrats is somewhere in the mid-70% range, with a further up- or downside of 10 or so points in special cases (up for being tragically martyred, down for escalating the Vietnam War, etc.).

    6. @theclassicist - I recall seeing a profile on Jeff Bezos several years back, which noted that Bezos often went down to the distribution floor to load books when a backlog occurred. Bezos explained that even a resource like a CEO should go wherever their effort can be best utilized at a particular time.

      Now that Amazon is the Mega-Online-Retail Giant, I'm guessing Bezos doesn't venture down to the shop floor much anymore. The principle of a resource going where it might be best utilized is terribly violated by Carter; obviously so in the management of the tennis court, (somewhat more disputably) in the door-to-door evangelization.

      I suppose when a conservative labels a famous liberal "charming", there's at least a whiff of schadenfreude there. I'll cop to the following: among famous 70s liberals, I genuinely admire McGovern for what he achieved in his life, but I "like" Carter against the criticisms of his detractors. Maybe calling that "charming" says too much about the schadenfreude element of my positive Carter feelings.

      Still, though, the head-scratching aspects of the things you noted (the condescension, not learning to function with the Fed Govt, etc), are all of a piece with the poor resource management of the tennis court and door-to-door work (though I should note my church has the words "Go and Make Disciples!" painted above the exit, and they mean everyone, so this last is a bit controversial). Surely Hillary and Bill - heck, even Michelle and Barack - condescend to us rubes on a regular basis in private; part of being a pro is never letting on.

      In summary, I guess I am merciful to Carter because he isn't one of my guys, and there is something strangely appealing - well, frankly, Max Fisherish! - about being a President and being so bad at it.

      But if I were a liberal I suspect he would have driven me batty. Maybe there's more here than just Clinton animosity.

    7. CSH, I'm sorry, but you are too decent for schadenfreude, so I don't believe you on that. I think you just admire the guy, as you say. And allow me to add a couple of other notes; the tennis-court anecdote, which has ascended to urban legend, apparently comes from this contemporaneous critique / appreciation of the Carter presidency. The author is James Fallows, tennis player, Carter speechwriter and still a leading journalist:

      Re. tennis courts, Fallows writes, "After six months had passed, Carter learned that this was ridiculous, as he learned about other details he would have to pass by if he was to use his time well." In other words, it was a rookie mistake, although one that Fallows thought telling enough to be worth including. At any rate, I recommend his article for the full context and nuance.

      The other point is that one of the more robust defenses of the Carter presidency that I've seen lately (or ever) comes from Andrew Bacevich, the conservative former Army colonel and strategist, who says Carter's Mideast policy -- and specifically the point of his "malaise" speech, so-called -- was correct: He was warning that dependence on foreign oil meant endless involvement in the quicksand of Middle East politics and power struggles, with all the future wars, terrorist attacks, etc. that we've come to know and love in the years since. Note that when Carter said that, Osama bin Laden was still in college. Do presidents get any credit for visionary predictions that they didn't have the power to act upon, because the forces of the status quo were just too great?

    8. I fully agree with The Classicist.

      And, no, presidents don't get any credit for visionary predictions; it's not their job. They're job is to put together policies, get them through Congress, get them implemented.

    9. They're job is to put together policies, get them through Congress, get them implemented.

      Spoken like a true political scientist. And if we were talking about Secretaries of Agrigulture, I would completely agree. The thing is, presidents are also national leaders, heads of state, important figures in the popular consciousness and, in many cases, defining symbols of the era. All that involves more than policies, Congress, interest groups and implementation, fascinating as I know such matters are to people in poli-sci graduate seminars.

      Which is not to say that I'm Carter's biggest fan. In fact, I cast a Naderesque protest vote against him in '80 (for the Citizens Party) largely because I thought it was appallingly cynical of Carter to try to restart the Cold War, the most serious threat to the planet in all of human history. But even having blamed him for that, I don't feel the personal venom that some here apparently do. Again I ask, what's the right thing for an ex-president to spend his time at? Golfing?

    10. @Jeff -- you overestimate my familiarity with Carter tales -- I only knew the tennis court anecdote from that "Passionless Presidency" piece in the first place. And (again) I was really just inclined to strike my brow with wonder that he kept that up for six months; I get lost in details, too, but I'm not, you know, responsible for anything important.

      The personal dislike probably comes from a combination of: the Fallows piece; osmosis from my parents (my dad voted for John Anderson in 1980! I think the first thing I knew about Carter was the creepy confession of adultery in the heart, an inappropriate tmi/overshare that's really a sternly condescending humblebrag); Garry Trudeau's depiction of his 1976 campaign ("I've never been to Washington! Never, ever! Well, maybe once, to collect a peanut subsidy -- but I didn't open my eyes the whole time I was there!"); the sense looking back that those years were a huge waste of time, especially because looking back there wasn't going to be another time Democrats controlled the legislative agenda for a long time, which is perhaps an unfair consideration; the fact that practically every time I hear of him it's because he's gone and said something dreadfully stupid; and, honestly, I'm sure it's been reinforced over a few years of reading Plain Blog, too. But like -- I don't devote any of my own time to thinking about JEC. It's not the kind or level of hostility that leads me to consider the subject particularly significant.

    11. classicist, most people (including me) are not as well-read as you are. I remember the tennis-court anecdote from sometime before I'd even heard about Jim Fallows, let alone read his account. That's why I said it had somehow passed into urban legend.

      My best college buddy voted Anderson too in '80, and as I say, I went a different third-party route. A lot of us were plenty irked with Carter back then. I think Skorwonek's theory of presidential "regimes" explains this pretty well; short version: Carter was a president for a different time than the one in which he actually presided.

      As to "lust in his heart," that, I must say, is one of the all-time bummest raps that any president has ever received. The guy gave a relatively candid interview (as we would hope political candidates would routinely do) to Robert Scheer, a respected lefty journalist who wrote a lot about antinuclear issues and who happened to publish this interview in Playboy. So it was bound to be misconstrued. But Carter was a Sunday School teacher. When he said those words, he was quite self-consciously quoting Matthew 5:28, a passage from the Sermon on the Mount, which is only one of THE MOST IMPORTANT TEXTS IN ALL OF CHRISTIANITY, that's all. I mean, sheesh. A few years later, Ronald Reagan, hero of the (so-called) Christian Right, referred to some other words of Christ as "an old saying," clearly revealing he had no idea where they came from because he probably wouldn't have recognized a Bible if it swatted him on his famous keister. Sorry, but I just find this enraging, an almost perfect encapsulation of what's wrong and idiotic about American politics.

    12. Jeff,

      Yeah, yeah, presidents have to do some of that stuff, but (1) it's hard to make a case that Carter was any good at the rhetorical side of the presidency, and (2) on energy, I really don't see how policy failure can be balanced out by rhetorical "triumph."

    13. No, it wasn't a triumph. Neither was Cassandra's. Happened to be right, though. The original issue we were discussing here was reputation and current approval ratings from people looking back. If Carter had warned in '79 that a big asteroid strike was possible and that we needed an Asteroid Protection System to protect against it, people would have jeered that he was trying to redirect attention away from gas lines and to blame asteroids for his own failures. The ridicule would have been merciless; the nascent APS would have been known as "Carter's Folly," and Reagan would have taken credit for standing tall against it, for reminding us that Real Mean don't fear asteroids, that God protects America already and we have to end the Cold War first, etc., and would have redirected asteroid research to SDI, a useless plan for defending against massive Soviet missile attack. Later, reminded that asteroids are still out there, the George W. Bush administration would have said that that's why we have to bring down Saddam, and whoops, there would have gone another trillion bucks that might have been spent on asteroid defense and other needs. And the whole time, conservatives would have been crowing about what a pathetic failure Carter had been, how he had tried to plunge the country into an Asteroid Malaise from which Republican presidents had grandly rescued us.

      Well, suppose some or all of that had happened, and then a big asteroid was discovered next week due to smash into Earth on May 3, 2013, leaving us just barely enough time to maybe stop it if we do everything right. Yeah, obviously, Limbaugh and the GOP would all blame Obama -- but there are those who would point out that this is exactly what Carter was warning about, and that if he'd been listened to we wouldn't be in such dire trouble now. In a scenario like this, there wouldn't be any objective change in what Carter had accomplished or in any historical fact about his presidency. And yet, I'm pretty sure his current approval rating would show a healthy upward spike.

    14. Yeah, I guess I just don't see Carter as anything special here. It's more like how no one really should be giving Clinton any special credit for health care; it was an obvious agenda item, and he failed to get it done, so does it really matter that he sometimes articulated it really well?

    15. @Jeff -- I deserve neither such praise nor such censure; I am not a great reader, and I have pleasure in many things (& btw do you immediately recognize that quotation? ;) ) I don't know much about -- well -- anything other than a few things, but I did know that JEC was quoting the NT. That's what's so creepy about it to me (I hadn't even known it was published in Playboy): like I said, it's a purer-than-thou humblebrag utterly inappropriate to someone on the national stage.

    16. .....but I did know that JEC was quoting the NT.

      Why does this not surprise me. Anyway, I don't recall at the time if I immediately recognized the quote -- quite possibly not -- but I also wasn't one of the people mocking it, and I do remember recognizing whatever NT quote it was that Reagan didn't. ("Man does not live by bread alone," maybe -- probably part of some rationale for eviscerating welfare. [Kidding. Sort of.] But I don't recall now.) The people I'm censuring are the rubes, the Bible-thumbers, the What's the Matter with Kansas crowd that doesn't know from actual, genuine spiritual faith, or even religiosity, but will mobilize their evangelical megachurches to bloc-vote for whatever blowhard bashes the gays and the abortionists or the "strapping young bucks" on welfare (one of Reagan's favorites) and the like.

      As to humblebragging, maybe it was -- I can't find the interview on the web, and don't remember the whole context. But I did find this:,437679

      A bunch of Southern Baptist seminary students reacting to the comment at the time. This was when Carter was still seen as one of their own. The best part? Not one of them mentions the NT context or interprets what Carter said in that light. Not one. Seminary students. What's the emoticon for "facepalm" again?

    17. Jeff -- now maybe I'm just being a jerk, but ... "man does not live by bread alone, but by all that comes from the mouth of the Lord does a man live" is from Deuteronomy ..... (also in case you were wondering the "neither such praise nor such censure" line is from Pride & Prejudice.)

    18. Yeah, I'm not sure if that was the quote -- but I think it was, because it appears again in Luke, and I remember the phrase that Reagan called "an old saying" or some such coming from Luke, indeed from the lips of Our Lord and Savior Himself, which means it's printed in red in a lot of Christian Bibles. JC, at that point, is indeed quoting Dueteronomy against Satan's temptations in the wilderness, but Christians virtually all learn the phrase from that Lukan temptation story.

      So if I'm remembering right, this president so beloved of the Moral Majority managed to botch a citation to both testaments -- failing to recognize the words of both Moses (or so the M.M. would believe) AND Christ. But it was just all in a day's work for a guy who made political capital saying things like, "Within the covers of the Bible are all the answers for all the problems men face."

    19. Oh, that makes sense (about its being quoted in Luke).

      Hahaha, you love to make Presidents sound like B- undergraduate papers!

    20. :-) I report; you decide.

  7. Another great Plain Blog discussion. I fully agree with Jeff's notion that a President is more than the legislation shuttled through Congress; the Captain's job is primarily to steer the ship, moreso than to ensure that the right parts are installed in the engine (though that is part of it too).

    One of the fascinating things about Carter is that he somewhat defies broad-brush, ideological characterizations of later leaders. When Richard Skinner laments an ideological sameness here in the early 21st century, I suppose, at a minimum, you can at least credit Carter for not falling for all that (or maybe he was too naive to benefit from it?)

    For example, Carter has done much in his post-Presidential life that seems tone-deaf to the existential threat faced by Israel. And yet, Carter is widely regarded as the prime mover on the Camp David accords, which - if only for the influence American money bought over the Egyptians - must be just about the most stability-enhancing diplomatic initiative in modern Israel's 65 year history. As Jeff noted via the Bacevich quote, Carter correctly predicted the problems America would have in the Middle East, but as Jeff also noted, Carter didn't back off the Cold War either (or the middle east in particular).

    This is getting too long, but it seems you could make the same argument on the domestic side; viz, Carter's Presidency didn't fit convenient memes. Maybe he was just too inexperienced to see the value of plugging into easy narratives. OTOH, maybe he knew something?

    1. btw Jeff - wanted to acknowledge and thank you for the kind comments re: my participation in schadenfreude. I must respectfully disagree with your conclusion, though. I spend too much time feeling guilty about indulging in schadenfreude to claim not to be a practitioner of same.

    2. CSH, I would take pleasure in having you proven wrong about that. ;-)

  8. Wow. JB really can't stand Carter!

    Back to business, only a few Presidents screw up so badly that they make High School history books:

    Jackson - Trail of tears
    Johnson (maybe) - Almost impeached, Reconstruction fail
    Wilson - WWI, League of Nations fail
    Hoover - Great Depression fail
    LBJ - Vietnam
    Nixon - Watergate

    That's it. Carter is not even close to making the list. GWB probably won't make the list, and he screwed up two wars!

    Carter is destined to be forgotten by all but Presidency buffs. Nixon will fascinate for a long time. My nephew had a Nixon obsession when he was 12, in 1998.


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