I’ve been moderately aware of politics for about 30 years. I recall bits and pieces of the 1976 presidential race (I was barely 9 on election day), but I recall being happy for Jimmy Carter. He seemed so different from President Ford, who struck me as a real non-entity. And I recall things getting worse and worse over the next four years, until I cheerfully sung along with the novelty protest song, “How long? (Can this world last?)” “President Carter / Get back to your peanut farm / President Carter / Get back to where you belong”
It took a long time and a lot of hard work to undo the damage Carter (who was incredibly sincere and well-meaning as he sent the country straight down the crapper) inflicted. I recall the “triple doubles,” with double-digit inflation, unemployment, and interest rates. But the single worst thing he did, the single act (or, more correctly, inaction) that caused the worst harm, had to be his handling of the Iranian situation.
First, he abandoned the Shah. He saw Khomeini as “a man of God” with whom he could deal. He allowed a long-time US ally get overthrown, in the hopes of bringing about a more “just” government. And then he allowed Iran to overrun and take the United States Embassy in Teheran, taking Americans hostage.
Under international law, an embassy is considered sovereign territory of the nation it represents. An attack on an embassy IS an attack on the soil of the owner’s nation, and constitutes an act of war. Carter refused to treat this as such, and his timidity in the face of this affront did great damage to the reputation of the United States, the second greatest blow to the United States’ prestige since our emergence as a superpower after World War II.
In many ways, we are still dealing with the consequences of that decision (or indecision) of Carter’s. It took 1990 and the first Gulf War to show that the United States was not only able, but willing to fight — and was quite capable of crushing an enemy. And even then, it didn’t work thoroughly — it led to Al Qaeda’s repeated attacks on America (the first World Trade Center attack, the Khobar Towers attack, the African embassies attack, the Cole bombing, and finally 9/11), and it took our almost-casual destruction of the Taliban and Hussein’s governments to remind the world that the United States was, indeed, a force to be reckoned with.
But back to my original point: attacks on embassies are attacks on sovereign nations, and de facto acts of war. But the value of that was cheapened by Carter’s refusal to respond forcefully to Iran’s assault on our territory. And now, the Islamic rioters are going after embassies, burning them. But these acts of war are not being treated as such — and I can’t help but think that the precedent set by Iran back in 1979 is a factor.
Ever since I first heard about Jimmy Carter, back in 1976, I had the impression that he was a decent, honest, honorable man. Almost 30 years later, I still feel that way. But there’s an old aphorism about good intentions, and Mr. Carter’s honorable intentions nearly did send this country to hell.
Go back to the peanut farm, Mr. Carter. Or to building houses for poor people. You simply aren’t competent to deal with international politics. You weren’t back in 1976, and you apparently haven’t learned a damned thing since.