Monday, May 21, 2007

Carter: One of the Best Ex-Presidents

In response to this nonsensical post on KVNU’s blog For the People, I provided this rebuttal.

Craig, who was right in 1976? Carter, who promoted alternative energies like solar, wind, nuclear, etc and proposed an energy independence plan? Or people like Orrin Hatch who opposed him? I think around 3200 dead soldiers, marines, airmen, and sailors would rather we had followed Carter’s plans instead of 30 more years of dependence on foreign oil. That doesn’t count the millions around the world that are dead because we (the US) failed to take the lead to get off non-renewable energy and now suffer under tons of pollution (without a doubt about that) and global warming (you can argue amongst yourself about that, but you are part of a shrinking minority). We had a choice during the Carter presidency; and we chose to not allow our nation to move forward in research, development, and implementation of renewable energy. Now we are paying for it, in $3 gas, in American health, in potentially more prosperity, and the lives of our military.

I will admit that Carter made mistakes. It is obvious he failed to heed his own advice in helping the corrupt Shah, and that led to the Islamic revolution and hostage crisis in Iran. However, you make claims in your article about the Carter Center’s work, but most of them are logically flawed. You submit simply because Carter negotiated the 1994 North Korean deal, that it was doomed to fail. When in fact that led to a softening of relations among North Korea, its neighbors, and the US (remember the unified Korean Olympic team in 2000? Madeline Albright’s visit? the South Korean President getting the Nobel Peace Prize because of their peace-making efforts). Also, one of the reasons the Agreed Framework broke down is the Republican Congress refused to fund essential portions of it. Finally, it was the Bush Administration inexplicably putting NK in the “axis of evil” that put the final nails in the coffin and scared the paranoid NK regime out of the Non-Proliferation Treaty. It should be noted that Gov. Bill Richardson, a Democratic presidential candidate, is who both the US and NK turn to now to get things done.

As to the Carter Center’s work, can you hold out the possibility that perhaps they know what they are doing and the Venezuelan people actually dislike American influence so much that they would vote for Chavez? But hey, it’s not like we could have less an obtrusive influence there if we had stopped being so concerned with their oil, like if we had stopped around 1977 or so?

For Cuba, all I can say is at least he is trying where a 40 year embargo has clearly failed.

I have not read his book, but I would expect such a response given the power of the American-Israeli lobby. Perhaps if we had gotten off foreign oil, say in 1977 or even now, we would care less about what happens in the Middle East.

Finally, I think you have intentionally taken the quote out of context. If you read the entire quote, you would be hard pressed to find any nation on earth that likes Bush, and therefore has a lesser opinion of the nation that elected and re-elected him. If you could provide a nation that thinks well of Bush, in terms of public opinion polling, please provide evidence of that.

I would say that Bush is the worst president, for the simple reason he has ignored every lesson of history about wars won and lost in the 20th Century (Spanish-American, WWI, WWII, Korean, Vietnam), hence we are stuck in the Iraq quagmire.

Leaving the main part of my comment about energy untouched, he focused instead on specious arguments about Carter’s post-presidential work. He alleged Carter’s work in North Korea was “freelance;” President Carter disputes this claim. He then alleges that “whenever Carter monitors an election, the dictator wins.” Looking over a list of elections the Carter Center has observed or certified (which are two different things), you can see that Craig’s statement is flatly false. Probably the best example was in 1999 in East Timor, when the dictatorial Indonesian regime lost to the East Timorese people’s wishes for independence. How about the election of Vicente Fox in Mexico in 2000? Was he a dictator? What about the Cherokee nation’s elections in 1999? Did they elect a dictator? Do you think that would even be possible?

He dismisses worldwide public opinion polls, including the BBC-University of Maryland’s Program on International Policy Attitudes polls, showing the US is increasingly looked upon as a negative influence on the world. For example, you can see in the 2007 edition of their detailed study that we are reaching a new low in terms of world opinion of the US. Craig cites close relations with leaders of some nations as evidence of world support. As one who has actually lived in Australia, I can tell you that their increasingly flagging support of John Howard has nothing to do with his relationship with Bush. They have little or no tolerance for him Down Under. Australia, as with the UK, Hungary, Russia, Turkey, and the other nations in the BBC-PIPA poll, thinks, almost always in strong majorities: the US is having a mainly negative influence in the world; disapproves how the US has handled the situations in Iraq; Iran; Israel/Lebanon/Hezbollah; North Korea; the treatment of detainees in Guantanamo; global warming; and that the US military presences in the Middle East provokes more conflicts than it prevents. Japan was not polled in this study, but I suspect they are just fine with America as long as we keep buying their cars and ignore their high protectionist tariffs. He then makes the increasingly strained comparison between Bush and Reagan, saying the world hated Reagan. I would like to see some citation of that fact; I know many around the world, in the US, and even in Utah (including the LDS Church) were alarmed by Reagan’s affinity for nuclear weapons and the theory of limited nuclear war, a.k.a. nuclear utilization theory, a.k.a. NUTs. The main difference is that Reagan softened his rhetoric toward the USSR in his second term (as Gorbachev reciprocated), and that allowed the peace process to bloom and the Cold War to end.

He then dismisses the American Israeli lobby’s influence on US politics, alleging Carter “accepts millions of dollars from the Saudis.” Again, I have not read the book, but just looking at their official lobbying arm, AIPAC, you can see they have a lot of power on both sides of the aisle. I would also like Craig to cite the Saudi’s payments, because I have not found such a connection. However, I doubt he reaches the point of anti-semitism, though it is clear a lot of people are upset about his book. This leads me to wonder: Craig, have you read his book? Or are you just judging it by its cover?

David James alleges that there have been great advances in alternative energy over the past 30 years, almost entirely in the private sector. That was my exact point; in the absence of any governmental leadership in the energy arena, the private sector was left to its own devices. Imagine where we would be today if, instead of one building at the U of U devoted to coal gasification, a nuclear reactor, and other energy research, we could have ten? What if Dr. Farrell Edwards at USU had funding from the Department of Energy and not Homeland Security to work on his fusion research? I would like Mr. James to cite how much money we “threw away” and what “no results” means, especially considering the horrible situation we are in today. I am not arguing for the evil “government intervention” that he warns about, but the kind of research, development, and implementation that could have truly opened up the world energy market beyond just oil. Instead, we are still stuck using fossil fuels for 85% of our total US energy consumption in 2005, with petroleum increasing as the main US energy consumption source since the 70s but other forms of energy have barely risen.

I have neglected to reject the response that Carter has been a bad ex-president, but compared to the recent history of past presidents, he has probably done the best job, frankly. Truman, Eisenhower, LBJ, and Reagan barely did anything (or had the capability to do anything) after their presidencies, beyond politics; Nixon wrote books and tried to defend himself; Ford did well to help his wife’s causes and other activities; GHW Bush and Clinton have worked on charitable projects, but both have been concerned with their dynasties. Only Carter has dedicated himself almost wholeheartedly to humanitarian and peace-making projects (though he has definitely remained politically active).

Finally, in response to Tom Grover’s remarks, which I concede are cogent. Carter did not use the traditional chief-of-staff model of organization; it seems his desire to be in-the-know more than his scandal-tainted predecessors overwhelmed him. Furthermore, his speeches reached for how Lincoln connected morals and policy, but obviously failed. Finally, his Congressional relations were very bad, but some would say he was better than Bush is now. Those poor relations, especially with those in his own party, cost him and led to the failure of his energy package.

Finally, I would not say at all that Carter was the greatest President ever; I would rank him in the mid-range of 20th Century presidents. He was better than McKinley, Taft, Harding, Coolidge, Hoover; a toss up among Wilson, Truman, Ford, GHW Bush, Clinton; but worse than TR, Wilson, FDR, Ike, JFK, LBJ, Nixon, and Reagan. The reason I think GWB is so bad, is because he has the blessing of learning from American history, but has spurned those blessings and that has cost our nation dearly.

I have vented enough and will hopefully not engage in a flame war on this, but I just wanted to get this off my chest.


Bradley said...

You're probably be interested to read James Taranto's take on Carter.

Davis Didjeridu said...

I don't think Taranto has much credibility. He has been wrong on so many things (i.e. Iraq), it is not even worth reading him.

Vigilante said...

Too bad Carter felt intimidated into backing off his statement because it's absolutely true. Bush is the worse president in American history. I would go further and say I hope he is the worse possible president, because I would hate to think that someone could be elected who would be even worse. But Carter backed off. He is, after all, 80 or more. Right? A little frail, perhaps. But his judgment is still more sound than most Republicans half his age.