Ted Salins © 2011

If Ronald Reagan had volunteered as a Naval Officer to enter the melted core of the first nuclear accident at Chalk River, Ontario to supervise the clean up, and to expose himself to the melted core of Three Mile Island as President to reassure a frightened nation – monuments would be built.

If George H.W. Bush had personally made dozens of trips to impoverished parts of Africa to oversee the near elimination of guinea worm disease and to start mass inoculations for river blindness, his legend would be mythic.

If George W. Bush had conducted Sunday school throughout his entire presidency, he would be regarded as a true Christian.

If any of the above went to hot spots around the world to monitor democratic elections in unlikely, dangerous places, he would be cited as a tireless fighter for human rights and the spread of democracy.

Yet Jimmy Carter actually did all of the above and many Americans treat him with such vile as can only be explained as partisan hatred. A quick search on the blogosphere to find comments about the former President:

“He should just go away and do what old people are supposed to do.”

“He is a senile old fool who should stay home and watch the grass grow.”

“I am amused by the mental failings of this old man.”

“Maybe if (Carter) would just shut up and go away these stories of his failures would as well.”

“Why doesn’t this old fool just give it up and leave us alone.”

“Jimmy Carter is the poster child for former Presidents who should be seen and not heard. I guess we should be grateful he doesn’t play golf or we all would be ducking for cover.”

There seems to be three themes: 1) Carter is old, 2) old people have no value and 3) he and other older people should leave us alone. Where are these marching orders coming from? Are we to believe that angry posters who sit at their computers spewing venom are more decent and committed than Jimmy Carter? “This man has degenerated into the useless idiot category,” one of them wrote. What is the usefulness of that post? What child will it save from river blindness?

All presidents have their detractors, but none in such an inexplicable, lockstep manner. The theory seems to be that bad things happened during The Carter Administration and as President he made mistakes. Gee. Sounds like every administration – why is his held to a higher standard?

The reasons on the blogosphere that most “explain” why he is “the worst president” are “high interest rates”, “gas lines” and the Iran hostage crises.  By this standard, Reagan should be judged on the outbreak of AIDS, the crack epidemic and the murder of 250 plus Marines in Lebanon; George W. Bush would be responsible for the beheadings of Americans posted for all to see on the internet. Is that not worse than Carter’s high interest rates? Can someone explain the specific date and moment when Carter made the decision to “force” private companies to raise interest rates on the American public? Did the banks beg him, “Please Mr. President, don’t make us raise rates on our fellow citizens!”. Where is the proof that high interest rates during Carter’s term were easily avoided and with what policy? Explain.

Jimmy Carter was not perfect – no one is. Some of his policies did not work. I could easily argue that the beheadings of Americans are directly related to decisions by George W. Bush’s misadventure in Iraq. How many Americans were beheaded during the years of the Carter Administration? If “gas lines” make you want to punch a hole in the wall, the beheadings should make you burn the house down.

Carter made what is regarded as the worst presidential speech of all time, the “malaise” speech, July 15, 1979. Here is a sample:

“…In a nation that was proud of hard work, strong families, close-knit communitie­­s, and our faith in God, too many of us now tend to worship self-indul­­gence and consumptio­­n. Human identity is no longer defined by what one does, but by what one owns. But we’ve discovered that owning things and consuming things does not satisfy our longing for meaning…”

If you have a problem with that, then you probably think old people have no value and should just “go away”.


  1. wasn’t even aware anyone was still dissing jimmy. stupid bloggers, they’ve got nothing better to do than whine.

  2. Patrick Rand Says:

    I agree that President Carter is a monument of courage, vision and humility. It sickens me when I hear anyone detract from his service to our country and the world. I was fortunate to meet him at a book signing ic Chicago several years ago and was stunned at his grace, humor and how humble he is. Thank you for writing such a thoughtful essay Ted!

  3. Barry Bless Says:

    really enjoyed this Ted, well written

  4. Ted: I have a confession. Jimmy Carter ran in the first election in which I was old enough to vote; and even then, pre-Internet and blogging, I was persuaded that Carter was a tool of the Trilateralists and instead exercised my franchise with….John Anderson (!)

    That “malaise” speech now comes across as prescient, if not presidential, and he never even said the word that was slapped on this address.

    Jimmy Carter is more a symbol of a major ill in politics: voters side with the pol who make them feel good, rather than what is good for the country. So Ronald Reagan smiles, he gets elected, he smiles again and gets elected, and if he’d been able to smile again, there’d have been a Constitutional amendment to elect him again (I recollect there was such a movement in the House).

    When Jimmy goes to his reward, as they say in Georgia, it’ll be interesting to see how the right wingers will castigate and kick him once he’s gone, and who turns up at the memorial service, and what if anything of importance will be said there. Final note, Carter considered — though how seriously I cannot know — asking Texas Congresswoman Barbara Jordan to be his vice president. Golly, what a history-making team that would’ve made! Now Jordan is dead and Jimmy is agéd and derided and any good he did buried from view, and the giants no longer walk the earth.

    • Caryl Burtner Says:

      Thanks for writing and showing me this, Ted. I am reminded of the joke that goes something like this: If Jimmy Carter wants an airport named after him he’ll have to build it himself.

      Has anybody seen Jonathan Demme’s documentary?

      And Harry: It was John Anderson who was the tool of the Trilateralists!

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