July 21, 2002
A Stupid Joke -- Or Two

In the last couple of months, Jimmy Carter has moved on from flattering Castro and screwing over the people of Cuba to flattering Hugo Chávez and screwing over the people of Venezuela. It's time for the president to enforce the Logan Act and keep Jimmy home. Perhaps that would not be politically possible. In that case, we can at least try to shame him with ridicule. I like to think of Jimmy Carter, peanut farmer, as The ÜberGoober. Can anyone top that?

Posted by Dr. Weevil at July 21, 2002 11:41 PM

It is absolutely impossible to shame Jimmy Carter with ridicule. Given how much ridicule he rightly had heaped on him during his Presidency, any further such attempts seem superfluous and weak at best.

That being said, perhaps we could call him The Anti-Machiavelli. Or perhaps The UberKant. I can imagine Immanuel himself saying "Jimmy, my friend, you need to wise up and be a bit more cynical."

Posted by: Pejman Yousefzadeh on July 22, 2002 01:36 AM

If you want to make fun of Carter, just distribute this:


...as far and wide as possible.

Posted by: Dean Esmay on July 22, 2002 02:42 AM

Just before I moved off Blogspot I had quite the run of mocking Jimmy Carter and railing at his arrogance in Cuba. Because, you know, it is arrogance, even though it's cloaked in that noxious piety. I had several people busting me in comments for being ugly about Carter - one guy nearly had a liberal hissy-fit saying he had linked from another site to check out mine only to be greeted by my vicious slander of a good and decent man (ha). I vote for PietyPuffball - all self-righteous air and no worthy substance.

Posted by: susanna on July 22, 2002 10:22 AM

There is nothing "good and decent" about Carter, although so many people seem to think there is. Remember the "Rose Garden Policy"? Remember the number of times he lied about the hostages coming home immediately before a state primary? Remember the Americans he sent to a certain death in faulty helicopters? Remeber how many times he told us that any attempt to criticize his administration essentially was an insult to these men? Well, I remember all of it.

Posted by: Dominic Olivastro on July 22, 2002 12:05 PM

The answer is simple... offer him a meaningless but high-profile ambassadorship like Britain, France, Canada, or Mexico. Not only will it serve to focus his post-Presidentialpartum pangs to be inflicted on a single nation, but also it will serve to further demonstrate the folly of the Department of State.

The Saudis might object to such a move, since they feel they have an exclusive on foot-in-mouth ambassadors, led by their Chief Poet to Britain.

Posted by: Laurence Simon on July 22, 2002 01:23 PM

Make him ambassador to Cuba. Then we can cut off all diplomatic relations with him.

Posted by: Bob on July 22, 2002 04:34 PM

I can vaguely see how you feel that his visits to both countries were "flattering" but I don't understand the basis by which anyone was "screwed over", given Carter's distinct lack of power to actually do anything. The silence of the administration -- indeed, its tacit encouragement -- indicates that they view Carter's trips as legitimate "Track Two" diplomacy, where Carter's unofficial status actually gives him an advantage in that when he says "the US thinks X" he's taken more seriously, and he can get more honest answers than the pros can in their official capacity. (There's no love lost between our embassy in Caracas and the presidential palace, after all.) Today Otto Reich even said the US government views Chavez as the legitimate elected leader and disavowed support for a coup. Why don't you go after Otto, now?

Posted by: Dan Hartung on July 22, 2002 04:39 PM

I treasure the lines that P. J. O'Rourke came out with in his wonderful essay (in Give War a Chance) on the Nicaraguan elections that ousted the Sandinistas. He talked about Carter speaking Spanish with 'that prissy, nose-first goober-grabber way' and 'grinning like a raccoon eating fish guts out of a wire brush'. Priceless.

Posted by: David Gillies on July 22, 2002 05:01 PM

It's not much of a nickname, but I like to think of him as "former President Pangloss." After all, he insists on telling us that Cuba is "the best of all possible worlds."

Posted by: Matthew on July 23, 2002 08:12 PM

Okay, Matthew, now you're just lying. Where has Carter defended the Castro rťgime, as if he were some granola-eating demonstratin' college student?

Posted by: Dan Hartung on July 24, 2002 02:07 AM

Geesh Mr. Hartung, touchy about President Carterís honor, arenít we? I made a joke. A joke. Sort of like when Carter said he saw a UFO. No wait, that was real. Or when a killer rabbit attacked his boat. Ah, sorry, that was real too. . . .

Still, I stick by the Pangloss label. Carter may have given a historic speech attacking Castro for his human rights record, but this event was preceded by Carter publicly contradicting US State Department reports on Cubaís weapons programs. Guess which story got more airplay in Cuba.

Whatever Carterís Cuba record, his record elsewhere speaks volumes. I suppose you remember Mr. Carter intervening in North Korea, cozying up to Kim Il Sung, and saddling American policymakers with an unenforceable non-proliferation regime.

I suppose you remember Mr. Carter going to Haiti during the refugee crisis, holding the hand of coup leader Raoul Cedras, raving about Ms. Cedrasí beauty, and gutting Clintonís Haiti initiatives.

I suppose you remember Mr. Carter intervening in Somalia in 1993, taking sides with Gen. Aidid, and purposefully sabotaging the American mission there.

I suppose you remember Mr. Carter attempting to subvert the US Constitution -- which forbids private citizens from making foreign policy for the United States -- by personally lobbying members of the United Nations Security Council to vote against the Persian Gulf War

I suppose you remember Mr. Carter traveling to Nicaragua in 1990 to serve as a "neutral" election monitor, only to twist President-elect Violeta Chamorroís arm to get her to agree to leave several officials from the Sandinista dictatorship in place (a dictatorship Carter expected would win, anyway).

I suppose you remember Mr. Carter trusting Leonid Brezhnev not to invade Afghanistan.

I suppose you remember Mr. Carter lauding Romaniaís Nicolae Ceausescu and Yugoslavia's Marshall Tito as "supporters of human rights."

And I suppose you remember Carter saying that the only man he cannot forgive -- out of a long list including Brezhnev, Castro, Gen. Aidid, you name it -- is George Will, who Carter claims cost him the 1980 election.

So tell me, Mr. Hartung, how many other Candides is Carter going to make out of people around the world?

(Oh, and in case youíre wondering, Iím not lying in the above sentence Ė I'm engaging in hyperbole.)

P.S. Iíll be fair. Jimmy Carterís greatest triumph is also his greatest tragedy: he is incapable of believing that anyone might lie to him. In an average Joe, boundless faith in the truthfulness of others is an admirable, if slightly Quixotic, trait. In a leader, itís a disaster.

Posted by: Matthew on July 24, 2002 03:31 AM

Matthew, you certainly have the National Review spin on Carter down pat. Of course, you wouldn't acknowledge that when he was in Haiti, Somalia, AND North Korea, he was acting as a representative of Clinton, rather than "interfering" as you prefer to characterize it. If we were "saddled" with an agreement, then he MUST have been acting in an official capacity, and the fault is not with the negotiator but with the man who signed the agreement, Bill Clinton. In Somalia, as Mark Bowden has exhaustively documented, the decision to pursue negotiations with Aidid was not Carter's but Clinton's. THAT was the official WH policy; Clinton seemed barely aware of the UN arrest warrants and snatch-and-grab operations that you implicitly characterize as the "real" policy. You also seem to have forgotten that his National Security Adviser was one Zbigniew Brzezinski, who to this day proudly claims that it was the US support of the mujahedin that *enticed* the Soviets into Afghanistan, a quagmire he was happy to wish on them. If it was a deliberate policy of the US to at least idly stand by while the USSR climbed down a hole, how can it be Carter's naivete at fault?

You seem also to have forgotten that diplomacy requires the saying of nice things to distasteful people, especially if you have an agreement with them which you expect to be upheld. And agreements with enemies, alas, often require compromise on key points. Carter was hardly the first US president to suck up to Tito -- that constancy of US policy kept Yugoslavia as far outside of the Soviet orbit as it could go. Or did you want Soviet warships in the Adriatic?

Is Carter the perennial "good cop"? Are his efforts quixotic? Are negotiations always fruitful? I'll allow for that. The alternative is treating everyone as an enemy and using only military force to achieve aims. If you think only in belligerent terms, in one side winning and the other losing, it is no wonder that you dislike Carter. If you think in terms of resolving conflicts in a way that reduces violence and breeds political maturity, you will see the wisdom of even quixotic efforts. If you think of the role that short-term concrete agreements can play in managing a relationship with a dictator or a country that operates free of the rule of law, you'll see its place in the larger scheme of conflict management. A clearly understood agreement, broken, is a much more effective justification for a military intervention than vague charges.

Posted by: Dan Hartung on July 25, 2002 12:51 PM