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Jimmy Carter's superiority

Back near the dawn of history -- in Dec., 1978, when I was practicing politics as an activist, not as a columnist -- I convened a small meeting in Los Angeles that was, I believe, the first gathering in the state devoted to drafting Ted Kennedy to run against the incumbent Democratic president, Jimmy Carter, in 1980. The reasons for challenging a president from our own party were many and varied: Carter had either done nothing to help or actually put the brakes on congressional Democrats' attempts to pass full employment legislation, a universal health care bill, labor law reform, and other enactable progressive initiatives. He was clearly the most conservative Democratic president since Grover Cleveland. The fact that he was also insufferably sanctimonious -- unbearably egocentric about his own gooder-than-goodness -- was nowhere near the top of the list. But as now-former president Carter reminded us today, boy, was he ever.

Lest that egocentricity vanish in the mists of time, Carter returned it to center-stage today during an interview set to air tonight on NBC. "I feel my role as a former president is probably superior to that of other presidents'," he told Brian Williams, because of his work on such global issues as poverty and the environment and his willingness to meet with the leaders of pariah nations. The NBC interview follows one on "60 Minutes" last week (Carter is making the rounds promoting a new book) in which he blamed Kennedy for the failure to enact health-care reform during his presidency.

Carter's towering self-esteem is not merely revolting in itself; it was also a genuine stumbling block to his cultivating productive relations with Democratic members of Congress -- one reason why his tenure in the White House produced such meager legislative achievements, despite the huge Democratic margin in both houses during his first two years as president. Indeed, however superior Carter's post-presidency may be, his presidency itself, by any dispassionate measure of achievement, shapes up as inferior to those of the other 20th-century Democratic presidents. As for his claims for his post-prez years, he'd be hard pressed to claim they were more impressive than, say, those of John Quincy Adams, who became a leading opponent of slavery while serving in the House in the years after he'd served in the White House.

I can't convene a meeting to draft someone to challenge Carter's tenure as an ex-president. But it’s a pleasant thought.

By Harold Meyerson  | September 20, 2010; 6:33 PM ET
Categories:  Meyerson  | Tags:  Harold Meyerson  
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Comments

A. He was president THIRTY YEARS AGO.

B. He is by most accounts a pretty decent guy.

C. Who are you, Grandpa Simpson? Find something meaningful to complain about. Sheesh.

Posted by: hellslittlestangel1 | September 20, 2010 8:19 PM | Report abuse

This isn't self esteem re:Carter it's pure arrogance. I thought the same thing you did except I'm afraid he's not the first arrogant president, nor will be be the last--and I would vote out Clinton... sorry :)

Posted by: ProudAmerican1 | September 20, 2010 8:46 PM | Report abuse

Wow - this sounds very familiar:

"He was also insufferably sanctimonious -- unbearably egocentric about his own gooder-than-goodness" and "towering self-esteem is not merely revolting in itself; it was also a genuine stumbling block to his cultivating productive relations with Democratic members of Congress... despite the huge Democratic margin in both houses during his first two years as president."

What other (current) President does this sound like? Is this deja vu?

Posted by: Illini | September 20, 2010 11:04 PM | Report abuse

So as a so called Liberal, you are admitting to help bring in Reagan? Jimmy Carter may have many faults but he tells the truth. He was giving an honest appraisal of his post presidency. He has a lot to back up his statement. I think Bill Clinton has done some pretty good work as well. George Bush has done ok but not really in same ball game. Ronald Reagan didn't really do that much but dementia takes no prisoners.
As Jimmy's presidency, was it his ego that was the problem or the ego of people like you? Did you know that Jimmy Carter is largest producer of latrines in the world? This has helped create more drinkable water for droughtt stricken areas. What have done?

Posted by: PatrickChanin1 | September 20, 2010 11:39 PM | Report abuse

Frankly it is bad taste to ever blow your own horn. If a person's work is that good it isn't necessary to bash others as Carter has decided to do. We could blame his age, but then Jimmy has always been Jimmy. He is like an old Cocker Spaniel that is frankly hard to like. One thing is for sure. Carter and Obama have one big thing is common. They both are whiners blaming others for messing up their agendas.

Posted by: jkachmar | September 20, 2010 11:58 PM | Report abuse

C. Who are you, Grandpa Simpson?

Posted by: hellslittlestangel
_________________________________

Speaking of The Simpsons, they pretty much had it right:

"Jimmy Carter: History's Greatest Nightmare."

(Though Obama is sure giving him a run for his money.)

Posted by: etpietro | September 21, 2010 12:20 AM | Report abuse

hellslittlestangel1 wrote:Find something meaningful to complain about.

"Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it." That doesn't mean you get an F and have to go to summer school kiddie.

Carter's sanctimonious-ness offended our allies abroad, encouraged our enemies, and alienated pretty much everyone in the American Political spectrum. This at a time of deep national crisis. He was so certain that he was right that he decided the country's problems were not the fault of a lame national leader and a bloated insensitive government, but a deep "malaise" practiced by the citizenry.

He sounds like someone I read about recently. Now, what was that name ...

Posted by: dilettante | September 21, 2010 12:48 AM | Report abuse

to all,

fwiw, i was NO fan of "the GA peanut man" BUT he was about TWICE the POTUS that the "current temporary occupant of the WH" is and TEN times as good a man to boot. - when Jimmy Carter failed it was because he could NOT do better; BHO has failed because he wasn't even minimally qualified to be POTUS by attitude, intellect or morals.

there is just ONE term that precisely fits BHO: "An utter embarrassment to the USA".

but FEAR NOT gentle readers, BHO has about the same chance as i do to be POTUS in 2013. - if he survives the DIMocRATS primary (unlikely!), he will be beaten like the proverbial drum by whomever the Tea Party/GOP coalition chooses to run against him.

yours, TN46
coordinator, CCTPP

Posted by: texasnative46 | September 21, 2010 2:26 AM | Report abuse

I liked him then and I like him even better now. A great spokesman for most that is good.

Posted by: eaglehawkaroundsince1937 | September 21, 2010 2:53 AM | Report abuse

Every once in a while this country gets a president who is willing to tell the truth and work on behalf of working families. Harry Truman and Jimmy Carter were such presidents. Their actions were guided by clear reasoning and moral conscience rather than partisan interests and the changeable howling of the crowd. They refused to engage in hucksterism and hackery to boost their poll numbers; and although they were dedicated to certain progressive principles, they set aside the ready-made ideological programs of the old Left to chart their own course.

Such decency is unsuitable for modern presidential politics, in which one must be generic in order to seem authentic. But it certainly is refreshing to have presidents, from time-to-time, who care less about satisfying their base and winning elections and more about doing what they think is right for most people in the country.

(For Harry Truman at his best, listen to the former president's address at the Jefferson-Jackson Day Dinner on March 29, 1952:http://millercenter.org/scripps/archive/speeches/detail/3353. President Obama should take heed.)

Posted by: poitoueksophia | September 21, 2010 3:10 AM | Report abuse

Finally something we can all agree upon. Jimmy Carter was one of the worst and certainly the most insufferable President ever.

Posted by: krush01 | September 21, 2010 4:30 AM | Report abuse

I voted for Ford at the time. And I think he would have been an OK president also.

But looking back I saw that Carter did many good things as President and tried to do more. He did not understand the sausage factory culture of corruption that is Congress. And typically, Americans blame him because he was unlucky enough to be president during an energy crisis and while the U.S. embassy in Iran was captured.

Since he has left office, he has spent his entire life involved in public service. Monitoring elections, raising money to fight guinea worm and other health risks, all at an advanced age. Telling it like it is about Palestine. Recently getting a hostage released in North Korea.

He has accomplished a million times more than the no-nothing critics in this forum could dream of, much less dare to try.

Posted by: ACounter | September 21, 2010 5:05 AM | Report abuse

If Jimmy Carter was such a bright, moral man, why is he constantly taking the side of the deceitful, genocidal Palestinians over that of the Israeli's?

Carter's presidency was a disaster and his post-Presidency is at least equally as bad.

Posted by: honorswar26 | September 21, 2010 6:11 AM | Report abuse

Carter was and is a loser; so is Meyerson. This is the battle of jilted socialists. But Carter has the largest ego, least justified, of anyone in recent memory.

No contest!

Posted by: Curmudgeon10 | September 21, 2010 6:13 AM | Report abuse

Yup, Carter was pretty dreadful as prez and as ex he has proven to be a meddlesome, 'me-first' do-gooder who insinuates his incompetent self in every situation with unwanted, unsolicited and vapid 'advice' and action for sitting presidents. But what is truly delicious is Meyerson's main beef with him is that he wasn't left wing enough to get a socialist agenda through Congress! Well here's a huzzah for Jimmah and especially for ushering the era of a truly great president, Ronald Reagan. He was Reagan's James Buchanan. (And while we're at it -another huzzah for B.O.- Jimmah the II - for helping elect the next conservative president of the USA in 2012. You learned well my friend).

Posted by: Natstoyou | September 21, 2010 6:41 AM | Report abuse

A failed President. A naive man who does not understand human nature. A nuclear engineer? Lusted after other women in a article in Playboy. Handled the tennis court schedule at the White House. Jimmy Carter is the poster guy for avoiding self importance. He proves that those that think they know it all know the least. I remember when his son Chip explained that Carter could argue both sides of an argument and win both sides. How extraordinary. Jimmy Carter is a buffoon. And he wasted for years of our history as President of the United States. He made us a laughingstock. And what he said he would do to Ted Kennedy, Ronald Reagan did to him, big time.

Posted by: bobbo2 | September 21, 2010 7:02 AM | Report abuse

Republican presidents have the courtesy to refrain from criticism after they leave office. They are gracious enough to understand that we should have only one president at a time. It's a shame that Carter did not afford the same courtesy he was afforded (by Gerald Ford) to others. Furthermore, there is no need for a past president to act like Carter, because there are plenty of pundits out there who will say the same thing if it is true.

Listen to Carter and you will note his two favorite words: "I" and "my". That says it all.

Posted by: hipshot | September 21, 2010 7:20 AM | Report abuse

I think that column tells us much more abut the columnist than it does President Carter and I see the same thing in comments from some of those writing. President Carter did some good things ahead of his time. For example, got petroleum imports cut about in half. Did no good because he was ahead of his time. He has had an extraordinary record of achievements since his presidency and, yes, he tells you about them as do other Presidents who are active in public service afterwards. For various reasons that has primarily been Democrats. Nixon had obstacles, Reagan was ill, etc.,

Posted by: withersb | September 21, 2010 7:36 AM | Report abuse

Jimmy Carter is living proof that engineers tend to be rotten as politicians. Engineers find it easy to come to evidence-based consensuses. Once the obviously right answer is found -- and proven mathematically -- everybody works together to implement it. Non-engineers? Not so.

As I watched Carter on The Daily Show last night, and Bill Clinton on Letterman, what struck me most was that we have a number of living former presidents freely speaking their minds. Love our political system or not, the fact that we routinely change administrations without violence is amazing compared to how things are done in far too many other countries.

Posted by: roblimo | September 21, 2010 7:42 AM | Report abuse

Well said Mr. Meyerson.
The ol peanot farmer is still the insufferable fool that he always was.
Billy Carter would have been a better president.

Posted by: pd2710 | September 21, 2010 7:52 AM | Report abuse

Is it dementia, or simply delusion? I guess that is really the only question to come out of Carter's views.

Posted by: johne37179 | September 21, 2010 7:59 AM | Report abuse

I'm a little confused. During the 60 minutes interview, Carter claimed he had a successful legislative agenda, but you claim he had a failed one.

Posted by: logan303 | September 21, 2010 8:13 AM | Report abuse

Jiminy Carter is, as one poster wrote, a buffoon. He is indeed sanctimonious, and overlooks the harm his presidency and his post presidency has done. True, he did some good, but it is overshadowed by the "necessity" of rewriting history. Stomping on a dead man's grave does not sound very Christian, even for someone who needs to be reborn again.

Posted by: sailhardy | September 21, 2010 8:23 AM | Report abuse

I saw that interview and it amazes me that so many in the media distort through paraphrasing. Jimmy Carter claimed that the foundations through which he worked gave him superior opportunities to affect people's lives in a positive way, not that HE was superior in any way. Jimmy Carter is an unfailingly modest man and would not make such a claim even if it were self-evidently factual.

However, if you genuinely wish to refute the notion that Jimmy Carter's performance as a citizen of the United States and the world has been superior to that of other ex-presidents living since his presidency ended untimely, or that any ex-president since he left office has done more or greater good, I ask that you provide an example of one whose accomplishments have been greater than his.

Let's see, that would be, uhhh...

Posted by: FergusonFoont | September 21, 2010 8:39 AM | Report abuse

Jimmy Carter - the worst president of the 20th century. He might be a "good" person (even though his habit of badmouthing the US is evidence that he is not all that good), but that doesn't translate into being a good president.

Posted by: nonot | September 21, 2010 8:40 AM | Report abuse

Hard what to say about Carter as president. But as ex-president he did not get the jewish vote.

As matter of fact I voted for Reagan as Carter left the country in the mood that we were losers. Reagan on the other hand said it was morning in america. And he made us believe in ourselves.

Carter seemed to have made my car run out of gas all the time. He never did know what to do about Iran. I think if we had drop a bomb or two they would have gotten the idea of who we really were. But Carter just did not think about that kind of thing. Peace at any cost was his way.

But Iran needed at wakeup call. And now we live with A-bomb problem that may kill many people before a lesson is learned the hard way. Carter may left his mark but the wrong one.

Posted by: artg | September 21, 2010 8:48 AM | Report abuse

hellslittlestangel1 -

" Find something meaningful to complain about. Sheesh."

Yeah, he should complain about important things. Like you do. LOL

Posted by: bobmoses | September 21, 2010 8:49 AM | Report abuse

Oh right, and Teddy Kennedy, if nominated, would have been sooooooooo electable, and such a good president if he actually won. The citizens of Massachusetts were ready to forgive him for Chappaquiddick, but not the nation as a whole. Plus, at that stage in his life, he was a chronic drunk.

Posted by: herzliebster | September 21, 2010 8:51 AM | Report abuse

Deja vu all over again? An arrogant, overeducated blowhard Democrat who thinks he is by far the smartest man in the world, let alone the room? One who is so intelligent, and refuses to find common ground on controversial issues? Sound familar. Another one term President, Obama and Jimmy can take solice in each other in two years, as being the only un-relectable Democrat Presidents in the last 50 years.

Posted by: jay441 | September 21, 2010 8:55 AM | Report abuse

"Jimmy Carter's superiority" Isn't that an oxymoron?

Posted by: GordonShumway | September 21, 2010 9:01 AM | Report abuse

Jimmy Carter, the only president of which I am aware who pardoned a child molester.

Posted by: jnrentz@aol.com | September 21, 2010 9:17 AM | Report abuse

Carter's always spoken as if he has a direct line to God. Carter can only legitimately claim to have been the most effective FORMER president because no one outside of his immediately family thinks that he was even an average president.

Posted by: randysbailin | September 21, 2010 9:32 AM | Report abuse

I love it when the oh-so-tolerant liberals intolerantly eat their own.

I, for one, shall be ever grateful to President Carter. Without his record of abject failure, we might not have had Ronald Reagan. I remember fondly the years when we had a REAL president.

One can only hope that history will repeat itself, that President Obama will beget 2012's Reagan. The thought of a president who might reduce Mr. Meyerson to incoherent, sputtering fury comforts me.

(I know, Mr. Meyerson is generally sputtering and incoherent anyway...)

Posted by: gilbertbp | September 21, 2010 9:36 AM | Report abuse

Carter also was able to bring together the 2 parties of Congress: both sides of the aisle hated him.

Posted by: randysbailin | September 21, 2010 9:36 AM | Report abuse


I voted for Carter and was defending his actions/inactions for the first two years of his presidency. Until I had to face the reality that he wasn't really that good as a President.

As a former President, I do not appreciate his capitulating with rogue nations without consent of our government. Carter undermines our foreign policy agenda.

I do think his work on Habitat for Humanity was good and more than Ford or Nixon had done as former Presidents.

However, I think what former Presidents Clinton and George H.W. Bush have done has been a wonderful collaboration to help people thruout the world. Especially coming from different ends of the political spectrum. That's only one of the reasons our country is so exceptional. Also, the Clinton Foundation has done wonderful work here and around the world. Now George W. Bush, I've seen, has joined Clinton as his father has in the past.

As an Independent voter, I'm glad that at least on some issues Americans join together to show the world how we can put aside our political divide and actually make a difference in the world.

Posted by: janet8 | September 21, 2010 9:42 AM | Report abuse

Speaking of The Simpsons, they pretty much had it right:
"Jimmy Carter: History's Greatest Nightmare."
(Though Obama is sure giving him a run for his money.)
Posted by: etpietro
----
Really, so Carter and Obama are worse than Reagan and Bush? Are you smoking something or are you just plain stupid? When you have so little of worth to say it is far better to keep your mouth shut.
----
This columnist thinks that Carter achieved nothing during his presidency. Well I think the Eqypt/Israel Peace Treaty is a pretty impressive achievement.

Carter broke the back of OPEC by deregulating the oil industry.

Carter pushed for human rights around the world (unlike the loathsome 'Torture' president Bush)

Carter appointed Paul Volker to the Fed and the country was on its way to an economic recovery long before Reagan was elected. Of course, Reagan then pushed all those tax cuts, blew up the deficit and the defense budget, broke the back of the unions, and accelerated the decline of the middle class. It is a fact that, until W. Bush, Reagan qualifies as the worst president since, at least, Harding.

Now as for Carter's boasting, HE IS THE BEST EX-PRESIDENT IN HISTORY. When Reagan left office, what did he do? Make money speaking and continue his intellectual decline (Not much of a decline considering he had so little to begin with). Carter has worked for Habitat for Humanity, undergone many successful diplomatic missions, and on and on.

Carter is the most under-rated president in US history. Had he remained in office for a second term, Scalia would not be on the Court (a vast achievement alone), he may have gotten an energy bill through Congress and we would be driving cars that got 100 mpg. Most of all, the tax cuts, again benifiting mostly the rich, would not have been passed. Instead the money would have been spent rebuilding the infrastructure of this coutry. Also, the budget would probably be in balance.

Yes, Cindy McCain may have had only six houses instead of seven, but we would not have to worry that the bridges we are driving over would collapse.

Pretty good tradeoff I would say.

Posted by: nyrunner101 | September 21, 2010 9:49 AM | Report abuse

If the contest for moral superiority is between Carter and Ted Kennedy, it's not even a close call. Carter didn't get drunk, drive a young lady off a bridge and leave her to die.

Posted by: stratman1 | September 21, 2010 10:01 AM | Report abuse

Carter is superior to ALL past presidents in my lifetime based on his work to increase the quality of life for people whom most otheres are unwilling to help. He was a much better president than most people realize because many of the things he did don't fit into sound bytes - he was pushing solar power in the 70's good luck if our policy can catch up to his thinking in the next 10 years. He isn't going to last forever on he was basically calling out Clinton and Bush to step up and fill the very important gaps that will be left when he is gone. He desrves to speak out about his acccomplishments because he is normally very modest about them and eveyone else in his spot is too lazy to try to make a difference.

Posted by: bob29 | September 21, 2010 10:04 AM | Report abuse

I liked him then and I like him even better now. A great spokesman for most that is good.

There is a basic human need to feel superior. Meyerson sure tapped into it. Do you all feel superior now?

Carter continues to live the life of a statesman and an activist trying to improve the human condition.

If we had done just a few of his energy initiatives we would be far far better off today.

But what do I know in this overcrowded room of judges?

Posted by: rowens1 | September 21, 2010 10:04 AM | Report abuse

Worse President in my life time. Obama might beat the peanut farmer yet. What Carter did in his presidency affected my family and I badly. We did recovered finally under Reagan's Presidency. I probably will died before the full effect of what Obama and the democrats did the last eighteen months will take place. However, I believe my children and grand-children will be paying for this disaster for many, many years. The Country might never recover from this administration. Funny how Europe is getting away or trying to get away from the socialist model and we are going headstrong into it.

Posted by: hector25 | September 21, 2010 10:14 AM | Report abuse

take away the incredible bad luck carter had in his short tenure, and you have at most an unremarkable term of office. he was no lyndon johnson, f.d.r., or barack obama, but then, he was no gipper or dubya either (one charming but utterly disastrous, the other, a poor imitation of peter sellers in 'being there'). some of the bad luck played into carter's obvious weaknesses (iran). he was like captain kirk when he got split into two pieces, the good side and the evil side. like the good kirk, carter was utterly helpless when faced with a vicious and determined foe. whether he admits it or not, he will be remembered in history fairly, an utter failure.

Posted by: jimfilyaw | September 21, 2010 10:15 AM | Report abuse

You know, you keep hearing about all these wonderful houses Carter builds for poor people. The cameras roll, people weep tears of joy, and we all think, "Gee, what a fine person Jimmy Carter is."

But does anyone ever revisit those houses a year or two later? Because I've seen any number of stories where some rich Good Samaritan donates a house to some unwed mother with five kids, and the cameras roll, and mom weeps tears of joy, and then you read two years later that the house is being condemned by the local health department because it hasn't been maintained and the windows are broken and the roof is leaking and the floors are rotting from the leaking water pipes and live electrical wires are sticking out of the walls, and the rats...

Does anyone ever go back to a "Habitat for Humanity" home and see how the people are doing a few years later?

Posted by: gilbertbp | September 21, 2010 10:31 AM | Report abuse

President Carter is another sad, liberal who seems to not celebrate American values. Thanks for your service, but please stop the pontificating.

Posted by: sarno | September 21, 2010 10:32 AM | Report abuse

Whew....delusional "achievements" by JC from some revisionist defenders if I've ever seen them.

To wit: (1) Well I think the Eqypt/Israel Peace Treaty is a pretty impressive achievement. Gee, whatever became of the "peace"? Not that anyone can achieve peace in this area of the world where the only thing stronger than memory is the unbridled hatred of extremists on both sides.

(2)Carter broke the back of OPEC by deregulating the oil industry. Try medication. It won't cure your thinking, but it might make you happier.

(3) Carter pushed for human rights around the world (unlike the loathsome 'Torture' president Bush). "Pushing" and "achieving" are two different things.......sort of like Obama.

Carter appointed Volker, yada, yada yada Reagan blew up the deficit and the defense budget, broke the back of the unions (A GOOD THING) and accelerated the decline of the middle class. It is a fact that, until W. Bush, Reagan qualifies as the worst president since, at least, Harding. HEY....Remember the malaise speech? It was because there was malaise. Reagan was running the country as a 70+ year old man who was shot. Carter kept track of and controlled the schedule for the White House tennis court. Who was the out of focus putz?

Now as for Carter's boasting, HE IS THE BEST EX-PRESIDENT IN HISTORY. When Reagan left office, what did he do? Make money speaking and continue his intellectual decline (Not much of a decline considering he had so little to begin with). Carter has worked for Habitat for Humanity, undergone many successful diplomatic missions, and on and on. MOST SUCCESSFUL........pandering to dictators, kissing the backside of N Korea, Iran, Arafat? For a guy with a big IQ, Carter was and is A BOOB....and a bitter ine at that.

Had he remained in office for a second term, Scalia yada yada....we would be driving cars that got 100 mpg. Most of all, the tax cuts, again benifiting mostly the rich, would not have been passed. Instead the money would have been spent rebuilding the infrastructure of this coutry. Also, the budget would probably be in balance. A 100 MPG Car? We don't have one because one can't be built.......Drive your Prius around after charging the battery with a foreign made battery that was charged by a coal fired electricity plant.

You get to write what you want and so do I. So when I call you an "idiot" I'd call that a "pretty good tradeoff"!


Posted by: buggerianpaisley1 | September 21, 2010 10:34 AM | Report abuse

It is kind of a tribute to Carter that he wouldn't steamroll the Republicans with his democratic majority. As an ex-president he has been more productive for the common good than any other president in my lifetime. Ok, he's vain about it. Oh well, so don't invite him to dinner.

As to comparisons to the current administration, Obama seems better at handling the machinery of Washington and has accomplished a great deal. If he is voted out due to a faltering economy, my guess is that his successor will fare the same. Reagan had the luxury of being able to run up the deficit by cutting taxes but not entitlements. Obamas successor will find that difficult.

This isn't 1980, and we could have done a lot worse (and did) than re-elect Carter.

Posted by: Droffas | September 21, 2010 10:36 AM | Report abuse

Carter was a typical Democrats...an utter disaster.

Mortgage rates of 23% when my wife and I wanted to buy our first home.

Runaway inflation, wrecked economy, Iran hostage crisis, international disgrace, etc., etc., etc.

Carter was a sanctimonious buffoon and Obama the Obnoxious is far worse.

Hopefully, the Republican President who succeeds Barry the Bum will be as brilliant and effective as Reagan who gave us eight years of peace and prosperity.

Posted by: Jerzy | September 21, 2010 10:44 AM | Report abuse

I think it would be wrong to elevate Carter as President just from the sheer volume of his meddling and busybody efforts after he left office.

There is a lot to be said for the humble Cinnicinatus approach that George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Grover Cleveland, and, Ike, and Harry Truman took. It was enough to just be a citizen after leaving office. They were not flitting from country to country, noble do-gooder project after project surrounded by phalanx of a hundred security men and aides. When not in their "Presidential Library" milking millions for their greater glorification.

The other admirable thing is when an ex-President writes commendable memoirs and insights on events after leaving office. And works behind the scenes with successors in offering their insights and benefits of experience in private.

US Grant, Herbert Hoover, and Richard Nixon follow that example.

I think some ex-Presidents saw the office as setting themselves up for great financial gain after leaving office. Gerry Ford, Reagan, Bush I with his Carlyle Group & the Saudis, and Bill Clinton are of the capitalize financially on the office, sorts.


Posted by: ChrisFord1 | September 21, 2010 10:55 AM | Report abuse

Carter may have not been the most effective in dealing with the Democrats in Congress, and indeed quite conservative. But unlike the members of his party (and presumably this columnist) he was way ahead of his time. His energy plan if followed would not have left us in the mess we now find ourselves vis a vis the Middle East. His tight money (together with Paul Volker) created much of the prosperity that followed (and for which the Republicans took credit). And as the subsequent election of Reagan proved, his other legislative efforts were much more in turn with the direction America was heading than those who wasted their energy trying to remove him in a fractious primary. With friends and supporters like Meyerson (and Kennedy), Carter really didn't need enemies. We should be about as grateful to them for their efforts as we should be to Ralph Nader and the 60,000 people who voted for him in Florida in 2000. The result of their combined efforts: 30 years of going backwards. Hopefully they will not be so `helpful' with Obama! As for Carter's ex-presidency: by any measure (at least by a reasonable person) he is correct in his self-assesment!

Posted by: taxpayer2 | September 21, 2010 10:59 AM | Report abuse

Unlike Presidents Reagan, Clinton or Bush who were re-elected as governor unlike one term Jimmy. They could work with others for an agreed agenda. President Sadat paid with his life for the Egyptian-Israeli peace accord and is the true hero of that accomplishment not the man in Washington mired in malaise.

Posted by: joeO2 | September 21, 2010 11:13 AM | Report abuse

The lack of cooperation by Sen. Byrd and other Democrats in Congress derailed Carter's progressive agenda. And Kennedy's primary challenge helped pave the way for a Reagan victory. Thanks Teddy, for one of your mistakes. A foolish one.

Posted by: debrawalt | September 21, 2010 11:17 AM | Report abuse

So Carter's an a** hole? True, but given that the man is part of a fairly select group top tier of Democratic party party candidates that have managed, despite necessarily small numbers, to display an astounding variety of narcissistic (and other) personality disorders, is this condition really that surprising? Consider his some of his contemporaries: Ted Kennedy, Al Gore, Bill Clinton, Gary Hart, Mike Dukakis, Jessie Jackson, Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, John Kerry. Now, I suppose that one might quibble and point to folks like Joe Lieberman and, maybe, Walter Mondale, but overall there is pretty good reason to believe that just being a Democratic Party presidential candidate is an indicator of at least a deep neurosis. And there is no better evidence for this theory than Ted Kennedy, the man who Meyerson apparently believes represents the good road not taken. Remember that Kennedy, after loosing to Carter in a fair fight decided to deliberately upstage his rival at the 1980 Democratic Presidential Convention, an a**hole move that Carter has never managed, despite years of consistent effort, to outdo.

Posted by: jbrenner1 | September 21, 2010 11:20 AM | Report abuse

Speaking of The Simpsons, they pretty much had it right:

"Jimmy Carter: History's Greatest Nightmare."

Posted by: etpietro


Uhh, that was a joke aimed at teabaggers and gullible Republicans. It was one of those wingnut fairy tales like "terror babies" or "Welfare Queens".

Posted by: rlambert12 | September 21, 2010 11:34 AM | Report abuse

John Unitas: Now there's a haircut you could wind your watch to!

Posted by: Ralphinjersey | September 21, 2010 11:39 AM | Report abuse

We are still paying for having elected this man as President. Does anyone remember the community reinvestment act that he created. Clinton and Obama also helped in this endeavor. The banks were forced to make loans that people could not pay back. Lets not forget Barney Frank and Christopher Dodd also. November cannot come fast enough.

Posted by: fedupgmcd | September 21, 2010 11:41 AM | Report abuse

Jimmuh Cartuh has met in match in the self-esteem and narcissism department. Al Gore ranks high as does John Kerry. But the champ is the current occupant of the White House- Barack Hussein Obama. Incredible!

Posted by: mhr614 | September 21, 2010 11:49 AM | Report abuse

Poor guy is even going to lose his place in history as "America's worse President". Awwwwww........

Posted by: JWMeritt | September 21, 2010 11:59 AM | Report abuse

Poor guy is even going to lose his place in history as "America's worse President". Awwwwww........

Posted by: JWMeritt | September 21, 2010 12:00 PM | Report abuse

How low can Jimmie go? Even the far left Myerson sees him for just what he is.

Posted by: jdonner2 | September 21, 2010 12:14 PM | Report abuse

If Obama was not one half African, and I mean real African and not like the majority of black in the USA today, he and Carter could pass for twins.

Posted by: rustynailx | September 21, 2010 12:33 PM | Report abuse

I confess to a grudging respect for Carter as an ex-President, until he used his Nobel Prize acceptance speech to publicly savage the foreign policy of the country that had honored him with its highest elective office. He's as bad as Wilson but without the stroke.

I was thoroughly tired of seeing Clinton's smug, stuff-eating grin every time there's another "crisis for Democrats" story in the news about five years ago. Can we be done with him and his minions, Begalla and Carville, soon?

George I has been a model ex-President, only commenting on his public service projects, birthday skydives and the like. Keep up the good work.

George II has also kept his mouth shut. So far.

Posted by: ex-Virginian4 | September 21, 2010 12:35 PM | Report abuse

I complained about an academic advisor who I thought was arrogant. I was told that it's part of the job description, not grounds for complaint. Same applies to POTUS (and ex-POTUS I guess)

Posted by: HardyW | September 21, 2010 12:38 PM | Report abuse

During his campaign for the White House
Gov. Carter was asked why he continued to be a member of a segregated church. His reply suggested his obliviousness to anything but himself: "What do you expect me to do?
Stop the world and get off?"

Posted by: Gonzage1 | September 21, 2010 12:40 PM | Report abuse

I always rush to read a Harold Meyerson column, but this time, alas, I have to say, "Et tu Harold!" This post does a disservice to all the important things Carter has accomplished which should be an inspiration to liberals everywhere.

Carter's legacy edges out even that of Richard Nixon, who ended the Vietnam war, and signed the Clean Air Act and the Endangered Species Act.

If I had to rate the legacies of Presidents since Eisenhower, it would be Carter, Nixon, (and then big gap) Clinton, Bush Senior, (massive gap) Reagan, Bush 41.

1) Carter solved inflation,which was at 25% when he took office. He appointed Volcker and put the Fed in the important role it assumed for the next 30 years.

2) By saving energy, Carter struck an oil well the size of Saudi Arabia. The wealth from this bonanza fueled the misunderstood "Reagen recovery".

3) Carter established ANWR.

4) Carter is the first to use the word "apartheid" with regard to Israel's treatment of the Palestinians - a word that will not go away because of its evident truth, and which may be the best avenue for resolving the "Israel-Palestinian" conflict.

A truly stupid and self-flagelating post by the great Mr Meyerson!

Posted by: JackieHK | September 21, 2010 12:45 PM | Report abuse

I'm disappointed that you join MSN and CNN in disparaging a really good person who has gone on from his presidency to tirelessly do good works that have benefited so many people. It was very clear to me that what Mr. Carter was saying is that he has had many more opportunities than former presidents to go abroad and to do the diplomatic work he has done. Leave it to media, of course, and also to those who have always tried to find reasons to bring Jimmy Carter down from their own lack of information or knowledge of what he achieved in office to think they have valid reasons for their prejudices against him. Well, the truth of the matter is that this man has accomplished more, and continues to do so, than you or practically anyone else out there will ever be able to do. Why pick him to disparage and make fun of when there are plenty of truly despicable people who do no good acts that are deserving of your criticism? Boggles the mind!

Posted by: saf62 | September 21, 2010 12:49 PM | Report abuse

I'm disappointed that you join MSN and CNN in disparaging a really good person who has gone on from his presidency to tirelessly do good works that have benefited so many people. It was very clear to me that what Mr. Carter was saying is that he has had many more opportunities than former presidents to go abroad and to do the diplomatic work he has done. Leave it to media, of course, and also to those who have always tried to find reasons to bring Jimmy Carter down from their own lack of information or knowledge of what he achieved in office to think they have valid reasons for their prejudices against him. Well, the truth of the matter is that this man has accomplished more, and continues to do so, than you or practically anyone else out there will ever be able to do. Why pick him to disparage and make fun of when there are plenty of truly despicable people who do no good acts that are deserving of your criticism? Boggles the mind!

Posted by: saf62 | September 21, 2010 12:50 PM | Report abuse

Perhaps Carter should be more like Reagan and Bush. Reagan's first act as expresident was to go to Japan and give a speech, for which he was paid $1,000,000. Bush, speeches for $$$$.

No, Carter has made a tremendous mistake working for world peace, saving lives caring for the sick, and generally helping the world's poor. I sure God will be really disappointed in Carter when he stands before the gates of heaven.

Posted by: chucky-el | September 21, 2010 12:50 PM | Report abuse

Some accomplishments listed below of President Carter that many of those commenting here apparently don't know--fact is, those stating he was the "worst president" cannot, and I'd bet money here, give any one reason for that comment:

•Panama Canal treaties
•Camp David Accords
•treaty of peace between Egypt and Israel
•the SALT II treaty with the Soviet Union
•establishment of U.S. diplomatic relations with the People's Republic of China
•comprehensive energy program conducted by a new Department of Energy
•deregulation in energy, transportation, communications, and finance
•educational programs under a new Department of Education
•environmental protection legislation, including the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act.

And those just while he was President. Can name as many achievements since. Also, have any of you read even one of his books? No? I didn't think so.

Posted by: saf62 | September 21, 2010 12:59 PM | Report abuse

Jimmy Carter is our national hemorrhoid - you never know when he will flair up and be a pain in the arze.

Posted by: gorams1 | September 21, 2010 1:22 PM | Report abuse

Regan Democrats are really Anti-Jimmy Carter Dems.

Carter single handedly created a new wing of the Republican Party.

Just like Obama is doing creating the Tea Party.

Posted by: jfv123 | September 21, 2010 1:33 PM | Report abuse

Please spare us your psycho analysis of who or even what Carter is.

As I recall, Carter lost the election because of the Iran Hostage crisis.

He had no chance. His choice was to go to war with who or what was running Iran - or just bomb them - or do what he did. The military had no solution and little options for dealing with the crisis - remember Desert One?

I don't remember Reagan doing anything different - even after they blew up the Marine Barracks in Beruit.

I do remember Reagan and his right wing "government is the problem" zealots doing a lot of destructive things when he was in office - like canceling medical coverage for poor pregnant women - costing us hundreds of millions in medical costs taking care of all those sick babys - not to mention the pain of these children and their families had to go thru - and all to cut back government! These sick, disabled and dead children are Reagan's legacy - I do give him credit for apoligizing for doing it later - he said it was his biggest regret as President - but that does not help any of these children - remember all that?

Compared to both Bushes Carter was much better. Even considering the fact that George W is pretty much the worst of all time - Carte comes out much better. George HW was not too bad.

The verdict is not in on Obama yet - but so far he is doing ok. Much better than any Bush ever did! Tell us how manny dead or sick children he has "fathered" with his policys?

I think that Carter and Clinton are about even among the mordern Presidents. Clinton did manage to avoid any fatal disasters and get re-elected. But then we have all that Monica mess, and the Republican impeachment attempts - remember all that?

You Carter haters are ether blind or intentionally ignorant of even the basic historical facts about what he did, and did not do, compaired to others.

Posted by: alfa73 | September 21, 2010 1:37 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for Nothing Myerson. You and Teddy gave us Reagan. You should hide in shame. I will take Carter's honesty over your back stabbing any day.

Posted by: jbowen431 | September 21, 2010 1:43 PM | Report abuse

I agree, former President Carter is definitely self-promoting sometimes. If you saw former President Clinton last night on David Letterman (and in previous interviews), you would have to say he has the same problem too. It is understandable why some former presidents act this way, and it is definitely weird. How about you, Mr Meyerson? Did you really need to start the piece by bragging about how you convened the first gathering in the state to consider drafing Kennedy to run for the democratic nomination? Last question, you say, back when you were practicing politics as an activist, not as a columnist. Do you truly see yourself as practicing politics as a jounalist? Aren't you covering politics? There is a difference, as you no doubt know!

Posted by: smv604 | September 21, 2010 1:47 PM | Report abuse

Excuse me, but former Pres. Jimmy Carter was a loser then and is still a loser. Nice guys finish last, and he still is the best. Sorry Jimmy, but your record speaks volumes. Best wishes as you grow more senile day by day. I also support Israel's right to exist as a nation in spite of of your support for the enemies of Israel. Anybody who supports the most facist agenda ever to grace our White House has to be just about brain dead. Too bad, you could a been a contender."

Posted by: vigilant101 | September 21, 2010 1:53 PM | Report abuse

Anwar Sadat told a Times reporter that Jimmy Carter should read his Bible When the reporter asked him what he meant he said Genesis 1:27. He listened to Midge Kostanza who worked in the white house and started this whole rights business. Now they are slowly taking over the country and when Barney Frank passes his bill he will be their king as well.

Posted by: madmonk73 | September 21, 2010 1:58 PM | Report abuse

I also supported Kennedy in 1980, mainly because I thought he was slightly better than Carter, and because I wasn't smart enough to realize that Reagan might win.

My impression at the time conflicts with Meyerson's. I thought Carter had many good qualities, but also some problems resulting from his religiosity. I still think that he lost to Reagan primarily because of the Iran hostage crisis which the republicans milked for all it was worth. Revisionist historians (Meyerson?) claim he was ineffectual and impotent in response to this crisis, but in reality he did attempt to deal with it by sending a rescue team (which failed due to a helicopter collision prior to reaching Tehran).

Unfortunately, Carter was responsible for initiating questionable military tactics in Afganistan and South America. But his initiatives were minimal compared to the escalation (now ignored) that occurred under Reagan (now beatified) that lead to the Iran-Contra affair and Al Qaeda.

Keep in mind that more republicans are now trying to spin Carter as "the worst president ever". I'm sure they appreciate Meyerson's take.

Why not just admit that Carter's post presidency truly is superior to that of other presidents. There really is no comparison. Why not just list all of his accomplishments?

Posted by: dougd1 | September 21, 2010 2:01 PM | Report abuse


Carter was a typical Democrats...an utter disaster.

Mortgage rates of 23% when my wife and I wanted to buy our first home.

Runaway inflation, wrecked economy, Iran hostage crisis, international disgrace, etc., etc., etc.
Posted by: Jerzy
Carter was a sanctimonious buffoon and Obama the Obnoxious is far worse.

Hopefully, the Republican President who succeeds Barry the Bum will be as brilliant and effective as Reagan who gave us eight years of peace and prosperity.
______
Raagan was oblivious to the state of the country. Unemployment was far higher under Reagan, he cut programs to the poor and most vulnerable, turned a blind eye to apartheid as it was becoming more obvious, took credit (or was given credit) for ending ending the cold war when history now clearly shows he did very little to affect this social/political change. Reagan's legacy is one of the most white washed in history.

Carter took steps to actaually affect change and support American values across the world tirelessly since leaving office. He may have seemed kooky at the time but we would not so dependant of foreign oil (now our 3rd war since his leaving office) if we had followed his direction vs Reagan' "feel good" policies.

Posted by: cadam72 | September 21, 2010 2:07 PM | Report abuse


Carter was a typical Democrats...an utter disaster.

Mortgage rates of 23% when my wife and I wanted to buy our first home.

Runaway inflation, wrecked economy, Iran hostage crisis, international disgrace, etc., etc., etc.
Posted by: Jerzy
Carter was a sanctimonious buffoon and Obama the Obnoxious is far worse.

Hopefully, the Republican President who succeeds Barry the Bum will be as brilliant and effective as Reagan who gave us eight years of peace and prosperity.
______
Raagan was oblivious to the state of the country. Unemployment was far higher under Reagan, he cut programs to the poor and most vulnerable, turned a blind eye to apartheid as it was becoming more obvious, took credit (or was given credit) for ending ending the cold war when history now clearly shows he did very little to affect this social/political change. Reagan's legacy is one of the most white washed in history.

Carter took steps to actaually affect change and support American values across the world tirelessly since leaving office. He may have seemed kooky at the time but we would not so dependant of foreign oil (now our 3rd war since his leaving office) if we had followed his direction vs Reagan' "feel good" policies.

Posted by: cadam72 | September 21, 2010 2:07 PM | Report abuse

Obama = Carter = Obama

Same crap different day.

Intellectuals, not leaders.

What a waste.

Posted by: porter-stephen | September 21, 2010 2:21 PM | Report abuse

Indeed Mr. Carter was conservative, thank goodness. If the liberal wing of the Democratic Party had gotten it's way we would have implemented a socialist agenda that would have devastated our economy. Instead, Mr. Carter started moving the US away from the overregulated, managed economy and the cheap energy policy. If the Dems in Congress had helped (instead of hindering) Carter to reduce our dependence on oil, we'd be in a lot better shape today.

Of course, if Mr Kennedy had been nominated he would not have won either in 1980. The Southern Democrats would have abandoned the Dem Party for Mr Reagan even faster than they did with Carter as the nominee. By 1980 the strange romance between conservative Southerners and the Democratic Party was over. You guys just didn't recognize the reality of the situation.

Many of us remember clearly how Mr. Carter was elected 1976 despite the efforts of the Dem Party. The left-wing did not want Mr. Carter but on the other hand none of the usual Dem stalwarts (including Ted Kennedy) had the guts to run. Instead, they sniped at the Party's nominee and did everything they could to restrict Carter's influence.

The left wing of the Dem Party got what they deserved--Mr. Reagan.

Posted by: dggarrity | September 21, 2010 2:32 PM | Report abuse

He was an ineffective President, but you cannot deny the good work he's done since. Ego aside, he's remained involved with the world and many people are better for it.

Posted by: jckdoors | September 21, 2010 2:43 PM | Report abuse

You missed the whole point of Carters claim. Carter is talking now because Obama gives him a chance to say you see I wasn't the worst president this country has ever had. Carter feels he can toot his own horn because of the failures of Obama and his leftist policies. Carter is tired of people comparing him to Obama. Compare him to Castro or any other socialist or communist leader and he's OK with that, but compare him to another American president and Carter has to clear the air. Carter is trying to pass the label as the worst president this country has ever had to Obama. It's going to be pretty hard because they're both tied as the worst presidents this country has ever had.

Posted by: houstonian | September 21, 2010 2:46 PM | Report abuse

It never ceases to amaze me the hoardes of reich-wingers who read the WaPo.

Posted by: dougharty | September 21, 2010 2:49 PM | Report abuse

TO buggerianpaisley1:

Jeez, you really are a bugger. You really seem to be upset about what nyrunner101 wrote. Just take a couple of deep breaths....relax.

Posted by: rmillerxznu | September 21, 2010 3:18 PM | Report abuse

You have a lot of nerve to talk about Jimmy Carter's "sanctimonious" side, considering that you were a tout for that paragon of virtue Edward Kennedy. Never in American history has a more sanctimonious individual slithered through the halls of Washington -- I realize that last statement is wide open to refudiation.

Posted by: eat-the-rich | September 21, 2010 3:29 PM | Report abuse

Jimmy Carter is one of the worst ex-presidents that this country has ever had to endure.

This vain man actually travelled to despotic anti-American countries in the Middle East in order to condemn American policy.

NO president has ever done this before.
George Bush has not criticized President Obama and Bill Clinton has never criticized George Bush.

Carter's presidency was a disaster. When he left after just one awful, shambolic term, the country was in a terrible state and the American captives were still being held in Iran.

Carter's enterprise, shortly after his presidency, in building houses for those who couldn't afford them was commendable but that effort has all been washed away by the sight of this vain fool condemning his own country in a foreign and anti-American land.

He is an exceptionally arrogant and vain man.
Carter knows how history will see him and he is determined to make a fuss about it before he dies even if it means shaming his own country.

George Bush Senior, George Bush Jr, and Bill Clinton are FAR better examples of how an ex-president should behave.

Posted by: BruceMcDougall | September 21, 2010 3:42 PM | Report abuse

I find it ironic that the old coot comes out more frequently from the bellfry. Could it be that he is feeling threated by a new President who is even more incompetent and egotistical than he?

Posted by: freepost | September 21, 2010 3:48 PM | Report abuse

Can you say 'sanctimonious'?

Posted by: jcrrt | September 21, 2010 3:49 PM | Report abuse

Why has that creepy little pipsqueak waited all this time to spit out his venom, sanctimony and frustration? It's been 30 years. Haven't we had enough from the worst President we've ever had?

Posted by: sameolddoc | September 21, 2010 3:55 PM | Report abuse

Isnt it a bit of an oxymoron for a Post writer to say he used to work as a democrat political activist?

Posted by: j751 | September 21, 2010 4:01 PM | Report abuse

Given the performance of our current president, Jimmy Carter must be feeling pretty good about himself.

Posted by: inhk | September 21, 2010 4:23 PM | Report abuse

to all DIMocRATS,

Jimmy Carter, as i said earlier, is TWICE as good a POTUS & 10 times as good of a man as BHO is.

President Carter tried hard & had his heart in the right place, even when he failed.

otoh, BHO is an arrogant, "not particuliarly bright", SELF-impressed TWO-face, who will SAY/DO/CLAIM/AGREE TO ANYTHING to get ahead.= he is a "creature without honor" or common decency & nothing more than that.

at nearly 64YY, i never thought that i would live to see any POTUS that would make Jimmy Carter look SMART/COMPETENT & Richard Nixon look HONEST & HONORABLE.
sadly, BHO is WORSE than BOTH combined.

that's why BHO is, after less than 2 years in the WH, considered an ABJECT FAILURE & soon to be (in Jan 2011) America's LAME DUCK & Criminal-in-Chief.

yours, TN46
coordinator, CCTPP

Posted by: texasnative46 | September 21, 2010 11:35 PM | Report abuse

Meyerson's comments were "right on." One reader has commented that Carter "tells the truth." Well, in the same NBC interview Carter claimed that Fox News has affirmed that Obama is a Muslim and was not born in the USA, and Fox News had injected racism into the debate. None of those statements re Fox News are true, and ex-Pres. Carter has no evidence to support those claims. Unfortunately, Brian Williams failed to challenge Carter's false accusations.

Posted by: rbstrimple | September 22, 2010 4:48 PM | Report abuse

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