Thursday, August 13, 2015

Jimmy Carter and his legacy

Jimmy Carter continues to promote Middle East peace, however distant it may seem at the moment (Bronwen Maddox, Jimmy Carter: there is zero chance for the two-state solution Prospect 08/13/2015 ):

“At this moment, there is zero chance of the two-state solution,” said Jimmy Carter, giving his bleakest pronouncement yet on the Israeli-Palestinian deadlock to which he devoted much effort while President of the United States, and even more time since then.

“These are the worst prospects for peace between Israel and the Palestinians for years,” he said, adding that he didn’t think that Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s Prime Minister, “has any intention” of making progress towards the goal, the thrust of international efforts for decades, of the creation of a separate state for the Palestinians alongside Israel. After John Kerry’s efforts as Secretary of State to broker a deal, which collapsed in the spring last year, the “US has withdrawn” from the problem, he reckoned.
This is the state of affairs about which he warned in his book Peace Not Apartheid:

Among other observations in his interview with Maddox:

About Obama he is more forthright. “There are 22 people in my family and they all voted for Obama over Hillary [Clinton]” in 2008, he said. “In some ways he has been successful,” he says; “I particularly approve” of his action to restore relations between the US and Cuba—which Carter had also tried when President. But apart from that, the Iran deal, and healthcare “I don’t think he has had notably historic successes.” This might seem harsh, in that even Carter’s warmest fans have had to pick carefully among the storms of his presidency to find clear wins.

His praise is warmer, though, than for Hillary. He has said on US television that she is not “proven” as a politician, and has complimented John Kerry as Secretary of State for making efforts for Middle East peace that she, as Kerry’s predecessor, neglected to do. “She’s still got to get the nomination,” he points out, adding uncontroversially that he expects that she will indeed be the Democrat contender for the White House. If she is, however, he and his family will vote for her, he adds. On that point, at least, he appears prepared to compromise, for the sake of his lifelong loyalty to the Democratic cause.
Of course, he announced this week he has been diagnosed with cancer at age 90. We don't know how serious it is. I hope he survives to be still making important observations on world affairs at 100.

Observations like these:

Carter is now eloquent on the limits on US power which have so shaped Obama’s presidency. The 2003 Iraq invasion “was a clear mistake — a horrible mistake,” he said. “It has destroyed Iraq as a nation and opened up Iranian influence.” The US’s presence in Afghanistan, even if less controversial at its start, has been running for 13 years. US presidents no longer set out to “tell the truth and keep the peace,” he said. And its politics are deteriorating. “The massive quantities of dollars pouring into the political process have lost the essence of what made American democracy admirable.” “You need to raise $200-$300m” to run for Governor, Senator, never mind President, he said, and then the funders want their return on that afterwards. “When I ran we didn’t raise a nickel from outside.” The 2010 and 2014 rulings of the Supreme Court opening the gates to campaign donations from individual and corporate donors are “one of its biggest mistakes,” he said.
Charlie Pierce assesses Carter's public role to date this way (The Overlooked History of Jimmy Carter, Who Fights for His Life Esquire Politics Blog 08/12/2015):

This is a man who has lived a good, long, rich and decent life, and who has been slandered in history by people not morally fit to tie his shoes. I admit, my first exposure to him was in the frustrating stern chase in the 1976 Democratic primaries on behalf of Mo Udall. (Don't ever mention the 1976 Wisconsin primary to me. I will nail your head to the floor.) But watching what was done to him during the 1980 campaign – including what I believe was the international ratfcking involving the Reagan campaign and the Iranian hostages – and subsequently during the following eight-year national amyloid cascade got me on his side. I don't believe he was a good president, and it can be argued that the stick up his ass was the size of a Louisville slugger and that his talking about "ethnic purity" in our neighborhoods presaged what was coming with DLC politics. Nevertheless, this was a tough man, despite what you may have heard. He was tough enough to win a very hard primary season and then whip a sitting president in the general election. He was tough enough to hand a Kennedy the worst electoral drubbing anybody in that family ever suffered. And, more relevant to our current situation, he was a lot tougher on Iran than Ronald Reagan ever was.
It's sometimes a bit difficult to recall how controversial Carter was within the Democratic Party, and not primarily from Southern conservatives. George McGovern and his immediate family voted for Gerald Ford in 1976, worried that Carter was too hawkish - though McGovern certainly did not campaign for Ford! In 1980, not only Ted Kennedy but Jerry Brown made serious primary challenges to Carter when he was the sitting Democratic President.

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