Was Jimmy Carter a good president?

Was Jimmy Carter a good president?

#JimmyWasTheBest
#CarterWasAFailure
Join the conversation and vote below

Nearly 40 years since he left office, presidential scholars are still debating Jimmy Carter's legacy. The American people voted him out of office after one term as the country faced skyrocketing inflation and the unending Iran hostage crisis. Yet, since the end of his term, Carter has won the Nobel Peace Prize and become one of the United States' foremost diplomats. Many still consider his presidency a profound failure while others say his many successes are unfairly overlooked. What do you think?

4 Mos Until Voting Ends
#JimmyWasTheBest
#CarterWasAFailure

Few argue the positive influence Jimmy Carter has had since leaving office. Writing for The Huffington Post, author and historian Alan Singer, includes Carter on his list of "10 Worst Presidents Of All-Time." He maintains that Carter's post-presidency work must be acknowledged. 

Since leaving office Carter has been a Nobel Prize recipient; launched campaigns against debilitating disease in Third World countries; promoted democratic elections around the world (except, unfortunately, in the United States); personally helped build housing for the poor as part of Habitat for Humanity; and searched for ways to achieve a peaceful resolution of the Israel-Palestinian conflict. 

But despite these accomplishments, Singer still considers him the eighth worst president of all time.

[T]his great man was a terrible president, largely because he was so inept as a politician and leader. His list of negative accomplishments includes: a failed energy policy with long gas lines and his appeal to Americans to wear sweaters; no discernible economic policy during a period of high inflation and unemployment; admitting the dethroned Shah of Iran into the United States, contributing to a hostage crisis with Iran that he terribly mismanaged; and secretly arming Islamic Mujahideen forces in Afghanistan to fight against a Soviet-backed government, a group that evolved into the anti-west, anti-modernization Taliban when the Cold War ended. The biggest problem was that trained as an engineer, Jimmy Carter tinkered when bolder action was needed.

Many believe Carter's successes are unfairly dismissed. Carter took office in the wake of the Watergate scandal, the ignominious end of the Vietnam War and the height of the Cold War. The nation was divided. Given the state of the world when Carter took office, he actually accomplished a great deal. Per Vox

Richard Moe, who was chief of staff to Vice President Walter Mondale, said Carter pursued an ambitious domestic and foreign policy agenda that he thought was right for the country and accomplished much of it through the combination of the power of the office and his sheer will.
"The country was facing a lot of really hard choices at that point in the ‘70s in the economy and energy and foreign policy," Moe said in an interview. "He didn’t hesitate to make those hard choices, and he did so at great political cost to himself in many cases."
For example, Carter began the move toward more sustainable energy by deregulating natural gas and creating an Energy Department, opened up Latin America to the US by giving control of the Panama Canal to the Panamanians, established formal diplomatic relations with China, and struck a peace accord between Egypt and Israel that remains intact to this day. His efforts to open up the marketplace to competition were felt in the deregulation of not only energy but the ground and air transportation industries, as well as banking and insurance.
...For the most part, though, Carter's presidency was defined by restoring integrity to the Oval Office.
Mondale once described the administration's accomplishments this way: "We told the truth, we obeyed the law, we kept the peace." To that, Carter wrote, it should be added that "we championed human rights."

Carter's critics argue that the president's reputation as a lifelong humanitarian and crusader for social justice was unearned. Writing for Commentary Magazine in 2007, Joshua Muravchik argued that Carter became a champion for social justice for political reasons.

Carter was initially cold to the subject of human rights. His 1975 book, "Why Not the Best?," issued as a launching pad for his presidential campaign, makes no mention of it. Nor did he utter a word about human rights during the 1976 primaries. It was only in the course of hammering out the Democratic party’s platform that his interest was kindled. By that time, with the nomination in hand, Carter’s overriding goal was to unite his fissiparous party for the general election.
...Carter presented himself as, in his words, “a local Georgia conservative Democrat . . . basically a redneck.” This formulation was calculated to convey a message about his stand on racial issues: a message of resistance to racial integration, if not of out-and-out racism. He reinforced the same message by making a campaign stop at a whites-only private school, and by promising to invite Alabama Governor George Wallace, the champion of segregation, to address the state legislature.
But no sooner had he won office than he executed his remarkable shift on race, a move that landed him on the cover of Time as the apotheosis of the “new South” and made him a nationally recognized figure.

Those who worked with Carter remain staunch supporters of the president, while they acknowledge he was not the greatest politician. Stuart E. Eizenstat, Carter's chief domestic policy advisor, wrote in a 2015 New York Times op-ed that the president is unfairly maligned and accomplished a great deal more than is recognized.

His defining characteristic was confronting intractable problems regardless of their political cost. His closest aide and confidant, Hamilton Jordan, ruefully joked that the worst argument to make to President Carter to dissuade him from action was that it would hurt him politically.
...Mr. Carter understood that, after Watergate, trust in government needed to be restored. He imposed gift limits and financial disclosure rules on his appointees; slowed the revolving door of officials departing to lobby their former departments; and appointed inspectors general to root out fraud and mismanagement.
Mr. Carter established the Department of Education and increased college tuition grants for needy students. He ended federal price regulation of trucking, interstate buses, railroads and airlines.
America’s energy outlook would not be as bright as it is today were it not for his dogged determination to awaken the American public and Congress to the dangers of our growing dependence on foreign oil. He broke a quarter-century impasse and began to phase out federal price controls for natural gas, and then crude oil; created the Department of Energy; and began tax incentives for home insulation and for solar energy.
Share

More from The Tylt

Who do you trust more with classified information: President Trump or Hillary Clinton?
Who do you trust more with classified information: President Trump or Hillary Clinton?
Politics
Should the national minimum wage be raised?
Should the national minimum wage be raised?
Politics
Should the U.S. adopt automatic voter registration?
Should the U.S. adopt automatic voter registration?
Politics