I enjoyed reading a column discussing Mr. Carter's self serving comments by the moderately conservative Christopher Hitchens at the reliably liberal Slate magazine.
"Worst in history," as the great statesman from Georgia has to know, has been the title for which he has himself been actively contending since 1976. I once had quite an argument with the late Sen. Eugene McCarthy, who maintained adamantly that it had been right for him to vote for Ronald Reagan in 1980 for no other reason. "Mr. Carter," he said, "quite simply abdicated the whole responsibility of the presidency while in office. He left the nation at the mercy of its enemies at home and abroad. He was the worst president we ever had."And Eugene McCarthy could never be classified as anything like a conservative.
In the Carter years, the United States was an international laughingstock. This was not just because of the prevalence of his ghastly kin: the beer-sodden brother Billy, doing deals with Libyan President Muammar Qaddafi, and the grisly matriarch, Miz Lillian. It was not just because of the president's dire lectures on morality and salvation and his weird encounters with lethal rabbits and UFOs. It was not just because of the risible White House "Bible study" sessions run by Bert Lance and his other open-palmed Elmer Gantry pals from Georgia. It was because, whether in Afghanistan, Iran, or Iraq—still the source of so many of our woes—the Carter administration could not tell a friend from an enemy. His combination of naivete and cynicism—from open-mouthed shock at Leonid Brezhnev's occupation of Afghanistan to underhanded support for Saddam in his unsleeping campaign of megalomania—had terrible consequences that are with us still. It's hardly an exaggeration to say that every administration since has had to deal with the chaotic legacy of Carter's mind-boggling cowardice and incompetence.Amity Shlaes at Bloomberg has a few things to say as well;
Carter Takes the Prize Among the Worst Presidents
But it is in the area where Carter assails Bush -- foreign policy -- in which he took the missteps that turned out to be of greatest consequence. By negotiating the soft Strategic Arms Limitations Treaty (SALT) with Moscow, he suggested to the Soviet Union that his administration wasn't serious about protecting American interests. This emboldened Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev to send troops into Afghanistan in 1979. The later Soviet withdrawal led to the chaos that allowed Afghanistan to become a sanctuary for al-Qaeda.As always, read them all.
Then came a new kind of crisis. Heretofore, Arab nationalism had dominated unrest in the Middle East. Now Islamic fundamentalists stormed the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, taking 66 Americans hostage. Instead of seeing the attack as an assault on U.S. interests, Carter treated the terrorists as if they were college sophomores staging a sit-in at Columbia's Low Library. His approach involved group-prayer sessions at home and endless negotiations, telling the press that "we are using every channel." This virtually ensured the year-and-a-half-long siege that the hostages endured.
Carter did veer from his passivity to make a half-hearted rescue effort, a catastrophic mission. But shocked by the photos of malfunctioning helicopters, Carter retreated. His handling of the embassy crisis sent a message that the U.S. prefers sanctimony to fighting back against violent fundamentalist Islam. That picture of wishy-washy America is still costing lives today.