Former president Jimmy Carter is doing one terrific job. So reports the Associated Press today in its "Carter finds happiness in foreign missions." According to the article:
Since leaving the White House, he's logged millions of miles and visited dozens of countries on missions to wipe out diseases, mediate conflicts, advocate for human rights and monitor elections. He's built a legacy that few, if any, American ex-presidents can match.
Writer Greg Bluestein found a few observers to comment on the wonders of Mr. Jimmy:
Walter Mondale, his vice president, says that Carter took the political heat up front "so we could all be better off." Andrew Young, Carter's ambassador to the United Nations, says it might take a few more decades for historians to realize the impact of Carter's term in office.
"It took 100 years to understand Jefferson. It took 100 years for people outside the North to understand Lincoln. And it's got to take at least 50 years to understand Carter," says Young.
And Douglas Brinkley, a Rice University history professor who has written a book about Carter, says Carter's presidency may be more fondly remembered overseas than at home.
"Pick the country - they view him as one of the most successful presidents," said Brinkley. "He has helped America's image around the world because he's been able to make everyone trust him. And he earns that trust because he's honest"
Before buying into this effort to rehabilitate the reputation of - until Barack Obama came along - the worst president in many decades, we may want to reflect on Carter's post-presidency. The late New York Democratic Senator Patrick Moynihan had Carter's number in 1980: "Being unable to distinguish between our friends and our enemies, Carter has adopted our enemies' view of the world." When the first President Bush asked for United Nations action in the Persian Gulf, Carter wrote to world leaders trying to block it. Even Carter later admitted his effort "was not appropriate perhaps." According to ABC News earlier this year:
In the 90s (President Bill) Clinton was said to resent some of Carter’s freelance diplomacy.
In a 1998 Time Magazine piece, Lance Morrow wrote of Carter:
Some of his Lone Ranger work has taken him dangerously close to the neighborhood of what we used to call treason.
Long proclaiming his unswerving devotion to human rights, Carter has over the years cozied up to the likes of Fidel Castro, Daniel Ortega and Yasser Arafat. National Review Online's Jay Nordlinger observed in 2002:
While in North Korea, Carter lauded Kim Il Sung, one of the most complete and destructive dictators in history. Said Carter, "I find him to be vigorous, intelligent,...and in charge of the decisions about this country" (well, he was absolute ruler). He said, "I don't see that they [the North Koreans] are an outlaw nation." Pyongyang, he observed, was a "bustling city," where shoppers "pack the department stores," reminding him of the "Wal-Mart in Americus, Georgia."
The Associated Press is correct in one point: Carter's established quite a legacy for himself. But it's far from an admirable one and, if we're fortunate, other former presidents won't try to match it.