During a segment on Thursday’s The Last Word about Jimmy Carter’s cancer diagnosis, MSNBC national correspondent Joy Reid complained that voters rejected “Carter’s decency and goodness” in the 1980 presidential election in favor of the “bluster” possessed by “cowboy” Ronald Reagan.
Reid’s pronouncement was prompted by comments from host Lawrence O’Donnell about how Americans have “bought into [a] Trumpian concept of winners and losers” where you’re “utterly worthless as soon as you lose an election in this country” with Carter having “certainly suffered that imagery since losing the presidential election.”
Nodding in agreement, Reid declared that:
I think it says profoundly about who we are as a people that Carter's decency and goodness was taken for weakness and had to be remedied with the sort of bluster of a Ronald Reagan and that the idea we needed a cowboy to replace what people viewed as a man who wasn't cowboy enough to be president, that he was too nice.
Reid added a brief anecdote about how her mother had said that perhaps Carter “was too good of a man to be the President of the United States and he was just too nice” which she then used to scold the U.S. electorate for not seeing what Democrats saw in Carter: “I think it’s a bit sad that we, as a country, take a cerebral, gentle, a kind man for a weak man because that's not necessarily the case.”
Earlier in the segment, contrasting clips of Donald Trump and Carter (from his 1977 inaugural address) were played that allowed O’Donnell to tie together the now cancer-stricken Carter and Trump: “It took 38 years to go from Jimmy Carter's inaugural address, marked by humility and decency, to a front runner for a presidential nomination who has no humility and virtually no decency.”
Those remarks teed up former Carter speechwriter and journalist Walter Shapiro to bash Trump as “promising the American people a government as good as the worst elements and a shallow as the worst with elements of the American people” compared to Carter since he “promised the American people a government as good as its people.”
The relevant portions of the transcript from MSNBC’s The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell on August 20 can be found below.
MSNBC’s The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell
August 20, 2015
10:32 p.m. Eastern
THEN-PRESIDENT JIMMY CARTER [on 01/20/77]: Your strength can compensate for my weakness and your wisdom can help to minimize my mistakes.
DONALD TRUMP: I went to the Wharton School of Finance. You know, like really smart people go to the Wharton School of Finance, I will tell you.
LAWRENCE O’DONNELL: It took 38 years to go from Jimmy Carter's inaugural address, marked by humility and decency, to a front runner for a presidential nomination who has no humility and virtually no decency. Watching Jimmy Carter's press conference today in which the former President dignified and humane as ever described his planned cancer treatment, journalist Walter Shapiro tweeted: “This is a moment to contrast the moment the grace of Jimmy Carter with the grotesque egotism of real estate developer to who thinks he is up for the job.” Joining us now is Walter Shapiro, fellow at the Brennan Center of Justice and a former speech writer for President Carter. Walter, please expand on that point. You have the floor.
WALTER SHAPIRO: Well, first of all, Jimmy Carter when he ran in '76 promised the American people a government as good as its people. The way Donald Trump is running, he is promising the American people a government as good as the worst elements and a shallow as the worst with elements of the American people. I mean, the thing that gets me – forget his positions on immigration. The thing that got me is with Chuck Todd on Sunday when Trump was asked who are your military advisers and what he said is, oh, I just watch the Sunday shows. That's all I need. That, more than anything, is such a profound disrespect for the office and the whole Trump circus is more than anything scarily – he either sees the White House as a branding opportunity or he is totally oblivious to a job that Harry Truman decided as the sun, the moon and the stars all falling on you and I can't figure out which is worse.
NATIONAL URBAN RADIO NETWORK’s APRIL RYAN: I mean, here you had someone who served in the military – there's no similarity at all. They are total opposites. You have Donald Trump, a man who's talking very negatively and I'm saying it in the best terms I can, about a war hero, John McCain and someone who served and believed in peace. He received a Nobel Peace Prize because he was trying to work out peace throughout the world, but tne thing also, that is blaring for me with Trump versus Jimmy Carter, you had Jimmy Carter who was someone who came from the south, Georgia, with steep still and racial problems in the '70s and he took the high road and he tried to stay away from that. He tried to build on integration, not segregation and here you have Donald Trump, talking about minorities the way he does. Particularly Mexicans, but one thing that really is blaring to me. What happened in Boston and how this homeless person was beaten up, urinated on and they are blaming it on Donald Trump. I will tell you this, Amos Brown, Dr. Amos Brown a board member of the national board of the NAACP said, you know, rhetoric like this is what started the situation in Charleston where that man went in and shot up nine people, shot them dead that that church. So, we have to be careful and you have Jimmy Carter who's a man of peace and this man who's not lily correct. We need some help in this time right now.
O’DONNELL: Joy, the Carter presidency is – in America, we are I think bought in to Trumpian concept of winners and losers and you are utterly worthless as soon as you lose an election in this country. Jimmy Carter has certainly suffered that imagery since losing the presidential election.
JOY REID: Absolutely and I think it says profoundly about who we are as a people that Carter's decency and goodness was taken for weakness and had to be remedied with the sort of bluster of a Ronald Reagan and that the idea we needed a cowboy to replace what people viewed as a man who wasn't cowboy enough to be president, that he was too nice. I remember growing up one thing my mother said to me is maybe he was too good of a man to be the President of the United States and he was just too nice and I think it’s a bit sad that we, as a country, take a cerebral, gentle, a kind man for a weak man because that's not necessarily the case.
O’DONNELL: Walter, How did it feel inside the administration as you were approaching that re-election.
SHAPIRO: Well, I didn’t get all the way through the reelection because I did the smartest thing in the entire world. I believe the Gallup polls and I got out in '79 and went to a place called The Washington Post, but the truth is, I have been thinking a lot about the Carter years as – and part of it is the things he doesn't get credit for. Number one, bringing human rights into the entire vocabulary of foreign policy. Number two, basically being pressing it beyond belief about energy. You could read Carter energy speeches, including the misnamed malaise speech from '79 and it reads like a Thomas Friedman column today and thirdly of all, 36 years we have had enduring peace in the Middle East and Israel's continued existence is the bedrock there as it’s negotiated by Jimmy Carter, peace with Egypt.