Saturday, December 09, 2006

Jimmy Carter Wants To Do The Right Things, But He Doesn't Think Through The Consequences

Jimmy Carter, whose presidential campaign I covered for the L.A. Times back in 1976, always desires to do the right thing. I know that from long experience. But often he ends up making mistakes by not understanding the consequences of his positions.

Carter had a burning desire to be an effective President. But he brought too many cronies with him from the state of Georgia to actually be effective in Washington. They just did not understand well enough how American government functioned and how to get things done.

He wanted to curb inflation, but he could never bring himself to make the hard decisions necessary to do so. He dithered rather than make hard choices and he ended up with inflation that ran as high as 20%.

When the Iranian hostage crisis erupted, Carter became totally preoccupied with it. But he sent Ramsay Clark to negotiate with Khomeini and followed such a weak policy it very likely encouraged the Soviet Union's leaders to think they could invade Afghanistan and the U.S. would do nothing. Carter's inability to deal with Iran and force the hostages' release ultimately enabled Ronald Reagan to become President and it helped create an impression of American weakness that has allowed terrorists' to expand their operations not only in the Middle East but through much of the world.

When the Soviets did invade Afghanistan, Carter rapidly took steps to oppose them. But these steps included backing Arab religious fanatics who ultimately turned on the United States.

All this made Carter a poor President, though not an insincere one. He tried hard, but he was simply not up to the job. The American people realized it when they limited him to one term.

Sometimes, he has done better as an ex-President, leading humanitarian efforts and traveling to many countries to help ensure honest elections and the advance of democracy.

But, as he has grown older, some of Carter's incipient prejudices as president have come more to the fore. Never more so than in the Middle East, where Carter increasingly has sided with Palestinian radicals against Israel.

The latest example of this is the former president's latest book, entitled "Palestine, Peace Not Apartheid."

In it, he heaps on the Israelis the blame for the continued Arab-Israeli conflict, without taking note that whenever the Israelis have made conciliatory gestures, such as their withdrawal from south Lebanon or Gaza, Palestinian radicals have responded with suicide bombings, kidnappings and other terrorist attacks, while intensifying their vow to destroy Israel.

Unfortunately, Carter just doesn't draw the right conclusions about the consequences of the policies he adopts. In this case, they could lead to the destruction of Israel, not to mention an end to Western influence in the Middle East.

Maybe, it's time for Carter to retire. After all, he is 82. This would be a good time to return to his farm. His writing days should be over.

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