Eric Alterman needs to be grabbed by the collar and shaken for a few minutes while being asked repeatedly, “Moron! What’s wrong with you??”

A great and unusually honest man, and the nation?s most valuable ex-president since John Quincy Adams. The best thing I?ve ever read on Carter, by the way, is an essay by Rick Hertzberg, his former speechwriter, in a book entitled ?Character Above All,? edited by Robert Wilson.

Here’s some of my favorite things written about Carter (from probably the best edition ever of Jay Nordlinger’s Impromptus):

  • For years, Carter has been a thorn in the side of presidents, acting as a kind of ?anti-president,? as Lance Morrow once put it in an essay for Time. You recall how Carter irked Clinton on Haiti and North Korea. His low moment, however, came during the run-up to the Gulf War, when he wrote members of the U.N. Security Council ? including Mitterrand?s France and Communist China ? urging them to thwart the Bush administration?s effort. Our government found out about it when the Canadian prime minister, Brian Mulroney, called the defense secretary, Dick Cheney, and said, ?What the . . .?? Some people actually allowed themselves to utter the word ?treason.?
  • Carter has long enjoyed a reputation as a Middle East sage, owing, of course, to his role in the original Camp David accords. That reputation, however, rests on shaky grounds. Truth is, Sadat and Begin had their deal worked out before ever approaching Washington . And the facilitators they used were far from saintly Southern Baptists: They used the dreadful King of Morocco and the even more dreadful Ceausescu of Romania! When they had their plan essentially worked out, however, they called the White House (whose occupant just happened to be J.C.) (initials not accidental, he and his most fervent admirers have seemed to think for years).

    Why did they contact the White House? Prof. Bernard Lewis put it succinctly to Charlie Rose recently: ?Well, obviously, they needed someone to pay the bill, and who but the United States could fulfill that function??

    Still, Carter is proud-as-all-get-out of his rendezvous with Middle East history. He trades on it incessantly. I remember Mario Cuomo, giving his famous (though ridiculous) keynote address at the Democratic convention in 1984. He went down a list of Democratic presidents, lauding them: and when he got to Carter, all he could think of, apparently, was Camp David ? the ?nearly miraculous? accords, he called them. Carter, in the stands, beamed and beamed, and teared up badly.

  • I don?t think I?ve ever known, or known of, someone who so nakedly loved praise. I saw him on C-SPAN once, appearing on a radio show (if you know what I mean). This was a call-in show somewhere, and the cameras were on Carter. One elderly caller began her question with a long paean to the ex-president and his special human greatness. Carter enjoyed it in a truly unseemly fashion, grinning and grinning, seeming to draw his very life from it . It was perfectly human ? perfectly natural ? but obscene in a way. I felt almost as though I had to look away: like I was seeing something too private, something I wasn?t meant to see.
  • The ex-president is known as Joe Human Rights, but he?s mighty selective about whose human rights to champion. If you live in Marcos?s Philippines, Pinochet?s Chile, or apartheid South Africa, he?s liable to care about you. If you live in Communist China, Communist Cuba, Communist Ethiopia, Communist Nicaragua, Communist North Korea, Communist . . .: screw you.

    Remember when the Left used to say, ?Oka?, maybe the West has ??olitical rights,? but the East has ?social rights??? Carter isn?t far off from that. A mission statement of his Center reads, ???uman rights? is a broad term, encompassing freedom from oppression and freedom of speech to the right to food and health.? This is on the way to Erich Honecker. And as Jeane Kirkpatrick ? whom Carter also openly despises ? points out, it?s amazing how those who lack the freedom of speech, the freedom of worship, the freedom of assembly, and so on, also tend to lack food, shelter, and health.

    In a 1997 op-ed piece entitled ?It?s Wrong to Demonize China? (also for the New York Times), Carter wrote ? and forgive the awkward prose ? ?American criticism of China?s human rights abuses are justified, but their basis is not well understood. Westerners emphasize personal freedoms, while a stable government and a unified nation are paramount to the Chinese . This means that policies are shaped by fear of chaos from unrestrained dissidents or fear of China?s fragmentation by an independent Taiwan or Tibet. The result is excessive punishment [excessive punishment!] of outspoken dissidents and unwarranted domination of Tibetans.?

    Carter said that ?ill-informed commentators in both countries have cast the other side as a villain and have even forecast inevitable confrontation between the two nations.? You see the exquisite moral equivalence between a giant and repressive Communist state and the American republic. He then said, ?Mutual criticisms are proper and necessary [mutual criticisms, mind you: Communist China, America . . .], but should not be offered in an arrogant or self-righteous way, and each of us should acknowledge improvements made by the other.? Carter arrogant or self-righteous, ever? Improvements made by the United States, too?

    In a 1999 op-ed piece (USA Today) called ?Let?s Keep Chinese Spying in Perspective,? Carter said that ?some . . . American leaders, who have habitually demonstrated animosity toward the People?s Republic of China [note the mimicking of the Communists? own false description of themselves], have attempted to drive a deeper wedge between our two countries at what is already a troubled time.? Anyone who doesn?t demonstrate ?animosity? toward that horrible state, Realpolitik or no, is no friend to mankind.

  • A walk down Memory Lane? While in office, Carter hailed Yugoslavia?s Tito as ?a man who believes in human rights .? He said of Romania?s barbaric Ceausescu and himself, ?Our goals are the same: to have a just system of economics and politics . . . We believe in enhancing human rights.? While out of office, Carter has praised Syria?s late Assad (killer of at least 20,000 in Hama) and the Ethiopian tyrant Mengistu (killer of many more than that). In Haiti, he told the dictator C?dras that he was ?ashamed of what my country has done to your country.?

    He did even better in North Korea, singing praises to Kim Il Sung, one of the most complete and destructive dictators in history. Kim?s North Korea, as Kirkpatrick says, was, and is, truly a ?psychotic state.? Said Carter of the ?Great Leader,? ?I find him to be vigorous, intelligent, surprisingly well informed about the technical issues, 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.? Carter also employed his longstanding technique of praising the beauty of a dictator?s wife. Kim Jon Ae, he noted, ?is a very attractive lady.?

    Then there?s Carter?s notorious friendship with Daniel Ortega, former strongman in Nicaragua . In 1984, when the Reagan administration was trying to put maximum pressure on Ortega to submit to democracy, Carter urged Habitat for Humanity to build in Nicaragua. A fine idea, perhaps, but here?s the (classic) Carter twist: ?We want the folks down there to know that some American Christians love them and that we don?t all hate them.? In 1990, of course, Carter traveled to Managua to monitor the elections and to certify what he figured ? and hoped, it seemed ? would be a Sandinista victory. When the democratic opposition won instead, Carter was remarkably churlish, even bitter.

And that’s only about half of the anecdotes that Nordlinger details, which are themselves only a small fraction of Carter’s disgusting public displays (for instance, the piece was written before Carter went to Cuba and shoved his nose so far up Castro’s ass that he accidentally knocked the cigar out of his mouth).

Nobel Piss Prize indeed.

last update : 19-4-2018

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