In judging the intellectual and moral caliber of Jimmy Carter and the meaning of his new anti-Israel book, we should keep in mind he was probably the worst president in modern times. (Warren G. Harding didn’t live to complete his 1921 presidential term.)
An immediate test of this finding about his presidential years from 1977 to 1981, is to consider how different the world would be had Jimmy Carter defeated Ronald Reagan and won a second term in 1980. If I may be permitted a bit of counterfactual history, had Mr. Carter been re-elected it is almost certain there would still be a Soviet Union.
For Mr. Carter’s colossal misjudgment of Soviet history and ambition led him early in his term to exult that, “we are now free of that inordinate fear of communism which once led us to embrace any dictator who joined us in our fear.” It was an unbelievable statement. “Inordinate fear”?
Of course, this foolish man changed his mind after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan: “This action of the Soviets has made a more dramatic change in my own opinion of what the Soviets’ ultimate goals are than anything they’ve done in the previous time I’ve been in office.” In other words, Mr. Carter was saying that, until the Afghanistan invasion, his view of the Soviet Union was that its ultimate goals were friendly and neighborly. And he believed this at a time when the Soviet Union was at the peak of its global expansionist power — North Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia, Ethiopia, Cuba, Chile, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Afghanistan and the Soviet East European satellites.
And this is a man who presumes to judge a vibrant democracy like Israel as an apartheid state. How right the American voters were in rejecting Mr. Carter’s bid for a second term in favor of President Reagan. When Reagan was asked what his Cold War strategy was, he said that it was simple: “We win, they lose.” And freedom won without bloodshed, without a war and no thanks to Mr. Carter.
As the historian Paul Johnson has written: “[H]istory is made primarily by the willpower of great human personalities rather than by anonymous forces.” Pope John Paul II, Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan — this triumvirate, each of them in a unique way, without bloodshed or battle, brought about the downfall of Soviet totalitarianism, the unification of Germany and the liberation of Eastern Europe and the Baltic States. Can you picture Mr. Carter as a great human personality, and a member of such a coalition of moral power?
Reagan was one of the most successful U.S. politicians of the postwar era. An editorial in the distinctly nonconservative London Economist hailed Reagan in these words, which could never be applied to Mr. Carter:
“Judged strictly on his own terms, Ronald Reagan was a great president. He said he would reduce regulation; he did. He said that he would cut taxes; he did. He said that he would spend the Soviet Union into submission; he did. He was a successful president… because he knew who he was and what he believed in.”
The American voters erred in electing Mr. Carter in 1976 but they saw their error, repented and ousted him four years later.
Looking back at the Reagan years, how right they were.
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