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Jimmy Carter

C-I editorial

Posted: September 22, 2010 12:04 p.m.
Updated: September 22, 2010 12:02 p.m.

One of those doctored photographs is making the round on the Internet these days – circulated by Republicans, no doubt – in which former President Jimmy Carter is shown in a happy mood, saying, “I’m no longer the worse president!” It’s a slam at President Obama, of course, but it brings up what is certainly a sore point with the former Georgia governor and president: that many regard him as one of the worst chief executives in history. When many people think of Carter’s administration, they remember high interest rates, soaring inflation and the embarrassment of the Iranian hostage crisis and America’s failure to free those hostages.

This week’s television interview with Carter, in which he claimed he had done a superior job to other presidents after he left the White House, was a sad moment for the aging ex-president. He later issued a statement saying that’s not really what he meant, but the damage was done. Carter also claimed that his record in passing legislation was extraordinarily good, an assertion which doesn’t hold up to the glare of history.

During the interview, he came across as aloof, smug and high-handed. That’s in contrast to the years immediately following his term, when Carter worked hard on Habitat for Humanity and other projects, showing an ex-president who wasn’t afraid to get his hands dirty helping people. But as time passed, Carter went from being one of the best “ex-presidents” to one of the worse, especially the manner in which he criticized those who followed him in the Oval Office. There’s an unwritten rule against that, a rule which Carter readily ignored.

Certainly he has undertaken some bold initiatives since he’s been out of office. But his recent claims will do nothing to cement his legacy – or his popularity with the exclusive club of Americans who have occupied the presidency. Carter would do himself well to remain mum.

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