Thursday, October 11, 2007

When Did You Stop Beating the Economy, Mr. Carter?

He's back in the news, Jimmy Carter is, this time accusing the President of torture and lying. Might be interesting to interview a guy like him, who now says he has no regrets - none. If a real, crusty, hard-hitting reporter – not anyone like the obsequious Chris Matthews -- but if a real reporter were to ask the former President some tough questions, just imagine how that discussion might go. Below, is our guess.

Of course, that will not ever happen. Writers have made the case that the mass media largely created Carter, who then turned out to be one of the most disastrous of American Presidents, clearly the worst in our lifetime.

That fact should be a bit instructive to us all as we begin to give serious consideration to our choices in the fall of 2008!

The Wikipedia link for Jimmy Carter, for example, notes the 1980 biography of the former President by Lawrence Shoup, The Carter Presidency and Beyond, in which Shoup argued that Carter was truly a creation of the mass media:

The media discovered and promoted Carter. As Lawrence Shoup noted in his 1980 book The Carter Presidency and Beyond:

"What Carter had that his opponents did not was the acceptance and support of elite sectors of the mass communications media. It was their favorable coverage of Carter and his campaign that gave him an edge, propelling him rocket-like to the top of the opinion polls. This helped Carter win key primary election victories, enabling him to rise from an obscure public figure to President-elect in the short space of 9 months."

As late as January 26, 1976, Carter was the first choice of only 4% of Democratic voters, according to the Gallup Poll. Yet "by mid-March 1976 Carter was not only far ahead of the active contenders for the Democratic presidential nomination, he also led President Ford by a few percentage points," according to Shoup.

Some of that attitude still persists today. So, the following parody interview article will not appear in the paper, nor will anything like it -- though it would be nice to imagine, even if just for a few minutes!

Carter Denies He "Tortured" Americans, Others, with Disastrous Policies
His explanations falter though when pressed on the economy, Mugabe --

10/10/2007 -- Smarting from news that the United States’s trade deficit had again improved, and that unemployment was dropping to record levels, former President Jimmy Carter testily denied the suggestion that, while President, he had, in effect, tortured large segments of the American public with his economic policies.

In an interview, he was pointedly asked,
"Mr. Carter, given the fact that your economic policies, and arguably your foreign policy, caused so much dislocation and pain, why should the American people not simply conclude that, to that extent, you indeed tortured them?"
"Just because unemployment was at a record high while we were in office, was not my fault," he insisted.

"And, this current President," he added, immediately trying to change the subject, "he has tortured people, and he denied 1 million minority people in Florida the right to vote in 2000, too," he added. Carter, however, once again could not offer evidence of either accusation -- and not even a scintilla of evidence that one person was ever denied the right to vote, let alone a million as he has frequently claimed over the years.

Asked about the fact that during his one-term presidency the country was beset by runaway inflation, alarmingly high interest rates, extremely high unemployment, massive oil and other fuel shortages, and an overall stagnant economy, and that, in addition, we struggled through several major world crises, including the humiliating Islamist student invasion of the American Embassy in Tehran, which he failed to resolve, Carter countered by blaming it all on the attitude of the public.

"Look, people just couldn’t get used to the idea that we had a crisis of confidence in this country. It wasn’t my fault – it was the country’s fault," he said, raising his eyebrows and licking his lips for emphasis, both signature Carter gestures of contempt.

He also quickly pointed out that he made that abundantly clear at the time by giving the American people a good old-fashioned "kick ‘em when they’re down" speech (called the "malaise" speech) during which he bluntly told the American people, in part:

The threat is nearly invisible in ordinary ways. It is a crisis of confidence. It is a crisis that strikes at the very heart and soul and spirit of our national will. We can see this crisis in the growing doubt about the meaning of our own lives and in the loss of a unity of purpose for our nation.
"So don’t try and blame me," Carter added, with the indignant flash of anger visibly showing in his face. "They tortured themselves!" he insisted.
"I’ll remind you that I asked my young daughter Amy what we should do, and she gave me good, sound advice. But the country made fun of that. And they made fun when that rabbit viciously attacked me in the canoe that time, too!"
Then he added, "Just because the prime interest rate rose to 21.5% in my Presidency," effectively dashing the economic hopes of millions of Americans to own their own homes, or to start their own businesses, "does not mean I tortured them. Again, I remind you that I raised taxes through staggered increases while on my watch." And, then, almost as an afterthought, he added, "and I would also point out that I substantially increased payroll taxes for Social Security, too! Okay? And, I cut the heart out of portions of the defense budget, as well. And I tried to get the Salt II Treaty approved." (Even the Democrat-controlled Senate balked at ratifying that accord.)

The one-term President who lost in a landslide to Ronald Reagan in 1980, was reminded that his successor, had solved the Carter economic crisis, restored and even increased the defense budget, and dramatically increased our standing on the world stage through substantially reduced tax rates.
"How do you respond to those who say that Ronald Reagan thus induced a complete turn around in the economy, ushering in the then-largest post war expansion of the nation’s economy, and thus laid the foundation for the eventual collapse of the Soviet Union, and our victory in the Cold War?"
Carter shook his head derisively, waiving off any such suggestion. "Wrong. Everyone knows it was all because I insisted that everyone live up to impossible or largely unachievable standards on the world stage that we are where we are today," he asserted, again without offering any specific proof for his claims whatsoever.

"I solved the problems in the Middle East – they gave me the Nobel Prize . . . me! And now, with just a little bit more name-calling and open hostility toward Israel, I believe we will win."

Asked exactly what we would "win" Carter became a little vague. "The respect of our former adversaries, for one thing," he suggested.

"Like Iran?" he was asked. "We should negotiate with them," he said. "But didn’t you try and fail at that, sir?" "These things take time," he responded, again with raised eyebrows.

"You forget, I personally intervened in Africa and Central America to help bring a new generation of leaders to the fore," he offered.

Setting aside the obvious questions about the former President’s role in aiding the Marxist Sandinistas in Nicaragua, the interviewer probed on the lesser-known subject of African political leaders.

"You gave a start to leaders ... like, Robert Mugabe?" Carter was asked. The questioner then noted that as President, Jimmy Carter personally intervened in Zimbabwe back in 1979 to electorally promote the eventual accession to power as Prime Minister of openly Marxist Robert Mugabe, whose continuing regime today as President is beset with massive corruption, suppression of any political opposition, totalitarian social policies, mismanagement of both land reform and the economy, and the complete deterioration of human rights. Mugabe’s policies have caused an economic collapse and massive starvation over the past decade in Zimbabwe, with an inflation rate that is indisputably the highest in world history – predicted to run to 1.5 million % by the end of this year.

And as a follow up, Carter was asked, "So, should the people of Zimbabwe – that is, those who have managed to survive -- also lay some of the blame for their on-going tortured lives at your feet as well, Mr. Carter?" The questioner pointed out as a basis for his question, the fact that the life expectancy rate for women in Zimbabwe now stands at 34, having been 63 just a few years ago. The life expectancy for men is 37.

"Dick Cheney is a disaster," the former President icily intoned, choosing to ignore the question completely. "And," he added, waiving his finger at the interviewer, "you can take that to the bank!"

"Which bank," the questioner retorted, "Bert Lance's bank?"

# # # # #

(At this point, the former President, suddenly recalling a prior commitment, abruptly terminated the interview.)

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