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Jimmy Carter and the Dark Side

Exclusive commentary by Greg Lewis /
August 26, 2003

The ineptitude of the administration of President James Earl ("Jumma") Carter seemed to me for a long time simply to be what happens when you put a bumbling, indecisive naif in a position of serious power. Lately, however, I've come to see the dark side of Jimmy Carter, and let me tell you, it's not only ugly and disgusting, it's pathologically dangerous.

Neither Jumma nor Bubba, the two surviving Democrat ex-Presidents, has the decency or the respect for the office he once held to keep his pie-hole shut and refrain from criticizing the current Commander-in-Chief. But of the two, although Clinton is perhaps the peskier (he is somewhat more direct and certainly commands greater immediate influence), since we've seen nothing but his dark side, at least we know what we're dealing with. Where Carter is concerned, the fact that his efforts at international statesmanship appear to come from a well-meaning, God-fearing man actually makes him much more dangerous than Clinton.

That mushy, feel-good persona Carter manages to project is in fact a blind for a man who sympathizes with and overtly supports murderous dictatorships of every stripe. If I had to describe it in psychological terms, I'd say that Carter is a masochist who will do anything to validate his sense of his own worthlessness by ceding power to sadists happy to oblige him as he acts out, on an international stage, a string of perverse fantasies. The most appropriate image I can think of to characterize Carter's dark side is that of the ex-President in leather underwear, blindfolded and hogtied, awaiting the sting of the lash at the hands of a tyrannical monster, perhaps a Kim Jong Il or an Ayatollah Khomeini. It's a nightmare worthy of Michel Foucault. In such situations, the submissive become no less monstrous than their torturers.

While professed-Christian Carter publicly lamented (in a Playboy Magazine interview, for God's sake) the fact that he had "lusted in [his] heart" after women (a perfectly normal minor failing of most human males, and some human females, I would assert), he seemed equally unable to resist the lure of totalitarianism, which lure unfortunately managed to escape the relative inconsequentiality of confinement in his heart to become something that led him to sell U.S. interests down the river on more than one occasion.

Among Carter's crowning legislative achievements, for instance, was that he "gave back" the Panama Canal to its host nation on the flimsiest of pretenses, namely that the Canal somehow rightfully belonged to Panamanians. This had to be Carter's masochistic dark side kicking in, causing him to bend over in the name of some perverse notion of justice which presumed that big old, nasty old America had, in a fit of imperialist expansionism, snatched the Panama Canal from its rightful owners and, for the past three quarters of a century, had used it as if it were her (America's) own. Nothing could be further from the truth.

In fact, in 1903, after helping Panama gain its independence from Colombia — which, to be fair, had rejected America's proposals for taking over completion of the Canal — the U.S. paid the newly independent nation $10 million for the purchase of the property on which the Canal was then being constructed. We also paid France $40 million for the rights to take over the Canal project, which the French at the time controlled. Not only was the Canal not Carter's to give away, by doing so he weakened both America's economic and security interests in Central America and her standing with regard to how she honored her agreements and protected her interests around the world. All in the name, I would assert, of Carter's utterly naive and perversely masochistic understanding of the dynamics of international affairs.

The Panama Canal giveaway is one of many examples of how Carter has demonstrated in his dealings and policies that he is not much more than a bewildered schoolboy, way out of his depth, a fundamentally good kid who has taken the lessons of his youth too literally and has allowed them to skew his ability to make sense of what's going on around him by forcing him to view events in terms of absolutes.

Nowhere is this perverse propensity of Carter's better demonstrated than in his "handling" of Iran. Early in his Presidency, Carter began putting pressure on the Shah of Iran to correct "human rights" violations. These pressures eventually took the form of impossible demands that, because acquiescing to them weakened the Shah's position, were instrumental in the overthrow of the Iranian government (which was, if not a model of western liberal democracy, at least a U.S. ally and a westernizing influence in the Middle East) and the installation of the Marxist-Islamist government of the Ayatollah Khomeini. Let the record of the past 50 years show that human rights in Iran never looked so good as in the quarter century preceding the 1979 regime change precipitated by the Carter administration's policies. Carter, true to the form that would come to characterize his diplomatic forays, took the side of the real human-rights monster, in this case Khomeini, when faced with a choice.

This debacle would come back to bite Carter in the ass big-time, and very quickly, in the form of the Iran hostage crisis. His bungling of that situation was arguably the straw that broke the camel's back with regard to his chances for re-election. The lack of principled resolve which characterized his handling of the crisis would become another hallmark of his approach to international affairs.

You'd think that Carter might have learned the lesson that despots are not to be dealt with in good faith after, in the passive-aggressive fashion that typifies so many masochists' relationships, he had paved the way for Khomeini to assume power, only to have the Islamist despot plunge a knife into his (Carter's) back. But no-o-o-o. Not Jumma. Not this unapologetic schoolboy who perversely can see no wrong in true wrongdoers and who can see no right in those who uphold justice and democracy.

Since the decisive termination of his Presidency by Ronald Reagan in 1980, Carter has continued to make the ill-advised advocacy for human rights his theme. He has been a conspicuous member of numerous teams of international monitors assembled to insure the legitimacy of elections in Jamaica, Palestine, and Nicaragua, to name a few of many. One somewhat ungenerous commentator nailed the utter frivolity of Carter's efforts on this front by christening them "Bowling For Ballots."

Where matters of truly serious import are concerned, Carter has consistently been a veritable poster boy for giving in to tyrants around the world. This tendency reached its apogee during the Clinton Administration when Carter "negotiated" what amounted to the payment by the United States of hush money (in the form of oil and food shipments) to North Korea in return for the latter's "promise" to discontinue its nuclear weapons development programs.

Never mind that then-President Clinton actually gave credence to the Carter agreement. The fact is that no one with so much as a fortnight's experience in international diplomacy at the level of administrative assistant to the associate ambassador to whatever nation you want to name would have been so naive as to actually believe that Kim Jong Il had any intention of holding up his end of the bargain.

In the words of the rock group Devo's song "Space Girl Blues": "Sado-maso is the rule / You want them they don't want you." Carter is the very exemplar of the "maso" side of the sado-maso equation. He always seems to need to masochistically put U.S. interests at risk, perhaps in order to validate his twisted psyche, to demonstrate his utterly naive and erroneous assumption that, if we'll all just adopt a posture of submission, well, that guy wearing the black mask and the studded leather collar and brandishing the cat-o'-nine-tails will actually turn out to be a really good person. You'll see.

The point is that Carter, while he would (presumably) never consciously imperil the cause of democracy or the interests of the United States (I'm giving him the benefit of the doubt here), nonetheless, because he was (and is) clearly psychologically unequipped to deal with adult realities, has managed to influence international affairs in ways that promote tyranny and despotism and undermine the cause of freedom and democracy throughout the world. Carter has become, though he is no doubt incapable of realizing it, the unwitting tool of the current iteration of the Dark Side.

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