Monday, December 05, 2005

Nordlinger On Carter

This is why I love reading Jay Nordlinger in NRO. When he's good, he's very, very good.

Jay Nordlinger today, on Jimmy Carter:
As longtime readers know, I've commented on Jimmy Carter a lot, and some time ago — oh, maybe a half-year ago — I swore off. I mean, how much can you say about a perpetually vexing ex-prez? I placed him in the Thomas Friedman/Maureen Dowd category: You can only listen to them for so long, decry them for so long. Then, you yourself become a repetitive nuisance.

But let me revisit the 39th president, may I? I thought of something when reading his recent
op-ed piece in the Los Angeles Times — a piece apparently drawn from his new book, Our Endangered Values: America's Moral Crisis. The op-ed is titled "This Isn't the Real America" (i.e., America as Mr. Carter conceives it).

What I thought of is this: Since he left office in 1981, Carter has opined, written, and pontificated, over and over again. But he's pretty much never questioned. He's never challenged. Of course, once in a while he submits to an interview, but it's not really an interview — it's more like a fawn-fest. Carter never faces what my colleague Rick Brookhiser calls "comeback."

As I was reading the op-ed piece, I thought of a whole mess of questions I'd like to ask Carter — or would like to see someone else ask him.

For example, he writes that George W. Bush has implemented "a host of radical government policies that now threaten many basic principles espoused by all previous administrations, Democratic and Republican." Among these principles is "the rudimentary American commitment to peace, economic and social justice, civil liberties, our environment and human rights."

Well, that's quite a list. You could ask questions based on it all day long. (By the way, I warn you, my friends: Never trust anyone who can speak of "economic justice" or "social justice." Those are just fine-sounding absurdities.) Anyway, let's take merely Carter's last item, human rights. Bush is constantly blasted — usually from the right — for placing too much emphasis on human rights. His second inaugural address was widely attacked. Here is a man, Bush, who toppled two of the most murderous, most vicious, most evil regimes known to man: that of the Taliban, and that of Saddam Hussein.

Can Carter muster no applause?

Then Carter says we have "declared independence from the restraints of international organizations and have disavowed long-standing global agreements . . ." Okay. Which ones should we not have abandoned? Would Carter like to argue for the ABM Treaty, signed with a government that no longer exists (no thanks to Carter)? Would he like to argue for Kyoto? Let him — and let him engage in a real debate.

Then he goes after Bush for the doctrine of preemption. Fine, Carter disagrees. But what would he do, when a hostile regime is amassing — or thought to be amassing — weapons of mass destruction? How long would he stand by? Does he regret Israel's takeout of the Iraqi nuclear facility? (I bet he does.) It would be good to hear him.

Then he writes — and this is typical Carter — "When there are serious differences with other nations, we brand them as international pariahs and refuse to permit direct discussions to resolve disputes."

Does Carter acknowledge that there is often a difference between a nation's regime — its rulers — and the people themselves? Does he recognize that we can oppose, say, the Iranian mullahs, but not the Iranian people, whose freedom we advocate? Which nations has the Bush administration branded international pariahs that should not be so branded? North Korea? Cuba? (I have a feeling Carter has those in mind — Syria, too.)

Carter calls Iraq a "quagmire." Why does he think this? Does he watch MSNBC? He asserts that "every effort has been made to conceal or minimize public awareness of casualties." How can he think this? What is he talking about? Is he talking about the policy at Dover Air Force Base — the one that has been in place for 15 years? If he thinks the logic and morality behind that policy are poor, let him say so.

It seems to me that I hear of nothing but casualties, as against the progress that the Allies are making in Iraq, and elsewhere in the Muslim world.

Carter denounces the Patriot Act as a robber of civil liberties. Which ones?

He writes, "We have now become a prime culprit in global nuclear proliferation." What has he been smoking? We are an arrester of proliferation, as in Libya. Carter continues, "America also has abandoned the prohibition of 'first use' of nuclear weapons against nonnuclear nations, and is contemplating the previously condemned deployment of weapons in space." Again, what has he been smoking? First use aside — and this was always a bogus propaganda point of the Soviets — who previously condemned the deployment of weapons in space? Jimmy Carter, yes. Those who work for him, yes. Reed College and Bennington College, yes. Who else?

Then he says that Bush is in the pocket of the oil companies, that we are a rotten polluter, blah, blah, blah. Oh, and don't forget the "unprecedented favors to the rich." What are these unprecedented favors? Dunno. Carter laments that our minimum wage is paltry. How high would he like to see it rise, and how many jobs would he sacrifice to that end?

Then, "I am extremely concerned by a fundamentalist shift in many houses of worship and in government, as church and state have become increasingly intertwined in ways previously thought unimaginable." What are these ways? Does he oppose Bush's faith-based initiative? Is that the problem? Is he worried that the Supreme Court has allowed certain, quite limited displays of the Ten Commandments? Was that "previously thought unimaginable"? To disallow the Commandments was "previously thought unimaginable."

(It could be that Carter answers my questions — or some of them — in his book. I cannot say.)

Finally, "As the world's only superpower, America should be seen as the unswerving champion of peace, freedom and human rights." We are, baby — not by you, but by millions around the world, who know that this country, particularly since 9/11, has been a big, big force for good.

As I've explained before, one reason that Jimmy Carter can annoy me is that I used to admire him — and would like to admire him now. He was the first president whom I followed avidly. I have always been something of a Carterologist. (For my 2002 Carterpalooza, please go
here.) I would like to take my "first president" seriously, even while disagreeing with him. But he makes it very, very hard.
Speaking for myself, I used to respect Carter. Not any more. The vapid old hack has bought into Michael Moore's warped perceptions completely - and has nothing new to contribute. Just more tired lies.


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