Water Man Spouts

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Jimmy Carter vs Richard Nixon

President Jimmy Carter’s statements about the nature of VP Dick Cheney as a human being, and his role in the current administration, has caused quite a reaction. Some in the news media, including several folks on MSNBC, are taking the position that ex-presidents should not speak ill of a sitting president. That, of course, indicates that they recognize the current vice president has a firm grasp on the reins of power in this administration – which is exactly what President Carter identified as a problem.

Should ex-presidents restrict their public role to administering social novocaine, in order to make the nation’s pain and suffering less noticeable ? Should President Carter find a higher calling in suggesting that the citizens of this nation should bury their heads in the sand? Or is it appropriate that he take his pledge to uphold the Constitution seriously?

I think it is interesting to compare Jimmy Carter with Richard Nixon. Both men’s presidencies ended as the result of major scandals: Nixon left when the series of crimes known as "Watergate" caught up with him, and Carter was defeated because of the manipulations by Reagan’s vice presidential candidate, when the seeds of the Iran-Contra scandals were first sown.

Both ex-presidents would become prolific authors, though for slightly different reasons. Nixon wanted to rehabilitate his stained image, and Carter wanted to improve the county. Both ex-presidents’ books are worth reading. For democrats who lived through their respective administrations, Carter’s books are obviously preferred. Yet, though we could not have possibly anticipated it, the ex-president Nixon seems almost wholesome when compared to the republicans who have controlled the Oval Office since 1980.

Let’s look at each of these ex-president’s last two books. In 1992, Nixon wrote "Seize the Moment: America’s Challenge in a One-Superpower World." Nixon dedicates the book "To the democrats," but takes similar little stabs at republicans in chapters such as "The Former Evil Empire." Yet the most important chapter might be "The Muslim World," in which Nixon notes, "Many Americans tend to stereotype Muslims as uncivilized, unwashed, barbaric, and irrational people who command our attention only because some of their leaders have the good fortune to rule territory containing over two-thirds of the world’s proven oil reserves."

He goes on to say that some American leaders "warn that Islam will become a monolithic and fanatical geopolitical force, that its growing population and significant financial power will pose a major challenge …. (with) the forces of resurgent Muslim fundamentalism orchestrating a region-wide revolution from Iran …" Nixon notes that the diverse Muslim world actually had three primary types of leadership – fundamentalism, radicalism, and modernism – and that the US could actually establish good relations with the Islamic world if this country recognized that our stereotypes were the first stumbling block to be overcome.

When age and illness reduce a person’s abilities, we are often left with just the essence of their personality. Thus it is with Nixon’s last book, "Beyond Peace." The infamous I-am-not-a-crook president, notes that we "cannot successfully address the fearful increase in …crime without restoring punishment rather than rehabilitation as the central premise of our criminal justice system." If only President Ford had subscribed to that same belief.

His beliefs on Iraq and Iran are summed up in two sentences: "The United States should adopt a policy of isolation and containment of both. The objective should be to give both countries problems at home so that they cannot cause problems abroad."

Would a republican ex-president say rude things about a (then) current administration? "Mrs. Clinton deserves credit for her courage in articulating the absence of a higher purpose in life, despite the fact that since the late 1960s many of her most liberal supporters have relentlessly assaulted traditional values in the name of liberalism. Unfortunately, most of the administration’s remedies would make the problem worse." Nixon, never a man to hold grudges.

Carter has authored some fascinating books. None are more important than the last two. In "Our Endangered Values: America’s Moral Crisis," President Carter writes about "when President Reagan’s ‘neocon’ ambassador to the United Nations, Jeane Kirkpatrick, denounced me as having attempted to ‘impose liberalization and democratization’ on other countries. She decried ‘the belief that it is possible to democratize governments anytime, anywhere, under any circumstances.’ Democracy, she said, depends ‘on complex social, cultural, and economic conditions,’ and takes ‘decades, if not centuries.’ She went on to extol ‘traditional authoritarian dictatorships’…

"Some neocons now dominate the highest councils of government, seem determined to extert American dominance throughout the world, and approve of preemptive war as an acceptable avenue to reach this imperialistic goal. Eight years before he became vice president, Richard Cheney spelled out this premise in his ‘Defense Strategy for the 1990s.’ Either before or soon after 9/11, he and his close associates chose Iraq as the first major target, apparently to remove a threat to Israel and to have Iraq serve as our permanent military, economic, and political base in the Middle East."

In his most recent book, "Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid," President Carter writes "that there is a formula for peace in justice in this small and unique portion of the world. It is compatible with international law and sustained American government policy, has the approval of most Israelis and Palestinians, and conforms to agreements previously consummated – but later renounced."

There are, of course, neoconservatives and neoliberals who attack President Carter for taking the positions that has. The Cheneyites in the republican party – and a few in democratic party – will dismiss Carter with insults and personal attacks. That’s because the neoconservative blueprint to redraw the map of the Middle East cannot accommodate any rational plan for the peaceful resolution of conflicts.


At October 18, 2007 at 7:27 PM, Blogger J said...

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