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James Earl Carter Jr. (born October 1, 1924) is an American politician who served as the 39th President of the United States from 1977 to 1981. A member of the Democratic Party, he also served as the Governor of Georgia prior to his election as president. Carter has remained active in public life during his post-presidency, and in 2002 he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his work with the Carter Center.

Jimmy Carter
JimmyCarterPortrait2.jpg
39th President of the United States
In office
January 20, 1977 – January 20, 1981
Vice President Walter Mondale
Preceded by Gerald Ford
Succeeded by Ronald Reagan
76th Governor of Georgia
In office
January 12, 1971 – January 14, 1975
Lieutenant Lester Maddox
Preceded by Lester Maddox
Succeeded by George Busbee
Member of the Georgia Senate
from the 14th district
In office
January 14, 1963 – January 10, 1967
Preceded by Constituency established
Succeeded by Hugh Carter
Constituency Sumter County
Personal details
Born James Earl Carter Jr.
(1924-10-01) October 1, 1924 (age 93)
Plains, Georgia, U.S.
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Rosalynn Smith (m. 1946)
Children Jack, James III, Donnel, and Amy
Parents James Earl Carter Sr.
Bessie Lillian Gordy
Relatives
Residence Plains, Georgia, U.S.
Alma mater Georgia Institute of Technology
United States Naval Academy (B.S.)
Profession
Civilian awards Nobel Peace Prize (2002)
See more
Signature Cursive signature in ink
Military service
Allegiance  United States
Service/branch  United States Navy
Years of service 1943–53 (Navy)
1953–61 (Navy Reserve)
Rank US Navy O3 infobox.svg Lieutenant
Military awards American Campaign Medal ribbon.svg American Campaign Medal
World War II Victory Medal ribbon.svg World War II Victory Medal
China Service Medal ribbon.svg China Service Medal
National Defense Service Medal ribbon.svg National Defense Service Medal

After graduating from high school, Carter joined the United States Navy and served on submarines. He left the Navy later in 1953 to return to his home state Georgia, where he worked as a peanut farmer. From 1963 to 1967, Carter served in the Georgia State Senate, and in 1970, he was elected as Governor of Georgia, defeating former Governor Carl Sanders in the Democratic primary. He served as governor from 1971 to 1975.

Despite being little-known outside of Georgia at the start of the campaign, Carter won the 1976 Democratic presidential nomination. In the general election, Carter defeated incumbent Republican President Gerald Ford in a close election.

On his second day in office, Carter pardoned all evaders of the Vietnam War drafts. During Carter's term as president, two new cabinet-level departments, the Department of Energy and the Department of Education, were established. He established a national energy policy that included conservation, price control, and new technology. In foreign affairs, Carter pursued the Camp David Accords, the Panama Canal Treaties, the second round of Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT II), and the return of the Panama Canal Zone to Panama. On the economic front he confronted persistent "stagflation", a combination of high inflation, high unemployment and slow growth. The end of his presidential tenure was marked by the 1979–1981 Iran hostage crisis, the 1979 energy crisis, the Three Mile Island nuclear accident, and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

In response to the invasion, Carter ended détente, escalated the Cold War, and led the international boycott of the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow. In 1980, Carter faced a primary challenge from Senator Ted Kennedy, but Carter won re-nomination at the 1980 Democratic National Convention. Carter lost the general election in an electoral landslide to Republican nominee Ronald Reagan. Polls of historians and political scientists usually rank Carter as a below-average president.

In 2012, Carter surpassed Herbert Hoover as the longest-retired president in U.S. history. He is also the first president to mark the 40th anniversary of his inauguration. He set up the Carter Center in 1982 as his base for advancing human rights. He has traveled extensively to conduct peace negotiations, observe elections, and advance disease prevention and eradication in developing nations. In addition, Carter is considered a key figure in the Habitat for Humanity project and has written several books about various topics. In reference to current political views, he has criticized some of Israel's actions and policies in regards to the Israeli–Palestinian conflict and has advocated for a two-state solution. He has vigorously opposed the Supreme Court's decision in Citizens United v. FEC to strike down limits on campaign spending by corporations and unions, saying that the U.S. is "no longer a functioning democracy" and now has a system of "unlimited political bribery."[1]

Contents

Early life

 
Carter (around age 13) with his dog, Bozo, in 1937.

James Earl Carter Jr. was born on October 1, 1924, at the Wise Sanitarium in Plains, Georgia.[note 1] He is a descendant of English immigrant Thomas Carter, who settled in Virginia in 1635. Numerous generations of Carters lived as cotton farmers in Georgia. Carter is also a descendant of Thomas Cornell, an ancestor of Cornell University's founder and distantly related to Richard Nixon and Bill Gates.[3]

Plains was a boomtown of 600 people at the time of Carter's birth. His father, James Earl Carter Sr., was a successful local businessman who ran a general store and had begun to invest in farmland. He had been a reserve second lieutenant in the U.S. Army's Quartermaster Corps during World War I. Carter's mother, Bessie Lillian Gordy, was a nurse at the Wise hospital. Carter was the oldest of Earl and Lillian's children; they moved several times during his infancy.[2]

The Carters settled on a dirt road in nearby Archery, which was almost entirely populated by impoverished African American families. They eventually had three more children: Gloria, Ruth, and Billy. Carter got along well with his parents, although his mother worked long hours and was often absent in his childhood. Although Earl was staunchly pro-segregation, he allowed his son to befriend the black farmhands' children. Carter was an enterprising teenager who was given his own acre of Earl's farmland where he grew, packaged, and sold peanuts. He also rented out a section of tenant housing that he had purchased.[2]

Carter attended the Plains High School from 1937 to 1941. By that time, the Great Depression had impoverished Archery and Plains, but the family benefited from New Deal farming subsidies, and Earl took a position as a community leader. Young Jimmy was a diligent student with a fondness for reading. A popular anecdote holds that he was passed over for valedictorian after he and his friends skipped school to venture downtown in a hot rod. Carter's truancy was mentioned in a local newspaper, although it is not clear he would have been valedictorian anyway.[4] Carter's teacher, Julia Coleman, was an especially strong influence. As an adolescent, Carter played on the Plains High School basketball team; he also joined the Future Farmers of America and developed a lifelong interest in woodworking.[4]

Naval career

 
President Jimmy Carter and Admiral Hyman G. Rickover, USN (far right) aboard the submarine USS Los Angeles in 1977

Carter had long dreamed of attending the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis. In 1941, he started undergraduate coursework in engineering at Georgia Southwestern College in nearby Americus. The following year, he transferred to the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, and he achieved admission to the Naval Academy in 1943. He was a good student but was seen as reserved and quiet, in contrast to the academy's culture of aggressive hazing of freshmen. While at the academy, Carter fell in love with his sister Ruth's friend Rosalynn Smith, whom he would marry shortly after his graduation in 1946.[5] He was a sprint football player for the Navy Midshipmen.[6] Carter graduated 60th out of 820 midshipmen in the class of 1946 with a Bachelor of Science degree and was commissioned as an ensign.[7] From 1946 to 1953, Carter and Rosalynn lived in Virginia, Hawaii, Connecticut, New York and California, during his deployments in the Atlantic and Pacific fleets.[8] In 1948, he began officers' training for submarine duty and served aboard USS Pomfret. He was promoted to lieutenant junior grade in 1949. In 1951 he became attached to the diesel/electric USS K-1, (a.k.a. USS Barracuda), qualified for command, and served in several duties including Executive Officer.[9]

In 1952, Carter began an association with the US Navy's fledgling nuclear submarine program, then-led by Captain Hyman G. Rickover. Rickover's demands on his men and machines were legendary, and Carter later said that, next to his parents, Rickover was the greatest influence on his life.[10] He was sent to the Naval Reactors Branch of the Atomic Energy Commission in Washington, D.C. for three month temporary duty, while Rosalynn moved with their children to Schenectady, New York. On December 12, 1952, an accident with the experimental NRX reactor at Atomic Energy of Canada's Chalk River Laboratories caused a partial meltdown resulting in millions of liters of radioactive water flooding the reactor building's basement and leaving the reactor's core ruined.[11] Carter was ordered to Chalk River to lead a U.S. maintenance crew that joined other American and Canadian service personnel to assist in the shutdown of the reactor.[12] The painstaking process required each team member to don protective gear and be lowered individually into the reactor for a few minutes at a time, limiting their exposure to radioactivity while they disassembled the crippled reactor. During and after his presidency, Carter said that his experience at Chalk River had shaped his views on atomic energy and led him to cease development of a neutron bomb.[13]

In March 1953 he began nuclear power school, a six-month non-credit course covering nuclear power plant operation at Union College in Schenectady,[8] with the intent to eventually work aboard USS Seawolf, which was planned to be one of the first two U.S. nuclear submarines. However, Carter's father died two months before construction of Seawolf began, and Carter sought and obtained a release from active duty to enable him to take over family peanut business. Deciding to leave Schenectady proved difficult. Settling after moving so much Rosalynn had grown comfortable with their life. Returning to small-town life in Plains seemed "a monumental step backward," she said later. On the other hand, Carter felt restricted by the rigidity of the military and yearned to assume a path more like his father's. Carter was honorably discharged from the Navy on October 9, 1953.[14][15] He served in the inactive Navy Reserve until 1961, and left the service with the rank of lieutenant.[16] Carter's awards included: the American Campaign Medal; World War II Victory Medal; China Service Medal; and National Defense Service Medal.[17]

Farming

Earl Carter died a relatively wealthy man, having also recently been elected to the Georgia House of Representatives. However, between his forgiveness of debts and the division of his wealth among heirs, his son Jimmy inherited comparatively little. For a year, Jimmy, Rosalynn, and their three sons lived in public housing in Plains; Carter is the only U.S. president to have lived in subsidized housing. Carter was knowledgeable in scientific and technological subjects, and he set out to expand the family's peanut-growing business. The transition from Navy to agribusinessman was difficult, because his first year harvest failed due to drought; Carter was compelled to open several bank lines of credit to keep the farm afloat. Meanwhile, he also took classes and read up on agriculture while Rosalynn learned accounting to manage the business's books. Though they barely broke even the first year, the Carters grew the business and became quite successful.[18][19]

Early political career, 1962–1971

Georgia State Senator (1963–1967)

Racial tension was inflamed in Plains by the 1954 U.S. Supreme Court's anti-segregation ruling in Brown v. Board of Education.[20] Carter was in favor of racial tolerance and integration—at one point, the local White Citizens' Council boycotted his peanut warehouse when he refused to join them—but he often kept those feelings to himself to avoid making enemies. By 1961 he was a prominent member of the community and the Baptist Church as well as chairman of the Sumter County school board, where he began to speak more loudly in favor of school integration.[21] A state Senate seat was opened by the dissolution of Georgia's County Unit System in 1962; Carter announced his run for the seat 15 days before the election. Rosalynn, who had an instinct for politics and organization, was instrumental to his campaign. The initial results showed Carter losing, but this was the result of fraudulent voting orchestrated by Joe Hurst, the Democratic Party chairman in Quitman County, with the aid of the Quitman County sheriff.[22] Carter challenged the results; when fraud was confirmed, a new election was held, which he won.[23]

The Civil Rights Movement was well underway when Carter took office. He and his family had become staunch John F. Kennedy supporters. Beginning in 1962, the town of Americus was the site of mass beatings and incarcerations of black protesters,[24] echoing similar unrest throughout the country. Carter remained relatively quiet on the issue at first, even as it polarized much of the county, to avoid alienating his segregationist colleagues. He did speak up on a few divisive issues, giving speeches against literacy tests and against a change to the Georgia Constitution which, he felt, implied a compulsion to practice religion.[25] At the time of President Kennedy's assassination Carter was informed by a customer of his peanut business of the killing, prompting Carter to remove himself from work and sit alone. Carter later called the assassination "the greatest blow that I had suffered since my father died."[26]

A diligent legislator, Carter took speed-reading courses to keep up with the workload. Within two years his connections landed him on the state Democratic Executive Committee, where he helped rewrite the state party's rules. He became chairman of the West Central Georgia Planning and Development Commission, which oversaw the disbursement of federal and state grants for projects such as historic site restoration.

When Bo Callaway was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in November 1964, Carter immediately began planning to unseat him. The two had previously clashed over which two-year college would be expanded to a four-year college program by the state; Carter wanted it to go to Georgia Southwestern College in Americus, but Callaway wanted the funding to go to downtown Columbus. Carter saw Callaway, a Republican, as a rival who represented the inherited wealth and selfishness he despised in politics.[27]

Carter was re-elected in 1964 to serve a second two-year term. For a time in the State Senate, he chaired its Education Committee; he also sat on the Appropriations Committee toward the end of his second term. Before his term ended he contributed to a bill expanding statewide education funding and getting Georgia Southwestern a four-year program. He leveraged his regional planning work, giving speeches around the district to make himself more visible to potential voters. The last day of the term, he announced his run for Congress.[28]

1966 and 1970 campaigns for governor

The congressional race of 1966 was shaken up in mid-May when the Republican incumbent, Bo Callaway, dropped out and decided to run for Governor of Georgia instead. Callaway was a very strong candidate, and state Democrats panicked over the prospect of losing the governorship they had held since Reconstruction. Carter soon decided to follow Callaway and run for governor himself. In the Democratic primary he ran as a moderate alternative to both the liberal former governor Ellis Arnall and the conservative Lester Maddox. In a press conference he described his ideology as "Conservative, moderate, liberal and middle-of-the-road. ... I believe I am a more complicated person than that."[29] He lost the Democratic primary, but drew enough votes as a third-place candidate to force Arnall into a runoff election with Maddox. A chain of events then resulted in Maddox, the dark horse candidate, being elected governor.[note 2] The result was a sharp blow to Carter, who was left deeply in debt. His attempt to rescue the race from Callaway had resulted in the unlikely election of the segregationist Maddox, which he considered an even worse outcome.[30]

Carter returned to his agriculture business and, during the next four years, carefully planned his next campaign for governor in 1970. This period was a spiritual turning point for Carter; he grew increasingly evangelical, undertaking several religious missions in other states. Inspired by his sister Ruth and liberal theologians such as Reinhold Niebuhr, he declared himself born again, a growing movement in 1960s America. His last child Amy was born during this time, on 19 October 1967.[31][32]

The liberal former governor, Carl Sanders, was Carter's main opponent in the 1970 Democratic primary. Carter ran a more modern campaign this time around, employing printed graphics and statistical analysis. Responding to poll data, Carter leaned more conservative than before. He positioned himself as a populist, quickly going negative against Sanders for his wealth (labeling him "Cufflinks Carl") and associating him with the national Democratic Party. He accused Sanders of corruption, but when pressed by the media, could come up with no evidence.[33][34] Throughout the campaign Carter sought both the black vote and the "Wallace vote," after the prominent segregationist George Wallace of Alabama. While he met with black figures such as Martin Luther King Sr. and Andrew Young, and visited many black-owned businesses, he also praised Wallace and promised to invite him to give a speech in Georgia. He implied support or dislike of private schools, depending on the audience. The appeal to racism became more blatant over time; Carter's senior campaign aides handed out a photograph of his opponent Sanders celebrating with black basketball players.[33][34]

That September, Carter came ahead of Sanders in the first ballot by 49 to 38 percent, leading to a runoff. The subsequent campaign grew even more bitter; despite his early support for civil rights, Carter's campaign criticized Sanders for supporting Martin Luther King Jr. Carter won the runoff election with 60 percent of the vote—winning 7 percent of the black vote—and went on to win the general election easily over the Republican Hal Suit, a local news anchor. Once he was elected, Carter changed his tone, and began to speak against Georgia's racist politics. Leroy Johnson, a black state Senator, voiced his support for Carter, saying, "I understand why he ran that kind of ultra-conservative campaign. ... I don't believe you can win this state without being a racist."[33]

Governor of Georgia (1971–1975)

 
Carter's official portrait as Governor

Carter was sworn in as the 76th Governor of Georgia on January 12, 1971. He declared in his inaugural speech that "the time of racial discrimination is over. . . . No poor, rural, weak, or black person should ever have to bear the additional burden of being deprived of the opportunity for an education, a job or simple justice."[35] The crowd was reportedly shocked by this message, contrasting starkly with Georgia's political culture and particularly Carter's campaign. The many segregationists who had supported Carter during the race felt betrayed. Time magazine ran a story on the progressive "New South" governors elected that year in a May 1971 issue, featuring a cover illustration of Carter.[36][37][38]

Lester Maddox, Carter's predecessor as governor, became lieutenant governor. Carter had endorsed Maddox, although the two did not campaign as a ticket. The two found little common ground during their four years of service, often publicly feuding with each other.[39] Richard Russell Jr., then President pro tempore of the United States Senate, died in office during Carter's second week in office; the newly inaugurated governor appointed David H. Gambrell, state Democratic Party chair, to fill Russell's unexpired term in the Senate[40] a week after Russell's death on February 1.[41]

With Carter's reluctance to engage in back-slapping and political favors, the legislature found him frustrating to work with.[42][43] He looked to aggressively expand the governor's authority while reducing the complexity of the state government. Therefore, he negotiated a bill allowing him to propose executive restructuring and to force a vote on it. He implemented zero-based budgeting within state departments and added a Judicial Selection Commission to verify the credentials of judges appointed by the governor.[42] The reorganization plan was submitted in January 1972, but had a cool reception in the legislature. But after two weeks of negotiations, it was passed at midnight on the last day of the session.[44] Ultimately he merged about 300 state agencies into 22—a fact he would emphasize in his presidential run—although it is disputed that there were any overall cost savings from doing so.[45]

In an April 3, 1971 televised appearance, when asked if he was in favor of a requirement that candidates for Governor and Lieutenant Governor of Georgia would have to run on the same ticket, Carter said, "I've never really thought we needed a lieutenant governor in Georgia. The lieutenant governor is part of the executive branch of government and I've always felt - ever since I was in the state Senate - that the executive branches should be separate." Carter later clarified he would not introduce an amendment to put such a restriction in place.[46]

Civil rights were a heartfelt priority for Carter. He expanded the number of black state employees, judges, and board members. He hired Rita Jackson Samuels, a black woman, to advise him on potential appointments.[47] He placed portraits of Martin Luther King Jr. and two other prominent black Georgians in the capitol building, even as the Ku Klux Klan picketed the unveiling ceremony.[48] Still, Carter tried to keep his conservative allies comfortable. He co-sponsored an anti-busing resolution with George Wallace at the 1971 National Governors Conference.[47] After the U.S. Supreme Court threw out Georgia's death penalty statute in Furman v. Georgia (1972), Carter signed a revised death penalty statute which addressed the court's objections, thus re-introducing the practice in the state. Carter later regretted endorsing the death penalty, saying, "I didn't see the injustice of it as I do now."[49]

Carter pushed reforms through the legislature to provide equal state aid to schools in the wealthy and poor areas of Georgia, set up community centers for mentally handicapped children, and increased educational programs for convicts. He took pride in his program for the appointment of judges and state government officials. Under this program, all such appointments were based on merit, rather than political influence.[50][51]

In one of his more controversial decisions,[52] he vetoed a plan to build a dam on Georgia's Flint River. After surveying the river and the literature himself, he argued that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was underestimating both the project's cost and its impact on the region. The veto won the attention of environmentalists nationwide.[48] When Lieutenant William Calley was convicted in a military trial and sentenced to life for his role in the My Lai Massacre in South Vietnam, a politically polarizing issue, Carter avoided paying direct tribute to Calley. He instead instituted "American Fighting Man's Day" and asked Georgians to drive for a week with their lights on in support of the military.[53]

National ambition

Looking toward a potential presidential run, Carter engaged himself in national politics and public appearances. He was named to several southern planning commissions and was a delegate to the 1972 Democratic National Convention, where the liberal U.S. Senator George McGovern was the likely presidential nominee. Carter tried to ingratiate himself with the conservative, anti-McGovern voters, so that the convention would consider him for McGovern's running mate on a compromise ticket. He endorsed Senator Henry "Scoop" Jackson, in part to distance himself from George Wallace. Carter was still fairly obscure at the time, and his attempt at triangulation failed; the 1972 Democratic ticket went to McGovern and Senator Thomas Eagleton.[54][note 3]

After McGovern's loss in November 1972, Carter began meeting regularly with his fledgling campaign staff. He had quietly decided to begin putting a presidential bid together. He tried unsuccessfully to become chairman of the National Governors Association to boost his visibility. On David Rockefeller's endorsement he was named to the Trilateral Commission in April 1973. The following year he was named chairman of the Democratic National Committee's congressional, as well as gubernatorial, campaigns.[55] In 1973 he appeared on the game show What's My Line, where a group of celebrity panelists would try to guess his occupation. None recognized him and it took several rounds of question-and-answer before movie critic Gene Shalit correctly guessed he was a governor.[56]

1976 presidential campaign

Democratic primary

 
The electoral map of the 1976 election

On December 12, 1974, Carter announced his candidacy for President of the United States at National Press Club in Washington, D.C., his speech containing themes of domestic inequality, optimism, and change.[57][58]

When Carter entered the Democratic Party presidential primaries, he was considered to have little chance against nationally better-known politicians; his name recognition was two percent. As late as January 26, 1976, Carter was the first choice of only four percent of Democratic voters, according to a Gallup poll.[citation needed] 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.[59] As the Watergate scandal of President Nixon was still fresh in the voters' minds, Carter's position as an outsider, distant from Washington, D.C., became an asset. He promoted government reorganization. Carter published Why Not the Best? in June 1976 to help introduce himself to the American public.[60]

 
Carter and President Gerald Ford debating at the Walnut Street Theatre in Philadelphia

Carter became the front-runner early on by winning the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary. He used a two-prong strategy: in the South, which most had tacitly conceded to Alabama's George Wallace, Carter ran as a moderate favorite son. When Wallace proved to be a spent force, Carter swept the region. In the North, Carter appealed largely to conservative Christian and rural voters; he had little chance of winning a majority in most states. He won several Northern states by building the largest single bloc. Carter's strategy involved reaching a region before another candidate could extend influence there. He had traveled over 50,000 miles, visited 37 states, and delivered over 200 speeches before any other candidate announced that he was in the race.[61] Initially dismissed as a regional candidate,[62] Carter proved to be the Democrat with the most effective national strategy, and he clinched the nomination.

 
Campaign flyer from Democratic Party presidential primary

The national news 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.[63]

Carter, responding to an interviewer in April 1976 during his Presidential campaign, said "I have nothing against a community that is ...trying to maintain the ethnic purity of their neighborhoods," as quoted in "THE CAMPAIGN: Candidate Carter: I Apologize" in TIME Magazine (19 April 1976). His remark was intended as supportive of open-housing laws, but specifying opposition to government efforts to "inject black families into a white neighborhood just to create some sort of integration."[64] The remarks caused some controversy, but Carter apologized for the unfortunate choice of words, and his campaign was not seriously affected.[weasel words]

1976 general election

He chose Senator Walter F. Mondale as his running mate. He attacked Washington in his speeches, and offered a religious salve for the nation's wounds.[65]

Carter and Gerald Ford faced off in three televised debates during the 1976 election.[66] The debates were the first Presidential debates since 1960.[66][67]

Carter was interviewed by Robert Scheer of Playboy for the November 1976 issue, which hit the newsstands a couple of weeks before the election. While discussing his religion's view of pride, Carter said: "I've looked on a lot of women with lust. I've committed adultery in my heart many times."[68][69] This and his admission in another interview that he didn't mind if people uttered the word "fuck" led to a media feeding frenzy and critics lamenting the erosion of boundary between politicians and their private intimate lives.[70]

Carter began the race with a sizable lead over Ford, who narrowed the gap during the campaign, but lost to Carter in a narrow defeat on November 2, 1976. Carter won the popular vote by 50.1 percent to 48.0 percent for Ford, and received 297 electoral votes to Ford's 240. Carter carried fewer states than Ford—23 states to the defeated Ford's 27—yet Carter won with the largest percentage of the popular vote (50.1 percent) of any non-incumbent since Dwight Eisenhower.[citation needed]

Presidency (1977–1981)

 
Robert Templeton's portrait of President Carter, displayed in the National Portrait Gallery, Washington DC

Carter's tenure was a time of continuing inflation and recession, as well as an energy crisis. Among his first acts was the fulfillment of a campaign promise by issuing an executive order declaring unconditional amnesty for Vietnam War-era draft evaders.[71][72] On January 7, 1980, Carter signed Law H.R. 5860 aka Public Law 96-185 known as The Chrysler Corporation Loan Guarantee Act of 1979, bailing out Chrysler Corporation. He canceled military pay raises during a time of high inflation and government deficits.[citation needed]

Carter attempted to calm various conflicts around the world, most visibly in the Middle East with the signing of the Camp David Accords; giving back the Panama Canal; and signing the SALT II nuclear arms reduction treaty with Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev. His final year was marred by the Iran hostage crisis, which contributed to him losing the 1980 election to Ronald Reagan.[73]

Transition

On November 22, 1976, Carter conducted his first visit to Washington after being elected, meeting with Director of the Office of Management James Lynn and United States Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfield at the Blair House, and holding an afternoon meeting with President Ford at the White House.[74] The following day, Carter conferred with congressional leaders, expressing that his meetings with cabinet members had been "very helpful" and saying Ford had requested he seek out his assistance if needing anything.[75]

On December 3, 1976, during a news conference, Carter announced his choice of Cyrus R. Vance for United States Secretary of State and Thomas Bertram Lance as his budget director.[76] On December 9, Carter was presented plans for reform on housing, transportation, and urban development during a meeting with transition advisors at the Blair House.[77] On December 13, Carter's election was confirmed by the Electoral College.[78] On December 20, Carter announced his choice of Juanita M. Kreps for United States Secretary of Commerce, Griffin Bell for United States Attorney General, and Robert Bergland for United States Secretary of Agriculture.[79]

On January 4, 1977, Carter told reporters that he would free himself from potential conflicts of interest by leaving his peanut business in the hands of trustees.[80] On January 6, Carter requested former Governor of Maine Kenneth M. Curtis as Chairman of the Democratic National Committee.[81] On January 13, Carter set up an economic summit meeting for non-Communist countries in a call with foreign leaders from Japan, France, Germany, and Great Britain. The conference was set for April.[82] On January 18, Carter named John F. O'Leary for Administrator of the Federal Energy Administration, William Nordhaus and Lyle E. Gramley for membership on the Council of Economic Advisors, Anthony M. Solomon for Undersecretary of the Treasury for Monetary Affairs, C. Fred Bergsten for Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Monetary Affairs, and Kenneth S. Axelson for Deputy Secretary of the Treasury.[83]

Domestic policy

U.S. energy crisis

On April 18, 1977, Carter delivered a televised speech declaring that the U.S. energy crisis during the 1970s was the moral equivalent of war. He encouraged energy conservation by all U.S. citizens and installed solar water heating panels on the White House.[84][85] He wore sweaters to offset turning down the heat in the White House.[86] On August 4, 1977, Carter signed the Department of Energy Organization Act of 1977, forming the Department of Energy, the first new cabinet position in eleven years.[87] During the signing ceremony, Carter cited the "impending crisis of energy shortages" with causing the necessity of the legislation.[88] At the start of a September 29, 1977 news conference, under the impression he had not come across well in addressing energy during his prior press session, Carter stated that the House of Representatives had "adopted almost all" of the energy proposal he had made five months prior and called the compromise "a turning point in establishing a comprehensive energy program."[89] The following month, on October 13, Carter stated he believed in the Senate's ability to pass the energy reform bill and identified energy as "the most important domestic issue that we will face while I am in office."[90]

On January 12, 1978, during a press conference, Carter said the continued discussions about his energy reform proposal had "been long and divisive and arduous" as well as hindering to national issues that needed to be addressed with the implementation of the law.[91] In an April 11, 1978 news conference, Carter said his biggest surprise "in the nature of a disappointment" since becoming president was the difficulty Congress had in passing legislation, citing the energy reform bill in particular: "I never dreamed a year ago in April when I proposed this matter to the Congress that a year later it still would not be resolved."[92]

 
Carter meeting Deng Xiaoping, leader of China from 1978 to 1992

EPA Love Canal Superfund

In 1978, Carter declared a federal emergency in the neighborhood of Love Canal in the city of Niagara Falls, New York. More than 800 families were evacuated from the neighborhood, which was built on top of a toxic waste landfill. The Superfund law was created in response to the situation.[93] Federal disaster money was appropriated to demolish the approximately 500 houses, the 99th Street School, and the 93rd Street School, which were built on top of the dump; and to remediate the dump and construct a containment area for the hazardous wastes. This was the first time that such a process had been undertaken. Carter acknowledged that several more "Love Canals" existed across the country, and that discovering such hazardous dumpsites was "one of the grimmest discoveries of our modern era".[94]

Relations with Congress

Carter's refusal to play by Washington rules,[95] missed and never returned phone calls on his part, verbal insults, and an unwillingness to return political favors contributed to Carter's lack of ability to pass legislation through Congress.[96]

During a February 23, 1977 press conference, Carter stated that it was "inevitable" that he would come into conflict with Congress and added that he had found "a growing sense of cooperation" with Congress and met in the past with congressional members of both parties.[97]

Carter developed a bitter feeling following an unsuccessful attempt at having Congress enact the scrapping of several water projects,[98] which he had requested during his first 100 days in office and received opposition from members of his party.[99] As a rift ensued between the White House and Congress afterward, Carter noted the liberal wing of the Democratic Party was the most ardently against his policies, attributing this to Ted Kennedy wanting the presidency.[100]

Carter, thinking he had support from 74 Congressmen, issued a "hit list" of 19 projects that he claimed were "pork barrel" spending that he claimed would result in a veto on his part if included in any legislation.[101] He found himself at odds with Congressional Democrats once more, Speaker of the House of Representatives Tip O'Neill finding it inappropriate for a president to pursue what had traditionally been the role of Congress. Carter was also weakened by a signing a bill that contained many of the "hit list" projects.[102]

At a July 28, 1977 news conference, assessing the first six months of his presidency, Carter spoke of his improved understanding of Congress: "I have learned to respect the Congress more in an individual basis. I've been favorably impressed at the high degree of concentrated experience and knowledge that individual Members of Congress can bring on a specific subject, where they've been the chairman of a subcommittee or committee for many years and have focused their attention on this particular aspect of government life which I will never be able to do."[103]

Economy

Carter's presidency had an economic history of two roughly equal periods, the first two years being a time of continuing recovery from the severe 1973–75 recession, which had left fixed investment at its lowest level since the 1970 recession and unemployment at 9%,[104] and the last two years marked by double-digit inflation, coupled with very high interest rates,[105] oil shortages, and slow economic growth.[106] Following a period of growth in 1977 and 1978 that saw the creation of million net new jobs[107] and real median household income growth by 5%,[108] the 1979 energy crisis ended this period of growth, however, and as both inflation and interest rates rose, economic growth, job creation, and consumer confidence declined sharply.[105] The relatively loose monetary policy adopted by Federal Reserve Board Chairman G. William Miller, had already contributed to somewhat higher inflation,[109] rising from 5.8% in 1976 to 7.7% in 1978. The sudden doubling of crude oil prices by OPEC, the world's leading oil exporting cartel,[110] forced inflation to double-digit levels, averaging 11.3% in 1979 and 13.5% in 1980.[104] The sudden shortage of gasoline as the 1979 summer vacation season began exacerbated the problem, and would come to symbolize the crisis among the public in general;[105] the acute shortage, originating in the shutdown of Amerada Hess refining facilities, led to a lawsuit against the company that year by the Federal Government.[111]

Deregulation

 
President Jimmy Carter signs the Airline Deregulation Act.

In 1977, Carter appointed Alfred E. Kahn, a professor of economics at Cornell University, to be chair of the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB). He was part of a push for deregulation of the industry, supported by leading economists, leading 'think tanks' in Washington, a civil society coalition advocating the reform (patterned on a coalition earlier developed for the truck-and-rail-reform efforts), the head of the regulatory agency, Senate leadership, the Carter administration, and even some in the airline industry. This coalition swiftly gained legislative results in 1978.[citation needed]

The Airline Deregulation Act (Pub.L. 95–504) was signed into law by President Carter on October 24, 1978. The main purpose of the act was to remove government control over fares, routes and market entry (of new airlines) from commercial aviation. The Civil Aeronautics Board's powers of regulation were to be phased out, eventually allowing market forces to determine routes and fares. The Act did not remove or diminish the FAA's regulatory powers over all aspects of airline safety.[citation needed]

In 1979, Carter deregulated the American beer industry by making it legal to sell malt, hops, and yeast to American home brewers for the first time since the effective 1920 beginning of Prohibition in the United States.[112] This Carter deregulation led to an increase in home brewing over the 1980s and 1990s that by the 2000s had developed into a strong craft microbrew culture in the United States, with 3,418 micro breweries, brewpubs, and regional craft breweries in the United States by the end of 2014.[113]

 
Carter with King Hussein of Jordan and Shah of Iran in 1977
 
Carter, Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin and Zbigniew Brzezinski in September 1978
 
Carter with King Khalid of Saudi Arabia in October 1978

Healthcare

During his presidential campaign, Carter embraced healthcare reform akin to the Ted Kennedy-sponsored bipartisan universal national health insurance.[114]

Carter's proposals on healthcare while in office included an April 1977 mandatory health care cost proposal,[115] and a June 1979 proposal that provided private health insurance coverage.[116]

During 1978, Carter also conducted meetings with Kennedy for a compromise healthcare law that proved unsuccessful.[117]

Foreign policy

Iran

On November 15, 1977, Carter pledged his administration would continue positive relations between the US and Iran, calling its contemporary status "strong, stable and progressive".[118]

Iran hostage crisis

On November 4, 1979 a group of Iranian students, belonging to the Muslim Student Followers of the Imam's Line, who were supporting the Iranian Revolution, took over the U.S. Embassy in Tehran.[119] Fifty-two American diplomats and citizens were held hostage for the next 444 days until January 20, 1981. During the crisis, Carter remained in isolation in the White House for more than 100 days, until he left to participate in the lighting of the National Menorah on the Ellipse.[120] On April 7, 1980, Carter issued Executive Order 12205, imposing economic sanctions against Iran[121] and announced further measures being taken by members of his cabinet and the American government that he deemed necessary to ensure a safe release.[122][123] On April 24, 1980, Carter ordered Operation Eagle Claw to try free the hostages. The mission failed, leaving eight American servicemen dead and causing the destruction of two aircraft.[124][125]

Soviet Union

On February 8, 1977, Carter stated he had urged the Soviet Union to align with the US in forming "a comprehensive test ban to stop all nuclear testing for at least an extended period of time" and that he was in favor of the Soviet Union ceasing deployment of the RSD-10 Pioneer.[126]

On June 13, 1977, during a news conference, Carter reported that the US would "beginning this week to work closely with the Soviet Union on a comprehensive test ban treaty to prohibit all testing of nuclear devices underground or in the atmosphere" and Paul Warnke would negotiate demilitarization of the Indian Ocean with the Soviet Union beginning the following week.[127]

During a December 30, 1977 news conference, Carter said throughout the period of "the last few months, the United States and the Soviet Union have made great progress in dealing with a long list of important issues, the most important of which is to control the deployment of strategic nuclear weapons" and that the two countries sought to conclude SALT II talks by the spring of the following year.[128]

In the 1980 State of the Union Address, Carter emphasized the significance of relations between the two regions: "Now, as during the last 3 1/2 decades, the relationship between our country, the United States of America, and the Soviet Union is the most critical factor in determining whether the world will live at peace or be engulfed in global conflict."[129]

Soviet invasion of Afghanistan

Communists under the leadership of Nur Muhammad Taraki seized power in Afghanistan on April 27, 1978.[130] The new regime—which was divided between Taraki's extremist Khalq faction and the more moderate Parcham—signed a treaty of friendship with the Soviet Union in December of that year.[130][131] Taraki's efforts to improve secular education and redistribute land were accompanied by mass executions (including of many conservative religious leaders) and political oppression unprecedented in Afghan history, igniting a revolt by mujahideen rebels.[130] Following a general uprising in April 1979, Taraki was deposed by Khalq rival Hafizullah Amin in September.[130][131] Amin was considered a "brutal psychopath" by foreign observers; even the Soviets were alarmed by the brutality of the Afghan communists, and suspected Amin of being an agent of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), although that was not the case.[130][131][132] By December, Amin's government had lost control of much of the country, prompting the Soviet Union to invade Afghanistan, execute Amin, and install Parcham leader Babrak Karmal as president.[130][131]

Carter was surprised by the invasion, as the consensus of the U.S. intelligence community during 1978 and 1979—reiterated as late as September 29, 1979—was that "Moscow would not intervene in force even if it appeared likely that the Khalq government was about to collapse." Indeed, Carter's diary entries from November 1979 until the Soviet invasion in late December contain only two short references to Afghanistan, and are instead preoccupied with the ongoing hostage crisis in Iran.[133] In the West, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan was considered a threat to global security and the oil supplies of the Persian Gulf.[131] Moreover, the failure to accurately predict Soviet intentions caused American officials to reappraise the Soviet threat to both Iran and Pakistan, although it is now known that those fears were overblown. For example, U.S. intelligence closely followed Soviet exercises for an invasion of Iran throughout 1980, while an earlier warning from Carter's national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski that "if the Soviets came to dominate Afghanistan, they could promote a separate Baluchistan ... [thus] dismembering Pakistan and Iran" took on new urgency.[132][133] These concerns were a major factor in the unrequited efforts of both the Carter and Reagan administrations to improve relations with Iran, and resulted in massive aid to Pakistan's Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq. Zia's ties with the U.S. had been strained during Carter's presidency due to Pakistan's nuclear program and the execution of Ali Bhutto in April 1979, but Carter told Brzezinski and secretary of state Cyrus Vance as early as January 1979 that it was vital to "repair our relationships with Pakistan" in light of the unrest in Iran.[133] One initiative Carter authorized to achieve this goal was a collaboration between the CIA and Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI); through the ISI, the CIA began providing some $500,000 worth of non-lethal assistance to the mujahideen on July 3, 1979—several months prior to the Soviet invasion. The modest scope of this early collaboration was likely influenced by the understanding, later recounted by CIA official Robert Gates, "that a substantial U.S. covert aid program" might have "raise[d] the stakes" thereby causing "the Soviets to intervene more directly and vigorously than otherwise intended."[133][134]

In the aftermath of the invasion, Carter was determined to respond vigorously to what he considered a dangerous provocation. In a televised speech, he announced sanctions on the Soviet Union, promised renewed aid to Pakistan, initiated renewed registration for the Selective Service System, and committed the U.S. to the Persian Gulf's defense.[133][134][135] Carter also called for a boycott of the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow, which raised a bitter controversy.[136] British prime minister Margaret Thatcher enthusiastically backed Carter's tough stance, although British intelligence believed "the CIA was being too alarmist about the Soviet threat to Pakistan."[133] The thrust of U.S. policy for the duration of the war was determined by Carter in early 1980: Carter initiated a program to arm the mujahideen through Pakistan's ISI and secured a pledge from Saudi Arabia to match U.S. funding for this purpose. U.S. support for the mujahideen accelerated under Carter's successor, Ronald Reagan, at a final cost to U.S. taxpayers of some $3 billion. The Soviets were unable to quell the insurgency and withdrew from Afghanistan in 1989, precipitating the dissolution of the Soviet Union itself.[133] However, the decision to route U.S. aid through Pakistan led to massive fraud, as weapons sent to Karachi were frequently sold on the local market rather than delivered to the Afghan rebels; Karachi soon "became one of the most violent cities in the world." Pakistan also controlled which rebels received assistance: Of the seven mujahideen groups supported by Zia's government, four espoused Islamic fundamentalist beliefs—and these fundamentalists received most of the funding.[131] Despite this, Carter has expressed no regrets over his decision to support what he still considers the "freedom fighters" in Afghanistan.[133]

South Korea

During a March 9, 1977 news conference, Carter reaffirmed his interest in having a gradual withdrawal of American troops from South Korea and stated he wanted South Korea to eventually have "adequate ground forces owned by and controlled by the South Korean Government to protect themselves against any intrusion from North Korea."[137]

On May 26, 1977, during a news conference, Carter said he believed South Korea would be able to defend themselves despite reduced American troops in the event of conflict.[138]

On April 21, 1978, Carter announced a reduction in American troops in South Korea scheduled to be released by the end of the year by two-thirds, citing a lack of action by Congress in regards to a compensatory aid package for the Seoul Government.[139]

From June 30 to July 1, 1977, Carter held meetings with President of South Korea Park Chung-hee at the Blue House for a discussion on relations between the US and Korea as well as Carter's interest in preserving his policy of worldwide tension reduction.[140]

International trips

 
Countries visited by Carter during his presidency.

Carter made twelve international trips to twenty-five countries during his presidency.[141] Carter was the first president to make a state visit to Sub-Saharan Africa when he went to Nigeria in 1978. His travel also included trips to Europe, Asia, and Latin America. He made several trips to the Middle East to broker peace negotiations. His December 31, 1977 – January 1, 1978 visit to Iran took place less than a year before the overthrow of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi.[142]

1980 presidential campaign

 
The electoral map of the 1980 election

Carter later wrote that the most intense and mounting opposition to his policies came from the liberal wing of the Democratic Party, which he attributed to Ted Kennedy's ambition to replace him as president.[143] Kennedy surprised his supporters by running a weak campaign, and Carter won most of the primaries and secured renomination. However, Kennedy had mobilized the liberal wing of the Democratic Party, which gave Carter weak support in the fall election.[144]

Carter's campaign for re-election in 1980 was one of the most difficult, and least successful, in history. He faced strong challenges from the right (Republican Ronald Reagan), the center (independent John B. Anderson), and the left (Democrat Ted Kennedy). He had to run against his own "stagflation"-ridden economy, while the hostage crisis in Iran dominated the news every week. He alienated liberal college students, who were expected to be his base, by re-instating registration for the military draft. His campaign manager and former appointments secretary, Timothy Kraft, stepped down some five weeks before the general election amid what turned out to have been an uncorroborated allegation of cocaine use.[145] Carter was defeated by Ronald Reagan in a landslide, and the Senate went Republican for the first time since 1952.[146]

Post-presidency (1981–present)

 
Former President and First Lady Carter wave from the departing aircraft after the inauguration of Ronald Reagan on January 20, 1981.

In 1981, Carter returned to Georgia to his peanut farm, which he had placed into a blind trust during his presidency to avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest. He found that the trustees had mismanaged the trust, leaving him more than one million dollars in debt. In the years that followed, he has led an active life, establishing the Carter Center, building his presidential library, teaching at Emory University in Atlanta, and writing numerous books.[65] He has also contributed to the expansion of Habitat for Humanity, to build affordable housing. Since early September 2012, Carter has been alive longer after leaving the White House than any other U.S. President.[147]

Carter Center and Nobel Prize

 
President George W. Bush invited former Presidents George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter (far right), and President-elect Barack Obama for a meeting and lunch at The White House on January 7, 2009

Carter has been involved in a variety of national and international public policy, conflict resolution, human rights and charitable causes. In 1982, he established the Carter Center in Atlanta to advance human rights and alleviate human suffering. The non-profit, nongovernmental Center promotes democracy, mediates and prevents conflicts, and monitors the electoral process in support of free and fair elections. It also works to improve global health through the control and eradication of diseases such as Guinea worm disease, river blindness, malaria, trachoma, lymphatic filariasis, and schistosomiasis. It also works to diminish the stigma of mental illnesses and improve nutrition through increased crop production in Africa.[citation needed]

A major accomplishment of The Carter Center has been the elimination of more than 99 percent of cases of Guinea worm disease, from an estimated 3.5 million cases in 1986 to 148 reported cases in 2013[148] to 23 in 2015[149] The Carter Center has monitored 96 elections in 38 countries since 1989.[150] It has worked to resolve conflicts in Haiti, Bosnia, Ethiopia, North Korea, Sudan and other countries. Carter and the Center support human rights defenders around the world and have intervened with heads of state on their behalf.[citation needed]

In 2002, President Carter received the Nobel Peace Prize for his work "to find peaceful solutions to international conflicts, to advance democracy and human rights, and to promote economic and social development" through The Carter Center.[151] Three sitting presidents, Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, and Barack Obama, have received the prize; Carter is unique in receiving the award for his actions after leaving the presidency. He is, along with Martin Luther King Jr., one of only two native Georgians to receive the Nobel Prize.[152]

Diplomacy

North Korea

In 1994, North Korea had expelled investigators from the International Atomic Energy Agency and was threatening to begin processing spent nuclear fuel. In response, then-President Clinton pressured for US sanctions and ordered large amounts of troops and vehicles into the area to brace for war.[citation needed]

Bill Clinton secretly recruited Carter to undertake a peace mission to North Korea,[153] under the guise that it was a private mission of Carter's. Clinton saw Carter as a way to let North Korean President Kim Il-sung back down without losing face.[154]

Carter negotiated an understanding with Kim Il-sung, but went further and outlined a treaty, which he announced on CNN without the permission of the Clinton White House as a way to force the US into action.

The Clinton Administration signed a later version of the Agreed Framework, under which North Korea agreed to freeze and ultimately dismantle its current nuclear program and comply with its nonproliferation obligations in exchange for oil deliveries, the construction of two light water reactors to replace its graphite reactors, and discussions for eventual diplomatic relations.[citation needed]

The agreement was widely hailed at the time as a significant diplomatic achievement.[155][156] However, in December 2002, the Agreed Framework collapsed as a result of a dispute between the George W. Bush Administration and the North Korean government of Kim Jong-il.

In 2001, George W. Bush had taken a confrontational position toward North Korea. And in January 2002, Bush had named North Korea as part of an "Axis of Evil". Meanwhile, North Korea began developing the capability to enrich uranium.

Bush Administration opponents of the Agreed Framework believed that the North Korean government never intended to give up a nuclear weapons program. However, supporters of the Agreed Framework believed that the agreement could have been successful, had it not been undermined by the Bush Administration.[157]

In August 2010, Carter traveled to North Korea in an attempt to secure the release of Aijalon Mahli Gomes. Gomes, a U.S. citizen, was sentenced to eight years of hard labor after being found guilty of illegally entering North Korea. Carter successfully secured the release.[158]

On August 10, 2017, amid threats of weaponry by both North Korean and American leadership toward each other, Carter assessed the rhetoric as having "probably eliminated any chance of good faith peace talks between the United States and North Korea."[159]

During an appearance at the Carter Center on September 12, 2017, Carter said North Korea was interested in having a peace treaty with the US guaranteeing neither country would attack barring their attacking a neighboring country and the US had declined doing so.[160]

In an October 2017 interview with Maureen Dowd, Carter stated his willingness to aid President Trump with resolving growing tensions between the US and North Korea and confirmed he had notified National Security Advisor H. R. McMaster that he was open to serving as an American diplomatic envoy to North Korea.[161]

Middle East

In September 1981, Carter met with Prime Minister of Israel Menachem Begin at his home for discussions during which Carter claimed Begin said his country was now willing to accept proposals on the Palestinian autonomy advanced by the Carter administration the previous year.[162]

In March 1983, Carter underwent a weeklong visit to Egypt where he met with Palestine Liberation Organization members, stating during a subsequent March 8 press conference that he had traveled there as a Emory University professor and not to represent the US.[163] During a June 20, 2012 phone call with Jeffrey Brown, Carter stressed Egyptian military generals could be granted full power executively and legislatively in addition to being able to form a new constitution in favor of themselves in the event their announced intentions went through; Carter expressing distaste with the plan: "I hope it doesn’t go through and that the United States and others will speak out strongly enough to have influence on the military to control and to carry out the promises that they made to me and to the Egyptian people and to the international community."[164] In May 2014, Carter issued a statement saying he was "gravely concerned that Egypt's democratic transition has faltered" and called for the next President of Egypt "to ensure the full spectrum of Egyptian society can participate meaningfully in politics".[165] In October 2014, after the Carter Center closed its office in Egypt, Carter explained the decision as resulting from Egypt's current environment being "not conducive to genuine democratic elections and civic participation."[166]

Carter and experts from The Carter Center assisted unofficial Israeli and Palestinian negotiators in designing a model agreement for peace—called the Geneva Accord—in 2002–2003.[167]

Carter has also in recent years become a frequent critic of Israel's policies in Lebanon, the West Bank, and Gaza.[168][169]

In 2006, at the UK Hay Festival, Carter stated that Israel had at least 150 nuclear weapons. He expressed his support for Israel as a country, but criticized its domestic and foreign policy; "One of the greatest human rights crimes on earth is the starvation and imprisonment of 1.6m Palestinians," said Carter.[170] In December of that year, during an interview, Carter said, "When Israel does occupy this territory deep within the West Bank, and connects the 200-or-so settlements with each other, with a road, and then prohibits the Palestinians from using that road, or in many cases even crossing the road, this perpetrates even worse instances of apartness, or apartheid, than we witnessed even in South Africa."[171]

He mentioned statistics showing the nutritional intake of some Palestinian children was below that of the children of Sub-Saharan Africa and described the European position on Israel as "supine".[170]

In April 2008, the London-based Arabic newspaper Al-Hayat reported that Carter met with exiled Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal on his visit to Syria. The Carter Center initially neither confirmed nor denied the story. The US State Department considers Hamas a terrorist organization.[172] Within this Mid-East trip, Carter also laid a wreath on the grave of Yasser Arafat in Ramallah on April 14, 2008.[173] Carter said on April 23 that neither Condoleezza Rice nor anyone else in the State Department had warned him against meeting with Hamas leaders during his trip.[174] Carter spoke to Mashaal on several matters, including "formulas for prisoner exchange to obtain the release of Corporal Shalit."[175]

In May 2007, while arguing that the United States should directly talk to Iran, Carter again stated that Israel had 150 nuclear weapons in its arsenal.[176]

In December 2008, Carter visited Damascus again, where he met with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and the Hamas leadership. During his visit he gave an exclusive interview to Forward Magazine, the first ever interview for any American president, current or former, with a Syrian media outlet.[177][178]

Carter visited three officials from Hamas who have been living at the International Red Cross office in Jerusalem since July 2010. Israel believes that these three Hamas legislators had a role in the 2006 kidnapping of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, and has a deportation order set for them.[179]

In August 2014, Carter was joined by Mary Robinson during the 2014 Israel–Gaza conflict with the pair pressing for the inclusion of Hamas as an actor in peace talks with Israel, recognition of the group as a legitimate political entity, and the lifting of the siege of Gaza. The two Elders, in an op-ed article in Foreign Policy, noted the recent unity deal between Hamas and Fatah when Hamas agreed with the Palestinian Authority to denounce violence, recognize Israel and adhere to past agreements, saying it presented an opportunity. Carter and Robinson called on the UN Security Council to act on what they described as the inhumane conditions in Gaza, and mandate an end to the siege.[180]

Africa

 
Carter, with former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, leads an observer mission at South Sudan's referendum on independence, January 2011

Carter held summits in Egypt and Tunisia in 1995–1996 to address violence in the Great Lakes region of Africa.[181]

Carter played a key role in negotiation of the Nairobi Agreement in 1999 between Sudan and Uganda.[182]

On June 18, 2007, Carter, accompanied by his wife, arrived in Dublin, Ireland, for talks with President Mary McAleese and Bertie Ahern concerning human rights. On June 19, Carter attended and spoke at the annual Human Rights Forum at Croke Park. An agreement between Irish Aid and The Carter Center was also signed on this day.[citation needed]

Americas

In October 1984, Carter traveled to Machu Picchu, being named by Mayor of Cusco Daniel Estrada as an honorary citizen.[183] During April 2001, Carter endorsed the presidential and legislative elections in Peru as "completely honest, fair and transparent."[184] In April 2009, Carter met with President of Peru Alan Garcia at Government Palace in Lima. After the meeting Carter told the press, "We are happy and full of admiration for all the achievements of his (Garcia’s) Government."[185]

In February 1986, Carter traveled to Nicaragua for a three-day tour, being welcomed by Vice President of Nicaragua Sergio Ramírez who said Carter's visit was furthering "the policy of peace" as opposed to "the policy of war" carried out by the Reagan administration.[186] In his talks with Tomás Borge, Carter secured the release of journalist Luis Mora and labor leader Jose Altamirano, saying during his departure that it was still possible for the US to "regain the path we envisioned in 1979."[187]

Carter led a mission to Haiti in 1994 with Senator Sam Nunn and former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Colin Powell to avert a US-led multinational invasion and restore to power Haiti's democratically elected president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide.[188]

Carter visited Cuba in May 2002 and had full discussions with Fidel Castro and the Cuban government. He was allowed to address the Cuban public uncensored on national television and radio with a speech that he wrote and presented in Spanish. In the speech, he called on the US to end "an ineffective 43-year-old economic embargo" and on Castro to hold free elections, improve human rights, and allow greater civil liberties.[189] He met with political dissidents; visited the AIDS sanitarium, a medical school, a biotech facility, an agricultural production cooperative, and a school for disabled children; and threw a pitch for an all-star baseball game in Havana. The visit made Carter the first President of the United States, in or out of office, to visit the island since the Cuban revolution of 1959.[190] Carter toured Cuba again for three days in March 2011.[191]

Carter observed the Venezuela recall elections on August 15, 2004. European Union observers had declined to participate, saying too many restrictions were put on them by the Hugo Chávez administration.[192] A record number of voters turned out to defeat the recall attempt with a 59 percent "no" vote.[193] The Carter Center stated that the process "suffered from numerous irregularities," but said it did not observe or receive "evidence of fraud that would have changed the outcome of the vote".[194] On the afternoon of August 16, 2004, the day after the vote, Carter and Organization of American States (OAS) Secretary General César Gaviria gave a joint press conference in which they endorsed the preliminary results announced by the National Electoral Council. The monitors' findings "coincided with the partial returns announced today by the National Elections Council," said Carter, while Gaviria added that the OAS electoral observation mission's members had "found no element of fraud in the process." Directing his remarks at opposition figures who made claims of "widespread fraud" in the voting, Carter called on all Venezuelans to "accept the results and work together for the future".[195] A Penn, Schoen & Berland Associates (PSB) exit poll had predicted that Chávez would lose by 20 percent; when the election results showed him to have won by 20 percent, Douglas Schoen commented, "I think it was a massive fraud".[196] US News & World Report offered an analysis of the polls, indicating "very good reason to believe that the [Penn, Schoen & Berland] exit poll had the result right, and that Chávez's election officials – and Carter and the American media – got it wrong." The exit poll and the Venezuela government's control of election machines became the basis of claims of election fraud. However an Associated Press report states that Penn, Schoen & Berland used volunteers from pro-recall organization Súmate for fieldwork, and its results contradicted five other opposition exit polls.[197]

Following Ecuador's severing of ties with Colombia in March 2008, Carter brokered a deal for agreement between the countries' respective presidents on the restoration of low-level diplomatic relations announced June 8, 2008.[198][199]

Southeast Asia

In June 1985, Carter visited Cambodian refugees while touring Khao-I-Dang, Carter stating his interest in eventually touring "the whole place."[200]

On November 18, 2009, Carter visited Vietnam to build houses for the poor. The one-week program, known as Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter Work Project 2009, built 32 houses in Dong Xa village, in the northern province of Hải Dương. The project launch was scheduled for November 14, according to the news source which quoted the Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Nguyen Phuong Nga. Administered by the non-governmental and non-profit Habitat for Humanity International (HFHI), the annual program of 2009 would build and repair 166 homes in Vietnam and some other Asian countries with the support of nearly 3,000 volunteers around the world, the organization said on its website. HFHI has worked in Vietnam since 2001 to provide low-cost housing, water, and sanitation solutions for the poor. It has worked in provinces like Tiền Giang and Đồng Nai as well as Ho Chi Minh City.[201]

The Elders

On July 18, 2007, Carter joined Nelson Mandela in Johannesburg, South Africa, to announce his participation in The Elders, a group of independent global leaders who work together on peace and human rights issues.[202] The Elders work globally, on thematic as well as geographically specific subjects. The organization's priority issue areas include the Israeli–Palestinian conflict, the Korean Peninsula, Sudan, and South Sudan, sustainable development, and equality for girls and women.[203]

Carter has been actively involved in the work of The Elders, participating in visits to Cyprus, the Korean Peninsula, and the Middle East, among others[204] In October 2007, Carter toured Darfur with several of the Elders, including Desmond Tutu. Sudanese security prevented him from visiting a Darfuri tribal leader, leading to a heated exchange.[205] He returned to Sudan with fellow Elder Lakhdar Brahimi in May 2012 as part of The Elders' efforts to encourage the presidents of Sudan and South Sudan to return to negotiations, and highlight the impact of the conflict on civilians.[206][207]

In November 2008, President Carter, former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, and Graça Machel, wife of Nelson Mandela, were stopped from entering Zimbabwe, to inspect the human rights situation, by President Robert Mugabe's government. The Elders instead made their assessment from South Africa, meeting with Zimbabwe- and South Africa-based leaders from politics, business, international organisations and civil society in Johannesburg.[208]

Criticism of U.S. policy

 
Carter addresses the Alabama and Georgia delegations on the third morning of the 2008 Democratic National Convention

In 2001, Carter criticized President Bill Clinton's controversial pardon of Marc Rich, calling it "disgraceful" and suggesting that Rich's financial contributions to the Democratic Party were a factor in Clinton's action.[209]

In June 2005, Carter urged the closing of the Guantanamo Bay Prison in Cuba, which has been a focal point for recent claims of prisoner abuse.[210]

In September 2006, Carter was interviewed on the BBC's current affairs program Newsnight, voicing his concern at the increasing influence of the Religious Right on US politics.[211]

In September 2009, Carter put weight behind allegations by Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, pertaining to United States involvement in the 2002 Venezuelan coup d'état attempt by a civilian-military junta, saying that Washington knew about the coup and may have taken part.[212]

On June 16, 2011, the 40th anniversary of Richard Nixon's official declaration of America's War on Drugs, Carter wrote an op-ed in The New York Times urging the United States and the rest of the world to "Call Off the Global War on Drugs",[213] explicitly endorsing the initiative released by the Global Commission on Drug Policy earlier that month and quoting a message he gave to Congress in 1977 saying that "[p]enalties against possession of a drug should not be more damaging to an individual than the use of the drug itself."

Criticisms of Ronald Reagan

In March 1981, Carter cited his choice to refrain from critiquing Reagan was due to not enough time having passed within his tenure and predicted the "next few months" would see programs from his administration be viewed more favorably by the public.[214] On March 31, after the attempted assassination, Carter said danger was a consistent part of being president and President Reagan's public appearances would not be curtailed.[215] In a September 3 press conference, Carter confirmed that he was in agreement with Reagan on building neutron arms in the wake of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan but said he hoped that when the Soviet Union "is willing to implement the termination of aggression and move towards peace and the control of nuclear weapons our country will be ready to cooperate with them completely as we have been in the past."[216] In October, Carter traveled to Washington for the lobbying of senators in support of providing Saudi Arabia with Awacs radar surveillance aircraft and said he believed the Reagan administration was not doing enough in the Middle East.[217]

During a May 1, 1982 fundraising dinner, Carter called on Democrats and Republicans to work together in solving America economic issues instead of the Democrats condemning the Reagan administration's budget for the fiscal year of 1983.[218] On September 20, Carter stated more American involvement might have prevented the deaths in the Sabra and Shatila massacre and charged the Reagan administration with "belatedly ... playing its role as a strong mediator in bringing the parties together."[219] On September 30, amid a fundraising dinner, Carter responded to criticism made by President Reagan during a news conference two days prior on his administration's handling of the economy by saying his administration "did not spend four years blaming our mistakes on our predecessors".[220] On October 9, Carter expressed his distaste for his administration being blamed by President Reagan: "'When I became president, the responsibilities were mine. They were not Gerald Ford's, Richard Nixon's, they were not John Kennedy's, Dwight Eisenhower's or Harry Truman's -- they were mine."[221] On October 26, Carter called on the Reagan administration to support the Camp David agreement during a news conference: "'Although it was tardy by about 18 months, I was very pleased by the speech President Reagan made recently about his intentions for a Middle East peace."[222] While speaking at a news conference on November 10, Carter outlined his distaste with President Reagan shifting US foreign and domestic policy and said, "'There is always the temptation for an incumbent politician to blame all his mistakes on his predecessor. Most are willing to withstand the temptation. Mr. Reagan, apparently, is not."[223]

In a January 1983 interview, Carter stated his belief that the Reagan campaign had convinced voters of an administration that would provide "simple answers to very complicated questions and simple and easy, magic solutions to intransigent problems."[224] During a June 1983 appearance at the Amnesty International conference on human rights at Emory University, Carter rebuked the Reagan administration for lacking an address on human rights violations. "The silence coming out of Washington these days, concerning these gross human rights violations, is very disturbing."[225]

On October 9, 1984, while addressing a university group, Carter assessed Reagan with having characterized human rights as a sign of weakness during presidential debates four years prior and stated his disagreement with the view. "He's a Republican. I'm a Democrat. I can't swear that my policy is correct -- I think it is. I think in some ways our human rights policy was effective."[226] In December 1984, during a press conference, Carter asserted that the Reagan administration was inactive in making rescue efforts to retrieve four American businessmen from West Beirut: "Our government is not making any effort to seek the return of the hostages. It is not a very publicized fact."[227]

In a March 1985 interview with 60 Minutes, Carter said President Reagan was at fault for a lack of progression in peace within the Middle East and charged Reagan with being "extremely successful in not being responsible for anything that's unpleasant".[228] On April 11, Carter said that by supporting the Strategic Defense Initiative, the Reagan administration was "increasing misunderstanding between us and our allies" and giving the Kremlin an advantage in public relations.[229] In July of that year, Carter expressed his disagreements with Reagan's claim of "an international conspiracy" on the issue of terrorism and with "some of the particular countries" Reagan asserted as supporting terrorism to the American Bar Association.[230]

In February 1987, while speaking to students, Carter differentiated his administration from Reagan's by saying his own did not adhere to demands from terrorists and it was a lesson the Reagan administration could learn.[231] In March 1987, Carter traveled to Damascus, Syria, where he expressed his belief that the Reagan administration had not retained peace efforts in the Middle East.[232] In September 1987, Carter announced his opposition to Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork over the latter's views on civil rights and associations in a letter to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Joe Biden.[233] During a September 14 interview, Carter said the Iran-Contra Affair was of my seriousness than Watergate and the conflict has encouraged terrorists.[234] In October 1987, Carter urged President Reagan to invoke the War Powers Resolution, arguing this would "help alleviate the worldwide belief" of Congress disapproving of the Persian Gulf's naval buildup.[235] During an October 16 news conference, Carter said Reagan's policy in the Persian Gulf had been responsible for large increases in violence: "Almost inevitably and down through history, whenever a nation like ours injects itself into the military conflict or a civil war like in Lebanon or sectional war like between Iran and Iraq, we almost inevitably are destined to become involved as a belligerent."[236]

Criticisms of George W. Bush

Carter has criticized the presidency of George W. Bush and the Iraq War. In a 2003 op-ed in The New York Times, Carter warned against the consequences of a war in Iraq and urged restraint in use of military force.[237] In March 2004, Carter condemned George W. Bush and Tony Blair for waging an unnecessary war "based upon lies and misinterpretations" to oust Saddam Hussein. In August 2006, Carter criticized Blair for being "subservient" to the Bush administration and accused Blair of giving unquestioning support to Bush's Iraq policies.[238] In a May 2007 interview with the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, he said, "I think as far as the adverse impact on the nation around the world, this administration has been the worst in history," when it comes to foreign affairs.[239] Two days after the quote was published, Carter told NBC's Today that the "worst in history" comment was "careless or misinterpreted," and that he "wasn't comparing this administration with other administrations back through history, but just with President Nixon's."[240] The day after the "worst in history" comment was published, White House spokesman Tony Fratto said that Carter had become "increasingly irrelevant with these kinds of comments."[241]

On May 19, 2007, Blair made his final visit to Iraq before stepping down as British Prime Minister, and Carter criticized him afterward. Carter told the BBC that Blair was "apparently subservient" to Bush and criticized him for his "blind support" for the Iraq war.[242] Carter described Blair's actions as "abominable" and stated that the British Prime Minister's "almost undeviating support for the ill-advised policies of President Bush in Iraq have been a major tragedy for the world." Carter said he believes that had Blair distanced himself from the Bush administration during the run-up to the invasion of Iraq in 2003, it might have made a crucial difference to American political and public opinion, and consequently the invasion might not have gone ahead. Carter states that "one of the defenses of the Bush administration ... has been, okay, we must be more correct in our actions than the world thinks because Great Britain is backing us. So I think the combination of Bush and Blair giving their support to this tragedy in Iraq has strengthened the effort and has made the opposition less effective, and prolonged the war and increased the tragedy that has resulted." Carter expressed his hope that Blair's successor, Gordon Brown, would be "less enthusiastic" about Bush's Iraq policy.[242]

Speaking to the Syrian English monthly Forward Magazine of Syria, Carter was asked to give one word that came to mind when mentioning President George W. Bush. His answer was: the end of a very disappointing administration. His reaction to mentioning Barack Obama was: honesty, intelligence, and politically adept.[243]

Criticism of the Clintons

Carter and Bill Clinton did not have a good relationship, as Clinton had blamed one of President Carter's policies for losing the governorship of Arkansas in 1980. Although Clinton was the first Democratic president to be elected after Carter, the Carters were snubbed at the first Clinton inauguration. Carter has publicly criticized the morality of President Clinton's administration including the Monica Lewinsky scandal and the Marc Rich pardon. Carter was also disenchanted with Clinton's post-presidency activities, including the latter's $350,000 speeches and "glitz of his star and billionaire studded annual Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) meetings in New York". While Clinton was seen as a "rock star" who made "his trips to Africa on board the lavish private jets of his billionaire buddies" and had an "sleek, expensive library...for being mostly about self-aggrandizement", Carter remained humble as he flew commercial airlines and founded the Carter Center to incubate good ideas.[244]

Due to his status as former president, Carter was a superdelegate to the 2008 Democratic National Convention. Carter announced his endorsement of Senator Barack Obama over Senator Hillary Clinton. Carter cautioned against Hillary Clinton being picked for the vice president slot on the ticket, saying "I think it would be the worst mistake that could be made. That would just accumulate the negative aspects of both candidates", citing opinion polls showing 50% of US voters with a negative view of Hillary Clinton.[245] During a phone interview a year after Hillary Clinton's tenure of secretary of state in the Obama administration ended and she was succeeded by John Kerry, Carter said, "In this occasion, when Secretary Clinton was Secretary of State, she took very little action to bring about peace. It was only John Kerry’s coming into office that reinitiated all these very important and crucial issues."[246]

Comments on Barack Obama

On January 28, 2009, a week after the first inauguration of Barack Obama, Carter said he believed Obama would be "an outstanding president" during an interview with Charlie Rose.[247]

Carter has criticized the Obama administration for its use of drone strikes against suspected terrorists. Carter also said that he disagrees with President Obama's decision to keep the Guantánamo Bay detention camp open, saying that the inmates "have been tortured by waterboarding more than 100 times or intimidated with semiautomatic weapons, power drills or threats to sexually assault their mothers." He claimed that the U.S. government had no moral leadership, and was committing human rights violations, and is no longer "the global champion of human rights".[248]

In July 2013, Carter expressed his criticism of current federal surveillance programs as disclosed by Edward Snowden indicating that "America has no functioning democracy at this moment."[249][250]

Comments on Donald Trump

On September 13, 2017, Carter said the publicity President Trump had brought to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program by giving Congress a six month deadline to address the issue could result in comprehensive immigration reform not undertaken by both the Bush and Obama administrations while speaking to Emory University students.[251]

In an October 2017 interview, Carter stated he believed President Trump was exacerbating racial divisions within the US due to his response to the U.S. national anthem protests, though possibly unknowingly.[252]

Author

External video
 
  Interview, President Jimmy Carter, 2003, 23:38, American Archive of Public Broadcasting[253]
 
Jimmy Carter at a book signing in Raleigh, NC on April 2, 2014

Carter has been a prolific author in his post-presidency, writing 21 of his 23 books. Among these is one he co-wrote with his wife, Rosalynn, and a children's book illustrated by his daughter, Amy. They cover a variety of topics, including humanitarian work, aging, religion, human rights, and poetry.

Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid

In a 2007 speech to Brandeis University, Carter stated: "I have spent a great deal of my adult life trying to bring peace to Israel and its neighbors, based on justice and righteousness for the Palestinians. These are the underlying purposes of my new book."[254]

In his book Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, published in November 2006, Carter states:

Israel's continued control and colonization of Palestinian land have been the primary obstacles to a comprehensive peace agreement in the Holy Land.[255]

He declares that Israel's current policies in the Palestinian territories constitute "a system of apartheid, with two peoples occupying the same land, but completely separated from each other, with Israelis totally dominant and suppressing violence by depriving Palestinians of their basic human rights."[255] In an Op-Ed titled "Speaking Frankly about Israel and Palestine," published in the Los Angeles Times and other newspapers, Carter states:

The ultimate purpose of my book is to present facts about the Middle East that are largely unknown in America, to precipitate discussion and to help restart peace talks (now absent for six years) that can lead to permanent peace for Israel and its neighbors. Another hope is that Jews and other Americans who share this same goal might be motivated to express their views, even publicly, and perhaps in concert. I would be glad to help with that effort.[256]

While some – such as a former Special Rapporteur for both the United Nations Commission on Human Rights and the International Law Commission, as well as a member of the Israeli Knesset – have praised Carter for speaking frankly about Palestinians in Israeli occupied lands, others – including the envoy to the Middle East under Clinton, as well as the first director of the Carter Center[257][258] – have accused him of anti-Israeli bias. Specifically, these critics have alleged significant factual errors, omissions and misstatements in the book.[259][260]

The 2007 documentary film, Man from Plains, follows President Carter during his tour for the controversial book and other humanitarian efforts.[261]

In December 2009, Carter apologized for any words or deeds that may have upset the Jewish community in an open letter meant to improve an often tense relationship. He said he was offering an Al Het, a prayer said on Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement.[262]

Involvement with Bank of Credit and Commerce International

After Carter left the presidency, his interest in the developing countries led him to having a close relationship with Agha Hasan Abedi, the founder of Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI). Abedi was a Pakistani, whose bank had offices and business in a large number of developing countries. He was introduced to Carter in 1982 by Bert Lance, one of Carter's closest friends. (Unknown to Carter, BCCI had secretly purchased an interest in 1978 in National Bank of Georgia, which had previously been run by Lance and had made loans to Carter's peanut business.) Abedi made generous donations to the Carter Center and the Global 2000 Project.[citation needed] Abedi also traveled with Carter to at least seven countries in connection with Carter's charitable activities. Jimmy Carter often advocated that BCCI was unique of all the banks that he had seen. However, it is argued that the main purpose of Abedi's association with Carter was not charitable activities, but to enhance BCCI's influence, in order to open more offices and develop more business. In 1991, BCCI was seized by regulators, amid allegations of criminal activities, including illegally having control of several U.S. banks.[263]

1984 Presidential race

The possibility of Carter running for a non-consective second term in 1984 was raised by commentators,[264] and favored by his wife Rosalynn.[265] Walter Mondale, Carter's former Vice President who was mulling a presidential bid of his own, met with Carter ahead of the election year to confront him on whether he intended to run.[264] On May 10, 1982, Carter stated he would support Mondale in the latter's presidential bid during a press conference.[266] In June, Carter made an appearance at a dinner to raise funds for Democrats, offering praise of Mondale, who was also in attendance: "'A lot of people say Fritz has been going around the country and he hasn't mentioned me very often, but Fritz, tonight you outdid yourself and we're partners again."[267] On July 18, 1983, Carter said he believed President Reagan would still seek re-election despite a controversy over his campaign having had access to White House documents while in Japan.[268] On August 30, Carter met with Mondale, telling reporters ahead of the meeting that Mondale had successfully distanced himself from the Carter administration to prevent the affiliation from being used against him.[269] During the 1984 Democratic presidential primary, Carter officially endorsed Mondale.[270] In a June 13, 1984 interview, Carter said he believed Reagan would back out of debating Mondale during the general election.[271] On June 26, Carter announced that he would attend the 1984 Democratic National Convention and possibly speak but would hinder his remarks from taking Mondale, by then the presumptive Democratic Party presidential nominee, out of the spotlight. Carter also advocated Mondale hasten the process of selecting a running mate.[272] On November 7, after the election had taken place, Carter stated Mondale's loss had been predictable due to the latter stating his intent to raise taxes and that he did not believe any Democrat could win against Reagan's re-election bid while speaking at a news conference.[273]

1988 Presidential race

On March 19, 1987, Carter stated Vice President George H. W. Bush was the likely Republican nominee and ruled out that he would be a candidate himself during an appearance at the Egypt chapter of the American Chamber of Commerce.[274] On July 16, 1988, Carter predicted Jesse Jackson would play a role in the decision making at the 1988 Democratic National Convention in a show of unity while touring the Omni Coliseum.[275] Carter addressed the Democratic National Convention.[276] On November 10, 1988, after Bush defeated Democratic nominee Michael Dukakis, Carter said the Republicans performed better than Democrats in marketing their candidates but stated President-elect Bush would have a more difficult time with lacking the popularity that President Reagan had.[277]

1992 Presidential race

On February 22, 1992, Carter met with Massachusetts Senator Paul Tsongas in Plains, Georgia, Carter advising Tsongas to have his allies in Massachusetts campaign for him with in-person appearances and thereby repeat the efforts of Carter's own supporters during his successful bid. Carter also stated that he would not make an endorsement ahead of the March 3 primary.[278] On April 13, during a meeting in Tokyo, Japan, Carter told Prime Minister of Japan Kiichi Miyazawa that Governor of Arkansas Bill Clinton would be "very friendly toward Japan, and he will be a good president for the U.S.-Japan relationship."[279] On May 20, Carter met with Clinton and afterward publicly praised him, labeling third party candidate Ross Perot "right now as kind of, anybody-but-the-above".[280] In August, Carter was joined by Democratic presidential nominee Clinton, vice presidential nominee Al Gore, and their wives Tipper Gore and Hillary Clinton in constructing a home for Habitat for Humanity in East Atlanta. Carter stated that he hoped the 1992 Republican National Convention had some discussion on the subject of assisting the poor before it concluded the following day and that he was not bothered by attacks against his presidency at the Democratic National Convention.[281] During the month, Carter and Clinton spent a day campaigning together in Atlanta.[282] After the election, Carter said he expected to be consulted by President-elect Clinton during his tenure and that he had advised him to form a bipartisan study group to address "most controversial issues".[283]

2004 Presidential race

Carter supported John Kerry and during an interview said of him, "I look on Kerry as one who has gotten through his lifetime of experience exactly what is needed in makeup and battleground and learning and determination, and his ideals to be the president we need now in this troubled time." Carter spoke at the 2004 Democratic National Convention.[284]

2008 Presidential race

In January 2008, during an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Carter praised Senator Barack Obama and the latter's presidential campaign, saying the Carter family and himself had been positively impacted by his candidacy and predicting Obama "will be almost automatically a healing factor in the animosity now that exists, that relates to our country and its government."[285] In April, while in Abuja, Carter noted the support among Obama from those closest to him: "Don’t forget that Obama won in my state of Georgia. My town, which is home to 625 people, is for Obama, my children and their spouses are pro-Obama. My grandchildren are also pro-Obama."[286] On May 25, Carter assessed that Senator Hillary Clinton would "give it up" after superdelegates voted following the conclusion of the June 3 primary.[287]

In an August 2008 interview,[288] Carter accused Republican presidential nominee John McCain of "milking every possible drop of advantage" in mentioning his status as a prisoner of war during the Vietnam War.[289] McCain responded to Carter's comments during an appearance on Fox News: "I have great respect for former president Carter, but it's not first time we have disagreed. I don't think most Americans share that view. In fact, most of my supporters say talk more about your experiences, they were formative experiences."[290]

2012 Presidential race

Despite being a Democrat, Carter endorsed former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney in the Republican party 2012 Presidential primary in mid-September 2011, not because he supported Romney, but because he felt Obama's re-election bid would be strengthened in a race against Romney.[291] Carter added that he thought Mitt Romney would lose in a match up against Obama and that he supported the president's re-election.[292]

Carter addressed the Democratic National Convention in North Carolina by videotape, and did not attend the convention in person.[293]

2016 Presidential race

On July 8, 2015, Carter said the statements made by Republican candidate Donald Trump on Mexican illegal immigrants were "very stupid" and "ill-advised". He predicted that while Trump would secure a small percentage of supporters in the primary, the latter was "a flash in the pan."[294] In a November 1, 2015 interview, Carter noted the contrasts between his own experiences seeking the presidency and the current political climate: "I think it is different now in the nation. And I think it’s being caused by the fact that when people do get to Washington, quite often there’s a stalemate there and both parties kind of relish the fact that they don’t get along with the other side. It’s a different environment."[295]

During a February 3, 2016 appearance at the House of Lords in London, Britain, Carter was asked whom he would support for the presidency between Trump and Ted Cruz, his main primary rival, Carter selecting Trump and explaining that he had "proven already that he's completely malleable. I don't think he has any fixed opinions that he would really go to the White House and fight for."[296] During a May 23 interview, Carter said the Trump campaign had "tapped a waiting reservoir there of inherent racism."[297] During his video message at the 2016 Democratic National Convention in July, Carter characterized Trump as seeming "to reject the most important moral and ethical principles on which our nation was founded."[298]

In 2017, Carter disclosed that, in the 2016 Democratic primary for President, he had voted for Senator Bernie Sanders.[299] In the general election, he voted for Hillary Clinton.[300]

Hurricane relief

In September 2005, Carter criticized the response by the Federal Emergency Management Agency to Hurricane Katrina as "disgraceful" and said the US should focus on rebuilding New Orleans during an annual session at the Atlanta-based Carter Center.[301]

Following Hurricane Sandy, Carter rebuilt homes in Union Beach as part of his affiliation with the Northeast Monmouth Habitat For Humanity, an area affected by the hurricane.[302]

In September 2017, in response to Hurricane Harvey, Carter wrote an op-ed for CNN in which he stated the virtuous side of Americans is demonstrated in the aftermath of disasters,[303] and partnered with former Presidents George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama to work with One America Appeal to help the victims of Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma in the Gulf Coast and Texas communities.[304]

Other activities

 
Carter (far right) in 1991 with President George H. W. Bush and former Presidents Gerald Ford, Richard Nixon, and Ronald Reagan at the dedication of the Reagan Presidential Library

Carter has participated in many ceremonial events such as the opening of his own presidential library and those of Presidents Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush. He has also participated in many forums, lectures, panels, funerals and other events. In 2006 Carter delivered a eulogy at the funeral of Coretta Scott King and, most recently, at the funeral of his former political rival, but later his close, personal friend and diplomatic collaborator, Gerald Ford.[305]

In January 1984, a letter signed by Carter and Ford and urging world leaders to extend their failed effort to end world hunger was released and sent to Secretary-General of the United Nations Javier Pérez de Cuéllar.[306]

President Jimmy Carter serves as an Honorary Chair for the World Justice Project.[307] The World Justice Project works to lead a global, multidisciplinary effort to strengthen the Rule of Law for the development of communities of opportunity and equity.[308]

Carter served as Honorary Chair for the Continuity of Government Commission from 2003 to 2011 (he was co-chair with Gerald Ford until the latter's death). The Commission recommended improvements to continuity of government measures for the federal government.[309]

Personal views

Abortion

Although Carter was "personally opposed" to abortion, he supported legalized abortion[310] after the landmark US Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade, 410 US 113 (1973). As president, he did not support increased federal funding for abortion services. He was criticized by the American Civil Liberties Union for not doing enough to find alternatives.[311]

In a March 29, 2012 interview with Laura Ingraham, Carter expressed his current view of abortion and his wish to see the Democratic Party becoming more pro-life:

Death penalty

Carter is known for his strong opposition to the death penalty, which he expressed during his presidential campaigns, as had George McGovern. Two successive nominees, Walter Mondale and Michael Dukakis, also opposed the death penalty.[313] In his Nobel Prize lecture, Carter urged "prohibition of the death penalty".[314] He has continued to speak out against the death penalty in the US and abroad.[315]

In a letter to the Governor of New Mexico, Bill Richardson, Carter urged the governor to sign a bill to eliminate the death penalty and institute life in prison without parole instead. New Mexico abolished the death penalty in 2009. Carter wrote: "As you know, the United States is one of the few countries, along with nations such as Saudi Arabia, China, and Cuba, which still carry out the death penalty despite the ongoing tragedy of wrongful conviction and gross racial and class-based disparities that make impossible the fair implementation of this ultimate punishment."[316] In 2012, Carter wrote an op-ed in the LA Times supporting passage of a state referendum which would have ended the death penalty. He opened the article: "The process for administering the death penalty in the United States is broken beyond repair, and it is time to choose a more effective and moral alternative. California voters will have the opportunity to do this on election day."[317]

Carter has also called for commutations of death sentences for many death-row inmates, including Brian K. Baldwin (executed in 1999 in Alabama),[318] Kenneth Foster (sentence in Texas commuted in 2007)[319][320] and Troy Anthony Davis (executed in Georgia in 2011).[321]

Equality for women

In October 2000, Carter, a third-generation Southern Baptist, announced that he was severing connections to the Southern Baptist Convention over its opposition to women as pastors. What led Carter to take this action was a doctrinal statement by the Convention, adopted in June 2000, advocating a literal interpretation of the Bible. This statement followed a position of the Convention two years previously advocating the submission of wives to their husbands. Carter described the reason for his decision as due to: "an increasing inclination on the part of Southern Baptist Convention leaders to be more rigid on what is a Southern Baptist and exclusionary of accommodating those who differ from them." The New York Times called Carter's action "the highest-profile defection yet from the Southern Baptist Convention."[322]

In subsequent years, Carter has joined with other world leaders who have spoken out about the subjugation of women by religious and other institutions. On July 15, 2009, Carter wrote an opinion piece about equality for women in which he stated that he chooses equality for women over the dictates of the leadership of what has been a lifetime religious commitment. He said that the view that women are inferior is not confined to one faith, "nor, tragically does its influence stop at the walls of the church, mosque, synagogue or temple." Carter stated:

The truth is that male religious leaders have had—and still have—an option to interpret holy teachings either to exalt or subjugate women. They have, for their own selfish ends, overwhelmingly chosen the latter. Their continuing choice provides the foundation or justification for much of the pervasive persecution and abuse of women throughout the world. This is in clear violation not just of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights but also the teachings of Jesus Christ, the Apostle Paul, Moses and the prophets, Muhammad, and founders of other great religions—all of whom have called for proper and equitable treatment of all the children of God. It is time we had the courage to challenge these views.[323]

In 2014, he published A Call to Action: Women, Religion, Violence, and Power.[324]

Gun control

Carter has publicly expressed support for a ban on assault weapons and background checks of gun buyers.[325] In May 1994, Carter and former presidents Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan wrote to the U.S. House of Representatives in support of banning "semi-automatic assault guns."[326] In a February 2013 appearance on Piers Morgan Tonight, Carter agreed that if the assault weapons ban did not pass it would be mainly due to lobbying by the National Rifle Association and its pressure on "weak-kneed" politicians.[327]

Same-sex marriage

Carter has stated that he supports same-sex marriage in civil ceremonies.[328] He has also stated that he believes Jesus would also support it, saying "I believe Jesus would. I don't have any verse in scripture. ... I believe Jesus would approve gay marriage, but that's just my own personal belief. I think Jesus would encourage any love affair if it was honest and sincere and was not damaging to anyone else, and I don't see that gay marriage damages anyone else."[329] In October 2014, Carter argued ahead of a Supreme Court ruling that legalization of same-sex marriage should be left up to the states and not mandated by federal law.[330]

Race in politics

Carter ignited debate in September 2009 when he stated, "I think an overwhelming portion of the intensely demonstrated animosity toward President Barack Obama is based on the fact that he is a black man, that he is African-American."[331][332] Obama disagreed with Carter's assessment. On CNN Obama stated, "Are there people out there who don't like me because of race? I'm sure there are ... that's not the overriding issue here."[333]

Torture

In a 2008 interview with Amnesty International, Carter criticized the use of torture at Guantanamo Bay, saying that it "contravenes the basic principles on which this nation was founded."[334] He stated that the next President should make the promise that the United States will "never again torture a prisoner."[335]

Healthcare

In an October 2013 interview, Carter labeled the Affordable Care Act President Obama's major accomplishment and said "the implementation of it now is questionable at best".[336] In July 2017, Carter concluded the US would eventually see the implementation of a single-payer healthcare system.[337][338]

Personal life

 
Carter in Plains, 2008

Carter and his wife Rosalynn are well known for their work as volunteers with Habitat for Humanity, a Georgia-based philanthropy that helps low-income working people around the world to build and buy their own homes and access clean water.[339]

Carter's hobbies include painting,[340] fly-fishing, woodworking, cycling, tennis, and skiing.[341] He also has an interest in poetry, particularly the works of Dylan Thomas.[342] During a state visit to the UK in 1977, Carter suggested that Thomas should have a memorial in Poets' Corner at Westminster Abbey; this was an idea that came to fruition in 1982.[342][343][344]

Religion

From a young age, Carter showed a deep commitment to Christianity. He teaches Sunday school and is a deacon at the Maranatha Baptist Church in his hometown of Plains.[345][346] As president, Carter prayed several times a day, and professed that Jesus Christ was the driving force in his life. Carter had been greatly influenced by a sermon he had heard as a young man. It asked, "If you were arrested for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?"[347] The New York Times noted that Carter had been instrumental in moving evangelical Christianity closer to the American mainstream during and after his presidency.[348]

In 2000, Carter severed his membership with the Southern Baptist Convention, saying the group's doctrines did not align with his Christian beliefs. In April 2006, Carter, former President Bill Clinton, and Mercer University President Bill Underwood initiated the New Baptist Covenant. The broadly inclusive movement seeks to unite Baptists of all races, cultures and convention affiliations. Eighteen Baptist leaders representing more than 20 million Baptists across North America backed the group as an alternative to the Southern Baptist Convention. The group held its first meeting in Atlanta, January 30 through February 1, 2008.[349]

Family

Carter had three younger siblings, all of whom died of pancreatic cancer: sisters Gloria Carter Spann (1926–1990) and Ruth Carter Stapleton (1929–1983), and brother Billy Carter (1937–1988).[350] He was first cousin to politician Hugh Carter and a distant cousin to the Carter family of musicians.[351]

 
Farah Pahlavi, Empress of Iran, holds Jimmy Carter IV while Rosalynn Carter, Caron Carter and Chip Carter watch, January 1978

Carter and Rosalynn Smith were married in July 1946. They have three sons, one daughter, eight grandsons, three granddaughters, and two great-grandsons. They celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary in July 2016, making them the second-longest wed Presidential couple after George and Barbara Bush. Their eldest son Jack Carter was the 2006 Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate in Nevada before losing to the Republican incumbent, John Ensign. Carter's grandson Jason Carter is a former Georgia State Senator[352] and in 2014 was the Democratic candidate for governor of Georgia, losing to the Republican incumbent, Nathan Deal. On December 20, 2015, while teaching a Sunday school class, Carter announced that his 28-year-old grandson Jeremy Carter had died from an unspecified illness.[353]

Cancer diagnosis

On August 3, 2015, Carter underwent elective surgery to remove "a small mass" on his liver, and his prognosis for a full recovery was initially said to be "excellent". On August 12, however, Carter announced he had been diagnosed with cancer that had metastasized, without specifying where the cancer had originated.[354] On August 20, he disclosed that melanoma had been found in his brain and liver, and that he had begun treatment with the immunotherapy drug pembrolizumab and was about to start radiation therapy. His healthcare is being managed by Emory Healthcare of Atlanta. The former President has an extensive family history of cancer, including both of his parents and all three of his siblings.[355] On December 6, 2015, Carter issued a statement that his medical scans no longer showed any cancer.[356] On January 20, 2017, at age 92, Carter became the oldest president to attend a presidential inauguration.[357]

Funeral and burial plans

Carter has planned to be buried in front of his home in Plains, Georgia. Carter noted in 2006 that a funeral in Washington, D.C., with visitation at the Carter Center was planned as well.[358]

Public image and legacy

Public opinion

In the wake of Nixon's Watergate Scandal, exit polls from the 1976 Presidential election suggested that many still held Gerald Ford's pardon of Nixon against him.[359] By comparison Carter was a sincere, honest, and well-meaning Southerner.[360] Carter began his term with a 66 percent approval rating[361] which had dropped to 34 percent approval by the time he left office, with 55 percent disapproving.[362]

In the 1980 campaign, former California Governor Ronald Reagan projected an easy self-confidence, in contrast to Carter's serious and introspective temperament. What many people believed to be Carter's personal attention to detail, his pessimistic attitude, his seeming indecisiveness and weakness with people were accentuated in contrast to what many people believed, Reagan's charismatic charm and delegation of tasks to subordinates.[363][364] Reagan used the economic problems, Iran hostage crisis, and lack of Washington cooperation to portray Carter as a weak and ineffectual leader. Like his immediate predecessor, Gerald Ford, Carter did not serve a second term as president. Among those who were elected as president, Carter was the first since Hoover in 1932 to lose a reelection bid.[365]

Carter's post-Presidency activities have been favorably received. The Independent wrote, "Carter is widely considered a better man than he was a president."[360] His presidential approval rating was just 31 percent immediately before the 1980 election, but 64 percent approved of his performance as president in a 2009 poll.[366]

Legacy

Carter's presidency was initially viewed by some as a failure.[367][368][369] In historical rankings of U.S. presidents, the Carter presidency has ranged from No. 19 to No. 34. Although his presidency received mixed reception, his peacekeeping and humanitarian efforts since he left office have made Carter renowned as one of the most successful ex-Presidents in American history.[370][371]

The documentary Back Door Channels: The Price of Peace (2009) credits Carter's efforts at Camp David, which brought peace between Israel and Egypt, with bringing the only meaningful peace to the Middle East. The film opened the 2009 Monte-Carlo Television Festival in an invitation-only royal screening[372] on June 7, 2009 at the Grimaldi Forum in the presence of Albert II, Prince of Monaco.[373]

Honors and awards

Carter has received numerous awards and accolades since his presidency, and several institutions and locations have been named in his honor. His presidential library, Jimmy Carter Library and Museum was opened in 1986.[374] In 1998, the U.S. Navy named the third and last Seawolf-class submarine honoring former President Carter and his service as a submariner officer. It became one of the few Navy vessels to be named for a person living at the time of naming.[375] That year he also received the United Nations Human Rights Prize, given in honor of human rights achievements,[376] and the Hoover Medal, recognizing engineers who have contributed to global causes.[377] He won the 2002 Nobel Peace Prize,[378] which was partially a response to President George W. Bush's threats of war against Iraq and Carter's criticism of the Bush administration.[379]

Carter has been nominated seven times for the Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word Album for audio recordings of his books, and has won twice—for Our Endangered Values: America's Moral Crisis (2007) and A Full Life: Reflections at 90 (2016).[380]

The Souther Field Airport in Americus, Georgia was renamed Jimmy Carter Regional Airport in 2009.[381]

Historical Significant

With President Carter turning 93 on October 1, 2017, four successive presidents; Ford (38), Carter (39), Reagan (40) and George Herbert Walker Bush (41) have reached the age of 93; a historic first. Previously, Presidents John Adams (2) and Herbert Hoover (31) had been the only Presidents to reach the age of 90; the previous record for Presidential longevity.

If he lives to March 16, 2018, he will become the second longest lived President in United States history after George H. W. Bush at 93 years, 166 days, surpassing Gerald Ford who holds the current record at 93 years, and 165 days when he died on December 26, 2006.

See also

Notes

  1. ^ Carter was the first U.S. president to be born in a hospital.[2]
  2. ^ With Carter out of the race, Maddox narrowly won the runoff ballot over Arnall, clinching the Democratic nomination. In the general election, Callaway won a plurality of the vote but came short of the 50 percent majority. The election was thus decided by the Georgia House of Representatives with its Democratic majority; they settled on Maddox.[30]
  3. ^ Eagleton was later replaced on the ticket by Sargent Shriver

References

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  13. ^ Milnes, Arthur (January 28, 2009). "When Jimmy Carter faced radioactivity head-on". The Ottawa Citizen. Archived from the original on February 17, 2011. 
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  16. ^ Eckstein, Megan (March 9, 2015). "From Ensign to Commander-in-Chief: A Look at the Presidents Who Served in the U.S. Navy Reserve". USNI News. Annapolis, MD: United States Navy Institute. 
  17. ^ Ocean Science News. Washington, DC: Nautilus Press. 1976. p. 109. The Naval Record of James Earl Carter Jr.: Medals and awards: American Campaign Medal, World War II Victory Medal, China Service Medal, and Natl. Defense Service Medal 
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    UPI (April 17, 1976). "Carter urges universal health plan". Chicago Tribune. p. 4. Although Carter didn't provide an estimate of what his health plan would cost taxpayers, it features many proposals similar to plans suggested by others, including Sen. Edward Kennedy [D., Mass.] which are estimated to cost at least $40 billion annually. 
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Further reading

Primary sources

  • Califano, Joseph A. Jr. (2007) [1981]. Governing America: An insider's report from the White House and the Cabinet. Simon and Schuster. ISBN 978-1-4165-5211-6. 
  • Jordan, Hamilton (1982). Crisis: The Last Year of the Carter Presidency. Putnam. ISBN 978-0-399-12738-0. 
  • Lance, Bert (1991). The Truth of the Matter: My Life in and out of Politics. Summit. ISBN 978-0-671-69027-4. 

External links