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May 20, 2019


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"One thing nobody can take away from Jimmy Carter is his deep-in-the-bone decency. I wonder if that even matters to voters today?"

Nope, not a bit. Good synopsis, I love the 70s. I am surprised you didn't mention his so called "Malaise Speech". It worked well with the people I was around, although they later turned to Reagan.



Carter is a real Christian unlike, say, 99% of Republicans. The problem here is that this world and the next are in an uneasy relationship to one another. There's no escaping the binary constructs that pit the good "I" against the bad "you", or the right "us" against the wrong "them" both in politics and most religions. What we invariably end up doing is mixing the worst elements of both together, which produces too much zealotry and too little light. It's hardly an accident that someone like Bernie Sanders, an atheist in all but name, can be leader of a cult every bit as cocksure as Scientology.

Carter was ambitious. When he ran for governor of Georgia in 1970, he did so as a George Wallace clone. Upon victory, he pivoted 180 degrees and almost immediately started planning to run for president. Time Magazine, one of his biggest benefactors, put him on its cover, and also in ads for itself that featured him sitting in his rocking chair in Plains. Poor Mo Udall, the witty challenger to Carter in the '76 primary, was the candidate of what would become our "coastal elites". Carter easily beat him. That was a Democratic year yet Carter's victory over Ford that fall was fairly narrow. A shift of 35,000 votes in Mississippi and Ohio, and Ford would have won.

At first Carter dominated the hive mind completely. It helped to have a colorful family like his neer-do-well brother Billy or motorcycle-riding sister Gloria. Carter's earnest quality also suggested someone really intent on being a good and nice president. After a year of this, however, the public began to tire of him. He seemed to disapprove of politics as too tainted by sin and things of this world. It made him appear weak instead of resolute since he was talking to a nation that loved good times a lot more than revival tents and Sunday sermons.

Carter was less an instinctual politician than a micromanager who got mired in policy details and the day-to-day operations of the White House. His relations with Congress were frosty at best since log-rolling was anathema to him. The pundit Joseph Kraft called him "a factionalist of the center" to explain his difficult dealings with other pols who should have been his natural allies.

Carter was a failed president in the sense he was unable to master events around him. He was also extremely unlucky that some of those events might well have killed any other presidency, too. In retrospect, however, he almost seems like a giant. There was none of that horrifying contempt for complexity Reagan showed. He was too smart to be snookered by freelancers like Ollie North and John Poindexter. But America got the president of its dreams in Reagan, a product of hated Hollywood yet who put on a good show despite his cognitive weakness. The "show" matters quite a bit more to voters than substance and detail. You can see the same principle with Trump, someone also ostentatiously incompetent but this time appealing to people's worse angels in our extremely angry Era of Bad Feelings.

Carter has challenged himself his entire life. He's an expert woodworker, an adept painter, a passable poet even, and of course, a relentless advocate of peace, justice, and moral witness. He has overachieved in everything except being president. It wasn't for lack of trying, however. He was a far better president than most of us were citizens.

A piece in Vanity Fair - “What Democrats Can Learn from Marianne Williamson” asserts that there is no going back to “normal” after Trump. The subversion of acumen for celebrity that started with Reagan is now our status quo. The author says he isn’t sure any of the leading Dems could beat Trump, but Oprah Winfrey could for sure. My initial skepticism gave way to realizing he’s probably right.

I love reading your work, nearly all of it. However, you so far off on Bernie Sanders it pains me. So much so, I find it hard to get passed that when deciding to read your blog and column. Its a ridiculous conclusion for you to promote. Just irrationally ridiculous.

That said, I agree with you on Carter. I would only add that Marc Reisner, the author of Cadillac Desert said that Carter's most damaging policy during his one term was the decision too go through every Bureau of Reclamation and Corp of Engineers dam projects with a fine tooth comb.....and killing most of them. The brought down the wrath of both the GOP and Dems......especially in the West. He never found support for anything from his party again. Ironically, when Reagan took office, he killed those projects anyways!

Bernie Sanders is a huge part of why Trump is president. And he is at it again, an unelectable narcissist (as distinct from the narcissist who WAS elected), he is back on his socialist stump, relishing his role--which he is too narcissistic to grasp--as spoiler. The sooner he goes away, the better chance the Dems will have of identifying a candidate capable of beating Trump.

Jimmy and Rosalie Carter are two of the best human beings.
It rained on the Superstitions last nite and here in the Valley of the Sun its another great cloud day. It is the end of May and the nightly temperatures are still in the low fifties with daytime temperatures in the 70 and 80's.
So i awoke finding that ignorant Donnie and fanatical Johnnie had not bombed Iran.


Rogue, I respectfully disagree with your position on Bernie. A Bernie-Warren ticket would put rational, caring and economically savvy adults not already owned by big donors into the WH & Dem party leadership. All others are too callow, too selfish or too compromised. The specter of Carter's failed presidency shouldn't keep us from trying to regain a functional democracy. Let's update the New Deal, throw in Medicare for all, massive investment in renewable energy, education and rail. We can afford it with a 60% cut to Defense and Homeland Security. We have nothing to fear but fear itself thanks to narrow corporate media. Please work on the business case that might help steer the Dems this go round.

I guess that setting up a "foundation" that does little but pay family members handsome salaries is a *kind* of socialism.

Violent politicians: Not like Carter.
I note that news, Arizona Family.com has a story where Russell Pearce said it may be necessary to spill blood to save the Republic from immigrants and homosexuals.
Is that the same thing as Premeditated murder? And the county is paying him $160000 dollars a year to say such?

Ah,but is it illegal or even significant Joel? Can you focus on the important issues? We're circling the drain as a nation and the only 2 candidates not owned outright are falsely painted as too socialist. We are so far gone that conservatism will kill this nation. Let's push it into the closet and ask the voters -which is it - do we sink with the Repubs or swim with Bernie & EW? We can argue fine points later when we're in the shallows. We'll need a purge within the DNC so they don't sink the opportunity or take corporate money. And, we need lawyers as election observers at minority dominated polling locations to prevent Confed (er Southern states) from intimidating or throwing away their votes.

President Carter certainly is an admirable and likeable man. Though I don't agree with everything he's done, it's undeniable he has been a very successful former President and done it on his terms.

Rogue mentioned that most of his successors had monetized and degraded the office. I don't follow ex-presidents real closely, but I can only think of one. President Reagan didn't do much publicly before announcing his Alzheimer's in his moving and classy farewell letter. Both Bushes have studiously kept a low profile in terms of politics, an approach I'm disappointed President Obama hasn't taken. That leaves President Clinton, who certainly seems to be the one Rogue is referencing. I agree with him there, but am I missing someone else?

Having gone to the Carter Center Annual Meetings for many years I have had the opportunity to hear President Carter speak in person and answer totally spontaneous questions from the audience. I have heard him say "I was wrong" and "I'm sorry". I also know that both he and his wife have terrific senses of humor....and they can laugh at themselves. They are role models for anyone who wants to be a decent person. America is doomed without these characteristics in their leaders.......doomed as a Democracy, that is.

When you have fascist pigs and theocratic thugs aided by addled white evangelistic extremists in charge it's no longer The United States of America.
The 2020 goal has to be to a country that looks more like a blend of Jimmy Carter and Dwight Eisenhower.
Otherwise best to find another place to live. Even thats tough given the resurgence of mafia like totalitarianism.

Front pages read, "Trump wants a promotion. "


Today World elections moved more towards nationalism and dictatorships.
Many many years ago i thought eventually we would see city states with kingdoms ruled by economic Barons.
"Lords of the Manor." Start the games!
And feed journalists to the beasts as they are enemies of the king.

Responding to above comments, the Australian election to me was just more evidence of the fact that polls are consistently wrong in today's world. Australia was absolutely flabbergasted when Scott Morrison won, just as America was with Trump.

For anyone curious about that, here is a predictably "The sky just fell again, how did it happen?" recap from the Times: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/18/world/australia/election-results-scott-morrison.html

Morrison's "quiet Australians" line of course made me instantly recall Nixon's "silent majority" line.

Anyway, my point is that America isn't the only country to find that in the "Great Awokening" Jon referenced, many people are afraid to say what they really want publicly, but they aren't afraid to vote for it.

And therefore it's going to be a very long and mysterious election cycle because I have so little confidence in the polls and other predictors.

Disagree about Sanders too. The Democrats are not going to win running Reagan Republicans. Left is best.

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