Get Carter

February 28, 2007

Once again, Jimmy Carter demonstrates that while his record as president may be a very mixed bag, there’s no doubting that he is incomparably the best ex-president we’ve ever had.

When Carter published Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, the predictable rain of hellfire and condemnation descended upon his head. He was, after all, stepping into the most deadlocked area of argument in America, a terrain where ax-grinders and apologists have labeled anyone who dares criticize Israel as either an anti-Semite or a self-hating Jew. Not only did Carter boldly use the term “apartheid” to question Israel’s moral standing on the Palestinian issue, he went even further and disputed the transparently ridiculous cant that the interests of the United States and Israel are one and the same. For this offense, Jimmy Carter endured everything from condescending lectures on his lack of historical knowledge — yep, the president who brokered the first and most significant peace treaty yet seen in the Middle East, lacking historical knowledge — and outright vilification.

(We got a very, very small taste of this intimidation here at Opinion Mill HQ during the last blowup in Lebanon. The Woman Warrior put out a banner reading KILLING CHILDREN IS NOT SELF DEFENSE. Congregants from the synagogue across the street swarmed up our driveway to shout at us; that night, self-righteous vandals trespassed on our property and cut the banner down. I argued with people for hours, and I might just as profitably have given physics lectures to my dogs. There was simply no argument or fact they could hear that would shake their conviction that Israel is an unblemished paragon of virtue in everything it does, or that the idea of carpet-bombing civilians in a country just groping its way to democracy might be, at the very least, contrary to Israel’s long-term interests.)

So the Martin Petezes of the opinion world threw everything they had at Carter, and guess what? His book has struck a chord. Philip Weiss notes that the very intensity of the vilification aimed at Carter has only served to boost interest in Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid. And it isn’t one of the bogus freak-show controversies that Ann Coulter and Osama bin D’Souza whip up to sell their vacuous tomes, either; the book is attracting sincere people who genuinely want to see and hear something new about the Middle East.

Just as he helped break the deadlock between Israel and Egypt, Jimmy Carter is helping tear down the intellectual walls that pen in the debate about how to end the untenable situation in Israel. He’s raising awareness of preventable diseases in Africa and doing yeoman work with with Habitat For Humanity. Where other ex-presidents are content to pocket their pensions, play golf and select ghostwriters to pen their memoirs, Jimmy Carter is out there doing good.

I hope he stays with us a good many more years, but when Jimmy Carter does finally shuffle off this mortal coil, the wingnut noise machine is going to go into hyperdrive with posthumous smears and distortions of his record. Let’s all be ready. As I noted above, there’s a good deal in the Carter record I’m not happy about, but there’s also a good deal to admire and applaud — a lot more than for, say, Gerald R. Ford, whose recent passing an epic blizzard of B.S. Let’s all be on our guard.

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One Response to “Get Carter”

  1. Chucky Says:

    The Lobby! The Lobby! The Lobby! That’s what everyone in Babylon genuflects to.

    Antiwar.com has been on this for months now — what took you so long to recognize it?


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