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Eyeing the Legacy of the Carter Presidency

The Meriwether Vindicator of Greenville, Georgia

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At 90 years of age, former President and Georgia native Jimmy Carver begins what will likely be a public battle against cancer, which has already spread to his brain.

So far we have considered the man and the politician. In the final part of this series, we look at the legacy of the Carter presidency.

Jimmy Carter was elected as President in 1976, and served a single term before being ousted four years later. Quite a lot happened during that single term.

For those of you who enjoy beer, especially those produced by home brewers and micro-brewers, thank Jimmy Carter as it was largely due to his efforts the American beer industry was deregulated. In response, the home brew and microbrew industries have grown like crazy.

CARTER was responsible for establishing the Love Canal Superfund. For you school students who have never heard of this, two schools and 500 homes had to be demolished, and 800 famines had to be relocated.

Carter deregulated the airline industry.

Unlike Barack Obama, Jimmy Carter was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for actually accomplishing something. Carter worked tirelessly to bring peace to the Middle East, and after being voted out of office continued that work around the world. The Nobel Prize was presented to him in 2002.

Jimmy Carter was always, and continues to be, a man of peace.

Unfortunately, sometimes a firm hand is needed and in that respect Carter proved woefully lacking.

TAKING OFFICE in the aftermath of Watergate, Carter proved incredibly popular.

Four years later, Carter's approval ratings were abysmal. He again won the Democratic nomination, but suffered a humiliating defeat in the General Election. He would only win three states, with one being Georgia.

So what happened?

During those four years, Carter gave away the Panama Canal. He granted amnesty to those men that fled to Canada to avoid the draft during the Vietnam War. He considered re-instituting the military draft and he signed the SALT II nuclear arms reduction treaty with Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnez. He proved to be a staunch proponent of taking guns away from people who could legally own them.

The Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan. Carter's response was to boycott the 1980 Summer Olympics. In no way did this negatively impact the Soviet Union. Instead, it only served to punish American athletes, some of whom had trained for years to compete in the Olympics. The boycott was seen as a weak response at best, and further capitulation at worse. This would come back to haunt Carter.

During the Carter presidency, the United States suffered through a severe time of inflation and recession. The press, once among Carter's major ardent supporters, coined the phrase "stagflation" in criticizing the severe economic problems at least partly caused by his policies.

Each of these actions angered and frustrated different segments of the population.

But there was one event which will always and forever cast shame upon the Carter presidency.

EMBASSIES are considered to be sovereign territory of their home government. An attack on an embassy is an attack on that country.

In 1979, while Carter was President, the American Embassy located in Tehran, Iran, was attacked and briefly occupied several times. In one attack, a U.S. Marine was injured, kidnapped, beaten and tortured.

Carter had already shown an unwillingness to utilize military force.

On Nov. 4, an Iranian woman approached the embassy gates with metal cutters hidden under her chador — or robes — to cut the chains locking the embassy's gates. It has been reported the Marine guards were ordered not to use deadly force in resisting Iranians storming the embassy.

The Iranians captured 52 Americans and held them hostage for 444 days.

A man of peace, Carter was proved woefully inadequate in dealing with the situation.

Instead of taking action immediately, five months later an ill-fated rescue attempt was made, but the effort failed miserably costing the lives of eight military personnel.

Seeing the president and country emasculated on the world stage, the major media turned on Carter with even Walter Cronkite ending each CBS Evening News program telling how many days Americans had been held hostage in Iran.

The hostage situation was likely the single event that caused Carter to lose the election, putting Ronald Reagan in the White House. The hostages were released almost immediately after Regan's inaugural address ended.

There are many who believe Reagan would have taken much stronger action against Iran and the release of the hostages was timed to prevent that.

Deserved or not, the presidency of Jimmy Carter will forever be equated with and defined by the Iranian Hostage Crisis, and deemed an embarrassing failure.

That's my opinion.

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Original Publication Date: September 11, 2015

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