Carterization of Obama
Barack Obama is no Jimmy Carter.
The notion that Barack Obama is a latter-day Jimmy Carter has been floated in conservative circles for years, persisting despite his election to a second term. WSJ’s Daniel Henninger takes his turn at the meme:
As of this week, it’s official. Vladimir Putin has turned Barack Obama totally into Jimmy Carter.
We may quibble over the timeline. Some might say it began when Mr. Obama whispered to then-Russian president Dmitry Medvedev he’d have “more flexibility” after the 2012 election; others that it set in when the U.S. president took Mr. Putin’s offer to let Bashar Assad escape the bombing of his airfields for using WMD against his own people.
Carterization” has a specific meaning in American politics. In 1980, Ronald Reagan delivered an August speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention in Chicago, just as he was starting his campaign to unseat Jimmy Carter, trapped then in the Iranian hostage crisis.
“The response from the administration in Washington” to foreign threats, said Reagan, “has been one of weakness, inconsistency, vacillation and bluff.”
“Our allies are losing confidence in us, and our adversaries no longer respect us,” he said. Our partners “are confused by the lack of a coherent, principled policy from the Carter administration.”
The characterization stuck, helped by Mr. Carter’s foreign adventures after his presidency. And in truth, Mr. Carter’s team included sterner ballast in Defense Secretary Harold Brown and National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski. Nothing similar exists today in the Obama administration.
The Obama foreign policy has been almost the polar opposite of Carter’s. Jimmy Carter had a very strong foreign policy vision, rooted in a deep ideological commitment to peace and human rights. It was largely wrongheaded, in my immature judgment then and my more professional judgment now, but it was predictable. Barack Obama, by contrast, is a pragmatist with no discernible over-arching plan. It’s highly unlikely that he’ll have anything like the stunning success of the Camp David Accords that brokered a peace between Israel and Egypt that lasts to this day. And I very much hope he doesn’t have anything like the horrendous low of the Iran Hostage Crisis.
It’s true that there’s no Zbigniew Brzezinski in this administration. Save for Brent Scowcroft’s second turn at the post under Bush The Elder, we haven’t had that caliber of National Security Advisor since the glory days of 1970s when Henry Kissinger, Scowcroft, and Brzezinski held the office in succession. And it’s nice to see Harold Brown get a shout-out; he’s hardly ever given proper credit for putting into motion what we think of as the Reagan defense buildup. His offset strategy (for which Bill Perry, who briefly held the post in the Clinton administration also deserves credit) started us on the road to the high tech force that made us the hyperpower we are today.
But it’s not as if the Obama hasn’t had some strong voices. Bob Gates, a holdover from the second administration of Bush The Younger, was my favorite. Jim Jones was a sound appointment as National Security Advisor, if perhaps not heeded as much as the Chicago gang. And I like Chuck Hagel a lot; it remains to be seen what sort of imprint he’ll leave on the Pentagon.
The crux of Henninger’s case:
The consequences of Mr. Obama’s Carterization overseas are coming so fast it’s hard to keep track. Ukraine, though important, is the tip of the iceberg. Here’s what else happened in the week Mr. Putin captured Crimea.
Israel on Wednesday intercepted in the Red Sea an Iranian shipment to Gaza of dozens of Syrian-made surface-to-surface rockets. These are our new Iranian negotiating partners.
North Korea last Thursday test-fired four short-range ballistic missiles and another this Monday. Then on Tuesday it deployed a new multiple-rocket launcher that fired four missiles with enough range to hit American and South Korean military bases near Seoul.
In Moscow last Wednesday,Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said Russia plans to use military bases in Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua for its navy and to refuel strategic bombers. Three months ago, Secretary Kerry ostentatiously announced in a Washington speech, “The era of the Monroe Doctrine is over.” Naturally the Russians took this as a green light to return to one of the Soviet Union’s favorite playpens. The next day, a Russian spy ship, the Viktor Leonov SSV-175, slipped unannounced into Havana Harbor.
Then this Wednesday, a news bulletin: “China announces 12.2% increase in military budget.” That boost comes within 24 hours of the Obama budget proposing a decline in U.S. defense spending.
This is all in one week!
With the exception of Syria, these are all longstanding trends. The Iranian and North Korean nuclear buildup took place under the watch of Obama’s predecessor who, advised that he had no good options, reasonably chose the least bad one. China has been expanding its military for decades and its recent push, again, started under the last administration. That the states of Latin America are sovereign, not American supplicants, is a relatively new policy but not that new.
And it takes some chutzpah, indeed, to blame Obama for submitting a budget in compliance with sequestration forced on the country by Republican budget hawks.
I’ve been a pretty staunch critic of this administration generally and of its foreign policy in particular. The Afghan Surge was a predictable debacle undertaken for what I believe were the most cynical reasons. And the fecklessness of our Syria policy, which involves speaking loudly and carrying a small stick, has been embarrassing. There was no obvious plan to deal with the Arab Spring. Whether it was a lost opportunity depends on whether any American policy would have made a difference; I’m not so sure it would.
That said, I prefer a rudderless, day-by-day approach to blind ideology. With the exception of doubling down on a lost cause in Afghanistan, Obama has avoided embroiling us in bloody wars. While I disapproved of intervention in Libya, and think even in hindsight that it was a mistake, it was at least carried out with little risk. As embarrassing as drawing red lines and not backing them up may be, it beats blundering into a foolish war out of pride.
And, yes, we got bin Laden. We may or may not have movement with Iran. We may or may not be removing chemical weapons from Syria. And there are three more years to go.
This is nothing more than the latest attempt to make President Obama into something that he is not. Conservatives have been throwing anything and everything at the wall just to see if it sticks. First it was the national debt merely days after Obama was sworn into his first term, he was born in Kenya, then “Obamacare”, then “jobs, jobs, jobs”, Obamacare again, the Fast and Furious scandal, Bengazi, the IRS scandal. Did I mention ObamaCare? Hes a dictator. Now he’s been “Carterized”! There is no doubt in my mind that if republicans held the majority in the senate, President Obama would have been impeached by now.. I’m 33 years old. So I can only remember the presidents of the United State dating back to the maybe the second term of the Reagan administration. The Obama administration is by far the most scrutinized administration compared to the others that I can remember. A person who lives under a rock (and do not know who Barack Obama is) could easily think these conservatives are referring to some crazy third world dictator.
And like all baseless criticisms of this President, there’s absolutely no indication of what, if anything, you would have him done differently beyond some vague “be stronger”. What’s so hard about admitting that there are some situations in this world that the U.S. just can’t solve and are just not worth spilling American blood over?
What Carter and Obama have in common is that they are both targets of the GOP character assassination machine, which got seriously started during Carter’s term. And they certainly tried it on Clinton.
Well, if Israel had intercepted an Iranian shipment of missiles during the 80’s they would have been stamped “Made in America”.
(really, this is too easy)
Just more Republican myth-making.
The Republican Party has done a great job over the years of destroying Carters reputation…and now they are using that sullied reputation they created to slam Obama…a classic example of the lies Republicans need to resort to in order to survive.
Foreign Policy – Carter at least held the line on the Iran hostages…instead of saying he wouldn’t negotiate with Iran and then negotiating with them and selling them arms like Reagan did. And it’s certainly not Carter’s fault that Operation Eagle Claw failed. Carter should be applauded for having the balls to ever try such a daring operation. Jesus-gawd…if a Republican had done that their face would have been immediately carved over Roosevelt’s on Mt. Rushmore.
Additionally Carter removed price controls on oil…which, in large part, contributed to a reduction in energy costs…these reduced energy costs had as much to do with bringing the Soviets to their knees as anything Reagan did.
Those same reduced energy costs did more to create the so-called Reagan economy as anything that Saint Ronnie did. What Reagan did do…and Republicans seem to have forgotten…is explode the size of Government and of Government spending and raise taxes.
In addition, Carter appointed Volker who wrangled inflation under control, not Reagan.
If we could just learn to ignore Republican revisionist history and myth-making…which isn’t likely to happen here at OTB…then we might have a better frame-work to make such comparisons.
???? James, what is the criticism here? Other than cheer leading from both the left and the right I never heard anything from anyone remotely resembling a “plan.”
You know…Reagan started the war on the middle-class that has put us where we are today. If you ask me…the establishment of the massively failed supply-side economic theory that we have been chasing for 30 years places Reagan in the Pantheon of lousy Presidents.
Of course that is counter to Republican catechism…but absolutely true.
@C. Clavin: That’s kinda like blaming Jesus for the Crusades, though. Supply-side economics were fine for their time. The error is assuming they always hold true, that taxes have to continuously be slashed.
“What we should be doing instead is setting up death squads in South America. But do it, you know, decisively.”
Seriously, why waste any time on anyone making this ridiculous argument?
@C. Clavin: Reagan put a pleasant, avuncular face on the ugliness of modern American conservatism. Without Reagan, they would never have succeeded nearly as well as they have. For that, I rate Reagan a worse disaster than W.
The crusades were an abomination of what Christ preached. Supply-side economics is exactly what Reagan preached.
Even as an atheist I can recognize the importance of Christianity, or any religion, as a basic moral guide. Supply-side economics is, at it’s most basic level, a faulty theory, much less practice.
It just absolutely never worked. Cutting taxes may, or may not, have increased revenue in the short-term…but the tax cuts never paid for themselves, and the effects promised never materialized. Maybe Reagan didn’t stick around for the long-con…but he was the grifter that started it all.
Republicans have been throwing dog feces at the mirror for 6 years now.
Obama was criticized for supporting the take down of Qadaffi, and then criticized for by Republicans for not getting Republicans to support his ability to take action in Syria.
Obama is Carter? Well then, Ronald Reagan was Neville Chamberlain. He stood by and watched as terrorists killed 240 Marines at the barracks in Lebanon.
I almost feel for Republicans. They’ve spent almost six years now trying to demonize Obama as everything from secret Muslim to secret Communist. He’s the strong/weak tyrant/pussy.
The reality is that Mr. Obama is smart, personally elegant, a competent but not wonderful speaker, an indifferent administrator, and overall about middling effective. He’s a ‘B’. He’s been a ‘B’ from the start, sometimes climbing to an A-, sometimes falling to a C+.
He’s an average president, like George HW Bush, far better than George W. Bush, not as good as Bill Clinton in a lot of ways, better in others. He’s not Franklin Roosevelt, but then, thankfully we are not enduring a Depression followed by a World War.
But it’s really, really hard to demonize a B student. So the GOP flails around and whip themselves into hysteria and make themselves look absurd.
Why do you hate American exceptionalism ™? 😉
As pointed out by several commenters above and in the Original Post, “carterization” was unjustly applied to Mr Carter. To say nothing of Mr Obama.
But the general thrust of the WSJ piece is a rehash of the the ancient line that Republicans can be trusted with military and foreign-affairs because they are tough whereas Democrats are soft. Given the popularity of Sen Paul (and Congressman Paul) partly because they de-emphasize the traditional conservative chest-thumping and saber-rattling I think Mr Henninger is mistaken. My family members who are TeaParty loyalists have ‘evolved’ completely from the militaristic ‘neocons’ of stereotypical conservatives.
In the wake of Iraq and Afghanistan, any Republican contender who can be realistically painted as a pro-war candidate is instantly a loser, IMHO.
@michael reynolds: Personally I’d have given him a “D” for the Afghan surge. Among the # number of mostly minor disappointments, that one really stands out to me.
And since America has never supplied weapons to people of questionable character and motives, we can make decry actions like this from a secure moral high ground.
I would agree completely with that.
I’m also troubled by the whole NSA thing, innocents killed by drones, and the failuer to prosecute war criminals from the previous administration.
The difference here is that Obama supporters are able to acknowledge fault in a realistic manner. Republicans…not so much.
As other people have stated, this sort of political nonsense is especially rich coming after what is much more clearly the worst president. How quickly they forget the debacle on their own side.
Haven’t you noticed…everything that happened under Bush is Obama’s fault.
Obama lost both wars.
Obama crashed the economy.
I’m pretty sure Obama cause 9.11
@Tillman: “Supply-side economics were fine for their time.”
Absolutely true, if by “fine” you mean “a deliberate fraud to transfer the assets of the nation from the middle class to the rich.”
Luckily, Republicans voted to let their guy Putin handle the situation with the Syrians. They didn’t want Obama to deal with Styria.
I think you have to start with the hand that Obama was dealt. Liberals are mad that Obama didn’t do a lot of things that were on the liberal wish list. Well, Obama might have done a lot more of them-if he didnt start facing the the biggest ecobnomic crisis since the Great Depression. Indeed, from the POV of economists, Obama should have a gotten a lot more credit than he has for preventing the 2008 financial crisis from developing into a full blown Great Depression Two. I think it likely that if the crisis had happened in 2005 or 2006, the Bush Administration WOULD have fumbled it into GD2. Instead, for managing it down merely into a severe recession,Obama has been blamed by the American public for not delivering unicorns and rainbows, despite what amounts to a deliberate and politically successful attempt by the Republicans to sabotage the recovery.
With regards to FP, Obama hasn’t delivered unicorns there, either, but again he started with a bad hand-bogged down in two wars, and US prestige at an all time low. I part company with those who believe the Afghan surge was a disaster. With hindsight, it seems that it was bound to fail, but ther were very good people that thought it could succeed, and besides he had campaigned on the slogan that the Afghan war was the “good war”. James seems to judge FP on the theory that anyone who disagrees with his FP assessnments are by definition 100 per cent obviously wrong, stupid, and misguided. I think there was reason to agree or disagree with each one of Obama’s FP calls, and I think Obama made the right call most of the time, without comitting any major blunders. That’s about as much as I think anyone can reasonably expect.
I still become really angry when I here the “Reagan ended the cold war” meme. He was just in the right place at the right time. I worked for the DIA in the 70s and we knew then that the Soviet Union was in a death spiral.
You need to fire up the Clinton administration newsreels. The Clintons were investigated about a real estate deal that occurred prior to his running for president. Hillary Clinton was savaged regularly. Chelsea Clinton’s looks were commented upon. Vince Foster’s suicide was questioned, and if he were murdered, it was suggested that the Clintons had some part in the cover up. President Clinton was impeached over a blowjob. President Clinton and Hillary Clinton were called socialists among other things, and for the 2000 election, Republicans wanted to “take back the country.”
@TastyBits: I was only mildly interested in politics before the Clinton administration. It was the shameful right-wing antics of the time that started to push me away from the Republican party, and the Bush administration finished the job. It seems like things have only gotten worse, so there’s no doubt an entire generation of young people (minus 27%) that are going through that process today.
This is interesting. At the time all Very Serious people just knew that the USSR was an enduring monolith, poised to crush the free world any time it slipped up and that the United States as of 1979 was just a “pitiful, helpless giant” until Saint Ronaldus reinvigorated it and “showed strength” to those pesky Russkies who all of a sudden unaccountably collapsed.
AS someone once pointed out, the real winnwers of the Cold WAr were those heroic people in eastern Europe and Russia who put their lives on the line on the barricades-but we Americans pretty much forget about them. They don’t fit into the mythology of the all-conquering Saint Ron.
Carterized? I guess it’s better than being cauterized …
Carterized? That’s nothing. Obama has been
Well, to be fair, Jimmy Carter is a secret Muslim, so the parallels are right there.
He committed Jihad in his heart.
@Ron Beasley: Yes, when I entered the AF in 1980, I saw briefings that showed the USSR being pretty weak fundamentally while the public was railroaded into fear. WRT today’s sound and fury over Putin’s moves, we need to remember that. We are stronger now and Russia is much weaker than 1980. You don’t get that from today’s news and pundits. It wouldn’t be in their best interests to tell the public the reality.
@anjin-san: You left out Lobotomized.
Hmm. Obama is an incredibly successful man by any standard. Great education, Editor of the Harvard Law Review, self-made millionaire, devoted to his beautiful wife and children. Oh, and he became a US Senator and then President.
Yea, you are right to have contempt for him.
Don’t forget about defense contractors.
But not as good as having Caught Her Eyes.
@Scott: So true, the media has done a wonderful job of making it seem as if we are back in the 1960s at the height of the Cold War. The truth is Russia is more of an annoyance then a true geopolitical threat to the US. China, and lesser countries like India are bigger threats to us on the economic front…….Russia on the other hand is a bad itch that just doesn’t want to go away.
Jimmy Carter is a fine, honest, Christian man. He had two strikes against him going in: lack of experience at federal level, and a sub par cabinet and advisors. He was blindsided and cheap shot by the Iranian crisis. He probably should have.acted.quicker.
Yes John425…yet the lobotomized President is still a lot f’ing smarter than you.
Have a nice weekend thinking about that.
Honestly, the more I learn the more I think Jimmy Carter was no Jimmy Carter.
I think the man was unfairly maligned.
@C. Clavin: I’ll have a nicer weekend if your insipid comments were cauterized. To Carterize Obama would be an upgrade.
I c an only hope that Jesus comes soon for you, because it’s clear that there a lot of things that you don’t understand that he probably would be explaining for you….
@Rob in CT: he was horrible, we had no business electing that poor bastard to do a job he couldn’t do. he was punishment for ford pardoning nixon. and what a punishment he was. too bad, he was actually a nice guy before that.
Thats your comeback?
Sometimes it’s best to remain silent…
And freedom. And The Baby Jesus. And apple pie…
@C. Clavin: War crimes trials ? Perhaps they should start with Josef Stalin, Molotov, SS Reichsfuhrer Heinrich Himmler, “Chairman” Mao, Ho Chi Minh, and Fidel Castro.
“This flag ain’t no rag, and these colors don’t run” (Daniels)
@Tyrell: Truly sad what has become of Charlie Daniels.
@Rob in CT: “unfairly maligned” I tend to agree. This country was recovering from Vietnam and Watergate. It was very hard to put all the pieces back together in four years. And the bizarre economic situation of very high interest rates, high inflation, and slow job market. The gas companies were gouging people in another phony “shortage”. As far as Iran, it would have been hard to get a sizable force into Tehran and pull off a rescue mission.Still, no excuses for what the Iranian government pulled. They should have to pay big time.
“Ayatollah Assahola” (popular bumper sticker in 1979)
@anjin-san: Well, I could have replied that it appears that it was his blowhole talking because his mouth knows better. Normally, I don’t stoop to cheap shots but I’m making an exception for him and possibly you.
Why don’t you get back to us when you have something worthwhile to contribute. Take you time.
Oh, I note that after I recentely provided multiple examples of how the “failed” stimulus has contributed dramatically to infrastructure quality in the bay area, you kinda vanished.
At any rate, I sometimes think of you when I am driving through the Caldecott tunnel on my way to the People’s Republic of Berkeley. Used to be a 10-25 minute delay every day of the year, now the delay is zero. Infrastructure for the USA, what a concept. Thanks Obama.
Only if you pick and choose the ‘good’ parts…throw out the hating of the gays, woman as second-class citizens, etc.
If you stick to the teachings of Jesus, Christianity has a lot to offer. The problem is that what he taught is actually pretty hard to practice, so millions cherry pick the Bible to justify hate, greed, violence, whatever.
Red letter Christianity doesn’t suffer the bigotry and misogyny that you get when you include Paul or the Old Testament. The Old Testament is definitely used as a buffet to endorse personal prejudices while ignoring inconvenient passages and a couple of letters from Paul is all the New Testament has to offer the homophobes. The bigotry and later the monogamy were artifacts of the cultures Christianity grew up in, rather than the message of the messiah. Any biblical argument that supports homophobia, while opposing polygamy is buffet Christianity. Polygamy was accepted in Jewish culture and religious practice until about the 10th century. Jesus never spoke against polygamy other than saying marriage to anyone other than God was less than ideal. Polygamy was illegal in Rome, where a unified church was built, with more than a bit of help from the Roman state. Roman desire to limit the franchise of citizenship is why Christianity is monogamous. Paul is the excuse of bigots.
It was Romans who chose the Gospels, so it was a buffet from the start. The Gospels of Thomas, Mary, and Judas are great reads and offer a path I wish Christianity as practiced included more of.
Religion, as currently practiced, is used to justify misogyny and homophobia. It’s fine if you think one religion (“Red letter Christianity”) shouldn’t do that, the fact is that many Christians do so and use the Bible as justification. Are Muslims misinterpreting the Koran when they do that same?
They are much more using the hadiths rather than the Koran to support their misogyny. Mohammed was quite progressive for his time. Much of that progress was reversed by cultural prejudices formalized in the hadiths (supposed 2nd and 3rd hand recounts of what Mohammed said and continuing reinterpretation).
Religion as practiced is often selectively used to support people’s inherent prejudices.