Today is the 87th birthday of former President Jimmy Carter, and it is proper to send good wishes to him!
By reaching the age of 87, and in good health, Carter becomes the seventh President to reach that advanced age, with former President George H. W. Bush having reached that pinnacle on June 12 of this year.
Other than the first Bush, only Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan (both 93), John Adams and Herbert Hoover (both 90) and Harry Truman (88) have lived longer.
Jimmy Carter has also had a longer retirement after his Presidency than anyone except Herbert Hoover, and will pass him in longevity in retirement in less than a year, on September 8, 2012.
Jimmy Carter has been much ridiculed, lambasted, and condemned by his critics, and this post is not an attempt to deny the weaknesses and mistakes of his Presidency. Carter has learned how to accept the reality that he is shown little respect for his virtues and accomplishments, with a lot of it due to his defeat for reelection in 1980 by the charismatic Ronald Reagan, who is often now seen as a deity in many circles. There is the reality that IF a President loses reelection, his reputation in history suffers dramatically, no matter what he had achieved in office.
But while there is much controversy over Carter’s Presidency, on his birthday, it is worth it to point out his major successes in office.
1. Carter was able to negotiate the impossible–an agreement between Egypt and Israel, the Camp David Accords, which brought peace, recognition, and security for Israel for the past third of a century.
2. Carter also negotiated the Panama Canal Treaty, much berated at the time, and causing loss of seats for the Democrats and assisting the conservative takeover, but in retrospect, one realizes that the treaty was not harmful and against our national security, but actually helped to improve relations with Latin America, and is now seen as non controversial a third of a century later.
3. Carter’s promotion of human rights as a major foreign policy goal was ridiculed by conservatives and Ronald Reagan, but later it turned out that future Presidents, all of them, utilized the concept in some form as part of their foreign policy goals.
4. Carter made us aware of the energy crisis, and the need to expand energy resources beyond oil, and while it has not been pursued as he emphasized by later Presidents, it is clear that Carter was correct in his emphasis on alternative sources of energy being essential for America’s future.
5. Jimmy Carter had the best one term environmental record of any President, greatly expanding national parks and forest land, and focusing on the environment as an issue in a very admirable manner.
6. Carter appointed more minorities to appointed positions than any President before him, and fully backed affirmative action, which became a controversy during his Presidency due to the Bakke case.
7. Three new cabinet agencies were started during his Presidency, although now under attack by conservatives in 2011–Department of Education, Department of Health and Human Services, and Department of Energy.
8. Carter presided over the smallest increase in the national debt during his administration, attempting to have very tightly negotiated budgets, although all were with deficits.
9. Carter issued an executive order on his first day in office, granting amnesty to Vietnam draft evaders, which however caused a rift with military supporters who opposed this courageous act.
10. Carter negotiated the SALT 2 (Strategic Arms Limitation) Treaty with Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev, which was never ratified by the US Senate because of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, but its details were obeyed by both sides despite the rejection of the agreement in the Senate.
It would be easy to list the faults and shortcomings of Jimmy Carter, and as the years go by, and eventually Carter passes from the scene, there will be much more research done on him and his Presidency. When that happens, it is likely that a reassessment of Carter in a much more sympathetic manner, will occur.
For now, Mr. President, Happy Birthday and many more!