There’s been some bad press for former President Jimmy Carter lately, in reaction to his book, “Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid.” Alan Dershowitz has notably eviscerated in him in columns here and here. Fourteen of the advisors on the board of Jimmy’s Carter Center have just resigned in protest at what they call his “malicious advocacy” and his “strident” positions as expressed in the book.
Putting aside Carter’s visceral antipathy towards Israel, which to me is beyond debate at this point in time, there was recently a stunning example of just how spectacularly ungracious and self-serving this former president is. I’d seen him before in the kinds of public settings where graciousness is de rigeur, displaying very little of it (e.g. the opening of someone else’s presidential library). It has long seemed to me that he never got over being defeated by Ronald Reagan in 1980, and that his bitterness has only festered and grown through the years, as much as he tries to hide it behind that trademarked smile. Still, despite my extremely low expectations, even I was taken aback when I turned on C-Span recently and saw him attempting to use his eulogy for President Gerald Ford to score what can only be called political and self-aggrandizing points.
His eulogy for Ford followed that of Donald Rumsfeld. Rumsfeld, as you would expect, spoke movingly in tribute to Ford (that’s generally the idea with eulogies). Carter took a somewhat different tack. His eulogy was far more about himself than it was about Gerald Ford. The general thrust of his references to Ford seemed designed to illustrate all the many ways in which old Jerry agreed with Jimmy Carter. Gerald Ford, although only a few feet away, was ill-situated to correct the record in any respect.
The text is conveniently provided by the Carter Center. (Any bolding added is mine.)
Jimmy began thusly:
“For myself and for our nation, I want to thank my predecessor for all he has done to heal our land.”
Those were the first words I spoke as president. And I still hate to admit that they received more applause than any other words in my inaugural address.
This was a laugh line. We’re supposed to admire Carter’s self-deprecation. But note how he has begun a eulogy for someone else by immediately highlighting his own alleged magnanimity and high-mindedness. For Jimmy, it’s all about Jimmy.
You learn a lot about a man when you run against him for president, and when you stand in his shoes, and assume the responsibilities that he has borne so well, and perhaps even more after you both lay down the burdens of high office and work together in a nonpartisan spirit of patriotism and service.
My staff and my diary notes, as I prepared for this eulogy, reveal a list of more than 25 different projects on which Jerry and I have shared leadership responsibilities.
He and I were both amused by a “New Yorker” cartoon a couple years ago. This little boy is looking up at his father. And he says, “Daddy, when I grow up, I want to be a former president.”
So, here Jimmy has informed us of what a patriotic, nonpartisan public servant he is, and how much he has accomplished since being defeated in 1980.
He goes on to remember fondly the days when presidents and former presidents related to each other respectfully (this from the man who — among many other criticisms — has alleged that the current president worships not the prince of peace, but the “god of war”):
And, for my own benefit, while I was president, I kept him fully informed about everything that I did in the domestic or international arena.
In fact, he was given a thorough briefing almost every month from the head of my White House staff or my national security adviser. And Jerry never came to the Washington area without being invited to have lunch with me at the White House.
We always cherished those memories of now perhaps a long-lost bipartisan interrelationship.
So he pats himself on the back for providing Ford with a “thorough briefing” every month on all he was doing in the “domestic or international arena(s).” He is happy, it seems to me, to insinuate the notion that Ford was therefore agreeable to Carter’s agenda. He certainly leaves no impression of disagreements.
Jerry Ford and I shared a lot. We both served in the U.S. Navy, he on battleships, I on submarines, as junior officers. In fact, it was my profession. And we both enjoyed our unexpected promotion to commander in chief.
Whose eulogy is this? The emphasis is persistently on himself.
As president, I relished his sound advice. And he often, although, I must say, reluctantly, departed from the prevailing opinion of his political party to give me support on some of my most difficult challenges.
For many of these, of course, he had helped to lay the foundation, including the Panama Canal treaties, nuclear armaments control with the Soviet Union, normalized diplomatic relations with China, and also the Camp David accords.
So, in case it’s not clear (though it’s not as if Carter is being at all subtle) here we find out that Gerald Ford “often” bucked the Republicans in order to support Jimmy Carter. And he provides us with a list of Carter administration “successes” (and how did that S.A.L.T. II treaty work out?).
President Ford and I also shared a commitment to force the Soviet Union to comply with its promise to respect human rights within the Helsinki agreement, which gave strength to brave dissidents behind the Iron Curtain, and helped to undermine Soviet tyranny from within.
Read: It was I, Jimmy Carter — not Ronald Reagan — who brought down the Soviet Union by “forc(ing)” them to “respect human rights.” (Somehow the same fearful force which Carter wielded wasn’t enough to stop the Soviets from invading Afghanistan on his watch, which excursion of-course ultimately led to many of the problems we’re facing today with energized jihadists.)
In the early days of the Carter Center, Jerry joined me as co-chairman in all of our important conferences and projects. And I never declined an opportunity to help him with his own post- presidential plans.
Of-course, we don’t hear anything about Ford’s “own post-presidential plans.” The important thing to know is that Jerry supported all of Jimmy’s projects.
The biggest jaw-dropper for me personally, however, was this following passage. Note how it starts off so very sweetly.
Yesterday, on the flight here from Washington, Rosalynn and I were thrilled when one of his sons came to tell us that the greatest gift he received from his father was his faith in Jesus Christ.
It is true that Jerry and I shared a common commitment to our religious faith, not just in worshipping the same savior, but in attempting, in our own personal way, to achieve reconciliation within our respective denominations.
We took to heart the admonition of the Apostle Paul that Christians should not be divided over seemingly important, but tangential issues, including sexual preferences and the role of women in the church, things like that.
Jimmy Carter here uses the occasion of a eulogy for a man he supposedly loved and respected to score points on the highly controversial issue of gay ordination in the mainline Protestant churches. Jimmy’s in favor of it, and he wants us to know that dear dead Jerry agreed with him one hundred percent. (Not to mention St. Paul.)
The word “inappropriate” doesn’t begin to touch what Jimmy Carter is doing here.
This stands as simply the most appalling eulogy I’ve ever heard — all the more so because you would expect a former president to be above acting in this way.
I think that anyone else who might potentially be victimized posthumously by a Carter eulogy would be well-advised to put into writing funeral arrangements which firmly exclude former peanut farmers from Georgia who accidentally won the presidency. (Carter would at least be right if he assumed that this was all about him.)