Jimmy Carter - a great president?

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: After 1900' started by ivanotter, Apr 23, 2019.

  1. Ricardolindo Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 16, 2018
    Location:
    Portugal
    I'm not American and I'm not a conservative but, IMO, while Jimmy Carter is a good man, he wasn't fit for the presidency.
     
  2. GeographyDude Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jun 9, 2014
    That was always the challenge with the cold war, wasn’t it?

    Yes, Stalin was clearly a nut and a murderous individual, and we had our doubts about Khrushchev and Brezhnev. Heck, you couldn’t even leave the damn place.

    But all the same, we didn’t exactly do a very good job promoting our system by propping up pretty much every dictator we could find! :openedeyewink:
     
    tomo pauk likes this.
  3. fasquardon Cosmonaut

    Joined:
    Sep 24, 2012
    Carter becoming President later on when he had more experience and more allies would have helped considerably I think. If you look at his real blunders, they are shared with most others who've gained the Presidency young. Unfortunately for Carter, he was president during an unforgiving time, with the country facing serious problems and Carter personally facing some gifted political opponents. It doesn't help that Carter did some things that people on both ends of the political spectrum still find hard to forgive. Considering that Carter went on to become one of the best ex-presidents America has had, I think a Carter that gains power in the 80s or 90s could secure a better place for himself in people's popular memory.

    His commitment to human rights we could argue sometimes backfired. It meant that the US basically stopped supporting the Shah of Iran when the revolution was getting going, and one can argue that this allowed the Iranian revolution to succeed, leading to the embassy crisis, the political repression and murders the revolution inflicted on the Iranian people in general, the persecution and killings of the Baha'is in particular, the destabilization of the whole Middle East... Or one can argue that Carter's morals resulted in the US cutting American losses as the Shah's bad decisions poured gasoline on the revolutionary fires... I err on the side of thinking that Carter seriously messed up here. But we can't know for sure.

    Even so, I think he is under-appreciated by Americans. If you look at the actions of American Presidents from the Soviet perspective, Carter was one of their more damaging opponents. If I had to choose the best President to remove from the timeline in order to make things better for the Soviets, it would be a tie between Carter and Ford. Not Reagan, not Nixon and certainly not Kennedy (one of the most overrated presidents, in my view). Ford and Carter's genuine moral convictions led them to be especially troublesome.

    All in all, I'd say the Carter of OTL was already solidly above average for a 20th Century President. Compare him to men like Wilson, Harding, Coolidge (hard to top the damage done to the US by Prohibition, let alone the corruption under Harding, the damage done by Wilson's segregationalism, the mishandling of foreign policy under all 3), Kennedy (mishandled the space race, Cuba and Vietnam, the last two catastrophically badly, though to his credit he had the sense to fold during the Cuban missile crisis and the salesmanship to convince the US public that he'd won some great victory even as he handed Khrushchev everything the Soviets wanted out of their gamble) let alone the characters that held the Presidency during the 19th Century (Buchanan led the country to the point of actual civil war, Grant was perhaps the most corrupt man ever to hold the Presidency and Jackson was probably the most brutal character to hold the highest office and made Richard Nixon look like a relatively honest guy).

    Can we please not bandy about "genocidal" too lightly? The US hasn't had a genuinely genocidal president since before the end of the 19th Century.

    Not to say that horrible things haven't happened through negligence, inaction or pure amoral dedication to what a particular president considered in the national interest...

    fasquardon
     
    SsgtC, Odinson, TimTurner and 4 others like this.
  4. JennyB Old Enough to Know Better

    Joined:
    Mar 11, 2013
    Carter sits out 1976 and is elected in 1980 after a second Ford term?
     
  5. kernals12 Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Oct 20, 2017
    Location:
    Massachusetts
    Carter was the anti-Nixon in many ways. He was idealistic and all too naive, having a Mr. Smith Goes to Washington sort of attitude to politics. He refused to engage in the sausage making needed to get his agenda passed, despite having enormous congressional majorities.
     
    Alpha Trion and TripleCitizen like this.
  6. Amadeus Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Mar 19, 2017
    If not Carter, then the nominee would probably have been someone like Mo Udall who IMO would've beaten Ford easily. As just about any Democrat should have. The only reason that 1976 was so close IMO was because of Carter's weaknesses as a candidate.
     
  7. ivanotter Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jan 24, 2011
    Location:
    South Africa
    Also believe that 'genocide' is not a part of the US agenda.

    It is interesting to see Carter's stance on USSR actions. What he started surely hurt - the grain issue etc.

    If we judge Carter by his moral compass, the right action was to cut ties with the Shah. Did he believe that the next man in line would be a saint? did anyone not brief him on the Ayatollah's hatred of US?

    Whichever way it is hard to see what else could have been done. Continuing support for the Shah was not going to win the day anyway.

    Cut the losses and get talking with the next one in line? is that statescraft or naïve thinking?

    I believe that Carter did make inroads in terms of the economy?

    Interesting view that he might have been a better choice in 1980. Any views on that?
     
    SwampTiger likes this.
  8. President Benedict Arnold New Yorker

    Joined:
    Aug 24, 2016
    When the revolution was just beginning, before the Islamic Republic was even an idea, people thought of the Ayatollah as a sort of moral guiding figure closer to Benjamin Franklin or Dolores Jiménez y Muro than a potential dictator.

    I think Carter had a tough game to play as he was liked for his inexperience in a way and granting him additional experience makes his presidency go better. If he had primaried right wing Sen. Talmadge in ‘74 in an anti-Washington post-Watergate campaign, he might have been able to build up a decent Congressional record over one full term and end up as a significantly stronger legislator by 1980. The problem is he probably wouldn’t be able to channel the post-Watergate feeling as effectively 6 years later. He could probably rack up a strong 2nd or 3rd place finish if he’s the only Southern moderate candidate and end up as somebody else’s VP pick. That could set him up to take over sometime in the 1980s.
     
    SwampTiger likes this.
  9. Maeglin Lómion

    Joined:
    Oct 15, 2014
    Grant's Administration was incredibly corrupt. The man himself wasn't.
     
  10. MKD Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Oct 4, 2017
    Location:
    Milton Keynes Central
    Without using our 20/20 hindsight I would say: A successful Operation Eagle Claw ( c/f Operation Thunderbolt aka Entebbe) and the speeding up of economic improvements.
     
  11. Thomas1195 Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 26, 2016
    He was responsible for the corruption due to the massive nepotism of his recruitment policy.
     
    Alternator and fasquardon like this.
  12. GeographyDude Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jun 9, 2014
    During our the Gulf War against Iraq in 1991, we bombed a lot of stuff including electrical generating plants which I’d consider more part of the civilian infrastructure.

    And then, we kept on sanctions for another 12 years. And of course this hurt the most vulnerable of society, and not, for example, mid-level Baath officials and above.

    And finally, in 2003, also with a lot of bombing, we went further and won the second Gulf War and then engaged in rebuilding, with I suppose average results.
     
  13. ivanotter Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jan 24, 2011
    Location:
    South Africa
    Interesting!

    If Eagle Claw had been a 100% success, how much would it have meant for his popularity?

    After all, the economy was still a problem - That said, It has been my impression that he actually did something about it (am I wrong there as well).

    Eagle Claw looked as the most infantile operation, put together by absolute amateurs. Insofar as the US forces hardly can be said to be amateurs, it leaves one with a suspicion that it was never supposed to work anyway. … But that is indeed a nasty thought.
     
    Alpha Trion, SwampTiger and ejpsan like this.
  14. marathag Well-Known Member with a target on his back Kicked

    Joined:
    Feb 2, 2013
    Not Genocidal.

    Don't cheapen the deed.
     
  15. ejpsan Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    May 2, 2012
    It could have been the classic Military option that gets presented to the President in hopes that it will get turned down as being too unrealistic.
    President Clinton kept asking the Joints Chiefs to formulate a plan to take out bin Laden in Afghanistan but they put him off with by having every plan begins with 10000 men being deployed.
     
  16. marathag Well-Known Member with a target on his back Kicked

    Joined:
    Feb 2, 2013
    He started many deregulation programs that RR would later finish and take credit for.

    Where he didn't, was with the energy sector, where more regulations were the goal, the wrong choice.
     
    SwampTiger likes this.
  17. fasquardon Cosmonaut

    Joined:
    Sep 24, 2012
    Given the nepotism of Grant, I would argue with this. The man himself definitely had some personal responsibility for how bad things went.

    Yeah, that's really not genocidal. The US was hitting legitimate military targets for legitimate military reasons with no intent to wipe out the Iraqi people or even any subgroup of them. It's not the fault of the US that war is a messy business. War has always been messy and always will be messy. The sanctions regime and the shockingly bad reconstruction effort after Gulf War II are more serious in their moral failings, but even there, these things are a long, long, long way from actual genocide. (And sanctions may well have been the least-bad option that Bush I and Clinton had.)

    We live in a world where people today advocate for genuinely genocidal actions, and by cheapening terms like this, it weakens their power against the genuinely genocidal.

    And in hindsight it's generally pretty hard to argue against Carter's deregulations. They generally had more good than bad results.

    I think it would have been a real boost to his popularity in the long term. But I'm not sure it would have won him the election.

    Yeah. And the Iranian liberals and middle classes were major forces in the revolution. While more moral government was a strong call by the revolutionaries, it was not at all a given that this call for morality in government would lead to radical Islamism winning and that the most immoral part of the Shah's regime (SAVAK) would find itself employed by the new regime and given even larger powers. Carter was faced by a genuinely difficult choice here. By the time it became clear that Khomeini would be the one to gain the most from the revolution, a US intervention would have probably been a disaster and before Khomeini started to pull ahead, it would have been the hight of hypocrisy for the US to intervene against a revolution against a tyrannical king when the US was born from a revolution against a much less tyrannical king.

    The idea of him having 6 years of senate experience before gaining the presidency is pretty interesting. I agree that he'd not be able to ride the post-Watergate wave so well at this late date, but if Reagan gained power in 1976, and had scandals similar to his early OTL terms on top of the bad economy and disaster in Iran, I can see the Watergate disaffection being energized in ways that Carter would still be able to take advantage of...

    fasquardon
     
  18. ivanotter Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jan 24, 2011
    Location:
    South Africa
    I think that is indeed a worthy argument:

    Eagle Claw would have gained him popularity, but probably not enough to get re-elected.

    On the Ayatollah: Did Reagan say something prior to Khomeni getting into power?

    The whole mess of Iran was indeed … a mess. It is like 'why go for a disaster if you can have a calamity'

    Was Carter badly advised or was there really no other way from a US perspective?
     
  19. TripleCitizen Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Oct 4, 2018
    Carter would probably have gotten more votes for launching airstrikes all over Iran and letting the hostages die than trying to negotiate.
     
  20. Amadeus Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Mar 19, 2017
    No. If the hostages had died then Carter would've become hated by the vast majority of the American public. Either Kennedy wins the 1980 nomination, or Reagan beats Carter in a 1972/1984 style landslide.