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Finding Barack Obama's 'Inner Jimmy Carter' - Part 1

The New York Observer published an interesting piece back in February which draws parallels between Jimmy Carter and Barack Obama, citing their similar "emotional" appeal to Democratic voters during their respective campaigns, which in both instances were very effective at shielding their relative inexperience and lightweight resumes.


For Obama the word is "hope" -- Carter's buzzword was "trust," but the similarities don't end there.

Actually, the similarities between Carter and Obama are considerable. Like Obama, Carter's resume included service in a state Legislature (rare for a president), and only a very brief stint in high-profile office, his single term as Georgia's governor from 1970 to 1974. Obama, of course, has only been in the U.S. Senate since 2005, after an eight-year run in the Illinois state Senate.

Both also outsmarted their intra-party foes when it came to primary strategy. In '76, Carter was the lone Democrat to comprehend the opportunities that attended the proliferation of state primaries and caucuses, entering the race early and targeting every state, a tactic that produced weekly victories, hordes of delegates, and a gathering sense of momentum that left his late-starting rivals in the dust. Similarly, the wisdom of Obama's decision to contest small caucus states and all of the mid-size contests between Super Tuesday and March 4--and the lack of wisdom in Hillary Clinton's decision not to do so--is only now becoming clear.

Most significantly, both men came along at exactly the right time. Carter's peanut-farmer-from-Plains simplicity and his oft-repeated promise that he "will never lie to you" were powerful political weapons after Nixon and his wiretapping, his plumbers and his pardon from Ford. And Obama's message of hope--and his own life story--resonates with an electorate that, after these past eight years, feels utterly disconnected from its government and simply wants to believe in someone again.

In Carter's case he won, but the race was narrowing quickly in the weeks before election day, and conventional wisdom suggests that Ford would have won the election if it had been held one week later -- Carter's support was dropping that quickly and precipitously.

Similar Foreign Policy Approaches

But Jimmy Carter and Barack Obama share more than just lightweight resumes and a flair for flowery speeches peppered with promises - they share remarkably similar approaches to foreign affairs as well. Time permitting I'll launch a closer examination in the coming days and weeks.

gillerman.jpgThis closer look comparing Carter and Obama is relevant and notable especially in light of current news (ABC online) that Israel's U.N. Ambassador Dan Gillerman (at right) is calling Jimmy Carter a bigot.

Israel's ambassador to the United Nations on Thursday called former President Jimmy Carter "a bigot" for meeting with the leader of the militant Hamas movement in Syria.

Carter, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, "went to the region with soiled hands and came back with bloody hands after shaking the hand of Khaled Mashaal, the leader of Hamas," Ambassador Dan Gillerman told a luncheon briefing for reporters.

Also notable is that Obama recently referred to Hillary Clinton's assurances that Iran would be "obliterated" in the event of an Iranian attack on Israel as 'saber-rattling' -- further cementing the differences in approach these two candidates represent by highlighting Obama's desire to negotiate with rogue world leaders rather than -- well, carrying a saber.

Now at this point Obama would probably put down his waffle fork at the suggestion that he's weak-kneed, and offer his strong assurance that he can sabre-rattle with the best of them -- and in the process expect us to ignore the last 15 months he's spent assuring us that he won't be the sabre-rattling kind.

Just so long as we know "he can" -- not that he ever would.

carter.JPGBut look at how effective sabre-rattling - and wielding - has been for Hamas -- it's prompted a (former) U.S. President to take actions egregious enough to get him be labeled a bigot.

Now I'll admit it's minor -- all Jimmy did was sit down to negotiate with terrorists bent on the destruction of Israel -- where's the harm in that?

Some will say the 'bigot' label was just rhetoric on Gillerman's part. After all, Israel doesn't have a strong interest in the outcome of the Democratic Primary, does it?

Perhaps if it doesn't, it should.

Related: Jimmy Carter's Endorsement of Barack Obama

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Comments (2)


Jimmy Carter COULD have gone toe to toe with the USSR over Afghanistan. He chose not to do so. He COULD have been considerably more forceful with Iran when they grabbed our diplomatic staff - but chose not to. He COULD have been much more proactive when it came to energy - but chose not to.

I won't say he was the most ineffectual president in the last 40 years - but he's in a close run with Gerald Ford. And Pres. Ford - well, he was more of a figurehead to keep the office open and the lights on.

Now Obama wants to be 'ol Jimmah with a tan. Thank you - but no.

Actually, by the time Soviet tanks rolled into Afghanistan, Carter and the US had no real cards to play. Nonetheless, Afghanistan provides the perfect illustration of the Carter-Obama Convergence.

The problem was caused months before the invasion, when Carter and Brezhnev met in Vienna to sign the SALT II treaty. Carter slavered over Leonid, hugging and kissing him. As we now know, Brezhnev interpreted (correctly) this as a sign of Carter's spineless and feckless nature, and knew he would not act decisively against ANYTHING the Soviets dared.

Obama's willingness to meet with rogue leaders like Ahmadinejad, Kim, and Chavez without preconditions is a perfect reflection of Carter's world view: the Evil in the world can be won over to the Good with a hug and a pure heart.

No, it cannot.


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Editors: Lee Ward, Larkin, Paul S Hooson, and Steve Crickmore

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