Jimmy Carter was at the Royal Festival Hall the other day. He was President of the United Sates in the early eighties. He is 87 now but seems well, as Jon Snow said about 50. Personally I know many 50 year olds less alert than him. In fact I know people considerably younger than him. He does seem to have a firm grasp not only on his faculties but also on what is going on in the World.
It all comes back to me the time when he became president. I remember that ludicrous incident during the television debate with Gerald Ford when the sound went off for I seem to remember about 20 minutes. And neither contender would sit down for fear that it would lose him ratings or lose face or something if he did so. They both looked so unhappy… anyway when the results of the election itself, Carter was the winner. As usual in American politics & well I suppose in Western politics, we were made to seem like it was new era. That somehow the new leader would perform miracles. Carter is a good man in sense of good being the opposite of evil but he was or at was perceived to be an ineffectual leader. His wife too was & no doubt still is a high quality person. On the campaign trail the next time when Carter lost to Reagan, I remember in the shared house where I was living we were all interested in politics. We represented all different shades of opinion. We opined that both Jimmy & Rosalyn were superior to both Reagan & his wife Nancy. It is frightening to think that a man of so little intellect as Reagan & some of decisions were decided upon after consulting an astrologer should have been the most powerful leader. Rome had its Nero the United States had Reagan, both entertainers both well both of low intelligence.
But, to me he said many strange & unfathomable things, He said he supported Israel. But he didn’t seem have anything good to say about Israel at all. All his other words seemed to suggest that he supported the Palestinians. He, like Obama, thought that the invasion of Afghanistan was justified. But why? After 10 years, it doesn’t look the military action in Afghanistan has had any positive results. Of course the Taliban isn’t actually ruling all the country. But they are just waiting until the Western troops withdraw & then they will assume power again. Carter made great play about how peaceful his presidency had been. But he made that claim at the end of the evening when it was too late to contradict hi. In fact the present mess in Afghanistan is mainly because the Americans poured arms into the country after the Soviet Union had invaded the country. This occurred when he was president. He threatened military action if the United States’ oil supply was interrupted. He tried to invade Iran to rescue the embassy hostages, a military action which ended in defeat & humiliation for the Americans. It was ridiculous to think this action could have succeeded. Apart from anything the Iranians could have just moved the hostages to another part of the country.
He said that that the embassy members were taken hostage because the revolutionary guard were not in control of Ayatollah Khomeini but this is not true. In fact it was impossible for anybody to do anything, or at least anything like that, without Khomeini expressly agreeing to it. And certainly Khomeini would have put an end to it if he did not agree to it. The Iranians said America was the great Satan (so were the Soviet & Union & UK but it mainly USA & their president…Carter…that they considered Satanic.) It reminded me that in the time of the Stalinist purges, some people opined that they only occurred because Stalin didn’t know about them & that if he did know about them he would put a stop to it.
He was asked, from the floor if religion could be used to occupy land belonging to someone else. The question referred to Israel occupying land inhabited by Arabs for several thousand years because the Jews claim God gave them the land four thousand years ago. He glossed over that one. I suppose he hoped the audience would think he had misunderstood the question.
But he did distance himself from the normal American orthodoxy on a number of issues. For example on the issue of Venezuela where he said that Hugo Chavez was fairly elected.
He was 87 a few days ago.