Rob Montz, Tribune News Service
Twenty candidates lined up this week for the first televised debates of the 2020 election. The roster is maxed out, with senators, governors, mayors, and tech entrepreneurs all vying for the chance to take down President Donald Trump.
There is indeed one Democrat who’s perfectly positioned to do just that. He boasts that elusive mix of progressive bona fides, mainstream appeal, and proven policy track record. But he wasn’t on the stage.
It’s Jimmy Carter, of course.
That’s not entirely a joke. The public perception of Carter is that he’s a one-term loser crushed by the weight of his own naive incompetence. Supposedly just a simple peanut farmer chewed up by Washington, Carter has gone down in history as the poster boy for failed Democratic administrations.
That’s a mistake. Carter actually boasts one of the most impressive presidential policy records of the modern era, a set of accomplishments with broad bipartisan appeal that laid the groundwork for decades of prosperity. The yawning gap between the perception and reality of his administration is the product of our warped relationship with the presidency, the grotesque expectations the public imposes on this office.
Ronald Reagan is lionised as the great deregulator, but some of the most important deregulations of the last half century were actually initiated by Carter. This wasn’t mindless slashing; it was targeted, commonsense reform unleashing competition in parts of the economy long-dominated by artificial monopolies.
We see the fruits of Carter’s labours all around us. A trillion-dollar natural gas boom, cheap air travel, countless microbrews, a vast rail and freight infrastructure — these are the direct products of Carter-signed regulatory reforms.
Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon all abused American intelligence agencies to undermine political opponents; Carter championed new oversight of government wiretapping. And in an act of exceptional political self-sacrifice, he backed punishing policies to tame inflation. That produced immense short-term economic pain but laid the monetary foundations for the Reagan-era boom.
Carter also did plenty to please progressives, including creating two new Cabinet agencies. But unlike, say, President Barack Obama, who proudly accepted the Nobel Peace Prize his first year in office and then spent the rest of his term issuing executive orders to kill distant foreigners, Carter was genuinely committed to peace, distinguishing himself as the only modern president not to be at war during any part of his term.
So, why don’t you know any of this? Why have you been taught that Carter’s administration was a failure?
Because, of course, it’s not enough for presidents to simply govern competently. The public demands much more than that.
Over the last century, the presidency has steadily gathered a grotesque messianic mystique. The man in the Oval Office is not just another public servant; he’s the all-powerful father figure, the redeemer of the national soul, the messianic CEO of the economy. And Carter didn’t fit the role. This is a man who actually read complaints about his presidency live on national television — and who, at the white-hot peak of stagflation, famously told Americans “to sacrifice your comfort and your ease.”
Carter also intentionally rejected the monarchical trappings of the office: walking alongside the presidential limo in his inaugural parade; carrying his own garment bag off Air Force One; selling the presidential yacht; ordering the Marine Corps band to stop playing “Hail to the Chief” whenever he entered a room. As he later explained: “People want a royal family in the White House. I wasn’t inclined to give them that.”
Trade. Tariffs. Talks collapsing before they begin. Politicians, diplomats and negotiators sniping at each other. No, not Brexit (just for a change) but the US-China trade war.
President Donald Trump couldn’t wait to arrive in Iowa on Tuesday before attacking Joe Biden. And vice versa. With the presidential rivals crisscrossing the state that holds the first contest of 2020, the acid back-and-forth offered a preview of a possible general election matchup — and a cautionary tale of how much vitriol the race
To make America happy again, society has to figure out how to make our country whole. Understanding what divides Americans — and what gives them hope —could be critical to improving their well-being and the nation’s. By tracking patterns in well-being, and creating programmes based on the results, we can take steps
In early June, an unnamed adviser to Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders used the anonymity afforded to him by a reporter to berate one of Sanders’ main competitors: Elizabeth Warren. Speaking with US News & World Report, the adviser, whose comments were described by many as “cutthroat”
It’s the historic and fraternal bonds between the two countries that prompted the UAE to pursue its efforts to restore security and stability in Yemen. As His Highness Sheikh Mohamed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, pointed out, preserving Yemen’s security and stability
As Democratic presidential contenders race to draft the boldest and most detailed policy plans, President Donald Trump has stuck to the signature issues that helped him win last time: “Build the wall,” “jobs, jobs, jobs” and “America First.” In other words, the agenda for Trump’s second term is largely a set of pithy slogans that have been
Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan’s visit to the US next week is meant to reset Pakistan’s often stormy relations with the US. The first visit by Khan as Prime Minister of Pakistan had been under discussion for some weeks, but Islamabad got a jolt when the State Department spokesperson refuted Pakistani media reports of a meeting
The author-cum-pop psychologist Malcolm Gladwell made a lot of money from telling the world, through his 2008 book Outliers, that anyone can master any skill at all if they just spend 10,000 hours practising it. Eleven years on, he had better hope no one’s been paying too close attention to the somehow still ongoing Tory leadership contest,