Vincent Safuto’s Weblog

Notes and observations

Jimmy Carter: The man and the president

In January 1981, as President Ronald Reagan was being inaugurated and the American hostages in Tehran were being released, the general mood on the USS Tarawa was one of glee.

We weren’t going to war with Iran; the ship was heading to Australia for a liberty call; and Jimmy Carter no longer was president.

Carter was felt to symbolize an age of limitations and the so-called “malaise” of the late 1970s. Relations with the rest of the world were crumbling and the United States seemed like a former major player now trying desperately to convince others that it still mattered on the world stage.

Compared with Reagan, Carter seemed to be afraid of using power and I recall hearing later on that Carter was such a micromanager that he even ended up doling out parking spot assignments to the White House staff, something that was way below a president’s pay grade.

He had taken office in a time when people were trying to put the twin traumas of Vietnam and Watergate behind them, but nothing seemed to go right. It was unfortunate that he projected an image of a reduced America at a time when people wanted to feel better and his legacy will always be that of a president who failed.

That’s a shame because quite a bit happened on his watch. Apple and Microsoft were forming in his years of service as president, and the personal computer revolution was just getting started. The man from Plains, Ga., was just too plain. Maybe we needed the larger-than-life figure of Reagan to reassure us in those times.

Carter was a man who felt deeply the need to be careful with the military. He had graduated from the Naval Academy and qualified in submarines, but found that he preferred civilian life and politics.

Like today, he ran on his outsider status in Washington as the plain-spoken man from Plains who would take us beyond the mess of Watergate and scandal. Instead, we had scandals galore and soon Carter was the butt of jokes.

Look, he was far from the greatest president we ever had. But afterward he continued to try to make a better nation and world, even if people prefer to forget those years when he was president and the excruciating final year when it seemed like America couldn’t do anything right.

He’s 90 years old and has cancer. He’s still smiling and optimistic about his chances but we know that time is the stealer of those whom we remember from our younger days.

I hope his radiation treatments work, and we have a few more years of Mr. Carter.

His legacy will be that he tried, and maybe didn’t succeed totally, but afterward he continued to fight for peace, justice and a better life for all.
Sometimes it’s the fight that matters. Others will take up his cause, I am sure.

When I was in the service, we acted like saying that the top person in our chain of command was President Jimmy Carter was a statement of shame. Maybe he wasn’t the best or the greatest, but he gave his effort to the country. That doesn’t count for much but it’s more than most of us ever do.

Best wishes, Mr. President. And I will say with pride that in my early years in the Marines, the first person in my chain of command was President Jimmy Carter.


August 21, 2015 - Posted by | Living in the modern age, Politics | , , , , , , ,

1 Comment »

  1. I was on the USS Barbour County (LST-1195) in the same battle group as the Tarawa. I am a former Marine who had enlisted in the Navy. Although I am a conservative now, I also thought that the announcement over 1MC when the election results came in, our CO didn’t sound too happy. Neither was I as LSTs could have been easily sent to the bottom, even by Iran.
    Going to Perth was great.
    Great weblog!

    Comment by James Benisek | March 2, 2016 | Reply

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