Thursday, May 30, 2013

Jimmy Carter

Watching Jimmy Carter visit Luzerne County Tuesday brought back a lot of memories.

I was 14 years old when Jimmy Carter was elected president, and I have to admit I was happy about that.  Gerald Ford seemed like an OK guy, but we wanted something different, fresh, an outsider, someone who was going to change Washington.

Perhaps, we expected too much.  Jimmy Carter wasn't a very good president.  He had a lot go wrong on his watch-- the Iranian hostage crisis and the energy mess were two of the biggies.  I remember thinking Carter was more concerned about Israel and Egypt, when he should have been paying attention to the struggles of those here at home.  He pointed the blame for the energy cross at we Americans, and we hate to take responsibility for anything.

There were some good things, including attempts at a national energy policy.  He seemed like an honest man, and Jimmy Carter gets major points for that.  Carter brought an informality to the presidency.  Nixon was still fresh in our memories, so a president who carried his own bags and didn't like "Hail to the Chief" was a nice change of pace.

Unfortunately, Carter came off as a guy who couldn't get things done.  A lot of people were uncomfortable with the informality.  We want a certain stature to our presidents.  Jeans and sweaters in the Oval Office?  Too much, or not enough.  Ted Kennedy tried and failed to win the 1980 Democratic presidential nomination.  Carter was wounded and never recovered.

I remember a steamy summer night at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport, when there was a rumor Carter would make a stop here on a national listening tour.  The airport was packed until almost midnight.  We then realized Carter was going elsewhere.

Election night, in November of 1980 had zero suspense.  Ronald Reagan was declared winner by 8:15 PM.  Say what you want about Reagan's policies, but he did get the country feeling good about itself again, and that was a major accomplishment.

Jimmy Carter went on to be a better ex-president than president.  Saying he's one of the most respected people in the country would not be a stretch.  He's still out there, at the age of 88, trying to make the world a better place.