Thursday, April 17, 2008
Personal Aside: A Reaffirmation, a Correction and a Justification The Worst Ex-President, Jimmy Carter: II.
Our good friend and excellent contributor to this website and the Observer, Daniel Kelley suggests that I am wrong in reporting that Muriel Humphrey was appointed to Huberts senatorial seat by Minnesota Gov. Rudy Perpich.
Where I was grievously wrong yesterday has been pointed out by Bookworm. I should never write this stuff after midnight when I am rushing to go to bed. I mentioned that Andrew Johnson was the only president to serve in the Congress following the expiration of his term. Stupidand I knew better because in the `50s as a congressional aide, I was often a guide for Minnesota tourists visiting Statuary Hall (the first site of the House in the present Capitol building). And as I mentioned to them many times, the 6th president, John Quincy Adams, served in the House from Massachusetts and made quite a distinguished record there, serving for 17 years, fighting the gag rule which prevented debate on slavery from being discussed, winning the fight at last in 1844 when the House relented and repealed the gag rule. His role as congressman was far more valiant than his presidencyor his earlier role as U. S. Senator from Massachusetts preceding his White House service when he served as a Federalist but supported Tom Jefferson. As a Whig House member he was often in the minority in his party, supporting the Bank of the United States, opposing the Mexican war and opposed the annexation of Texas. Presciently he led the fight against heavy odds to accept a $500,000 donation from England for creation of a museum which nativists of his own party opposed initiating the Smithsonian Institution. All these things were part of my spiel to visiting firemen.
In fact I would point out the exact spot where Adams desk was located on the Whig side of the aisle (at that time House members had desks). The old man (called Old Man Eloquent) by his admirers, would hunch over his desk deep in thought. Everyone thought he was concentrating until they found out why. The arc ceiling in the chamber was in fact a voice tunnel that carried the whispers of Democratic House members from across the room. Their secret consultations were heard by Adams which was the reason he was hunched over, trying to listen.
In proof I would ask tourists to stand where Adams desk had been located, lower their heads and concentrate. Then I would go over to what had been the Democratic side, bend down and whisper very quietly, Minnesota, Hats Off to Thee! They would hear it clearly.
On February 21, 1848 after pronouncing a very loud No! on a measure to decorate several generals serving in the Mexican War (which war he strongly opposed), Adams slumped over his desk, suffering a major stroke. He was attended by five doctors, four of whom were serving in the House. He was carried to the Clerks office adjoining the floor where he slipped into a coma. He was removed to a hospital where he died two days later. I thank Bookworm for correcting this glaring example of my ineptitude for which I am embarrassed.
and a Justification.
In answer to Daniel Arquilla who suggests that the worst ex-president should be John Tyler of Virginia, let me say he has a point which I considered but rejectedhowever men of good will can disagree. Arquilla evidently assumes that Tyler, the 10th president, was disloyal to the country following his White House service. Two points:
1. I have always given John Tyler more credit and aver he was not
disloyal. Why do I say that? As ex-president, on the eve of the Civil War, in February, 1861 he led a delegation of 21 states to Washington, convening a congregation that sought to mediate the differences and avoid civil war. Ive always felt good about Tyler for this. He became quite unpopular in Virginia by doing this but he risked all to make a last stab for peace. The peace mission was a very noble attempt but failed. I have always acknowledged that Tylers support of secession was reasonable. Why?
When the constitution was ratified three states made it clear that they would not sign the document unless states reserved the right to withdraw and wrote that provision into their ratifications of the constitution Virginia, Rhode Island and New York. I have long argued that what we call the Civil War was not a Civil War but the War Between the States because the rebelling states did not want to take over the country but be independentand certain articles written by some of the founders, i.e. Hamilton, allowed that they could secede. I am a Lincoln fan because I think he did the prudent and pragmatic thing by opposing secessionbut dont ask me to support him on logic alone. After all, Lincoln was a nationalist and a creature of his age. We know that he did not declare war because of slavery. He did it as a nationalist and I am happy he saved the Union. But lets not cede to him the legal purity of the argument.
That is why I am not prepared to say that John Tyler was disloyal, a traitor or the worst ex-president. Not at all. Virginia was one of those states that included the secession provision in its ratification. Assuredly, after his peace effort failed, he did urge Virginia to secede citing the original compact that Virginias founders had included. Virginia, after all, was one of the mother states, the home of Jefferson, Washington and Madison so it has always stayed with me that since the secession language was contained therein and evidently approved by them, seceding was not an act of treason or disloyaltywhich spares Tyler from that onus, I believe.
Nor is Tylers connection with Virginia, one of the states to insert the provision, the only reason his view does not brand him disloyal or treasonous. Former president and strong abolitionist John Quincy Adams had this to say on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Constitution and bear with this very long sentence:
The indissoluble link of union between the people of the several states of this confederated nation, is, after all, not in the right but the heart. If the day should ever comemay Heaven avert itwhen the affections of the people of those States shall be alienated from each other; when the fraternal spirit shall give way to cold indifference or collision of interests shall fester into hatred, the bands of political associations will not long hold together parties no longer attracted by the magnetism of conciliated interests and kindly sympathies; and far better will it be for the disunited states to part in friendship from each other than to be held together by constraint.
On Daniels second point, that Tyler was elected to the House of Representatives of the Confederacy, I am prepared to concedebut he died before he could serve, on January 18, 1862 at the Exchange Hotel in Richmond as Representative-elect at age 71 prior to his being sworn in. He was a member of the Provisional Congress of the Confederacy before that but this was a kind of ad hoc governance.
The Worst Ex-President, Jimmy Carter: II.
Yesterday we talked about Jimmys botching up negotiations with North Korea, having intruded himself into negotiations by bludgeoning the Clinton administration, publicizing himself on television as the architect of a deal he called the Agreed Framework under which the North asserted that it sought nuclear energy only for the purpose of generating electricity. Working in secret it kept on researching the nuclear bomb which was suspected all along but formally discovered under the George W. Bush administrationwhereupon Carter wrote an article for The New York Times that blamed North Korea not at all but leveled blame solely on the United States for branding North Korea as part of an axis of evil. The article which gave aid and comfort to North Korea was a despicable act by a despicable little man.
What Carters egocentric intrusion did was worsen the problem. In 1994 a military attack on North Korea might have been prudent. Now a strike against its facilities would be infinitely more perilous. So thank you, Jimmy.
Now Carter turned his attention to the Middle East. Egypts President Anwar el Sadat made a remarkable peace journey to Israel in 1977 which set the tone. At first Carter responded coldly to the gesture but then he resolved to take advantage of it. Calling both side together for 13 days in 1978. he made a noteworthy accomplishment at Camp David getting Sadat and Israels Menachem Begin to agree on several fundamentals that led to the 1979 Israel-Egypt peace treaty including framework for negotiations to set a self-governing authority on the West Bank and Gaza Strip with Egypt regaining the Sinai. But as with all international agreements with which the U.S. has been involved since the end of World War II, this was greased by American money, a mixture of grants and packages, Egypt to receive $1.3 billion annually which it used to modernize its army (replacing the earlier subsidies from the USSR) and Israel getting $3 billion a year in grants and military aid. It was not such a good deal for Sadat who though a hero in Egypt for regaining the Sinai saw Egypt expelled from the Arab League as result of his trip to Israel ending with turmoil at home, riots and his eventual assassination.
As a private citizen and in quest of the Nobel Prize for Peace to rehabilitate his deep unpopularity and reputation as a failed president, Carter wrote two books on the Middle Eastthe first The Blood of Abraham (1985) which was a mild snoozer followed by a second written in more dramatic and draconian terms, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid. In the second he lavished great praise on Arab leadership. Carter may have been impractical as a president, prone to be gulled by the Soviets, but in the quest for his reputations enhancement he is a canny politician. The Nobel Prize people are notable for animosity to Israel and warmth to Palestinian insurgents. Therefore he praised all Arab leadership in the book and accepted at face value Yasir Arafats statement made to him in 1990 that The PLO has never advocated the annihilation of Israel. The Zionists started the drive the Jews into the sea slogan and attributed it to the PLO.
Carter gives this as gospel despite the fact that the covenant of the PLO pledges the Palestinian Arab people reject all alternatives to the total liberation of Palestine. Total liberation. Not a peep out of Jimmy. And there were other skewed circumstances which showed he was angling for the prize so needed to rehab his reputation, understanding that to gain it hed have to come down on the Arab side to have any chance of winning it at all. More tomorrow.