Friday, April 18, 2008

Personal Asides: Note to Dan Kelley Un-garbled and Extended…The Worst Ex-President, Jimmy Carter: III and Conclusion.


Un-Garbled and Extended.

Yesterday’s response to faithful and astute contributor to this website and The Observer Dan Kelley came through garbled for much of the day--so I rewrite—and enlarge it—here. There were two appointments to the U. S. Senate by two different Minnesota governors in the space of slightly over a year. First, in 1977, DFL Governor Wendell Anderson cut a deal with his DFL lieutenant governor, a dentist named Rudy Perpich, pronounced per-pitch (who had a sister Stella I dated several times, telling her with a subtle play on her surname to demonstrate my drawing room sense of sophisticated humor: “I am taking you out on Per-pitch!” She was so unimpressed that soon I wasn’t taking her out at all on per-pitch or not, which was the last time I tried to make fun of a girl’s name).

Anyhow, Anderson resigned as governor and Perpich, ascending to the governor’s job, named Anderson to the U. S. Senate to replace Walter Mondale who had been elected vice president. That was one senatorial appointment. There was a great deal of heat regarding that appointment with Minnesotans resenting the musical chairs aspect. Anderson planned to run for election in 1978.

The second senatorial appointment came in 1978. That year, Hubert Humphrey died and Gov. Rudy Perpich named Muriel, Hubert’s wife, to the Senate. She had told DFL leaders she would not run for election which would be held in 1978, the understanding being that she was keeping the seat warm for her son, Hubert H. III (Skip), a state senator.. Result: two Senate seats were up in the same year.

But the outcry among Minnesotans was so great on the DFL musical chairs game that in 1978 in the state there was a clean statewide Republican sweep. Republican Rudy Boschwitz defeated Wendell Anderson and Republican Dave Durenberger (the son of the athletic director at St. John’s) whom I always felt was a jerk-of-all-jerks (but success-worshipers always told me I was wrong), was elected to the Humphrey seat defeating multi-millionaire Bob Short. Not only that but Gov. Perpich was defeated by my old boss, Republican Al Quie for a net gain of three Republican seats (one governor, two senators).

A follow-up: Durenberger went on to win a full term in 1982, defeating Mark Dayton, a multi-millionaire heir to the Dayton department store fortune—and in 1988 defeated Skip Humphrey, a former AG who, despite his legendary name in Minnesota turned out to be a very-very small chip off the old block. Durenberger became chairman of Senate Intelligence and was a regular staple of news in Washington as people told me: nyaa-nyaa, see? You said he was a jerk-of-all-jerks!

Why did I think this way about him? When I and my colleague staffers worked for the Republican governor, the multi-millionaire self-made owner of the H.B. Fuller industrial adhesive company in St. Paul, who lost by 91 votes out of 1,250,000 cast I and those of my ilk on his staff worked from 7 a.m. to at least 11:30 p.m. every night. After he lost and staffers like me were ready to be carried out under complete exhaustion, he told us:

You have all done an outstanding job. Now the best of luck on finding a job in the private sector.

We—all of us—did, I locating a good one at Quaker Oats which made me thank the lucky stars that we lost the governorship when we did, so I could get out of the government and secure a foothold at a reasonably early age (36) in a good corporation. But our former chief of staff was out of work for a year. And when our old ex-governor boss whom we served so faithfully returned to his executive suite at the glue company, did he pick up the phone and offer any of his haggard, exhausted ex-governor office staffers to be helpful, using his name as recommendation for a job. Nope. He said this to all of us: I believe you should do what I did—get a job on your own. He didn’t deny that if we wanted to use his name as reference he would agree to it—but lifting the phone from the cradle and calling around to his fellow CEOs when we were out of work? Nope. I’m happy to say I got my job at Quaker on my own…although after I found it, he did vouch that I served him well and was sober, all that good stuff.

Instead, he thrilled us by informing us he had found a brilliant young man…and matinee idol handsome, too…to be his general counsel at his glue company whom he paid a luxuriant salary: Dave Durenberger. It took no time at all to discover what he paid Durenberger and Durenberger took no time at all in—at reunions—giving us a condescending pat on our backs. “You guys really worked in the trenches,” he said to all of us. “I envy you! But then I was in law school.” While we were getting a late start in our private sector jobs following a paper-thin defeat for reelection, he was earning big bucks at the glue company—more dough than any of us ex-staffers were getting--our ex-boss was nurturing David’s political career and setting him up for national attention—pushing him forward to run for the U.S. Senate.

“What do you think of Dave?” my ex-boss ex-governor said to me once when I stopped in St. Paul. Then without waiting for the answer;

“Ah, it is so good to finally—finally—find a young man of talent, handsomeness, firmness of character whom I can hire and push along to what I hope will be a rewarding career in politics.”

“Jealousy!” my wife said to me. “That’s all it is! You hate Durenberger because he is the favored one when all of you guys wanted to be. Remember that the next time you go to confession!”

It so happened I didn’t.

But she was very true. Very prescient.

Onward and upward he went as all of us former gubernatorial staffers watched, rubbed on political scabs, and gnawed our fists in envy, saying he’s a jerk of jerks. Ah but the scenario the media spun was so tender. Here was an earnest young man with the finely chiseled profile of John Barrymore who worked as a highly socially conscious top aide of a fine former governor.

He became a senator, then a leading U.S. senator and a prospective (maybe, who knew?) even presidential possibility. I prayed: God, take me early—before the presidential boom starts.

Well, while Dave’s career boomed, all of us ex-staffers began to make out in the private sector pretty well. None of us would be national public figures but we had good jobs, bought good houses, were able to send our kids to college. Once in a while we’d look back over our shoulders at Dave but--.

Then we all became instantly ecstatic. It was discovered that Sen. Durenberger, he who was chairman of Senate Intelligence, no less, was conducting a virtual in-public love affair with a woman not his wife and getting caught up in ethical mishandling of public funds leading to a signal achievement: for which he apologized to the Senate and to the nation, following which he was still denounced unanimously by the entire Senate in formal resolution, whereupon he wisely determined not to run again.

Then I felt guilty. So the next time I went to confession I confessed (a) my anger at Dave’s success, (b) my joy at Dave’s debacle and (c) my guilt at savoring his destruction.

I got a good Dutch uncle talking to and three Hail Marys.

“I think I will call up Elmer,” said I to my wife, referring to my ex-boss and former governor, “and give my condolence to the fact, having thought he found a young man of talent, handsomeness, firmness of character, he must now be disappointed—so I will console him.”

You still have not learned, she said. You will NOT. You have not learned anything from your shameless schadenfreude.

I was only kidding.

I don’t think so, she said.

All right—but anyhow I don’t feel bitter about Dave Durenberger any more.

Quie, my old boss during the early years when he served in the U.S. House, completed only one term as governor, declining not to run again for the very good reason that he came into office pledging no tax increases, discovered that, in his estimation, he couldn’t balance the budget without one unless he were to cut services to the bone. This he explained to the people who beat him up anyhow so he prudently determined to keep it at one term, never acknowledging that his reason was he knew full-well he would be defeated.

And to round out the merry-go-round aspect, he was succeeded by—guess? DFLer Rudy Perpich, outliving his unpopularity, making a comeback.

You see what happens when I get started, Dan?

The Worst Ex-President: III.

We return to the story of little Jimmy Carter, feeling neglected by posterity because of a disastrous presidency where he was unceremoniously turned out by…ugh…Ronald Reagan—so he decided to play off the Nobel Prize people’s dislike of Israel by laving it up with the Palestinians and intruding himself on the Middle East peace process. Invading the Middle East he gave the PLO a man-hug, despite the fact that it tried to scuttle Carter’s Camp David agreement. He bought entirely Arafat’s denial that he wished to drive Israel into the sea despite the words of the PLO covenant.

Then Carter volunteered to become a ghostwriter for Arafat, drafting on his lap-top the strategy and wording for a speech Arafat would deliver. And Carter did a whole lot of chores for the PLO, seeing all the while that his good works get reported to the Nobel people. For instance, in 1990 when Arafat supported Saddam Hussein’s takeover of Kuwait and Saudi Arabia cutr off the money spigot for the PLO, Carter appealed to the Saudis to turn the money valve on again. A biographer, an historian, Douglas Brinkley by name (no he’s not David Brinkley’s son, that is another historian, Alan) wrote in his puff biography of Carter, he had a fondness for Arafat and the Palestinians, a “fondness…that transcended politics, based on their emotional connection and the shared belief that they were both ordained to be peacemakers by God.” This included his praise for the Saudi royal family for “preserving the proper degree of religious commitment” in their country…not mentioning the fact that bibles are sometimes confiscated at the border along with Jews.

On and on in his books and interviews throughout the years Carter continued to woo the Nobel people. He wrote and would say often that Israel’s plans to divert water from the Jordan and Sea of Galilee led to the founding of the PLO in 1964. Not so. It started when the Arab states turned thumbs down on a U.S. plan for distribution of the water because “it would allow the Zionists to consolidate their existence.” Israel got U.S. approval to divert a small amount; the Arabs fought back by diverting water upstream from Israel—and by forming the PLO as a guerrilla movement.

In his public pronouncements with an eye cast on the Nobel people, Carter would say statements like this: “One of the vulnerabilities of Israel—and a potential cause of violence—is its holding of prisoners.” The prisoners were terrorists: rather like saying the U. S. is losing the war of ideas by holding prisoners. He would say: “Palestinian leaders unequivocally accepted” the Bush administration’s road map but “Israel has officially rejected its key provisions with unacceptable caveats and prerequisites.” What were they? Oh, just that Palestinians declare an end to violence and terrorism “and undertake visible efforts on the ground to arrest, disrupt and restrain individuals and groups conducting and planning violent attacks on Israelis.” Well, all this work paid off in 2002 when he won the prize.

Look, the Israelis aren’t angels and by fighting back engage in death and destruction as their mortars that fell yesterday killed some innocent civilians including a 23-year-old non-American, independent TV photographer…but Carter is uniquely one-sided—and finds that liberal popular favor is with the Palestinians. So when Hamas was founded to upstage the PLO, Carter unsurprisingly finds peaceful purposes with it, writing in his latest treatise, “Hamas would modify its rejection of Israel if there is a negotiated settlement that Palestinians would approve.” And, he continues, “Hamas has meticulously observed a cease-fire commitment and since August of 2004 it has not committed a single act of terrorism that has cost an Israeli life.” See—that is even worse than shilling for its official p. r. office since Hamas announces its operations on its websites. In the same time frame that Carter maintains Hamas is death-free, Hamas claims responsibility for fifteen attacks that killed 26 Israelis including two children and eleven other civilians as well as thirteen soldiers.

What is the reason for Carter’s animus of Israel? Certainly at the outset, it seems to have been the desire for the Nobel Prize. The online journal “Front Page” lists the millions of dollars his Carter Center gets from Saudi Arabia and other Arab states—but mainly the anti-Israel view fits conventional leftist Third World ideology which he has increasingly become closer to. He ridicules Israel’s anti-terrorist wall as the “segregation barrier” and “imprisonment wall.” He writes, “The wall ravages many places along its devious route that are important to Christians. In addition to enclosing Bethlehem in one of its most notable intrusions, an especially heartbreaking division is on the southern slope of the Mount of Olives, a favorite place for Jesus and his disciples.”

He moves to seemingly embrace the age-old canard about the media run by Jews that follows one line—pro-Israel. That was the old rumble many years ago, and still current, by the Paleolithic right…but not valid now. While assuredly there are many Jews in the media, the interesting thing is that mainstream media are more likely to take Carter’s position on the Middle East than Israel’s. Carter writes, almost conspiratorially, “Because of powerful political economic and religious forces in the United States, Israeli government decisions are rarely question ed or condemned [and] voices from Jerusalem dominate in our media.” This sounds like Ron Paul and his breed. Where are the “voices from Jerusalem”? The nation’s most prestigious newspaper is The New York Times, run by the Sulzberger family—and if you think they represent “voices from Jerusalem” you have another think coming. The paper is consistent in taking positions antithetical to Israel. Is he talking about the Christian Right? Nobody accuses it of dominating the media. When he pushed the so-called Geneva Accord, an independent plan for Israel-Palestinian settlement in which he was involved, The Times hailed it as “truly momentous” and other mainstream news sources—NBC, ABC, CBS, the Washington Post, Los Angeles Times and others agreed.

It is clear that the Carter expedition to Hamas and his running interference with Republican and Democratic presidents is a driven effort to become a martyr and further impress his Nobel Prize friends. Martyrdom? When Brandeis University invited him to debate Alan Dershowitz he was offended with the university turned down his demand that it send a private plane to address the university—and in addition, host him for a speech alone, without Dershowitz. After it rejected the idea, he said “Muy most troubling experience has been the rejection of my offers to speak, for free, about my book on university campuses with high Jewish enrollments.”

Embittered despite his collection of awards, Carter is quickly gaining the same eccentric reputation of the rogue Archbishop of Canterbury—regarded as a strange fixture in American political life…a failed president for all the good the Camp David Accord attained…and indisputably the worst ex-president in American history.


  1. You are quite right, however, as I was the one who mixed up the timing of the gubernatorial resignation and the US Senate appointments. It is nonetheless a remarkable story and another example of how fluid politics can be in Minnesota (unlike here in the Land of Lincoln). If the voting public in Minnesota is offended, the rascals will be turned out of office in a collective knee jerk reaction. The election of Governor Arne Carlson (R) is another amazing story.

    The state bird of Minnesota (and the national bird symbol for Canada) is the loon. Maybe for good reason!

  2. First let me tell you how much I enjoy your website. It' on my favorites and I saved it for last so I can take time to read it. We retired and moved to Tucson five years ago,state politics here are akin to high school student council in Illinois.
    Don't be so hard on Mr. Peanut,remember if it were not for his naivete the Soviet Union would have never expanded militarily beyond their economy.

  3. As opposed to Mr. Earl, I suffered the last three days reading of this buck-toothed weasel Carter.

    How about a series on Presidents that either were not professional pols, did not actively seek office, and or were "fish out of water" on the job?

    P.S. More Flashback too, please!

  4. Well, why don't you just lose the will to live? It's a free country.