February 17, 2005
WAR: Meeting With The Enemy
It's time for another episode of "let's make an important distinction here."
Matt Yglesias continues to argue that the Powerline guys are way, way out of line to say that Jimmy Carter is "on the other side," contending that this "What's being elided here is the all-important distinction between political disagreement and warfare." Naturally, Atrios and Kevin Drum agree.
Powerline clarifies the charge here with a discussion of Carter's meetings with the Soviet foreign minister, expanding on John Hinderaker's original post containing the original attack on Carter. Jon Henke thinks Powerline goes too far, but nonetheless offers additional supporting examples, including an unnamed Clinton Cabinet member calling Carter a "treasonous prick" over his meetings with the North Korean leadership.
I'm mostly with Henke here - I don't think Carter actually wants to bring about harm to the United States, but I do think that his activities since leaving office have gone well beyond what you could fairly characterize as just "political disagreement." Carter may not be on the other side, but he has repeatedly and consistently shown up to offer his help to the other side in such a broad variety of international controversies that you can't help but wonder what on earth the man does think he's doing.
There's a critical distinction here that the critics on the Left, most notably Yglesias - who's posted on this three times now without addressing the distinction - need to grapple with. And that is this: giving speeches and the like here at home is, indeed, just "political disagreement." It may help us or it may hurt us, but it is just speech. But that's not what Hinderaker is talking about, although you'd never know from reading Yglesias. What he's talking about is traveling around the world, meeting with foreign leaders and taking positions contrary to those of the United States or rendering assistance directly to hostile forces and regimes.
This is, of course, a recurring theme in conservative criticisms of a number of liberals - besides Carter's many trips, prominent examples include John Kerry's famous meeting with the North Vietnamese and the trip Kerry and Tom Harkin took to meet with Daniel Ortega in the 1980s. Jesse Jackson is also a master at this. To say nothing of Jane Fonda and Ramsey Clark. (I can't think offhand of conservative examples of the same; I'm sure you can find some, but the practice has been far more pervasive on the Left, and not only because we've had mostly Republican presidents since the dawn of the modern Left in 1968). Time and again, whether they be legislators, state officials, ex-leaders, or private citizens, we've seen the spectacle of people on the Left sitting down with hostile heads of state and assuring them that the United States does not present a united front against them. They, in turn, often use such meetings for propaganda purposes, including for the purpose of telling their own people that the United States is not going to help them.
This is just wrong; you may disagree with the Commander-in-Chief, but you don't run around the world undermining him in front of our enemies. Other than Clark - who is very deeply on the other side and should have been prosecuted for treason for his visit to North Vietnam in 1971, saving us the spectacle of him offering legal aid to Saddam Hussein - Carter is the single worst offender on this score, and he does deserve a much greater degree of criticism for these persistent displays of what you can't help but call disloyalty than the average "dissenter."
Why does Carter do these things? He must understand, or at least believe, that he has some influence, some ability to alter the outcome of international controversies by actively intervening in them. When he does, he almost always takes a position that undermines or actively opposes the position taken by the duly elected chief executive of the United States. Does Yglesias care to explain why this practice is just "political disagreement"? Does anyone? If not, Yglesias shouldn't be so quick to jump on the critics of a practice he himself considers indefensible.
If you can tolerate a few more of the sordid details of Carter's transgressions against loyalty - not an exhaustive account, to be sure - try the Jay Nordlinger article here:
For years, Carter has been a thorn in the side of presidents, acting as a kind of "anti-president," as Lance Morrow once put it in an essay for Time. You recall how Carter irked Clinton on Haiti and North Korea. His low moment, however, came during the run-up to the [first] Gulf War, when he wrote members of the U.N. Security Council - including Mitterrand's France and Communist China - urging them to thwart the Bush administration's effort. Our government found out about it when the Canadian prime minister, Brian Mulroney, called the defense secretary, Dick Cheney, and said, "What the . . .?"
Then there's billionaire terrorist Yasser Arafat (as Nordlinger notes, "Arabs are heavy-duty funders of the Carter Center, and they get a lot for their money"):
After the Gulf War, Saudi Arabia was mad at Arafat, because the PLO chief had sided with Saddam Hussein. So Arafat asked Carter to fly to Riyadh to smooth things over with the princes and restore Saudi funding to him - which Carter did.
At their first meeting - in 1990 - Carter boasted of his toughness toward Israel, assuring Arafat at one point, ". . . you should not be concerned that I am biased. I am much more harsh with the Israelis." Arafat, for his part, railed against the Reagan administration and its alleged "betrayals." Rosalynn Carter, taking notes for her husband, interjected, "You don't have to convince us!" Brinkley records that this "elicited gales of laughter all round." Carter himself, according to Brinkley, "agreed that the Reagan administration was not renowned as promise keepers" (this, to Arafat).
After Carter had that first meeting with Arafat, he went home and promptly served the PLO head as PR adviser and speechwriter. What do I mean? Listen to Brinkley: "On May 24 Carter drafted on his home computer the strategy and wording for a generic speech Arafat was to deliver soon for Western ears . . ." Said Carter, "The audience is not the Security Council, but the world community. The objective of the speech should be to secure maximum sympathy and support of other world leaders . . . The Likud leaders are now on the defensive, and must not be given any excuse for continuing their present abusive policies."
There's Carter sucking up to dictators:
While in office, Carter hailed Yugoslavia's Tito as "a man who believes in human rights." He said of Romania's barbaric Ceausescu and himself, "Our goals are the same: to have a just system of economics and politics . . . We believe in enhancing human rights." While out of office, Carter has praised Syria's late Assad (killer of at least 20,000 in Hama) and the Ethiopian tyrant Mengistu (killer of many more than that). In Haiti, he told the dictator Cédras that he was "ashamed of what my country has done to your country."
He did even better in North Korea, singing praises to Kim Il Sung, one of the most complete and destructive dictators in history. . . . Said Carter of the "Great Leader," "I find him to be vigorous, intelligent, surprisingly well informed about the technical issues, and in charge of the decisions about this country" . . . He said, "I don't see that they [the North Koreans] are an outlaw nation." Pyongyang, he observed, was a "bustling city," where shoppers "pack the department stores," reminding him of the "Wal-Mart in Americus, Georgia."
(More Nordlinger on Carter here).
Great post as usual, Crank. And I think this --
Time and again, whether they be legislators, state officials, ex-leaders, or private citizens, we've seen the spectacle of people on the Left sitting down with hostile heads of state and assuring them that the United States does not present a united front against them.
-- explains perfectly the rumblings one hears from time to time about Bill Clinton as a possible future U.N. Secretary General.
Very well written, Crank. I find myself very much in agreement with you.
Is it only because he was shaking hands with a war criminal as a representative of the US government that Rumsfeld meeting Saddam isn't an instance?
So, it is people on the outside of the Democratic establishment making these trips, and Republicans doing it as a matter of national policy.
You know, I thought somebody might mention Rumsfeld. No, that's like Nixon meeting Mao or FDR meeting Stalin or Reagan meeting Grobachev: there's nothing disloyal about sitting down with the bad guys if you're representing the government and trying to cut a deal of some sort with them. The deal itself, or even the idea of doing one, might be a lousy idea on its own merits, as many of Carter's were while in the White House, but it's not at all the same thing as undermining the government's efforts to pursue its chosen policies.
So, if Carter criticizes the administration's North Korea policy in Pyongyang, wingers legitimately get to blow a gasket because he's "helping the other side."
But you're reasonable, you say -- if he'd only stayed in Atlanta to criticize the administration, that would be mere "political disagreement," and your gaskets would remain unblown.
So it's not what he says, it's where he says it. Just like it wasn't about the sex, it was about the lying.
Nonsense. Wingers would have questioned Carter's loyalty and patriotism regardless. That's what you pay David Horowitz, Michael Savage, Ann Coulter, and Rush Limbaugh good money for.
So distinctions don't matter, eh, "social democrat?" Mighty convenient bit of reasoning, that.
Arguing over something at home is simply not the same thing as overtly acting to subvert the government's foreign policy abroad. Carter has done this not just to Republican presidents but also regularly did it to the Clinton administration.
Just like it wasn't about the sex, it was about the lying.
If you do a quick check on the articles of impeachment, you'll find that they weren't because of sex.
BTW, you forgot the obstruction.
This is what upsets me. There is no political dialogue anymore, just name-calling and jockeying for advantage.
Look, Carter is a misty-eyed peacenik dreaming of a chapter in history as a successful peacemaker to overcome the chapter on the abject failure of his presidency; but he is not treasonous. Foreign leaders are no dummies. They know that when Carter meets with them he his not speaking for the US government. He cannot deliver on any concessions he makes to them. Let him do his thing. He is only hurting himself by looking like, what he is, a naive buffoon.
As for Clinton, both he and his wife have been very supportive of the administration, much to the surprise of a lot of people. It would be awkward for the US if he became UN Secretary-General; but ultimately he would be just as ineffective as all the rest of them. Without agreement on the Security Council, the UN is just an empty talking shop where dictators can strut their stuff. If Hilary doesn't run, the UN could do worse in picking a SG. Bill Clinton might even engage in a few Sister Soulja moments with them. Now wouldn't that be fun.
I remember a show Rosalynn Carter was on, I think less than a year after Reagan took office. Someone asked her about the release of the hostages by Iran, and she looked like she was about to blow a gasket. Her comments boiled down to "Jimmy could have gotten them freed by dropping some bombs and blowing some things up, but he chose to act in the RIGHT way!"
The thought of those people being held for so long because Jimmeh chose to act in the "RIGHT" way makes my head hurt.
So would Carter rank up there with the likes of, say, Ollie North, Ed Meese, George HW Bush and Ronald Reagan? They, after all, perpetrated Iran-Contra which was the direct selling of arms to a terrorist nation (that would be Iran), taking the profits from the sale (over $6,000,000 worth) and funneling them to the Nicaraguan Contras for their more than highly dubious revolution. Congress had passed a law that made it illegal to fund or in anyway aid the Contras so this action was in direct opposition to government policy. Iran-Contra was also far more extensive than this and without getting into all the details suffice it to say every single action undertaken was in direct opposition to American policy (not to mention a subversion of the Constitution).
Now all you Righties love to call Ollie an American hero and all the kind of jive but he and his band were and are criminals. What they did was illegal and led to shockingly gruesome crimes against humanity in Latin America. You can jump on Jimmy Carter's back if you would like (and certainly Jesse J. would do pretty much anything if it would get him some coverage...and funding) but if you want to play in the big leagues of dissenters and those providing aid to enemies abroad you should look at the guys on your own team.
Where would Dick Cheney run Halliburton fall in this as well? Halliburton sold goods and services (and we ain't talking about canned food and roto-rooting) to Syria, Iraq, Iran and Lebanon while all were under US imposed sanctions. A big part of the "Food for Oil" scandal is Halliburton (or subsidiaries there-of).
What kind of assistance has Carter rendered to countries that would compare with this? Am I saying that what he has done has been 100% above board? No, but clearly if this or previous administrations had truly thought that what Carter was doing was a huge threat to American policy they easily could have pulled his visa or in other ways prevented him from making these trips. As a previous post said how seriously do you think foreign administrations take a guy 25 years removed from office that has essentially no political power or influence now and spends a great deal of his time with Habitat for Humanity?
Jimbo, your point seems to be that Carter is acting foolishly, but not treasonously. That was largely the Crank's point, and therefore you seem to agree.
Your point of disagreement seems to be whether or not Carter is harming American interests by his foolish actions. In this day and age, in which world perceptions of unity and conviction are so criticial, I absolutely think he is causing harm. Of course he doesn't represent the government, but he does (purport to) represent a sizeable portion of the American public, and like the Crank says, if he didn't think he had influence on the wor'ds view of that public, why would he exert so much effort? I fear that his actions suggest to our enemies that the voting public can be reached by end-run around the government. Spain's was, after all. Are we similarly manipulable? Perhaps, because if a former President is willing to work openly against the constitutional government of the US, presumably so are many others.
Again, few are saying Carter should face charges. I'm not saying Carter is acting illegally, I say he is acting IMPROPERLY. (And let's just preemptively get this out there: I am not violating, abridging or "chilling" anyone's First Amendment rights, I am simply exercising mine. The First Amendment doesn't protect anyone from criticism. The very idea is so illogical that it would be laughable, if it weren't invoked so often.)
I simply long for the day when politics ended at the shoreline. Even liberal deity FDR believed in this concept. But, of course, Carter is no FDR.
Jim - I'm not going to get sucked into a long discussion of Iran-Contra here except to say that it's a non sequitur to compare Carter's acts, out of office, to undermine US policy to things done by a sitting Administration. You are comparing apples and oranges.
Seems that is avoidance behavior. This was not a sitting administration in the true sense of the word. Ollie North held no official office and the whole operation was run in complete secret. It is far, far worse than any of Carter's actions. You also fail to mention Cheney's company prior to his appointment to VP when they clearly operated against government policy. You can say its apples to oranges but only seemingly only because North, Cheney, et. al. operated with the approval or tacit approval of the President even though the actions were against the exressed and explicit policies of the government as a whole. If you want to call Carter a dissenter and a potential threat to the way our government operates and a giver of aid to enemies abroad you have to open the discussion to the whole spectrum.
Actually, the Iran-Contra comparison is obvious -- I'm sure the first thing many of us thought when we read the article. Thanks for pointing it out, Jim. Of course, Ollie North is a hero to all red-blooded Americans so lets not waste any time comparing apples and oranges.
Sometimes it is so hard to tell if people are serious. Someone selling arms illegally to a terrorist nation that had only recently seen the deaths of 247 Americans and then turning the extra cash around to sponsor an illegal covert war in which thousands of people were bruatally maimed and murdered (I won't even go into the cocaine) is an American hero? Can you identify a reason why he is good but Carter is bad?
Can you identify a reason why Lynne Stewart is good but George Bush is bad? Why Jeffrey Dahmer was good but Newt Gingrich was bad?
See my point? The fact that the North case is a totally different situation doesn't mean I'm defending him, it means you're trying to change the subject.
Your piece is about dissidence against the government. I have brought up 2 examples of dissidence against the government. While I can see a Righty reluctance to talk about Iran-Contra that does not make it relevant to a discussion on the topic. Even if you would like to avoid that subject the topic of Dick Cheney's wheelings and dealings with terrorist countries that had sanctions levied against them. While I would not bet against Newt Gingrich having chopped up people and put them in his freezer for future consumption no one has shown that he has actually gone that far. The only distinction you draw between Carter and Iran-Contra is that Carter is out of office (ahem, Cheney/Halliburton/Syria, etc.). That is a pretty big stretch between that and the Gingrich-Dahmer analogy.
Rushed last message. Add ir- to relevant in second sentance. Add "is relevant" to end of third sentance. Trying to work in one location and somewhat follow this in another.
Jimmy Carter is quite simply the worst President this country has ever had to suffer under, and on top of that he is just an "idiot" who has absolutely no common sense. My advice to the peanut farmer is to just go home and do what you do best, drive nails!
Jim, somewhere, at some time, some Republican did some thing that was in some way wrong, illegal, fraudulent, disgusting or dispicable. And with that, I'd agree with you on pointing out that they were wrong.
Now that we have the "oh yeah, well what about the Republicans?" moment - that is akin to my 7 year old getting caught with her hand in the cookie jar and having the kneejerk response to be to point out that her brother once ate a cookie out of turn - out of the way, do you have anything you'd like to add to the conversation or are you going to stick with the 6th day tactic, which can basically go on until the end of time on either side?
Actually, I think the Iran-Contra stuff wasn't exactly a shining moment in American history. I have no idea how that is supposed to relate to what Carter did, though. Are you saying Carter was involved in Iran-Contra? That would be surprising, to say the least.
The problem here is that if there is a "recurring theme in conservative criticisms of a number of liberals," it is the resort to seemingly damning paraphrase in the absence of any actually objectionable quotation.
Take this one:
At [the first meeting between Carter and Arafat] - in 1990 - Carter boasted of his toughness toward Israel[,]". . . you should not be concerned that I am biased. I am much more harsh with the Israelis." Arafat, for his part, railed against the Reagan administration and its alleged "betrayals." Rosalynn Carter [then] interjected, "You don't have to convince us!"  Carter himself, according to Brinkley, "agreed that the Reagan administration was not renowned as promise keepers" (this, to Arafat).
In other words, Carter and his wife criticize Reagan's record one year after Reagan had left office
, and this, we are told, amounts to "taking positions contrary to those of the United States or rendering assistance directly to hostile forces and regimes." Sorry--no sale.
Nor am I buying the presupposition that criticism of the express foreign policy of the United States is legitimate at home but not abroad, or legitimate abroad but only if lodged before the right kind of people. As far as I can see, the policies embedded in our First Amendment entail that at the very least all lawful speech is legitimate. (I would argue much unlawful speech is legitimate as well, but since no one is seriously accusing Carter of unlawful speech acts, I'll set that aside.)
Finally, I don't think it is at all be changing the subject to take note of the actions of conservatives like Oliver North and Dick Cheney (as one of BC's commentators does). Carter certainly has advocated positions that run counter to the express foreign policy of the United States, but that is quite different from actively circumventing its laws, as North and (arguably) Cheney have. Perhaps Carter's actions are morally blameworthy, but if conservatives' motives in criticizing him were merely about (dis)loyalty to the United States, one would think they'd have looked to their own house first.
Vince, nice effort. I am sure all the folks on your side are pleased to see such a post. When you can tell us all what an "idiot" is or even what common sense is please get back to us.
RW: When there is a big long post about the "sordid details of Carter's transgressions against liberty" I think it is worthwhile to bring to light some other examples that might provide some level of perspective. It is not a "they did it too" thing I am attempting to perpetrate. In fact, it is quite different. What I am stating is that if this is what poses a transgression against the government of the USA than perhaps we should look at some other examples of things that are ACTUALLY and FACTUALLY transgressions against the policies, positions and laws of this country.
The greatest thing about this web site (other than the baseball) is that it allows for multi-positioned/faceted debate. When BC puts up stuff bordering on alleging that JC is a criminal or acts criminally (I am not saying that BC said that but it seems a whiff away from it) there are those of us that read and post that get to chip in our 2 cents. This is mine. Perspective.
Geez, just to talk about ball for a second:
5 Greatest Left Handed Swings I Have Seen:
5) Barry Bonds (should we put an asterix here?)
4) Ben Oglive (I think)
3) David Justice
2) Ken Griffey, Jr. (back in the day)
1) Darryl Strawberry
Did you happen to catch the slow-mo of Ben Grieve during the celebrity/rookie(?) home-run hitting contest @ Coors field a few years ago?
I'd like to have seen modern day technology go after Musial, Williams & Gehrig.
The issue isn't just whether Carter has been treasonous, he has. It isn't whether he was a lousy president, he was. It isn't even a matter of whether he is anti-semetic, he obviously is more comfortable supporting people determined to exterminate the Jewish people.
The whole issue arose about naming a warship after him. Even though I spent 25 years in the Navy, I'm not as bothered by this as some others are. We have named carriers after a couple politicians (Stennis and Vinson) who had no connection to our military except voting for various spending bills. We have named submarine for fish, we have named cruisers for cities and states.
None of that matters. The crew will perform to the best of their abilities regardless what/who their ship is named for. When I was a young Sailor I wasn't motivated by the Greek god Vulcan while serving on the USS VULCAN (AR- 5). On the USS VIRGINIA (CGN 38), USS HARRY YARNELL (CG 17), USS ANZIO (CG 68), USS MOUNT WHITNEY (LCC 20), USS WASP (LHD 1), USS SAN JACINTO (CG 56) or USS THEODORE ROOSEVELT (CVN 71) I performed my best regardless of who the ship was named for. The crew of the USS JIMMY CARTER will do their best regardless of any disgust they feel with the ship's namesake.
Didn't Carter himself serve on a nuclear submarine? (ANSWER - YES.)
The 'issue' boils down to whether you believe the old dictum 'you're either for us or against us'. Or whether 'unity' is so important that visible dissent is as bad as treason. Or whether you think that the policy of the sitting administration is, de facto, identical with the interests of the US, therefore anything that differs from it is de facto against those interests.
And if you do, democracy becomes an empty farce... if the administration is de facto always right, what do we have the vote for?
Carter has always been a real piece of work. I've been intrigued by the fact that Gerald Ford was entirely graceful in defeat to Carter, while Carter was anything but after Reagan beat him. Being a small man pretending to be an important one, Carter was destined to be a meddler. Unfortunately his meddling has typically been in the service of tyrants and terrorists.
How convenient of you to "forget" about Henry Kissinger's secret Paris negotiations with North Vietnam during the middle of the Vietnam War.
This is a clear case of treason if there ever was one, yet the Right is strangely silent about it.
Just to clarify...
Exhibit A: "This is what upsets me. There is no political dialogue anymore, just name-calling and jockeying for advantage."
Exhibit B: (from same post) "Look, Carter is a misty-eyed peacenik... what he is, a naive buffoon..."
Additionally, asserting that Carter often represents or defends "the other side" is downright silly, since a significant portion of the American population actually agrees/has agreed with what he does. How is there an "other side" in this case? It's anti-democratic to identify too strongly with the interests of whoever is in control of the institution of American gov't at a particular time... I have seen the other side, and it is us.