James Earl Carter, Jr., aka Jimmy Carter [ˈd͡ʒɪmi ˈkɑɹtɚ] 1, born October 1, 1924 in Plains, Georgia, is an American statesman, 39th President of the United States from 1977 to 1981.
A naval officer then a farmer, he was elected senator in Georgia for the Democratic Party from 1963 to 1967. Jimmy Carter won the ballot for the post of governor of his state in 1971. Five years later, he narrowly beat the Republican Gerald Ford in the presidential election. His presidency is marked by the signing of the treaties on the Panama Canal, the Camp David agreements, the SALT II treaty on the limitation of strategic armaments with the Soviet Union and by the opening of diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China. . In domestic politics, his government allows the creation of the Department of Energy and the Department of Education and strengthens legislation on environmental protection. However, at the end of his term, which is interpreted as weakness on his part in crises such as those of the hostages of the American embassy in Tehran, the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan, as well as the economic consequences of the second shock. oil company and new stock market strategies sacrificing employment for profitability, are causing its popularity to fall. He was defeated by Ronald Reagan in the 1980 presidential election.
After his departure from the White House, he posed as a mediator of international conflicts and put his prestige at the service of charitable causes. In 2002, he received the Nobel Peace Prize. He also distinguished himself in political literature, being the author of numerous books. He is the oldest surviving US president and the oldest in history since March 22, 2019, when he passed George H. W. Bush.
Childhood and studies
James Earl Carter, Jr. was born October 1, 1924 in Plains, a small town in the state of Georgia. Her parents, James Earl Carter Sr. and Lillian Gordy Carter, are practicing farmers and Baptists. His father was a lieutenant in the United States Army during World War I and then opened a grocery store before being elected to the Georgia House of Representatives in 1953, the year of his death. Jimmy Carter is the first president to be born in a hospital. He grew up nearby, in the town of Archery. He was admitted to Georgia Southwestern State University and then to the Georgia Institute of Technology, and obtained the B.S. degree (Bachelor of Sciences) at the United States Naval Academy in 1946, the year he married Rosalynn Smith. Carter is a brilliant student and finished 59th in his class out of 820 students. One of his classmates is Jeremiah Denton, Vietnam war hero and prisoner of war.
Carter was posted to submarines in the Atlantic and Pacific fleets of the United States, and was later selected by Admiral Hyman Rickover to participate in the nuclear submarine program. He served as a weapons engineer specializing in the nuclear propulsion system of the Seawolf class submarines. Carter loves the Navy and plans to make a career there; he has the ambition to become the Chief of Naval Operations. He is to date the only President of the United States to have served in submarines.
However, following the death of his father in 1953, he resigned from the navy and embarked on peanut cultivation in his hometown of Plains. From a young age, Carter demonstrated his commitment to Christian values, and he continued to teach catechism throughout his political career (he was also a deacon of the Baptist Church).
Early political career (1963-1975)
Carter began his political career with the Town of Plains School Board. In 1963, he was elected to a two-year term in the Georgia State Senate, renewed in 1965. His WWII veteran cousin Hugh Alton Carter, Sr. succeeded him in 1967.
He campaigned for governor in 1970 and was elected supporting George Wallace’s electoral platform. His supporters distribute photos of his competitor in the company of black basketball players. He pledges to re-appoint to the Council of State Regents a man whose segregationist views are known. He promises that the first decision he would make would be to invite the former governor of the state of Alabama to speak in Georgia. Die-hard segregationists across the state support his bid for governor.
Nevertheless, once elected, Carter declares in his speeches that the time of racial segregation is over, and that it has no place in the future of the state. He is the first politician, with so much responsibility in a state in the South of the United States, who dares to make such remarks in public (less than fifteen years ago, this kind of opinion could have put an end to the career of a politician in this region as was the case for the mayor of Atlanta Ivan Allen (in), who declared before Congress that he was in favor of the Voting Rights Act). This is why his victory attracts attention because it is seen as a sign of evolution. Carter was governor of Georgia from 1971 to 1975.
1976 presidential election
When Carter ran in the 1976 primary election to win the Democratic Party nomination, he was initially given very little chance against other nationally recognized politicians. In January 1976, he was thus credited with only 4% of Democratic voters. However, the Watergate scandal is still on the minds of voters, and not belonging to Washington’s political class is becoming an asset. He leads an effective campaign, is eloquent during the debates. From mid-March 1976, he was ahead of other Democratic candidates (Jerry Brown, George Wallace, Mo Udall…) but also outgoing Republican President Gerald Ford in the polls. He is nominated Democratic candidate for the presidential election, with Walter Mondale as candidate for the Vice-Presidency.
He won the November presidential election with 50.1% of the popular vote against 48% for Ford and 0.9% for Eugene McCarthy (independent) and 297 votes from delegates against 240 for his Republican competitor.
The reorganization of the government is the workhorse of his campaign. He is the first candidate from the Deep South to be elected president since 1848, before the Civil War.
President of the United States (1977-1981)
Among his efforts to reorganize the government, Carter divides the Department of Health, Education and Welfare into two, the Department of Education on the one hand and the Department of Health and Welfare on the one hand. somewhere else. It also elevates the Energy Agency to the rank of Ministry of Energy.
The foreign policy led by the Carter government was marked by the hostage crisis in Iran, by the peace treaty it is negotiating between Egypt and Israel known as the Camp David Accords, by the SALT II treaty on the limitation of strategic armaments negotiated with the Soviet Union, by the Panama Canal Treaty which puts the canal back under Panamanian authority, and finally by the energy crisis. He is much less successful at the level of domestic politics, opposing both his own party and the opposition because of what is perceived as a lack of will to cooperate with Congress, which was already the case when he was governor.
In economics, Carter adopted deregulation measures, particularly in the savings bank2, air transport, road transport, natural gas and communications sectors. He is trying to contain wages, considered responsible for an inflation rate that has reached 10%. The state budget is reassessed in order to reduce social spending and, on the contrary, to increase military spending3.
On July 15, 1979, Carter addressed the entire nation in a televised speech in which he spoke of the crisis of confidence allegedly affecting the American people. These words remain known as the discourse of “unease”, although he never used the word “unease” in his text:
Extract from his speech:
“I now wish to speak to you about a fundamental threat to the democracy of our country … I am not referring to the influence exerted by America, a nation currently at peace with the rest of the world, and whose power economic and military is unmatched …
This threat is hardly noticeable by ordinary means. It is a crisis of confidence. This is a crisis that strikes the will of our nation in its very bosom, in its soul and in its spirit. We perceive this crisis because of growing doubts about the meaning of our own lives and the loss of a single purpose for our nation. ”
Carter’s speech, which some compare to a sermon, is welcomed as the country is mired in the worst recession since the 1930s, hit by record inflation rates and unemployment. But those who wait for their leaders to show them the way forward are disappointed. Two days after this speech, Carter demands the resignation of all officials in his government, but in the end only accepts five. The lack of concrete measures to get the country out of this malaise is further dropping its popularity index in the polls.
Of the presidents who served a single full four-year term, Carter is the only one who has not had to nominate Supreme Court candidates.
In 1980, he abolished state control over tariffs and licenses in the road transport sector and handed over the entire sector to the law of the market4.
Jimmy Carter puts human rights at the heart of his foreign policy, breaking with the policy of the Richard Nixon government, based on Realpolitik.
The Carter government put an end very late and after much hesitation (the assassination of an American national by the Somozist junta) to the support given by the United States for decades to the dictator Somoza in Nicaragua, an embargo on arms the Argentine military regime and granted aid of several million dollars to the Sandinista regime in 1979, after its seizure of power by arms5. It ends the support given by the United States to the dictatorship in El Salvador after the rape and murder of four American nuns by a death squad close to the regime (support will however be restored under Ronald Reagan) 6. On September 7, 1977, he signed the Torrijos-Carter treaties allowing the retrocession of the Panama Canal in 1999. In 1977 he “severely condemned the Chilean junta” and regretted the role of the United States in the 1973 overthrow of Salvador Allende.
The clash between human rights and US interests is particularly visible in the relationship between Carter and the Shah of Iran. Since World War II, the Shah has been one of the United States’s staunchest allies and one of the only governments in the Middle East that are friendly to the United States. The problem is that this regime is clearly autocratic. During his election campaign in 1976 Jimmy Carter noted that two countries pose the most problems in terms of respect for human rights: Brazil and Iran. Having become president, he was quick to retract. During a trip to Iran in 1977 he considered the Shah to be a wise and quality leader. He declares his “personal friendship” for the Shah who, according to him, enjoys “the admiration and love of his people” 7. While verbally defending the sovereign the Carter administration does not intervene when a popular uprising against the monarchy breaks out in Iran. The Shah is overthrown and forced into exile. Since then, many observers have established a causal link between the decline in US support and the Shah’s swift removal from office; some, like journalist Dominique Lorentz, even speak of the US administration’s explicit support for the 1979 Islamic revolution. Initially, Carter intended to recognize the revolutionary government, but in the face of rapidly changing circumstances, especially with the growing influence of Ayatollah Khomeini, he changes his mind.
In 1979, Carter reluctantly allowed Mohammad Reza Pahlavi to seek refuge in the United States as a political and medical refugee. The arrival of the Shah in the United States is echoed by the taking hostage of 52 Americans from the American embassy in Tehran by Iranian militants who demand the return of the Shah to Iran to be tried and executed there. This hostage crisis in Iran is bogged down and dominated the news during the last year of Carter’s presidency, although the Shah later left the United States and died in Egypt. Subsequent attempts to find a solution to this crisis, whether it be rotting or the failed attempt to free the hostages through Operation Eagle Claw, largely contributed to Carter’s defeat in the 1980 election. His greatest difficulty was to having to admit the mistake made by six presidents of the United States since 1953 in supporting the Shah’s regime. Carter is nevertheless partially rehabilitated in retrospect in this crisis through what we learn from his action in the film Argo: he would have authorized a top-secret and incredible – successful – exfiltration operation of American diplomats who had taken refuge in the embassy of Canada. Modestly, Carter nevertheless attributes the success of the operation mainly to the Canadian authorities.
Tehran did not sign an agreement until January 19, 1981 for the release of the hostages, after the election of Ronald Reagan, and waited for his official assumption of office to let the hostages go. The latter were held captive for 444 days and the Iranian attitude is seen as a willful insult to President Carter. But the new President Reagan still lets him move to welcome the hostages freed upon their exit from Iran.
Jimmy Carter saw an unidentified flying object (UFO) in 1969 and, following a request from the International UFO Bureau, completed an observation form15 in 1973, while he was governor of Georgia. Jimmy Carter’s sighting was subsequently attacked by the skeptic Robert Sheaffer16, member of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry: according to the latter, the sighting could be explained by a mistake with the planet Venus surrounded by a halo. . However, this interpretation does not explain the entire observation, especially when considering the variations in sizes and positions. Its immobility followed by a rapid evolution towards the west can in no way correspond to the signatures of a planet or a star. Jimmy Carter also compares the size of the object to the size of the Moon before undergoing a reduction and then returning to a larger size.
Some have claimed that during his presidential campaign, he promised to expose the truth about any UFO testimony that was attempted to be covered up. In a 2007 interview with The Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe17 podcast, he said there was no basis for this rumor. Moreover, contrary to what some ufologists have asserted, he never asked the director of the CIA, George H. W. Bush, to have access to the CIA files concerning UFOs18. Also in this interview, he says he does not believe that the object of his observation was related to visitors of extraterrestrial origin and clearly states that he does not believe that extraterrestrials are visiting our planet at the present time. He further explains that for him the UFO subject is not very important, that he completed without really thinking about it the three pages of the form of the International UFO Bureau, probably following the suggestion of one of his sons. then a teenager.
Controversies and media affairs
Some members of the Reagan-Bush campaign and its government (and particularly Barbara Honegger, author of October Surprise19), as well as the President of Iran in 1980 (Abu Al-Hasan Bani-Sadr, author of My Turn to Speak: Iran, the Revolution and Secret Deals With the US) declared that a secret arrangement between Reagan and the Iranians (orchestrated by George HW Bush) was responsible for destroying a pact between the Carter government and the government Iranian, which could have allowed the release of the hostages in October 1980. Reagan’s team called this scenario “October Surprise”. Anonymous sources even claim that when the United States engaged in what became the Iran-Contra (Irangate) scandal, that is, the sale of arms to Iran to wage war on Iran. Iraq, it was because of a blackmail exerted by the Iranians who threatened to expose the agreement with the Reagan administration. It is noted that none of these accusations have been proven or been the subject of an official investigation.
In 1977, Carter declared that the United States did not have to apologize to the Vietnamese people for the damage caused during the war, because both sides inflicted damage on each other.
Carter was accused of trying to hush up the events of Three Mile Island, the partial meltdown of the reactor at that nuclear power plant. He was also criticized for not having sufficiently promoted his foreign policy based on respect for human rights and in particular with regard to support for the Indonesian government even though it was implicated in a genocide during its occupation of East Timor. It was also noted that he was very discreet about the human rights situation in China, in which he saw a valuable ally in his fight against the Soviet Union. The most widespread criticism is the inconsistency of a foreign policy that he changed every six months. He did not know how to choose between the contradictory influences of his Secretary of State, drawn to dialogue with the USSR, Cyrus Vance, and his anti-Soviet adviser, Zbigniew Brzeziński.
In 1979, while Carter was fishing from his boat in his pond, a swamp rabbit swam towards his boat with the intention of getting on it. Carter evacuated the animal, waving his oar. The incident having been photographed, it became an object of hilarity against Carter accused of cowardice towards a seemingly harmless animal. The media have dubbed this episode the “Killer Rabbit Attack.”
1980 presidential election
The outgoing president is again a candidate for a second term, but, discredited, he fails to repeat the brilliant 1976 campaign. According to what the polls indicated, Ronald Reagan was elected President of the United States with 51.20 % of the vote, the outgoing president collecting 42% of the vote.
After the White House
Nobel Peace Prize (1981-2002)
After his presidential defeat, Carter did not aspire to a peaceful retirement but remained deeply involved in world affairs, becoming according to Time Magazine in 1989 the “best ex-president of the United States”. In 1982, he founded the Carter Foundation in Atlanta, whose mission was to resolve conflicts, promote democracy and aid in humanitarian development. Thus, we saw him lead election observation missions around the world (Panama, Nicaragua, Haiti, Ethiopia, Indonesia, the Palestinian territories…). The former president has mediated in many conflicts. In 1994, he defused a nuclear crisis between his country and North Korea. That same year, he avoided an armed invasion of American troops in Haiti and negotiated a ceasefire in Bosnia and Herzegovina. In Africa, it is carrying out ambitious development programs, notably with the eradication of the dangerous Guinea worm. In 2002, Jimmy Carter made a historic visit to Cuba during which he spoke openly on state television about the Cuban government’s shortcomings in the area of human rights, but also spoke in favor of a lifting of the economic blockade of the island. All these actions carried out over the past 20 years were rewarded with the Nobel Peace Prize awarded in 2002 to the architect of the Camp David accords.
Other actions and commitments (since 2003)
His action at the international level arouses the most diverse reactions in his own country. In particular, Carter condemned the two wars launched against Iraq in 1991 and 2003, and he turns out to be one of the most consistent critics of the Bush administration. Alongside these political commitments, the former president does not hesitate to regularly wield the trowel or the hammer on behalf of the Habitat for Humanity foundation which helps the most disadvantaged. In addition, he has written a number of books in the most diverse fields even trying his hand at poetry or historical fiction.
On December 3, 2006, during a television interview, the former president expressed the wish to be buried in front of his house in Plains, explaining that it is in this city that he and his wife were born. He said that upon his death a ceremony would be held in Washington and his remains would be briefly exposed to the public in Atlanta.
In 2006, he asserted that Israel was an “apartheid” state, arguing that the term was justified by “the wire fences, electric detectors and concrete blocks installed by the Israeli authorities along the border with the West Bank. . “He also believes that criticism of Israel has become almost impossible in the United States:” in this country there is a formidable intimidation which reduces our fellow citizens to silence “, a silence observed by” individuals or candidates for office. elective but also by the news media ”20.
He is severely attacked by the American press for these statements; the New York Post estimates that “from a failed president he has become a friend of left-wing tyrants, a global detractor of anything that may represent America’s legitimate interests. The Anti-Defamation League is running ads in various newspapers accusing the former president of being anti-Semitic. Several leaders of the Democratic Party, such as Howard Dean (party chairman) and Nancy Pelosi (speaker of the House of Representatives) then distance themselves from Carter21.
Since 2007, he has been part of the Global Elders (English meaning the elders, or sages), created by Nelson Mandela to promote peace and human rights in the world.
In May 2007, he published an audiobook titled Measuring Our Success: Sunday Mornings In Plains – Bible Study with Jimmy Carter based on his life in the Baptist Church of Maranatha in Georgia22.
In October 2007, he adopted a critical position towards the policy implemented by the Bush administration, declaring that the United States “uses torture” and that on this subject, George W. Bush is lying23.
On January 8, 2009, at the invitation of the incumbent president, George W. Bush, he participated in a luncheon at the White House bringing together all the presidents of the United States still alive: George HW Bush, Barack Obama (then president-elect but not yet in office), George W. Bush and Bill Clinton.
Since September 8, 2012, he has been the longest-surviving president after leaving office, with 40 years, 90 days of retirement, overtaking Herbert Hoover, who died 31 years and 7 months after leaving the White House. He is also, with 96 years, 201 days, the longest-lived American president, since March 22, 2019, when he passed George H. W. Bush, who died at 94 years and 171 days.
He married on July 7, 1946 Rosalynn Smith, born in the same town as him and with whom he had four children. Their descendants also include eight grandchildren and two great-grandsons24:
- John William Carter aka Jack Carter (1947-).
- Jason James Carter (1975-), Senator from Georgia (2010-2015).
- Henry Lewis Carter.
- Thomas Clyde Carter.
- Sarah Rosemary Carter (1978-).
- James Earl Carter III aka Chip Carter (1950-).
- James Earl Carter IV (1977-).
- Margaret Alicia (1987-).
- Jeffrey Donnel Carter (1952-).
- Joshua Jeffrey (1984-).
- Jeremy Davis Carter (1987-2015)
- James Carlton (1991-).
- Amy Lynn Carter (1967-).
- Hugo James Wentzel (1999-).
- The latter experienced the media spotlight during her teenage years because she lived with her parents in the White House, the first child to live there since the
- Kennedy family in the early 1960s.
On April 8, 1998, United States Secretary of the Navy John H. Dalton officially announced that the last of three Seawolf-class submarines, the then most recent class of nuclear submarines in the US Navy , will be named after former President James Earl Carter, Jr., the only President of the United States to serve in submarines. USS Jimmy Carter (SSN-23) has been in service since 2005.
On August 12, 2015, Jimmy Carter, in a press release published by The Carter Center, revealed that he had advanced cancer25. On December 6, 2015, he announced his recovery26 and two weeks later, to the day, on December 20, while he was teaching in a Baptist Church, the ex-politician announced the death of one of his grandsons, Jeremy Carter, 28. The causes of death have not been disclosed27.
On November 27, 2019, he was released from the hospital after spending two weeks there under observation following a successful operation to relieve brain pressure caused by recent falls28. On November 30, he was hospitalized again with a urinary tract infection29 and was discharged on December 4 from Phoebe Sumter Medical Center.
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