Blogs > Cliopatria > Gil Troy: Jimmy Carter's no saint

Feb 19, 2007 7:08 am

Gil Troy: Jimmy Carter's no saint

To the Editors:

According to your report about Jimmy Carter’s Brandeis University speech, he said: “This is the first time that I’ve ever been called a liar and a bigot and an anti-Semite and a coward and a plagiarist.” The implication, along with previous self-pitying remarks, is that he is blameless and critics are overreacting to his Israel-Apartheid slur to squelch debate. In fact, in Carter’s bruising 1970 campaign for Georgia governor, the incumbent Carl Sanders called him “Jimmy the fabricator.” Carter was accused of bigotry when pamphlets picturing Governor Sanders with two tall, African-American basketball players were mailed to white barber shops and churches.

In 1980, fighting Ted Kennedy for the Democratic nomination, President Carter announced the morning of the Wisconsin primary that the Iranians had made a “positive step” in solving the hostage crisis. No progress occurred but Carter won the primary. The president “no longer seemed decent and honorable, but manipulative” an aide admitted. That campaign Reaganite Republicans repeatedly condemned Carter’s foreign policy as cowardly.

“Saint Jimmy,” like all politicians, has never been above reproach. His Brandeisian amnesia simply slurs his opponents and dismisses their substantive critiques. Forty percent of Carter’s statement may be true – judging by the distortions in his recent book that seems to be his accuracy rate these days.

Gil Troy
Professor of History
McGill University
Montreal, Quebec
514 937 9635

Please note:
The Jimmy the fabricator line comes from p. 130 of Betty Glad, Jimmy Carter: In Search of the Great White House (Norton, 1980)

The 1970 Atlanta Hawks bigoted brochure is well-known, I have seen a copy in the Carter Library. Glad mentions it on p. 134, and Kenneth E. Morris, Jimmy Carter: American Moralist (University of Georgia Press, 1976) p. 187.

The senior adviser was quoted by Martin Schram in his essay in the Washington Post reporters’ compilation from the 1980 campaign The Pursuit of the Presidency, 1980 (Berkeley Books) p 114.

I have also done extensive primary source work on Carter, including visits to the Carter library for three of my books:
See How They Ran: The Changing Role of the Presidential Candidate, Mr. and Mrs. President: From the Trumans to the Clintons and, most recently, Morning in America: How Ronald Regan Invented the 1980s which is being issued by Princeton University Press in paperback next month.

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