Political Courage Jimmy Carter
The Political Courage of: Jimmy Carter
In recent years, demonstrations of political courage are very hard to come by. In most cases, the moral or “right” choice is usually the least profitable so political leaders rarely support it. Despite all the promises voters are fed, politicians hardly ever follow through. However, every once in a while a true leader emerges onto the scene. They are usually met with opposition and animosity, but those who possess true political courage stick to what they believe is right, regardless of popular belief. Jimmy Carter is a politician that fits this description. His domestic and foreign policies demonstrate bold and courageous politics. He has strong moral beliefs and went out of his way to find a peaceful resolution to any situation. He also showed courage by using his diplomatic skills to neutralize many foreign affairs and showing the United States of America in a positive light around the world. If using peaceful politics, advancing human rights, and skillful diplomacy are characteristics of courage in politics, then Jimmy Carter is a perfect example.
Admittedly, the Carter administration was often criticized for the dismal shape of the economy during his reign. His daring choices often placed him at odds with Congress and popular public opinion. Despite high inflation rates, at the end of his term Carter could credit an 8 million job increase and a significant decrease in the budget deficit. He had inherited a shaky economy, a national debt, and also what he called a “crisis of confidence” throughout the American people. In 1976 the country was coming out of dark times riddled with war, scandal and tragedy. With Vietnam, Watergate, and the JFK assassination fresh in peoples mind, the country’s faith in the government and in the nation itself was declining. Carter’s goal was to conduct a “competent and compassionate” government. So, he granted unconditional amnesty for Vietnam resisters and hired a record number of women and minorities to government positions, helping to promote a more positive view of his administration for most. He also increased the social security payroll tax, gaining the support of elderly and retired citizens. Feeling the need for downsize, President Carter ended a number of programs he considered to be “pork barrel” spending. He then went on to create and improve a number of useful programs such as the Department of Energy and the Department of Education. He brought a kind of political empathy to the American government that citizens really needed.
Furthermore, in line with his compassionate political stance in the American Government, the Secretary of State and National Security Advisor under the Carter Administration kept a close watch on the Arab-Israeli conflict. As diplomacy between Egypt and Israel escalated, Carter felt an all-inclusive solution to the Conflict was necessary. Once initial contact between the two countries was made overseas, Anwar Sadat, Egyptian President, approached Carter for help. Carter then proceeded to invite Israeli Prime Minister Manechem Begin and Sadat to Camp David to further negotiations. The product was the Camp David Accords, an agreement for peace between Israel and Egypt, and later a peace treaty. Long thought to be a lost cause, Carters role in the Arab-Israeli conflict has been considered a courageous leap of faith. He inspired future presidencies to take a more active role in the conflict, and other such foreign affairs. His actions also allowed nations worldwide to see the United States in a selfless and more caring role, indifferent to any condemnation on his controversial choices.
In addition, one of President Carter’s most controversial moves was the final negotiation and signing of the Panama Canal treaties. Those treaties, which essentially would transfer control of the American built Panama Canal to the nation of Panama, was bitterly opposed by a portion of the American public and by the Republican party. Those against the treaties argued that the U.S. was transferring an American asset of great value to an unstable country under military dictatorship. These details were considered in the treaty’s negotiation, and in fact helped the Carter administration see that the need for diplomatic ties in South America was necessary for any changes to occur. They reasoned that, being on Panamanian soil, American ownership of the canal was a form of occupation, and therefore unconstitutional. President Carter saw returning the Panama Canal as a key to improving U.S. relations with the developing world and hoped to be able to guide them towards democracy. He was successful in the sense that more third world developing countries were able to recognize the U.S. as a fair and just nation rather than the ironfisted country many of them perceived. Despite being under military dictatorship, Carter and his wife visited the nation and urged them to soften their policies and gradually move Panama towards republicanism. It took courage for President Cater to act in a way that upheld the law, despite strong opposition, and do what was constitutionally right.
Seemingly, doing what is right for our country and our safety should be an accepted and encouraged practice, but Carter once again found himself at odds with much of the public when he decided to try and prevent the USSR from invading Afghanistan. He and his administration believed that if Afghanistan was overtaken, it would be the beginning of the end for the Middle East, resulting in a hostile take over of the oil industry. At the time, the Soviet Union was believed to be a threat to the United States. Unwilling to allow the nation to be at the mercy of the Soviet Union, Carter took action. He sent aid secretly to anti-soviet factions to help combat the invasion. Later, Carter also proposed an offer to the Pakistani president, essentially offering him millions of dollars in subsidies to increase their involvement in fighting the Soviets. The president of Pakistan declined but Carters efforts, followed by future presidents’ participation would result in foiling of the Soviet’s apparent plans, and the collapse of the Soviet Union. Carter’s strategic choices and strong decision making helped to save our nation from a would-be disaster
Only months later, carter found himself facing another would-be disaster. When the Shah of Iran was overthrown during the Iranian Revolution, the president was placed in a difficult position. The U.S. didn’t want to intervene, but when the Shah went into exile and sought entry into the United States, Carter finally broke and allowed him temporary entry for the duration of his cancer treatment. Outraged, Iranian militants overtook the American embassy in Tehran, taking 52 United States citizens hostage. The rebels created a laundry list of demands, including returning the Shah to Iran for the trial, an admission of guilt by the U.S. for its actions and an apology. After an unsuccessful attempt to rescue the hostages, President Carter issued Executive Order 12170, which blocked Iranian government property and froze all Iranian bank accounts in the United States – about $8 billion U.S. This was used to bargain with the captors. Towards the end of Carters presidency, Algerian diplomat Abdulkarim Ghuraib negotiated the Algiers Accords, and on the last day of Carters term, the hostages were finally released. Part of the deal was having the Iranians use $1 billion of the frozen money to create the Iranian-United States Claims Tribunal, to compensate for all American damaged property. President Carter kept a strong face and upheld the honor and duty of the United Stated throughout the whole ordeal.
If defending human rights, diplomatic skills and demonstrating peace in politics are traits of a courageous politician, Jimmy Carter is a prime example. He used his diplomatic skills to prevent conflict in many foreign affairs, and showed the United States in a positive light worldwide. Carter held true to his strong moral beliefs, despite their obvious unpopularity, displaying a kind of substance and realness that is extremely hard to come by. Very few true leaders exist in modern politics. They are met with animosity and opposition, but those who have true political courage stand by what they believe is right, paying no mind to those who wish to deter them. Politicians today rarely take a solid stance on any major issue for fear of losing votes. This unwillingness to choose sides and speak their minds causes gridlock in the government and leaves the public in wanting of a strong leader, unwavering under political pressures. It’s up to us, the American people, this November to try to decide who, in fact, displays this political courage, and hopefully we will succeed.