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Joe Biden Is No Jimmy Carter

Michael Barone on

Carter also, in time, got two of the very biggest issues right. Inflation had been raging since Nixon abolished the peg to gold one August weekend in 1971 and especially during Middle East-imposed oil shocks in 1973 and 1979. With inflation hitting 13% by July 1979, Carter yanked his former appointee from the Federal Reserve and installed civil servant and Nixon appointee Paul Volcker.

Over the next several years, Volcker squeezed out inflation by keeping interest rates high, even during a sharp recession. Reagan gets credit for supporting him, but Carter deserves credit for appointing him.

Another Carter accomplishment was executing a U-turn on foreign policy. Conservatives scoffed when, days after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, Carter said his "opinion of the Russians has changed more drastically in the last week than even the previous two and a half years."

But he changed not only his mind but his policy, ordering a sharp increase in defense spending. Reagan and Caspar Weinberger raised spending even higher, and a decade later came the collapse of the Soviet Union and victory in the Cold War. Carter deserves some of the credit for that.

What about the Iran hostage crisis? There's plenty to criticize about Carter's policy toward Iran, but it's important to put it in context. Iran's hostage-taking violated the first principle of international law -- diplomatic immunity. The United States was entitled to treat it as an act of war.

But four years after the fall of Saigon, Americans, who in a single decade had lost 58,000 in Vietnam (compare that to 4,500 in Iraq and 2,200 in Afghanistan over 20 years), had no appetite for military retaliation. They tied yellow ribbons around trees, after a popular song about a criminal about to be released from prison.

 

Few, if any, conservatives were echoing what I remember as Pat Moynihan's comment that we should "bring fire and brimstone to the gates of Tehran." Carter did order a perhaps overly intricate hostage rescue mission, which failed after one too many helicopters became inoperative.

The contrast is stark between Carter, who became president with minimal relevant experience, and Biden, who had 44 years in the Senate and as vice president. Carter pushed innovative policies with bipartisan support. Biden hasn't. Carter learned on the job and changed policies in response to events. From Biden, we've seen nothing so far but stubborn persistence.

Carter has been a former president for 40 years -- the longest in history -- constructive in charitable work though not, in my view, in foreign policy interventions. He is the only president to have reached the age of 96, and on Oct. 1, he turns 97. Happy birthday, Mr. President.

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Michael Barone is a senior political analyst for the Washington Examiner, resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and longtime co-author of The Almanac of American Politics.

Copyright 2021 U.S. News and World Report. Distibuted by Creators Syndicate Inc.
 

 

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