Com­pet­ing for ‘worst for­mer pres­i­dent’

Jimmy Carter is the cur­rent ti­tle holder, but Obama is poised to dis­place him

The Washington Times Daily - - COMMENTARY - Jed Bab­bin served as a deputy un­der­sec­re­tary of de­fense in the Ge­orge H.W. Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion. He is a se­nior fel­low of the Lon­don Cen­ter for Pol­icy Re­search and the au­thor of five books in­clud­ing “In the Words of Our En­e­mies.” By Jed Bab­bin

Like an episode of “Sur­vivor,” pit­ting one gen­er­a­tion against an­other, for­mer pres­i­dent Jimmy Carter is vy­ing to re­tain the ti­tle of our worst and most pes­tif­er­ous for­mer pres­i­dent against the com­ing chal­lenge by Pres­i­dent Obama.

Mr. Carter’s lat­est at­tempt to keep his ti­tle was in an op-ed in the Nov. 28 New York Times. There, he ar­gued that Pres­i­dent Obama should, in his fi­nal days in of­fice, rec­og­nize a Pales­tinian state as a le­git­i­mate na­tion and re­quire Is­rael to re­turn to its bor­ders as they ex­isted be­fore the 1967 Arab-Is­raeli war

Though Mr. Carter’s ar­gu­ment is com­pre­hen­sively wrong, his cam­paign for in­flu­ence and at­ten­tion is un­der­stand­able be­cause soon-to-be for­mer Pres­i­dent Obama is set­ting him­self up to re­place Mr. Carter in his cho­sen role, about which more in a mo­ment.

Mr. Carter ar­gues that un­der the Camp David ac­cords, signed by Is­rael’s Me­nachim Be­gin and Egypt’s An­war Sa­dat in 1978, Is­raeli set­tle­ments in the West Bank some­how be­came il­le­gal. His im­plied con­clu­sion is that un­less Mr. Obama rec­og­nizes a Pales­tinian state now the mat­ter will be left to Mr. Trump with dire con­se­quences for all.

Mr. Carter’s er­rors are so fun­da­men­tal that they can be dis­pensed with quickly. The be­lief en­shrined in the Camp David ac­cords and ever since is that peace be­tween Is­rael and the Pales­tini­ans can only be achieved by Is­rael trad­ing land for peace agreed to by the Pales­tini­ans. Mr. Obama would do so only on the ba­sis of Is­rael’s pre-war 1967 bor­ders, the same bor­ders he tried to force Is­rael to ac­cept in two years of ne­go­ti­a­tions con­ducted by Sec­re­tary of State John Kerry. If Mr. Obama did so he would smash our al­liance with Is­rael to bits.

Mr. Carter over­looks his­tory. Three times since 2000, Is­raeli prime min­is­ters have of­fered the Pales­tini­ans land for peace and have been re­jected.

In 2000, Ehud Barak agreed to a plan pro­posed by Bill Clin­ton that would have granted the Pales­tini­ans a state in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem. Yasser Arafat walked out of those ne­go­ti­a­tions and be­gan the Sec­ond In­tifada ter­ror cam­paign. In 2005, Ariel Sharon dis­man­tled all Is­raeli set­tle­ments in Gaza and pulled Is­rael back across the pre-1967 war bor­ders. Pales­tini­ans an­swered by raining mis­siles on Is­rael from Gaza for two years. In 2008, Ehud Olmert pre­sented Pales­tinian Pres­i­dent Mah­moud Ab­bas with a map, de­tail­ing a Pales­tinian state in the West Bank, Gaza and a for­mally di­vided Jerusalem. Mr. Ab­bas promised to study the map and re­turn to the ne­go­ti­at­ing ta­ble. He left and never re­turned.

The Pales­tini­ans have re­jected peace time and again along the lines Mr. Carter pro­poses. They won’t trade peace for land un­less the land they gain is all of Is­rael.

Mr. Carter’s lat­est at­tempt to in­flu­ence the Is­raeli-Pales­tinian con­flict is par for his course. Un­like most pres­i­dents he has re­fused to let his suc­ces­sors do the job they were elected to do. In­stead, al­most ever since Ron­ald Rea­gan de­feated him in 1980, he has again and again tried to in­ter­fere in our for­eign pol­icy. On Jan. 20, he will be pushed aside by Mr. Obama.

Mr. Obama and his fam­ily won’t re­tire to Chicago. They plan to stay in Wash­ing­ton, D.C. And Mr. Obama has made it clear that he will be ea­ger to speak out when­ever he feels the need to dis­agree with his suc­ces­sor. Based on Mr. Obama’s habit of re­leas­ing state­ments and giv­ing press con­fer­ences al­most daily for most of his term in of­fice, we can ex­pect him to be sound­ing off fre­quently.

What makes this dif­fer­ent from past worst pres­i­dents, in­clud­ing Mr. Carter, is the ea­ger­ness of the me­dia to talk about what­ever Mr. Obama wants to talk about. Never, since Richard Nixon’s pres­i­dency, have we’ve seen any­thing like this.

Mr. Nixon was con­stantly vil­i­fied, long be­fore the Water­gate scan­dal erupted, by news­pa­pers and tele­vi­sion hosts for nearly ev­ery­thing he did. There was, in lit­eral terms, an “axis of an­tag­o­nism” com­prised of ma­jor news­pa­pers, all three tele­vi­sion net­works of the day, and Demo­cratic politi­cians ea­ger to bash him roundly and soundly. The press loved it and made ev­ery ef­fort to aid and abet their ef­forts.

Mr. Trump faces a new ver­sion of the same equally de­ter­mined axis of an­tag­o­nism. Con­gres­sional Dems will do ev­ery­thing they can to stop Mr. Trump’s agenda, in­clud­ing fil­i­bus­ter­ing Oba­macare re­peal leg­is­la­tion and any­one he nom­i­nates for the Supreme Court.

But Mr. Obama will be the one the me­dia fo­cus on. He’ll be a sort of “pres­i­dent in ex­ile,” speak­ing out to pro­tect his legacy — Oba­macare, a lib­eral Supreme Court, the Iran nu­clear deal and more — when­ever he can get to a mi­cro­phone. Which will be as of­ten as he pleases. Mr. Carter will lose his ti­tle of worst for­mer pres­i­dent to Mr. Obama al­most im­me­di­ately.

Wags have al­ways said that the most dan­ger­ous place in Wash­ing­ton is the space be­tween Sen. Chuck Schumer, New York Demo­crat, and a mi­cro­phone, be­cause he’ll tram­ple you on his way to it. Now, even in­com­ing Se­nate Mi­nor­ity Leader Schumer will have to play sec­ond me­dia fiddle to the for­mer pres­i­dent.

Mr. Trump will en­joy no hon­ey­moon with his op­po­si­tion. Mr. Obama, Mr. Schumer and the me­dia will make sure of that.

IL­LUS­TRA­TION BY GREG GROESCH

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.