New York Daily News

The man from Plains


Despite today’s national holiday being called by some President’s Day, it’s not actually set aside to honor all the holders of that high office. Today is Washington’s Birthday, well Wednesday, Feb. 22, will be. And that’s not really George’s birthday either, for he was born Feb. 11. When he was 20 years old, in 1752, the old Julian calendar was changed to the current Gregorian system and 11 days were added.

But we will still use today’s occasion to reflect on a man who followed Washington: Georgia’s Jimmy Carter, as he receives hospice care at his home in the little town of Plains at age 98. He was not a great president like Washington or Lincoln. Indeed, Carter had a troubled presidency for four years, but had a very successful post presidency for more than 40 years, promoting peace, democracy, human rights and developmen­t.

The Carter years saw high inflation, which exceeded 10% in 1979 and peaked in 1980 at close to 15% and interest rates were equally punishing, with the Fed setting their benchmark at 17%. He did manage to win ratificati­on of the Panama Canal treaty, a goal of presidents for decades, with a Senate with 62 Democrats. (The post-Watergate House had 292 Democrats, a 67% supermajor­ity).

His greatest achievemen­t was the Camp David accords between Egypt and Israel. And while Anwar Sadat and Menachem Begin shared the Nobel Peace Prize a month after they signed in 1978, Carter would have to wait 24 years to get his own Nobel.

Carter tried to heal the nation on his first full day in office by pardoning those who evaded the draft during the Vietnam War. But the highpoints were few.

From his malaise speech on America’s spirit which never used the word “malaise,” to the overthrow of the shah of Iran, creating an oil crisis and long lines to buy gasoline and the hostage crisis that bedeviled Carter to the moment that Ronald Reagan was sworn in, Carter was beset. Still Jimmy Carter was an honest and honorable man who served his country.

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