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The Presidents Connect today's election issues with the past
Jimmy Carter Jimmy Carter -- 39th President; Term: 1977-1981; Political Party: Democrat; First Lady: Rosalynn Smith Carter; Vice President: Walter F. Mondale

Full Web Site Available Jimmy Carter
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Highlights from the Jimmy Carter web site include:

  • watch video and read Carter's recollections of his rural Georgia childhood
  • find out how Carter came closer than anyone to brokering peace in the Middle East
  • see how Americans and the press reacted during the Iranian hostage crisis
  • learn how Carter has remade the role of ex-president

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'Our American values are not luxuries but necessities -- not the salt in our bread, but the bread itself. Our common vision of a free and just society is our greatest source of cohesion at home and strength abroad -- greater than the bounty of our material blessings.' (1981)

Born: October 1, 1924; Plains, Georgia... From the very start of his presidency, Jimmy Carter attempted to make the office more personable and accessible: he walked along the inaugural parade route, ended the playing of Hail to the Chief, and carried his own luggage. Elected largely on his promise to never lie to the American people, Carter soon seemed out of place in the vastness of the presidency. Events conspired to further impede his progress: rising energy costs, high unemployment, Americans held hostage in Iran, Soviets in Afghanistan. A man of peace who took pride in bringing together age-old antagonists, Carter was finally viewed by his countrymen as lacking presidential stature.

The Era

  • The movie Saturday Night Fever excites a disco craze (1977)
  • The Supreme Court hands down the Bakke decision on reverse discrimination (1978)
  • Civil war erupts in Nicaragua (1978)
  • Three Mile Island nuclear incident (1979)
  • Iranian revolution results in gas shortages in U.S. (1979)
  • The Moral Majority is founded (1979)
  • Soviets invade Afghanistan (1979)

Domestic Policy
Jimmy Carter, despite his victory over Republican Gerald Ford, sensed that the nation had lost a degree of affection for some of the policies of Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal and Lyndon Johnson's Great Society. With this in mind, Carter expressed his desire to move the Democratic party closer to the political middle ground. His administration began a process of deregulation and bureaucratic streamlining in the hopes of courting moderate factions. Yet, many of his appointees held fast to liberal notions of how the government should operate. Carter increasingly found himself having to fend off charges that he was too eager to please all factions, while lacking a unifying vision for the nation.

Foreign Affairs
International events played a significant role in defining the Carter administration. At the cornerstone of his foreign affairs achievements was the peace accord Carter brokered between Prime Minister Menachem Begin of Israel and President Anwar Sadat of Egypt at Camp David in 1979, and the signing of the Panama Canal treaty in 1978. Events that seemed beyond Carter's control, such as the taking of American hostages in Iran in 1979 and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, seemed to overwhelm him during the last two years of his administration and conveyed, for some, an impression of American weakness.

Presidential Politics
Boldly presenting himself as a Washington outsider during the 1976 presidential campaign, Jimmy Carter appealed directly to the public, and not party leaders, in order to win primary after primary. Upon arrival in the White House, Carter chose to maintain his outsider status and failed to establish close ties with Congress. Despite the fact that Congress was controlled by members of his own party, Carter discovered that his violation of Washington protocol would severely limit his legislative success. In his memoirs he wrote, "there was no party loyalty... Each legislator had to be wooed and won individually. It was every member for himself." Carter's failure to control economic conditions at home and to resolve the Iranian hostage crisis weakened him politically and made him vulnerable to a Republican challenge.

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