Friday, June 20, 2014

Presidents I Have Known - Part 4

This will be the last of this series. The Presidents after Carter are too recent for me to have a proper perspective. If you haven't read the previous essays, it would help if you did.

So, Tricky Dicky Nixon bailed. At that point there was no other choice. Gerald Ford stepped into the oval office. Poor President Ford had a reputation as a clumsy bumbler and a lightweight. He was none of those things. But what he was was a place keeper. He kept the lights on and the office open until the next election. His one claim to fame was signing the Helsinki accords. And so we move on.

Then, God help us, we were afflicted with James Earl Carter. Another man touted to an unsuspecting American public as brilliant. It was inconceivable that one man could mess up the country as much as Mr. Carter. First were the gas lines. We had so little gas it was rationed. People sat in lines for hours to get gasoline only to have the pumps run dry. 

If you wanted to buy a home, mortgages were available at seventeen or eighteen percent. He gave away the Panama canal. One time he was out in a canoe. Do not ask me why. But a rabbit started swimming toward Carter's little boat. He beat the rabbit to death with a paddle. He said, he was afraid it would attack him. 

But his master stroke was Iran. The Shah of Iran was a strong ally of the United States. Apparently Jimmy didn't like Shahs. He ousted the Shah, allowing Ayatollah Khomeini to come back into Iran and take over the government and turn it into a theocracy. Almost immediately Khomeini's minions attacked the American Embassy, against international law, and took the ambassador and the embassy staff prisoner. They were held for 444 days. In that time there was only one ill timed attempt to rescue them. That attempt crashed and burned in the desert.

Until today, the Carter administration has been considered the most inept presidency ever. If one must find a redeeming feature in Carter's four years, it is this. If you were clear of debt and avoided borrowing, and if you had some available cash, you could buy Certificates of Deposit at around fourteen percent. You will not find that today. Nobody in the middle class has available cash anyway.  

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