Jimmy Carter and the Difference Between Foolishness and Evil

We all have our personal struggles. All of us. And, each of those struggles says something about us.

One of my personal struggles is Jimmy Carter.

I was a kid when Jimmy was president, and they were some of the leanest years of my life. It would be several years before I was old enough to understand why those years were so lean, and why Jimmy was responsible.

Of course, he wasn’t solely responsible. There were a host of supporting actors that shared responsibility: Congress, OPEC, Iran, the USSR, etc.

But, he was commander in chief. He was the top guy, and he fumbled. We suffered the worst interest rates in history – along with terrible inflation. The US military saw its state of readiness decline to unimaginable levels.

That last one I remember well. When Carter was through with it, the Military was in a shambles. Moral was shot. There were no spare parts. The Navy was a mess. The Air Force was a mess. The Army was a mess.

It was a mess.

I never understood how it got that way until I discovered who managed the White House tennis court roster during the Carter Administration.

Jimmy Carter.

I couldn’t believe it. It took Dan Akroyd and a few Saturday Night Live skits before I could really understand. Just watch the old Dan Akroyd/Jimmy Carter parodies, and you’ll know what I mean.

I think Jimmy’s biggest problem is that he’s a little picture man – because he needs to be in control of the details. If the picture gets too big, he can’t handle it. He shuts down.

I have a relative like that. He’s a lovely guy. And smart. But, he could never let anyone else handle the details. He either had to handle all of them, or none of them. He even looks like Jimmy.

(I think that there’s a pattern here.)

But, my relative wasn’t President of the United States, and he doesn’t write books on Israel.

Jimmy, on the other hand, does, and he’s an idiot. A nice, kind man with strong moral fiber, and someone that you’d love to have for an uncle – but still an idiot.

All that I’ve heard and read about Jimmy Carter tells me that he’s a good man and a nice guy, so I’m sticking with my theory that Jimmy isn’t evil. Of course, this means that he still represents the single biggest illustration of an important principle. It comes in the form of an answer to the following question:

In areas of public policy, how you can tell if a politician is evil or a fool?

That’s a really tough one…

…Because, you can’t. 

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My friend Marallyn at Shalom from Jerusalem inspired me to write this with her recent blog post, Just Because I Thought You Should Know