The life and times of 39th U.S. President Jimmy Carter
November 13, 2019 - Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter remains in an Atlanta hospital after undergoing surgery to relieve brain pressure from bleeding caused by recent falls.
He was the peanut farmer from the Bible belt who promised voters: “I’ll never tell a lie”. The Washington outsider from Plains, Georgia, beat off the last of the Kennedy sons to win the Democratic nomination in July 1976 and enter the White House six months later.
Jimmy Carter, born James Earl Carter Jr. on October 1, 1924, won a narrow victory to become the 39th U.S. President and struggled, from the start of his single term, to maintain his initial popularity. The folksy image of the man with the southern drawl and wide-eyed demeanour who moved into the executive mansion with his wife, Rosalynn and their nine-year-old daughter, Amy, played well post-Watergate - the corruption scandal that had seen Republican Richard Nixon resign the presidency and tainted his replacement, Carter’s immediate predecessor, Gerald Ford.
But if Carter benefited from the Watergate fallout, he also inherited the economic legacy of the OPEC oil embargo of 1973-74, when the Arab world punished the U.S. and its allies for their support of Israel in the Yom Kippur War. The resulting energy crisis led to years of high unemployment and rising inflation, which Carter struggled to contain. Rather, it was in foreign policy initiatives, notably in the Middle East, that he found his best-remembered success, bringing together such sworn former enemies as Egypt’s Anwar al-Sadat and Israel’s Prime Minister Menachem Begin, at Camp David, the presidential country retreat, in September 1978. The resulting Camp David Accords, signed at the White House, contributed in part to Carter’s receiving the Nobel Peace Prize in 2002.
However, his diplomatic standing was to suffer a dramatic reversal after he allowed the newly-deposed Shah of Iran into America for medical treatment. Carter’s miscalculation brought him into full confrontation with the fledgling Islamic republic. Revolutionary Iranian students, who had brought down the Shah in January 1979, stormed the U.S. embassy and took 52 diplomats and citizens hostage in November that year. An aborted rescue attempt the following April ended in catastrophe in the desert, when two military aircraft collided, killing eight U.S. servicemen. The hostage crisis dragged on for a further nine months, thwarting Carter’s chances of re-election and ending, humiliatingly, just hours after the inauguration of his successor, the Republican Ronald Reagan.
While his one-term presidency may be regarded as unsuccessful, Carter’s humanitarian efforts in his later years have restored his reputation. The Carter Center he founded within a year of leaving the White House has helped promote human rights and alleviate suffering around the globe, while at home his work for Habitat for Humanity has done much to focus attention on the issue of homelessness and the need for affordable housing.