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December 15, 2012

A Unique American President

One of many consequences of Richard Nixon’s truncated presidency was elevation of the unimaginative Gerald Ford from Speaker of the House to the Oval Office for what turned out to be two years of caretaker duty. As it happened, Ford, a lackluster performer at best, would soon be undone by his prompt pardon of the man he replaced, an act permitted under the Constitution, but one that probably resulted in his to loss of the 1976 election to Washington outsider Jimmy Carter, himself a unique White House occupant: Annapolis graduate, nuclear physicist, Governor of Georgia, conservative Southern Baptist, and passionate egalitarian,

The other morning, during a session of wee hours insomnia, I happened to catch an engrossing documentary: The Man from Plains, shot about five years ago by Jonathan Demme. the setting was a book tour by Jimmy and Rosalyn Carter to promote Palestine: Peace, not Apartheid in which Carter took Israel to task for what he considers the unfair conditions under which Palestinians are forced to live in the Occupied Territories.

My interest was piqued by the intensity of the reaction to a book I’d never heard of (and still haven’t read). Much of the reaction was generated by Carter’s provocative use of Apartheid, an Afrikaans word for the South African public policy clearly modeled on the American policy of Segregation that was imposed following the Civil War, especially after the Supreme Court ruled in 1896 that forced separation could indeed be “equal.”

Clearly, Carter was also intending to be provocative and he obviously succeeded in pushing his critics to extremes in voicing their opposition, many in the form of ad hominem attacks, some devoid of rudimentary logic.

There can also be no doubt that the lives of many Palestinians living under Israeli occupation are miserable; also that the concept of jihad, as embraced by Islam, means that suicide and murder can both be justified as weapons to be used against those defined as infidels or oppressors of the faithful.

While I don’t share Carter’s religious convictions, (nor those of Islam) I do admire his intellectual honesty, clear thinking on humanitarian and political issues, consistency and courage- not to mention his amazing energy.

I also think those who slam him as “anti-semitic” are allowing their own biases to show. I’ll have more to say on the contentious issue of the intense attachments humans can manifest for “homelands” in another entry.

However, as an interesting post script, I also discovered that President Carter's role as a nuclear trainee under the legendary Admiral Hyman Rickover also has a dark side. A little known interview of the Admiral by Diane Sawyer revealed that both he and Carter had much in common: both were outsiders who were not afraid to speak their mind. Both also had an association with the first American nuclear disaster at Three mile Island: the plant's design was based on Rickover's concepts and the famous accident that occurred during his Presidency saw Carter quickly on the scene and later generated criticism of his alleged role in covering up the worst implications of the accident, including an interesting statement from the Admiral's daughter-in-law.

Doctor Tom

Posted by tjeffo at December 15, 2012 05:32 PM