The Peanut Farmer

Now before anyone who loves Carter criticizes me for calling him just “the Peanut Farmer,’ while I called Teddy Roosevelt “The Best Herder of Emperors Since Napoleon,” the reason I did so was to draw attention to the differences in their public image as presidents. While Roosevelt held so much power that satirists took to calling him King Theodore, or Teddysus (an amalgam of Teddy and Odysseus), Jimmy was thought to be incompetent, and was sometimes called the Goober. I, however, over the course of my research, have decided that Jimmy Carter, while not the most effectual legislator as president, deserves to go down in history as a great peacemaker for actions he took while president and afterwards.

His most acclaimed act as president was his mediation of the Camp David Accords, which, though they weren’t perfect, helped to end conflict between Egypt and Israel, two countries who had fought several wars against each other since Israel’s creation as a state in 1948. Seeing the deteriorating situation in the Middle East, and determined to avoid a war, Carter invited President Anwar El Sadat of Egypt and Prime Minister Menachem Begin of Israel to meet with him at Camp David, the secluded presidential getaway. Much like Roosevelt at Portsmouth, Carter kept the media away so as to allow for honest, open talk, without the world’ scrutiny. It became clear early on that unlike Portsmouth, the two sides could not remain in the same room for long negotiations without angering one another. Despite this hurdle, Carter persevered and set about writing the basis of an agreement. He then ferried this document back and forth between the two parties pushing them to be flexible, and making small changes based on their responses. Despite his best efforts, at the eleventh hour (actually, it was the eleventh day,) things almost fell apart. Neither side was willing to give on the subject of Israeli settlements in the Sinai. Angry and disappointed, Sadat declared that he was going to leave without signing anything. Carter had to talk him down and insist that they must all sign some agreement, even if it was just a list of items they agreed on and disagreed on. He then went to Begin and had a heart-to-heart, after which he agreed to be more flexible. In the end, both parties signed an agreement that made major progress towards peace in the area. Upon addressing a joint session of Congress on the agreement, there was such support from both sides of the that Jimmy noted in his White House Diary: “Older members of Congress said they had not seen such a response since Churchill spoke to the Congress during the Second World War.” Begin and Sadat won a joint Nobel Peace Prize for the Camp David Accords, and years later, when they finally gave one to Jimmy Carter, the Nobel committee mentioned the Camp David Accords as “in itself a great enough achievement to qualify for the Nobel Peace Prize.”

Unlike Theodore Roosevelt, for whom the Portsmouth Conference was an aside in a presidency more known for domestic antitrust policies and other reforms, the Camp David Accords was central to Jimmy Carter’s presidency, and his support of other such causes has driven his post-presidency. Jimmy Carter’s foreign policy was largely based on the idea of supporting human rights. He helped define the role of the US in defending human rights across the globe, and ever since he left the White House, he has put all his efforts towards that same goal. When he was choosing what to do with his presidential library, Carter decided that he would start a Center that could act as a mediator in global disputes using track-two diplomacy, much like he did in the Camp David Accords. The Carter Center has since expanded its goals to protecting human rights by “waging peace, fighting disease, [and] building hope.” Carter has used his cachet as an ex-president to support Amnesty International by personally asking leaders to release political prisoners, to support Habitat for Humanity in its efforts to provide affordable housing, and to the Carter Center itself in doing a wide variety of things. Some of the Carter Center’s most influential work has been in monitoring elections in fledgling democracies. ┬áHe denounced the fraudulent elections in Panama, leading to pressure on Noriega, Panama’s dictator, from many nations. In Nicaragua, he verified the elections that saw the end of Sandinista control, and helped convince the president, Ortega, to allow a peaceful transition of power. With the Carter Center, he has helped monitor elections in Guyana, Zambia, China, East Jerusalem, Venezuela, Indonesia, Nigeria, Liberia, and the Congo, as well as brokered a cease-fire in the Balkans, tamped down tensions on the Korean Peninsula, and more. This has led many to refer to him as the best ex-president in American history, as well as some saying he used the presidency as a stepping stone to what he really wanted to do in life.

What is it about Jimmy Carter that makes him able to bend dictators to his will? He has been described as stubborn, self-assured, a real life Atticus Finch, very smart, full of decency, faith-driven, determined, and driven to win. As a very religions man, it is clear that his faith has guided him to promote human rights and peace. It has also helped him to connect to leaders such as Begin and Sadat. In addition to this, he is both stubborn and courageous, traits which have made him never give up, and allowed him to speak up against such dictators as Noriega, despite his military forces being all around. While his presidency allowed him the soapbox from which he speaks, it is his perseverance and his strong desire to help those in need that have made Jimmy Carter a shaper of international politics.