Jimmy Carter’s presidency

Jimmy Carter’s presidency

Jimmy Carter did a few things that Democrats should learn from. In 1973 was unknown in America. He was a strange guy. Samuel Hamilton called him a weird factor (a strange person). Carter was a peanut farmer with slow southern accent. He never overcame it. But he had also other problems, especially in the liberal Democratic Party. He was Born Again Christian. But he never apologies for it. (He was saying that when he had lost race for governship in Georgia, in 1967, it came to me like lightning, he became a Born Again Christian). Carter said that he will be doing what Jesus would do, what means helping poor people, build people houses, going to clean slums. And he was doing it as a governor.

But still he sounded strange for people.
He also sounded like he didn’t know what he was talking about foreign policy. And a lot of it is right. Carter had really naive view on foreign policy, because first of all, he wasn’t an expert and, what is more important, he was domestic oriented Georgian governor. But he had learned fast how to sound like he knew, what he was talking about in foreign policy. Fortunately for Carter, many. Democrats knew even less, or were like McGovern, they were saying that America is as bad as Russians.
But people in Texas didn’t want to hear that. They wanted to hear that, they were good guys.

In 1976 Carter really had to run not against Gerald Ford, but against Henry Kissinger. Kissinger at that time was the global celebrity, he was bigger than life, a superstar. He believed that America couldn’t really fight the Cold War and should just come to terms with Russia, like the Great Powers did in 19th century. In 19th century there were no war between Great Powers, it was stable. Kissinger loves stability. His goal was a Grand Strategy, when the USA, Russia, China, Japan and Western Europe would rule the world in a pentagonal world order. He regarded the Soviet Union as a stable, status quo power.

Carter was advised by Zbigniew Brzeziński. He didn’t agree with Kissinger about Soviet Union. USSR isn’t a status quo power, it is a weak power and is very vulnerable in a couple of places. First of all, it is a multinational empire, one it is going to blow apart. Brzeziński wanted to speed it up. He criticized Nixon’s and Kissinger’s summit with Breżniew in Jałta .Brzeziński wanted to change it. He knew that America in 1975-76 was in the lowest point of its influence in a history of USA. Why? One for Vietnam, CIA was under investigations for just about everything (the same is happening now). In 1950s America was a good guy, in 1970s was a bad guy. This was the image of America in 1975. It was seen like a declining power, capitalist system wasn’t working. Brzeziński told Carter to start talking optimistically. He used to call Kissinger spenglerian , and in opposite to Kissinger, he said this is not unavoidable. He told Carter to talk positive and Carter did it.
They were talking about things called soft power. People like Americans, they just don’t like certain American administrations. They hate what we did in Vietnam, but if we turn that around, and we say that we are not an arrogant power, not an imperial power, it will change. The way to overcome it is to pay attention to the rest of the world (Japan, Eastern Europe) . Carter said that America believe in engagement to the rest of the world (=we are not isolationist).Brzeziński’s idea was: before you will do something, earlier tell about it Eastern and Western Europe governments and later tell it to Russia (the same with China and Japan). He started to talk about free trade, not military. And the way to do that is to beat the Soviets with something they didn’t even think about – human rights. It was the famous Basket 3 of Helsinki Final Act. When USRR signed this in 1975, they couldn’t be happier. Baskets 1 and 2 were talking about economic cooperation, the USA accepted the final frontiers of Europe. Basket 3 said about human rights, but Soviets didn’t pay attention to it. Until Radio Free Europe started talking about it over and over: Helsinki Final Act Basket 3. In USRR’s satellites opposition started to emphasize this (Charter 77’ in Czechoslovakia, KOR in Poland). This happened even before Carter came to the office. When Carter was giving his inauguration speech, said that human rights hadn’t been only a campaign tactics and USA is going to pull Soviet Union to it.
Russians were about to heart attack (collectively). The whole Russian’s leadership thought it was the violation of détente. Helmut Schmidt also criticized Carter. Basket 3 was not popular in Eastern Europe governments . Carter had no support. The “New York Times” was saying you’ve making Russians angry, now SALT won’t be possible.
Brzeziński told Carter the only way that Russians listen to anything is to show strength.

Cyrus Vance, secretary of state in Carter’s administration had different opinion. He was typical of the establishment in the1970s. He was a NY City lawyer. He wanted to negotiate with USRR. He didn’t like Brzeziński, who was national security advisor. Carter wasn’t strong president, one day he listened to Vance, another to Brzeziński. Public opinion and media were confused.
Brzeziński had the Jimmy Carter’s personal trust. It was really important. Everyone was against him, but Rosalynn Carter (Carter’s wife) trusted him. Everyone in Carter’s administration tried to make president to fire Brzeziński (“crazy Pole who screw up détente”). Brzeziński ignores criticism and just keep going.

Brzeziński made Radio Free Europe a soft power instrument. It was a problem, because in 1972-75 lots of politics wanted to close down this radio, as a relic of Cold War (senator William Fulbright). Brzeziński jacked it up, increased the transmitters and the frequency the radio goes. Radio was saying that Cold War is changed, America believe in people under Soviet’s governments.

Carter threatened Polish government if they still wanted loans coming, you’d better pay attention to Basket 3, which you had signed. Polish government was between the devil and the deep blue sea (“Man of Marble”!).

Conference in Belgrade – Vance didn’t want to talk about human rights, he said that the most important thing in US-USRR relationship is nuclear weapon, we have to sign SALT Agreement with Russians. Brzeziński said that America could do both. USA has to talk about weapon and human rights at the same time. Vance wanted to send to Belgrade Warren Christopher. He was very boring (later between 1993 and 1997 he was the secretary of state in Clinton’s office). Brzeziński protested against it. He said that Helsinki was a turning point in Cold War, we can’t send a guy who put people asleep to represent USA. And they sent someone else – Arthur Goldberg, a Supreme Court justice, a tough guy on the Russians. He went to Belgrade and was talking about humans rights.

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