Jimmy Carter’s partial diagnosis of our ailing political system

August 5th, 2015
As of the day Jimmy Carter occupied the White House and up through the present, this author has waited to hear him say something with which he could agree.

To his discredit, Carter never mastered global politics. He remains the architect of most our woes in the Middle East today, having pulled the rug out from underneath the Shah of Iran in 1979 to open the door for mullahs who now run rampant there. Wrongly perceiving the Shah’s replacement, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomenei, to be a Mahatma Ghandi, Carter welcomed him with open arms—only to discover Khomenei to be more Genghis Khan than Ghandi.

Until President Obama took office, Carter was clearly America’s most incompetent occupant of the Oval Office. However, despite being relieved of that title by our current president, he still retains title as our most incompetent former president, evidenced by various outlandish positions to which he has periodically ascribed over the years and made headlines doing so.

It has been almost four decades since Carter took office in 1977, but now, to his credit, he has finally made a correct, albeit partial, assessment about America’s ailing political system.

Interviewed July 28 on the nationally syndicated radio show the Thom Hartmann Program, Carter was asked about the impact of the 2010 U.S. Supreme Court case “Citizens United vs. FEC,” concerning campaign financing, on our political system. That decision opened campaign spending floodgates for unions and corporations, protecting same under the First Amendment as long as done independently of party or candidate.

In asking Carter for his view, Hartmann summed up the case as the highest court in the land sanctioning “unlimited money in politics” which seemed “like a violation of principles of democracy.”

Carter responded: “It violates the essence of what made America a great country in its political system. Now it’s just an oligarchy, with unlimited political bribery being the essence of getting the nominations for president or to elect the president. And the same thing applies to governors and U.S. senators and congress members. So now we’ve just seen a complete subversion of our political system as a payoff to major contributors, who want and expect and sometimes get favors for themselves after the election’s over…The incumbents, Democrats and Republicans, look upon this unlimited money as a great benefit to themselves. Somebody who is already in Congress has a lot more to sell to an avid contributor than somebody who’s just a challenger.”

While Carter addressed the ills of this money aspect of politics, his diagnosis failed to include another ill of our political system haunting us today and undermining our national security. It is the proclivity of our leaders to view major issues solely through political party-colored lenses.

We have members of Congress who, while failing to even read legislation upon which they will be voting, support it unhesitatingly because their party’s president does.

On point is Nancy Pelosi’s 2010 comment concerning Obamacare, “We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it, away from the fog of controversy.”

Pelosi’s statement suggested she knew better than the rest of us what implementation of Obamacare would mean, yet she made the statement without having read the bill. While she could find time to write a book in office, Pelosi could not find time to read the 11,588,500 words in the final Obamacare regulations or 381,517 words in the Obamacare law itself. However, if Obama said it was okay, Pelosi supported it, regardless of actual content. (In fairness, there was very limited time between issuing the final draft of the bill and the actual vote by Congress.)

Unfortunately, it is this same sense of party politics over national security concerns that will undoubtedly control September’s vote on what future historians will assess as the most important decision of the early 21st century—Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran. Any member of Congress choosing to use a national security lens over a political party one to examine this deal would be hard-pressed to approve it.

Sadly, we are no longer a nation whose leaders view issues from the perspective of the common good of all America.

Unfortunately, what drives governance today is a combination of money, as Carter points out, as well as blind commitment by members of Congress to walk the path of their political party regardless of the overall impact.

A patriot is defined as “a person who vigorously supports their country and is prepared to defend it against enemies or detractors.”

Over two centuries ago in America, a group of such patriots assembled to implement decisions driven by the common good of those they represented. They undertook great personal risk, effectively signing their own death warrants, in implementing actions to break free from the yoke of tyranny.

Sadly, the true American patriot is a dying breed—a species endangered by an ailing political system. Alas, gazing upon it today, we can but wonder where have all our patriots gone?

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