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30th Anniversary of Jimmy Carter's Battle With the "Killer Rabbit":

Today is the 30th anniversary of a minor, but telling historical event: President Jimmy Carter's fight with a "killer rabbit":

On a fishing trip in Plains, Georgia, President Carter had an encounter with a "swamp rabbit". This seemingly trivial event was seized upon by the press and became a sort of Rorschach test of the Carter presidency: reporters and commentators saw in this story whatever they wanted to see in Carter's administration. Jody Powell, Carter's press secretary, described the affair in his 1986 book The Other Side of the Story:

It began late one afternoon in the spring of 1979. The President was sitting with a few of us on the Truman Balcony. He had recently returned from a visit to Plains, and we were talking about homefolks and how the quail were nesting and similar matters of international import.

Suddenly, for no apparent reason — he was drinking lemonade, as I recall — the President volunteered the information that while fishing in a pond on his farm he had sighted a large animal swimming toward him. Upon closer inspection, the animal turned out to be a rabbit. Not one of your cutesy, Easter Bunny-type rabbits, but one of those big splay-footed things that we called swamp rabbits when I was growing up.

The animal was clearly in distress, or perhaps berserk. The President confessed to having had limited experience with enraged rabbits. He was unable to reach a definite conclusion about its state of mind. What was obvious, however, was that this large, wet animal, making strange hissing noises and gnashing its teeth, was intent upon climbing into the Presidential boat.

The President then evidently shooed the critter away from his boat with a paddle. The scene was captured on film by a White House photographer.

The incident might have died of natural causes but for the fact that Powell himself later passed the story along to the press:

Several months later I was chatting with Brooks Jackson, one of the White House correspondents for the Associated Press, over a cup of tea, as I remember. For reasons that I still do not fully understand, I told him about the President and the rabbit. I was the one who leaked the killer rabbit story.

Although an experienced reporter, Brooks also failed to appreciate the significance of what he had heard. He did not rush to file an "urgent" story. In fact, he continued the conversation for some period of time and several more cups of tea. Not until the next day did he get around to sending this gripping account out over the wires to a waiting public.....

We were soon corrected. The Washington Post, exercising the news judgement that we in the White House had come to appreciate so keenly, headed the piece "President Attacked by Rabbit" and ran it on the front page. The more cautious New York Times boxed it on page A-12. That night, all three networks found time to report the amazing incident. But that was just the beginning....

Despite the fact that Carter succeeded in fighting off the rabbit, the incident was seem by many as a symbol of the fecklessness of his administration. I'm no great fan of President Carter's. But I don't think he was as bad a president as many people think. For example, he deserves credit for his support of airline and trucking deregulation, for initiating American aid to groups resisting Soviet rule in Poland and Afghanistan, and for assisting in the negotiation of the 1979 Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty. Carter also made many mistakes of course, and I'm glad he was defeated in 1980. To a large extent, however, he was the victim of extremely bad luck. His term in office coincided with several catastrophes that he mostly didn't cause, but took much of the political blame for: a deep recession, the fall of the Shah in Iran, and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, among others. Carter's downfall epitomized the tendency of voters to blame the incumbent president for anything bad that happens on his watch, regardless of whether he caused it. Of course, Carter was not wholly blameless in these cases. His responses to the recession and the Iran hostage crisis were almost certainly far less than optimal, and tended to make a bad situation worse.

The "killer rabbit" incident was just one of many examples of Carter's extremely poor luck during his presidency. Of course, Carter's press secretary probably made the situation worse by telling the story to a reporter. It was a case of bad luck badly handled. In that sense, it really did epitomize the overall tenor of Carter's term in office.

FantasiaWHT:
What IS a swamp rabbit?
4.20.2009 4:58pm
AnderJ (mail):
4.20.2009 5:01pm
Anderson (mail):
Of course, Carter's press secretary probably made the situation worse by telling the story to a reporter.

BOO-yeah. Your blog post should be printed off and handed to every would-be PR flack in the country.
4.20.2009 5:05pm
Skyler (mail) (www):
Bad luck my eye. He made most of his luck, especially with his handling of the hostages in Iran.

The killer rabbit story was along the same lines as the "lusted in my heart" playboy interview. He was a dunce and he made a fool of himself. If any regular person had been in a boat with a drowning rabbit trying to climb in, they would have told the story differently. They way he shared the story explains a lot about how he thinks. A drowning rabbit was coming at him, and he struggled to keep it out of the boat, but his struggle was tragic-comic. He sounds ridiculous at the same time he sounds heartless. Rabbits aren't all that scary, but he made it sound like something out of Monty Python.

Carter didn't have bad luck. He made bad luck.
4.20.2009 5:07pm
Houston Lawyer:
Carter at least handled the rabbit correctly. Even a blind hog occasionally finds an acorn. Just try to imagine a world in which Carter won a second term.
4.20.2009 5:07pm
Skyler (mail) (www):
I have to go on here.

How much danger could the man have been in? How can a swimming rabbit climb over the gunwhale of a presidential boat? I have no idea how big a boat that might be, but I know roughly how big a rabbit it, and I can't imagine a rabbit being too successful at launching himself on board.

The spin that kept going out from his supporters (I was about 13 and even I thought it was ridiculous spin) was that rabbits could indeed look very scary when they're frothing at the mouth and the president was quite reasonable to be concerned was ludicrous on its face.

If the man can't feel safe from swimming rabbits when he's got the secret service all around him at all times, then he really is quite a sissy boy.
4.20.2009 5:13pm
josil (mail):
If you were an athlete that trained for four years in preparation for the Olympics, and your President decided to punish the Soviet Union by cancelling U.S. participation, you might have a less favorable view of the worst President in the 20th century. But if you were not engaged in Olympic competition, then maybe you can remember the long gas lines and the abortive attempt to introduce WW2 type gas stamps. That is a very small sampling of the Carter administration.
4.20.2009 5:14pm
Ezekiel (www):
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Swamp_Rabbit
4.20.2009 5:15pm
martinned (mail) (www):
@josil: You left out "first bible thumper president".
4.20.2009 5:16pm
Cityduck (mail):
The lesson of Carter and Reagan sure seems to be one about PR. All you have to do is contrast Carter and the Iran hostage situation with Reagan and the Lebanon hostage situation. Reagan handled the Lebanon situation much worse, to much worse results, yet his legacy is untarnished by it.

And Carter's pivotal role in bringing down the Soviet Empire is rarely mentioned.
4.20.2009 5:17pm
martinned (mail) (www):

And Carter's pivotal role in bringing down the Soviet Empire is rarely mentioned.

Say what???
4.20.2009 5:18pm
josh bornstein (mail) (www):
I'm not sure if I agree with the link you make here. It's obvious that presidents do get blamed for external events (as you cited). No surprise there, and it's a phenomenon that affects Dem and Repub presidents alike.

But Carter's rabbit story seems different. In that case, it seems like it was really a matter of how the story was reported. I do agree (I think you were making this point implicitly) that the story would have had much less traction if the reported story had not fit neatly into a narrative many already believed about Carter. Cognitive dissonance, and all that.

But the essential facts of the story (very oddly-behaving small animal acted in a threatening way towards Carter, and he fended off said animal) don't seem intrinsically 'bad'. I was very very young when the events happened, and I have always felt that better White House PR people could have spun it so that Carter came out as heroic. (Lots of footage of the vicious bunny from 'Monty Python & the Holy Grail, repeated over-and-over could have informed the [rationally ignorant] American public as to the extreme danger these death-dealing hindgut digesters pose, for example).
4.20.2009 5:22pm
Bill Poser (mail) (www):
josil,

How exactly was Carter responsible for the long gas lines? Are you suggesting that he should have invaded the OPEC countries?
4.20.2009 5:24pm
Kazinski:
Jimmy Carter was the greatest Libertarian President of the 20th Century. Of course he was a twit regarding just about everything else, but he signed into law the most freedom expanding legislation of the past 50 years: the legalization of homebrew.
4.20.2009 5:24pm
Cityduck (mail):

How much danger could the man have been in? How can a swimming rabbit climb over the gunwhale of a presidential boat?


It was a flat bottomed bass boat with sides that were only about four to six inches above the water. Very easy for a varmint to crawl into.

Rabbits can get rabies and other diseases. If the rabbit swam towards me, I'd shoo it off too. Anyone with any sense would.
4.20.2009 5:25pm
c.gray (mail):

[Carter'] term in office coincided with several catastrophes that he mostly didn't cause, but took much of the political blame for: a deep recession, the fall of the Shah in Iran, and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, among others


I have to disagree.

Carter was almost hopeless on economic policy (his belief in deregulation of transportation &shipping a big exception), and his constant changes of direction, especially on energy policy, probably aggravated the economic problems he inherited.

And while the fall of the Pahlavi dynasty was not _completely_ his fault, Carter did absolutely nothing to prevent it, all the while pressuring the Shah to make dangerous concessions to his political opponents. He then did nothing to prevent the rise of the mullahcracy, which may not have been inevitable. Then he enraged the mullahs and many other Iranians by coming to the Shah's assistance...after he had been driven from power. After the hostages were seized he proceeded to dither for months, apparently until falling poll numbers vs. Reagan lead him to sign off on a spectacularly risky, and subsequently disastrous, rescue operation.

The blame Carter received over Iran was entirely deserved. He presided over not one disaster, but an entire string of them.

And its seems likely that if a less USA-hostile regime had remained in power in Iran, the Politburo would have viewed direct intervention in Afghanistan as a much riskier enterprise.
4.20.2009 5:27pm
Cityduck (mail):


And Carter's pivotal role in bringing down the Soviet Empire is rarely mentioned.


Say what???


Martinned makes my point.

Does the term "Russia's Vietnam" mean anything to you? Do you know what role it played in the downfall of the Soviet Union? Do you know what role Carter played in that tragedy for the Soviets?
4.20.2009 5:27pm
My Middle Name Is Ralph:

If you were an athlete that trained for four years in preparation for the Olympics, and your President decided to punish the Soviet Union by cancelling U.S. participation, you might have a less favorable view of the worst President in the 20th century.


I'm confused. I thought taking punitive action against the USSR was good thing in conservative circles.
4.20.2009 5:28pm
Bill Poser (mail) (www):
For those of you who evidently have little experience of wild animals, although rabbits are not in the same category of danger as, say, grizzly bears, they can be dangerous. Rabbits have large front teeth and can deliver a nasty bite. Moreover, they can be rabid. If Carter saw a rabbit approaching aggressively and especially if it appeared to be foaming at the mouth, he had a legitimate fear of getting rabies. We don't normally worry much about rabbits because they aren't big, lethal, or aggressive, but an aggressive rabbit with rabies is something to avoid. Furthermore, I don't know exactly what kind of boat Carter was in, but very likely it was small and not particularly stable, all the more motivation to keep the rabbit from getting into the boat or even next to it.
4.20.2009 5:38pm
Bill Poser (mail) (www):
Carter may not have handled the Iranian situation optimally, but if we're going to cast partisan blame, I note that the problem would probably not have arisen if Republican President Eisenhower had not overthrown the secular, democratic government of Iran in 1953.
4.20.2009 5:44pm
FantasiaWHT:
I always think of the Bunnicula trilogy of children's books.
4.20.2009 5:52pm
Perseus (mail):
Speaking of a lack of PR savvy and message discipline during the Carter Administration, I recall the famous incident of Carter's chief architect of deregulation, Alfred Kahn, who was told not to use the word "recession" lest the Administration appear too gloomy about the economy's prospects. So in his next Kahn speech simply substituted "banana" for recession: "We're in danger of having the worst banana in 45 years." (I wonder whether President Obama's penchant for hiring academics--who are used to speaking their minds--will cause him similar grief.)
4.20.2009 5:56pm
rosetta's stones:
Carter was just rudderless, flitting hither and yon, micromanaging where that was pointless, politically tone deaf... just a disaster.

And I voted for him twice, so I'm entitled to say that.

The rabbit story fit the meme, so they ran with it. He had establishment enemies in Washington, and they slipped the dagger to him. Tip O'Neill accepted his traditional first visit, and as I heard it told, explained to him that "I was here when you got here, and I'm going to be here when you leave." Evidently, Jimmuh didn't get the message behind that. Teddy ran against him in the primary, to drive it home.

Some admirable libertarian impulse, no doubt, but no clue or cohesion as to its execution.

Jimmuh and that fool Brezezinski encouraged Sadaam to invade Iran, no matter what the sainted Zbig lies about today. Jimmuh flitted into that policy after the mullahs embarrassed him so badly. Millions dead, and tyranny emboldened. Nation-states weakened to defensive crouch, clinging to power. We might not be in that nest of Mesopatamian snakes today if he hadn't done that.

And look at what he's done since. If he'd just shut up and bang nails, that'd be wonderful, but this guy is a disgrace.
4.20.2009 6:07pm
Skyler (mail) (www):

Rabbits have large front teeth and can deliver a nasty bite. Moreover, they can be rabid. If Carter saw a rabbit approaching aggressively and especially if it appeared to be foaming at the mouth, he had a legitimate fear of getting rabies.


Ah, the spin never ends.

Listen, we don't need a recitation of the faults of every other president. They all have faults, including Reagan's handling of Lebanon and others.

The point is that one purpose of the president is to lead and inspire. Carter could do neither. His idea of leadership was to tell us to wear sweaters, complain of malaise, and cringe at the feet of the Ayatollah Khomeini.

And his legacy since then has been no better.
4.20.2009 6:12pm
Cityduck (mail):

The point is that one purpose of the president is to lead and inspire. Carter could do neither.


Agreed. He was a failure as a communicator. For me, the lessons of Carter and Reagan have everything to do with PR.
4.20.2009 6:24pm
Skyler (mail) (www):
And philosophy.
4.20.2009 6:32pm
Daniel San:
Bill Poser: "if Republican President Eisenhower had not overthrown the secular, democratic government of Iran in 1953"

Briefly read the history of that overthrow. The government was ready to fall and it came as a huge suprise when it crumbled after a small push. Granted, we were ready with a bigger push but it didn't take that. Of course, Eisenhower was responding to a call from the Iranian government that it was about to fall to the communists if we didn't do something.

As for the gas lines, they had some connection with Carter's price controls. We can spread that blame around. He was continuing the Nixon policy of trying to control inflation by controlling prices.
4.20.2009 6:34pm
Skyler (mail) (www):
I love the popular notion that the US overthrew the government of Iran and installed the Shah. What rot.

I think the people of Iran had a lot more to say about it than we did. Just look at Iraq and Afghanistan and every other country in the world where we wanted something to happen and it didn't. Iraq wasn't overthrown by destroying a huge part of their army. Iraq wasn't overthrown until we came back and stood in down town Baghdad.

Don't give me that nonsense that WE put the Shah in power. The people of Iran did it. We might have encouraged them to do it, but they are the ones that did it.
4.20.2009 6:46pm
Bill Harshaw (mail) (www):
Give him a debit for giving the Republicans the issue that brought Reagan to the White House--the Panama Canal treaty.

(Camp David was 1978, not 1979)
4.20.2009 7:03pm
Cityduck (mail):

Don't give me that nonsense that WE put the Shah in power. The people of Iran did it. We might have encouraged them to do it, but they are the ones that did it.


Wow. Talk about reality challenged. The CIA was quite proud of Operation Ajax -- the code name for the British/American sponsored coup. There are no parallels to recent events in Iraq. There are parallels to the CIA's next project inspired by the success in Iran: Guatemala.
4.20.2009 7:20pm
rosetta's stones:
The legendary Camp David miracle is a non-starter, too. Love them or hate them, Israel had beat the tar out of the Egyptians, on the battlefield. Egypt wasn't gonna invade again, because they couldn't afford to, and their populace likely wouldn't buy it again in any event. Not to mention, the Israelis threatened to nuke them if they did.

Thus, there was no need for Jimmuh to put Egypt and Israel on the US welfare dole, which is basically all that occurred at Camp David. Now, we got 2 nation-states tugging at our purse strings, one of them likes waterboards almost as much as Cheney, and a few more countries looking to cash in just like their neighbors. Thanks, Jimmuh.
4.20.2009 7:31pm
Skyler (mail) (www):
That the CIA claims credit doesn't mean they deserve credit. The people of Iran had a lot of say in the matter too. If the people of Iran had united in opposing the Shah being in power, he would not have gotten into power. Hmmm. Isn't that how he was ousted?

The CIA either believes their own press, or they are the reality challenged party here. Millions of Iranians cannot be controlled by a handful of CIA agents.
4.20.2009 7:32pm
hattio1:
So,
Out of curiousity I looked up when the Quest For The Holy Grail came out. It was 1975. Still, I doubt it was a cult classic in 1979, so the PR men running clips of the killer rabbit probably wouldn't have helped Carter much.
4.20.2009 7:39pm
Tom952 (mail):
Rabbits have large front teeth and can deliver a nasty bite.

Tigers and bears have large front teeth. Rabbits are herbivores with four small teeth. Sharks deliver nasty bites. Rabbits deliver nips.
4.20.2009 7:48pm
Skyler (mail) (www):
Monty Python was quite big back in 79, and the killer rabbit bit was quite well known.

And yes, rabbits can deliver a "nasty" bite. The trick is in defining the word "nasty." If you're a normal man, a nasty bite is one delivered by a wolf or a shark. If you're Jimmah Carter, a nasty bite is one delivered by a drowning bunny.
4.20.2009 7:56pm
Michelle Dulak Thomson (mail):
rosetta's stones,

Not to mention, the Israelis threatened to nuke them if they did.

I didn't think that Israel had ever, officially, admitted even to having nukes. (Though everyone knows that they do, IIRC from seismic data after their underground tests among other things.)
4.20.2009 7:57pm
Skyler (mail) (www):
My point is that sure, it was prudent to keep the bunny out of the boat. Yes, it was a curious story worth relating to friends over a "lemonade." But instead of dismissing the story that way, Jimmah had his mouthpiece tell us how dangerous the situation was, making an absurd situation pathetic.
4.20.2009 7:58pm
dirc:
Cityduck (channeling Sarcastro) wrote:

And Carter's pivotal role in bringing down the Soviet Empire is rarely mentioned.

And, upon an expression of incredulity, Cityduck later responded:

Does the term "Russia's Vietnam" mean anything to you? Do you know what role it played in the downfall of the Soviet Union? Do you know what role Carter played in that tragedy for the Soviets?


Ah yes, I remember President Carter's clever strategy of appearing weak to our enemies. They over-extended themselves and were easily defeat by a weak leader (President Reagan) who acted as though he were strong. Good thing those foreigners were so gullible!

If President Carter had only won in 1980, he would have shown the world his mettle and earned the credit that is rightfully his! Instead he has been forced to play the dupe to the world's dictators and autocrats, thus setting them up for their eventual defeat. The man is a foreign policy genius!

I expect a similar contribution to American interests by President Obama. The mullahs of Iran had better watch out sometime around 2021.
4.20.2009 8:01pm
R Gould-Saltman (mail):
Skyler:

I suggest you take a look at the CIA source documents as to what the US did to "assist" the coup that deposed Mossadeigh and installed the Shah. Not anything that any left-wing conspiracy nuts thought up (you know, those paranoid leftists who thought, let's say, that the FBI was spying on the civil rights movement, or that the CIA was instigating coups in other places, or that ex-CIA guys working for the Nixon White House were engaged in nefarious stuff...) the actual CIA source documents as to what the CIA THOUGHT they were doing. The NYT published a whole book of 'em.

Daniel San: this "call" from the "Iranian government"? You're saying that the Mossadeigh regime requested a coup? If by the "government", on the other hand, you mean those elements in the military that ultimately put the coup together, THEY may have made a call or two...
4.20.2009 8:02pm
Leo Marvin (mail):
Carter committed the unpardonable crime of talking to the American people like adults. Thank God the Republicans saw to it he was appropriately punished, pandering Reagan's way to the White House.

But speaking of Carter-era cold war nostalgia, has Viktor Tikhonov been released from the Gulag yet for pulling Tretiak at Lake Placid?
4.20.2009 8:05pm
Skyler (mail) (www):
Leo says that Carter talked to us "like adults."

Hmm. My mother was the one telling me to wear a sweater when I was a child. I'm not seeing this as an adult conversation.

Gould, it doesn't matter what the CIA did. They only ever had a handful of people in Iran. Even if they had thousands of agents there, they were still facing several million Iranians. If the Iranians really didn't want things the way the CIA wanted them, they could have stopped it.

It serves the CIA to perpetuate this myth of invincibility.
4.20.2009 8:17pm
Leo Marvin (mail):
Skyler,

Hmm. My mother was the one telling me to wear a sweater when I was a child. I'm not seeing this as an adult conversation.

She wasn't treating you like an adult, just telling you what you needed to know to become one. Compare if she had said, "Yes Skyler darling, you can wear anything you want. And don't worry, you'll never have to pay a price for your choices."
4.20.2009 8:28pm
rosetta's stones:
Michelle, I don't believe Israel has acknowledged their nuclear weapons program to this day, but many think they had deliverable weapons by the early to mid 70's. I don't believe word of their program has ever reached a single piece of official paper published by that government, but others may know otherwise. Seems kinda goofy, but there it is.
4.20.2009 8:33pm
mariner:
Leo Marvin:
Carter committed the unpardonable crime of talking to the American people like adults.

Horse hockey.

He talked to us as Mr. Rogers did, unfortunately without Mr. Rogers' wisdom.

Those upset that we remember Carter as America's worst-ever President only have a few more years. Obama is making a serious run for the position even as we speak.
4.20.2009 8:34pm
Bob from Ohio (mail):

Despite the economic hardships of his nationalization plan, Mossadegh remained popular, and in 1952 was approved by parliament for a second term. Sensing the difficulties of a worsening political and economic climate, he announced that he would request the Shah grant him emergency powers. Thus, during the royal approval of his new cabinet, Mossadegh asked the Shah to grant him full control of the military, and Ministry of War. The Shah refused, and Mossadegh announced his resignation.
Ahmed Qavam was appointed as Iran's new prime minister. On the day of his appointment, he announced his intention to resume negotiations with the British to end the oil dispute. This blatant reversal of Mossadegh's plans sparked a massive public outrage. Protestors of all stripes filled the streets, including communists and radical Muslims led by Ayatollah Kashani. Frightened by the unrest, the Shah quickly dismissed Qavam, and re-appointed Mossadegh, granting him the full control of the military he had previously requested.

Taking advantage of his atmosphere of popularity, Mossadegh convinced the parliament to grant him increased powers and appointed Ayatollah Kashani as house speaker. Kashani's radical Muslims, as well as the Iranian Communist Party , proved to be two of Mossadegh's key political allies, although both relationships were often strained.

Mossadegh quickly implemented more socialist reforms. Iran's centuries old feudal agriculture sector was abolished, and replaced with a system of collective farming and government land ownership.


source: EconomicExpert.com

Mossadegh sought and eventually got "emergency" powers. How many popular leaders in the Third World ever give those up?

He brought collective farms and other Marxist policies into Iran. Could someone name the successful economies which implemented these reforms please.

He was the one who first brought radical muslims into government. The Shah kicked them out.

The CIA did Iran a favor.

The Shah, while no George Washington, governed well for a long time though eventually resorting to more and more repression, though such repression pales with the current regime.
4.20.2009 9:23pm
Alan K. Henderson (mail) (www):
On the subject of Afghanistan, I recall that Carter's initial reaction was the understatement, "This could be war." I still remember Johnny Carson's response: "That's like calling D-Day trespassing on a private beach."

Nobody's brought up Carter's notion that the Sandinistas would be an improvement over Somoza...
4.20.2009 9:28pm
Ricardo (mail):
He was the one who first brought radical muslims into government. The Shah kicked them out.

Only to return in even more virulent form in less than 30 years' time. Look, there are lots of Muslim countries out there and every one of them has to deal with crazy fundamentalists one way or the other. It's safe to say the Shah's methods of dealing with them failed in the long-run. Turkey has been rather more successful, for instance.

These arguments that it was really the people of Iran who kicked out Mossadegh are bizarre as well. Was it the people of Iran who also booted out the Shah and created the world's only Islamic theocracy less than thirty years later? Or is there a separate standard for 1979?
4.20.2009 9:45pm
David Hecht (mail):
As far as Carter's "pivotal role" in ending the Soviet evil empire goes, it's pure nonsense.

Carter opposed any US intervention in support of the Afghani Mujaheddin. Congress came up with that one all on their own, largely through the efforts of an old-line conservative Texas Democrat, Charlie Wilson: something well-documented in the book, "Charlie Wilson's War" (later made into a movie starring Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts).

Carter also assured the fall of Somoza and his replacement with the Sandinistas, who were pawns of the Soviet Union, by cutting off our weapon sales to him. Ditto the Shah of Iran, whom Carter evidently thought would be best replaced by Ayatollah Khomeini. Even after the fact, and after the ayatollahs violated every principle of international law dating back to Grotius and Vattel by INVADING our EMBASSY and holding our DIPLOMATS hostage, Carter couldn't bring himself to lift a finger to stop the ayatollahs, until late in the election campaign when he finally decided to roll the dice with a feckless, underequipped rescue mission that ended in disaster. All this is well-documented in Mark Bowditch's excellent book, "Guests of the Ayatollah".

Anyone who thinks President Carter did anything to bring down the Soviet Union is either dreaming or misinformed.
4.20.2009 9:51pm
Jestak (mail):
Wow, so many comments with no mention of the best thing to come out of the "killer rabbit" incident, namely, one of Tom Paxton's funniest songs.
4.20.2009 10:00pm
TGGP (mail) (www):
Daniel Larison makes the realist-conservative case against Carter's foreign policy here. Jim Henley has a series making the libertarian case for Carter here. Andrew Bacevich &Dan McCarthy have both argued that Carter's "malaise" speech was an admirably conservative recognition of natural limits and recommendation of prudence, while Reagan was an unfortunately Emersonian optimist-idealist. I suppose I dislike him less than some other presidents if only because he only served one term.
4.20.2009 10:10pm
Skyler (mail) (www):

She wasn't treating you like an adult,


I thought that was my point, Leo. I think you kind of missed the point.
4.20.2009 10:37pm
Mike O (mail) (www):
4.20.2009 10:37pm
Skyler (mail) (www):
Ricardo asked,

Was it the people of Iran who also booted out the Shah and created the world's only Islamic theocracy less than thirty years later? Or is there a separate standard for 1979?


If the people of Iran wanted to, they could have stopped the Ayatollah. For whatever reason, they did not act. They bear full responsibility for allowing the theocracy to come to power and stay in power. The people of a country are always liable for the government they allow to rule them.
4.20.2009 10:44pm
Randy R. (mail):
I'm looking forward to the post that commemorates the 20th anniversary of Ronald Reagan proclaiming that trees cause pollution.

(Oh, and that ketchup is a vegetable for school lunch purposes).

But I ain't holding my breath......
4.20.2009 11:09pm
Ice Nine:
Moreover, they can be rabid. If Carter saw a rabbit approaching aggressively and especially if it appeared to be foaming at the mouth, he had a legitimate fear of getting rabies. We don't normally worry much about rabbits because they aren't big, lethal, or aggressive, but an aggressive rabbit with rabies is something to avoid.

Who said anything about the rabbit "foaming at the mouth". Moot anyway - rabies is virtually unheard of in rabbits. Notwithstanding all that, Carter deserved a good case of rabies for what he did to those Olympic athletes.
4.20.2009 11:19pm
Ricardo (mail):
Carter deserved a good case of rabies for what he did to those Olympic athletes.

Had he not boycotted, I'm quite sure we would see in this very same comments section remarks about how Carter's left-wing bent, devotion to vapid internationalism and support of left-wing Utopian international organizations like the IOC caused him to send the athletes to the capital city of the Soviet Empire.

I noticed that a certain John Tkacik of the Heritage Foundation was among those calling for a boycott of the Beijing Olympics. He certainly wasn't the only conservative or conservative-affiliated person to do so.
4.20.2009 11:30pm
Leo Marvin (mail):
Skyler, I think I got your point, and I think you got mine.
4.20.2009 11:37pm
Skyler (mail) (www):
Leo, I'm not sure you did, and maybe I didn't get yours because you don't make sense to me.

Randy, trees put out a lot of carbon dioxide which was and is considered a pollutant by some. This was undisputed truth. I was taught these things long before Reagan got elected. I never understood how anyone could mock that claim and still consider themselves to have successfully completed high school biology.

But the problem to folks like Randy, is that they think that pointing out the fact that one man has flaws can be disputed by pointing out that another man may also have flaws.

The discussion is Carter. He was a horrible president no matter whether you want to compare him to someone else or not. Whether Reagan or anyone else was good or bad has no bearing on the very clear evidence that Carter was certainly quite bad.
4.20.2009 11:48pm
josil (mail):
The only ones punished by Carter's Olympics decision were US athletes. It is a far, far stretch to connect that decision to the ultimate Soviet experience in Afghanistan. It is interesting to witness Carter's "diplomatic" activities after leaving office as a continuation of his Presidential views.
4.21.2009 12:09am
swamp rabbit (mail):
Skyler,

trees do not put out "a lot of carbon dioxide" they cosume carbon dioxide and emit oxygen. perhaps by "trees" you mean "things that are not plants"?

whether or not carbon dioxide is a polutant is a whole other matter.
4.21.2009 12:37am
Skyler (mail) (www):
oops. Whatever. I remember learning long before Reagan that trees caused smog in the Blue Ridge. I got the gasses backwards here.
4.21.2009 12:43am
Randy R. (mail):
Trees cause smog? Sorry Skyler, you're just digging deeper and deeper.

"But the problem to folks like Randy, is that they think that pointing out the fact that one man has flaws can be disputed by pointing out that another man may also have flaws."

My point is that this blog is doing exactly what it criticizes others for doing-- showing a bias. What is the point of bringing up the killer rabbit story? I really don't know, except that it is to make fun of Carter. Now, if you want to make fun of him, find something a little more recent, like in the past few days.
4.21.2009 12:59am
Daryl Herbert (www):
As much as I hate Jimmy Carter and fault him for just about everything else, it's hard to see what he did wrong here.

A wild animal tried to get into his boat. He wasn't some filthy hippie out to commune with nature. He didn't want to cuddle with a wild animal.

He wasn't Ted Nugent. He didn't draw his revolver and blow the little rabbit's brains out.

He wasn't Conan the Barbarian. He didn't strike the rabbit's brain stem with his oar, spraying blood and guts everywhere.

He just flicked water at it so it wouldn't go into his boat.

Who the hell wants a swamp rabbit in their boat, anyway? Only a filthy hippie.
4.21.2009 1:54am
David M. Nieporent (www):
Carter may not have handled the Iranian situation optimally, but if we're going to cast partisan blame, I note that the problem would probably not have arisen if Republican President Eisenhower had not overthrown the secular, democratic government of Iran in 1953.
Saying that Eisenhower "overthrew" the government of Iran in 1953 is like saying that Congress "overthrew" the government of Nixon in 1974. There was no coup; the Shah was the legitimate government. It was Mossadegh -- yes, originally democratically chosen, but so what? -- who tried to mount a coup.
4.21.2009 2:49am
David M. Nieporent (www):
Daniel San: this "call" from the "Iranian government"? You're saying that the Mossadeigh regime requested a coup? If by the "government", on the other hand, you mean those elements in the military that ultimately put the coup together, THEY may have made a call or two...
The Shah, not Mossadegh, was the head of state.
4.21.2009 2:54am
Leo Marvin (mail):
Skyler, what do you think you were getting at that I missed?
4.21.2009 3:42am
Anon1111:

Trees cause smog? Sorry Skyler, you're just digging deeper and deeper.


"These chemicals, known collectively as VOCs, react with other pollutants to form ozone, a bluish, irritating and pungent gas that is a major form of smog in the lower atmosphere."

http://www.scienceblog.com/cms/node/4211
4.21.2009 7:58am
Skyler (mail) (www):
Thanks Anon1111.

Two points:

1. If you repeat a lie often enough, people will believe it. Reagan was scientifically correct about the trees causing smog but so many lies have been repeated mocking his claim that now people think it's a sign of him being stupid.

2. The comments here almost always veer off subject like this. No criticism of a liberal is possible without dragging in some sin of a conservative, whether accurate or not. So instead of talking about the faults of one, we're left defending the faults of another.

Carter was idiotic enough by himself. Making someone else look idiotic, rightly or wrongly, can in no way change what Carter was.
4.21.2009 8:53am
Skyler (mail) (www):
Leo, you said that Carter talked to us like we were adults.

I said that Carter told us to wear sweaters.

I said that only my mother told me to wear sweaters when I was a child.

Thus the implication was that Carter talked to us like we were children.

You said, that clearly my mother talked to me like I was a child.

Yeah? So then you agree that Carter talked to us like we were children then. I don't see your objection, you're not making sense.
4.21.2009 8:55am
Michael Drake (mail) (www):
Imagine what would have happened if Carter had been attacked by a pretzel.
4.21.2009 11:19am
Mikee (mail):
Regarding Reagan's comment that trees cause pollution: The pollutant is ozone, which can exacerbate smog from cars. As a child I recall the controversy in my home city of Charlotte, one of the most verdant of eastern seaboard cities, as it suffered EPA anger over ozone pollution, which was due to the many very green trees we had there. The smog is gone, due to catalytic converters, and the trees are still green. I suspect the ozone there is still higher than elsewhere.
4.21.2009 12:06pm
Careless:

Tigers and bears have large front teeth. Rabbits are herbivores with four small teeth. Sharks deliver nasty bites. Rabbits deliver nips.
Tigers have small front teeth. They have large incisors. Lagomorphs have large front teeth and no (or just tiny?) incisors.

Trees do, in fact, release carbon dioxide as does anything that performs aerobic respiration. They just take back more than they emit during photosynthesis.
4.21.2009 12:22pm
Careless:
incisors should be canines, of course
4.21.2009 12:22pm
Cityduck (mail):

As far as Carter's "pivotal role" in ending the Soviet evil empire goes, it's pure nonsense.

Carter opposed any US intervention in support of the Afghani Mujaheddin. Congress came up with that one all on their own, largely through the efforts of an old-line conservative Texas Democrat, Charlie Wilson: something well-documented in the book, "Charlie Wilson's War" (later made into a movie starring Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts).


This thread is getting farther and farther from reality. Now a movie is the source.


The US intelligence services began to aid the rebel factions in Afghanistan six months before the Soviet invasion in December of 1979. On July 3, 1979, President Carter signed two key executive orders: (1) authorizing the CIA to conduct covert propaganda operations against the communist regime, and (2) authorizing funding for anticommunist guerrillas in Afghanistan.

Brzezinski has stated: "We didn't push the Russians to intervene, but we knowingly increased the probability that they would...That secret operation was an excellent idea. It had the effect of drawing the Soviets into the Afghan trap...The day that the Soviets officially crossed the border, I wrote to President Carter. We now have the opportunity of giving to the Soviet Union its Vietnam War."

The covert operation was on-going long before Rep. Charles Wilson knew anything about it. All Wilson did, down the road, was, along with other Congressmen, lobby for funding. Carter had set the path, and Reagan was wise to continue down it. But give Carter his due.
4.21.2009 12:31pm
Randy R. (mail):
Skylar:"1. If you repeat a lie often enough, people will believe it. Reagan was scientifically correct about the trees causing smog but so many lies have been repeated mocking his claim that now people think it's a sign of him being stupid. "

First, I don't suspect that Reagan did much reading regarding any sort of science, so I hardlly think it was a reasoned opinion he was giving. Nonetheless, trees do NOT cause smog. They might contribute to smog, when other pollutants are in the air, but they themselves do not cause any sort of pollution. It is pollutants that cause pollution, not trees. Or are you seriously arguing that the world should cut down all the trees to clean up all our air pollution?

It's a wonder that you have to contort his actual statement to make it even possibly acceptable, but Reagan never said that trees contribute to smog. He said they cause pollution. And that's inane by any standards.
4.21.2009 1:16pm
Skyler (mail) (www):
Randy, give me a break.

FIrst, we're discussing Carter. Reagan is beside the point.

Second, your proof that Reagan is an idiot is that you think Reagan is an idiot?

Reagan was correct. Wrap your brain around that fact. Trees emit chemicals that the EPA says are pollutants. This is a scientific fact. Whether you put the label "pollutant" on those chemicals when emitted by a car or by a tree is irrelevent. It's still the same chemicals. Reagan's point was quite intelligent, one that any lawyer should be able to appreciate. The point was that it is possible to demonize any pollutants, but we should remember that the world has been dealing with those same pollutants for as long as trees have been growing.

But none of that changes that Carter was an idiot and he allowed people to judge his character based on a hyperbolic response in the press to a drowning bunny rabbit.
4.21.2009 1:28pm
Grateful American:
There's no such thing as "luck" in foreign affairs....just cause and effect......the Soviets expand their efforts throughout the Third World, not in a vaccum, but precisely because of Carter's complete ineptitude.......the invasion of Afghanistan wasn't "bad luck" that simply "happened" during Carter's tenure; it was, in fact, because of Carter's tenure.....
4.21.2009 2:22pm
Grateful American:
There's no such thing as "luck" in foreign affairs....just cause and effect......the Soviets expand their efforts throughout the Third World, not in a vaccum, but precisely because of Carter's complete ineptitude.......the invasion of Afghanistan wasn't "bad luck" that simply "happened" during Carter's tenure; it was, in fact, because of Carter's tenure.....
4.21.2009 2:23pm
Jam:
Arn't most (all?) of the Muslim countries highly socialistic, if not socialist?

Re. the rabbit incident. Anyone ever been bitten by a rabbit or an animal that requires constant gnawing to keep their teeth from growing too long?

Disclosure. I was once treed by a opossum.
4.21.2009 4:15pm
t-boy (mail):
The point of the story in my view is that any other person I know that would be out fishing in GA would have shot the rabbit, eaten it, and never made a big deal about it.

Its not the situation, but how you are prepared to handle it that determines your character.
4.21.2009 11:06pm

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