The Jimmy Carter Chronicles

As his record shows, when Jimmy Carter says there's no reason to be afraid of, say, the Muslim Brotherhood, that's when there's every reason to be very much afraid.

By 2.18.11

For those of you not entirely certain about where to stand on a complex, dynamic situation in Egypt, fear no more: Jimmy Carter has waded in to add both clarity and certainty.

"I think that the Muslim Brotherhood is not anything to be afraid of," Carter told a wide-eyed, admiring university audience in Austin, Texas. The man who presided over the replacement of the Shah with the world's worst theocratic-terror state confidently predicted that the Muslim Brotherhood "will be subsumed in the overwhelming demonstration of desire for freedom and democracy."

If you weren't entirely sure about whether to fear the collapse of Hosni Mubarak, be afraid now -- very, very afraid. Jimmy Carter's record on these things does not exactly inspire optimism.

As a service to my fellow Americans, I thought I'd offer this quick review of Carter's appraisal of previous regimes, dictators, and murderers, from the Soviet Union to the Middle East to the Far East. Let's start with the Evil Empire:

In the immediate days after the Soviets invaded Afghanistan in late December 1979, President Carter responded with shock and a sense of deep, palpable betrayal. After all, he and Leonid Brezhnev, just six months earlier, at the Vienna Summit, had literally hugged and kissed. Why would the Soviets do this?

Carter was hurt, betrayed by that kiss.

"My opinion of the Russians has changed most dramatically in the last week," he told a speechless Frank Reynolds of ABC News. "[T]his action of the Soviets has made a more dramatic change in my own opinion of what the Soviets' ultimate goals are than anything they've done in the previous time I've been in office."

The Democratic president had long lamented America's "inordinate fear of communism," from which he had hoped to unshackle the nation. And now, just like that, his communist friends were annihilating Afghanistan.

Carter had called them just that, "friends," assuring Americans the first week of his presidency that the Soviets "seem to be our friends." It was a theme he carried throughout his presidency, telling reporters during a June 26, 1978 press conference, "We want to be friends with the Soviets."

At the same time, Jimmy Carter had tried to warn Americans about their smugness, about unwarranted feelings of American exceptionalism, especially compared to the Soviet Union. "We've got our own problems in this country," Carter lectured, especially compared to the USSR.

What were these problems? Where, for example, were Americans inferior to the Soviets? Carter had a reliable source: the Soviet ambassador. Carter called attention to what Soviet Ambassador Anatoly Dobrynin instructed him: "He said to me, 'At least in the Soviet Union, our women have equal rights.'"

Ah, yes. No doubt, the Soviets trumped us there.

Of course, one place where women were about to lose rights was Iran, which fell to the Ayatollah and his mullahs at almost the exact time the Red Army rifled through Afghanistan.

This, too, for Carter, was completely unexpected. On December 31, 1977, he had stood aside the Shah and given a toast: "Iran, because of the great leadership of the Shah, is an island of stability."

One year later, that island of stability erupted into a volcano, one named the Ayatollah Khomeini. A reporter asked Carter if the Shah would survive. "I don't know," said the president. "I hope so."

Mere weeks after that assessment, the Shah was gone, the Ayatollah was in.

Moving eastward, and after the Cold War, consider Carter's likewise dubious appraisals of the world's most repressive state: North Korea.

Kim Il-Sung was a tyrant, spearheading a militantly atheistic regime that deprived citizens of most basic civil liberties; yet, Carter, a born-again Baptist from Plains, Georgia, found Kim "very friendly toward Christianity" and observed him in "very free discussions with his ministers."

Kim's handlers rolled Carter, escorting the ex-president through fake stores and factories and whatever else in the planet's phoniest Potemkin village. Carter swallowed it all, hook, line, and sinker, filing this report in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution when he returned home:

We found Pyongyang to be a bustling city…. They all have jobs or go to school. And after working hours, they pack the department stores, which Rosalynn visited. I went in one of them. It's like Wal-Mart in American stores on a Saturday afternoon. They all walk around in there, and they seem in fairly good spirits. Pyongyang at night looks like Times Square.

This is what Carter wrote of an area that, as satellite photos attest, is draped in darkness at night, and where two to three million citizens would starve to death over the next four years -- that's 10-15% of the population (equivalent to 30-45 million Americans).

Worse, a few years after that, the North Korean regime announced it was a nuclear state, a direct violation of the "Agreed Framework" brokered between Carter and Kim in 1994. Then, Carter had stood outside the Clinton White House and triumphantly assured reporters "the crisis is over" -- words headlined by both the New York Times and Washington Post.

Moving ahead, such unbelievable appraisals by Jimmy Carter continued into the War on Terror, shifting from the likes of Kim to Saddam. As President George W. Bush prepared for war in Iraq, Carter urged a return of U.N. inspections to Iraq -- the same inspectors repeatedly expelled by Saddam as they closed in on suspected weapons sites. "Even if Iraq should come into full compliance now," Carter assured, "Saddam would have no choice except to comply. The results would be certain."

Later still, Carter waxed confident about another terrorist leadership: Hamas. Here, the ex-president blasted George W. Bush and his State Department for daring to call the terrorist group "terrorist." "[A]fter they [Hamas] got elected to head their government," said a visibly angry Carter, "they were declared to be terrorists."

Even many of Carter's liberal admirers in the press were taken aback by that one. Asked by an incredulous reporter whether he trusted Hamas, Carter objected: "It's not a matter of trusting them. It's a matter of what… they've pledged to do. They've gone on record as being amenable to a number of the proposals I've made."

That brings us up-to-date and full circle, from the USSR to North Korea and back to the Middle East. Carter's comments on Hamas sound eerily similar to what he said this week about the Muslim Brotherhood -- not to mention Brezhnev, Kim, and others who overwhelmed Carter with their charm. When Carter assured the college kids and faculty that "the Muslim Brotherhood is not anything to be afraid of," he noted that he had met members of the Muslim Brotherhood during his time in Egypt.

Yes, precisely. And that's supposed to be reassuring?

Not if it comes from Jimmy Carter. For anyone who hoped that fears over the Muslim Brotherhood's influence in Egypt were maybe overdone, a bit hysterical, you have reason to be afraid now -- very, very afraid.

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About the Author

Dr. Paul Kengor is professor of political science and executive director of The Center for Vision & Values at Grove City College. His new book is Takedown: From Communists to Progressives, How the Left Has Sabotaged Family and Marriage.