Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro, who previously identified climate change as the greatest threat to U.S. national security, has renamed Maury Hall at the U.S. Naval Academy to honor Jimmy Carter, a Naval Academy graduate (class of 1946) and former president of the United States. Del Toro’s action is part of a broader effort by Congress’ Orwellian “Naming Commission” to cleanse the country of any historical figure associated with slavery, the Confederacy, or racial segregation.
As this is being written, news reports state that the 98-year-old former president is receiving hospice care at his home. The official statement issued by the Carter Center says, “After a series of short hospital stays, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter today decided to spend his remaining time at home with his family and receive hospice care instead of additional medical intervention.” One can wish the former president well, but the judgment of history should not be clouded by sympathy or emotion. Jimmy Carter was one of the worst presidents in American history, and the Naming Commission and Del Toro have done a disservice to the nation. (RELATED: Biden’s Orwellian ‘Naming Commission’ Recommends Renaming USS Chancellorsville)
Carter’s post-presidential diplomacy caused Joshua Muravchik to label Carter as “our very worst ex-President.”
Maury Hall was named after Matthew Fontaine Maury, one of America’s and the world’s great naval pioneers, but who committed the unpardonable sin of serving in the Confederate Navy after Virginia, his home state, seceded from the Union. Del Toro, in announcing the name change, stated, “I can think of no one more worthy of this renaming than President Jimmy Carter.” Perhaps the secretary is unaware of Carter’s, shall we say, complicated history on race and civil rights, as well as his near-treasonous efforts to undermine U.S. foreign policy during the first Gulf War in 1990–91.
As Hans A. von Spakovsky notes in a piece for National Review, Carter in his autobiography Keeping Faith wrote that he “was not directly involved in the early struggles to end racial discrimination.” He sure wasn’t. Carter was a member of the Sumter County School Board, which refused to implement the dictates of the Supreme Court’s decision in Brown v. Board of Education. Spakovsky notes that Carter sided with white citizens in Plains, Georgia, who wanted to stop construction of an “Elementary Negro School” because it would be positioned “too close” to a local white school: “Carter and the rest of the Sumter County School Board then reassured parents … that the board ‘would do everything in its power to minimize simultaneous traffic between white and colored students in [sic] route to and from school.’” In his successful 1970 campaign for governor — one described by the Washington Examiner as “racist” — Carter courted the Lester Maddox–George Wallace segregationist vote. And Carter as Georgia’s governor also opposed busing to achieve “artificial racial balance” in schools. Carter, in other words, understood that to succeed in politics in the deep South, the “race” card had to be skillfully played.
Del Toro and the Naming Commission are apparently willing to overlook Carter’s complicated history on the issue of race. The same courtesy, however, is not afforded to Matthew Maury. Maury was born in Spotsylvania County, Virginia, near Fredericksburg, in 1806. In 1825, with the help of Rep. Sam Houston of Tennessee, Maury joined the Navy. Between 1826 and 1830, Midshipman Maury literally sailed “around the world.” Later, after suffering from an injury, Maury began to focus on the scientific aspects of the naval profession, writing a series of articles on the modernization of the Navy, including suggesting the establishment of a naval academy. As one retired navy captain explained, Maury’s “strong leadership … was probably the greatest single factor in bringing about … the creation of the Naval School at Annapolis,” earning him “wide acclaim as ‘Father of the Naval Academy.’”
Maury also foresaw the need for the United States to construct a “ship canal” between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans through the Isthmus of Panama. He conducted crucial navigational investigations of oceans and rivers, pushed for the creation of a national weather bureau, supported explorations of ocean floors as a prelude for laying a transatlantic cable, and urged America and other nations to convene international maritime conferences. In 1855, Maury published a book titled The Physical Geography of the Seas, which is considered to be the first modern oceanographic text and “the most widely read study of the oceans published in the nineteenth century.”
Maury decried the “tendencies toward disunion” that were tearing the nation apart in the 1850s. He reportedly “deplor[ed]” slavery. And as the secession crisis deepened, Maury urged Virginia and other border states to remain in the Union. But when Virginia voted to secede from the Union, Maury, like fellow Virginian Gen. Robert E. Lee, sided with his home state. He became a commander in the Confederate Navy. And, in September 1862, he was sent to England to purchase more ships for the Confederacy and to deepen relations with a hoped-for ally in the war. He remained in England until after the war and returned to the United States in 1868, where he taught meteorology at the Virginia Military Institute.
Jimmy Carter as president first pledged to add 160 new ships to our naval force, but he then slashed that by more than half — the Washington Post accused Carter of “emasculat[ing] shipbuilding” and handing the Navy a “defeat.” The Navy only rebounded from Carter’s cuts when John Lehman became Navy secretary in the Reagan administration, launched a program to build a 600-ship Navy, and devised a maritime strategy vis-à-vis the Soviet Union. And Carter’s neglect of American naval power was just one manifestation of his overall approach to diplomacy, which amounted to “speak softly and carry a small stick.” Remember, Carter began his presidency with a foreign-policy speech that informed Americans that we were free of that “inordinate fear of communism.” He promoted a “human rights” campaign that undermined allies and emboldened enemies in Iran and Nicaragua. On his watch, the Iranian revolutionaries seized our embassy in Tehran and held embassy personnel hostage for 444 days — they were only freed when Ronald Reagan, whom the Iranians feared, took office as president. On Carter’s watch, the Soviets invaded Afghanistan, which “deeply shocked” the president. Carter even bungled the strong hand the Nixon administration had left him in dealing with the China–Taiwan issue. It was Carter, not Nixon, who formally severed diplomatic recognition of Taiwan, which later brought congressional reaction in the form of the Taiwan Relations Act. Carter failed to understand that China needed us as much or more than we needed them in our common struggle with the Soviet Union. Jimmy Carter’s foreign policy, in short, was a disaster and, combined with his dismal domestic policy, led voters to overwhelmingly elect Reagan as president in 1980.
If the Naming Commission considers Maury’s service to the Confederacy as treasonous and sufficient reason to remove his name from a building at the Naval Academy, then what about Jimmy Carter’s conduct in 1990 and 1991, when President George H.W. Bush, with the support of Congress, was building a coalition of states to take military action to evict Saddam Hussein’s forces from Kuwait? “During the buildup to the Gulf War in 1990 and 1991,” recalls Chris Suellentrop in Slate, “Carter unsuccessfully worked to undermine the foreign policy of America’s democratically elected president, George Bush.” Carter urged the permanent members of the UN Security Council to reverse their support for Bush’s impending military action and instead support the Arab League’s peace efforts. Suellentrop characterizes Carter’s actions as “a guerrilla foreign policy operation” that sought to supersede Bush’s policy. And when Bush issued an ultimatum to Iraq’s leaders to comply with UN resolutions or face war, Carter “wrote the leaders of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Syria and asked them to oppose the impending military action.” This caused Bush foreign-policy adviser Brent Scowcroft to accuse Carter of a Logan Act violation. This and Carter’s other post-presidential diplomacy caused Joshua Muravchik to label Carter as “our very worst ex-President.”
History records no perfect American. And the continued woke campaign to purge less-than-perfect Americans from our nation’s memory — despite otherwise-worthy achievements — is in many instances hypocritical and in most instances unfair.
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