Yesterday, Jimmy Carter taught Sunday school in Plains, Georgia. It was Carter’s second lesson since he announced that he has brain cancer.
The Washington Post sent Dave Weigel to cover the event. He reports that (in the words of the Post’s sub-headline, print edition) “pilgrims pour[ed] into Plains Ga.” for the event with “an outpouring of good wishes.” When it rains, it pours.
It’s to Carter’s credit that he teaches Sunday school and that he perseveres in his present condition. But the Post uses the occasion to lionize the former president and attack Republicans who dare criticize his presidency.
In Dave Weigel, the Post has identified the perfect man for the job. I can think of no reporter more capable of unctuousness and viciousness, depending on what the politics of the occasion and his personal interests require.
Weigel’s natural mode, though, is attack. Thus, he notes that “among Republicans, Carter’s name is still muck-stained.” “Muck” is a word normally associated with vicious personal attacks like the ones that made Weigel notorious. Republican criticism of Carter focuses on his disastrous presidency and subsequent negotiation of a terrible nuclear agreement with North Korea, not his personal life which appears to have been exemplary.
This is certainly true of the criticism of Carter that Weigel cites:
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie recently invoked Carter to mock President Obama’s “feckless” and “weak” foreign policy, as if discovering a worse president than Carter was like discovering a mineral harder than diamond.
With this over-the-top analogy, Weigel makes clear that, like all partisan leftists, he believes it’s fairly easy to find worse presidents than Carter. Give the man credit, Weigel knows how to worm his personal opinions into news stories.
But this time, Cruz and Christie were quickly chastised. Decades of charity and humanitarian work had made Carter a respected political figure. The cancer diagnosis, however, had catapulted him beyond politics.
Weigel doesn’t say who “quickly chastised” Cruz and Christie. My quick search revealed that they have been attacked by the usual suspects: The Daily Kos, Wonkette, The Huffington Post, Talking Points Memo, etc.
As for whether Carter’s cancer diagnosis takes his presidency off the table for purposes of discussing vital foreign policy issues in an election year, I suppose reasonable minds can differ. It seems to me that the foreign policy of President Obama (and Hillary Clinton) is sufficiently Carteresque to justify references to Carter’s similar, though arguably less weak and feckless, approach to the world.
Apparently, it is the intention of the Washington Post to protect Democrats from reminders of the Carter era, no matter how pertinent the reminders may be. The Post should lighten up. It’s not as if anyone is wishing, as Weigel once did, that an adversary “set himself on fire.”
What would Jimmy Carter say about that at Sunday school?