I Can’t Believe I Miss Jimmy Carter

I’m slowly working up to a long piece about the parallels between the hapless Jimmy Carter Administration and the Biden Clown Show that go beyond inflation, energy market disruptions, foreign policy cluelessness, and other totems of the dismal 1970s.

Carter, we tend to forget today, was the Democratic establishment’s necessary and acceptable choice to outflank George Wallace, who had a real shot of winning the Democratic nomination in 1976. In 2020, it was the credible threat that Bernie Sanders might win the Democratic nomination that sent the Democratic establishment to rally behind Slow Joe Biden to stop Sanders. One thing Carter and Biden have in common is that both largely sold out to the left wing of the party, despite prior reputation as “moderates.”

But even Carter started getting a clue by the fourth year of his presidency, increasing defense spending in the face of a growing Soviet threat, installing Paul Volcker to fight inflation seriously, and beginning, however haltingly, to de-regulate domestic energy production. Biden shows no sign of progress on the easiest of learning curves.

I had a feeling of deja vu yesterday that took me back to Henry Kissinger’s comment about Carter in 1980: “The Carter administration has managed the extraordinary feat of having, at one and the same time, the worst relations with our allies, the worst relations with our adversaries, and the most serious upheavals in the developing world since the end of the Second World War.” This quote came to me when I read the Wall Street Journal‘s account of how badly Biden and his team have bungled relations with Saudi Arabia—a relation the Journal describes as at the “breaking point.”

A few excerpts:

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman . . . ended up shouting at Mr. Sullivan after he raised the 2018 killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. The prince told Mr. Sullivan he never wanted to discuss the matter again, said people familiar with the exchange. And the U.S. could forget about its request to boost oil production, he told Mr. Sullivan.

The relationship between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia has hit its lowest point in decades, with Mr. Biden saying in 2019 that the kingdom should be treated like a pariah over human-rights issues such as Mr. Khashoggi’s murder.

The political fissures have deepened since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, senior Saudi and U.S. officials said. The White House wanted the Saudis to pump more crude, both to tame oil prices and undercut Moscow’s war finances. The kingdom hasn’t budged, keeping in line with Russian interests. . .

The White House has stopped asking the Saudis to pump more oil. Instead, it asks only that Saudi Arabia not do anything that would hurt the West’s efforts in Ukraine, a senior U.S. official said.

The Saudis cut short a high-level military delegation to Washington last summer and called off a visit last fall by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin. A planned visit last month by Secretary of State Antony Blinken was canceled.

Apparently the article caused a fuss, and later editions included these additions:

After the publication of this article online, Adrianne Watson, a White House National Security Council spokeswoman, reiterated President Biden’s stated commitment that the U.S. would support the kingdom’s territorial defense. She cited diplomatic achievements in recent weeks, such as the condemnation by Persian Gulf states, including Saudi Arabia, of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. She said Mr. Sullivan didn’t discuss oil production with Prince Mohammed at their September meeting and that “there was no shouting.”

A Saudi official at the kingdom’s Washington embassy said after publication of this article online that the relationship between the U.S. and the kingdom remains strong. He called the meeting between Mr. Sullivan and Prince Mohammed cordial and respectful.

In other words, the original account was completely accurate, as any practiced reader of official “corrections” like this knows. More:

White House officials this year worked to set up a call between Mr. Biden, King Salman and Prince Mohammed, said people familiar with the matter. As the date for the Feb. 9 call approached, Saudi officials told the Biden administration that the crown prince wouldn’t take part, these people said. . .

The Saudis were dismayed by the American withdrawal from Afghanistan, as well as the Biden administration’s ongoing efforts to revive the Iran nuclear deal. They also have begun to question the U.S. military commitment to the Middle East and bristle at presumptions that the kingdom will fall in lockstep with Washington.

We’re in the very best of hands. Where are my Jimmy Carter “Miss Me Yet?” stickers?

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