Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Someone Democrats Are Overlooking

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Someone Democrats Are Overlooking

Article excerpt

LET me be the first (and, perhaps, only) observer of the political scene to suggest that if the Democrats want a potential presidential winner, they should take another look at a fellow who took them there before: Jimmy Carter.

I have no idea whether Carter would even be interested. But not too long after he had left the White House I asked him whether he might run again. "After all," I said, "you are eligible for another term." He only smiled and acted as though the question was irrelevant.

But when I hear Democratic strategists and pundits say the only way Democrats can win the presidency is with an outstanding candidate - and bemoaning the absence of one - I wonder why no one thinks of Carter.

New York Times columnist Tom Wicker says the party needs "a modern version of FDR - a candidate who knows where he or she wants the country to go and how to get there; who can persuade the public to go along, take the blows of a campaign and hit back harder." Well, Jimmy Carter proved in 1976 that he was just that kind of a man. Why is he completely ignored?

The answer, I realize, is obvious: The Democrats and most observers have bought the widespread verdict on Carter as he left the White House - that he had been a weak and ineffective president.

The Republicans portrayed him as such as they swept into power. But it was the Democratic liberals who never had backed Carter who were particularly happy to adopt this "Carter-as-failure" assessment.

They tried to beat Carter in the 1980 primaries and only succeeded in weakening his campaign against Reagan. This liberal, anti-Carter view has since seeped into political columns and books on the Carter administration.

I think the Democrats would be smart to take another look at Carter. As I write this, he is in New Orleans helping to build housing for the poor. He could be playing golf or going horseback riding or spending his days in opulent surroundings among rich friends. But not Jimmy. …

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