HE MAY BE DECREPIT, but he remains lucid enough to be a menace; Jimmy Carter — at an ominous and dangerous point in global affairs — has served up a salutary reminder of why he was such an ineffectual, impotent and downright dangerous President of the United States. His vacillation over a hypothetical pardon for traitor Edward Snowden is typical, and shows that 34 years after losing to Ronald Reagan in a landslide, Carter still doesn’t get it.
I have read an article in The Age this evening that has me shaking my head, and it’s not possible for me to sleep on it without making some comment. Even in his dotage, Jimmy Carter seems to have learnt little from the passage of time.
The presidency of Jimmy Carter (1977-1981) might not have ever occurred, had Richard Nixon not fallen so spectacularly from grace — and office — in August 1974; certainly the 1976 presidential election was one of the closer races, with replacement President Ford and his running mate, Bob Dole, carrying a majority of states but not votes in the United States’ electoral college. The unfancied peanut farmer and former Governor of Georgia became President, and his shortcomings paved the way for the popular actor and national security hawk , Ronald Reagan, to win the Presidency in 1980 in a canter.
Carter’s presidency was marked by economic torpor in the United States, and characterised by confused foreign policy at a time (similar to that which exists today) of great international unrest, and flux in the order of global security; Carter was faced with a militarily resurgent USSR led by Leonid Brezhnev, which invaded Afghanistan on Carter’s watch in late 1979.
Under Reagan, of course, the USA and the USSR came arguably nearer to direct conflict than they had since the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, although Reagan’s strategy of engaging in profligate military spending and expansion he knew the Soviets couldn’t match but were obliged to attempt to do so eventually achieved its aim of busting the USSR from within.
Even so, the seeds for what in retrospect was the dangerous decade of the 1980s were sown on Carter’s watch, with a passive and unconfrontational foreign policy that was tantamount to appeasement of the Soviets, and decades later it is clear that Carter still doesn’t get it.
In even considering a pardon — in a hypothetical sense — for US traitor Edward Snowden, Carter has neatly shown the world that the same shortcomings that cruelled his period in the White House persist today, and whilst he was at pains to specify that even as a hypothetical question he was unsure as to whether he would grant a pardon, the fact he would even consider it at all beggars belief.
Carter is right to point out that the question of pardoning Snowden is to some extent obsolete, given Snowden has neither been tried nor convicted for the allegations and accusations he faces. This, however, is where the rectitude of his position begins and ends.
Snowden’s alleged misdemeanours — that he leaked thousands of pages of highly classified material about sensitive internal processes and the intelligence activities of the United States and its allies — may not have found their way into a court of law. And they are unlikely to ever do so, with the fugitive traitor currently being shielded in Russia by the Russian government, which refuses to countenance his extradition to face what would be a certain death sentence for treason if he were to be convicted.
Snowden himself, meanwhile, has virtually admitted responsibility for the leaks he stands accused of, and has shown no remorse in those of his utterances that have been published.
It’s telling that Carter — who as readers will see from the Fairfax article I have linked — vacillates in the interview over the question of a pardon, but then says he would “certainly” consider one were Snowden to face a capital penalty despite initially trying to dismiss the question as a hypothetical.
Of course, the question is hypothetical. But Carter’s answers highlight the same pusillanimous confusion on national security matters that marked his administration and inform American voters, at the very least, of how fortunate they are not to have such a dangerous idiot in charge of their defence at a time their country one again faces a militarily resurgent Russia bent on mischief and expansion.
Not that Barack Obama is any better, mind; in fact, I can recall having quite a heated debate in London in August 2008 with learned friends who were starstruck by Obama and his soaring rhetoric. I said it was of “paramount importance” that John McCain beat Obama in November that year; he didn’t. And it is now that the US might truly rue the outcome of the 2008 election.
Carter, for his part, at least acknowledges that he thinks “Putin has to be stopped” but of course offers no ideas as to how this can be done beyond suggesting that Obama throw his weight behind whatever proposed course of action Secretary of State John Kerry (another dodgy Democrat, beaten to the White House in 2004 by a re-elected George W. Bush) cares to put forward.
But back to Snowden.
It has to be remembered that Edward Snowden has already caused the US enormous diplomatic embarrassment. His activities have also impacted America’s friends — the stoush between Australia and Indonesia over activities undertaken by the Rudd government is a case in point, the can for which is being carried by Prime Minister Tony Abbott — and Snowden has made it known that the material he has released to date represents a mere fraction of the total amount he was able to sequester from the NSA prior to going on the run.
And it must be remembered that the likes of Snowden and his Australian counterpart Julian Assange are quite capable of starting international incidents that can escalate into wars: there are good reasons the material they steal and leak are subject to secrecy provisions, and in most cases those secrecy arrangements are not incompatible with notions of open and accountable government.
Very simply, and to simplify the point, if governments are unable to conduct certain business and engage in certain conversations behind closed doors then of course international ramifications will folllow. Yet that doesn’t bother these idiots, and the proof in the pudding of their despicable actions is the fact that the leaks they perpetrate are targeted against selected governments: their objectives of “open government” are not universal, with the political Right in democratic Western countries almost invariably being the primary targets of their activities.
Snowden and Assange are not heroes. They are not agents of liberty and freedom, or openness and accountability. They are traitors, enemies, and what the North Koreans might call “despicable scum,” a commodity North Korea is well and truly familiar with the perpetration of itself.
I would say to Jimmy Carter that if Snowden, Assange, or anyone else who sees no problem peddling national secrets with a view to creating international trouble and otherwise compromising the host country are ever brought to justice and tried for treason, then a capital penalty is exactly what they deserve.
Treacherous dogs of their kind do not merit leniency, or sympathy, or indeed forgiveness, and the question of pardoning Snowden for his crimes against the USA — if he is ever able to be convicted for them — should be an open and shut exercise in outright refusal.
The fact a death sentence might be involved, to me, is neither here nor there. Yes, I support capital punishment, and I accept many others worldwide do not.
But if the penalty for treason in the United States is execution, then so should it be: and the grotesque spectacle of a one-time holder of the Presidency even contemplating the prospect of a pardon should send a shudder down the spine of any American citizen who cares whether or not their country survives, prospers, or indeed progresses.
Cater hasn’t changed. And whilst I have close to nothing favourable to say about Barack Obama as a leader in any way, shape or form, at least he isn’t Jimmy Carter.
Eyeball to eyeball with a nuclear-armed Russia whose renewed expansionist objectives remain unclear, Americans — and everyone else in the free world — can at least be thankful for that tiny mercy.