December 6, 2006

"Being a former President does not give one a unique privilege to invent information..."

Historian Kenneth Stein ends his 23-year association with the Carter Center over Jimmy Carter's new book, "Palestine: Peace, Not Apartheid," the "inflammatory" title of which he cannot bring himself to put in his scathing letter of resignation. (Via Instapundit.)
Aside from the one-sided nature of the book, meant to provoke, there are recollections cited from meetings where I was the third person in the room, and my notes of those meetings show little similarity to points claimed in the book. Being a former President does not give one a unique privilege to invent information or to unpack it with cuts, deftly slanted to provide a particular outlook. Having little access to Arabic and Hebrew sources, I believe, clearly handicapped his understanding and analyses of how history has unfolded over the last decade. Falsehoods, if repeated often enough become meta-truths, and they then can become the erroneous baseline for shaping and reinforcing attitudes and for policy-making. The history and interpretation of the Arab-Israeli conflict is already drowning in half-truths, suppositions, and self-serving myths; more are not necessary.
Jimmy Carter is 82. A bizarre number of books have been published with his name on the cover. What is it, 20 since leaving the Presidency? Almost one a year! What is his role in the production of these rectangular objects? He needs to come forward with some honest information. Professor Stein deserves a response.

54 comments:

Ruth Anne Adams said...

Hey, This was on the black blog a minute ago!

And people were upset at Nixon using a certain presidential privilege.

But Carter does have "truthiness" on his side.

Ann Althouse said...

The "black blog" is constantly tripping me up. At least it's really, really obvious when I make that mistake.

knoxgirl said...

Yes, the sheer quantity of books is bizarre. But he fact that he wrote a book of poetry says it all for me.

Troy said...

Maybe Billy killed Jimmy and is scamming us.

I agree knoxgirl... Jimmy's poetry. Wow! Jewel could be President.

reader_iam said...

Carter must rewrite history. Otherwise, he would have to confront honestly his own place in it.

Jake said...

Jimmy Carter should be living in an Afghanistan cave. There he can spend the rest of his days communing with his soul mate-Bin Laden.

JohnK said...

Marget Thatcher can't talk and Ronald Reagan is gone, yet Carter and Heath bray on. Jimmy Carter has to be the most disgusting human being ever to hold the office of President, worse than Nixon worse than Jackson or Andrew Johnson. What a pathetic little man he is. The only thing worse than him are his Sycophants .

kettle said...

black blog?

SteveR said...

Rather than just being an embarrasment, it is sad that so many take him seriously. That does not include the damage done by his presidency.

There are plenty of nice old men who deserve attention, he is not one of them and someone should explain this literary diarrhea.

Anonymous said...

The books will continue to be published as long as people buy them.

I used to think of Jimmy Carter as one of the kindest men ever elected president. My politics have changed over time, but my opinion of him has totally tanked. It is sad really. Some people age wonderfully, others just get crabby.

Trey

Cat said...

The one thing all of his books have in common is their inaccuracy. He wrote a book on the American Revolution a few years back that was an embarrassment for it's lack of historical accuracy.

How does someone with his high profile, in this information age, get away with it?

alphie said...

Hehe,

Bloggers arguing quality over quantity?

Funny stuff.

MadisonMan said...

JohnK -- did you know that if you rewrite your post, and substitute W for Carter, you get a post that might be written by others right here?

I agree with Trey -- Carter will stop writing when people stop buying. In the meantime, he's the Ann Coulter of ex-Presidents...saying whatever and trying to stay relevant to boost book sales.

vegetius said...

Well Jimmah's Library will get a substantial donation from some Saudi front org after they 'buy' a half a million copies to be distributed in Gaza. He'll be doing book signings in Damascus and Tehran.

George said...

The Wall St. Journal published an excellent article on Pres. Carter's career as an author earlier this year. He has been massively, fantastically successful...at least as a writer...and has made millions from his efforts.

Garage Mahal said...

No specific complaints, or gripes about the book from Stein.

Or here.

Hmmmp.

JohnK said...

"JohnK -- did you know that if you rewrite your post, and substitute W for Carter, you get a post that might be written by others right here?"

There is no accounting for people's ignorance of history. The fact remains that Jimmy Carter is an outright unapologetic anti-Semite, committed treason by actively trying to undermine U.S. foreign policy by attempting to influence foreign governments to oppose the liberation of Kuwait during the run up to the first Gulf War and has never met a despot he won't defend and admire provided said despot has sufficient anti-American credentials. He is a thoroughly awful man on all levels.

JohnK said...

Garage Mahal,

I think the good professor's letter combined with Carter's lifetime hatred of Israel would count as a specific and credible objection to the book.

Will said...

John K.:
Heath died in 2005.

Disgustipated said...

Response to what?

Has anyone read the damn book? Do you people form your views on a subject as complex as Palestine from the vague assertions of factual inaccuracy (no specifics mind you) from a "letter of disassociation" from the Carter Center?

"He needs to come forward with some honest information." Um yeah? That would hold for anyone. How do you know his book is not truthful?

Is there any other reason that you assume Carter has not been truthful other than the fact that this one guy said he wasn't?

And - NO - the fact that he is old and has written a lot of books and - gasp - even poetry - does NOT mean you can make any informed comment on his substantive positions on this issue until you have some damn idea of those positions or the issue (Palestine NOT Carter). It is true that credibility (and past lack-thereof)is a decent proxy for the veracity of someone's assertions, but just because someone tells you that Carter's books are full of inaccuracies or you read it somewhere sometime does not make it so.

You gotta prove it.

DBrooks said...

disgustipated--If my neighbor's dog has been crapping on my lawn for 20 years, and I go out one morning to find another heap of it on my lawn, is it really inappropriate of me to assume it is my neighbor's dog again?

Mark Daniels said...

I'm reading the latest Carter book and will be interested in his response to this resignation.

The title is provocative. But I found his explanation of it on 'Fresh Air' interesting.

I don't consider the number of books written by Carter since the end of his presidency in 1981 to be bizarre. Carter's productivity as a post-presidential author is roughly equivalent, in its pace, to that of Theodore Roosevelt. Twenty books in twenty-seven years is hardly cause for suspicion of any kind. He, like TR, has always been a workaholic capable of mastering diverse subject material. This capacity for multiple mastery in fact, was probably the cause of his failed presidency. Carter stuck his nose into too many crannies of the Executive Branch and didn't sufficiently focus, a mark of a great administrator, but not a great leader.

I mention Carter's presidential style here: http://markdaniels.blogspot.com/2005/11/leadership-lesson-3-first-thing-every.html.

By the way, consider the voluminous correspondence of Thomas Jefferson after his presidency ended in 1809 until his death in 1826. Unwilling to issue boiler plate correspondence in response to the more than 1000 letters he received annually in that seventeen-year period, his correspondence would fill a lot more than twenty average-sized books.

Mark Daniels

Mark Daniels said...

My Math is bad. Carter has been out of office for twenty-five-plus years, not twenty-seven.

Mark Daniels said...

I expand on this discussion, mentioning several presidents' literary output, here: http://markdaniels.blogspot.com/2006/12/has-jimmy-carter-written-too-many.html.

Mark Daniels

Mack said...

Being a former President does not give one a unique privilege to invent information or to unpack it with cuts, deftly slanted to provide a particular outlook.

...

My continued association with the Center leaves the impression that I am sanctioning a series of egregious errors and polemical conclusions which appeared in President Carter's book. I can not allow that impression to stand.

Always interesting to see someone using such deftly slanted polemic, to dissasociate themselves with... deftly slanted polemic.

Do we not call that a credibility gap?

Richard Dolan said...

Rev. Daniels writes: "This capacity for multiple mastery in fact, was probably the cause of his failed presidency. Carter stuck his nose into too many crannies of the Executive Branch and didn't sufficiently focus, a mark of a great administrator, but not a great leader."

Unfortunately, Rev. Daniels' instinct for kindness is getting the better of accuracy here. I agree that Carter's presidency is largely remembered, both domestically and in foreign policy, as a failure for many reasons. But I don't think Carter's supposed "capacity for multiple mastery" was one of them. Instead, I think it stemmed more from his strange combination of indecisiveness with rigid self righteousness.

With the manifest problems in the Middle East -- Hamas in charge in the West Bank, Iranian threats to wipe Israel off the map, Gaza and Southern Lebanon vying to be the next spark for larger hostilities, Syria doing what it's been doing for decades to cause problems through surrogates, etc., etc. -- Carter posits the issue as Peace, not Apartheid. That doesn't strike me as a helpful way to conceptualize the issues, or a useful place to start in trying to deal with them. Nor does it suggest any reason to delve further into the details of Carter's views, particularly when combined with Professor Stein's criticism, to the effect that Carter is making up events to support his preferred story line.

Soccer Dad said...

There's something else about Prof Stein's charges:
President Carter's book on the Middle East, a title too inflammatory to even print, is not based on unvarnished analyses; it is replete with factual errors, copied materials not cited

Got that last phrase? He's also accusing Carter of plagiarism.

Pogo said...

Why would I waste my time reading another superfluous book by Carter? Stein has the credentials to review it, and he trashed it, but good. Plagiarism is the least of Carter's crimes, and crimes they are.

Whatever made Carter think he was learned enough to instruct anyone but a 5th grader at Sunday school is a mystery. I wouldn't ask the man his opinion on the weather, and if he said it was raining, I'd still have to look first.

I'd rather chew glass.

Disgustipated said...

DBrooks: No. That would be an appropriate and logical assumption.

But I am at a loss to see how that simplistic hypothetical applies to the issues here.

Please explain and/or offer me evidence such an assumption applies to Carter. And once again just because you (or someone else) said so is NOT sufficient (my disgustipation comes from the fact that I have to offer such a stipulation).

DBrooks said...

OK, disgustipated--if you insist. Here is a tiny, tiny sampling of the anti-israel bias, and frequent untruths of our former President.

There were hints as far back as the 1976 presidential campaign of the trouble to come. Early that year, Harper’s magazine published “Jimmy Carter’s Pathetic Lies,” a devastating exposé of Carter’s record in Georgia by a then little-known journalist named Steven Brill.

Reg Murphy, who as editor of the Atlanta Constitution had kept a close eye on Carter’s rise in state politics, declared, “Jimmy Carter is one of the three or four phoniest men I ever met.”

Speechwriter Bob Shrum quit the Carter campaign after just a few weeks, disgusted with what he described as Carter’s penchant for fudging the truth. He also related that Carter, convinced the Jewish vote in the Democratic primaries would go to Senator Henry (“Scoop”) Jackson, had instructed his staff not to issue any more statements on the Middle East.


Relations between Carter and Israel were tense from the outset of the Carter presidency. Carter’s hostility was evident to Israeli foreign minister Moshe Dayan, who in his memoir Breakthrough described a July 1977 White House meeting between Carter and Israeli officials. “You are more stubborn than the Arabs, and you put obstacles on the path to peace,’’ an angry Carter scolded Dayan and his colleagues.

“Our talk,” Dayan wrote, “lasted more than an hour and was most unpleasant. President Carter...launched charge after charge against Israel.”

In The Unfinished Presidency, his book about Carter’s post-White House activities, the liberal historian Douglas Brinkley provides a detailed account of the former president’s obsession with helping Palestinian terror chief Yasir Arafat polish his image. Carter, according to Brinkley, regularly advised Arafat on how to shape his message for Western journalists and even wrote some speeches for him.

Former New York mayor Ed Koch, in his 1984 bestseller Mayor, recounted a conversation he had shortly before the 1980 election with Cyrus Vance, who’d recently resigned as Carter’s secretary of state. Koch told Vance that many Jews would not be voting for Carter because they feared “that if he is reelected he will sell them out. "Vance,” recalled Koch, “nodded and said, ‘He will.’ ”

In Dangerous Liaison: The Inside Story of the U.S.-Israeli Covert Relationship, Andrew and Leslie Cockburn revealed that during a March 1980 meeting with his senior political advisers, Carter, discussing his fading reelection prospects and his sinking approval rating in the Jewish community, snapped, “If I get back in, I’m going to [expletive] the Jews.”

I think this qualifies as crapping on Israel's lawn over an extended period of time.

knoxgirl said...

"you people"

LOL! Almost as haughty as the commenter on the Iraq thread who's going by the handle "reality check."

Disgustipated said...

Three points:

1) Multiple "someone said so" is still "someone said so" and if someone said he lies in print/comments/etc. you should cite some actual examples. If his untruths are frequent, why have you not cited one?

2) Americans of Jewish faith, the Jewish religion, and the state of Israel are three entirely different concepts that you seem to blur indiscriminately.

3) If Israel was a bigger impediment to peace (I am not saying I know), is it biased to say so? You would need to show that he had no valid justification for that position for it to be biased.

Ultimately all you have is "someone said so" and a comically simplistic reduction of an amazingly complex issue.

Suggestion: You ought not just eat everything you find on your lawn.

SteveR said...

Disgustipated: Under your criteria, no one could reach a conclusion about anything they did not personally witness. Just because you disagree with someone's judgement doesn't make it "comically simplistic reduction of an amazingly complex issue."

Make your own arguement rather then just criticizing some one else's. I'd like to see a good rationale for "his" point of view.

Disgustipated said...

Dbrooks: And the fact that all of that "proof" came verbatim from a source titled "Jimmy Carter’s Jewish Problem" really says all that needs to be said now doesn't it? Fitting the facts to your policy, heh?

Stever: No. To defend ignoring/dismissing/passing judgment on arguments without any actual knowledge of said arguments carries a high bar. One example that I agree would suffice would be that of someone who constantly lied (or was just factually wrong) in his books comments, etc - a charge (I think) made against Carter (crapping on Israel?) and a justification for staying ignorant of what he has to say. Since the man has that many books and speaks often on the issue, I would think one would be able to easily point out an example. . . one actual example of a factual inaccuracy (ignorant or intentionally deceptive) from his mouth or pen. I don't see it. All I see is people who "know" what someone else has told them. If one has a view based on "Policy Choice A" or "Statement X" is much more valid than "Carter craps on Israel (because I know because someone else says so), why bother listening." There is no "judgment" in choosng to be ignorant for reasons one cannot support.

As for "his" argument or position, he did write a book. It is out there to read. It should be easy to test the validity of his facts and see if they support his argument. I haven't yet and also haven't endorsed his view[s] as such. . .I am interested to learn more. Call me old-fashioned but I like to read and learn what someone's actual position is before I decide to comment on it.

Revenant said...

I'm glad Dr. Stein was willing to takes the stand that he did. It definitely gave me a higher impression of his intellectual honesty.

SteveR said...

We agree to disagree. I am able to comfortably say he is guilty as charged. He is not worthy of my time or intellectual curiosity. I have to make choices and I believe history will bear me out.

PatCA said...

"I agree knoxgirl... Jimmy's poetry. Wow! Jewel could be President."

LOL, I just about fell on the floor.

You know, in publishing you have to keep writing books even if you have a hit; otherwise, the first book goes off the shelves fast. So maybe Carter is just responding to marketing efforts.

Seneca the Younger said...

No specific complaints, or gripes about the book from Stein.

Garage, coming from an academic, an accusation of copying material without attribution is pretty specific, and pretty damning.

Nor would one expect a letter explaining his resignation to include footnotes.

Alpha Liberal said...

Maybe Carter could take a page from your book, call whatshisname an "idiot" and then take issue with something barely related someone else said.

Word verification" "dumfawq"

Priceless.

Paul Zrimsek said...

Dbrooks: And the fact that all of that "proof" came verbatim from a source titled "Jimmy Carter’s Jewish Problem" really says all that needs to be said now doesn't it? Fitting the facts to your policy, heh?

Call me old-fashioned but I like to read and learn what someone's actual position is before I decide to comment on it.

Yes, ladies and gents, Disgustipated really did say both these things.

Disgustipated said...

zrimsek:

let me explain it to you slowly: the issue is carter's book. . .dbrooks passed judgment on his book without reading it because carter crapped on israel's yard. when asked for some good reason why he thought that (because i wanted to know his argument), he looked up some article on google to support his already held view (an article that contains very little "proof" other than one guy's collection of someone said x).

now remember: the issue is carter's book. . . understand?

Paul Zrimsek said...

At the moment, Disgustipated, the issue is your buffoonery. Now that you've endorsed the proposition that you can judge a thing by its title, you come off as a prize jackass trying to deny others the same prerogative.

mark said...

What about the issue of Ms Althouse's baseless insinuation that Mr Carter is not the author of his own books? "formidable law blogger" indeed.

Ann Althouse said...

It's baseless to question whether Carter is writing a book a year at his age without the participation of ghostwriters?

DBrooks said...

"Dbrooks: And the fact that all of that "proof" came verbatim from a source titled "Jimmy Carter’s Jewish Problem" really says all that needs to be said now doesn't it? Fitting the facts to your policy, heh?"

Actually, these examples are from several different sources, and collected in one article. It would be easy to find many more examples of Jimmy Carter's mindset towards Israel, but I suspect that disgustipated would continue with his "he said-she said" counterargument until we were able to produce video of Carter saying, "I admit it. I don't like Jews, and I blame them for most of the problems in the Middle East and the rest of the world." I will admit that I am unable to produce such a video at this time. Just as I require no video of my neighbor's dog to convince me of his culpability, I require no such similar video of Jimmy Carter. The man's words and actions during the past 30-40 years suffice for me to form an educated opinion. That disgustipated has formed a different opinion is his business, and I'll leave it to others to decide which of us is the more deluded.

Disgustipated said...

a) I read it. I did not judge it by its title.

b) I judged it by the fact that it is ONE article that was written with a specific perspective that supported an already-held belief (unless of course dbrooks did not hold that rather loaded belief until he read it). And the title would be enough for anyone to google and find a post hoc justification.

Remember: the issue is Carter craps on Israel (why? because this one guys said so . . .I googled my belief and found this article to support it).

So maybe I am a buffoon. . . I am neurochemist-turned-attorney who just expected a little more by way of factual support for Carter's bias or lies (a Clinton-esque lie for example). I am still open to accept that assertion, but all I can see is that some people really hate Carter.

zrimsek: The issue is Carter's book and not what you say it is. If you cannot understand, then you are welcome to think whatever it is you like.

stever: yes we can agree to disagree. . .I personally want a little more than one article posted on the Free Republic before I would accept such a bold assertion (especially one then used to remain ignorant of the positions addressed in carter's book), but others may not and that is their perogative.

Disgustipated said...

dbrooks: that is fine. I personally have no deeply held belief on what I know of Carter's views, I just - sincerely - expected a more persuasive argument. I don't need a video, I just need something other than a collection of other's opinions and hearsay. The burden is not impenetrable and if that is your view that is fine. I am not saying it is "wrong," but I really just get the feeling that people just hate Carter and not that he lies or is specifically biased and I am still open to the notion, but I still think I am going to read his book before I pass specific judgment on the views contained therein. . . and I would hope that you would too even if you feel the way you do.

Disgustipated said...

one last note: It appears that many seem to think I am defending Carter somehow. If you were to actually read my words in this thread (rather than getting a "feel" for the debate) you will see that I am do nothing of the sort.

I am defending the assertion that one should actually read something before passing judgment (I do not think I am going out on a limb there am I?).

Personally: I think domestically Carter was pretty damned inept, but I even recently heard Pat Buchanan give Carter kudos in regards to what he did in the Middle East, so to dismiss his views without actually knowing them seems a bit "incurious" at the least.

If that is how others choose to form their opinions, good luck with that.

Paul Zrimsek said...

Got that, Dbrooks? In the future, you will not form an opinion on any subject until Disgustipated grants you permission by demanding a cite. That's the only sure-fire way to avoid producing a cite supporting your point of view, which of course is the very worst thing to do when someone demands a cite supporting your point of view.

Disgustipated said...

Yes, exactly what Paul Zrimsek said. That is my view. [patronizing pat on head]. Now go back to sleep and please be quiet. The adults are trying to have a discussion.

And yes I am going to summarily dismiss you without further addressing your "argument." You are more than welcome to think it is because of the intellectual and logical superiority of your commentary if that makes you feel good about yourself.

Buddy Larsen said...

I agree with disconstipated, Comrade Carter was the greatest president ever, on the basis of his re-awakening the world to the dangers of 20+% interest rates and inflation.

Wiping out such a catastrophic amount of asset valuation from the American account was the ideal "waker-upper' for a people become overconfident about the non-stupidness of their political process.

Garage Mahal said...

Garage, coming from an academic, an accusation of copying material without attribution is pretty specific, and pretty damning

Then he should cite it !

SteveR said...

It was a letter of resignation, not a thesis

Hey said...

How many books truly are written by their authors? The non-authorial celebrity of a writer is inversely correlated with the likelihood that they wrote the book, or even substantially contrubuted to it.

The number of professors who don't write their own books is vast. Dershowitz is one, but most business profs are barely aware that they HAVE a book coming out, never mind doing the writing. I know one famous B Prof, whose second book in a series added a second author. The second author only made it onto the cover as he'd gotten his Phd. So it's even worse than the authorship of a scientific paper, where the assistant comes up with the idea and does the work and gets 3rd billing if she's lucky.

The problem with Carter's book is that his ghost authors are getting sloppy, and he's using far too ideological interns to do too much of the writing.

Far too many people don't know how these things actually work!