James Earl Carter (1924 -)
Jimmy Carter was born James Earl Carter, son of a farmer, on October 1st 1924 in Plains, Georgia. After joining the Marine from 1946 until 1953, he returned to his family and continued helping out on the farm. After being a member for some time of the Democratic Party he was chosen Senate of Georgia in 1962. Nine years later he became gouvernor for a period of four years (1971-1974). Up to then he was not really well-known, but when he wanted to run for President in 1976, he organized a brilliant campaign to let the Americans know who he was. His opponent was Gerald Ford. Ford was a very unfortunate President who had to clean up the Watergate-mess which Richard Nixon had left behind. After Ford's administration the American people still did not feel secure and because Carter emphasized the moral aspects of politics and because he was very confident and enthusiastic, it was no surprise the American people chose him in 1976.
The American economy was in a deep recession when Carter was inaugurated in January 1977 and on May 22nd of the same year Carter held his so-called Malaise-speech. In fact he was just showing the Americans where they stood in the world and at that moment they were not to be envied. Carter complained of "a crisis of confidence" which had struck "at the very heart and soul of our national will." The Americans did not like this kind of representation of their country but this was only the beginnning. In chronological order the most important events of Carter's administration will be summed up next:
7 September: Panama Canal Treaty.
This treaty, which was signed this day, made sure that the Panama Canal would gradually become property of Panama again. After years of hostility, this was a good development concerning Latin-American relations.
- Emphasis on human rights
- Reduction on energy consumption
17 September: Camp David Accord.
The countries of Egypt (Sadat) and Israel (Begin) started a peace-process with the intervention of Carter in Camp David. Before Christmas 1978 there should be peace between the two countries. Furthermore, Israel should return the regions of the Sinai to Egypt. The proces was one of the biggest victories of Jimmy Carter.
26 March: Official Peace between Egypt and Israel
Summer: Instability in the Middle East produced a second major shortage of oil in the USA. The price increase of oil clouded the economic picture still further.
15-18 June: Salt II Accord.
Accord with Breznjev in Vienna. The Americans recognized the principal of equality on military grounds with the Soviet Union. The intention of Salt II ( Strategic Arms Limitation Talks) to reduce the amount of nuclear weapons on either side, failed. In the end it put no limits to the arms race whatsoever.
4 November: Americans held hostage in Teheran.
Since the 1950s , the USA had provided political support and military assistance to the government of the Shah of Iran, hoping to make Iran a bulwark against the expansion of the Soviet Union. However, the Iranian people did not want to be westernized and the Shah fled the country. The Ayatollah Khomeini took over and made Iranians protest against the USA. This protest became reality when the Iranians took Americans hostage. They demanded their Shah should be extradited to Iran before they let the hostages go. It took 444 days before this was carried out and all in all. This was the biggest blow to the Carter administration.
27 december: Invasion of Russians in Afghanistan.
Although others believed that the invasion was just a Russian attempt to secure their status quo, Carter saw the invasion as the greatest threat to world peace since World War II. He boycotted the Summer Olympics in Moscow and he announced a withdrawal of Salt II from Senate consideration. A lot of people thought his reaction was a bit exaggerated, but others were glad Carter finally did something.
14 August: Carter gets reelected as candidate for the Democratic Party.
4 November: Carter loses the presidential elections from Ronald Reagan.
When Carter started his Presidency he boasted about being an outsider in Washington but after four years this did not work in his advantage. A lot of goals he had set were impractible and they were never achieved. Examples of this were the arms race, in which the amount of weapons increased instead of decreased, and the human rights actions, which caused a lot of resentment towards America from other countries. Carter was an idealist who in the end was not capable of restoring the confidence which the American people needed.