View From a Height
Commentary from the Mile High City
Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Carter to Venezuela: Drop Dead 

Just when things are looking bleak, just when all is Swift Boats and not-so-swift candidates, and you wonder if John Kerry is about to support My Pet Goat because, after all, he's the Navy mascot, along comes Jimmy Carter for comic relief. Never has a man's sanctimony and self-righteousness been so impervious to lances and mockery. And yet never has the fun gone out of trying.

In a 1983 speech, Bob Dole remarked on a recent reunion of ex-Presidents, Dole saw Carter, Ford, and Nixon, "There they are. See-no-evil, hear-no-evil, and evil." Now that Ford is over 90 and out of the game, I guess Jimmah's decided to take up the slack.

Down in Venezuela, Hugo Chavez, a Castro-protege with visions of a left-wing Latin America, has stolen a recall referendum he reluctantly agreed to. Mary Anastasia O'Grady has been all over this story. She describes in detail a huge turnout, preceded by opinion polls running 2-1 against Mr. Chavez. She describes an exit-poll, conducted by a reputable American firm, which showed the recall winning 60-40. She also describes exactly how the election could have been stolen: electronic voting machines, whose paper receipts were kept under lock-and-key by Chavez's troops. Carter Center representatives only looked at the tally sheets of a few machines, not at their paper receipts. This is roughly equivalent to conducting an audit by looking at reported financial statements. She also notes that some citizens, unconvinced by the results, were shot by government troops for protesting and demanding a real audit.

The Journal allowed Jimmah an op-ed yesterday, to defend his suddenly in-question reputation. What he wrote was a huff-and-puff piece that described his long experience in monitoring election, the history of how just about everyone had done Chavez wrong, and how he (Carter) had fought tenaciously for the recall referendum to be held at all. He completely side-steps O'Grady's comments, essentially agreeing with the details of the audit, but asserting that close enough is good enough. He dismisses the exit poll as erroneous, and claims that its release was really the cause of all the trouble, since it led people to assume one result. Carter then goes on to ask everyone to abide by the result, go home, and assume that the next regularly-scheduled elections will be held, and will include a real opposition.

People think that Bush's foreign policy is Wilsonian, but it's Carter who as apparently inherited Wilson's messiah-complex. His peroration takes credit for the referendum being held at all, while conveniently forgetting that it was Chavez who tried to invalidate petitions, and has now shot protestors. He encourages the people of Venezuela, who jumped through every legal hoop set up for them, in order to try to rid themselves of an incipient dictatorship, to go home an meekly accept the results in the interests of keeping the peace. What's more, he tells them to go home because he's Jimmy Carter and he knows what's best. He and Chavez apparently can't even agree on the terms of a more complete audit, but Carter has decided what the outcome will and should be. Funny, but I seem to recall him supporting the selective hand-recount in Florida.

For our class on leadership in business school, we had to profile a leader, and analyze his style and accomplishments based on the model we had used in class. One of my classmates chose Carter, and stressed his commitment to "peace," above everything else. For some reason, he considered this a virtue. His position here is clearly of the same cloth - he encourages people to appease their own left-wing dictator-in-waiting, in the interests of peace.

We should bear in mind that all this comes not at the expense of Dear Jimmah, but at the expense of the Venezuelan people, who are about to find themselves saddled with Castro-lite, but with oil. The best model for Venezuela may now be Turkey. A passable example might be Chile. What's sad is that it could have been us.

UPDATE: Steven Hayward makes much the same point over at FrontPage, but with more detail on Carter's troublemaking during the Nicaraguan elections of 1990. It's nice to be in such good company.

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