The 1970s were overall a terrible and traumatic time, and Jimmy Carter was both their product and their victim. He was their product in that it took an unprecedented national convulsion—turmoil and eventually defeat in Vietnam, the forced resignation of a president—to give a little-known one-term governor of Georgia, and peanut farmer, a chance at national office. He was their victim in that the woes of the late 1970s—gasoline shortages and price spikes, worldwide hyper-inflation that drove the prime interest rate to 21 percent, the dawn of Islamist turmoil in the Middle East, leading to the revolution in Iran—all happened on his watch and dragged him down. Even so, as he points out and as most historians attest, if he had sent one more helicopter on the doomed rescue mission for American hostages in Tehran, he would probably have been re-elected in 1980, and Ronald Reagan might have missed his chance.
The 1970s are so dis-esteemed, and Carter has been so vilified (in counterpoint to the elevation of Reagan), and the entire era is now so long in the past, that many people may wonder how Carter could have become president in the first place.
I think the video of today’s press conference, at which the 90-year-old President Carter discussed the spread of cancer through his body and how he planned to continue his work, will give you a glimpse of what people saw in the man.