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Jimmy Carter, Lost In Translation

Somebody has finally written a puff piece about Jimmy Carter, and it is Amy Wilentz in the latest issue of New York. Well, not quite a puff piece but probably the first favorable treatment of the former president in a reputable publication in years. Poor man. But, even in the Wilentz encomium, Carter comes across as a desperate character, persuading himself that he is still president by virtue of his work at the Carter Center for Endless Travel, Chatting People Up and Getting to Yes. It's the getting to yes that's the problem. Oh, Assad has said yes to Carter, and so have other criminals disguised as statesman. But there is no cost to fibbing. Carter will front for them whatever they say.

Ms. Wilentz admits that Carter is a problem for Barack Obama. My guess is that Obama rues the day that Carter endorsed him, and the test of this will be how Jimmah is treated at the Denver convention. My other guess is that, if the man from Plains is invited to address the quadrennial assembly of the Democratic party at all, he will not appear at a time that the TV cameramen are awake.  Or the TV audience.

The Obama folks have two other such problems. What will they do with Jesse Jackson who, by now, must think he is simply entitled to prime time, although (if I recall correctly) even John Kerry's strategists relegated him to the wee hours. And then there is the question of how they play Bill Clinton and, for that matter, his missus.  I suppose that if the Obama campaign manages to liquidate Hillary's debts (including to herself) the former president and the never-to-be president will behave tolerably.  But, as everyone knows already, the Clintons can wander off the reservation quite casually and just happen to mutter words that would, to say the least, not be helpful to the effort.

Wilentz makes many ex cathedra judgements by quoting assessments of random others to whom no one has any particular reason to listen. She quotes M.J. Rosenberg, about whom my mother would say "oich mir a mayven" (also to me an expert), asserting that "a lot of young people were persuaded" by Carter's book, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, QED. Amy herself testifies that Carter has influenced many "young liberal Jews." I bet not. Of course, she also quotes Jody Powell still acting as Carter's p.r. assistant, a safe bet.

There is also a point that is sheer invention, Wilentz' invention. She writes of Carter's "almost Victorian diction." Excuse me. Whenever I listened to Carter on television I wished there were subtitles on the tube, like in the foreign movies at the Kendall Square.