Facts are facts, and such is the degree of politicization in the republic today that when a political organization announces a literary prize the perspicacious among us have a pretty good idea who the winner will be.
When the left-leaning New York Times Book Review announced on its cover that a survey of litterateurs had chosen the finest novel of the past 25 years, close students of that tribe knew before opening the magazine that the award had gone to Toni Morrison. Thus, you will not be surprised to hear that the conservative panel that annually awards the J. Gordon Coogler Award for the Worst Book of the Year has conferred the 2005 prize on Jimmy Carter. Jimmy published a book; he wins the Worst Book of the Year Award — once again. This is not Jimmy’s first Coogler. He has now won the award twice. No other literary impostor can make that claim.
Jimmy has actually published 20 books now. Probably he should have been made Coogler Laureate 20 times. The problem is, so vain is this insufferable huckster and so desperate has he become for notice that, as his presidency attracts ever more flies in history’s dustbin, he is increasingly likely to show up at our Coogler Awards ceremony — whether invited or not. There he would stand, clutching his Coogler to his bosom and sermonizing until the janitors turned out the lights. Worse, he might bring Rosalynn, an author in her own right.
Jimmy was the worst president in American history and, in personal terms, the most repellent. That last statement would have been implausible a year or so after he vacated the White House. Today, however, after a quarter-century of caddish behavior toward his successors, it is perfectly acceptable. His public criticisms of sitting presidents have been insulting and usually dishonest. He has oozed vitriol against America even while he was strutting on foreign soil. Before him no president criticized his government from foreign soil. Jimmy has repeatedly broken that rule.
In fact, no prior president has spoken as rudely and dishonestly of his successors or of his country as has Jimmy. The acerbic Harry Truman came to loathe President Dwight D. Eisenhower. In public, however, Harry minded his tongue.
Jimmy’s presidential achievements were even more modest than those of Bill Clinton and of Gerald Ford, and his blunders on domestic and foreign policy are unsurpassed and possibly unsurpassable. What is more he writes bad books.
One reason is he is a man of demonstrably bad character. Only a man of bad character would write as he does in “Our Endangered Virtues,” “I announced that the protection of [human rights] would be the foundation of our country’s foreign policy, and I persistently took action to implement this commitment. It has been gratifying to observe a wave of democratization sweep across our hemisphere and in other regions.” Actually the sweeping that went on during Jimmy’s years was the sweeping of anti-Western forces into power in places such as Afghanistan, Angola, Nicaragua and, forget not, Iran. The democratization he deviously takes credit for did not begin until the mid-1980s with the military buildup of the Reagan administration and the demonstrated resolve of a president who, along with Margaret Thatcher and Pope John Paul II, bankrupted the Soviets and their satellites without firing a shot. In this tendentious book Jimmy actually accuses the pope’s anti-communism of alienating Catholics who yearned for liberation theology — that is to say Marxist theology.
When Jimmy left office he was dismissed by liberals such as the historian Arthur Schlesinger for being so “conservative.” That is to say, his view of economics fit somewhere in between the views of the early Franklin Roosevelt and those of the late Herbert Hoover. Yes, but in social policy he was strictly New Age liberal. He even expressed a belief in UFOs, a preposterosity that Arthur Schlesinger and his ilk tend to forget. In foreign policy he was a pompous procrastinator, lecturing Americans on their “inordinate fear of communism.”
Essentially, this Georgian Snopes is simply a back-country huckster, much like Bill Clinton. Mr. Carter began his political career welcoming the support of the Ku Klux Klan. He adjusted his appeal to the dominant forces in the Democratic Party of the 1970s. Now with this book he has adjusted once again.
He is another howler voice in the chorus of the Angry Left, the Halitotic Left. He has earned the J. Gordon Coogler Award for the Worst Book of 2005. I just pray that the day of our gala ceremony he gets on the wrong Greyhound bus.
R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr. is the founder and editor in chief of the American Spectator, a contributing editor to the New York Sun, and an adjunct scholar at the Hudson Institute. His latest book is “Madame Hillary: The Dark Road to the White House.”