- The Washington Times - Monday, October 14, 2002

LONDON When Jack Watson, a former member of the Carter White House, was asked to sum up his boss' four years in the Oval Office, he replied that Jimmy Carter was "the only man in American history who used the United States presidency as a stepping stone to greatness."
Mr. Carter might resent this casually damning assessment of his one-term presidency, but belatedly he can claim vindication in the award of the Nobel Peace Prize.
Within hours of returning to Plains, Ga., after the inauguration of President Reagan in 1981, Mr. Carter was plotting his rehabilitation in the American mind, for he is a man of prodigious energies who took up skiing when he was 62, and climbed Mount Fuji in Japan at the age of 70.
Characteristically, Mr. Carter's post-White House career is once again touched by controversy, for the Nobel committee let it be known that the prize should be seen as a rebuke to those in Washington who advocate war against Iraq.
There will have been some irritation in the Bush White House, even if it is easy to imagine the incumbent wondering why anyone should want a Scandinavian bauble.
By convention, former American presidents do not criticize their successors, so it could be said that Mr. Carter should not have accepted the award if it was going to be taken as a public rebuke of Mr. Bush.
But that would be to misunderstand the born-again zeal of a man who likes to say that he has spent the 21 years since his eviction from the White House "waging peace around the world."
Over the past 20 years, successive American secretaries of state have gritted their teeth whenever Mr. Carter has taken to the skies in his free-lance capacity to oversee elections in Central America, or mediate between tribal factions in Africa.
U.S. diplomats acknowledge that Mr. Carter is a skilful negotiator. At the low point of his own administration, President Clinton privately resented Mr. Carter's 1994 mediation efforts in Haiti, though he had cause to be grateful when his Democratic predecessor eventually clinched a deal that obviated the need for risky American military action.
Whatever mutterings there might be in Republican Washington, there is no doubting the scale of Mr. Carter's reinvention since one of the most humiliating White House departures in modern times.
The public failures of his tenure were particularly painful, for he was viewed after his victory in the 1976 presidential election as the healing balm after the Watergate scandal and the national trauma that marked the Nixon-Ford years.
Immediately after his inauguration in January 1977, Mr. Carter led his wife, Rosalynn, from the bulletproof limousine and walked down Pennsylvania Avenue to the White House a gesture, he said, to show that he trusted the American people to heal the nation's wounds.
His presidency was not without successes, notably in bringing together Anwar Sadat of Egypt and Menachem Begin of Israel at Camp David.
He also initiated some of the economic reforms that are generally associated with the Reagan era, such as deregulation of the banking and airline industries.
But his presidency was destroyed on the rock of the 444-day Iran hostage crisis, which he allowed to dominate his life especially after the debacle of the bungled rescue mission, in which eight American servicemen died.
His handling of the Iranian crisis has since come to be seen as a primer in how not to deal with global challenges from the Oval Office.
His earnestness and utter lack of a sense of humor ensured that he never built a rapport with the American public. For many people, Mr. Carter never recovered from his confession that he had "committed adultery in my heart," but never cheated on his wife in fact.
But Mr. Carter can look far beyond that now that he has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize of 2002. It was he, after all, who noted on leaving the Oval Office that "apparent failures can actually lead to true happiness."
The following was contribued by the Daily Telegraph's Julian Isherwood in Copenhagen:
The Nobel Peace Prize committee that criticized President Bush is led by a senior Norwegian Labor Party politician, former minister and director of the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate.
Gunnar Berge leads the five-member parliamentary standing committee that each year awards the world's most prestigious prize for political efforts to bring about peace.
Previous winners have ranged from Presidents Theodore Roosevelt (1906) and Woodrow Wilson (1919) to the Dalai Lama (1989) and Aung San Suu Kyi (1991).
Under the 1895 will of Alfred Nobel, the Swedish inventor of dynamite who instigated the Nobel prizes, the peace prize should be awarded to "the person who shall have done the most or best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the promotion and holding of peace congresses."
Under Nobel's will, the five members of the Nobel committee are appointed by the Norwegian parliament for renewable, six-year periods.
Since 1936, no members of the Norwegian government or serving members of parliament have been permitted to serve on the committee. Current members include Mr. Berge as chairman; Lutheran Bishop Gunnar Johan Staalsett; Hanna Kristine Kvanmo, a former United Nations delegate and leader of the Socialist Left Party; Sissel Marie Ronbeck, a former Social Democratic lawmaker and director of cultural heritage; and Inger-Marie Ytterhorn, a senior political adviser to the Progress Party.
As Mr.Carter receives his award from King Harald of Norway, other Nobel laureates for this year will be in Stockholm to receive their awards from King Carl Gustav of Sweden.
The public criticism of President Bush by Mr. Berge is also likely to devalue the impact of the award to Mr. Carter, who was U.S. president from 1977 to 1981, for his untiring, globe-trotting efforts in the pursuit of peace and human rights around the world.

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide