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Jimmy Carter's record on human rights

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Michael Getler

One story that I didn’t write but wished I had involves our 39th president, Jimmy Carter, who is now ill with a spreading form of cancer. So I’ll write it now, more as an important personal remembrance for me rather than as a reported news story. ...

... But the view of Carter that I heard overseas—not from politicians but from a small but what I thought were a courageous group of dissidents throughout the then Soviet-dominated eastern bloc countries—was far different. ... ... The point of this posting, however, is to make note of the fact, which I had not done before, that a number of the dissidents that I managed to talk with gradually over the course of two or three years specifically mentioned President Jimmy Carter—and The Washington Post—as factors that continued to give them some hope in their personal crusades.

Whatever Carter’s ratings at home, he was viewed as something of a hero among my samplings of this group; an important and restorative American figure to many, a champion of and fighter for human rights, willing to boycott the Moscow Olympics and poke his finger in Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev’s eye after the invasion of Afghanistan. The Post, for its Watergate coverage, restored their faith in a free press and what could happen in a democracy. Their view of the United States had deteriorated badly, a number of them had said, because of Vietnam and the Watergate scandal. Carter and the Post had restored something that was important to them and their sustaining beliefs.

The reason Getler never wrote that story is that the Very Serious People, including the Democratic Congress hated Carter from the moment he burst upon the scene. Part of that narrative was that Carter was soft on communism. Obviously if you are pushing the narrative that Carter is soft on communism you cannot very well quote the most courageous opponents of communism as admiring Carter. Getler would have been out of a job had he done so.

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