“A worn-down Carter holed up in the White House desperately trying to solve the Iran hostage crisis in the final hours of his term . . . He failed to articulate a compelling political vision & was unable to hold his party together” — Julian Zelizer
Photo: Two American hostages in the 444-day Iranian hostage crisis.
“Carter was established as governor in still-segregated Georgia, then ran for president: on anticorruption, and as a leader of the New South. He was skilled politically, on energy and on Panama . . . then—stagflation.” Carter rode the post-Watergate wave into office, but running as an outsider was easier than governing as one. On his second day in office, Carter pardoned all the Vietnam War draft evaders. During Carter's term as president, two new cabinet-level departments, the Department of Energy and the Department of Education, were established. He established a national energy policy that included conservation, price control, and new technology. In foreign affairs, Carter pursued the Camp David Accords, the Panama Canal Treaties, the second round of Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT II), and the return of the Panama Canal Zone to Panama. On the economic front he confronted persistent stagflation, a combination of high inflation, high unemployment and slow growth. The end of his presidential tenure was marked by the 1979–1981 Iran hostage crisis, the 1979 energy crisis, the Three Mile Island nuclear accident, and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. In response to the invasion, Carter escalated the Cold War by ending détente, imposing a grain embargo against the Soviets, enunciating the Carter doctrine, and leading an international boycott of the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow. By then, Carter stood alone in the Oval Office as he confronted a battered economy, soaring oil prices, American hostages in Iran, and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. In 1980, Carter faced a primary challenge from Senator Ted Kennedy, but he won re-nomination at the 1980 Democratic National Convention. Carter lost the general election in an electoral landslide to Republican nominee Ronald Reagan. Polls of historians and political scientists usually rank Carter as a below-average president. Although Carter's unpopularity enabled Ronald Reagan to achieve a landslide victory, ushering in a conservative revolution, during Carter's post-presidential career, he has emerged as an important voice for international diplomacy and negotiation, remaking his image as a statesman for our time