Blogs > Ronald L. Feinman > Jimmy Carter's Presidency Contrasts Sharply with Trump's

Oct 18, 2019

Jimmy Carter's Presidency Contrasts Sharply with Trump's

tags: Jimmy Carter,presidential history,Donald Trump,Trump

Ronald L. Feinman is the author of “Assassinations, Threats, and the American Presidency: From Andrew Jackson to Barack Obama” (Rowman Littlefield Publishers, 2015).  A paperback edition is now available.

October 2019 has been a good month for the Carter family. On October 1, former President Jimmy Carter celebrated his 95th birthday and has lived longer than any other previous president. On October 17th, Carter and Rosalynn Carter surpassed George H. W. Bush and Barbara Bush and now hold the record for the longest Presidential marriage (73 years and counting). His Vice President, Walter Mondale, will turn 92 in January 2020, making Carter and Mondale the longest surviving Presidential-Vice Presidential team in American history.

This month was also another milestone: Donald Trump reached his 1000th day in office on the same day that the Carters celebrated the longest Presidential marriage. As we celebrate president Carter’s legacy this month, it’s valuable to compare the 39th and 45th Presidents.

Carter was elected with a majority of the popular vote, while Trump lost the popular vote by 2.85 million, the worst popular vote loss for a winning President in American history.

Carter has the longest marriage in Presidential history. Trump has been married three times and divorced twice. Trump has a record of extramarital affairs, while the worst statement that can be made about Carter’s marriage was his awkward statement in an interview with Playboy in 1976. He said he had “lust in his heart”.

Carter’s devout faith was a cornerstone of his presidency and his humanitarianism in the years following his presidency. Carter regularly leads services at his Baptist Church in Plains, Georgia.

Meanwhile, Trump’s pandering to the religious right is well-documented and he claimed in an interview with CNN on July 18, 2015 that he has no need to pray or confess his sins since he believes he has never sinned. Trump’s charitable work through the Trump Foundation is under investigation for misuse of funds. 

Carter won the Nobel Peace Prize for diplomacy, promotion of peace, and human rights advocacy.Trump has alienated our allies, undermined American diplomacy, and has ignored human rights concerns as he creates allies out of dictators. 

Carter had strong relations with Latin America. He negotiated the Panama Canal Treaty which restored control of the Canal to Panama in 2000.  He also promoted human rights and held Chile, El Salvador, and Nicaragua accountable for their violations of such rights by suspending military and economic aid.  Meanwhile, Trump has insulted people from Latin America (particularly those from Mexico and Central America), and received condemnation from their leaders. He embraced the rightwing government of Brazil.

Carter achieved a major breakthrough in the Middle East with the Camp David Accords between Israel and Egypt. On the other hand, Trump’s close association with Saudi Prince Mohammed bin Salman and his curtailment of American participation in the Iran Nuclear Agreement destabilized the region. Now,Trump has now abandoned the Kurds in Syria leading to immediate bloodshed.  

Carter diplomatically recognized the People’s Republic of China and worked to strengthen trade between the two nations.Trump’s trade war with China has led to ever-increasing tariffs that harm economic and diplomatic ties.

According to environmental experts, Carter was the third best president for the environment, behind only Theodore Roosevelt and Richard Nixon. In a 2012 survey reported in the NY Times, experts ranked Carter as the best one-term President for the environment, praising his development and use of alternative energy sources, including wind and solar. Carter tried to move away from oil, coal, and natural gas.

Meanwhile, Trump has the worst record on the environment in American history, surpassing Ronald Reagan. Trump has encouraged the oil, coal, and natural gas industries and describes global warming as a “hoax.” 

Carter promoted the creation of the Health and Human Services Department, Education Department, and the Energy Department, while Trump has undermined all three Cabinet agencies and their missions.

Jimmy and Rosalyn Carter have built housing for the poor through Habitat For Humanity for the past 25 years. Trump is a real estate developer who built resorts and hotels for the rich and powerful. 

Finally, Carter has become more respected and honored as time has passed, while each year brings more details of Donald Trump’s corruption and lack of moral character. 

Carter will always be considered a better president by historians and political scientists. By the American public, Carter will always be considered a better man. 

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