The Jimmy Carter Administration
Jimmy Carter served as the thirty-ninth President of the United States from 1977 to 1981. As a gifted student and former governor of Georgia, his administration nevertheless suffered from his inexperience in politics. His administration sought to make the government "competent and compassionate" but, in the midst of an economic crisis produced by rising energy prices and stagflation, met with difficulty in achieving its objectives. At the end of his administration, Carter had substantively decreased unemployment, reduced some of the deficit, but had ultimately perpetuated the recession.
Carter created the United States Department of Education and United States Department of Energy, established a national energy policy and pursued civil service and social security reform. In foreign affairs, Carter initiated the Camp David Accords, the Panama Canal Treaties and the second round of Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT II). Throughout his career, Carter strongly emphasized human rights. He returned the Panama Canal Zone to Panama and he faced criticism at home for his decision, which was widely seen as yet another signal of U.S. weakness and of his own habit of backing down when faced with confrontation.
The final year of his presidential tenure was marked by several major crises, including the 1979 takeover of the American embassy in Iran and holding of hostages by Iranian students, an unsuccessful rescue attempt of the hostages, serious fuel shortages, and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.
LEGACIES and PUBLIC IMAGE
In his inaugural address he said: "We have learned that more is not necessarily better, that even our great nation has its recognized limits, and that we can neither answer all questions nor solve all problems. "
Carter had campaigned on a promise to eliminate the trappings of the "Imperial Presidency," and he began taking action according to that promise on Inauguration Day, breaking with recent history and security protocols by walking up Pennsylvania Avenue from the Capitol to the White House in his inaugural parade. His first steps in the White House went further in this direction: Carter reduced the size of the staff by one-third; canceled government-funded chauffeur service for Cabinet members, ordering them to drive their own cars; and put the USS Sequoia, the presidential yacht up for sale.
Carter was widely considered to be "a better man than he was a president" (The Independent). While he began his term with a 66 percent approval rating, this had dropped to 34 percent approval by the time he left office, with 55 percent disapproving. Carter paid too much attention to detail. He frequently backed down from confrontation and was quick to retreat when attacked by political rivals. He appeared to be indecisive and ineffective, and did not define his priorities clearly. He seemed to be distrustful and uninterested in working with other groups, or even with Congress when controlled by his own party, which he denounced for being controlled by special interest groups. In the 1980 campaign, Presidential candidate Ronald Reagan used the economic problems, Iran hostage crisis, and lack of Washington cooperation to portray Carter as a weak and ineffectual leader. Carter was the first elected president since Hoover in 1932 to lose a reelection bid.