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Senior Correspondent

Ailing Jimmy Carter

Ailing Jimmy Carter

On Wednesday

The 39th president of the United States had been speaking about the cancer that was removed from his liver; and, more recently, the discovery of cancer in his brain. He is 90, and will be 91 in October.

Jimmy Carter’s ascension to the  presidency in 1974 had everything to do with his diabolical predecessor, Richard Nixon, the only president to resign the office under a scandalous cloud we know as Watergate. It is widely believed, fairly or not, that Gerald Ford promised to pardon Nixon in exchange for the presidency. It’s never been proven, but it’s what many people suspect to this date.

In more recent days, Jimmy Carter has spoken about the born-again Christian beliefs that some thought would be harmful when he ran for president in 1976. But he said they were helping him now, as he may face his last great contest. “I do have a deep religious faith, which I’m very grateful for.” He told reporters that he is “at ease with whatever comes.”

I’m no expert, but my recollection that when Jimmy Carter was in the White House a peaceful settlement between Israel and its Arab neighbors seemed at hand. Surely, no American president strove harder to find a way out of the tragic dilemma than Carter.

The other day, when Carter spoke at the Carter Center in Atlanta about prospects for peace, he was not optimistic. “They are more dismal than anytime I remember in the last 50 years,” he said.

He is a man of regrets — one especially that lingers — that if he had sent more helicopters in our attempt to rescue the 52 American held hostages in Iran the mission would have succeeded, “and I would have been re-elected.”

Wishful thinking? Military commanders have said that a larger fleet of helicopters would likely have alerted Iranians to the mission.

There’s no doubt that the Iranian crisis contributed to the defeat of Jimmy Carter’s bid for re-election in 1980. The Republican, Ronald Reagan, won in a landslide. Unlike Jimmy Carter, Reagan was a gifted talker, cheerful, and always optimistic. According to Hedrick Smith, of the New York Times, “His aw-shucks manner and charming good looks disarm those who, from a distance, have thought of him as a far right fanatic.

Jimmy Carter has been out of office for many years, but he has continued to play an important role in our national dialogue. When his time comes, a lot of us will miss him.

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