Now that he’s lived longer than any other president, former President Jimmy Carter, just before his 95th birthday, offered his sage wisdom, saying of the presidency, “I hope there’s an age limit. If I were just 80 years old, if I was 15 years younger, I don’t believe I could undertake the duties I experienced when I was president.”
Carter was answering questions on Tuesday during his annual report at the Carter Center in Atlanta, according to the Associated Press, which added, “Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders would turn 80 during their terms if elected.”
Carter’s comment came after someone asked if he had thought of running in 2020. He added that the presidency requires a president “to be very flexible with your mind,” adding, “You have to be able to go from one subject to another and concentrate on each one adequately and then put them together in a comprehensive way, like I did between Begin and Sadat with the peace agreement.”
As Jay Nordlinger, in his classic essay Carterpalooza! in National Review in 2002, noted that Carter’s claim’s regarding Camp David have been inflated:
Carter has long enjoyed a reputation as a Middle East sage, owing, of course, to his role in the original Camp David accords. That reputation, however, rests on shaky grounds. Truth is, Sadat and Begin had their deal worked out before ever approaching Washington. And the facilitators they used were far from saintly Southern Baptists: They used the dreadful King of Morocco and the even more dreadful Ceausescu of Romania! When they had their plan essentially worked out, however, they called the White House …
Carter stated that he hadn’t settled on which Democratic presidential candidate he favors, saying, “I’m going to keep an open mind … One of the major factors I will have in my mind is who can beat Trump.”
There is an argument to be made that Carter at any age couldn’t handle the presidency; he served as President of the United States from 1977 to 1981. His presidency is generally viewed as one of the greatest failures in the history of the American presidency. He pulled U.S. missiles out of South Korea without consulting the Pentagon; he signed the Panama Canal Treaty, thus giving up control by the year 2000; he implemented price controls, and presided over an economy that by 1980 featured interest rates at a staggering 21%, inflation at 13.5%, and unemployment at 7%.
Carter’s bitterness toward Republican presidents, particularly President Ronald Reagan, is almost legendary; as recently as late June at the Carter Center’s retreat, he said of President Trump that a full investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election would prove that Trump didn’t actually win the presidency, snorting, “There’s no doubt that the Russians did interfere in the election. And I think the interference, although not yet quantified, if fully investigated would show that Trump didn’t actually win the election in 2016. He lost the election and he was put into office because the Russians interfered on his behalf.” When asked if Trump was an illegitimate president, Carter answered, “Based on what I just said, which I can’t retract,” as the audience laughed.
As far as Reagan, Nordlinger noted of Carter’s meeting with arch-terrorist Yasser Arafat in 1990:
Carter boasted of his toughness toward Israel, assuring Arafat at one point, “. . . you should not be concerned that I am biased. I am much more harsh with the Israelis.” Arafat, for his part, railed against the Reagan administration and its alleged “betrayals.” Rosalynn Carter, taking notes for her husband, interjected, “You don’t have to convince us!” Brinkley records that this “elicited gales of laughter all round.” Carter himself, according to Brinkley, “agreed that the Reagan administration was not renowned as promise keepers” (this, to Arafat). If you are sickened by the thought of a former U.S. president and a former First Lady of the United States and the career terrorist Yasser Arafat all sitting around bashing Ronald Reagan . . . you and I think alike.