Jimmy Carter on Homeland Security

President of the U.S., 1977-1981


Declined to keep "nuclear football" at home in Georgia

Carter refused to carry out the biggest responsibility a president has--to be available to take action in case of nuclear attack. When he went on vacation, "Carter did not want the nuclear football at Plains," a Secret Service agent says. "There was no place to stay in Plains. The military wanted a trailer there. He didn't want that. So the military aide who carries the football had to stay in Americus," a 1minute drive from Carter's home. Because of the agreed-upon protocols, in the event of a nuclear attack, Carter could not have launched a counterattack by calling the aide in Americus. By the time the military aide drove to Carter's home, the United States would have been within five minutes of being wiped out by nuclear-tipped missiles. "He would have had to drive ten miles," an agent says. "Carter didn't want anyone bothering him on his property. He wanted his privacy. He was really different."
Source: In the President`s Secret Service, by Ronald Kessler, p. 72 , Jun 29, 2009

Even conservatives deplore parts of the Patriot Act

Following the attacks of 9/11, the US government overreacted by detaining more than 1,200 innocent men throughout America. Almost all of them were Arabs or Muslims.

To legalize such abuses of civil liberties, the Patriot Act was hurriedly enacted, with a number of temporary provisions scheduled to expire in 2005. The president has called for the law to be expanded and made permanent, but even the conservative "patriots" have deplored such provisions as authorization for federal agents to search people's homes and businesses secretly, to confiscate property without any deadline or without giving notice that the intrusion has taken place, and to collect without notice personal information on American citizens, including their medical histories, books checked out of libraries, and goods they purchase. The government can now seize an entire database--all the medical records of a hospital or all the files of an immigration group--when it is investigating a single person.

Source: Our Endangered Values, by Jimmy Carter, p.118-119 , Sep 26, 2006

Military budget of $400B is more than rest of world combined

While there has been a sharp downward trend in worldwide expenditures for weapons during the past 20 years, the US has continued to increase its military budget every year. It now exceeds $400 billion annually, equal to the total in all other nations combined. The next largest military budget is Russia's, which is 1/6 as large. The only arms race is one that we are having with ourselves. One reason for this enormous expenditure is that 20,000 sailors and marines are deployed in ships afloat and almost 300,000 additional troops are stationed in more than 120 countries, with military bases in 63 of them. Since I left office, American presidents have intervened about 50 times in foreign countries.
Source: Our Endangered Values, by Jimmy Carter, p.198-199 , Sep 26, 2006

Greatly strengthened our military forces

I, myself, served in the Navy from 1942 to 1953, and, as president, greatly strengthened our military forces and protected our nation and its interests in every way. I don’t believe this warrants your referring to me as a pacifist.
Source: Response to Zell Miller’s 2004 Republican Convention speech , Sep 8, 2004

OpEd: Pressure to democratize Iran caused Shah's overthrow

In 2003 [Bush said we would] help Iraq to establish a "democratic country in the heart of the Middle East," because, by doing so, "we will defend our people from danger." But not only must Iraq embrace democracy. So, too, must Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Pakistan, which have been laggards in joining the world democratic revolution:

"The United States has adopted a new policy, a forward strategy of freedom in the Middle East. This strategy requires the same persistence and energy idealism we have shown before. And it will yield the same results."

"Yield the same results"? Is Bush aware that when Jimmy Carter pressured the shah to democratize, the shah was overthrown and Iran fell to the Ayatollah? Can the president believe that by hectoring and destabilizing autocracies such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan, we are made more secure? Previous popular revolts in the Arab world gave us and the world Nasser, Khadafi, Assad, Saddam, and the Ba'ath Party.

Source: Where The Right Went Wrong, by Pat Buchanan, p. 30 , Aug 12, 2004

US is sole superpower, but world is a more dangerous place

Instead of entering a millennium of peace, the world is now, in many ways, a more dangerous place. The greater ease of travel & communication has not been matched by equal understanding & mutual respect. There is a plethora of civil wars, unrestrained by the Geneva Convention, within which an overwhelming portion of the casualties are unarmed civilians who have no ability to defend themselves. And recent appalling acts of terrorism have reminded us that no nations, even superpowers, are invulnerable.
Source: A Patriot's Handbook, by Caroline Kennedy, p.491 , Dec 10, 2002

Canceled B-1 & neutron bomb; approved MX & cruise missile

Questions of national defense were a continuing concern during the Carter term. He decided not to support the development of the B-1 bomber or the enhanced radiation “neutron bomb.” He did, however, approve the development of the cruise missile as a part
Source: Grolier’s Encyclopedia, “The Presidency” , Dec 25, 2000

Steady increase in defense to offset 37% drop since 1969

Q: You've been criticized for an insufficient buildup of our Armed Forces.

CARTER: In the 8 years before I became President, had its own military strength decreased. Seven out of eight years, the budget commitments for defense went down, 37% in all. Since I've been in office, we've had a steady, carefully planned, methodical but very effective increase in our commitment for defense.

REAGAN: We were in a war that wound down during those 8 years, which of course made a change in military spending because of turning from war to peace. Gerald Ford left a 5-year projected plan for a military buildup to restore our defenses, and President Carter's administration reduced that by 38%.

CARTER: I think, habitually, Governor Reagan has advocated the injection of military forces into troubled areas, when I and my predecessors--both Democrats and Republicans--have advocated resolving those troubles and those difficult areas of the world peacefully, diplomatically, and through negotiation.

Source: The Reagan-Carter Presidential Debate , Oct 28, 1980

SALT II is result of 7 years of bipartisan negotiations

Q [to Reagan]: Both of you have expressed the desire to end the nuclear arms race with Russia. You suggest that we scrap the SALT II treaty, and induce the Soviets to sign a new treaty, one more favorable to us. Pres. Carter says he will again try to convince a reluctant Congress to ratify the present treaty.

REAGAN: The SALT II treaty negotiations [began after] Mr. Carter had canceled the B-1 bomber, delayed the Trident submarine, and whatever other things that might have been done. The Soviet Union knew we had gone forward with unilateral concessions.

CARTER: There is a disturbing pattern in the attitude of Mr. Reagan: He has never supported any of those arms control agreements--the limited test ban, SALT I, nor the antiballistic missile treaty, nor the Vladivostok Treaty negotiated with the Soviet Union by President Ford--and now he wants to throw into the wastebasket a treaty to control nuclear weapons, negotiated over a 7-year period, by myself and my two Republican predecessors.

Source: The Reagan-Carter Presidential Debate , Oct 28, 1980

Urged deployment of neutron bombs in NATO's Europe

One of the most controversial and least understood issues I had to face as President was a NATO decision on whether or not to develop and deploy in Europe enhanced radiation (ER) weapons, the so-called neutron bomb.

The ER weapon's destructive force would come not from the relatively small explosion but from intense radiation, which enabled it to kill enemy troops with a minimum of damage to surrounding structures. This very characteristic of killing with radiation made the weapon seem particularly frightening to the public.

Although I had agreed to go ahead with the project if our NATO allies concurred, I was troubled over the advisability of trying to force neutron weapons on our allies.

Because of the limited range of the proposed neutron weapons, they would not be used in Great Britain in any event, but some of the shells or missile warheads could be stored in the British Isles for use on the Continent.

Source: Keeping Faith, by Jimmy Carter, p.225-227 , Mar 20, 1978

B-1 bomber was a gross waste of money

"Harold Brown has been very courageous to recommend that the B-1 not be built. " -- Diary, June 24, 1977

Even after thorough study of the issue during the spring of 1977 with the help of the Secretary of Defense and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, deciding what to do about the B-1 bomber was still difficult for all of us--not because of the merits of the case, but because of the necessity to prevail against supporters of the B-1 once my decision was made. If I had had absolute power, the answer would have been simple: do not build it, because it would be a gross waste of money. My problem was that I would have to win the argument not merely in the Oval Office, but also in the public arena--indirectly with the American people, and then directly with a majority of Congress. As I studied the arguments, I also spent a lot of time working with key members of Congress and the news media, trying to present the facts to the public.

Source: Keeping Faith, by Jimmy Carter, p. 81-82 , Jun 24, 1977

Opposed Vietnam, but very late

Carter is a moral, even a holy man, yet he is a politician trapped in the venal and compromising snake pit of America politics. That is part of his conflict. He has done things other liberal politicians and many human beings would be ashamed of. He did not oppose the Vietnam war until almost the end. He proclaimed an “American Fighting Men’s Day” which was really a Lt. William Calley Day in Georgia.
Source: How Jimmy Won, by Kandy Stroud, p. 11-2 , Jan 1, 1977

Eliminate all nuclear weapons from this earth

We are a strong nation and we will maintain strength so sufficient that it need not be proven in combat--a quiet strength based not merely on the size of an arsenal not on the nobility of ideas.

The world is still engaged in a massive armaments race designed to insure continuing equivalent strength among potential adversaries. We pledge perseverance and wisdom in our efforts to limit the world’s armaments to those necessary for each nation’s domestic safety. We will move this year a step toward our ultimate goal--the elimination of all nuclear weapons from this earth.

We urge all other people to join us, for success can mean life instead of death.

Source: A Government As Good As Its People, by Jimmy Carter, p.261-2 , Oct 1, 1976

Would pardon draft evaders outright to heal nation

Q: [to Ford]: In granting the pardon to former President Nixon, part of your rationale was to put Watergate behind us. Why does not the same rationale apply to the men who resisted in Vietnam, many of them in exile?

FORD: The amnesty program I recommended would give all draft evaders the opportunity to earn their good record back. We gave them ample time. I am against- an across-the-board pardon of draft evaders or military deserters.

CARTER: Pardon means that what you did, whether it's right or wrong, you're forgiven for it. I advocate a pardon for draft evaders. I think now is the time to heal our country after the Vietnam War and I think that what the people are concerned about is not the pardon or the amnesty of those who evaded the draft, but whether or not our crime system is--is fair.

Source: The First Carter-Ford Presidential Debate , Sep 23, 1976

Punish CIA operatives involved in illegal activities

Carter would not break up the CIA or restrict covert operations, but he would oversee the CIA to assure its involvement only in legal activities. "I will know what is going on, and if there is any wrongdoing, I will find out about it and I will see to it that those responsible are punished." He does not believe that the CIA should have been used in Angola.
Source: Jimmy Who?, by Leslie Wheeler, p.184 , Jan 1, 1976

Defense is most wasteful agency in federal government

Carter calls the Defense Department the "most wasteful agency in the Federal Government." He would cut its budget by 5%, but would not make cuts where he thought they could damage the country's national security. He opposes expensive weapons like the B-1 bomber, but favors construction of the Trident, the Navy's new nuclear firing submarine. He says that "Our ultimate goal should be the reduction of nuclear weapons, in all nations, to 0," but admits that this probably would not occur during his lifetime.
Source: Jimmy Who?, by Leslie Wheeler, p.185-186 , Jan 1, 1976

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Barack Obama(D,2009-2017)
George W. Bush(R,2001-2009)
Bill Clinton(D,1993-2001)
George Bush Sr.(R,1989-1993)
Ronald Reagan(R,1981-1989)
Jimmy Carter(D,1977-1981)
Gerald Ford(R,1974-1977)
Richard Nixon(R,1969-1974)
Lyndon Johnson(D,1963-1969)
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Page last updated: Feb 22, 2022