CNN’s Wolf Blitzer interviews Jimmy Carter tonight, and the man who really could lay claim to the worst President in my lifetime shows that he remains as clueless as ever. Carter starts off the interview by claiming that the economy worked better in his term than now, and that unemployment hasn’t been this bad since the Depression, when today’s peak unemployment doesn’t exceed the Carter average for his last year in office.
BLITZER: All right. You were president in the late ‘70s. He’s referring to the bad economic situation then. Was it that bad then as it is right now?
JIMMY CARTER, FORMER PRESIDENT: No, not at all. There was not a crisis. There was a very bad international situation because Iraq invaded Iran. And the world lost all the oil that had been coming out of both of those countries so inflation was rampant and it was bad.
But it wasn’t any crisis like this with very high unemployment and the prospects of future very bad but also with the banks failing and major corporations going under and untold numbers of unemployed and I think by the end of this year we’ll probably see the unemployment rate go up more.
BLITZER: Because I remember interest rates were really high and they returned, too.
CARTER: They were.
BLITZER: And inflation was a real serious concern.
CARTER: It was all over the world, as a matter of fact. Inflation was very high.
But it was not a good economic situation then but I remember as a child the adverse effects of the Great Depression and that was terrible. The unemployment rate got up to 25 percent or more. In Georgia it was 35 percent. But now this is the worst by far since the Great Depression.
BLITZER: You think much worse than what you experienced in the late ‘70s.
CARTER: Oh yeah.
The unemployment rate for January 2009, the last month of the Bush presidency, was 7.2%, certainly nothing to brag about. In his final ten months in office, Carter had unemployment as low as 7.2% only once, in December 1980. What makes this even more ridiculous is that unemployment was even higher earlier in the 1970s and later in the 1980s, where 1981 and 1982 saw unemployment rates hit double digits as Reagan wrung the last of the effects of a decade of bad economic policy out of the US. In fact, it didn’t get back down to 7.2% until 1984.
Moreover, the Misery Index — unemployment plus inflation — hit all-time peaks under Carter. When he left office, the annual MI for 1980 was 20.76, by far the worst of the post-war period. In the last fifteen years, inflation has remained under control, and the MI has not exceeded 10.
As for the international situation, Carter forgets a couple of pressing crises that happened on his watch. Iraq invaded Iran, of course, but if that was the biggest worry on his plate at the time, then it explains how he let dozens of American diplomatic personnel to be held hostage by the Iranians for 444 days. Oh, and the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan, both of which touched off a wave of Islamist fundamentalist terrorism that plagues us to this day.
Carter makes an excellent case in the start of this interview as not just the worst President of the last 50 years or more, but also for Media Dunderhead of the Year … and it’s only the 28th day of 2009.