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Stop picking on Jimmy Carter

He suffers from an egregiously unfair reputation. His record, though, shows he was quite a good president.

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In this season of new resolutions, Americans would do well to rethink their perceptions of Jimmy Carter. President Carter has suffered the misfortune of having his legacy almost entirely shaped by his political enemies rather than by objective reality or a basic sense of American fairness.

Today, Carter is caricatured as a weak-kneed, sweater-wearing puritan who struggled with lust in his heart, presided over a malaised America, and micromanaged even the scheduling of the White House tennis courts. More recently, he's taken heat for his blunt portrayal of Israeli policies toward the Palestinians.

What an egregiously undeserved reputation. Carter wasn't just a "good man who got in over his head," as critics say. He was in fact quite a good president.

He kept us out of endless wars. He protected the Alaskan wilderness (Sen. Gaylord Nelson (D) of Wisconsin once told me that "Carter was the greatest environmental president the country ever had.") He promoted a visionary energy policy. He countered the Soviet military threat. And since he left office, he has persistently promoted the cause of peace around the world. The landmark Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty he fashioned remains in force today.

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