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"Please, everyone knows that Jimmy Carter is just a fairy tale Republicans use to scare children."
—DiZ, Ansem Retort
Considering that it happened more than thirty years ago, a look around the Internet will astonish many readers with just how firmly James Earl "Jimmy" Carter's presidency remains in Your Mileage May Vary territory. Conservatives declare that his watch was a mess, while liberals assert that he inherited a mess (Why does that sound familiar?): the huge Vietnam War deficit, an economy that for the first time ever suffered rampant inflation while stagnating, and a national post-Vietnam, post-Watergate funk which was described as a "malaise" — a word that is hung around his neck by conservative commentators (and The Simpsons) to this day, though Carter himself never actually used it. "Stagflation" was exacerbated by the 1979 oil crisis; long gas lines and high energy costs contributed to the national unhappiness. In an attempt to lead by example, the President lowered the thermostats in the White House and donned sweaters to keep warm instead — which became for many a hated symbol of the lifestyle sacrifices which they believed his policies had made necessary.
On the foreign policy front, meanwhile, the Iranian Revolution of 1979 and the subsequent protracted holding of American hostages seemed to many to demonstrate the feebleness of the Carter administration's foreign policy, an impression by no means dispelled by a bungled attempt to free the hostages by force. (Conspiracy theorists have held — and not without reason or completely without evidence — that there was an arrangement between the Ayatollah and the Reagan campaign as the hostages were released on Inauguration Day 1981, almost immediately after Reagan had taken the oath.) Carter's term saw the Soviets deploy better nuclear weapons and invade Afghanistan, resulting in the SALT II arms control treaty not being put before the Democratic-controlled Senate.
Still, his term saw a lasting (if somewhat frosty) peace between Israel and Egypt, having sponsored a meeting between Israeli Prime Minister Menachim Begin and Egyptian President Anwar Sadat at Camp David, and some might claim that his economic policies may have paid off in the next decade and that their success had been misattributed to Ronald Reagan. The emphasis that the Carter administration placed on human rights garnered respect even among his political opponents; even most conservatives do not doubt the sincerity of Carter's intentions.
Carter has had one of the most active post-presidencies of any former president, founding the Carter Center to work toward peace, which helped him win a Nobel Peace Prize. His work with charities such as Habitat for Humanity gives him the interesting designation of causing people to like him better for his post-presidency actives than the ones during his presidency.
Satirical media portrayals of Carter focused on his southern-ness, ranging from portrayal as an incongruous Southern Gentleman out of place in a savvier Washington, to an out and out hickish bumpkin; his toothy smile became iconic. The "Redneck President" conception fell a bit out of favor once the nation was introduced to Jimmy's brother, Billy Carter, who generally fit the stereotype a lot better, putting Jimmy in the role of straight man. Given that the former president is still alive and working for diplomacy and Habitat, a lot of portrayals reference this. In the states of the former Confederacy, he was widely known as "The South's Revenge."
A few other facts about President Carter:
- Was known as a very devout Southern Baptist (and brought the term "born-again Christian" into the national vocabulary), but left the denomination in 2000 because of its increasing conservatism. Founded the New Baptist Covenant movement with Bill Clinton for more liberal Baptists.
- Grew up on a peanut farm.
- Had an embarrassing redneck brother Bily, renowned for his eponymous (and terrible) brand of beer and for financial trafficking with the Libyans.
- Pushed for a comprehensive national energy policy and advocated alternative energy sources in the mid-to-late '70s, which, regardless of one's political views, made him most certainly a man well ahead of his time.
- Gave an interview to Playboy magazine in which he defended his own monogamy but admitted that he had at times had "lust in [his] heart" for women other than his wife (reference to Matthew 5:28), words that would haunt him.
- Was attacked by a Killer Rabbit during a boating excursion.
- Shot his neighbor's cat. To death. That's the rumour, anyway. Something he now constantly regrets and has nightmares about to this day.
- Became good friends with Gerald Ford after his presidency.
- Was a submariner and nuclear engineer in his early life (although he never got to serve on a nuclear submarine). This is why he got a submarine named after him rather than a carrier (as is typical for presidents).
Jimmy Carter in fiction:
- In Harry Turtledove's Timeline 191 series, Carter is a Confederate naval officer and is killed in 1942 while home on leave, defending Plains, Georgia from an attack by black guerrilla fighters.
- In Stephen King's The Dead Zone, clairvoyant Johnny Smith meets Carter when he's campaigning for the presidency in 1976, and predicts to him that he's going to win.
- His puppet appears in every episode of D.C. Follies.
- Ansem Retort claims that Jimmy Carter isn't real, and is just a tale told by Republicans to scare children.
- Xkcd mentions his Swamp Rabbit attack here.
- Referenced in Kickassia during a spectacularly gullible monologue.
You're so nice... nice people always do so well in politics. Just look at Carter!
- Linkara apparently doesn't like him, mainly for his legislation concerning feeder nuclear reactors.
- Carter appears in Fear, Loathing and Gumbo on the Campaign Trail '72, an Alternate History in which the 1972 presidential election ended in a messy stalemate. After completing his term as Georgia Governor, he was elected as one of that state's Senators and is still largely nationally unknown - without the precise circumstances of the '76 election from our history, he would never be considered presidential material. His main role has been to help prevent Henry Kissinger being made Secretary of State to President James Gavin.
- In the Global Guardians PBEM Universe, Jimmy Carter was the president who ordered the formation of the government sponsored squad of flagsuit heroes called Team America, using them to rescue the hostages from Iran. It was on the strength of these actions that he won reelection as president over former California Governor Ronald Reagan of California in 1980.
- Appears in an episode of King of the Hill and used his negotiating skills to get Hank's father to recognize his son's "right to exist".
- For which Bobby declares him to possibly be Jesus: His initials are J. C., he worked a miracle, and he was a carpenter (Habitat).
- The Simpsons loves to riff on his unpopularity (and Habitat work).
- When the town can't raise money for an Abraham Lincoln statue, they have to settle for one of him instead that reads "Malaise Forever". This nearly causes a riot, as one angry citizen declares:
"Jimmy Carter's the worst thing to happen to this country!"
- They then gave the statue to Marge when she got out of jail, claiming that it was a statue of her (they added her signature hairdo to it).
- Marge apparently voted for him. Twice! This is a possible reference to Edith Bunker, who unlike her arch-conservative Blue-collar husband, also voted for Carter.
- G.H.W. Bush and Clinton once appeared with him at the Habitat for Humanity to do a Three Stooges routine: Moe, Larry and Curly, respectively.
- After seeing it done in a movie, Homer begins slapping people with a glove and challenging them to a duel when they "insult his honor" (really just a way to bully them into getting his way). Later, he attempts this on a stereotypical Southern Colonel, who is more than willing to accept his challenge. Homer flees town in terror. He encounters Carter working on a Habitat for Humanity (for Cletus' family), and attempts to bully Carter into building a new home for his family as well, to which an angry Carter responds, "Why that is an insult to my honor! I challenge you to a du--" which prompts Homer to again flee.
- He and G.H.W. Bush were not invited to Mr. Burns' party because they were single-termers.
Carter: You too, huh? Hey, I know a good yogurt place.
- Dexters Laboratory. DeeDee's imaginary friend says that turning your lips inside out makes you look like Carter.
- An episode of American Dad showed that he is head of a cover-up that peanut brittle was invented by Abraham Lincoln's wife, not George Washington Carver.
- He also appears in an episode of God, the Devil and Bob in reference to his Habitat for Humanity work. The Devil uses his powers to stop his work including getting a family he is helping to turn on him and having Bob trip him up while carrying building supplies.
- In The Critic, Marty Sherman and his friends play a video game concerning blasting space aliens. Jimmy Carter appears in the game and urges the player to reconsider shooting any more aliens, suggesting they could work towards a peaceful solution instead. Marty shoots him anyway. Amusingly, Jimmy Carter calls himself the worst president in history in the game.
- USS Jimmy Carter (SSN-23), a fast-attack nuclear boat, last of the even-scarier-than-the-name-makes-it-sound-but-also-ludicrously-expensive Seawolf class