This is a post in My Presidential Rankings series, linked here: https://sdu754.wordpress.com/2014/01/05/presidential-rankings/
Jimmy Carter entered the presidency as a Washington outsider, and in many ways this hindered his presidency. While being an outsider from Washington politics would certainly endear him to voters, it alienated him from congress. He also found delegating nearly impossible, and was quickly overwhelmed in the White House.
Carter tried to champion human rights in foreign policy, but this led to many poor decisions, as he didn’t take practical realities into account. The Mariel boatlift was a massive emigration of Cubans to the US where Carter allowed Cuba to empty it’s prisons into boats and send them to the United States. Fidel Castro publicly said “I have flushed the toilets of Cuba on the United States.” In Nicaragua, Carter withdrew support from Somoza regime leading to the rise of the communist Sandinista government. In Panama, He gave away the Panama Canal away one of the most strategic areas in the word to a dictator during the cold war.
In negotiations with China, Carter reiterated the Shanghai Communiqué’s acknowledgment of the Chinese position that there is only one China and that Taiwan is a part of China. Carter also announced the withdrawal of all U.S. military personnel from Taiwan and the end to the Sino-American Mutual Defense Treaty signed with the Taiwan. Basically Carter gave away a sovereign free nation to a Communist one, while voiding a long standing treaty without getting proper permission from congress.
In 1977 Carter withdrew support for the Shah of Iran, which led to the overthrow of the government and the installation of the radical Islamic Ayatollahs. Iran had long been one of the “Twin Pillars” upon which US middle eastern policy had been built, Saudi Arabia was the other. This quickly led to the Iranian Hostage Crisis, in which 54 Americans were held hostage for 444 days. Carter did try operation eagle claw, a badly planned rescue attempt that inevitably failed.
When the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan, Carter’s response was a rather weak one. He terminated soviet wheat deal which hurt American farmers. He prohibited American athletes from participating in the Olympics in Moscow. He re-instated the military draft, even though there was no war. Carter further withdrew SALT II treaty.
Carter mediated the Camp David Accords between Egypt & Israel, in which Israel returned the Sinai Peninsula to Egypt in return for peace with Egypt. In order to get a peace agreement passed, Carter bribed both countries with an indefinite payment of $1 billion each yearly.
Carter’s biggest downfall may have been the economy. Rising inflation, unemployment and energy prices combined to overwhelm the inexperienced president. The ever weakening economy and the situation in Iran, combined to make voters oust Carter from the White House.