Time To Put Down The Pen And Await The Historical Verdict

When Kish and I saw that Jimmy Carter had another book out, we wondered aloud whether he possibly could have anything new to say.  Today I stumbled across this article, which notes that the former President has written 25 books — 25! — and urges him to please, please stop.

The linked article treats the former President as a joke, which is sad.  I think, rather, that President Carter comes across as a desperately needy and therefore somewhat pathetic figure.  His ego seemingly cannot accept that, 30 years ago, he was voted out of office after one term and is generally regarded as a failed President.  Since his defeat, President Carter has worked feverishly to try to stay in the public eye and somehow resurrect his reputation, even if it means churning out dozens of books that no one reads or even cares much about.  Recently he even made the weird, and ultimately pitiful, claim that his work since he left office was somehow “superior” to that of other ex-Presidents.  All of these activities are unfortunately reminiscent of Richard Nixon’s hopeless and doomed campaign to overcome the disgrace of Watergate by writing “serious” books about foreign affairs and foreign leaders.

It would be better for Mr. Carter if he put down his pen, stopped injecting himself into world affairs, and simply accepted that history inevitably will judge him solely on the basis of his presidency.  He can’t change the verdict of future historians.  But by ceasing his hyperactive attempts to do so, President Carter could retain the remaining shreds of his dignity and self-respect, and that counts for something.

The Bloom On The Education Rose

In Ohio, at least, a common charge by Democratic candidates is that their Republican opponents would cut spending on education, resulting in the layoff of thousands of teachers.  Governor Strickland’s supporters have made such arguments about John Kasich, and similar charges have been made against the Republican candidate for the Ohio House District that includes New Albany.  I expect that, at some point, focus group testing indicated that, if you wanted to oppose spending cuts, a safe way to do so was to claim that the cuts would hurt teachers and education.

I wonder whether that perception still holds true.  We know that teachers are highly unionized and very active politically.  We know that, at least in some areas, teachers receive subsidized health care benefits and pension benefits far beyond what is available to most employees in the private sector.  We know that, for the most part, adding more teachers apparently hasn’t resulted in any meaningful improvement in how the children who are the product of public schools perform in science and math.  We have heard about incompetent and disinterested teachers, and we’ve read about the so-called “rubber rooms” in New York City where teachers who have been accused of misconduct draw paychecks while doing nothing.  (More recently, the bad publicity about the “rubber rooms” has caused the teachers to be assigned to menial clerical work, for which they will nevertheless be paid their full salaries.)

I wonder whether these kinds of stories, coupled with the crushing budget deficits that are looming in Ohio and many other states, have taken a bit of the bloom off the education rose.  When significant cuts must be made to bring the state budget into balance, why shouldn’t education and teacher positions be on the table just like every other budget item?  And given the oppressive budget reality, is it really advisable to elect candidates who are so beholden to teachers’ unions that they won’t even consider such cuts?