At first, it must seem wholly mystifying that Jimmy Carter seems to be helping Donald Trump. The two men could not be any more different. Carter is a well-mannered ex-president who seems to have great compassion for the poor – or the first world poor anyway. Trump by compassion is a loud-mouthed, ill-mannered, and frankly a dotard. Carter has been known as a diplomat while Trump has rarely put a few moments thought before he speaks on state matters. So you can see why one might be sceptical of Carter’s offer of assistance to Trump in regards to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK).
Carter has had little good to say of Trump. However, in a recent interview with the New York Times, Carter has said that he would be willing to go to the DPRK on behalf of Trump and speak to the Supreme Leader, Kim Jong Un. Why would Carter be willing to help the current White House given that he described Trump’s presidential campaign as having “tapped a waiting reservoir… of racism.” It’s clear that Carter has had little to no respect for him.
Some have suggested that Carter is interested in the world not coming to an end in a hail of nuclear fire, brought on from Trump speaking without thinking first. Carter’s diplomatic skills would certainly come in handy. But I am highly sceptical of such thinking. The DPRK is not some irrational animal that simply attacks by instinct. Kim Jong Un has proven himself to be a capable statesman.
I think the reason is not so altruistic. Jimmy Carter is now 93 years old, and one wonders, even himself, how much time he has left. I think we should consider that his presidency was quite terrible. Since his presidency, he has become a great advocate of peace and diplomacy. He’s been the biggest advocate of Habitat for Humanity. During Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez’s re-election campaign he travelled to the country and certified that the elections had not been manipulated in his favour.
It seems likely that Carter might be thinking about his legacy given his dismal presidency. All this work might be to give a boost to it. In 1994 he travelled to Pyongyang to broker a short-lived nuclear deal with then Supreme Leader Kim Jong Il. He’s always been a rather peculiar figure in American politics, sort of like a Trump, but in 1976, a businessman and an outsider in Washington.
Trump would be wise to accept Carter’s help in this situation. It’s clear that Trump doesn’t even know the meaning of the word “diplomacy.” Even Rex Tillerson who is currently engaged in negotiations is a neo-con war hawk, the very kind of people that have sought the destruction of the DPRK the most radically. Using Cater would be a positive step given his familiarity with Kim’s father. Most importantly his experience in dealing with the DRPK in a diplomatic capacity in the past.