LETTERS : Typecasting of the bad-luck president

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The Independent Online
From Professor Bernard Crick Sir: The title of your leading article ``Get back to your peanuts Jimmy'' (21 December) is contradicted by the table you print of ``Jimmy Carter's triumphs and failures'' (``Doubts linger over Carter-broken truce'', 21 December).

Carter is and was no southern red-neck hick, though his brother was in trade; on the contrary, he is a highly educated and thoughtful man, now typecast by American political writers, not in your way, but simply as ``the bad-luck President''. Perhaps he is a man whose presidential style was all too thoughtful and conciliatory.

You mocks him for slips of the tongue and use that as a sign of total ignorance. That is unjust. You did not mention that Carter heads a ``Carter Centre'', a think-tank for conflict resolution which employs a staff of just over 200, including several senior ex-career diplomats and state department officials. He is always well-briefed, and this time his briefing is reported to have included the White House, State Department and Pentagon.

It is simply cynicism to imply naivety, for not only has he had success elsewhere but he knows ``the game'' as well as any; and has been willing deliberately to put his reputation on the line in the interest of peace.

You blame him for saying publicly that the Serb cause has been misrepresented; you want him to condemn them. But perhaps he has given them just enough pride to be able to climb down just a little. Albert Camus said in the Algerian war that it was not thebusiness of intellectuals to take sides (at a distance) but to work for peace. It is for priests and political philosophers to say who is truly right; but experienced conciliators like Carter have to treat each side with respect and would, indeed, have peanuts for a brain if they thought they could shame or reason the baddies to turn good by editorials.

Yours sincerely, BERNARD CRICK Edinburgh 21 December