How You Can Start and Operate a Soup Kitchen

Mission Possible: How You Can Start and Operate a Soup Kitchen

Carter and Trump: Class versus crass

Over the last few weeks Jimmy Carter and Donald Trump have been in the news. Carter was there because of the extraordinary manner in which he acknowledged that cancer has spread to his brain. Trump was there because of his outrageous pronouncements on a variety of subjects.

Robert Reich, former Clinton Labor Secretary, recently pointed out that Carter and Trump "represent the opposite extremes of public life in America...Their two lives bookend the era of widening inequality, fading democracy, and increasing coarseness in American life."

Carter through his actions has once again demonstrated what it means to have class, while Trump what it means to be crass. One is a humble man who conducts himself with dignity and grace and lives a life dedicated to helping others. The other is a hedonistic narcissist who is devoid of common decency and lives a life dedicated to enhancing his personal brand and his humongous ego.

Carter would never make the kind of crude misogynic statements that have been spewed from Donald Trump regarding broadcaster Megyn Kelly or his inflammatory xenophobic comments regarding immigrants. The dichotomy is emblematic of what is wrong with America.

Whether or not you agreed with Carter's decisions as president, it's hard not to admire and respect the way this man has conducted himself after leaving the White House. Complaints about the Carter presidency include that he was not a powerful leader. He was too timid. He acted more like Mr. Rogers than the president of the most powerful nation on earth.

Instead of talking about the "the shinning beacon on the hill" he talked about a "crisis in confidence" (the malaise speech).

Nevertheless, I feel if a helicopter had not crashed in the desert of Iraq, and our military had succeeded in rescuing the bulk of the 52 American hostages held by the Ayatollah Khomeini, he probably would have won a second term.      

I say critics of the Carter years need to consider his many accomplishments. The Carter administration gave us the Panama Canal Treaty, the Camp David Accords and normalized relations with China. Carter deregulated railroads, trucking, airlines and telephones, and his energy conservation program resulted in a 50 percent cut in imported oil (he put solar panels on the White House that President Regan promptly removed).

When Carter left office, 12 percent of our population was poor. Today, approximately 50 million Americans, or 15 percent of our population are living in poverty. The annual deficit has now risen to an unfathomable $18 trillion, more than 60 times the combined debt of Jimmy Carter's four years.

It's sometimes forgotten that while the United States was humiliated by the Iranians for 444 days, all of the hostages were ultimately returned home safely and President Carter was the only president in my lifetime that did not send Americans off to war.

Donald Trump is the anti-Carter. He is quite willing to use the public antipathy over immigration to appeal to white largely non-college-educated Republican voters who are extremely frustrated and fearful over stagnant wages and diminishing job prospects. They are extremely anxious about their situation and see the deck stacked against them. He has been able to tap into their fears of the future. There is more than a tinge of demagoguery in what this strongman is selling. His pre-occupation with getting the wall built is akin to Mussolini's obsession with getting the trains to run on time.

Donald Trump is no longer a joke – his polling numbers are significant. He is a serious candidate for the presidency. I believe that insecurity in America is far deeper than then we think and is causing voters to be less discerning than in the past. How else to you explain a candidate selling the idea that he will solve the very complex and nuanced immigrant problem by building a wall that he will then be able to force the Mexicans to pay for?  

While I'd like to believe that Trumpism will "fade gently into the sweet night" like the Know Nothing movement of the mid-1850s which promised to purify American politics by curbing immigration and naturalization, I'm increasingly concerned that growing economic uncertainty, flamed by dramatic worldwide economic changes in places like Greece and China, could trigger a level of irrationality in our politics the likes of which I have never seen in my lifetime.

I really hope I'm wrong, but Donald Trump scares me to my core. He cares nothing about income inequality, he cares nothing about the little guys that are hurt when a bankruptcy is declared and he is willing to indiscriminately attack immigrants to our country.

Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) was on target on what the Republican Party leadership needs to do with Donald Trump: "We should reject what he says because it's not true. And if we don't reject it we've lost the moral authority, in my view, to govern the country."  

It is time for responsible voices to penetrate the Trump façade with facts: President Obama is an American citizen and first-generation immigrants commit fewer crimes than those born in this country.