Former President Jimmy Carter (D-GA) has been all over the place recently to promote his new book, A Call to Action: Women, Religion, Violence, and Power, and providing memorable guest appearances in the process. He stopped by Thom Hartmann’s radio program last week, and Hartman asked him if he believed there has been a legitimately-elected Republican President since Dwight Eisenhower, considering the allegations and irregularities surrounding the elections of Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, and George W. Bush. Hartmann couldn’t get President Carter to bite on Nixon and Reagan, but he did get him on the record about the 2000 election results.
In the Obama era, questioning the legitimacy of a presidency has been reduced to desperately scrutinizing the pixels on a birth certificate, but as Hartmann laid out to President Carter, there’s a real case to be made that no Republican has been elected president without serious chicanery since The Fonz held court at Arnold’s Drive-In (the real Fonz, not the fictionalized Henry Winkler version).
In 1968, operatives for Richard Nixon attempted to interfere with peace talks between North and South Vietnam in order to prevent a deal prior to the election. In tapes released by the Lyndon Banes Johnson Presidential Library, President Johnson told then-Senate Minority Leader Everett Dirksen (R-IL) that what Nixon’s operatives were doing was “treason” (Dirksen agreed), but that he wanted to keep the matter out of the campaign.
In 1980, according to then-Iranian President Abolhassan Bani-Sadr, and others, the Ronald Reagan campaign made a secret deal with Iran to forestall the release of the 52 American hostages who were taken during the overthrow of the Shah of Iran. A deal for the hostages could have made a huge difference in what was actually a close presidential race.
Finally, we all remember the chad-tastrophe that was the 2000 Florida recount.
On The Thom Hartmann Program last week, Hartmann deviated from the book junket format for a moment, and asked President Carter about those bits of electile dysfunction. “About three or four years ago, the LBJ Library released tapes of LBJ working with Everett Dirksen, trying to stop the Nixon campaign in ’68 from blocking LBJ’s peace deal with South Vietnam,” Hartmann said. “They were not successful, and Dirksen called what Nixon did ‘treason,’ and those tapes are now available. President Bani-Sadr has said that something similar happened to you during the Reagan campaign, and George W. Bush was only president because of the intervention of the US Supreme Court, something you’ve commented on in the past. I’m wondering, you know, have we had a legitimately elected Republican president since Dwight Eisenhower?”
Carter laughed nervously, and said “Well, I think so,” adding “I wouldn’t want to, I wouldn’t want to comment on that. That’s pretty, pretty gross.”
“Yeah, I think we’ve had a legitimately elected president,” President Carter continued, but added “I don’t think that George W. Bush won the election in 2000 against Al Gore because I think that he probably lost Florida, and also nationwide. But, you know, when the Supreme Court rules in our country, that’s what we have to accept.”
As if former presidents’ group photos weren’t already awkward enough.
Whatever you think of the various issues that Hartmann raised (most people would concede Bush, and both Nixon and Reagan went on to make the allegations against them seem not all that incredible with their subsequent actions), the current Republican plan is to simply make their dirty tricks legal. Liberals helped them out immeasurably by staying home in 2010, flipping state legislatures just in time to let Republicans draw themselves an ironclad congressional majority. The only thing I can tell you now is, if your 2016 polling place is on the other side of a bridge, maybe you should make other plans now.