I grew up in the US during the 1970s, the one decade universally acknowledged to have truly sucked. In 1970s America we danced to disco music, wore leisure suits and watched the Brady Bunch. But if that wasn't torture enough, we had Jimmy Carter as our president. I can still recall how depressing it was to watch his taciturn face on TV announcing one catastrophe after another, from the skyrocketing misery index, to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, to the capture of our hostages in Iran, to the tragically-botched rescue attempt to free them. Jimmy Carter was arguably the most hapless president in all American history, and indeed, today most presidential historians today rate him at or near the very bottom of the list. Ronald Reagan was able to crush Carter at the polls with the simple slogan "Morning in America," a tacit acknowledgement that under Carter's watch it had been a cold midnight across the fruited plain. But with the publication of Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, his ignorant rant against Israel, many in the American Jewish community believe that Carter is not just a loser but an anti-Semite. I disagree. Jimmy Carter is not so much anti-Semite as anti-intellectual, not so much a Jew-hater as a boor. The real explanation behind his limitless hostility to Israel is a total lack of any moral understanding. Carter wants to do what's just. His heart's in the right place. He just can't figure out what the right is. He is, and always has been, a man of good intentions bereft of good judgment. He invariably finds himself defending tyrants and dictators at the expense of their oppressed peoples. Not because he is a bad man, but because he is a confused man. CARTER SUBSCRIBES to what I call the Always Root for the Underdog school of morality. Rather than develop any real understanding of a conflict, immediately he sides with the weaker party, however wicked or immoral. Israel has tanks and F-16's. The Palestinians don't. Therefore the Palestinians are being oppressed. Never mind that the Palestinians have rejected every offer to live side by side with Israel in peace and elected a government pledged to Israel's annihilation. Their poverty dictates the righteousness of their cause even if their actions speak otherwise. If Israel builds a barrier to cordon off the Palestinians, it is not to prevent their suicide bombers from dismembering children but to punish them for having darker skin. Carter's obsession with the unrighteous underdog has embarrassed him many times before. It was what motivated him to visit and legitimize Fidel Castro and take his side in a bio-weapons dispute with the United States. Castro runs a tiny island in the shadow of the world's superpower. He must therefore perforce be a victim of American bullying, even if he is a brutal dictator and tyrant. Championing the unrighteous underdog also led Carter to praise the murderous North Korean tyrant Kim Il Sung with these words: "I find him to be vigorous, intelligent... and in charge of the decisions about this country." Carter added, "I don't see that [the North Koreans] are an outlaw nation." He also hailed Marshal Joseph Tito as "a man who believes in human rights," and said of the murderous Romanian dictator Ceausescu: "Our goals are the same: to have a just system of economics and politics... We believe in enhancing human rights." Championing the underdog also had Carter tell the Haitian dictator Raul C dras that he was "ashamed of what my country has done to your country." AS A MARITAL counselor I have met many well-meaning arbitrators who always take the side of the wife in an ugly dispute in the belief that a woman, inherently weaker than her husband, is always the innocent and aggrieved party. Even where the evidence points to the wife as being violent and unreasonable, such arbitrators cannot conceive of the husband as anything but the oppressor. Needless to say, such arbitrators cause more harm than good, which is why Jimmy Carter would make an even worse marital counselor than he was president. No, Carter is not anti-Semitic so much as a man whose lack of judgment and shallowness render him absolutely incapable of telling right from wrong. Carter's obscene comparison of Israel with apartheid South Africa ignores the fact that Israel is the first country to airlift tens of thousands of black Africans to become free and full citizens in its borders, a phenomenon that has no precedent in the history of the world. But by saying that the Palestinians are being subjected to apartheid Carter has grossly maligned not Jews, but black South Africans. Whereas black South Africans inspired the world with their humane capacity for forgiveness and peaceful coexistence with their white brethren, even after having been so egregiously wronged, the Palestinians have unfortunately embraced murderous hatred and racism. Arab newspapers routinely publish grotesque caricatures of Jews, and the Palestinians teach kindergarten children to grow up and blow up Israeli buses. Nelson Mandela rose to become the world's greatest statesman with his articulation of brotherhood and reconciliation. But Yasser Arafat fathered international terrorism and stole hundreds of millions of dollars from his own people. Which leads to one conclusion: Before one runs around the world as a global do-gooder, one should first develop the ability to identify the good. The writer, a rabbi, hosts the national television program "Shalom in the Home" and is author most recently of Parenting with Fire: Lighting Up the Family with Passion and Inspiration(www.shmuley.com).

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