Jimmy Carter - Key Events
Carter is inaugurated the thirty-ninth President of the United States.
Carter pardons Vietnam War draft evaders.
Congress passes Emergency Natural Gas Act, authorizing the President to deregulate natural gas prices due to a shortage in supply. Carter signs the bill and announces plans to present an energy program to Congress. He later proposes the establishment of a cabinet-level Department of Energy.
Secretary of State Cyrus Vance travels to the Middle East in an attempt to reconvene the 1973 Geneva Conference.
Soviet dissident Andrei Sakharov receives a written letter of support from President Carter.
In an address to the nation, Carter calls his program of energy conservation the “moral equivalent of war.”
Carter speaks at Notre Dame University, presenting a new direction in foreign policy which takes the focus off anti-Communism and emphasizes support for fundamental human rights.
Carter announces opposition to production of the B-1 strategic bomber.
Newly elected Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin meets with Carter in Washington.
Carter meets with Polish First Secretary Gierek in Warsaw.
Carter visits the Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, in Tehran, calling Iran “an island of stability” in the Middle East.
Carter travels to India, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, France, and Belgium.
Carter invokes the Taft-Hartley Act to end a strike by coal miners.
Carter warns of the Soviet threat in a foreign policy address at Wake Forest University.
Carter graduation speech at Annapolis emphasizes the importance of human rights in foreign policy.
Carter mediates talks between Prime Minister Menachem Begin of Israel and President Anwar Sadat of Egypt at Camp David, resulting in a peace treaty between the two nations.
Camp David Accords Signed
On September 17, 1978, President Jimmy Carter oversaw an agreement between Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin and Egyptian President Anwar Sadat that called for Israel’s gradual withdrawal from the Sinai Peninsula and the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries. The Camp David Accords are often considered the most significant foreign policy achievement of Carter’s administration.
Tension in the Middle East had continued unabated since the 1967 war between Israel and Egypt. In November 1967, the United Nations Security Council passed Resolution 242. The resolution called for the withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories acquired during the war and for termination of all claims or states of belligerency between all nations or states in the area. Recognition by Egypt of the right of Israel to peaceful existence and the return of lands acquired by the Six Days War remained preconditions for peace in the region. Following the Yom Kippur War of October 1973, the Security Council issued Resolution 338, calling on the parties to begin negotiations toward establishing a “just and durable peace.”
President Carter decided to act after Egyptian President Anwar Sadat of Egypt had traveled to Jerusalem and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin had returned from a reciprocal visit to Cairo. Carter invited the leaders to the United States to hammer out a peace treaty between the countries. They would also seek a framework for the resolution of the Palestinian crisis. The three met at Camp David, the presidential retreat in Maryland's Catoctin Mountains, from September 5 through September 17, 1978.
The Camp David Accords, signed by Carter, Begin, and Sadat, called for recognition of UN Security Council Resolution 242 and established the fundamental framework for peace in the region. The agreement called for:
Mutual respect for the sovereignty, territorial integrity, and political independence of every state in the area and the right to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries;
Negotiations between Egypt, Israel, Jordan, and Palestinian representatives for the establishment of arrangements leading to an autonomous and self-governing authority for the West Bank and Gaza within five years;
The negotiation of a peace treaty between Egypt and Israel within three months that recognized the right of Israel to exist and the return of territory taken by Israel in previous conflicts.
The peace treaty was officially signed in March 1979. It was a major breakthrough, perhaps the most significant by an American President dealing with Middle East affairs, and established a precedent for future high-level negotiations over these issues.
Watch the video of President Carter's remarks after the Camp David Summit.
Congress passes a revised energy bill eighteen months after Carter proposed it. Congress also passes the Humphrey-Hawkins full employment bill.
The Carter administration grants full diplomatic status to the People's Republic of China.
Carter announces his “phase two” energy plan calling for conservation and phasing out price controls on oil.
President Carter claims a rabbit tried to attack him during a fishing trip in Georgia, and the Washington Post runs a front page story with the headline: “President Attacked by Rabbit.”
Carter approves development of the MX missile.
Carter signs the second Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty (SALT II) with the USSR. The U.S. Senate never ratifies the controversial treaty, although both nations voluntarily comply with its terms.
Carter delivers what becomes known as his “malaise speech,” blaming the problems of the nation on “a crisis of confidence.”
Carter Gives “Malaise” Speech
On July 15, 1979, President Jimmy Carter delivered what became known as his “Crisis of Confidence” or “malaise” speech to the American public on national television.
In the late 1970s, the United States faced a variety of challenges, including high inflation, rising interest and unemployment rates, and an energy crisis created by dependence on foreign oil and over consumption. In response, President Carter called together a gathering of American citizens at Camp David and spoke with them, as well as with others across the nation, to gain a sense of what ordinary citizens regarded as the main problems facing the country.
When Americans tuned in to watch the President on July 15, most expected a talk on the energy crisis and administration plans to address it. Carter, however, targeted broader issues. He began by acknowledging that the country faced a “fundamental threat to American democracy.” The President identified the threat as a “crisis of confidence” that struck at the heart and soul of the national will. For Carter, the problem lay in the lack of respect Americans held for their public institutions and leaders. Restoring that faith and confidence, said Carter, was the “most important task” facing the nation.
Although the speech also contained substantial energy proposals -increased domestic production, the restriction of foreign oil imports, and an excess-profits tax on energy income to pay for new alternative energy development- much of this was lost in the rhetoric of malaise that colored the address. That rhetoric backfired on the President. Public perceptions of Carter as weak-in effect, a belief that Carter was suffering from the very crisis he spoke about-grew, as many Americans blamed his administration for the problems he lamented. A year later, Ronald Reagan campaigned for the presidency as a strong, vigorous alternative to Carter's weakened image, and he won a landslide victory in the process.
Watch, listen, or read the full text of Carter's “Crisis of Confidence” Speech.
Carter accepts the resignations of five cabinet members and names Hamilton Jordan chief of staff.
A Washington Post poll gives Carter the lowest approval rating of any President in three decades.
Carter collapses in 10K race, leading the press to depict the event as representative of the strength of his presidency.
Carter signs a bill establishing the Department of Education and appoints Shirley Hufstedler as its secretary.
In the longest hostage situation in recorded history, Iranian students take fifty-two American diplomats and citizens hostage for 444 days at the American embassy in Tehran. The students were supporters of the Iranian Revolution and took the hostages in protest of the United States’ harboring of the Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi who was accused of numerous violent crimes against Iranian citizens. After several failed rescue attempts, the death of Pahlavi in Egypt, and Iraq’s invasion of Iran (beginning the Iran-Iraq War) Iran was forced to negotiate a release; the crisis ended with the signing of the Algiers Accords on January 20, 1981.
Carter officially announces his candidacy for reelection.
Due to the invasion of Afghanistan, Carter asks the Senate to table its consideration of SALT II. He also placed an embargo on grain sales to the Soviet Union and suggests the possibility of boycotting the Summer Olympics in Moscow.
Carter announces the “Carter Doctrine” in his State of the Union address, asserting that threats to the Persian Gulf region will be viewed as “an assault of the vital interests of the United States.”
Carter announces his anti-inflation program which includes a proposal for a balanced budget for fiscal year 1981.
Carter announces that the economy is in recession, with the inflation rates hitting ten percent and interest rates climbing to eighteen percent.
The U.S. Olympic Committee votes to boycott the Moscow Summer Olympics, supporting Carter in protesting the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.
Carter announces the failure of “Desert One,” the mission to rescue the Iranian-held hostages, and that several American military personnel had been killed.
Carter's approval rating reaches the lowest mark of any President since 1945.
Carter signs Presidential Directive 59 advocating a strategy for fighting a “limited” nuclear war.
Carter loses election to Ronald Reagan, winning only 49 electoral votes to Reagan's 489.
Ronald Reagan is inaugurated President, and Carter leaves Washington, D.C.