I started in the newspaper business in January 1979, during the Carter administration. I was still finding my way when the Reagan administration came in. Between these two points, I would occasionally have to edit the inside copy for the big, bloated Sunday women’s section of the Columbus Dispatch. We ran buckets, warehouses of wire copy to fill it all up, one of them being a feature called “Washington Letter,” or something like that, by Betty Beale.
It was a society column about the nation’s capital. Why the people in the rest of the country wanted to know which senators and socialites attended some party at the Italian embassy was and remains a mystery to me, but it was syndicated and we weren’t the only newspaper that bought it.
And from the first time I read it, it was clear that Official Washington despised the Carters. I was young and stupid, and couldn’t understand it. I came from a house where we turned the thermostat down and put on sweaters when it got cold, where we faced hard times by doing prudent economizing. Betty Beale would have despised the Nalls, too:
Betty Beale, a spunky Washington Star Boswell to the capital’s power society, declared recently that in her affluent and respectable precincts there was consternation over Jimmy Carter’s dress and his insistence on carrying his suit bag. “If the American people had wanted their President to be a bellhop,” she decreed, “they could have found one without all that concern about issues.”
Bravo, whispered the traditionalists behind their white gloves. But from somewhere “out there,” as they say in the drawing rooms, came an avalanche of letters to the Washington Star supporting Carter. Miss Beale was even upbraided by phone callers, which convinced her more than ever that Carter was a threat to propriety and excellence.
Naturally, they hated Rosalynn, too. Her dress was frumpy — and used! She wore it to her husband’s gubernatorial inaugural ball! Can you believe this white trash the idiot public has sent to town?
From the beginning, this was the overarching narrative: They’re just so…ordinary. And they had to be broomed four years later for the Reagans. Betty Beale started writing about how “elegant” that walking broomstick, Nancy Reagan, was, and what a beautiful couple they made, and all that bullshit.
We all know how the last few decades went. Reagan had Alzheimer’s in office and the Carters left to become maybe the best ex-presidential couple in American history, modeling all that self-effacement official Washington hated so much. Helping others. Building houses. Embodying true Christianity, while the Republican Party went the other way.
And they stayed married, for 77 years. Seventy-seven years — do they even have a gift for that, a gem? Seventy-five is diamond, and hardly anyone gets that far. Maybe, at 77 years, you get a spaceship or $5 million or whatever.
So farewell to Rosalynn Carter, who died today at 96. Jimmy will follow her sooner or later, probably sooner. You don’t stay with someone that long without having almost a supernatural bond; he’ll go to his reward — and if there’s a God at all, that’s what it’ll be, a reward — and leave this world behind.
Trump was mocking Jimmy Carter on Saturday, because he’s such a piece of shit:
Trump, criticizing Biden at a rally in Fort Dodge, Iowa, told a crowd of supporters that “the happiest person anywhere in this country right now is Jimmy Carter because his administration looked brilliant compared to these clowns.”
“Compared to Biden, Jimmy Carter was a brilliant, brilliant president,” Trump said.
What will the world say about Trump, when he dies? Think about that one. Happy Monday.