As president, Carter created two new cabinet-level departments: the Department of Energy and the Department of Education. He established a national energy policy that included conservation, price control, and new technology. In foreign affairs, Carter pursued the Camp David Accords, the Panama Canal Treaties and the second round of Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT II). Carter sought to put a stronger emphasis on human rights; he negotiated a peace treaty between Israel and Egypt in 1979. His return of the Panama Canal Zone to Panama was seen as a major concession of US influence in Latin America, and Carter came under heavy criticism for it. The final year of his presidential tenure was marked by several major crises, including the 1979 takeover of the American embassy in Iran and holding of hostages by Iranian students, an unsuccessful rescue attempt of the hostages, serious fuel shortages, and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. By 1980, Carter's disapproval ratings were significantly higher than his approval, and he was challenged by Ted Kennedy for the Democratic Party nomination in the 1980 election. Carter defeated Kennedy for the nomination, but lost the election to Republican Ronald Reagan.
After leaving office, in 1982 Carter and his wife Rosalynn founded The Carter Center, a nongovernmental, not-for-profit organization that works to advance human rights. He has traveled extensively to conduct peace negotiations, observe elections, and advance disease prevention and eradication in developing nations. Carter is a key figure in the Habitat for Humanity project, and also remains particularly vocal on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. As of 2009, Carter is the second-oldest living former president, three months and 19 days younger than George H. W. Bush.
Dubbed the "killer rabbit" attack by the media, the Jimmy Carter rabbit incident involved a swamp rabbit that caught press imagination after furiously trying to board then-U.S. President Jimmy Carter's fishing boat on April 20, 1979.
Carter had gone on a solo fishing expedition in his hometown of Plains, Georgia when the rabbit approached his boat, "hissing menacingly, its teeth flashing and nostrils flared and making straight for the president", trying desperately to enter the boat, causing Carter to flail at the swimming creature with the oars from his boat.
Upon returning to his office, Carter found his staff disbelieving of his story, insisting that rabbits couldn't swim, or that they would never approach a person threateningly. A White House photographer had captured the incident on camera, however.
Press Secretary Jody Powell mentioned the event to Associated Press correspondent Brooks Jackson on August 28, 1979, who filed the story with the wire service the following day. The story "President Attacked by Rabbit" was carried across the front page of The Washington Post, though the White House's refusal to release the photograph resulted in the newspaper using a cartoon parody of the Jaws poster labeled "PAWS" as its illustration. The White House still refused to release the photograph of the incident to the media, until it turned up during the Reagan administration and the story saw another revival.In Press Secretary Powell's 1986 book The Other Side of the Story, he recounted the story as follows:
“Upon closer inspection, the animal turned out to be a rabbit. Not one of your cutesy, Easter Bunny-type rabbits, but one of those big splay-footed things that we called swamp rabbits when I was growing up.
“The animal was clearly in distress, or perhaps berserk. The President confessed to having had limited experience with enraged rabbits. He was unable to reach a definite conclusion about its state of mind. What was obvious, however, was that this large, wet animal, making strange hissing noises and gnashing its teeth, was intent upon climbing into the Presidential boat.”
The incident with the rabbit became fodder for those illustrating Carter's presidency as hapless and enfeebled. The incident was even mocked by the Republicans during the United States presidential election, 1980.
The Jimmy Carter UFO Incident is the name given to an incident in which Jimmy Carter (US President 1977-1981) reported seeing an unidentified flying object while at Leary, Georgia in 1969.
While governor of Georgia, Carter was asked to file a report of the sighting by the International UFO Bureau in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, which he did in September 1973. Since its writing, the report has been discussed several times by both Ufologists and by members of the mainstream media. Carter doubts that the object was an alien spacecraft.
One evening in 1969, two years before he became governor of Georgia, Carter was preparing to give a speech at a Lions Club meeting. At about 7:15 p.m (EST), one of the guests called his attention to a strange object that was visible about 30 degrees above the horizon to the west of where he was standing. Carter described the object as being bright white and as being about as bright as the moon. It was said to have appeared to have closed in on where he was standing but to have stopped beyond a stand of pine trees some distance from him. The object is then said to have changed color, first to blue, then to red, then back to white, before appearing to recede into the distance.
Carter felt that the object was self-luminous, but not a solid in nature. Carter's report indicates that it was witnessed by about ten or twelve other people, and was in view for ten to twelve minutes before it passed out of sight.
In 1973 Carter said (Sheaffer 1998:20-21)
"There were about twenty of us standing outside of a little restaurant, I believe, a high school lunch room, and a kind of green light appeared in the western sky. This was right after sundown. It got brighter and brighter. And then it eventually disappeared. It didn't have any solid substance to it, it was just a very peculiar-looking light. None of us could understand what it was."
Speaking in a 2005 interview, Carter states:
"all of a sudden, one of the men looked up and said, 'Look, over in the west!' And there was a bright light in the sky. We all saw it. And then the light, it got closer and closer to us. And then it stopped, I don’t know how far away, but it stopped beyond the pine trees. And all of a sudden it changed color to blue, and then it changed to red, then back to white. And we were trying to figure out what in the world it could be, and then it receded into the distance."
The exact date on which the sighting occurred has been called into question by investigators. According to the report that he filed with the International UFO Bureau four years after the incident, Carter saw the UFO in October 1969. However investigators have cited Lions Club records as evidence that it occurred nine months earlier (Sheaffer 1998:18-28).
According to a meeting report that he filed with the Lions Club, Carter gave his Leary speech on January 6, 1969, not in October. The setting of his January meeting as described in his report to the Lions Club also matches the setting that he would later describe to the media when speaking about his sighting. His report to the Lions Club made no mention of the sighting itself (Sheaffer 1998:18-28).
Other evidence uncovered rules out the October 1969 date and is consistent with January 1969: (1) Carter visited the Leary Lions Club in his capacity as district governor of the Lions Club. His term ended in June 1969. (2) The Leary Lions Club disbanded several months before October 1969 (Sheaffer 1998:18-28).
According to an investigation carried out in 1976, some seven years after the event, most of those present at the meeting either did not recall the event, or did not recall it as being anything important. According to Fred Hart, the only guest contacted who remembered seeing the object: "It seems like there was a little—like a blue light or something or other in the sky that night—like some kind of weather balloon they send out or something ... it had been pretty far back in my mind." (Sheaffer 1998:21-22)
While puzzled by the object and its origins Carter, himself, later said that while had considered the object to be a UFO—on the grounds it was unexplained—his knowledge of physics had meant he had not believed himself to be witnessing an alien spacecraft.
On January 6, 1969 the sky was clear in Leary and the planet Venus was near its maximum brightness and in the direction described by Carter. Ufologist Robert Sheaffer concluded that the object that Carter witnessed was a misidentification of Venus (Peebles 1994:205). This could also be the Venus "Halo",,as was discussed on the podcast Skeptics' Guide To The Universe #105 in an interview with Jimmy Carter. In the interview Carter stated that he did not believe the object was Venus, explaining that he was an amateur astronomer and knew what Venus looked like. He also explicitly said he did not believe it was an alien craft and at the time assumed it was probably a military aircraft from a near by base. Carter also said that he did not believe that any extraterrestrials have visited Earth. He also stated he knows of no government cover up of extraterrestrial visits and that the rumors that the CIA refused to give him information about UFOs are not true.
The sighting is said to have had a personal impact on Carter and his perception of UFO and UFO sightings. During his 1976 election campaign, he is said to have told reporters that, as a result of it, he would institute a policy of openness if he were elected to office, saying:
"One thing's for sure, I'll never make fun of people who say they've seen unidentified objects in the sky. If I become President, I'll make every piece of information this country has about UFO sightings available to the public and the scientists."Despite his earlier pledge, once elected, Carter distanced himself from disclosure, citing "defense implications" as being behind his decision.