From Carter to Trump: Opinions by a Hamptons Resident Who Has Known Them All

U.S. President George W. Bush (C) meets with former President George H.W. Bush (L), President-elect Barack Obama (2nd L), former President Bill Clinton (2nd R) and former President Jimmy Carter (R) in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington January 7, 2009.
REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

Father Alex Karloutsos has been the pastor for the Dormition of the Virgin Mary Greek Orthodox Church in Southampton since 1986, but he has also been the Special Assistant to the Archbishop of America since 1977. From this position, he is the official liaison between his religion and the White House, also Congress and state and local officials. Of most interest, he meets periodically—and always on Greek Independence Day, March 25—with sitting presidents, a total of eight since he has held this position.

Here, in this transitional period between Trump and Biden, I asked Father Alex if I could interview him about these presidents, without regard to their political views. Nobody in the Hamptons that I know would have this ability, so I thought this would be interesting to our readers. He agreed; I took notes.

JIMMY CARTER
President from 1977 to 1981. Ranked by scholars as #26 among our 45 presidents. Major event during his administration: American diplomats held hostage by the Iranian government.

Father Alex says: “Not a warm person, but had a great smile. Didn’t listen to others well. Seemed weak at times, but was no pushover. Could be like steel. Religion important to him.”

RONALD REAGAN
President from 1981 to 1989. Ranked by scholars as #9 among our 45 presidents. Major event during his administration the tearing down of the Berlin Wall.

Father Alex says: “One of the smartest presidents, but didn’t feel he needed to remind anybody of that fact. Very warm and friendly, listened to others, he made you feel at home. Adored American democracy.”

GEORGE H.W. BUSH.
President from 1989 to 1993. Ranked by scholars as #20 among our 45 presidents. Major events during his administration were the invasion of Iraq and the tearing down of the
Berlin Wall.

Father Alex says: “An extraordinary gentleman. Kind, spiritual and a war hero. Family and children were most important to him. Listened to others. The president with the greatest understanding of the world and the new world order.”

BILL CLINTON
President from 1993 to 2001. Ranked by scholars as #15 among our 45 presidents. Major events during his administration was the NAFTA Free Trade Zone and a balanced federal budget.

Father Alex says: “The man from Hope. He had his flaws, but he was also a man with a great gift of persuasion. He loved others and was moved by their pain. Others loved him, too. He could quote the Bible. I recall him quoting Hebrews 11:1—“Faith is a thing not seen but hoped for.”

GEORGE W. BUSH
President from 2001 to 2009. Ranked by scholars as #33 of our 45 presidents. Major events during his administration were the Iraq War and ousting of Saddam Hussein, and 9/11.

Father Alex says: “He drank a bit. He was honorable, tried to be a humble son, gracious, a good listener and recognized the work of others.”

BARACK OBAMA
President from 2009 to 2017. Ranked by scholars as #12 of our 45 presidents. Major events were the Crash of 2008 and National Health Care.

Father Alex says: “An amazing man. Very smart and could playfully remind you of it. He felt the pain of the American people. Had a mission and a sense of justice. I’d see him talk to children. He’d get down on his knees and speak to them eye-to-eye. Great respect for others. He was right to say that just being the American President was no reason for him to be given the Nobel Peace Prize.”

U.S. President Donald Trump participates in a medal ceremony in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, U.S. December 3, 2020. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

DONALD TRUMP
President from 2017 to 2021. Unranked by scholars yet. Major events were economic gain, making an enemy of China, failure to respect facts and COVID-19.

Father Alex says: “I found him always welcoming. He’d make us comfortable. But he was the way he was. Very strong. Hard to convince he was wrong. Not above telling others he was the smartest man in the room. But good to us.”

FILE PHOTO: U.S. President-elect Joe Biden points to Wally Adeyemo, Biden’s nominee to be deputy treasury secretary, as he announces nominees and appointees to serve on his economic policy team at his transition headquarters in Wilmington, Delaware, U.S., December 1, 2020. REUTERS/Leah Millis

JOE BIDEN
President-elect. No ranking yet. No events yet known, except surely COVID-19 and a vaccine.

Father Alex says: “I am great friends with Joe. I’ve known him and his family for 20 years. He has friends in the Hamptons and has prayed at our church. I think his compassion for others and his strength of character, molded by triumph and sorrow, will make him a great president, one who can hopefully bring us together.”

At the end of my interview, I asked him which presidents most enjoyed being in the Hamptons. “I think Bill Clinton loves it here. And I think Joe Biden will, too. He has friends he spends time with here, and the Hamptons will bring him the kind of peace that he will very much enjoy.”

Note: Presidential rankings by the C-SPAN Presidential Historian Survey.

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