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Tuesday, July 27, 2004

The One and Only Jimmy Carter

Jimmy Carter was absolutely wonderful last night, both on stage and then off. First, as always, he spoke directly and honestly to the American people. The speech was a winner, and pulled few punches. The CNN folks are all a-gush with Candy Crowley's "inside information," of how President Carter's speech was not "vetted" by the Kerry people. There were actually a few instances, where I thought Carter would have rather made an even more direct condemnation of Bush's actions these last few perilous years, but regardless he made his point with power:

Truth is the foundation of our global leadership, but our credibility has been shattered, and we are left increasingly isolated and vulnerable in a hostile world. Without truth, without trust, America cannot flourish. Trust is at the very heart of our democracy, the sacred covenant between a president and the people. When that trust is violated, the bonds that hold our republic together begin to weaken.

After 9/11, America stood proud, wounded but determined and united. A cowardly attack on innocent civilians brought us an unprecedented level of cooperation and understanding around the world.

But in just 34 months we have watched with deep concern as all this good will has been squandered by a virtually unbroken series of mistakes and miscalculations.

Unilateral acts and demands have isolated the United States from the very nations we need to join us in combatting terrorism....

What a difference these few months of extremism have made. The United States has alienated its allies, dismayed its friends, and inadvertently gratified its enemies by proclaiming a confused and disturbing strategy of preemptive war...

In the meantime, the Middle East peace process has come to a screeching halt. From the first time since Israel became a nation, all former presidents, Democratic and Republican, have attempted to secure a comprehensive peace for Israel with hope and justice for the Palestinians. The achievements of Camp David a quarter century ago and the more recent progress made by President Bill Clinton are now in peril.

Instead, violence has gripped the Holy Land, with the region increasingly swept by anti-American passions. This must change.

Elsewhere, North Korea's nuclear menace, a threat far more real and immediate than any posed by Saddam Hussein, has been allowed to advance unheeded, with potentially ominous consequences for peace and stability in Northeast Asia.

After his speech, President Carter was interviewed by Jim Lehrer for PBS and continued the same line:

FORMER PRESIDENT JIMMY CARTER: Do you remember the statements that were made about the massive weapons of mass destruction in Iraq?


FORMER PRESIDENT JIMMY CARTER: Do you remember the constant allegations still maintained by the vice president that somehow Saddam Hussein and Iraq was directly connected with al-Qaida? Well those kinds of things have been proven to be wrong.

And either there was deliberate deception or gross misunderstanding of the intelligence that's supposed to go to the president. So I think those kinds of things are very serious reflections on the integrity of our government.

JIM LEHRER: And you hold President Bush responsible for those?

FORMER PRESIDENT JIMMY CARTER: Well, I don't hold him uniquely responsible. I don't know really to what degree President Bush is the leader among that inner circle when they congregate in the Oval Office to make basic decisions about what to do.

It may be that Vice President Cheney is the dominating voice. Or it might be that in military affairs, maybe Secretary Rumsfeld is the dominant voice. But it's a coalition of leaders who collectively have not maintained the integrity of our government and its commitment to human rights in our life. And I don't think there's any doubt that some of the statements, public statements, made by Vice President Cheney have been very disturbing as they led up to the torture, for instance....

JIM LEHRER: For instance? For instance?

FORMER PRESIDENT JIMMY CARTER: Well, his saying, for instance, that the Geneva principles of the treatment of prisoners was no longer applicable; that was a very serious comment. And when he said later that the prisoners in Guantanamo Bay, even if they were put on trial, which they haven't been yet, they haven't even been charged, but if some day they are put on trial and found innocent, they still may not be released. Those are the kinds of statements that send chills around the world.

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