Some folks seem pretty sure that 93-year-old Jimmy Carter has exonerated Donald Trump not just of charges related to Russian collusion but from charges of pretty much anything via an interview with The New York Times.
I’m not really sure that’s the case because just like George Bush didn’t convict Donald Trump of pushing a dangerous brand of nationalism at a speech delivered in New York on Thursday, and just like Barack Obama can’t summarily declare that Donald Trump is so divisive as to be not fit to serve, neither can Jimmy Carter unilaterally exonerate Trump.
Sure, the words of former Presidents matter and carry a lot of weight with the public, but as Steve Bannon demonstrated on Friday when he literally claimed that George Bush was just reading a prepared speech he didn’t understand, Americans are certainly free to simply dismiss something a former President says for what it is: an opinion.
To be sure, Bannon is probably right that George Bush didn’t write the speech he delivered this week, but we would disagree that he didn’t understand it. Bush has demonstrated time and again that although he most assuredly isn’t the brightest crayon in the box, he’s not quite as stupid as he comes across (and yes, Steve Bannon, we agree that’s setting the bar pretty low for a President, but you’re one to talk about low bars for Presidents).
Additionally, critics of Bush’s speech are correct to remind you that it’s not exactly like George Bush is some kind of model for peace on Earth and we’ll be the first to admit that Barack Obama didn’t live up to his own billing (although to be fair, when everyone starts out thinking you’re Jesus, the deck is kinda stacked against you when it comes to outperforming expectations).
Anyway, we’ve always contended that the best way for a blog to approach political discourse and debate is to make no secret of the author(s)’ inherent biases and then to simply present the actual story and let readers decide for themselves. Blogs aren’t newswires so bias isn’t a bad thing and frankly, the worst thing you can do if you’re a blog about politics is to pretend to be a newswire by presenting things as though you’re a real media outlet while harboring a hopelessly biased, and thinly-veiled agenda. That’s the worst kind of dishonest bullshit imaginable, because it gives gullible readers the impression that you’re offering an unfiltered alternative to the mainstream media when in reality you’re even more biased than Fox and Breitbart (on the conservative side) or more biased than CNN and MSNBC (on the liberal side). Why not just say what you want to say (i.e. state your biases upfront) and let people decide for themselves? If people aren’t feelin’ your style, they won’t read you – it’s just that simple. Apparently we’ve managed to succeed with that approach because we’ve got a pretty decent conservative readership despite the fact that we are obviously vehemently liberal on most points.
So with that in mind, here are the relevant excerpts from Maureen Dowd’s interview with Carter…
I told him that the big shots in Washington were terrified about the childish, bellicose tit-for-tat tweeting battle between the Dotard and Little Rocket Man.
“I’m afraid, too, of a situation,” he said. “I don’t know what they’ll do. Because they want to save their regime. And we greatly overestimate China’s influence on North Korea. Particularly to Kim Jong-un. He’s never, so far as I know, been to China.” (Who knows if he made a surreptitious trip.) Carter continued, “And they have no relationship. Kim Jong-il did go to China and was very close to them.”
When I asked about Trump’s souring our image in the world, Carter defended his successor.
“Well, he might be escalating it but I think that precedes Trump,” he said. “The United States has been the dominant character in the whole world and now we’re not anymore. And we’re not going to be. Russia’s coming back and India and China are coming forward.”
He also said he liked Trump’s initiative reaching out to Saudi Arabia. He doesn’t know Jared Kushner but is not totally dismissive of the idea that the son-in-law could succeed where others have failed.
“I’ve seen in the Arab world, including the Palestinian world,” he said, “the high esteem that they pay to a member of one’s own family.”
Saying that he did not think “there’s much hope now that Israelis will ever permit a two-state solution,” he knocked Obama on the Middle East: “He made some very wonderful statements, in my opinion, when he first got in office, and then he reneged on that.”
Recalling that “we have 22 votes in our family and Obama got all 22 of them,” he complained that Obama had “refused” to talk to North Korea more, and then Carter lamented the fact that Obama joined in the bombing of Yemen, which Carter says is the most interesting place he’s ever been. (He even tried chewing khat, an addictive shrub that acts like amphetamines.)
Carter is also not as bothered as some by Trump’s Putin bromance. “At the Carter Center,” he said, “we deal with Putin and the Russians quite frequently concerning Syria.”
Did the Russians purloin the election from Hillary?
“Rosie and I have a difference of opinion on that,” he said.
She looked over archly. “They obviously did,” she said.
He said: “I don’t think there’s any evidence that what the Russians did changed enough votes, or any votes.”
Rosalynn pressed, “The drip-drip-drip about Hillary.”
Carter noted that in the primary, “We voted for Sanders.”
When I compared the Clinton Foundation with the Carter Center, Carter noted: “Rosie and I put money in the Carter Center. We never take any out.”