Wolf Blitzer’s interview of former president Jimmy Carter on Wednesday’s "The Situation Room" demonstrated the CNN host’s catering to prominent liberals. In one question to the former president, Blitzer asked about the ongoing presidential campaigns. "Do any of these candidates, presidential candidates, scare you?" After Carter answered that none of the Democrat candidates scared him, Blitzer asked as follow-up questions, "What about the Republican side?" and "Who scares you the most?"
Later in the interview, Blitzer asked Carter, "By your definition, you believe the United States, under this administration, has used torture?" Carter’s unequivocal answer: "I don't think it. I know it, certainly." This led to a follow-up question from Blitzer on the question of whether President Bush should be impeached. "But you don't want to see any formal charges or a trial?"
Wednesday’s "The Situation Room" devoted about 18 minutes total to the prerecorded interview of Carter - nearly 8 minutes in the 4 pm Eastern hour and 10 minutes in the 5 pm Eastern hour. In the first segment during the 4 pm Eastern hour, Blitzer began by asking Carter about the Republican presidential candidates, which led to the "who scares you the most" question.
BLITZER: Right now, Republican presidential candidates, including Giuliani, making the suggestion that if Democrats are elected to the White House, U.S. national security will suffer. Here's what Giuliani says:
RUDY GIULIANI: If one of them gets elected, it sounds to me like we're going on the defense. We're going to cut back, cut back, cut back, and we'll be back to our pre-September 11 mentality of being on defense.
BLITZER: What do you want to say to Rudy Giuliani?
CARTER: Well, I thought on pre-September 11 that George W. Bush was in the White House and the Republicans were in charge. I think, during the Clinton years, we kept our country safe, we protected out interests around the world, we were admired by almost everyone on earth, and we were free. And we were also out of a war. So, I think that history has shown that the Democrats are just as firm and staunch on security as are the Republicans. It ought to be a nonpartisan issue, and it's a ridiculous thing for Giuliani to be making a claim of that kind.
BLITZER: Do any of these candidates, presidential candidates, scare you?
CARTER: Not on the Democratic side, no.
BLITZER: What about the Republican side?
CARTER: Well, they all seem to be outdoing each other in who wants to go to war first with Iran, who wants to keep Guantanamo open longer and expand its capacity, things of that kind. They're competing with each other to appeal to the ultra-right wing, warmongering element in our country, which I think is a minority of the total population.
BLITZER: Who scares you the most?
CARTER: I wouldn't want to judge between them, because if I condemn one of them, it might escalate him to the top position in the Republican ranks.
BLITZER: But basically, what I hear you saying is, from your perspective, on the issue of national security, there's really not much of a difference between the Republican frontrunners.
CARTER: That's exactly right. I think the Democrats, basically, want to see the Lee Hamilton and the James Baker recommendation -- one of the finest blue-ribbon commissions ever established in this country -- unanimously recommended what we should do about Iraq.
BLITZER: The Iraq Study Group.
CARTER: Yes. And the Democrats are basically for that. The Republicans threw it in the wastebasket and said we don't want that. We want it to be much more militant, stay in Iraq definitely, and maybe invade or attack Iran. And I think that's a startling difference between the two.
Blitzer and Carter then discussed Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama’s recent statements that they were unsure whether American troops could be out of Iraq by 2013. Carter expressed his disagreement with the two Democrat candidates on this issue.
Blitzer’s next topic concerned "foreign policy blunders,"something Carter has extensive experience with.
BLITZER: On the scale of, you know, historic precedents and historic blunders, from your perspective, what kind of blunder was the invasion of Iraq to get rid of Saddam Hussein?
CARTER: Among the preeminent blunders of American history. It was predicated on false claims. Deliberate or not, I don't know. It was incorrectly consummated and perpetuated. The claims of what -- how easy it would be were wrong. And I think everyone -- just about everyone agrees that the whole war in Iraq has been carried out with a series of blunders.
BLITZER: Some suggest it is the worst foreign policy blunder in American history. Are you among those?
CARTER: I would put it almost on an equal basis with Vietnam, yes. Those two in my lifetime certainly would be the worst two blunders.
Carter accused the Bush administration of human rights violations in new book, "Beyond the White House: Waging Peace, Fighting Disease, Building Hope." Blitzer asked the former president to comment further on the subject, which resulted in a long exchange between the two on torture. Blitzer included a question on whether President Bush was lying about the U.S. using torture. Carter answered affirmatively.
BLITZER: President Bush said as recently as this week the United States does not torture detainees.
CARTER: That's not an accurate statement, if you use the international norms of torture as has always been honored, certainly in the last 60 years, since the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was promulgated. But you can make your own definition of human rights and say, we don't violate them. And we can -- you can make your own definition of torture and say we don't violate it.
BLITZER: But, by your definition, you believe the United States, under this administration, has used torture?
CARTER: I don't -- I don't think it. I know it, certainly.
BLITZER: So, is the president lying?
CARTER: The president is self-defining what we have done and authorized in the torture of prisoners, yes.
BLITZER: But -- but that raises a really important question. Those who are engaged in torture, who commit torture...
BLITZER: ...potentially, that could be a violation of international or other laws.
CARTER: Yes, I think so.
BLITZER: Has there been a violation of the law from your perspective?
CARTER: If you use the international treaties to which we are committed...
BLITZER: Like the Geneva Conventions...
CARTER: ...like the Geneva Conventions, and also...
BLITZER: Because early in the -- they said the Geneva Conventions don't apply to these detainees who were not wearing uniforms. They were not part of any formal army. They were picked up on the battlefield and brought to Guantanamo Bay.
CARTER: My impression is that the United States Supreme Court has said that is a false premise. And I presume that the administration complies with the rulings of the Supreme Court. And the international community obviously still adheres to and professes to commit themselves the honoring of the Geneva Convention, and also, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which the United States helped draft and promoted and has endorsed up until six-and-a-half years ago unanimously among all the...
BLITZER: So, should someone be held accountable?
CARTER: Well, I think we -- the best way to hold people accountable in this country is through the election process.
BLITZER: That is the best way to get -- in other words, from your perspective, to get rid of the incumbent administration and move on?
BLITZER: But you don't want to see any formal charges or a trial?
CARTER: No, I don't think so. I think that would be inappropriate. That has been done in some cases, as you know, but I don't think it is appropriate at all.
The 4 pm Eastern hour concluded with the torture discussion. In the 5 pm Eastern hour, Blitzer focused on the subject of Iran, including the context of Carter’s own presidential experiences with the Islamist country; and how Iran plays into the internal politics of the Bush administration and the 2008 presidential campaign. Blitzer also brought up the subjects of the reported Israeli airstrike on a target in Syria, the peace process between the Israelis and Palestinians, and the economy. In the cumulative 18 minutes, three CNN viewers also asked questions of the former president.