A friend told me on Wednesday I had to check out Wolf Blitzer's taped CNN interview with ex-president Jimmy Carter. Filling in as host on "The Situation Room," Tom Foreman puffed up Carter's resume: "Since losing the White House 25 years ago, Jimmy Carter developed a reputation as a better ex-president than president. This is not a reputation that he cares for much. Nonetheless, he has been a leading voice for free and fair elections, and a 2002 Nobel Peace Prize winner -- a very accomplished man."
Blitzer read Carter wild, accusatory paragraphs about Bush's "imperialistic" policies. In his second quoting-the-book question, Blitzer asked: "Let me read from 'Our Endangered Values' once again, Mr. President. "Some neo-cons" -- referring to neoconservatives in the administration -- "now dominate the highest councils of government. They seem determined to exert American dominance throughout the world and approve preemptive war as an acceptable avenue to reach this imperialistic goal." Blitzer explained that Team Bush believes it can wage pre-emptive war on nations which threaten our security to prevent terror attacks: "That's their argument for preemptive strikes, an argument you reject?" Carter said no, he would defend the country against an imminent threat, but Iraq wasn't imminent.
The first quote-the-book question began the interview: "Let me read this passage from the book, 'Our Endangered Values': 'It became apparent soon after the presidential election in 2004 that some of our new political leaders were determined to attack Iraq with false and distorted claims after 9/11. They misled the U.S. Congress and the American public.' Do you want to offer some specifics, the evidence, how they misled the American public?" Carter hemmed and hawed a little, saying he didn't say the Bush team intentionally misled the people, but the fact was they were misled.
Blitzer concluded the interview by giving Carter a chance to polish his own apple: "One final question, before I let you go, Mr. President. You're quoted in the Chicago Tribune today as saying, "I can't deny that I'm a better ex-president than I was a president." You're smiling when you heard me read that. Explain."
Carter offered a spiel for his failed presidency and his Carter Center: "Well, we did a lot of good things when I was president. We kept our country at peace. We negotiated peace for a lot of other people. We set aside enormous contributions in the environment. We normalized relations with China, brought peace to the Middle East. We did some good things. But the last 25 years of my life since I left the White House has been the most gratifying and enjoyable and I think productive part of my existence. We have been able to promote peace, democracy, human rights, environmental quality, and the alleviation of suffering around the world through the Carter Center."
PS: Blitzer mangled facts in the introduction of Carter: "He's the author of a new book entitled 'Our Endangered Values: America's Moral Crisis.' It's his first political book since leaving office." How does CNN define "political book"? Carter's written his memoirs about his presidency (Keeping Faith), written a book about his first campaign for office (Turning Point), written a book about his "insights" into the Middle East (The Blood of Abraham). These aren't political?