Long-time NPR Morning Edition host Bob Edwards was dumped by NPR in 2004 after almost 25 years in the anchor chair. Later in that year, he found a new perch at XM satellite radio’s XMPR or XM Public Radio channel, where he hosts a daily hour-long show that re-airs several times. On Thursday’s show, he still sounded like a typical liberal NPR host as he interviewed ex-President Jimmy Carter, and his affection for Carter and his policies came tumbling out.
Late in the hour, the normally staid host got passionate, prodding Carter to explain how America’s global image was ruined by President Bush, and after Carter spun a long potential inauguration speech for the next president, stuffed with liberal platitudes, Edwards replied "That’s a great inauguration speech." He also complained that Carter was "hammered" for insisting on energy conservation and that Ronald Reagan ripped the solar panels off the White House roof, as if to say "Those wusses are gone" and now "we’re going to drill for oil." He also snorted that leaders like Bush weren’t really leaders, because they didn’t tell the "truth" like Carter did.
Edwards began by touting "while other ex-presidents have cashed in on their unique status, Carter has devoted his golden years to monitoring elections, resolving international disputes, protesting violations of human rights, working to eliminate famine and disease, building homes with Habitat for Humanity, and winning the Nobel Peace Prize."
Much of the interview was the typical post-presidential softball session, with Edwards casting short inquiries (why the Carter Center?), and Carter unloading long replies. About two-thirds of the way through, any idea of nonpartisan interviewing vanished:
EDWARDS: As one who’s been traveling the world so extensively, how would you compare the reputation of this country today to what it was say, oh...seven years ago?
CARTER: [Laughter] There’s no comparison! It’s hard to go anywhere around the world and find a country, people who look with approbation or admiration or approval of the policies of our government.
After some more verbiage about how Pew polls show how our image has dipped (without any explanation that the Pew polls only started during the current administration), Edwards advanced the ball to what would be Carter’s second inaugural address if he could have one:
EDWARDS: So this image problem is fixable, it’s not – ?
CARTER: Yes, it’s fixable. Yes In my opinion, the next president could make major repairs the first day in office, the first 30 minutes in office. In the inaugural address, if the next president would announce:
The United States of America is rejecting pre-emptive war as a policy, and we will not attack another nation unless our own security is in danger, as has been the policy of every president since, since uh, George Washington until recently.
The United States will observe every nuclear arms control agreement that has been negotiated since Eisenhower, and we’ll comply with a non-proliferation treaty by working to bring the nuclear arsenals to zero.
The United States will never torture another prisoner, and we will comply with the Geneva Conventions on the treatment of those who are incarcerated. We’ll make sure that they have knowledge of their own crimes and that they have legal counsel and they have a right to outside contact with their families.
The United States will be at the forefront of controlling global warming, and will work with other nations persistently and enthusiastically to reduce the threat to the environment.
The United States will raise high the banner of human rights. From now on, we’ll be the champions of human rights.
The United States will take a balanced position in the Middle East and negotiate without ceasing to bring peace between Israel and Israel’s neighbors with justice to both sides
Those kind of statements, which I think are rational and defensible and would be very unequivocal, I think, would arouse the admiration of Americans, and would also help to alleviate the concerns that are now so patently obvious in other people’s attitude toward us.
EDWARDS, dazzled: That’s a great inauguration speech. Who do you see making that speech?
CARTER: [Laughter] I don’t know yet. I hope it will be a Democrat. Listening to the Republican candidates, I don’t think any of them have ever said any of those things in their squabbles with each other.
Then, Edwards carried old audio of President Gerald Ford on the campaign trail in 1976, trying to say Carter’s foreign-policy approach was "speak loudly and carry a fly swatter," but he bumbles over it twice, saying "fly spotter," until he gets out "fly swatter," and laughs and says "Been a long day."
After a short break, Edwards then carried audio of President Carter calling for a graduated excise tax, and inquired:
EDWARDS: We talk about global warming. You tried to do something. You had us turning down thermostats, putting on sweaters, and you got hammered for that.
CARTER: Well, I did. We also increased dramatically the efficiency of automobiles, of trains, of refrigerators and stoves and houses and when I became president, we had a terrrible crisis on energy, as you remember. We had boycotts against our country. But we were importing 9 billion barrels of oil a day. And my energy policies, which took four years to implement, within a few years had reduced that level to 5 billion barrels a day. We’re now back up to 12 billion barrels a day, and no sign of any substantive changes being advocated by the White House or even by the Congress. You know, we ought to be having a mandatory efficiency for vehicles of 35 miles per gallon or more, and we ought to have a major commitment to renewable energy sources and things of that kind . But there’s not any substantive effort. Right now the pressures from oil companies and automobile manufacturers are so great on the Democrat and Republican sides, both, that it’s highly unlikely that in the near future, any real change will be made.
EDWARDS, in an agitated tone: One of the first things Ronald Reagan did was to rip your solar panels off of the roof of the White House. It was like a symbolic thing.
CARTER: Well, it was symbolic, and he also eliminated the restraints, constraints that I had placed, and Ford had also placed on automobiles to increase the efficiency year by year, up to then 28 miles per gallon as an overall average but President Reagan and his successors have not done anything about it.
EDWARDS: It was like, ‘those wusses are gone. We’re going to spend, we’re going to drill for oil, we’re going to use oil.
CARTER: And we don’t want any sacrifice forced on the American people.
EDWARDS: That’s it, asking sacrifice, and people didn’t want to do it.
CARTER: That’s absolutely correct. I understand that. And ‘Everything’s rosy, we don’t have to do anything we don’t like. We’ve got unlimited natural resources, and what we do in our country that destroys the quality of our air or water, we can ignore it if we have more profit and more jobs and more income for people.’ And that’s a very powerful and persuasive argument if made by the President of the United States.
EDWARDS: Right, whose job is to lead. Now can – is it wise for a leader to um, be truthful [starts laughing, as does Carter] with the people if it threatens his leadership?
CARTER: Well, from a personal point of view, I can answer that politically, it’s not wise, because I didn’t get re-elected. But that wasn’t the only reason.
Carter returned to the theme that he sees a "radical departure" from the Bush approach in the next president, repeating all his own inaugural ideas, and insisted it won’t be an unpopular agenda.