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Carter says his role as ex-president trumps peers'

George H.W. Bush, Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter gathered at the White House in January 2009, just before Obama succeeded the younger Bush as president.
George H.W. Bush, Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter gathered at the White House in January 2009, just before Obama succeeded the younger Bush as president. (Nikki Kahn)

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Politics and Policy in Obama's Washington
Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Carter says his role trumps that of peers

Former president Jimmy Carter said Monday night that he thinks that because of his involvement in troubled parts of the world, "my role as a former president is probably superior to that of other presidents'. "

Carter was asked in an interview with NBC News's Brian Williams about a photo taken in January 2009 in which President-elect Obama and three ex-presidents - Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush and Carter - joined President George W. Bush in the Oval Office. Carter stood off to the side as the others seemed to converse cordially as the cameras clicked.

Williams asked: "The last photo of you with your fellow former presidents, you were well off to the side, on the right. And I thought to myself, well, there's a possible metaphor. What is it about you, you think - the way you've decided to conduct your life and post-presidency? Do you feel listened to? Do you feel that you receive your due? Or do you feel, in fact, apart from the crowd?"

Carter replied: "No. I feel that. Primarily because of the activism and the injection of working at the Carter Center and in international affairs, and, to some degree, domestic affairs, on energy conservation, on the environment and things of that kind. We're right in the midst of the constant daily debate.

"And the Carter Center has decided, under my leadership, to fill vacuums in the world. When the United States won't deal with troubled areas, we go there and we meet with leaders who can bring an end to a conflict or an end to a human rights abuse and so forth. So I feel that I have an advantage over many other former presidents in being involved in daily affairs that have shaped the policies of our nation and the world."

His remarks come on the heels of an interview, broadcast Sunday, in which he blamed the late senator Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) for derailing universal health care in the run-up to the 1980 election. Kennedy lost the Democratic presidential nomination to Carter that year.

"The fact is that we would have had comprehensive health care now had it not been for Ted Kennedy's deliberately blocking the legislation that I proposed," Carter said in the interview with CBS's "60 Minutes." "It was his fault. Ted Kennedy killed the bill."

- Matt DeLong


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