Jimmy Carter and the Clintons have long had a frosty relationship. In 1992, he declined to endorse Bill Clinton, saying “people are looking for somebody who is honest and tells the truth.”
Four years later — when he was the only living Democratic ex-president — he skipped the Democratic National Convention entirely. And when Hillary Clinton ran for president in 2008, Carter endorsed Barack Obama, saying at the time she needed to “give it up.”
He changed gears in 2016, endorsing Clinton’s historic presidential bid during the Democratic National Convention in July — but not before casting a ballot for her opponent, apparently.
On Monday, Carter, 92, told an audience in Georgia that he had voted for Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) over the former secretary of state.
The comments came in a discussion between Carter and Sanders at the Carter Center in downtown Atlanta. As the two men talked about politics and human rights, Sanders launched into a campaign-style monologue in which he lamented the influence of corporate money in politics and low voter turnout in the United States.
“If we had 80 percent of the people voting in this country, the Republican Party would be a significant minority,” Sanders said. “So we have got to get people involved. And you do that by being honest about the real problems they face and come up with real solutions.”
Carter turned to the audience.
“Can y’all see why I voted for him?” he said, drawing laughs from the room. (The exchange begins around the 21-minute mark in the video)
The Georgia Democratic primary was a landslide victory for Clinton, who took 71 percent of the votes to Sanders’s 28 percent.
As early as July 2015, Carter predicted Clinton would win the party’s nomination, telling ABC News she would prevail over Sanders because of her financial backing and support within the party.
“There won’t be any problem with Hillary getting the nomination because money dominates,” he said, “and she has an inside track to the massive amounts that are going to pour into the Democratic Party side.”
The exchange with Sanders on Monday appears to mark the first time Carter has spoken publicly about voting for the senator from Vermont.
Not that his decision came as much of a surprise. The animus between Carter and the Clintons is well known and goes back decades.
While he was campaigning for president in 1992, Bill Clinton, worried about being branded the “next Carter,” distanced himself from his fellow Democrat. ”Jimmy Carter and I are as different as daylight and dark,” Clinton said at the time.
The relationship didn’t improve over the years. “He appears to have been deemed persona non grata at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue,” the New York Times wrote of Carter in 1996. Two years later, when Clinton was preparing bombing strikes against Iraq, Clinton is reported to have said: “Carter will probably criticize me. Carter always criticizes, but he doesn’t have much positive to say.”
That might have been true for the moment, but Carter had nothing but kind words for Hillary Clinton when he endorsed her last year. “She has always demonstrated a willingness,” he said, “to take on the most difficult challenges and to get things done.”