Jimmy Carter Ends Silence, Praises Iraqi Voting
Former President Jimmy Carter, who predicted that elections in Iraq would fail and in the past year described the Bush administration’s policy there as a quagmire, this week ended 10 days of silence to declare the historic Iraqi vote “a very successful effort.” “I hope that we’ll have every success in Iraq,” Mr. Carter said in a CNN interview. “And that election, I think, was a surprisingly good step forward.” The Nobel Peace Prize winner’s comments on Wednesday contradicted his September assertion that the Iraq elections could not be held by January and ended a period during which the Georgia Democrat’s failure to comment prompted one critic to gloat about the election success “shaming him into silence.”
Last year, in venues ranging from CNN to National Public Radio, Mr. Carter predicted that Iraq would not be ready for a January election, compared the situation there to the Vietnam War and implied that “the control of oil” was a major reason for the U.S. military presence in Iraq. “I personally do not believe we will be ready for an election in January,” Mr. Carter told Katie Couric Sept. 30 on NBC’s “Today” show. The United States, he said, should “go through the election and then withdraw American troops as rapidly as possible. … Get us out of there.”
As recently as three weeks ago, Mr. Carter predicted low turnout and an unrepresentative result for the Iraq election. “Whether it’s 30 percent turnout or 50 percent turnout, almost entirely Shi’ites and Kurds and just a very few Sunnis, I think, the White House will claim it’s a success,” Mr. Carter told Matt Lauer on the “Today” show on Jan. 19.
Carter was certainly not alone in these predictions, having been joined by the likes of George Will and Brent Scowcroft, so I’m willing to cut him some slack on this one. Ed Morrissey, though, notes an odd contradiction:
Interestingly, the low turnout of the Palestinian election (before Fatah changed the rules, extended the balloting, and stuffed the ballot boxes) and the boycott of Hamas had a completely different reaction from Carter. Carter described those elections as “free, honest, open and without any violence of any kind.”
He cites a joint Carter Center/NDI report which proclaimed:
The January 9 Palestinian presidential election was a major accomplishment. The election was contested vigorously and administered fairly. Election day was orderly and generally peaceful. The process, organized in just 60 days in accordance with the Palestinian Basic Law and under difficult circumstances of the ongoing conflict and occupation, represents a step forward for Palestinian democracy. The successful organization of this election demonstrates the potential for the start of a new era in Palestinian politics and the development of representative and accountable governance.
So an election in which even the Palestinian poll workers quit in disgust over the rank manipulations by the only major party contesting them garners immediate praise from Jimmy Carter, while he needs ten days to decide whether or not the Iraqis held a legitimate election. It’s hard to imagine that we ever elected anyone this clueless as the leader of the free world, especially since he seems so intent on reducing its size.
I find Carter’s contrary positions on these elections perplexing myself. While I never agreed with Carter ideologically, he was always an advocate for extending human rights, even when doing so was counter-productive to arguably more important foreign policy goals. Certainly, he and the Carter Center have generally opposed the use of military force as a solution to problems and that naturally led to his opposition to the Iraq War. Regardless of that and his animus towards President Bush, though, I would have expected Carter to have been a major cheerleader for the elections in Iraq.
Until recent years, Carter was the protype for ex-presidents. Even people who disagreed with his politics generally liked him and respected his work for the impoverished here and abroad. He transformed himself from a failed president to a genuine elder statesman. For reasons I don’t understand, he seems to have changed in the last few years and become imbued with the partisan rancor that has manifested itself elsewhere. He went from an impartial arbiter of fairness in international elections to a stooge for the likes of Yasir Arafat and Fidel Castro. The Jimmy Carter of old would never countenanced being seated with the likes of Michael Moore at the Democratic Convention. He would have rightly considered it beneath his dignity. It’s a shame that he still doesn’t.