Carter Snubbed for Pope Funeral

The American Spectator reports this morning that former President Jimmy Carter lobbied to be part of the U.S. delegation to the funeral of Pope John Paul II but was snubbed by the Bush administration.

Jimmy Carter Who?

More details are emerging about the White House’s decision — really President Bush’s personal decision — not to include former President Jimmy Carter in the official U.S. delegation to the funeral of Pope John Paul II.

According to White House sources, Carter’s representatives, apparently from the former president’s Carter Center, reached out to the White House over the weekend and offered to lead the U.S. delegation should the President or other senior Bush administration officials not be able to attend. “There was no misunderstanding. It wasn’t Carter who made the actual call, but the message was pure Carter gumption,” says a White House source. “We were getting lots of calls from lots of people looking to get on this delegation. I would say over the weekend alone we got more than 100 requests, maybe more.”

Carter went public on Tuesday with his dissatisfaction at not being invited, after the White House announced that the official delegation would be made up of the current and two prior sitting Presidents, and Secretary of State Rice.

Carter’s schtick as self-appointed good will ambassador has certainly worn thin and there is no doubt that he has been an irritant to President Bush, constantly criticizing him in public, something from which former presidents typically refrain. Still, a papal funeral seems an appropriate time to set aside such things.

Update: The White House denies this account, saying Carter withdrew voluntarily.


In a surprise move that raised eyebrows, former President Jimmy Carter yesterday said he had been passed over by President Bush for the official delegation to the pope’s funeral. Carter said he asked the White House to go, but “was quite willing to withdraw his request” when told only five could go. The official delegation — limited to five by the Vatican — includes President and Mrs. Bush, former Presidents Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

White House press secretary Scott McClellan said, “We reached out to [Carter] to be part of the delegation. It was his decision to make. We would have been more than happy to have him as part of the delegation.”

An AP account (AJC) is essentially the same.

That would have meant leaving Rice or Mrs. Bush behind. Carter’s account is odd. Either he was “passed over” or he was “quite willing to withdraw his request.”

Update: See also, Santorum and Kennedy to Attend Pope Funeral. It seems that dozens of Congressmen are going.

(Apr. 8) Funeral Controversy Reignites Carter-Bush Feud: Carter was invited, twice, by the Bush team and he declined.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Jack Tanner says:

    ‘Still, a papal funeral seems an appropriate time to set aside such things.’

    Unfortunately the favor would be repaid at the next opportunity Carter had to bury the long knife in GWB’s back.

  2. James Joyner says:

    No doubt. I don’t view it as a favor to Carter or an opportunity to mend fences with him, though. Even if Carter doesn’t appreciate the gesture, others will.

    All former presidents should be invited to such things just as a matter of respect for the office. Ford is too sick to travel, although I’d certainly extend him the courtesy of an invitation.

  3. Tom3 says:

    This is just further proof that the Dubya regime has no moral values, no sense of protocol or even proper table manners.

    We need to get these neo-fascist bastards out of Washington.

  4. David Scott says:

    I had great respect for President Carter when he focused his energy on humanitarian issues. However all respect was lost when he decided to become a mouth piece for the extreme left. His self proclaimed status as good will ambassador of the american people has been voided. He no longer deserves the respect of office afforded past presidents. Let him cry all he wants, he made is bed now let him sleep in it.

  5. R.Ross says:

    No surprise with a move like this from the Bush Administration. Having been very close to situations like this in a previous (Professional) life, a gentle plea to the Vatican could have easily opened an opportunity for Mr. Carter.
    Pres. Bush loves playing the role of schoolyard bully. He’s very good at it.

  6. Davn8r says:

    It’s a sad state of affais when anyone who criticizes the current administration is dismissed as “a mouthpiece of the extreme left”.

  7. Chuck Hoffmann says:

    President Carter has been an embarrassment to the Clinton and Bush administrations. He keeps poking his nose where it does not belong. He was as rotten president with the highest inflation in history and now he wants to make messes of ever other administration

  8. OsamaBL says:

    The only folks who called President Carter “a goodwill ambassador” were officials of countries that received his assistance of monitoring elections and building homes. In no way was he ever “a self described” GWA.

    I am not surpised the Bush folks said no. They are the center of the world. If this is difficult to comprehend then explain to me how ONLY 5 people –number comes from the White House–can fit on Air Force 1?

    I rest my case.

  9. J_Crater says:

    Jimmy has said at the past two Democratic National Conventions that Republicans only show their compassion once a year, so it should have been obvious to him that this year’s annual event would be the Pope’s funeral.
    I’m surprised that the White House only got 100’s of requests though; guess the tsunami aid fulfilled most folks annual commitment already.

  10. john says:

    Nice that Jimmy wants to go to this one – when Pope John Paul I died he sent his mother to the funeral!! What a man of the people!

  11. Byron Schmidt says:

    You lying son of a bitch! According to the first report I saw days ago, Carter DECLINED the invitation to go. Can’t blame him for not wanting to associate with the Bush scumbags.

  12. SC says:

    No moral values? Out of this scenario that is a serious reach.

    If only 5 can go there were only 2 real slots left. The president and first lady and the current Secretary of State (our real diplomatic lead — sorry Jimmy) are a given.

    The Presidents that made up 90% of the Popes tenure were GHW Bush and Clinton. So those make the most sense IMO.

    I see this as simply more grandstanding by Carter — “Hey everyone don’t forget I’m here.” Yet one more example of a classless, calculating man in search of a legacy.

  13. It’s a sad state of affais when anyone who criticizes the current administration is dismissed as “a mouthpiece of the extreme left”.

    Jimmy Carter spent the 2004 Democratic National Convention hanging out in a luxury box with Michael Moore.

    If the shoe fits, wear it.

  14. JVlteer says:

    Presently there are strains in Italian relations with Washington (given that one of their agents was shot and killed at the Baghdad airport). With this development, the only president to have welcomed the pontiff to the White House will now be absent. In attendance will be two presidents who ignored the Pope’s urgings to avoid war and another whose affair was an embarassment to the office.

    The best comeuppance would be if the Vatican just seated the US delegation in the back row (behind any delegations from Arab countires).

  15. freespirit says:

    Yet one more example of a classless, calculating man in search of a legacy.

    I think a Nobel Peace Prize is a pretty damn good legacy. Way to be a partisan clown.

  16. Marc says:

    “I think a Nobel Peace Prize is a pretty damn good legacy. Way to be a partisan clown.”

    That would be the same “Peace Prize” that Yasser Arafat received isn’t it?

    If the greasepaint fits, wear it.

  17. Rebecca Davidson says:

    Regardless of politics, Jimmy Carter has developed and implemented policies for the common good.Check out Paul Wallis’s new book, God’s Politics. His 6-PointPlan for Peace reflects the message Jimmy Carter has tried to send to the world. Pope John Paul has equally sent the message of peace.Who would he prefer on the front row?

  18. Just Me says:

    This is just stupid.

    If the Vatican restricted the US white house to 5 slots, there were realistically only two left, so no matter what somebody was going to get slighted.

    Carter is just whining, and he is a horrible ambassador anyway-just look at how he handled Korea. He should stick to building houses.

  19. McGehee says:

    Carter’s ego strikes again.

  20. Brian Wilton says:

    Laura Bush’s slot should be filled by Jimmy Carter. Laura Bush – nice lady though she is – is not a US official. If the funeral of the Pope isn’t reason enough to set aside political differences, nothing is. But it really doesn’t surprise me that George Bush is acting like a bully. How unChristian of him to leave Jimmy Carter out of this solemn event.

  21. Just Me says:

    “How unChristian of him to leave Jimmy Carter out of this solemn event.”

    Um Brian would you care to explain how it is “un christian?”

    Carter could have attended two Pope funerals and chose to skip both.

  22. Collatine says:

    “We need to get these neo-fascist bastards out of Washington.”

    Man, that cracked me up. (As I recall, fascist societies wouldn’t actually allow folks like you to make comments like that). Anyway, thanks for the laugh!

  23. Brian Wilton says:

    Um, “just me,” revenge and related meanness are unChristian.

    To the other poster who said, “fascist societies wouldn’t actually allow folks like you….” You’re forgetting, these are NEO-fascists in neo-times. They HAVE everything under their control. What we (those you don’t agree with) say here has no effect upon their ability to carry out their agenda – there are enough of YOU to follow and support.

  24. Begalke Blog says:

    No offense to Jimmy, but his request is obviously self-serving.

    Beyond that, he had the opportunity to attend Pope Paul VI and Pope John Paul I’s funerals, but snubbed the Catholic Church both times….

    In any event, it is sad that much of media’s focus is on Jimmy Carter, and not the Pope John Paul II’s life and accomplishments.

  25. Rebecca Davidson says:

    Regardless of politics, Jimmy Carter has been an ambassador for peace,as has Pope John Paul. In the new book God’s Politics, Paul Wallis outlines a 6-Point Plan for Peace which George W. Bush and his administration casually dismissed. Who would the Pope want sitting in the front row at his funeral?

  26. GP says:

    It would be a nice gesture of respect were all living and able US presidents to attend the funeral. Why should any of their politics or personal relations with the current president be a factor in whether our country extends such respect? Bush made it an issue which is sad, but characteristic. The Pope’s funeral is not about the United States or President Bush. The person who wrote earlier about the ease of the white house getting an extra slot was correct (especially when considering there cannot be that much of a space crunch if all of those Senate and House members are attending). Let’s not forget, Carter is not a big man. Also correct was the person who questioned why Laura Bush should get the last slot. When did a funeral become a date event? Even the Democrats’ great hope (Her Royal Clinton) isn’t going.

    Say what you want about Bush’s politics (and everyone here does), but he has the sense of respect, decorum and protocal of a termite.

  27. Just Me says:

    “Um, “just me,” revenge and related meanness are unChristian.”

    Except that you have attributed those motives to him, because that is what you want to believe.

    From the article posted, the president was limited by the Vatican to 5 delegates. Sounds to me like he just ran out of spaces, just because Carter didn’t make the cut, that doesn’t mean he didn’t make it because of meanness or spite.

    The unChristian thing to do here, it attribute motives that may not be there in the first place.

  28. Brian Wilton says:

    Good points, GP. I agree that Laura Bush’s attendance is questionable given the space constraints, there’s is not a personal relationship with the Pope, and Laura is not an official in the “official delegation.” If she were Roman Catholic, I’d give her one point toward the case for her being there, but in this case, her spot should have gone to Carter,the man who best represents the applied-religion, human rights side of this country’s mission.

  29. Brian W says:

    I hope the stream of ordinary citizens didn’t have to be stopped while the US presidents had their VIP viewing of the Pope’s body just now. Not one of the people who have stood for hours, or will stand for up to 12-20 hours to have their few seconds glimpse of the Pope should be denied that in order to provide the opportunity for VIP’s to spend their minutes there. And note that Andrew Card was part of the VIP group. Yet there wasn’t room for Jimmy Carter. What a sleezy move on the part of GWB.
    From the top of this forum page:
    “The American Spectator reports this morning that former President Jimmy Carter lobbied to be part of the U.S. delegation to the funeral of Pope John Paul II but was snubbed by the Bush administration.”

  30. Chris says:

    Pope John Paul II visited the United States and met with President Carter one time, and He visited the United States and met with President Clinton three times. Over the combined terms of both Bushes, the Pope NEVER visited the United States to meet with either one of them.
    Since the Pope appears to prefer Democrats, the only reason “W” has to include Mrs. Bush and Ms. Rice (neither one having ever held an elected office) is partisan politics.

  31. peanuts says:

    Would be embarrasing to have Jimmy Carter witness the “strong-arming” to influence selection of the next Pope. Someone who is an Israeli sympathizer, no doubt. Maybe the 100,000 tons of garbage Israel plans to dump in the West Bank every month should be dumped on the WH lawn…where OUR trash lives.

  32. Chris says:

    Has anyone else caught Bush’s photo-op praying at St. Peter’s Basilica? From left to right it shows Pres. G.W.Bush, Laura Bush, Pres. G.H.W.Bush, Pres. Clinton, Condi Rice,… and Andrew Card. I thought there was only room for 5?
    Looks like we have been told another lie by George W(as in WMD).

  33. Jack Yan says:

    Sounds to me like the message not simply getting through accurately from President Carter to his people, which has been unfortunately politicized.

    The request (if you read the words in the excerpt) seems to indicate that his attendance was conditional on President Bush not going.

    If we regular folk can have misunderstandings based on similar slips, then I would think presidents and their aides are not immune.

    Old news. Move on. Celebrate the Pope’s life and ministry.

  34. Vladimir Sukov says:

    Jimmy Carter has done nothing but carp at Bush for the five years. He has been a thorn in the side of every president since he left office. I for one am glad that somebody finally put him in his place.

  35. Just 3 1/2 more years says:

    Past attendence records don’t matter in this case becasue this is an unprecedented situation. And who our particular president is at the moment should not be an issue either! This is a matter of representing US, the American People, with the proper dignity and manners that the historical moment requires.

    All able bodied presidents should have attended, and they should have done so with demonstrated grace and courtesy. Andrew Card, Condi Rice, and Mrs Bush?!? Oh pleeeeese. And Air Force One only holds 5? We could go to the moon and can’t add a decent extra seat within 48 hours? The Vatican said only 5? Then our former presidents could have sat together with our Congressmen, and we could have graciously, and humbly, had only George Bush sit up-front (alone) having made room for more third world heads of state!

    Once again, George has made us seem like rubes whose elected (supposed) statesmen behave like mean-spirited school boys. Oh well, gotta run … I heard that I can get gas for $2.30 down the street and I have to go sit in line.

  36. Dave Lambert says:

    As the only president to host the Pope in resent history, I would have thought that Carter would be a masthead for this delegation along with President Bush. The fact that Carter and the Pope shared very similar views on war, peace and human rights is another reason he should be included. If he did step aside rather than having been snubbed only shows the grace of the former president.

  37. Brian W says:

    ” Jimmy Carter has done nothing but carp at Bush for the five years. He has been a thorn in the side of every president since he left office. I for one am glad that somebody finally put him in his place.”
    Posted by: Vladimir Sukov at April 7, 2005 10:36

    His “place”? And what “place” is that? The one that is muffled like too many others under this administration? It is the people who speak up when it is most risky who should be admired. And we’re not talking about Bush’s birthday party here, this was the Pope’s funeral. Tickets shouldn’t be given only to those who do not offend GWB!!

  38. W D Curry says:

    The old saying “you can remain silent and be thought a fool, or speak up and remove all doubt” certainly applies here! It never ceases to amaze me just how ignorant our population truly is. The Pope was just a man, not unlike all the rest of us, and he would be the first to agree. So, what is the “BIG DEAL”? You can pay your reapects here, or there. It doesn’t matter in the least.

  39. Lisa G. says:

    Lots of people seem to be forgetting that Carter was the first American President to receive a Pope at the White House — and it was John Paul II. That should have counted for something in considering who to include on the trip to JP’s funeral. Condi or Laura B. should have graciously allowed Carter the spot.