Carter’s behavior is unbecoming

By Dan Streib

This week former President Jimmy Carter accused Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice of making false statements in regard to his peace talks with Hamas in the Middle East. Isn’t that nice? Or for the more appropriate response: Who cares?

The question of whether Ms. Rice actually warned Carter not to engage in talks with Hamas is trivial. The fact of the matter is, Jimmy Carter is making a fool of himself in more ways than one. And this reflects badly on the office he once held.

First off, it might be of use to state the obvious. Mr. Carter knows well that the current administration won’t engage in discussion with Hamas because it seeks the destruction of Israel, our biggest ally in the region.

Yet as a prerequisite for normal relations, America and Israel merely want Hamas to verbally renounce this commitment to chaos. The terrorist group-turned-government refuses to do anything of the sort.

So where does Carter come off, riding in on his high horse, trying to win peace with such a foe?

He is wrong to think that he will have better luck than the Bush administration: Remember that this is the ONLY administration that has ever made the creation of an independent Palestinian state an official objective of American foreign policy.

This is also the U.S. administration that fully backed Ariel Sharon’s master stroke to unilaterally withdraw from Gaza. And yet, the Palestinians did not take this land and try to build a better civilization with it. Instead, they elected Hamas.

And so Jimmy Carter came in to save the day. What a riot!

Yet the absurdity of good intentions gone wrong isn’t the only way Carter is making a fool of himself. His attack on Rice fits in with his recent habit of throwing unsubstantiated accusations at conservatives.

Case in point: He used to make the claim that columnist George F. Will gave Carter’s stolen briefing book for the 1980 presidential debate to then-Gov. Ronald Reagan.

After Will responded in a 2005 Washington Post column titled “Briefing Book Baloney,” Carter subsequently responded in a letter to the editor titled “Putting an End to the ‘Briefing Book Baloney.'” Yet Carter’s letter was more baloney. He cleverly stated that, “I have never thought Mr. Will took my book.”

On Oct. 21, 2004, Carter had stated something much more confusing on National Public Radio than that declaration. He stated that a Reagan supporter stole the book, and then states that Will was the one who took it to Reagan.

This either means that he thought Will was the thief or that Will took the book from the thief. If the former is what Carter meant, then he lied in his letter. If the latter is what Carter meant, then his letter is deceiving: Just because he never believed George Will took the book, doesn’t mean that he has disavowed his belief that Will used the book to help Reagan. Either way, Carter’s letter was very slick.

And when the former president’s misguided response is understood in the light of George Will’s honest column, one might come to conclusions unfavorable to the ex-White House resident.

So fast-forward to the present day. After the Will debacle, Jimmy Carter is dropping names again. In the Condi case, maybe the State Department did send a letter, but Carter’s people didn’t get it. Carter could have just said that he never received a warning. But no, he terms her as making false statements and “misinformed.”

Such petty squabbles about who did what are beneath a former president, and it’s embarrassing for a nation to put up with such behavior.

So the only thing we as citizens of this country can do is to hope that Carter doesn’t embarrass himself any further. However, one has to also hope that he won’t ruin anybody else’s reputation with flimsy claims – that’s just plain wrong.

Dan is a sophomore in political science who hopes for peace between Israel and Palestine.