Jimmy Carter has been called everything from a humanitarian, to a crack pot, to the ultimate pacifist. But a look into his past
reveals a shoe that fits better than all of these.
It's a story told to me by an acquaintance from Watertown, NY, a place
situated way upstate, well north of Syracuse. The acquaintance had heard it
from two barflies who were there the night in 1975 that Jimmy Carter passed
through town in his first New York appearance during the "250-day 1975
portion of the presidential campaign," as Carter had called it.
The story goes that after giving a speech at the Holiday Inn, Carter stopped
by the Rebel Room Tavern, a bar that once existed near the old Woolworth
building and catered to southern servicemen based near by. Not knowing that
an employee from the local paper was present, Carter joked around with the
locals and, as two of those locals related the story to my friend, "every
other word out of his mouth was 'nigger' or 'kike.'" But styling itself
after The New York Times, the paper didn't print undignified information
about candidates it was friendly toward, and the potentially damaging tidbit
never made it into print.
At least that's how the story goes.
Corroborating it isn't easy. One of the barflies is long dead, the other
long lost. A call to the Watertown Historical Society confirms that Carter
did pass through Watertown in 1975 (a town only slightly better known for
1976, when Joan Mondale's motorcade hit and killed a woman). Yes, there did
once exist a Rebel Room Tavern near the old Woolworth and yes it served a
lot of southern military. Dredging up the November 19, 1975 article that
covered the evening in the Watertown Daily Times, one sees only that Carter
"joined in the laughter and music at the Rebel Room." Titled "Candidate
Carter: Homespun, Urbane, Sure of Himself," the gushy article reads like a
PR job for the presidential hopeful, with the candidate's name opening three
"Jimmy Carter-former nuclear physicist, peanut farmer and former governor of
Georgia-stood casually in a basement room at the Holiday Inn, telling about
50 Democratic officials and workers that he will be the next president of
the United States.
"Jimmy Carter-looking older and smaller than his publicity pictures
indicate-sat on a platform in the WWNY television studio facing four
reporters, explaining in his smooth, controlled drawl why he should be the
next president of the United States.
"Jimmy Carter-breaking the monotony of television appearance and Democratic
gatherings-joined in the laughter and music at the Rebel Room, not
complaining when one reveler favorably compared his profile to that of John
F. Kennedy, who was the president of the United States."
A call to the paper runs the rumor into a brick wall. As far as the
newspaper employee who was there witnessed or recalls, Carter talked only
"about peanuts and politics."
No matter. A glance at Carter's public record before and since renders the
"kike and nigger" tale redundant.
Carter won the governorship of Georgia in 1970 via a race-baiting campaign.
In his 2004 book The Real Jimmy Carter, Steven Hayward writes that Carter's
campaign staff sent an anonymous mailer "to barbershops, country churches,
and rural law enforcement officers containing a grainy photo of [his
Democratic opponent Carl] Sanders, part owner of the Atlanta Hawks NBA
franchise, at an after-game locker room victory celebration. Two black
players were pouring champagne over Sanders's head. The Atlanta Constitution
noted, 'In the context of the sports pages, it was a routine shot ... But in
the context of this political campaign it was a dangerous smear that
injected both race, alcohol, and high living into the campaign.' Carter's
senior campaign aides Bill Pope, Hamilton Jordan, and Jerry Rafshoon were
behind the mailing; Pope was even spotted passing out the flyers at a Ku
Klux Klan rally ... The Carter campaign also produced a leaflet noting that
Sanders had paid tribute to Martin Luther King, Jr.
"... Carter also implied that he met privately with the head of the States
Rights Council, a white supremacist group, and campaigned in all-white
private schools that were known as 'segregation academies,' where he
promised that he would do 'everything' to support their existence. 'I have
no trouble pitching for [George] Wallace [segregationist] votes and the
black votes at the same time,' Carter told a reporter. Carter also said to
another reporter, 'I can win this election without a single black vote.'"
Hayward goes on to cite this post-election anecdote recorded by Carter's
most sympathetic biographer Peter Bourne: "'Affecting a South Georgia accent
and humorously mimicking his campaign colleagues, Rafshoon would say, "We
coulda won by a lot more if we'd bin able to stop Jimmah saying so many nahs
things abaht nigguhs."' Carter's other senior campaign aide, Bill Pope, was
even more blunt, telling the Washington Post that they had run a 'nigger
Upon getting elected governor, however, Carter shocked Georgia when he
included in his inauguration speech that the time for discrimination was
over. It was a race bait-and-switch, and though it was a cynical approach to
victory, one can make the argument that it was the only way to win Georgia
in 1970, and change it.
In April 1976, however, a glimpse of the old Carter shone through when he
answered a question about integration issues, blurting out, "I see nothing
wrong with ethnic purity being maintained." According to Hayward, the NY
Daily News buried the quote in a jump paragraph that picked up on page 134.
If in his life Carter sinned against the black man, he spent the rest of his
life compensating for it-via Habitat for Humanity, peace mediation in
African nations, and Clinton-style black pandering, such as at Coretta
King's funeral, where he said, "We only have to recall the color of the
faces of those in Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi. Those who were most
devastated by [Hurricane] Katrina know that there are not yet equal
opportunities for all Americans."
But for the "kike" half of the rumor, Carter took a decidedly opposite
How does an old-fashioned Southern Democrat say, "Damn those Jews!" in
today's world and get away with it? He says, "Give Hamas a chance!" How does
a bigot adapt his prejudices to the modern world? He sets his sights on
This sentence in the 1994 book Electing Jimmy Carter by campaign
speechwriter Patrick Anderson reveals the general attitude of Carter's
circle toward Jews: "A presidential candidate delivers two basic types of
speeches: substantive and rhetorical. In the former, he goes before various
interest groups-made up of Jews, teachers, farmers, whomever-and
demonstrates his mastery of their issues..." Note that Anderson didn't say
"Native Americans," "Hispanics" or "women," but specifically "Jews" have
"interests." It's also clear from the book that Carter tended to roll his
eyes at the mention of the plight of Soviet Jewry.
In 1979, according to writer Hugh Fitzgerald, while pressing Menachem Begin
to make concession upon concession to Anwar Sadat, Carter erupted that he
was "'sick and tired of hearing about the Holocaust.'"
Later, in the late 1980s, notes Hayward, "Carter kept in touch with the PLO
through the Carter Center's Palestinian financial backers." (Other backers
include notorious Saudi arms dealer Adnan Khashoggi, the Sultan of Oman, and
the Saudi bin Laden Group.) The author quotes Carter biographer Douglas
Brinkley: "'Carter began the long process of trying to persuade Arafat to
make statements that would be regarded as responsible in the United
States,'" and eventually wrote the PLO leader a long letter "outlining a
speech Arafat should give for Western consumption."
When Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in 1991, Carter wrote in the New York
Times that the whole war could be avoided if only Israel would withdraw from
the West Bank. Because Arafat also sided with Hussein and therefore lost
financial support from other Arab leaders, Carter flew to Saudi Arabia for
what Brinkley described as "essentially a fund-raising mission for the PLO."
In 2000, when Arafat walked away from an unprecedented offer by Ehud Barak
and Bill Clinton, Carter said he understood Arafat, who "could not have
survived politically if he had accepted." In a 2002 op-ed in the New York
Times which obliges in providing a pulpit for Carter whenever he wants to
put the screws to Israel-Carter advocated that the U.S. take "more forceful
action" with Israel, and wrote that Arafat "may well see the suicide attacks
as one of the few ways to retaliate against his tormentors." [Emphasis
added.] He then blamed Ariel Sharon for the popularity of suicide bombers,
whom he described as "counterproductive."
In the same writing, Carter suggested taking away Israeli aid and
establishing a legal requirement that American weapons be used by Israel
"only for defensive purposes," as opposed to the Jenin terror raid the
door-to-door operation that resulted in more than 30 dead young Israeli
soldiers and were a response to the Passover massacres, which Carter didn't
mention. After all, today's Jew-killers are just "misguided young men and
women," but withholding aid to Palestinians for electing Hamas is a "crime."
In his tireless quest to isolate Israel, Carter traveled to a Geneva
conference in 2003 to help formulate a "peace plan" that columnist Charles
Krauthammer described as a "suicide note" for Israel. At the end of the
conference, Carter famously proclaimed, "Had I been elected to a second
term, with the prestige and authority and influence and reputation I had in
the region, we could have moved to a final solution." [Emphasis added.]
In a March article in the Israeli daily Haaretz, Carter wrote that the
"preeminent obstacle to peace is Israel's colonization of
Palestine ... Palestinians must live in peace and dignity, and permanent
Israeli settlements on their land are a major obstacle to this goal." Living
in peace and dignity, according to a racist, is achieved by expelling Jews.
Last month Carter closed an op-ed in USA Today by saying that peace between
Israel and the Palestinians would "remove one of the major causes of
international terrorism and greatly ease tensions that could precipitate a
regional or even global conflict." Not only are Jews to blame for dead Jews,
they are to blame for dead everyone else.
That the man finds Jews irksome is indisputable. Engaging in a more didactic
and hell-sure moralizing than any Republican politician in recent memory,
this bigot found an outlet in Middle East peace brokering, believing on some
level that things really would be easier for the rest of humanity without
"I'm basically a redneck," Carter told reporters as he sought the redneck
vote in his Georgia campaigns. But this redneck with hippie politics gives
the south a bad name. He is called a humanitarian, but the worst human
rights violations are those that are deliberately inflicted, and in the
"Palestinian-Israeli" conflict, Israelis are the ones targeted for
dismemberment and death. Carter's humanitarianism enshrouds a hatred. Then
again, from a man widely summed up as having "never met a dictator he didn't
like," hatred of Israel can be taken as a ringing endorsement of the Jewish
Carter has quoted Martin Luther King, but Dr. King would tell him what he
told a student at Harvard who criticized Zionism: "When people criticize
Zionists, they mean Jews. You're talking anti-Semitism."
The world continues to suffer from Carter's handiwork as president and
beyond while he continues to sermonize at Sunday school and build habitats.
There is finally a movement for an official congressional censure of Carter
for his lifetime of achievement against American values and international
security, at www.CensureCarter.com, hosted
by a group called Move America Forward. In response to its petition drive
for a censure, the organization has received a wave of death threats and
hate mail defending Carter with emails such as "Are you motherf nuts,
crazy, or some Jewish group?"
Today, Jimmy's son Jack wants to follow in his daddy's footsteps, and is
making a run for Senator of Nevada this year. Good luck. If he wants to fill
those shoes, he can start by learning how to pronounce "Jew." It begins with