The Democratic Party has given former president Jimmy Carter – who is equally recognized for his notoriously failed 1970’s presidency and his repeated verbal attacks on Israel in subsequent years – a key primetime slot to address the upcoming Democratic National Convention.
Carter will speak to the audience at the Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte, North Carolina via video on September 4.
“President Carter is one of the greatest humanitarian leaders of our time and a champion of democracy around the globe,” stated Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who is chairing this year’s convention. “A lifelong champion of human rights and investments in education and energy to spur economic development, President Carter will provide unique insight into President Obama’s ability to move our country forward and why we need his vision and leadership for a second term. President Obama is fighting for the next steps in our nation’s economic recovery, to reclaim America’s promise on behalf of hard workers, the strivers, the dreamers, who ask only for a fair shot and a fair shake.”
Commenting on his scheduled virtual appearance, the 87-year-old one-term president said, “Rosalynn and I regret that we will be unable to be at the Democratic Convention this year in Charlotte. However, we remain steadfast in our support for President Obama and the progress he will make in the next four years.”
Negative reaction to the announcement of Carter’s convention speech was quickly forthcoming from the Republican camp. “When President Obama picked President Carter to give a primetime address at this year’s Democratic Convention, he couldn’t have picked a more appropriate surrogate,” said Ryan Williams, a Romney campaign spokesman. “From high unemployment to a broken deficit pledge, both presidents disappointed the nation by failing to get the economy back on track.” Williams further highlighted how, under both the Carter and Obama presidencies, unemployment rose, the deficit widened, gas prices skyrocketed, and a similar sense of ineffective leadership seemed to prevail.
Over the decades since his re-election defeat to Ronald Reagan in 1980, Carter has become infamous for his espousal of anti-Israel positions. The most egregious of these occurred in 2006, when he published “Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid,” a book that effectively accused the Jewish state of fostering an apartheid-like atmosphere in its allegedly discriminatory treatment of the Palestinians.
The Republican Jewish Coalition’s Matt Brooks took note of this when weighing in on the Carter presentation. “The fact that the DNC would offer a prime time speaking slot to Jimmy Carter highlights just how out of touch and tone deaf they are,” Brooks said. “Giving a platform to someone who has been openly hostile to Israel and equated the country to the South African apartheid regime is offensive. At a time when the Obama campaign is launching a charm offensive to the American Jewish community this message will resonate loud and clear with American Jews as to why it’s time for a change in 2012.”
While conceding that Carter had “earned the platform” as an ex-President and elder statesman of the
Democratic Party, Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, said he would have preferred that the ex-President to be denied a public speaking role at the convention. “I think he has evidenced a bias against Israel,” Foxman declared. “He is flawed, he’s got an obsession with Israel, a biased obsession that borders on anti-Semitism. So that’s not somebody I think should grace the podium of a national convention.”
Foxman added that it is likely Carter lobbied organizers for the speaking role, thereby placing the Democratic National Committee in a difficult position. “I don’t think he deserves to be there, except it’s hard to refuse a platform to a former living president especially when he asks for it,” said Foxman.
David A. Harris, the president of the National Jewish Democratic Council – which typically sings the praises of the Democratic Party as extremely pro-Israel and favorable to the well-being of the Jewish community – also spoke critically of Carter’s planned address. “When it comes to Israel and the Middle East, President Carter has unfortunately embarrassed himself — as his analysis and commentary has been stubbornly wrong, harmful to the peace process, and getting worse all the time,” Harris said. “I’m confident that he won’t be speaking to the Party about Middle East policy.”
While these two Jewish leaders believe Carter will not touch upon Middle East issues in his speech, the DNC’s statement that the former president will offer “unique insights about President Obama as a global leader” gives the impression that Carter will be commenting on foreign policy.