Rene Syler on Wednesday interviewed former President Jimmy Carter yesterday in the 8:30 a.m. EST half hour of the Early Show, tossing him softball after softball which he hit out of the park while plugging his book, Our Endangered Values. In the transcript of her questions below, you'll see her setting up Carter on the "separation of church and state" theme which Carter used to pontificate about conservative dominance of American politics, particularly by the religious right.
Syler might have found it instructive, however, to visit The Living Room Candidate (click on photograph in Carter column entitled "Bible") to see a 1980 television ad for Carter's reelection campaign in which Carter played the faith card in an electoral battle against Reagan.
ANNOUNCER: Though he clearly observes our historic separation of church and state, Jimmy Carter is a deeply and clearly religious man. He takes the time to pray privately and with Rosalynn each day. Under the endless pressure of the presidency, where decisions change and directions change, and even the facts change, this man knows that one thing remains constant—his faith. President Carter.
Syler's questions to Carter naively view religion as a wedge issue used exclusively by the Right to alienate the broad center rather than a political device used by politicians on both sides of the aisle historically (note the ones in bold):
Rene Syler: "One of fundamental principles of this country is the separation of church and state, but anyone who has been paying attention to the ongoing battle between red and blue states knows that the worlds of religion and politics have become increasingly intertwined. Former President Jimmy Carter believes the result is a moral crisis in America, and he writes about that in his new book, Our Endangered Values.
Syler: "Um, I want to start by talking about some recent events in Washington. Senate Democrats basically shut down the Senate in an effort to gain intelligence in the runup to the war. This angered Republicans a great deal. I'm just curious about your take on that."
Syler: "I want to ask you about some things that have been happening in this country. We saw so many hurricanes in the last several weeks, and Hurricane Katrina, really, I want to talk to you about. Because, in the aftermath, it sort of ripped the seams open in this country in terms of race and class distinction. You have spent so much of your life working with Habitat for Humanity. What needs to happen to heal the rifts of race and class distinction in this country?"
Syler: "Why did you feel the need to write this book, Our Endangered Values? What was it that you were seeing that you felt like America needed to hear?"
Syler: "You talk about fundamentalism in the book, a lot, you talk about, and it's not something that is just outside of these borders. You talk about fundamentalism in this country. Do you feel Washington has become an inhospitable place, that if you dare to have a dissenting view, or opinion, you just get shouted down until, or, or worse, be, you're being challenged and being called un-American?"
Syler: "Now that we've seen this confluence of religion and politics, will it ever be the way it was, will they ever be separated again?"
### @ 0839 EST ###