CNN Anchor Lauds Jimmy Carter as Expert on Iran And Bush’s Iraq ‘Blunder’

November 29th, 2006 3:44 PM

The media’s fascination and love affair with Jimmy Carter apparently have no limits. CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer interviewed the ex-president on Tuesday’s "Situation Room" and cited his knowledge and experience of dealing with Iran:

Wolf Blitzer: "You know a lot about Iran. You spent the last 444 days of your presidency focusing in on the American hostages."

Jimmy Carter: "I remember that."

Blitzer: "I know. I remember it very well. I think everyone who was alive remembers it, as well. This is a regime -- basically, the same people who were in charge then, who took over for the shah, are still in charge right now, led by a supreme ayatollah, who has been meeting today with Talabani, and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad met yesterday with Jalal Talabani, the president of Iraq."

Carter: "Yes."

Blitzer may remember the event, but it’s unclear if he recalls the botched Carter rescue attempts, including one that left eight U.S. servicemen dead. If he did recollect the event, the CNN anchor certainly didn’t bring the subject up. Incidentally, this is the same man who harshly questioned Lynne Cheney about, among other things, a book she wrote in 1981.

Blitzer opened the interview, which aired on November 28 at 7:30pm, by lauding the achievements and accomplishments of Jimmy Carter and offering glaringly easy questions:

Blitzer: "Former President Jimmy Carter has been a vocal critic of some [?] Bush administration policies including the war in Iraq. The Nobel Peace Prize winner has a unique perspective on international conflicts, fueled by this religion and long histories of hatred. Jimmy Carter has a new book entitled ‘Palestine: Peace, Not Apartheid.’ Mr. President, thanks for coming in."

Carter: "It's a pleasure, Wolf."

Blitzer: "A very provocative title. We'll get to the book shortly. Let's get through some of the major issues of the day. The President spoke forcefully today about Iraq at the NATO summit, not backing down at all, seemingly repeating the lines he was saying before the Democratic victory in Congress. Listen to this little clip."

George W. Bush (video clip): "We'll continue to be flexible and we'll make the changes necessary to succeed. But there's one thing I'm not going to do -- I'm not going to pull our troops off the battlefield before the mission is complete."

Blitzer: "Smart strategy on his part to enunciate that policy the way he is?"

Carter: "Well, I think that he and the American people, the members of Congress, everyone in the United States, and maybe around the world, are waiting to see what Lee Hamilton and Jim Baker recommend."

The softball questions continued, with Blitzer later inviting the former President to rank George Bush’s Iraq "blunder" in historic terms:

Blitzer: "I assume you believe that the U.S. invasion of Iraq, the removal of Saddam Hussein, was a huge -- with hindsight, was a huge blunder."

Carter: "Well, when you throw in the removal of Saddam Hussein, I don't include that. But I think that the original invasion of Iraq, and all of its consequences, yes, were a blunder, including what happened with the leadership."

Blitzer: "In the scheme of things, how big of a blunder was it in terms of foreign policy blunders that American presidents have made?"

Carter: "One of the -- it's going to prove, I believe, to be one of the greatest blunders that American presidents have ever made."

Blitzer: "Bigger than Vietnam?"

Carter: "I think it's going to be a close call, but perhaps much more vividly known by the rest of the world than Vietnam was. And, of course, my answer is predicated on not knowing what's going to happen in the future."

Again, during this discussion of presidential mistakes, Blitzer made no suggestion that Carter may have made some of his own.

Oddly, this interview could be classified as one of the tougher segments with the former President. (And that’s not saying much.) The CNN host questioned Carter about his new book, "Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid." In it, the ex-Commander-in-Chief argues that Israel needs to do much more to settle the situation. Blitzer read a quote from Bill Clinton’s autobiography that challenges a key Carter point on Israeli/Palestinian negotiations:

Blitzer: "Let me read to you what Jim -- what Bill Clinton wrote in his book, ‘My Life.’ He was the president who was negotiating at Camp David and then at Taba, trying to resolve this. And Barak, the prime minister, who made some major, major concessions. He said: ‘Right before I left office, Yasser Arafat thanked me for all my efforts and told me what a great man I was. 'Mr. Chairman,' I replied, 'I am not a great man, I am a failure and you have made me one.' Arafat's rejection of my proposal after Ehud Barak accepted it was an error of historic proportions.’"

Carter: "Okay, well-"

Blitzer: "That's what the former President wrote in his book."

Carter: "All right. Well, in my book, which I think is accurate -- I hate to dispute Bill Clinton on your program because he did a great and heroic effort there. He never made a proposal that was accepted by Barak or Arafat."

Blitzer: "Why would he write that in his book if-"

Carter: "I don't know."

Blitzer: "If he said Barak accepted it?"

Carter: "I don't know-"

Blitzer: " And Arafat rejected it."

Carter: "You could check with all the records. Barak never did accept it. And at Taba, for instance, which you've mentioned, not only were Americans excluded, but Barak subsequently said I never authorized any Israeli to negotiate at Taba with any Palestinians. And they never did have any negotiations there."

If only Blitzer could have been tougher on issues that don’t relate to disputing the veracity of a Bill Clinton statement.