The Parade Interview: Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter
Oct 31, 2013
JIMMY AND ROSALYNN CARTER: AN INTIMATE CHAT
The former first couple on human rights, partisan politics…and Paula Deen
New York, NY October 31, 2013 – Jimmy Carter left the White House in 1981, but his life of public service was far from over. He has enjoyed the longest post-presidency of any U.S. President, and one of the most productive. His work through the Carter Center, the nonprofit he and Mrs. Carter began in 1982, played a large part in his 2002 Nobel Peace Prize. Nearly 33 years after leaving the White House, the former president, 89, and first lady, 86, speak with Parade on the work they are most proud of, how Washington politics have changed, and the secret to their 67-year marriage:
On how President Carter hopes history will remember him:
Jimmy Carter: “I’d like to be judged primarily by our work at the Carter Center for the last 32 years. I don’t mean to exclude the White House. But in my more self-satisfied moments, I think about our unwavering promotion of peace and human rights.”
On how he would evaluate the Obama presidency so far:
JC: “He’s done the best he could under the circumstances. His major accomplishment was Obamacare, and the implementation of it now is questionable at best.”
On how President Carter would advise Hillary Clinton regarding a possible run in 2016:
JC: “Most of the democratic candidates consult with me, at least to be polite. I tell them, ‘go ahead and run.’ I use myself as an example. Nobody thought I had a chance in God’s world to be the nominee. Obviously she’ll have a good chance if she does run.”
Grandson James Carter IV uncovered the hidden camera video of Mitt Romney making his comments about the 47 percent. What was President Carter’s reaction?
JC: “I think it was the turning point [in the election]. About six months later, President Obama came to Atlanta, and another grandson, Jason, a state senator, took James over to meet the president, and Obama thanked him profusely. I was very proud.”
In Carter’s day, experts put his legislative batting average at 76%. Has Washington changed?
JC: “Dramatically. The most seminal cause has been the massive influx of money into campaigns. The Citizens United ruling was a terrible mistake. Now even corporations with partial ownership from overseas have an almost unlimited impact on elections…The main way you win elections these days is by destroying the reputation of your opponent. And the winners go to Washington highly imbued with partisanship…The country is polarized—not only in Washington, but back home, too. The other factor is the gerrymandering of districts.”
Mrs. Carter has been active in mental health for more than 40 years. Given the recent shootings, what are her views on whether we have a mental health issue or a gun control issue?
Rosalynn Carter: “There’s a mental health problem in the sense that people are so afraid of the stigma that they don’t get help. But there’s absolutely a gun control problem in the country. Only 4 percent of all violent crimes in the U.S. are committed by people with mental illnesses. It’s just unbelievable to me that the National Rifle Association has so much power. I think Americans probably want gun control but Congress can’t vote for it.”
What’s the secret to your 67-year marriage?
RC: “I think space. He lets me do things I am interested in, and I let him do things he’s interested in.”
Mr. Carter came to the defense of Paula Deen after she admitted to using a racial slur. What advice was offered?
JC: “She’s a very close friend. I told her she ought to publicize what she’s done for very poor people in Savannah, more than two-thirds of whom are African-American. She said she’d done that. What she did was admit what almost every southerner of her age would have to admit—that sometime in their lives they probably used the word. I’m not making an excuse – I don’t need to. I was in the navy when Truman ordained that racial discrimination be over in the military. I came home looking upon African-Americans as equals.”