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When Will Obama Throw
Jimmy Carter Under The Bus?

By Jerry D. Rose

03 June, 2008

A string of Barack Obama's supporters, advisers or long time associates have been cut loose by Obama or his presidential campaign because they were embarassments in one way or another to his candidacy. Think Samantha (Hillary's a monster) Power, Alan (psst, he's not really serious about NAFTA) Goolsbee, Jeremiah (crazy old uncle) Wright, and folks from the Illinois Combine like Tony Rezko and Nadhmi Auchi for whom it was "Tony I hardly knew ye."

Now comes a true friend of Obama, America's best former President, Jimmy Carter, who in fact has called for Hillary Clinton to hang it up because the party's over so far as the presidential nomination is concerned. The problem is, he bookended these remarks with a speech in the Welsh town of Hay in which he said some things that promise to be acutely embarassing to Obama, whose electoral prospects depend on his ability to balance his talk about negotiation with America's Designated Enemies and a drawdown of the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan with a belligerent stance in which foreign policy must be "anything Israel," including tough stances toward Hamas, Iran and Iraq.

Given the delicate balance Obama is trying to maintain, what does his "friend" Jimmy Carter do? Perhaps like another "crazy uncle," he goes off on his own and does a personal peacemaking mission to the Middle East, talks to Hamas leaders and gets condemned for so doing (though Israel itself is doing the same thing through back channels) by both President Bush and candidate Obama. Then he goes to Hay and in one speech he manages to say four things that create a whole hornet's nest of problems for Obama.

1. He says the three entities (UN, EU, Russia) who, with the United States, constitute a Quartet of powers self-appointed as the world's rulers should abandon their "supine" tendency to follow the U.S. lead in supporting Israel's position on the death-dealing sanctions against Gaza.

2. He says that Israel has 150 fully-armed nuclear weapons, a bold statement of what has been "generally known," that the U.S. and Israel are in blatant violation of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty with Israeli weapons furnished courtesy the U.S.: enough munitions for Israel itself to "obliterate" Iran or any other enemy without world assistance; this at a time when Israel is pressuing the U.S. to take action against Iran for the mere threat of developing such weapons.

3. He says that the Fatah political faction in Palestine, to which Israel, the U.S. and the rest of the Quartet have hitched their diplomatic stars, should share power with the duly-elected (in what the Carter Center certified as a clean election) Hamas as the country's government; rather than joining these other forces in excluding Hamas from the peace process.

4. He says that the U.S. should withdraw immediately and fully its occupation force in Iraq, never mind the "we'll do it when the Iraqis stand up for their own security" stance that will keep U.S. forces there indefinitely, whether the next President happens to have a D or an R after his/her name.

Question of the hour: what does Barack Obama do with this other "crazy old uncle?" Use him as a sounding board toward a general liberalization of American imperialism, as he might have used Jeremiah Wright's "liberation theology" pronouncements as a harbinger of an administration in which the grievances of blacks in the society would actively (not just rhetorically) be addressed? To ask this question and refer to the Wright parallel is virtually to answer it. The answer: fat chance! To borrow from George W. Bush's (false) characterization of himself as a "uniter not a divider:" to take any stance that would satisfy the superb writers of the Black Agenda Report, he would "alienate" all those non-black Americans who want so fervently to believe that we have moved "beyond race," that blacks have already moved 90% of the way down the path of racial equality. To take Jimmy Carter's stance would alienate not only the Jewish money on which Democratic campaigns so heavily depend, but all those good folks of all religions and ethnicities who have recently been through another Memorial Day orgy of "celebration" of the sacrifices of our military men and women and our legendary dedication to complete a mission (win a victory) in order to ensure that "these dead shall not have died in vain." To do any less would cede the toughness ground to the Republicans and their war hero nominee, and election defeat would be the sure result.

No, Obama cannot agree to any of Jimmy Carter's four totally reasonable positions on U.S. foreign policy, and the ex-President must go under the bus with the rest of the crowd. How and when this will happen will await the vicissitudes of a campaign. It probably will follow Carter's endorsement, when he will join the crowd of other Obama supporters with a pious hope that the candidate of hope and change will change his positions as he (hopefully) assumes the presidency. But it will happen because Obama, if he has proven anything at all, has proven himself the consummate compromiser who can be "all things to all people" because he can unite people around a rhetorical consensus of good intentions devoid of any substantive content.

So move over, Samantha, Alan, Jeremiah, Tony, Nadhmi...gotta make room under that bus for James Earl Carter.

Jerry D. Rose is a retired professor of sociology from State University of New York at Fredonia, now living in Gainesville Florida and operating a progressive website: He may be contacted at:


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