From The Archives: A 2008 Conversation With Barbara Walters
A conversation from the archives with Barbara Walters about her 2008 memoir "Audition," a story of family challenges, celebrity gossip and blazing a trail in TV news.
Jimmy Carter, the 39th president of the United States and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, is now 90 years old. In a new memoir, he reflects on his life and the personal moments that changed him. He details the racism he witnessed growing up in Archery, Georgia. He describes how he tried to be more of an equal partner to his wife of 69 years, Rosalynn. But he also talks frankly about politics and the strengths and weaknesses of various U.S. presidents — and laments that positive relationships with some world leaders have deteriorated in recent years. Former President Jimmy Carter joins us to talk about race relations, money in politics, diplomacy and marriage.
Excerpted from A Full Life: Reflections at Ninety by Jimmy Carter. Copyright © 2015 by Jimmy Carter. Reprinted by permission of Simon & Schuster, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
President Jimmy Carter told Diane Rehm that the U.S. is moving in the right direction in negotiations with Iran, saying he had complete confidence in Secretary of State John Kerry.
One thing President Jimmy Carter has learned after 69 years of marriage to Rosalynn: She’s a better politician.
President Jimmy Carter offers thoughts on America’s current relationship with Israel.
The recent debate over the Confederate Flag in South Carolina shows that the United States “has a long way to go,” Jimmy Carter told Diane during their July 9 interview.
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. Jimmy Carter says that one of the most dramatic changes in politics since he left office is the influence of money on campaigns. In a new memoir, the former president calls the removal of restrictions on campaign contributions after the Supreme Court Citizen United ruling tragic. He says if he had run for office under those same rules, he would not have been a successful candidate.
MS. DIANE REHMThe title of President Carter's new book is, "A Full Life: Reflections At Ninety." President Jimmy Carter joins me in the studio. You can see live video streaming of our conversation with the president at drshow.org. You can call us on 800-433-8850, if you'd like to join the conversation. You can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can find us on Facebook or Twitter. And Mr. President, welcome again.
PRESIDENT JIMMY CARTERDiane, it's always good to be with you and millions of people that listen to your program.
REHMDo you know that we checked yesterday and today is the 11th time you have appeared on this program?
CARTERWell, I'm delighted. I come every time you'll let me come, when I have a chance.
REHMI'm so pleased. Well, I'm wondering what your thinking is about South Carolina legislatures action, vote finally to take down the Confederate flag. How do you believe that will affect the persistent racism in this country?
CARTERWell, the same thing was done by Georgia 14 years ago, by a very courageous Democratic governor named Roy Barnes. And because of that, he was defeated for reelection and that was almost the only reason given by the voters. And I think it's a very good and long overdue step for South Carolina to take. It was difficult for many of them to vote for it, but I believe it will be, at least, a small move toward a realization in our country that racial superiority of white people it's time has been over.
CARTERWe thought we had this battle won back in the '60s and '70s and I think that recent publicity given to police abuse of black people and the horrible events in Charleston, South Carolina, have shown that we have a long way to go.
REHMI'd like to ask you about another current event which is our ongoing negotiations with Iran. Are we approaching this in the right way?
CARTERI think so. I have complete confidence in John Kerry. I believe he's a courageous and very knowledgeable and experienced man. He's one of the best secretaries of state we've ever had. And I believe that if an agreement is concluded with John Kerry in charge of American position that it would be a sound and enforceable conclusion to a very great threat. And it would be good for Iran and good for the United States and good for the entire world.
REHMThere's been a lot of pushback from Republicans on the hill.
CARTERWell, that's true. The only alternative to working this out is a very strong likelihood of long conflict between the United States and Iran and that's something that none of us want.
REHMAnd there's also been a lot of pushback against the negotiations from Israel.
CARTERWell, you know, Israel would like for the United States to fight that part of the battle for them. I don't think, knowing what I do know about their military, Israel would not have the capability itself, with the weapons that they have, to make a definitive and substantive attacks 1200 miles away. They don't have the long-range bombers. They don't have the refueling capability.
CARTERSo any military attack on Iran that would be long-lasting in its permanent effect would almost have to be launched by the United States.
REHMSo you believe that that's why Israel is so concerned about these ongoing negotiations.
CARTERWell, I know that Israel has multiple reasons for being concerned and I certainly understand many of those concerns. But I think their expression of those concerns by Netanyahu have been overly dramatic and sometimes departing from the facts and I believe that he have been successful in convincing a lot of the members of a U.S. Congress, particularly Republican side.
CARTERBut what President Obama and John Kerry are trying to do is the right thing.
REHMI think our listeners should know that this not simply a written memoir that you've brought out, but it is, in fact, one that includes your paintings. Tell me about your paintings. I love them.
CARTERWell, I began painting when I was still in the Navy, back in the 1950s. And since then, I've painted off and on and I really enjoy it. I'm primarily a woodworker. I have a woodshop that's completely furnished and I design and build furniture. And that was what I did for many years, along with writing books, since I left the White House.
CARTERBut in the last 10 or 15 years, I've set up a very good easel in the corner of my woodshop so when I'm not building furniture and when the air is not full of sawdust, I can paint with relative impunity with -- primarily, I like to paint with oils. I used to paint with acrylics and oils, but that's what I do now. And it's really a great pleasure for me and some of the products of my painting I give to the Carter Center to be auctioned off and so they -- very high prices that come from paintings...
REHMI should say.
CARTER...go to the Carter Center.
REHMOne recently went for something like $250,000.
CARTERAnd another one, two weeks ago, went for that same amount, yes.
CARTERWell, the money doesn't go to me, obviously, but it helps the Carter Center.
REHMObviously. But really, for your paintings, another congratulations is due you and Mrs. Carter on your 69th wedding anniversary.
CARTERWell, thank you for that. Well, we've had a good life and I wrote about that a good bit in the book and how our relationship changed after about 15 to 20 years. The first part of our marriage, I was in the Navy and I patterned my own married life after my father's and other men that I knew. I've made all the major decisions. And I approached the decisions very carefully because I affected my whole family, particularly Rosalynn.
CARTERAnd I would just announce to her what the decision had been and she accepted it except in one particular case when I decided to leave the Navy. She was very angry and she was very disappointed in me. And she stayed disturbed or pouting, she says, for almost a year.
CARTERYeah. In fact, we left Schenectady, New York, where I was working on a nuclear submarine for (word?) and we drove about 700 miles or more down to Plains, Georgia, and she never spoke to me on the way. And if she wanted to communicate with me, she would tell my oldest son, Jack, Jack, tell your father I need to stop at a restroom and so forth.
REHMWho -- was he in the back of the car?
CARTERHe was in the back of the car.
REHMOh, that's wonderful.
CARTERWell, she eventually go over it, but I learned after that period of my life, in my married life, that I needed her and I began, more and more, to realize that in making the major decisions of life that her judgment was just as good, at least as good as mine. And so in the political realm, along with our business and so forth and our family affairs, Rosalynn is much more, I'd say, acclimated to it and more attracted to it than I am.
CARTERI think she's a better politician than I am. She likes it more than I do. She likes the strategy, the tactics, the fundraising techniques, the speech preparation and the consequences of political life maybe more than I do and so she was always urging me when I was in the White House to let her know about the details of what was going on.
REHMShe used to sit in on cabinet meetings.
CARTERWell, that was the final solution. The first intermediate solution was just to have a one hour or so luncheon with her every Wednesday so she could just ask me questions about public affairs. And I finally said, Rosalynn, why don't you just come and sit in on the cabinet meetings. So she does that -- she did that for the last year or two of our presidential life.
REHMYou know, there's a passage in the book where you talk about the fact that the two of you tried to write a book together.
CARTEROh. That was horrible.
REHMAnd that was horrible.
CARTERThat was the worst challenge to the integrity of our marriage. It really was. We had agreed to write a book together and so we started and we had a nice advance from a publishing company. And we divided the chapters and she wrote one chapter and I would write the other -- I write very rapidly and Rosalynn writes very slowly, very carefully.
CARTERAnd when I would finish my chapter and give it to her to edit, she would look on it as just a rough draft, you know. And so, but when she gave me her copy it was as though she had just received it from Mount Sinai and God had carved the words in stone and it was actually painful for her to change an adjective or anything in a sentence that she had carefully composed. And we also had a difference of memory about things that had happened in our early life and different reaction to things.
CARTERSometimes, I would think something was kind of funny and she would think it was more serious and so forth. And we got so we couldn't even speak to each other and so we finally decided to give up the book, but our editor resurrected it.
REHMFormer President Jimmy Carter. His new book is titled, "A Full Life: Reflections at Ninety." We are going to take your calls. I look forward to hearing from you.
REHMIf you've just joined us, former President Jimmy Carter is with me. We're talking about many things, including his brand new book, "A Full Life: Reflections at Ninety." And, President Carter, just before the break, you were talking about trying to write this book with your wife Rosalynn and how you just were two different people in writing.
CARTERWell, we finally got so we couldn't even speak to each other about the book.
CARTERWe just wrote ugly emails back and forth on the computer. And we decided to give the book up. And so we notified our editor and our publisher that we would give the advance money back and cancel the book. And so our editor, Peter Osnos came down to Plains. And he said, "Why don't you let me try one more time to referee between you."
CARTERAnd I said, "It's hopeless. He said, "No, you pick out the paragraphs in the book in which you cannot agree and give them to me." So he stayed there a couple of days and he got all the paragraphs on which we had an argument. And he gave me half of them and Rosalynn half of the paragraphs. And he said, "Okay, Jimmy, you write your paragraph. Rosalynn cannot edit. And vise versa." So, in the book, which was published, you can read the book and every now and then you'll see a paragraph with either a "J" or an "R" by it. And those are the paragraphs on which we could not agree. So, it was a...
REHMBut the book got published.
CARTERYeah, but we'll never do that again.
REHMNever do it again.
CARTERBut she's still my best editor. And when I finish a manuscript, including this one, I give it to Rosalynn to go over and I really pay close attention to what her -- what she says. But we'll never try to share the power and authority and autocracy of trying to write a book together.
REHMMr. President, here you are at age 90, just as sharp and clear and strong as ever. And yet, you have a 50-year-old son who has Parkinson's disease.
CARTERYes. I do. He's been fortunate in that it's a milder form of Parkinson's. And he's got a medicine that he takes now quite regularly. And he has a trembling of his left arm, particularly, and his legs sometimes. And he has to be very careful about his daily regimen, you know, what he eats and that sort of thing. But he's, so far, not had the extreme consequences of Parkinson's.
REHMDoes he live with you? Does he...
CARTERNo, he lives by himself. He has a family of his own. He has a wife and three sons. Two of them are grown -- they're -- all of them are grown now. The youngest one is just finishing college, coming up.
REHMBut thinking about you, at age 90, you haven't slowed down at all.
CARTERNo, this has been a very busy year.
REHMGuyana. Russia. The Middle East.
REHMWhat do you think is going to happen in the Middle East? What are we doing right? And what are we doing wrong?
CARTERAt this moment, we're not doing anything. And this is the first time that I've known, since Israel was founded, where the United States has practically no influence in Jerusalem or in the Palestinian area. And the government in Israel has made it fairly clear, with their composition and with their public statements, that they no longer adhere to the commitment to honor the United Nations Resolution 242 or to carry out a two-state solution. And, unfortunately, even though the United States has created a vacuum by withdrawing as a potential mediator, the European countries have not yet been willing to move in and take over that responsibility.
CARTERSo I would say, now, practically no hope of any immediate move toward reconciliation between Israel and its immediate neighbors. The Carter Center, however, because of my particular interest, we have a full-time office in Jerusalem and also in Ramallah in the West Bank and also in Gaza. So we constantly probe for any possibility to open up a new avenue. And we stay in close touch with other officials, including those in the State Department of the United States, when we see a possibility for movement. But at this point, the situation seems to be almost completely hopeless.
CARTERThe movement that is being taken now is by the Palestinians on their own initiative, by moving toward the United Nations and toward the International Criminal Court, to try to bring the situation to a judicial decision. But I don't think that's going to have any ultimate success.
REHMAnd what about the steps that the United States is trying to take to rein in ISIS?
CARTERI don't think we are making much progress. The news media -- and that's the only source of information I have, is just what I read in the news -- indicates that in some weeks, ISIS makes further moves, particularly in Iraq. And other weeks, we take over maybe one small town, and so forth. But I understand that recently, President Obama has met with his top advisors to see what kind of new course to take. As you know, we have very carefully avoided any so-called "boots on the ground" or troops directly involved. We have probably an inadequate degree of observers on the ground who can actually orient our pinpoint bombing and missiles and so forth.
CARTERAnd we don't have any working cooperation with the main opponents of ISIS, which is Iran. So Iran is fighting alongside the government of Iraq. And the United States is basically channeling our weaponry and help through the Iraqi government. And I think we and hope we will begin to give more directly to the Kurds and others who are willing to fight. The basic problem is, unfortunately, that the ISIS troops are willing to give their lives with freedom and sometimes with enthusiasm for their cause. And their opponents don't have the same degree of commitment.
REHMDo you believe President Obama has handled the situation as well as he could, not very well or brilliantly?
CARTERI think the first two. I think he's handled it the best he could and not very well. But I can't say that he could have done much better. Because he's tightly constrained by his own public statements and commitments to get out of Iraq, to get out of Afghanistan as quickly as possible, with which some people disagree. And he also has been publically stating, himself, that he has no workable, long-term strategy to pursue. But I think it's -- that's understandable because I think ISIS kind of came out of nowhere. And the massive flood of ISIS troops out of Syria and into Iraq was a surprise to, I think, everybody. And their degree of success was good.
CARTERAnd the main reason they had success was because many of the Sunni Muslims who live in that part of Iraq were already alienated from the local -- from the central government in Baghdad. And so that division within the Muslims, who are Iraqis, has been a very serious problem. But eventually, I believe that there can be marshaled enough combined support from all the Arabs over there and with our technical and strategic and intelligence supported with our aerial bombing to prevail against ISIS.
REHMYou do. You are optimistic.
CARTER...optimistic. Because most of the public statements by President Obama and by Secretaries of Defense and so forth that we're going to make immediate or dramatic improvements or do away with them have not been successful.
REHMHow do you think the press has treated President Obama?
CARTERI think, in general, okay. I think they've given him credit when he's been successful in the health programs and so forth, and other domestic programs. I think they've given him a lot of support when he's spoken out publicly and increasingly effectively and increasingly emotionally, too, about the race issues still extant in this country. There are, obviously, some press like Fox News, who don't like anything he does, and other television programs like MSNBC that likes everything he does, and others in between. But I think, in general, he's gotten as good of coverage from the press as I did, or maybe better.
REHMHow do you think the press treated you? Fairly or otherwise?
CARTERI think otherwise. There have been scholarly analyses done and published about the coverage that I had in the 48 months that I was in the White House. I got positive coverage two months. And I got unfavorable publicity 46 months. Even in a month when I reached a peace agreement between Israel and Egypt, the press was negative in an objective analysis.
REHMI want to refer our listeners, because I know you've already seen it, to this morning's column by Nicholas Kristof in this New York Times of today. And I'm quoting here. He says, "The present chattering class have often been merciless to Carter. Early on, cartoons mocked him as a country rube using an outhouse or associating with pigs, writers pilloried him as a sanctimonious hick, and in recent years it has been common to hear that he's anti-Israel or anti-Semitic This about the man whose Camp David accord ensured Israel's future! Now, that Carter is 90 and has been ex-president longer than anyone in history, it's time to correct the record. He is anything but an empty suit."
REHMAnd now I'll skip to the last paragraph. "Carter," says Kristof, "the one-termer who was a pariah in his own party, may well have improved the lives of more people in more places over a longer period of time than any other recent president. So we in the snooty media world owe him an apology:" quote, 'We were wrong about you, Mr. President. You're not a lightweight at all, and we can't wait to see what you'll do in your next 90 years!'" I love that.
CARTERWell, I obviously don't disagree with what he has to say in his article.
REHMYou must have been pleased to read that.
CARTERWell, I really was. Nick has been a good friend of ours and he's a champion of protecting the rights of women and girls. And not only that, but he has a unique ability as a columnist and as a news reporter to go into the most intimate relationships with people who suffer most around the world. So I've been one of his admirers for many years. And he's been with us on some of our, you know, trips into different remote areas of Africa to deal with diseases that not many other people know about.
REHMFormer President Jimmy Carter. His new book is, "A Full Life: Reflections at Ninety." And you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." And speaking of women and girls, Mr. President, we have a Tweet from Liz, who says, "How important is it that we soon get a Madam President? And what impact do you see Hillary having when she's elected?" So reads the Tweet.
CARTERWell, I'm not going to predict the outcome of the election. But I don't think there's any doubt that Hillary Clinton has been a champion of women's rights for a long time, even when she was First Lady and went to the major United Nations Conference on that subject when her husband was president. So there have been women leaders who have not been helpful to women's rights. Indira Gandhi, for instance, when she was Prime Minister of India, my mother happened to be in the Peace Corps in India. And she resented very deeply the grief that came on some of the women in her Peace Corps area because of the policies of Mrs. Gandhi.
CARTERAnd others have taken over as heads of governments, like in Nicaragua, that very carefully avoided any reference to the rights of women when they were in office because they didn't want to embarrass themselves by showing prejudice. So I think it still remains to be seen whether just having a president who's a woman would help women more than having a man who's equally determined to do so.
REHMBut what about in the broader sense, having a woman hold that office that has never, in this country, been held by a woman?
CARTERWell, it'll be -- it'll be quite significant to the entire world to see. The United States now has a very low percentage of women elected to public office compared to the rest of the world. We have now -- when I was president, we had about 3 percent of the members of Congress who were women. Now it's come up to roughly 15 percent. I may not have the exact figure but that's roughly right. The world average is 23 percent. So we're way behind the world average. And some countries have more than half the total number of top-parliamentarians in the country who are female. So it goes from one extreme to the other.
CARTERAnd of course some -- most of the Arab countries -- some of the Arab countries have no women that are even permitted to vote. In Saudi Arabia, a woman has never voted for any person to hold public office. They're contemplating now that the women might have a chance to vote in the next election for local officials. But -- so you have the extremes.
REHMDo you think Hillary Clinton would make a good president?
CARTERWell, I think so. I think it's quite likely, maybe almost inevitable that she's going to be the Democratic nominee. And if so, I'll be delighted to support her, which I always have.
REHMWhat do you make of this wide-ranging slate of candidates for the Republican nomination?
CARTERI think they see, first of all, that they have a good chance to win. And I wouldn't deny that. But I think there's a -- I think the Republican Party is kind of searching for the essence of what it believes. I the past, it's been quite clear. Like when I was, you know, in ancient times, when I was running for public office, when president, we knew what the Republican Party stood for. And I got along quite well with them, by the way. I got just as much support from the Republicans and the Congress as I did the Democrats. But I think, now, the Republican Party is on the opposite side from a lot of things that the American people believe.
CARTERFor instance, a recent decision by the Supreme Court on gay marriage, the Republicans are on the other side, 60 percent of the Americans are on this side. I think the Republicans are almost hidebound to deny that -- I'd say, scientific facts, like global warming and even, you know, other things of that kind, which I need not mention. And they also are against dealing with the immigration crisis. So they are on the opposite from a lot of things. So they're struggling for ways to express themselves.
REHMFormer President Jimmy Carter. And when we come back, we'll take calls. You can watch the program as we video stream. Stay with us.
REHMAnd welcome back. Certainly, in Jimmy Carter's new book, "A Full Life: Reflections at Ninety," he talks very lovingly about his father. There was one incident, Mr. President, that you might just talk about. And then read us the poem that came out of that.
CARTERAll right. Well, my father was a very strict disciplinarian. And he punished me severely when I needed it. And I remember all five times when he gave me a spanking. And my daddy expected very high things from me. And he didn't accept any sort of slacker, my attitude toward going to the field, working and so forth.
CARTERAnd I was -- worshiped my father. And I tried every way I could to accommodate him. But when he punished me, it was very quickly after that that I got over my animosity because he had punished me. And so later on I wrote a poem.
REHMBut before you tell us about that poem or read it to us, tell us what happened to your wrist.
CARTERMy -- oh, to my wrist. Well, I was -- we had a bunch of chickens in the yard. And every now and then mother would want to have fried chicken for supper or for Sunday noon. And she would send me out to kill a chicken. To -- and I used to run it down and then I would hit the chicken and finally kill the chicken. And one time I struck down and instead of hitting the chicken I hit the top of a cut off stiff weed.
CARTERAnd the weed went into my wrist, in the joint of my wrist, and the doctors in Plains were not able to get it out. And so it got more and more festered and swollen and it incapacitated me. So I couldn't go to the field and work. And I wanted to, but I couldn't. And so one day my father came through the living room when I was lying on my stomach reading a book, which I always did.
CARTERAnd he said, well, I guess the rest of us will go to the field and work today while Jimmy reads his book. And he walked out. And I was distressed that my father had disapproved of me. So I went out in the backyard and I tied -- I took my belt off and I tied my hand to a post so it couldn't move. And I raised up my arm more and more and finally the pus-encapsulated end of a stick out of my wrist and I very quickly got my mother to dress it. She was a nurse. And I ran out in the field either to work with my father. So I tried every way I could to make sure that he approved of what I was doing.
REHMDid he acknowledge your presence once you got out?
CARTEROf course he did, yeah. Well, he was glad to see him help in the field, you know, along with the other people who were working there.
REHMNow, read for us your beautiful poem.
CARTEROkay. And this is one of the poems I wrote. I wanted to share my father's world. "This is a pain I mostly hide, but ties of blood or seed endure. And even now I feel inside the hunger for his outstretched hand, a man's embrace to take me in. The need for just a word of praise. I despise the discipline used to shape what I should be. Not owning up that he might feel his own pain when he punished me.
CARTER"I didn't show my need to him, since his response to an appeal would not have meant as much to me or been as real. On those rare times when we did cross a bridge between us, the poor joy survives. I never put aside the past resentments of the boy, until, with my own sons, I shared his final hours and came to see what he had become or always was, the father who will never cease to be alive in me."
REHMJust beautiful. I'm glad you wrote that.
CARTERWell, I found out when I began to write more poems, that I can say things in a poem that would be impossible for me to say verbally or in prose.
REHMWhy do you think that is?
CARTERYou know. I don't know. I just can let down the barriers that might exist or reticence about communicating with another person when I go off by myself and just kind of let my mind run free and write down the essence of a poem, and then finally put it into, you know, cogent words.
REHMI wonder if you remember the last time you were on this program and you were talking about some of the strains that had been in your marriage with Rosalynn.
REHMAnd I had the gall to ask you whether you and she had ever considered divorce. Do you remember that?
CARTERI don't remember that specific instant, but…
REHMI had to wait 10 seconds of silence before you responded and then you said to me, yes, Diane, we did. And then I said, so what did you do next? I had to wait through 10 more seconds of silence and you said, we got down on our knees and prayed.
CARTERI remember that. I remember you asking that, yes. And we did. And that's something we -- every night, the last thing we do is try to resolve any differences we've had during the daytime, which is not always easy. But we make it easier because for the last 40 years we've never missed a night reading the Bible at the end of our day. And one night she reads aloud and the next night I read aloud. And more than half the time we read it in Spanish, just to practice our Spanish.
CARTERSo that gives us a chance to think about, you know, greater things than just the idiosyncrasies of each other and the inabilities to agree on every item in our daily lives.
REHMMarriage is such a long and complicated journey.
CARTERIt is, and a gratifying one.
REHMAnd a gratifying one. All right. Let's open the phones now. 800-433-8850. Let's go first to Jean, in Union, Ky. You're on the air.
JEANHello. President Carter, what an honor to speak with you. On my short list of heroes, you have the number one spot.
CARTERWhat'd she say?
JEANI just want to thank you for always showing us the way. You don't just tell us, but you've acted, you and Mrs. Carter. You have acted. The many years since you've been president. I love that Diane read that passage today from the New York Times. I loved the last paragraph. It's what we've known all along. But you've always taught us to stand up for what is right in the world.
REHMI really appreciate your call. And I'm sure you do, too.
CARTERThat this -- that's wonderful, yes.
REHMIndeed. Let's go to Tony, in St. Petersburg, Fla. You're on the air.
TONYThank you, Diane. It's a pleasure. And it's a pleasure to hear President Carter on your show. My father was an admirer of President Carter also, as I am. I think leadership should unite people. And that's something that President Carter has always done, not only when he was president, but after he left the presidency. And he's worked tirelessly towards peace. And I think that's a very, very important goal. And in uniting people and in helping people throughout the world. And I commend him for his work, not only as president, but after his presidency. So I think he's a shining example of the best modern-day president we've ever had.
CARTERWell, thank you very much.
TONYAnd I would like to ask him what he thinks of the situation in Cuba right now.
CARTERI'm delighted to see that finally we are moving toward full diplomatic relations with Cuba. I wanted to do the same thing when I was in the White House. And I removed all the travel restraints on Americans then and began working with Fidel Castro from a distance to do the same thing. And we established interest sections. And we now have in the former embassy in Havana about 300 Americans working there on behalf of our country.
CARTERAnd he has a large number in Washington, as well. But we never were able to go to full diplomatic relations. And I hope that very soon we'll see President Obama do this, which is privilege that he has under the Constitution and also that he'll relieve the Cuban people from the unwarranted embargo or sanctions, economic, that we've imposed on them.
REHMHere's an email from Ricardo, about the situation in Venezuela. "Your opinion of the hunger strikes by political dissidents, that forced the Maduro government into setting a date for elections? Do you plan to participate as an observer?"
CARTERThe Carter Center has participated in 100 elections in the world, four of which have been in Venezuela. And they've all been when Cesar Chavez was the president or becoming a president. And they've been very honest elections. They've been fair. But under the present circumstances Maduro has not seen fit to invite international observers to monitor the conduct of the election. And I would guess that he will not invite the Carter Center to come in either.
CARTERIf he does invite us, and if the -- it's obvious to us that the major parties can have equal opportunity to win an election if the people vote their way, then we would certainly go.
REHMAll right. And to Julie in Cedar, Mich. You're on the air.
JULIEGood morning, Diane and President Carter.
JULIEMy question is what your thoughts are on the Bernie Sanders movement, as well as why there's very little, like, press, other -- the news organizations aren't really talking about him as much. I know he's been on your show, Diane…
JULIE…and such. But other -- you don't really hear about him as much.
REHMOh, my goodness. You know, I think there has been a great deal of publicity about Bernie Sanders, well-deserved with the crowds he's drawing.
CARTERI think so. The social media, though, has been much greater percentage of coverage for Bernie Sanders than for Hillary. And the news media, established news media, has been much greater percentage for Hillary than for Bernie Sanders. So I think that difference is maybe what she refers to. There's an article about that in the morning news. I think he's in the Washington Post or the New York Times that I read on the way from New York down here to Washington.
REHMWhat do you make of Bernie Sanders' stands on not only economic equality, various social issues, as compared to perhaps those of Hillary Clinton?
CARTERI think he is much more attuned toward the plight of the poor people in our country than Hillary was at the beginning. But Senator Warren was the one who spelled out the need to be concerned about the domination of rich people and Wall Street.
CARTERElizabeth Warren, yes. And she's -- since she's not running, I think Bernie Sanders has kind of filled her shoes. And I think during this campaign Hillary Clinton has adopted as many of those principles that had been brilliantly expressed and permanently expressed by Elizabeth Warren than she had, perhaps, in her previous time in -- as a -- in the public light. So I think that Hillary has kind of taken over a lot of the premises that have made both Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren popular.
REHMAnd you're listening to ""The Diane Rehm Show." And to Kathleen, in Columbus, Ohio. You're on the air.
KATHLEENThank you. And like the others, President Carter, I just have deep respect and, quite honestly, love for you and all of your incredible work and examples for us all. So thank you. And I'd like to ask you about nonproliferation. And in regard to President Obama's approach with Iran and the P5+1. And do you think that has been an constructive approach? And do you -- would you support -- or do you think there should be more pressure on Pakistan, India and Israel to sign the nonproliferation treaty, sir?
CARTERWell, the answer to your last question is yes. I certainly do. And those are the countries that don't comply with a nonproliferation treaty. As you know, Iran is a member of a nonproliferation treaty group. But I -- and I personally hope and pray that within the next two or three days we'll see success between the United States and Iran in forming an agreement. And I have complete confidence that if John Kerry signs an agreement it would be both enforceable and good for our country and for Iran.
REHMHere is an email from Robert, in Chevy Chase, Md. Please take a moment to reflect upon your great friendship and working relationship with our late President Gerald Ford.
CARTERWell, I would say that Gerald Ford was one of the best friends I ever had in my life. And historians have said that among all the former presidents that ever lived, the closest personal friendship was between me and Gerald Ford, which I'm very proud. He and I had an easygoing relationship. We got along almost perfectly. His wife was a friend of my wife. Our children were friends with each other.
REHMHow did that friendship begin to develop?
CARTERIt began on the way home from Sadat's funeral. Because when Sadat was assassinated neither the president nor the vice president wanted to go. They didn't know what the circumstances were there and -- or safety was concerned. But Nixon and Ford and I went. Nixon stayed over in the East -- Mideast. And Ford and I came back on the government plane. And we got to know each other on the way back. And that's where we started. And then we went to each other's libraries and so forth.
CARTERAnd a few -- about three months before President Ford's death he called me on the phone, which he did every now and then. He said, my good friend, Jimmy, how you doing? I said, fine. He said, I called to ask you a favor. I said, Gerry, I'll do anything if you ask me to, within reason. He said, well, I want you to promise me that you'll give the eulogy at my funeral. And I was really taken aback. And I thought for a few minutes and I finally stumbled and I said, okay, I promise to give the eulogy at your funeral if you'll give the eulogy at my funeral. And he said, okay.
CARTERAnd then three months later, he died. And one of the great honors of my life was to give the funeral -- eulogy when Gerry Ford died.
REHMDo you think he knew he was close to dying?
CARTERHe was. He was. And I knew too that he was quite ill because he and I had been very active together in many projects, you know, half Democrat, half Republican and so forth. And he had withdrawn from that participation. And he told me on the phone that I am just not able to travel around anymore. So I knew that he was more, you know, in trouble physically than he had...
REHMI'm glad you agreed to do that.
CARTERI am, too.
REHMAre you working on a new book?
CARTERWell, I have some thoughts.
CARTERYeah, some ideas.
REHMThat doesn't surprise me at all. Former President Jimmy Carter, what a joy to see you again, to hear you and know how well you are. Thank you so much.
CARTERThank you, Diane. Well, I'm delighted to be with you again.
CARTERAnd best luck forward to the future and best luck and best wishes to you on your new book.
REHMThank you. Former President Jimmy Carter, his new book is titled "A Full Life: Reflections at Ninety." Thanks for listening all. I'm Diane Rehm.
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