WASHINGTON – Accepting an award for his courage as a former president and humanitarian,Jimmy Carter fortified his legacy of outspokenness Wednesday.
And his opinions,most clashing with the current political atmosphere,were numerous.
On why Alberto Gonzales should step down as attorney general: “not particularly because he committed any crimes,but because I think he brought discredit and embarrassment to his boss.”
On Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi's visit to Syria: “I was very pleased that the speaker would go to Syria.”
On President Bush threatening to veto legislation that includes an Iraq withdrawal date: “Well,there have been infinitely more mistakes made.”
On presidential candidates' record fundraising dollars: “When I ran for president I literally had no money. … For those making an enormous amount of money now,it's screened out a lot of candidates.”
On negative advertising campaigns: “When I ran against Ronald Reagan and Gerald Ford,the only thing I ever said about them was ‘my distinguished opponent,' and that's all they ever said about me. Now,that animosity – and sometimes hatred – carries over when the successful candidate arrives in Washington. And it also turns the American people against the political process.”
And,on the prospect of biofuels: “It's not really significant in the long term. … The issue should be increased efficiency of vehicles,and my own hope is in the future we'll see a move toward cellular,” meaning converting trees rather than corn to fuel.
But Carter's focus,both during the awards ceremony and in the press conference after,targeted the need for a peaceful resolution in the Middle East.
“History has shown that progress is possible only if the United States of America assumes its historic role as honest broker between Israel and Palestine,” he said. “We cannot be peacemakers if American government leaders are seen as knee-jerk supporters of every action or policy of whatever Israeli government happens to be in power at the time.”
Carter,82,won the Ridenhour Courage Prize,given by the Nation Institute,a charity that is related to The Nation magazine,and The Fertel Foundation,a charitable organization started by the family that founded the Ruth's Chris restaurant chain.
As the 39th U.S. president,Carter promoted non-violent conflict resolution through diplomacy.
Today,through the Carter Center,he has help lead 67 election-monitoring delegations to several continents. He teaches at Emory University and has written 21 books,most recently “Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid.”
The Ridenhour awards are named after Ron Ridenhour,the Vietnam veteran who wrote a letter to Congress and the Pentagon blowing the whistle on the My Lai massacre.
Donald Vance,an American contractor wrongfully detained by American troops in Iraq,won a Ridenhour prize for “truth-telling” after he reported contracting irregularities and later notified the FBI of his brutalization by the U.S. military. Vance has sued the U.S. government,claiming he was tortured.
Rajiv Chandrasekaran,of the Washington Post,won the Ridenhour Book Prize for his book,”Imperial Life in the Emerald City: Inside Iraq's Green Zone.” The book chronicles the inadequacies of postwar planning in Iraq.