Carter speaks bluntly on Netanyahu and Obama |

Carter speaks bluntly on Netanyahu and Obama

Rick Carroll
The Aspen Times
Jimmy Carter spoke at The Aspen Institute Tuesday afternoon.
Jeremy Wallace/The Aspen Times |

Former President Jimmy Carter talked Israel, Obama, the Confederate flag and other topics before a standing-room-only crowd Tuesday in Aspen.

Carter and his wife Rosalynn — they’ll be married 69 years come July — were interviewed by Aspen Institute CEO Walter Isaacson as part of the McCloskey Speaker Series at the Greenwald Pavilion on the institute campus.

Carter was the 39th president of the United States from 1977 to 1981. The Democrat’s single term was partly defined by the Camp David Accords, a botched attempt to rescue American hostages from Iranian captivity, and an energy crisis.

Carter, 90, and his wife, 87, remain entrenched in global affairs, ranging from human rights to disease in West Africa to the crisis in the Middle East.

Since he was president, Carter has been one of the world’s most vocal advocates for establishing a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza. He said he didn’t believe Benjamin Netanyahu when the Israeli prime minister said he would support a two-state solution during his campaign for a third premiership in March. Carter said he was in Jerusalem when Netanyahu made that vow.

“Everything he’s done has indicated he does not want a two state,” Carter said. “He does not want a Palestinian nation next door to Israel. My belief is that he wants to take over the entire West Bank except for a few tiny spots he’ll leave for them.”

Carter, an instrumental player in the Camp David Accords that were hatched in 1978, said the truce has been honored when it comes to Israel and Egypt having no conflict. But the recognition of a Palestinian state in full autonomy, the second-prong to the peace accords, has failed, he said, noting that he hoped “one of my successors in the White House would attempt to bring peace between Israel and its neighbors.”

Isaacson quizzed Carter on his assessment of President Obama, and the former Navy man and peanut farmer didn’t mince words. Carter said Obama’s success on the world stage has “been minimal.”

“I can’t think of many nations in the world where we have a better relationship with now than when he took over,” Carter said, adding “I’m not saying it’s his fault.”

But, Carter noted, “the United States’ influence, prestige and respect is lower now than it was six or seven years ago.”

He praised John Kerry for his work, calling him a “very courageous and innovative and dynamic secretary of state.”

Carter said it’s time for the U.S. to relinquish “its unquestioned domination.”

“One of the elements of a super power should not only be a top country as far as military power is concerned, … but I think one of American goals should be a champion of peace, and to be the champion of human rights, and to be the champion of the environment and to be the most generous nation on Earth,” he said. “Those are the elements that I hope eventually the United States will set as a goal.”

Isaacson brought up last week’s South Carolina church shootings and the state’s ensuing decision to remove the Confederate flag from its capital grounds. He noted that the event highlighted America’s race, guns and mental-health issues. Carter, who grew up in a predominantly black town in Plains, Georgia, said it’s about time South Carolina lowered the flag, but the National Rifle Association wields “almost disgusting influence” over Congress and state lawmakers for gun laws not to change.

“So, we’ll continue to have a plethora of guns,” said Carter, the owner of multiple firearms and still an active hunter.

He added, “I think that anybody that gets a gun ought to be fully qualified and give a background briefing.”

Rosalynn Carter said statistics prove that most mass-shooters in America haven’t gotten access to mental-health services.

“The largest mental-health facilities in our country are prisons and jails,” she said. “You can get money for prison and jails. It’s really difficult to get money for mental-health services.”

As first lady, Rosalynn championed mental-health research. She said the stigma of mental health is slowly being lifted.