Interview; President Jimmy Carter
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The special presentation of W edu Tampa-St. Petersburg Sarasota Jimmy Carter was elected the thirty ninth president of the US in 1976. Prior to that he had been a farmer a Navy officer a scientist and governor of Georgia. In 2002 he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his work promoting peaceful solutions to international conflicts and advancing democracy and human rights. He's written a novel called The Hornet's Nest. It's the first work of fiction written by a former president. We sit down with Jimmy Carter next on the w e do you interview.
Since stepping down as President Jimmy Carter has spent much of his time constructing houses for Habitat for Humanity acting as a monitor for elections across the globe and has dedicated himself to reviving the Middle East peace process.
Thank you more than 700 people showed up at Sarasota news and books the. Book to get a glimpse and an autograph for the former president. He was intent on signing each and every fan's book but he did take a short break to answer questions from the local news media. Plus evacuees are sort of. OK I can forget it quite well when aren't. But. Before most of you will go. Into the top of the world one. Heart message would you give to our children and our grandchildren. What is your. Story. You need to read my book if. You want to but I'm. Such a.
Small bit of. Tell the truth and such your. Goals high and don't give up when you have some sort of I don't ever deviate from the truth. Even when the truth. Might seem. Hard for a few. Days a few weeks. To say but. That. Might stick with it. I have a feeling great is fine. When I ran in not having. Him my life. Watching. I was just. I was just you know. Well run for the state. Senate. Just a. Short time after and I was running for president. But obviously all because. You know. I think I listened as much as I talk. To. Listen. Learn when the. Russians. And their. Allies. Kill. So how involved will you be in the Middle East peace process the.
Peace Process and trying to revive the Middle East peace which is deeply involved in fact. In just about a week I'll be going to your neighbors one. To announce. All along with going. To meetings and. Reading. What I consider to be a real breakthrough. And final solution. With AI is ready. And analysis in.
Case. He does this in any sense him and run around President Bush. And his well met for peace last Saturday was a week ago. Yossi Beilin told me to say that he got a. Congratulatory letter from. Structures that fall. And I don't think. President Bush. And others have. Commented on it yet. But it has not been condemned. By.
Your skills as a matter of fact it's exactly. What they are. Called maps filled out as an ultimate. Goal. But it bypasses a lot of the general. Staff. And I think it now did it. I'm going to get back to Sunnybrook time you were talking you know.
Good thank you very much. Thank you for figuring out. Thank you for letting me know.
After the impromptu press conference I had a chance to sit down with President Carter for an exclusive one on one interview.
President Carter welcome to you. It's good to be with you thank you. Great to have you here. I want to ask you why did you write a book about the Revolutionary War.
Well for one reason all of them have been hundreds of books written about the War Between the States a civil war. And many dozens about this first and second world war and then and. I guess the Viet Nam war there's been very few books written about the most important war of all to our country I think and it's a revolutionary war. And those that have been written have been written about one Bible or one person and I decided to describe the whole gamut of what did happen during those nine long years.
Most people think it's over and about the only thing that that most people even historians know about the Revolutionary War is that Paul Revere rode a horse at night and. And had a few battles around Bunker Hill and then George Washington crossed the Delo and had a bad time at Valley Forge and that's about it. But I thought I'd tell the whole story of the Revolutionary War and. And tell it in a highly personal way. I could I could have written a history book but I thought to describe the actual characters how they lived how they grew flax how they grew rice how they made shoes how they travel without roads and the other relationship between the British.
And the Indians and the Americans and Indians and what a torturous and difficult decision it was for each British subject all of us were British subjects and one by one to volley. A lifetime of oaths before God to be loyal to the king. There was a very difficult thing and this meant that the war was fought really. Between brothers. Or between fathers and sons. There was no geographical division as you know like in the civil war between the Yankees in the north and confederates in the south. This was between people who broke away from the crown. And sometimes in a hopeless cause and the ones who stayed loyal to the king. So it was a very emotional experience for me to learn about it took me seven years to study this. I wonder important where the battles fought here in the south to the winning of the war overwhelming that the battles in the south decided the outcome of the war beginning in St. Augustine all the way through Georgia the Carolinas and Virginia. And this is where the greatest losses were suffered by the Americans like you. The greatest loss of life was actually in Savannah Georgia the greatest number of people who surrendered at one time. 5000 was in Charlestown. And the intensity of the hatred. And. The viciousness of bloodiness of the war was really amazing much more than any other war the Americans have ever fought. In many of the battles in the south which were the major battles as I've said. The order was given to give no quarter. In other words if an American surrendered to a British army they were executed on the spot and the order was to take no prisoners and the same thing happened on the other side I might say. And one of the intriguing characters that emerged in the book was a guy that was stationed in St. Augustine Florida Thomas Brown. Who turned out. To be. Perhaps the greatest fighter. In history. After he was taut and feathered in Augusta Georgia his whole life changed. All he wanted was revenge so these characters really evolved in my mind and in the book as I studied more and more about the war.
But it's also a story of class in a sense isn't it.
It it there's a great distinction and class because there's the great plantation owners along the coastal areas. They grew rice mostly with slaves and the merchants in the big cities. Obviously in Savannah Charleston and so forth. They were the elite class. Many of them related very close to still to England to London to Liverpool. And Scotland. And the ones who actually did most of the fighting. Were the people who were settlers earlier. Most of whom they didn't want to. Get involved in a war they just want to be left alone to manage their own affairs. They were very ambitious to take more land obviously at expense of the Indians. But one by one until about 25 percent of the total British population. We're ready to give their lives for freedom. It's a great emotional story. Did you have relatives who fought the Revolutionary War. Yes I did. In fact one of the main characters Ethan Pratt is patterned after my own relatives who moved down to northeast Georgia or before the Revolutionary War from North Carolina. They lived in a settlement. Off Quakers. Although they were not pacifists like the Quakers for. One of them even got a pension for the rest of his life. After the Revolutionary War according to the records $12 a year. Because he participated in some of the battles that took place. Actually in the western Carolinas he felt he lived in Georgia so yeah we ancestors that and I knew a lot. About my family's history. You know when I know exactly what land they own and when they built a house. In fact one of the houses. Built by my ancestors still standing it's the oldest house in Georgism modified.
Now you talk a lot about the reasons for the revolution why people became disaffected from the British government. What are some of the reasons people in the South became disaffected. Well and.
For one reason as you know Florida was owned and controlled all the way through the war by the British although right after the war it was given to Spain. And there was an intense battle always on the threat of the British coming out of St. Augustine going across the line into Georgia the colony. So Georgia was treated with kid gloves by London. We were only forty five years old US as a colony when the war started. So the Georgians were probably the most reluctant to change over because we were treated well. And London. The British officials saw that Georgians would defend the other northern call is from possible incursions from the British. And of course we will fall far away from the coast. Many of us and we didn't want to do anything except just to. Cultivate our own land raise our own family worship if we were religious. They weren't very religious and those days as you probably possibly know. And so it was a slow process for them to become. Ready to to go to battle. It's about a fact the same thing happened in the north because even after the Second Continental Congress in Philadelphia at the end of that Continental Congress. The leaders of our government then the representatives of the different colors did not express any intention of seeking independence all they wanted was a redress of grievances because Great Britain in a very insensitive way. Had passed laws that were abusive and took away some of the freedoms that the columnist thought they should have. And we would never have won the war at least at that time maybe 50 years later if the French hadn't come in in a very enthusiastic and staunch way. But because they liked Americans not because they wanted in the revolutions but because they despised the British so much of virtually even the French navy triumphed over the British Navy. Which of Cornwall is vulnerable that Yorktown. But until then of course the British control the seas.
Well let me bring it up to date then given the sad state of affairs the poor relations between the U.S. and France these days. How how does that make you feel given our history going back to the Revolutionary War.
Well a lot of people now who deny that they eat French fries I think will be impressed by ancient history. That George Washington never won a major battle in his whole life. But he was a great commander in that he held his army together but even at Yorktown when Cornwallis won the surrender which was a turning point in the war the majority of the soldiers who defeated Cornwallis were French. And he was cut off from the ocean by the French navy. And of course at one time the French invaded and surrounded Savannah Georgia. They were unsuccessful. Count the Stang did that and you finally had to withdraw. But the French were deeply involved in the war on our side and everybody in America then before the name was very recognized knew that that was a turning point in the possibility of our success. To achieve our freedom. It's a very exciting story and you can tell that I got really intrigued with it.
I want to ask you just a few questions about current politics. How do you think the war in Iraq is going.
I think it's I've been terribly surprised as has the White House on it and the popular defense. At the lack of progress since a so-called war ended. I think the suffering of American troops who are doing courageous work. Has been amazing and it seems to get worse every month. And the United States government is still extremely reluctant apparently to turn over any real authority. To other nations in economic field or to the Iraqis themselves in the political arena. I think those two things have to be done. However I do think that in the case of security all military affairs. The American forces have to stay dominant. And I would sort of not do not want to see any foreign general put in command of American troops there. But economically and politically we have got to share responsibility in Iraq although in my opinion I believe we're going to be there for many many years. And I think the situation's going to get even worse than he is now.
Do you think we should try harder to bring in the United Nations or other countries such as France.
I thought that ever since the war started I was strongly against the war I thought it was an unnecessary and unjust war. And I think America going in there unilaterally. With a few British troops tagging along was one of the worst strategic mistakes that our country has ever made. It was counterproductive and many people saw that. As a mistake. And it's been a very reluctant thing in Washington to admit that that was a mistake. But my hope is that we'll soon correct. There are those that have been made that outstrips can live safely over there and bring freedom. As well as democracy to Iraq is not a hopeless case. But I think it's going to continue to be hopeless as long as we retain all the controls of the oil in the political affairs and everything else close to our breast. Refusing to share it with others.
You're shortly about to leave for a trip to Geneva to help revive the Middle East peace process. What hope do you have that that process can be revived.
This has been an effort. Not widely known. In the world but a few dedicated Israelis. And a few dedicated public standing and. Who some of whom were at Camp David with President Clinton in the last few months of his administration and then and after that. Those talks failed. They continued. At Taba in Egypt and in other places they never gave up. And what they have done is to take the ultimate vision that was spelled out at Oslo by the Norwegians. With Prime Minister of being in with and with Peres. And with Arafat. And try to realize that distant dream. They also. Have come up with a solution is completely compatible with the final stages as envisioned by the so-called road map. Which President Bush has endorsed. And so this is a almost a complete. Potential solution. To all the most difficult issues in the Mideast exact border between Israel and a future Palestinian state. Exactly how to handle the settlers of Israel who own Palestinian territory over half of them can stay in their homes. How to handle the better sensitive issue of East Jerusalem its boys their attorneys are concerned which is also been a sticking point for many years as you know. These are Palestinians who were displaced from their homes after the 48 and 67 wars. Only a tiny number would ever come back into Israel. And each one of them would have to be approved individually by the Israeli government. So it's a very generous. Solution on the part of the Palestinians but it's a difficult one on the part of the is ready this particular promise to Sharon because it does involve the dismantling of the settlements that are scattered now all over the distant parts off the West Bank in Gaza.
Well what would you say the biggest mistake the Israelis are making right now in their actions towards the Palestinians.
Well I think this has been more accurately describe about others than by me. As you know earlier that ahead of their total military force what we would call the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff has publicly condemn Sharon. For being too abusive to the Palestinians and not giving them any hope. For a better life. And last week. For the last four leaders of Shin Bet. Which is the security agencies and Israel have come out with the same public statement. So maybe this peace proposal which I'll be going to into help introduce the first day of December in Switzerland and the statements of these top military and security leaders and it will have an impact. I think that this is the kind of solution. That can be accepted without embarrassment and in good graces. By the Palestinians and Israelis and all the neighboring countries and I don't have any doubt that if this is done. That all the Arab countries every one of the Arab countries. Will recognize Israel's right to exist and to exist in peace. And it will be an end. To the violence in the Middle East.
I ask you about the Israeli mistakes what's the biggest mistake the Palestinians are making.
I think the continued violence and terrorist acts on the on the part of Hamas. Do you blame Arafat for this.
I don't really see how in good conscious Arafat can be blamed as you know he showed up in one room. Not even having the ability to think to go outside or to communicate with his leaders except through telephone communications. And I think a lot of his authority is not there. I have the quarter Sena. Was in charge of the election that was held. When the Palestinian Authority was formed the publisher and governor was formed at the end of that election I was in Israel in the West Bank and Gaza. And I really tried to get the Hamas leaders. Whom I knew. To accept the results of that election. And Arafat asked me to do this for him. I was supposed to meet with them in Egypt on the auspices of President Mubarak of Egypt the Hamas leader has. Rejected. Any semblance of domination off them. By Arafat so he has never had control of the Hamas latest. But I think with this peace vision. And with the. Obvious condemnation of all the Arab world all of that out of balance is a good chance that Hamas will stop. Perpetrating these horrible crimes against Israelis I want to ask you one question about the elections coming up.
Howard Dean he said he wants to appeal to the people who have Confederate flags on their pickup trucks. When you hear that what are your thoughts and is that a good strategy by how mean.
I made it up he said that he realized it was a mistake he called me on the phone and asked me for my advice on how to get out of this mess if he had just said he wanted to appeal to everyone. But in the south the drought is a pick up truck that would have been great. But I don't think he realized a sensitivity of the Confederate flag image in Georgia there's no doubt that in the last governor's election. The Republican governor won almost exclusively on the flag issue. Because a Democratic incumbent had chains a flag. And so. It is an issue that is understood by Southerners but there's no doubt that ever since Goldwater ran back in ancient times in 1984 the Republicans have been able to capitalize on the race issue in the latest race issue and it's obvious there's a Confederate flag. So I think that now. I helped a lot of others help the flag issue has been put to rest in Georgia. It's still you know kind of an issue in South Carolina Mississippi and Alabama but I think Howard Dean.
Misunderstood Exactly. What you could say. You know.
I think up north and what you ought not to say if you were to advise the candidates of how to appeal to the broad masses in the South and do a better job the Democratic candidates that is what advice would you give.
Well I would say so and that is exactly the same way that they treat you nobody somebody from Vermont or Wisconsin or California that is you know. Point out that working people. You know suffering and there's a high unemployment rate and they can capitalize possibly.
On the Iraqi war mistakes but does not tell the now what's going to have about next November you know the economy may be good or Iraq may look better. So it's hard to tell I'm out of politics and I just hope that we'll have a good election next November.
One last question and that is it's often said that you are now more popular now that you are out of the presidency than when you were in. Do you agree with that. And if you agree with that why do you think that is.
Well I haven't been involved in any controversial things you know in the last couple of decades I've been working for peace. And building Habitat houses and writing of popular books and and. Out of politics altogether so I think it's almost inevitable when Harry Truman went out of office he had a 23 percent. Approval rating. But you know after he had been out of office of the years his popularity and his esteem went way up. And something of the same thing has happened in Maple which I'm very grateful.
This transcript is machine-generated and has not been corrected. It is likely there will be errors.
- President Jimmy Carter
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- This episode features a conversation with President Jimmy Carter just after the release of his novel, The Hornets Nest. He discusses the novel and its Revolutionary War setting. He also comments on the current political, international, and economic situations.
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Director: Conely, Jack
Executive Producer: Grove, Paul
Guest: Carter, Jimmy, 1924-
Host: Lorei, Rob
Producing Organization: WEDU
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WEDU Florida Public Media
Identifier: M31 (WEDU)
Format: Betacam SP
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- Chicago: “Interview; President Jimmy Carter,” 2003-11-26, WEDU, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed April 21, 2019, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip_322-01bk3jtv.
- MLA: “Interview; President Jimmy Carter.” 2003-11-26. WEDU, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. April 21, 2019. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip_322-01bk3jtv>.
- APA: Interview; President Jimmy Carter. Boston, MA: WEDU, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip_322-01bk3jtv