Nightly News | September 20, 2010
BRIAN WILLIAMS, anchor: Former President Jimmy Carter visited the studio today, part of a media blitz to promote his new book, his 25th book. This one his " White House Diary" as president. He will be 86 in a few days, and President Carter has written a brutally honest book detailing his feelings on the job 30 years ago. It was when I asked him about a recent photo a few months back with his fellow presidents that he said something that received some unwanted attention today. The last photo of you with your fellow former presidents, you were well off to the side on the right. And I thought to myself, where -- there's a possible metaphor. What is it about you, you think, the way you've decided to conduct your life in post presidency? Do you feel listened to? Do you feel that you received your due, or do you feel, in fact, apart from the crowd?
Former President JIMMY CARTER: No, I feel that my role as a former president is probably superior to that of other presidents, primarily because of the activism and the injection of working of the Carter Center into international affairs , and to some degree domestic affairs. On energy conservation, on environment and things of that kind we're right in the midst of the constant daily debate. And the Carter Center has decided, under my leadership, to fill vacuums in the world. When the United States won't deal with troubled areas, we go there and we meet with leaders who can bring an end to a conflict or an end to a human rights abuse and so forth. So I feel that we have an advantage over many other former presidents in being involved in daily affairs that have shaped the policies of our nation and the world.
WILLIAMS: That quote in there from President Carter contending he's played a role superior to that of other presidents is the one that didn't go over very well today, raised a lot of tension and eyebrows, and that prompted Mr. Carter to put out a further statement late today explaining, quote, "What I meant was for 27 years the Carter Center has provided me with superior opportunities to do good." Back in the studio, we continued the conversation about current politics. As you look at your present day United States , how often do you get depressed? Is the -- is the glass half empty or half full ? What worries you?
Pres. CARTER: Well, this country has become so polarized that it's almost astonishing. Not only with the red and blue states , but now because of the massive influx of money into the campaigns. So there's practically no relationship anymore between Democrats and Republicans once they're elected to the House or Senate , dramatically different from what it was when I was president. I enjoyed a bipartisan interrelationship in Washington , which no longer exists. So now I think President Obama suffers from the most polarized situation in Washington that we've ever seen, even maybe in the time of Abraham Lincoln and the initiation of the war between the states .
WILLIAMS: And how do you think it came to be that such high numbers of people believe that this American-born Christian president is either foreign born or a Muslim or both?
Mr. CARTER: I think the number one factor is Fox News , just totally distorting everything possible concerning the facts. And I think their constant hammering away at these false premises about our incumbent president has a major, major impact on the consciousness of America . A lot of well-meaning people, including many of those in the tea party movement, believe what is said in this constant hammering away by Glenn Beck and by others who have no regards for the truth.
WILLIAMS: Former President Jimmy Carter had a lot more to say during our conversation today about Ted Kennedy , Ronald Reagan , Richard Nixon , his own daughter, his speed reading course, and a White House showdown over mice in the Oval Office . We've put it all on our Web site . That's nightly.msnbc.com.