People can argue about who the worst president of the United States was, but it is hard to dispute that the president who has done and said more idiotic things since leaving office is – hands down – Jimmy Carter.
And yet in a segment on “The Daily Show” with Jon Stewart on Monday, Jan. 13, Jimmy Carter seemed to be in a competition with his host to show who is more clueless about Islamic terrorism. The competitors tied for the prize. It might have been amusing to watch, if it wasn’t so painful.
Carter was on the show ostensibly because the Carter Center has an exhibit opening tomorrow at the Museum of Natural History, “Countdown to Zero, Defeating Diseases.”
But for most of the just-under eight minute segment, Carter and Stewart discussed the rise of extremist violence, even though the words “Charlie Hebdo” or “kosher grocery store” or even “ISIS” or “al Qaeda” were never mentioned.
Despite accounts by other media that Jon Stewart asked Carter about what happened in Paris, the conversation actually went a bit differently.
It was Stewart who set the tone, suggesting that religion really has nothing to do with the violence that the world has been witnessing.
After a brief discussion about the Carter Center’s humanitarian efforts in Africa, Stewart asked the former president whether he was disheartened, given the “great optimism” following the Camp David Accords.
Carter admitted he was disheartened, but then, veering the only time into a direct reference to the recent events in Paris, he commented on the fact that “the Palestinian leader and the Israeli leader both marched in the front line together in Paris.”
“We still have a hope for peace,” Carter said, “but it’s a distant hope.”
With that, Carter launched into his prescription for giving life to that hope: Israel has to withdraw from the West Bank and Gaza (perhaps he forgets that all Israelis, living and dead, left Gaza almost a decade ago). Oh, and also “East Jerusalem,” Israelis have to leave there as well.
And what do the Palestinian Arabs have to do? “The Palestinians have to make sure that they commit themselves, without equivocation, to the freedom of Israel to live in peace alongside of them.”
Carter insisted that it was the United States which has to “be in the forefront of demanding that both the Palestinians and the Israelis come together and accept a reasonable solution to the problem.” His solution, of course.
Stewart then kind of slid into a more generalized history discussion of terrorism in the Middle East, allowing Carter to preen over bringing Sadat and Begin together.
After pointing out that “this extremism” was around at the time of Camp David, Stewart then shares his insight: “I view ‘this extremism’ as a kind of pretext, this idea that it’s a religious backing, seems a pretext for just powerless…they’re angry, nihilistic, and if they did not have the religious part, it would be something else, they would use something else as a pretext to be violent in this way.”
In other words, Stewart views the ISIS and al Qaeda members as simply the latest iteration of the school yard bullies: angry guys who feel powerless and are just using religion as a front, but they could just as easily use membership in a gang, or anything else to justify their “extremism.”
But Carter gives Stewart a tiny little bit of blowback. Instead of agreeing with Stewart, Carter veers down his familiar path of blaming Israel.
Carter responds to Stewart, essentially saying that religion is behind the “extremism” (most people call this terrorism), but it is all Israel’s fault for insulting the religion of these easily angered folks.Lori Lowenthal Marcus