Chris Matthews did his best on Wednesday to get Jimmy Carter to fulsomely endorse Hillary Clinton for president in 2016, but just couldn't quite get a satisfying answer. In an interview on Hardball, Matthews began by noting how the former president has been "championing the cause" of "equal rights for women." He pressed, "Has a woman president -- has that time arrived? Obviously talking about Secretary Clinton here."
Carter proceeded to avoid the question and instead talk about women's rights in the world. So, Matthews, tried again: "Well, what do you think would be good about having Hillary Clinton president?" Again, Carter dodged. This prompted Matthews to later chide: "I expect that Hillaryland will notice the sin of omission." [MP3 audio here.]
At one point, Matthews appeared frustrated at Carter's refusal, noting, "Maybe you don't want to say you want to endorse her or anything, but it seems to me you might have an opinion."
The best Carter could do was offer a mild agreement that a Hillary Clinton presidency would spotlight women's issues around the world.
JIMMY CARTER: Well, I don't think there's any doubt that having President Obama in office has elevated the awareness of inequality of treatment between the races. And I imagine that Hillary Clinton would be fervent as a president, if she's elected, in promoting the equal rights of women.
A transcript of the April 9 segment is below:
CHRIS MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about Hillary Clinton. Have we reached a point -- I know you are very topical in your books -- the fact that you've written a book about women's rights and how you have to square it with different religions, like Islam, and how it's -- you're championing the cause really here of equal rights for women, true equal rights. Is this one of those ideas, like -- Todd Purdum's written about Civil Rights in the '60s, an idea whose time has come. Has a woman president -- has that time arrived? Obviously talking about Secretary Clinton here.
CARTER: Well, I think it's always been here. We should have considered a long time ago that women were equal to men in right to hold public office in this country. If you look at all the local, state and federal level incumbents, women only occupy about 18 percent in America, which places us 78th in the entire world in total number of women compared to men in holding public office. And of course, we've had other countries that have had women prime ministers and presidents, and so forth. I know a lot of them and have known a lot of them. Some of them were champions of women's rights and some of them kind of avoided the issue because they didn't want to get involved in it.
So I'm not taking any position on a particular election, but just to show that America lags behind in women holding public office, and also women getting equal pay. And we have horrendous slavery in this country. The State Department estimates that 100,000 girls were sold into sexual slavery last year in the United States. And we know that rampant on college campuses is sexual assault, with only one out of 25 cases of sexual assault on a college campus reported to the authorities. So those are the kind of things that bother me most about American life and how we can be leaders in the world in promoting women's rights equally.
MATTHEWS: Well, what do you think would be good about having Hillary Clinton president? Maybe you don't want to say you want to endorse her or anything, but it seems to me you might have an opinion, just like having the first African-American president -- what would be the emblematic value of having Hillary as president in terms of respect for women?
CARTER: Well, I don't think there's any doubt that having President Obama in office has elevated the awareness of inequality of treatment between the races. And I imagine that Hillary Clinton would be fervent as a president, if she's elected, in promoting the equal rights of women.
I would like to see personally the Equal Rights Amendment to the United States Constitution passed. As you know, back in the days when Gerald Ford and I were in the White House, we had two thirds of the Senate and two thirds of the House approved an amendment to make Equal Rights Amendment mandatory, but we couldn't get three fourths of the states to ratify it. I'd like to see that resurrected and passed into law in our Constitution.
DAVID CORN: He really didn't look like he was enthusiastic about Hillary Clinton per se. He stuck to the issue, and that may be just he's a president and he wants to stay out of the political fray. But you know, I think the political animals who watch this show will notice, given the chance to embrace the prospect of a Hillary Clinton presidency warmly, Jimmy Carter chose not to do so.
MATTHEWS: I expect that Hillaryland will notice the sin of omission.