It's late in the campaign season, time for the networks to pull out all the stops promoting the greatness of the Democratic Party. But you can only stoop so low, right? You wouldn't actually try to boost the reputation of the most discredited president in fifty years if he were a Democrat, would you? Oh yes, you would, if you're NBC's Katie Couric.
Katie has a long history of boosting former president Jimmy Carter, so much so that it was reported the Man from Plains thanked her personally when he won the Nobel Peace Prize. So on the occasion of Carter's 80th birthday, Katie had a two-part interview with Carter to get his elder-statesman insights on just how much of a disaster is Iraq, and how John Kerry can beat that atrocious President Bush.
By itself, the second part might have been understandable, as a promotional videotape for the Carter Center. Couric softly recounted Carter's life story. She cited the Carter Center's successes in trying to eradicate river blindness and Guinea Worm Disease in underdeveloped countries. She cited his work for "ending human rights abuses" around the world.
Understandable - if it had stopped there. But when talk returned to today's politics, she allowed freshly sainted Carter to mourn the "vitriolic" nature of today's politics.
Didn't Couric watch Carter's viciously negative Boston speech? Unlike Bush, Kerry "showed up" for Vietnam. Kerry had "maturity and judgment," not Bush. But worst of all, Carter had the audacity to declare Bush has an "unbroken series of mistakes and miscalculations" in foreign policy. This from the man responsible for the fatally flawed Desert One hostage-rescue attempt, and on whose watch ten countries were placed under the Communist yoke as Carter circled the globe apologizing for America.
Carter's jeremiad against Bush in Boston was summed up in one sentence: "Ultimately, the issue is whether America will provide global leadership that springs from the unity and integrity of the American people, or whether extremist doctrines and the manipulation of truth will define America's role in the world." To Carter, Bush is a dangerous, lying extremist who endangers "our nation's soul."
And from Katie Couric, not a peep.
Instead, Couric talked to Carter about Sen. Zell Miller's stern-faced scolding of John Kerry at the Republican convention, and Carter complained politics today is "increasingly partisan and vitriolic in nature - quite dramatically different than when I ran for president. I never referred to President Reagan or President Ford as anything except my distinguished opponent."
Come again? For starters, see October 1976, when Carter mocked President Ford's debate gaffe about Poland not being under Soviet domination by suggesting Ford was "brainwashed" in Poland. As for Reagan, just know that historian Steven Hayward's new book "The Real Jimmy Carter" has an entire chapter entitled "Reelect President Vicious."
But wait, it gets worse. Couric then turned to Carter's place in history: "I know it really bugs you when people say what a great ex-president you have been." Carter laughed, and then Couric plunged deeper: "That does bug you, and it bugs Rosalynn as well, because you believe it's implicit in that comment that you weren't a great president."
Carter thinks he's a great president? Crushing inflation, double-digit interest rates, military incompetence, continuous foreign policy embarrassments, but on the whole, a great presidency. Trying to insist Carter is a great president is like trying to insist "Gigli" is a great movie.
Carter then took a minute or two to boast of how he was a good president, who spread peace, and "doubled the size of our national park system." He touted the Camp David accords "that I was able to accomplish in 1979." (Apparently the Israelis and the Egyptians had no role in that accomplishment.) Unfortunately for his otherwise untarnished legacy, Carter suggested there were some national problems that were not his fault. They just "afflicted" America. "We were afflicted by the hostages being held. And we were afflicted by an international high inflation rate that affected us and everybody else." The voters didn't buy that in 1980, which is why they threw him out of office.
Katie's apple-polishing concluded as Carter described how he stays busy writing books, oil painting, making furniture, and taking care of the family farm, causing Couric to wonder, in complete servility: "Is there anything you don't do?" Carter beamed and said: "Well, there's some things I want to do better."
NBC could do a lot better than this embarrassment. Apparently, giving three days of interviews to Kitty Kelley and her wacky gossip about the Bushes (psst, Laura Bush sold dope, pass it on) wasn't ridiculous enough during the fall campaign season. It makes you wonder what journalistic atrocity they'll attempt next.