Carter Lends a Helping Hand
Sometimes in our political culture, when we are in the midst of a particularly trying national conversation on a polarizing issue, former presidents can use their clout as senior statesmen to act as honest-brokers in an attempt to calm the stormy political waters. Unfortunately, such is not to be the fate of our 39th president, Jimmy Carter. A favorite target of Republican ridicule, the former president has once again held himself up as a lighting rod for controversy by suggesting that much of the anti-Obama fervor around the country is being driven by fear of a black president. While Carter may be weighing in on a difficult but important question, it is clear that the White House has worked assiduously to avoid engaging this issue, even as it has erupted again (since the campaign) with the You lie! controversy.
Ever since President Carter first started flirting with the idea of publicly endorsing candidate Obama in the spring of 2008, I have written a series of posts looking at the somewhat awkward relationship between the two men (you can track back through them starting here). It has been fascinating to watch the contortions through which the Obama team has gone on the campaign trail and in the White House to show proper respect for their party’s elder statesman, while essentially keeping him at arm’s-length. And, this current episode only reinforces that gymnastic imperative for them.

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