Carter convention controversy


The Anti-Defamation League isn’t thrilled that Jimmy Carter is being given a prime time speaking slot at the  Democratic National Convention in Charlotte.

The ADL’s Abraham Foxman spoke to Commentary’s Contentions blog:

“He is flawed, he’s got an obsession with Israel, a biased obsession that borders on anti-Semitism,” said Foxman. “So that’s not somebody I think should grace the podium of a national convention.”


Foxman added that Carter probably lobbied organizers for the speaking role, putting the DNC in an awkward position. “I don’t think he deserves to be there, except it’s hard to refuse a platform to a former living president especially when he asks for it,” said Foxman.

(Interestingly, The Wall Street Journal quotes Foxman saying that he wished Carter wouldn’t speak at the convention but saying that he has "earned the platform.")

The convention’s chairman, L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa had much kinder words for the former president, who will be speaking via video. Villariagosa, who has been outspoken in his support for Israel, called Carter "one of the greatest humanitarian leaders of our time and a champion of democracy around the globe." The Democratic National Committee said Tuesday that Carter would offer "unique insights about President [Barack] Obama as a global leader."

Contentions also reported on a National Jewish Democratic Coalition statement on the issue (which appears to have been issued directly to Contentions, since I couldn’t find on the group’s website):

NJDC President and CEO David Harris also unloaded on Carter in an e-mailed statement.

“When it comes to Israel and the Middle East, President Carter has unfortunately embarrassed himself — as his analysis and commentary has been stubbornly wrong, harmful to the peace process, and getting worse all the time,” said Harris. “I’m confident that he won’t be speaking to the Party about Middle East policy.”

Harris added: “I’d like to know if Senator Rand Paul will be spreading his views of the Middle East and foreign aid in Tampa.”

(Unlike Carter, and unlike his father Ron Paul, Sen. Rand Paul — who is speaking at the Republican National Convention — has refrained from harsh criticisms of Israel. But like his father, Rand Paul supports ending all foreign aid, including to Israel. Rand Paul has, however, has defended his father on Middle East issues and also raised the possibility — in contrast to both President Obama and Mitt Romney — that a nuclear Iran could be contained.)

Jewish Republicans, meanwhile, see Carter’s speaking role as a chance to score some points.

Matt Brooks, executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition, emailed Washington Post blogger Jennifer Rubin:

The fact that the DNC would offer a prime time speaking slot to Jimmy Carter highlights just how out of touch and tone deaf they are. Giving a platform to someone who has been openly hostile to Israel and equated the country to the South African apartheid regime is offensive. At a time when the Obama campaign is launching a charm offensive to the American Jewish community this message will resonate loud and clear with American Jews as to why it’s time for a change in 2012.

Rubin also got statements from the Republican National Committee and the office of Hosue Speaker John Boehner blasting the Democrats for giving Carter the speaking slot, citing his views on Israel.

Carter did not speak at the 2008 Democratic National Convention. At the time, the Forward reported: "Former president Jimmy Carter’s controversial views on Israel cost him a place on the podium at the Democratic Party convention in late August, senior Democratic operatives acknowledged to the Forward."

Instead, the former president was acknowledged with a video tribute.

Recommended from JTA