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February 11, 2005
After Further Deliberation, Jimmy Carter Endorses Democracy

After a presidency where he kept demonstrating his ineptitude on foreign policy, and a post-presidential career of personal diplomacy that has without exception proved disastrous to the United States, you would expect that Jimmy Carter would have learned that he has no particular talent for international politics. Finally, some light must have shown through, as Carter now acknowledges that he was dead wrong on Iraq's elections:

Former President Jimmy Carter, who predicted that elections in Iraq would fail and in the past year described the Bush administration's policy there as a quagmire, this week ended 10 days of silence to declare the historic Iraqi vote "a very successful effort."

"I hope that we'll have every success in Iraq," Mr. Carter said in a CNN interview. "And that election, I think, was a surprisingly good step forward."

The Nobel Peace Prize winner's comments on Wednesday contradicted his September assertion that the Iraq elections could not be held by January and ended a period during which the Georgia Democrat's failure to comment prompted one critic to gloat about the election success "shaming him into silence."

Not only did Carter argue that elections should be abandoned, he also argued at the time that we should immediately withdraw from Iraq "as rapidly as possible". He predicted turnouts as low as 30%, with only Kurds and Shi'ites voting, and even yesterday still disputed the legitimacy of the election because of the Sunni boycott:

On Wednesday, even while lauding the Iraqi elections, Mr. Carter reiterated concerns about Shi'ite domination, telling CNN that "the Sunnis almost refused to participate and played a very small role in the most troubled and I'll say violent areas of Iraq."

He added: "Now the question is, will this be a Shi'ite-dominated religious organization formed as the next government, or will it be a democratic secular one? And will there be some way to encourage the Sunnis to come back in and participate?"

Interestingly, the low turnout of the Palestinian election (before Fatah changed the rules, extended the balloting, and stuffed the ballot boxes) and the boycott of Hamas had a completely different reaction from Carter. Carter described those elections as "free, honest, open and without any violence of any kind." The joint Carter Center/NDI report on the elections cast them thusly:

The January 9 Palestinian presidential election was a major accomplishment. The election was contested vigorously and administered fairly. Election day was orderly and generally peaceful. The process, organized in just 60 days in accordance with the Palestinian Basic Law and under difficult circumstances of the ongoing conflict and occupation, represents a step forward for Palestinian democracy. The successful organization of this election demonstrates the potential for the start of a new era in Palestinian politics and the development of representative and accountable governance.

So an election in which even the Palestinian poll workers quit in disgust over the rank manipulations by the only major party contesting them garners immediate praise from Jimmy Carter, while he needs ten days to decide whether or not the Iraqis held a legitimate election. It's hard to imagine that we ever elected anyone this clueless as the leader of the free world, especially since he seems so intent on reducing its size.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at February 11, 2005 5:43 AM

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