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a Crisis in the Land

President Jimmy Carter


... 39th President of the United States. Political and religious fundamentalists in the Bush Administration threaten America’s heritage, traditional values and are destroying its reputation, President Carter says in Our Endangered Values: America’s Moral Crisis. It’s the first of his 20 books to focus on politics. Having had a distinguished military career, President Carter also won the Nobel Peace Prize for his work forwarding peace, democracy and justice. He and his wife, Rosalynn Carter, actively participate in projects around the world through The Carter Center, which they founded. President Carter is a lifelong evangelical Christian.


Fundamentalism -- both political and religious -- is striking at the heart of democracy in America, says the nation’s 39th President, Jimmy Carter. President Carter has meticulously documented the source -- political fundamentalists in the Bush Administration and Republican Party, in lockstep with religious fundamentalists. President Carter sounds the alarm -- America must reclaim its heritage.

Profound changes of the nation's direction coincided with the assumption of power by the Bush Administration in 2000, President Carter says, but the threat is much greater. For more than two decades and very publicly, what President Carter calls an "ostentatious" merger has been going on between right-wing, conservative, fundamentalist religious leaders on the one hand, and the right-wing, conservative elements of the Republic Party on the other. Not only was it not a secret, President Carter says, there was a lot of bragging on both sides. And, he warns, it is unprecedented in American history.

These changes in America's direction are no accident, President Carter knows. No, Americans have not been vigilant. But the Bush Administration has also willfully misled people, fed America bad information and withheld crucial facts while aggressively attacking precious ideals embraced by Presidents of both parties over decades and centuries. President Carter meticulously documents troubling truths for those ready to face facts.

Seismic, dramatic, radical changes threaten the very core of America’s traditions values, President Carter demonstrates on practically every front. At stake are simple justice; the fundamental rule of law, domestically and under binding international treaties, enforced and applied equally to all; religious freedom; a nation dedicated to pursuing peace rather than instigating wars; a growing threat of nuclear annihilation; a nation becoming less and less secure; the environment under siege at the same time its economy is threatened.

The list is long and deeply troubling, President Carter says, watching America's core values crumble day-by-day before a host of assaults -- America torturing prisoners internationally; the Administration admitting to spying on Americans despite the fact that it is illegal; new policies for declaring war or setting policies of pre-emptive war rather than following an ancient commitment of all American Presidents not to go to war unless America's security is directly threatened.

Now for the good news. President Carter has great confidence in the American people. We have a track record of correcting our mistakes when we can make decisions based on good information. Americans did, after all, turn back McCarthyism's extremists.

Demand the truth. Require officeholders to serve, not rule. Reject rule by the elite -- any elite. Be vigilant. Mainstream media forgot after 9/11 that its job is to tell the truth -- if yours doesn't, find one that does. And never forget: The People are the sole source of power in this nation which birthed a revolutionary idea: ordinary people can govern themselves.


[This Program was recorded January 19, 2006, in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S.]

The Conversation


Deeply concerned about massive, dramatic changes to America’s domestic and foreign policy, former President Jimmy Carter tells Paula Gordon and Bill Russell about a reassuring feeling -- when Americans are informed, they have a strong self-corrective capacity. President Carter revisits inaccurate, misleading and bad information leading up to America’s invasion of Iraq.

Dramatic and unprecedented changes inaugurated in Washington starting in 2000 drove him to write Our Endangered Values, President Carter says. He gives a litany of retrogressive departures from the policies of all previous administrations of both parties, all of which threaten basic American values.

Fundamentalism -- in politics as well as in religion -- strikes at the heart of democracy, President Carter says. He outlines the 3 characteristics of any kind of fundamentalism, then gives a series of examples of fundamentalism’s powerfully destructive results, from today’s U.S. Congress to the very public and “ostentatious” merger of right-wing religious fundamentalists and right-wing conservative elements of the Republican Party. The hazards are unprecedented in America, President Carter says, but widely understood in Iran, Saudi Arabia and other places where one religion dominates and dissent is restrained or prohibited.

Speaking from his private religious convictions, President Carter reminds listeners that Christ emphasized humility and servanthood, never domination or prestige, was the Prince of Peace, not of pre-emptive war. There’s a need for religious people in public office -- whether a devout Catholic like John F. Kennedy or a devout Protestant like himself, President Carter says -- not to show any preference of one religion over others, to offer exactly equal treatment of all citizens of the United States, whatever they believe.

“ Simple Justice” is very complex, important and endangered, President Carter says, and expands. He strongly objects to the idea that a U.S. administration can pick and choose what laws or treaties it will obey, including whether or not it will break the law to spy on Americans. The essential role of voting and challenges to that democratic lynchpin are examined.

President Carter talks about the many, many things about the Bush administration’s actions that Americans do not know, and why. Cautioning Americans to be vigilant and the media to tell the truth, President Carter urges the media to get past their post-9/11 timidity and reticence, concerned they are seriously undermining democracy.

The United States is NOT at war, President Carter reiterates, and shows how effectively the current American administration has confined the suffering resulting from actions in Iraq to a tiny percentage of Americans, while further enriching the nation’s wealthiest. The Abramoff scandal leads President Carter to join with President Eisenhower in warning about the threats from America’s military-industrial complex, from energy policies to grave threats of nuclear proliferation.

Violence begets violence, says President Carter, who reports on how dramatically America’s reputation has fallen in the world, again showing how a fundamentalist mindset freezes out possibility. He repeats his belief that a free American political system can correct its mistakes, eliminate extremism, and revive the virtues that made America great.



President Carter understands that those elected to public office are there to serve, not rule. His notable integrity and unceasing, constructive approaches to difficult challenges are shining reminders of what “politics” is supposed to mean. He sets a standard toward which America must again stretch if we are ever to re-establish a leadership role in the world.

From 1977 to 1981, when he served his nation as President, Jimmy Carter “walked the talk” of public service and integrity. It is good to have a living example of how it can be done from inside “The People’s House.” It is also no surprise that President Jimmy Carter is described by people far and wide as “the Best Ex-President America Ever Had.” For the many who consider President Carter a hero, we thank him.

The Carter Center is an important resource to the world, to the nation and to Atlanta. We appreciate the welcoming hospitality we received when recording this program in President Carter’s private conference room. The Carter Center’s Director of Information who also serves President and Mrs. Carter as Press Secretary, Deanna Congileo, was particularly helpful.

Additional Links:

President Carter’s books range from Our Endangered Values: America’s Moral Crisis, published by Simon & Schuster, to his memoir, An Hour before Daylight, and poetry including Always a Reckoning, both Random House books, to 17 other books, some with spiritual themes.

The Carter Center, which former President Carter and his wife, Rosalynn Carter, founded in 1982, is located in Atlanta, GA. It works in 65 countries, all over the world, “Waging Peace, Fighting Disease, Building Hope.”

Rev. Robin Meyers provides a complementary view of fundamentalism and Christian alternatives in Why the Christian Right is Wrong: A Minister's Manifesto for Taking Back Your Faith, Your Flag, Your Future.

Rev. Jim Wallis looks at the dangers of fundamentalism from an evangelical Christian perspective.

Cornel West brilliantly explores the challenges and opportunities of democracy in Democracy Matter and in a conversation with us.

Susan Jacoby traces an unfamiliar secular history of the United States in Freethinkers.

Canadian Provincial Premiers Gary Doer and Bernard Lord work across party lines and geographic distance to create solutions for their constituents.

In The Coming Democracy: New Rules for Running a New World, Ann Florini looks at how democracy can be adapted to work in a globalized environment.

Jane Goodall and Jonathan Granoff look at the success of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and the dangers of failing to implement all of its parts.

Marian Hobbs is New Zealand’s former Minister of Disarmament & Nuclear Non-Proliferation for one of those “middle states” (countries which have the capacity to produce nuclear weapons but, under the terms of the NPT have agreed not to acquire or build these weapons) of which President Carter speaks.

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