Saturday, August 30, 2008

Jimmy Carter Conspicuously Absent From Podium

By Brett Lieberman and Nathan Guttman

28/08/08 "The Forward" -- - Denver — 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.

Breaking with the tradition of giving speech time to living former presidents, convention organizers honored Carter with only a short video clip highlighting his work with Hurricane Katrina victims and a brief walk across the Pepsi Center stage.

The sidelining of Carter was driven by recognition in the Obama camp and among Democratic leaders that giving the former president a prominent convention spot might alienate Jewish voters.

“What more could we do to diss Jimmy Carter?” said a Democratic official who was involved in deliberations on how to handle the former president’s presence at the convention. The treatment Carter received, the official added, “reflects the bare minimum that could be done for a former president.”

Although Carter says limiting his presence at the convention was his idea, denying him a speaking opportunity ends a two-year struggle for the party over how to deal with the controversial former president. Since Carter published a book in November 2006 accusing Israel of practicing apartheid against the Palestinians, Democrats have been trying to distance themselves from the former president and to convince Jewish activists that he does not represent the party line.

Carter’s status at the convention was an issue for the Democratic leadership going back to the early preparation stages, a party official said. The solution to what one Democratic official referred to as “the Carter problem,” however, was not found until the final run-up to the Denver convention.



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