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NYT: Jimmy Carter the Book Tour (Soon to Be a Major Motion Picture)

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  • Ram Lau
    http://www.nytimes.com/2007/10/11/books/11cart.html October 11, 2007 Jimmy Carter the Book Tour (Soon to Be a Major Motion Picture) By PATRICIA COHEN People
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 12, 2007
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      http://www.nytimes.com/2007/10/11/books/11cart.html
      October 11, 2007
      Jimmy Carter the Book Tour (Soon to Be a Major Motion Picture)
      By PATRICIA COHEN

      People started waiting at the Union Square Barnes & Noble at 1:30 p.m.
      on Monday, five hours before former President Jimmy Carter was
      scheduled to begin signing his latest book. By 5, the event was filled
      to capacity. In the line that snaked through the fourth floor was a
      couple who had dressed their toddler in a T-shirt that declared, "I'm
      nuts about Jimmy Carter," and a man who had bought 50 copies of Mr.
      Carter's "Beyond the White House: Waging Peace, Fighting Disease and
      Building Hope" (Simon & Schuster), to be autographed and saved for
      Christmas presents.

      Not Harry Potter, but not bad.

      Once he arrived, Mr. Carter, 83, cheerfully whipped through the books
      — 1,600 in about 90 minutes — with the machinelike efficiency of a
      subject in a time-and-motion study. A book tour, he said, is "like
      being on the campaign trail." There are back-to-back interviews,
      frequent airplane flights, long lines of eager people to meet. And at
      the end of the day, whether from too many handshakes or too many
      signatures, you've got a sore hand.

      If it seems as if Mr. Carter was just on a book tour, it's because he
      was, less than a year ago. That volume, "Palestine: Peace Not
      Apartheid," received both plaudits and bitter condemnations —
      including charges of bigotry, anti-Semitism and bad faith — mostly
      because its title suggested that conditions in the Israeli-occupied
      territories were comparable to those that existed for blacks in
      white-ruled South Africa.

      Mr. Carter's new book, his 24th, is something of a valentine to
      himself; his wife, Rosalynn; and his colleagues at the Carter Center
      in Atlanta, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary. In it he
      surveys the dozens of projects, from monitoring elections to treating
      Guinea worm disease in Africa to defusing a nuclear crisis with North
      Korea, that contributed to his winning the Nobel Peace Prize in 2002
      and changed the job description of ex-president from has-been to hero.
      It is a reputation that some critics felt he had tarnished with
      "Palestine."

      "To my consternation, many people just concentrated on the word
      apartheid" and ignored everything else, Mr. Carter said in an
      interview. "The furor probably sold a couple of hundred thousand more
      copies," he said, but drowned out more nuanced discussions about the
      troubled region. The intense emotions were captured in a documentary
      shot during that book tour by the director Jonathan Demme. "Jimmy
      Carter Man From Plains" is scheduled for release later this month.

      At the moment, the book signing was still a few hours off, and Mr.
      Carter was seated by a window in his suite in a Manhattan hotel. An
      occasional blaring horn or rhythmic drumbeat floated up from the
      Columbus Day marchers on Fifth Avenue.

      Although he maintains that the Palestine book's overall effect was
      beneficial, Mr. Carter conceded that the controversy "did hurt my
      nonexistent ability to be a mediator in the Middle East" —
      nonexistent, he explained, because he would not undertake the role
      without White House approval, and no president, Republican or
      Democrat, has ever asked him. Now, he said, he would be seen as
      favoring the Palestinians.

      Since his brokering of the Camp David peace accord between Egypt and
      Israel in 1978, the Middle East has devoured more of his time, effort
      and heart than any other single issue, he said, yet the situation is
      much worse today. "We've had seven years now without a single day of
      good faith, substantive talks," he said, calling President Bush's
      failure to pursue a resolution aggressively "unconscionable."

      Given the influence of the Israel lobby — the most powerful in the
      country, Mr. Carter said — he is not convinced that another president
      would be willing to do what he considers necessary.

      "Can the next president say that Palestinian rights need to be
      protected?" he asked. "Can the next president say that Resolution 242
      needs to be implemented?," he said, referring to the United Nations
      directive calling on Israel to withdraw from occupied territories.

      "Can the next president say that settlements in the West Bank are an
      obstacle to peace? I don't know."

      Aside from the Middle East, Mr. Carter has focused largely on parts of
      the globe that don't usually get sustained attention from a sitting
      president. Last week Mr. Carter, who is not one serenely to accept
      "no" for an answer, got into an angry exchange with a security
      official in Darfur about visiting the chief of a village that had
      taken in thousands of refugees. Despite losing his temper, Mr. Carter
      said he realized the guard was just doing his job.

      Yesterday, in an interview scheduled to be broadcast by the BBC, Mr.
      Carter again criticized the Bush administration, calling Vice
      President Dick Cheney a "disaster" and a "militant," with undue
      influence on foreign policy, according to Reuters. Despite the
      successes of his après-presidency, Mr. Carter still believes that
      government can accomplish more than a planeload of well-intentioned
      philanthropists, volunteers and, particularly, private contractors.
      "We depend upon intermediaries, American contractors," Mr. Carter
      said, but, he added, they cannot necessarily be trusted to deliver the
      goods where they're needed, efficiently and honestly.

      Recently attention has focused on Blackwater USA, the private firm
      handling security in Iraq that has been accused of recklessly killing
      civilians and operating without proper oversight. When it comes to
      corruption, incompetence and waste among private contractors, Mr.
      Carter said that "exactly the same thing" went on in the relief and
      aid industry. "It may even be more wasteful," he added.

      Efficiency would be significantly increased, he said, "if the
      government did it more directly."

      Mr. Carter credits his mother, "Miss Lillian," a registered nurse who
      died in 1983, for his ethic of public service, recalling how she
      treated their poor and black neighbors when he was a boy in Plains.
      Ga. His next book, already finished and scheduled for release next
      Mother's Day, is about her.

      Rosalynn Carter shares those instincts for public service, he noted.
      When Mr. Carter was president, the First Lady startled some
      traditionalists by attending Cabinet meetings. If he had been in the
      White House in the 1990s, might his wife have tried to follow him into
      office, as Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton is doing?

      "If we were 20 years younger, it's a possibility," Mr. Carter said.
      Though a presidential bid seems somewhat remote, he said, he could
      envision her returning to Georgia and then running for senator.
      "Rosalynn is really more of a political person than I am," he said.
      When he lost his re-election bid to Ronald Reagan in 1980, he
      recalled, "Rosalynn was much more grieved and despondent than I was."

      Reflecting on the Democratic campaigns of Senator Clinton, of New
      York, and Senator Barack Obama, of Illinois, Mr. Carter said he
      believed that the nation was not only willing to put a woman in the
      Oval Office but also an African-American, despite persistent racism.
      "I really do think so," he said.

      As for the current president, what would Mr. Carter advise Mr. Bush to
      do once his term ends in 2009? "Just to do his own thing."
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