Jimmy Carter: Democracy, Not Muslim Brotherhood, Will Prevail in Egypt
ABC News on Campus reporter Ashley Jennings blogs:
Last night, former President Jimmy Carter told a crowd of 900-plus students and Austin residents that he doesn’t fear that the Muslim Brotherhood will take power in Egypt and that he believes President Obama handled the situation in Egypt properly.
And speaking of his own presidency, Carter said, “My proudest accomplishment was that I never dropped a bomb, fired a bullet or shot a missile.”
Photo courtesy of Fanny Trang/Daily Texan.
The event, “A Conversation with Former President Jimmy Carter,” was prompted in part by the former President’s latest book, “White House Diary,” and was sponsored by the LBJ Library and led by its executive director, Mark K. Updegrove. It took place in the Lyndon B. Johnson Auditorium on the UT Austin campus.
Updegrove started the conversation by asking Carter about current affairs in the Middle East. The former president negotiated the Camp David Accords in 1978, which set up a peace treaty between Egypt and Israel. At the time Anwar al-Sadat was Egypt’s president, Menachem Begin Israel’s prime minister.
“I think the Middle East is still a testing box for the whole world, and I say that greatly recognizing that there are other places threatening to erupt,” Carter said. “And I include the Middle East as a totality, of course, not only including Lebanon but also Pakistan.”
Carter said when he became president he wanted to bring peace to the Holy Land. He refers to Anwar Sadat as the finest person he’s ever met.
In October 1979, Sadat was assassinated and Hosni Mubarak became president.
“And after following such an enlightening leader for years, Mubarak became infatuated with power and they were getting very rich in investing in money made schemes and wouldn’t let anyone challenge him for president,” Carter said. “So for 30 years there was no form of democracy or freedom; it became increasingly abusive.”
The Carter Center, the former president’s humanitarian organization, will be sending a delegation to Egypt within a few weeks to visit with military leaders, help draft a constitution and set up democratic elections for September.
The former president has also met members of the Muslim Brotherhood during his time in Egypt. According to Carter, only 15 percent of Egyptians would actually vote for the Brotherhood during elections.
“I think that the Muslim Brotherhood is not anything to be afraid of,” Carter said. “They will be subsumed in the overwhelming demonstration of desire for freedom and democracy.”
In terms of U.S. involvement, Carter said President Obama handled the situation just as he would have and stressed the importance of “loyalty to Mubarak in the beginning.”
The Nobel Prize winner also discussed life as a peanut farmer, his unexpected win for the White House and a few of his most cherished memories as president, including his philosophy of peaceful negotiations.
Carter did not forget that many in his audience were students. “I would like for the young people of the coming generations to strive for transcendence in political affairs, for superb accomplishments not just in your own profession, but in America.”
Updegrove wrote two books on the presidency, “Baptism By Fire: Eight Presidents Who Took Office in Times of Crisis” and “Second Acts: Presidential Lives and Legacies After the White House.” The event was part of the Harry Middleton Lectureship Series. Middleton, who served on President Johnson’s White House staff, also attended the event. He says Lady Bird Johnson would have been proud.
“Carter brings a vantage point that not very many people have,” Middleton told reporters. “He occupied the most important position in the world for four years.”
UT senior Michael Hurta said, “When he named at least five different diseases … and all of the issues in foreign countries that have come up because of them, it just shows what kind of person he is- that’s he’s fighting to end such problems,”
Hurta added, Carter’s political and charitable efforts after his presidency has made him different from most presidents and keeps him in a leadership position.
“I left with this urgency in my stomach to be an advocate for human rights because that’s what he stresses — regardless of political association, every American should care about human rights,” he said.