As a followup to my open letter to Ex-President Clinton (and my response to a reporter friend's questions about Clinton's legacy issues), here's an example of how a legacy is being created, day-by-day, by another ex-president.
In an August 2nd interview with Der Spiegel, Ex-President Jimmy Carter said:
CARTER: Our country always had a policy of not going to war unless our own security was directly threatened and now we have a new policy of going to war on a preemptive basis. Another very serious departure from past policies is the separation of church and state. This has been a policy since the time of Thomas Jefferson and my own religious beliefs are compatible with this. The other principle is basic justice. We've never had an administration before that so overtly and clearly and consistently passed tax reform bills that were uniquely targeted to benefit the richest people in our country at the expense or the detriment of the working families of America.Also:
SPIEGEL: But wasn't Israel the first to get attacked?And most importantly:
CARTER: I don't think that Israel has any legal or moral justification for their massive bombing of the entire nation of Lebanon. What happened is that Israel is holding almost 10,000 prisoners, so when the militants in Lebanon or in Gaza take one or two soldiers, Israel looks upon this as a justification for an attack on the civilian population of Lebanon and Gaza. I do not think that's justified, no.
SPIEGEL: One main point of your book is the rather strange coalition between Christian fundamentalists and the Republican Party. How can such a coalition of the pious lead to moral catastrophes like the Iraqi prison scandal in Abu Ghraib and torture in Guantanamo?To Ex-President Clinton: I rest my case for alltruism rather than concerns of legacy.
CARTER: The fundamentalists believe they have a unique relationship with God, and that they and their ideas are God's ideas and God's premises on the particular issue. Therefore, by definition since they are speaking for God anyone who disagrees with them is inherently wrong. And the next step is: Those who disagree with them are inherently inferior, and in extreme cases -- as is the case with some fundamentalists around the world -- it makes your opponents sub-humans, so that their lives are not significant. Another thing is that a fundamentalist can't bring himself or herself to negotiate with people who disagree with them because the negotiating process itself is an indication of implied equality. And so this administration, for instance, has a policy of just refusing to talk to someone who is in strong disagreement with them -- which is also a radical departure from past history. And, of course, fundamentalists don't believe they can make mistakes, so when we permit the torture of prisoners in Guantanamo or Abu Ghraib, it's just impossible for a fundamentalist to admit that a mistake was made.
SPIEGEL: So how does this proximity to Christian fundamentalism manifest itself politically?
CARTER: Unfortunately, after September 11th, there was an outburst in America of intense suffering and patriotism, and the Bush administration was very shrewd and effective in painting anyone who disagreed with the policies as unpatriotic or even traitorous. For three years, I'd say, the major news media in our country were complicit in this subservience to the Bush administration out of fear that they would be accused of being disloyal. I think in the last six months or so some of the media have now begun to be critical. But it's a long time coming.
To Ex-President Carter: Bravo for saying clearly and boldly what needs to be said.
And to all of the rest of us, here's one more thing Carter said that involves us directly:
CARTER: There is a self-corrective aspect to our country. And I think that the first step is going to be in the November election this year. This year, the Democrats have a good chance of capturing one of the houses of Congress. I think the Senate is going to be a very close decision. My oldest son is running for the US Senate in the state of Nevada. And if just he and a few others can be successful then you have the US Senate in Democratic hands and that will make a profound and immediate difference.Let's help that self-corrective aspect affect change this November. Campaign for who you believe will make the boldest contribution, back your beliefs with money and action, and vote. I'll be doing the same.