Press Conference with Former President Jimmy Carter
January 18, 2004
Former President Jimmy Carter and former Vermont Governor Howard Dean hold a joint press conference.
JIMMY CARTER, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: ... January, but there was a conflict with an afternoon debate in Iowa, so we had to postpone it until today.
So it's a very wonderful blessing for me personally, for our church, Maranatha Baptist Church, and for Plains to have this distinguished guest here.
I also want to express my public thanks for Howard Dean because his first entry into politics was to help lead my campaign for president in Vermont.
And we did...
HOWARD DEAN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It was mostly writing addresses...
CARTER: That's all right. That's all right, because we carried most of Vermont, right?
DEAN: You did. You did.
CARTER: How well did it go?
DEAN: Seventy-five percent in the primary.
CARTER: And he points out we got 75 percent of the votes in Vermont.
DEAN: In the primary.
CARTER: In the primary.
Anyway, we are delighted to have him here. This is a chance for us to worship together. It just happened that the lesson this morning was from the Book of Job, which I understand is one of Governor Dean's favorites.
But this is a worldwide lesson selection called a uniform lesson series. And all this month for four lessons we are studying from the Book of Job, which I think is very pertinent, because I remember quite distinctly, when I won in Iowa and then won in New Hampshire, I couldn't believe all the accusations leveled against me and the criticisms made against me. And I really had a great affinity for the Book of Job in those days, as well.
One of the questions that comes up quite frequently, I notice, on the news media is, how can a Yankee do well in the South, and does a person have to be from the South to win? Well, I was the first person from the South who was elected president in 132 years, after James K. Polk, who was living in Tennessee, born in North Carolina, was elected. I mentioned this in my lesson this morning.
But when I first went to Massachusetts, I went to one of their Revolutionary battle scenes. I had two reporters there, and the first thing they asked me was, “How do you expect to come from Georgia and do anything in Massachusetts?” And I pointed out to them that when John Kennedy ran for president, obviously from Massachusetts, he got a higher percentage of votes in Georgia than he did in Massachusetts.
So I think that this is a kind of environment in the political arena where it doesn't really matter what state is your home state. What matters is the message that will be presented to the American people.
I have made an announcement in advance that I'm not going to endorse any particular candidate. But I have been particularly grateful at the courageous and outspoken posture and position that Governor Dean has taken from the very beginning.
I spent a lot of time, in the last year and a half, strongly opposing the completely unnecessary and unjust war in Iraq.
And despite my strongest effort, the war has commenced, and now has proven to be not only based on erroneous information and misleading statements, but also a sustained demonstration of tragedy.
Yesterday three American soldiers were killed. This morning 22 more people were killed, two of them Americans. We've had 500 Americans killed in this war, 3,000 other Americans injured, some extremely seriously. And no telling what's going to happen in the future.
So the fact that he supported me in 1980, the fact that he was a strong and open advocate of peace whenever possible instead of war, and his outspoken nature, sometimes saying things that might have to be retracted, which I had to do as well when I ran for president, has made it very harmonious between me and him.
What we all want to see, all us Democrats, is someone to defeat the incumbent and to bring a Democrat back to the White House.
And I want to introduce my friend at our vista (ph) and a fellow Christian, Governor Howard Dean.
DEAN: Thank you. Thank you. Well, we're accustomed to having a very raucous crew, and I appreciate that very much. It's a little incongruous on a Sunday morning in Plains standing next to the former president of the United States, but-well, a little more of that is fine, too. We appreciate it.
Let me thank President and Mrs. Carter for their extraordinary and wonderful hospitality. This has been a great opportunity. We had a chance to visit in their home a little bit earlier.
And as you know, I got into politics because of Jimmy Carter. I was a big fan of his in 1976 when he first ran, but I was in medical school and I couldn't do much to help him. But in 1980, I was finishing up my residency, and the woman down the street, which I know the president will remember, State Senator Esther Surrell (ph) from Vermont, was leading his campaign. And she turned out to be a next- door neighbor and my political mentor, as I went to work licking envelopes and making phone calls and all of those things that 3,000 or 4,000 young people and not-so-young people in Iowa are doing right now for us.
And I am very grateful for the moral model that Jimmy Carter provided for America when he was president of the United States, both at home and abroad.
I think we find ourselves in a troubled time, a time when ordinary Americans are struggling to make a living, they're struggling to help their kids do better than they did, in the traditional American way.
We find ourselves having lost our moral leadership with the world over the last year or so, and I think this country deserves to be the moral leader of the world.
And I hope to follow the example of Jimmy Carter, who was the first president who systematically linked human rights with foreign policy, another thing I greatly admire about President Carter.
So, you know, I'm going to resist the temptation to give a big, long political speech here. But I am going to say we're now on our way back to Iowa, because that is, about 36 hours from now, going to be a very, very important place. And it has been a very important place for me for two years.
I came to speak with President Carter over a year-and-a-half ago because he did what I hope to do tomorrow night.
And I really appreciate the lesson you've given, the path that you've blazed. This is really a dream. I have not been in Plains before. I'd always hoped to come here, and this has been a great opportunity for me.
So I want to thank again President and Mrs. Carter for their extraordinary hospitality. I particularly want to thank President Jimmy Carter, one, for getting me into politics and, two, for providing a moral example for all Americans. Because what we need is to restore the honor and the dignity and the morality in the White House in foreign leadership and domestic leadership, so that ordinary Americans can have their country back.
Thanks very much.
Content and programming Copyright 2004 Cable News Network Transcribed under license by FDCH e-Media, Inc.