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Jimmy Carter: Supreme Court seems eager to see rich people become more powerful

Former President Jimmy Carter says the power wielded by people who give a lot of money to political candidates has resulted in a “vast disparity in income in America” and that that has “resulted in polarization more than any other single factor.” In the second part of a wide-ranging interview, Carter talks with Judy Woodruff about how his own faith, the NRA and allegations against the president.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    And now for the second part of my wide-ranging interview with former President Jimmy Carter.

  • We spoke in New York, ahead of the release of his latest book, “Faith:

    A Journey For All.”

    I asked him about how his own faith has been tested over the years, most recently when doctors discovered four spots of cancer in his brain.

  • Jimmy Carter:

    I was really surprised, when I felt I only had two or three weeks to live, and I was perfectly at ease with it.

    I was prepared to have the end of my life come. And I was infected in a very beneficial way with just an appreciation of what my life had been. And, luckily, they treated my brain with radiation, and then I got a new treatment that enhanced my immune system.

    And only about a third of the people respond favorably to that kind of treatment, but I was one of those one-third, so I was very lucky.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Did your faith get you through that time?

  • Jimmy Carter:

    I think so. I have been religious all my life, I guess.

    And I think that enhanced my ability to accommodate the prospect of death.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    President Carter, there’s such a high level of polarization in this country right now, and you write about it in the book.

    It’s rural vs. urban. It’s left vs. right, red vs. blue. Do you think there’s a way to get beyond this?

  • Jimmy Carter:

    I think a lot of it is due to the massive influx of money into the campaigns.

    When I ran against Gerald Ford, who was the president of the United States then, you know how much money we raised for the general elections? Zero.

    I would like to see the money aspect to elections reduced in this country dramatically.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    The Supreme Court, though, has said money is speech.

  • Jimmy Carter:

    The Supreme Court — I don’t have much confidence in the Supreme Court doing this.

    But one thing that the Supreme Court is considering that would help is to do away with the gerrymandering. That is the acquisition of power by either the Republican or Democratic Party within a state.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    I talk to people all around the country who say — and I’m sure you hear it — that they feel that members of families can’t even talk among themselves about American politics.

  • Jimmy Carter:

    That’s true.

    I think that the massive use of money and the power that goes to the people who give a lot of money to a candidate has resulted in this vast disparity in income in America, and has resulted in the polarization more than any other single factor.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And corrupted politics?

  • Jimmy Carter:

    I think it’s corrupted in a way, although I can’t say against the law, because the law is established by the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court seems to be eager to see rich people become more powerful and to see corporations become more powerful than individuals with their — with their previous rulings.

    So I think, with the presently constituted Supreme Court, there’s very little chance that we will see money removed from politics.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    President Carter, the recent school — terrible school shooting in Parkland, Florida, this follows a string of other horrible incidents in schools around our country.

    Now we see these young people, high school students, leading the way, saying they’re not going to rest until something changes. And yet the laws don’t seem to change. Congress has not responded.

    Do you think something could be different this time?

  • Jimmy Carter:

    I do.

    I think they have already shown their ability to change legislation in Florida. I think the arousing of young people all over the country, which they did this past weekend, is a good indication that they will have a permanent — more permanent effect on the — counteracting the NRA’s false premises.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    But the NRA has enormous influence. You write about it in the book. You have dealt with it for years.

    You really believe that can be pushed back?

  • Jimmy Carter:

    I don’t have much confidence in it, but I think, if anybody can do it, these young people, if they stick with it — I think the NRA is facing the greatest challenge that it has in the last 15 or 20 years.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    President Carter, you have been married to the same woman for, I think, 72 years? Is that right?

  • Jimmy Carter:

    Yes, almost 73. We will make it to July.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Rosalynn, Rosalynn Carter.

    How do you process the stories in recent weeks and months about women who allege either affairs with President Trump or sexual harassment by President Trump?

  • Jimmy Carter:

    Well, I think that President Trump’s solid base of support is going to be unshaken by it.

    For many people, perhaps marginal groups, enough to sway the election in 2018 and 2020, will be affected adversely against Trump because of these reports of multiple women — I think 17 or 18 women — I have forgotten how many — who have alleged previous sexual escapades with President Trump, even after he was married.

    So, this is something that is regrettable, but the revelation of it, I think, has been shaken off by most of his core supporters.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Should it factor into how we assess the character, the performance of a president in office, to know these kinds of things?

  • Jimmy Carter:

    I think it should be factored in, yes.

    But I think, for some of the marginal voters that might sway the election toward Democrats in 2018, I think — I think that might certainly be a major factor. I hope so.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    You, of course, were the antidote to the Nixon years. Do you see a Democrat out whether there who could be the Jimmy Carter of 2020?

    (LAUGHTER)

  • Jimmy Carter:

    Well, of course, the Jimmy Carter was 2020 would be almost unidentifiable at this point, because I came out of nowhere.

    But I think there are some very good people on the horizon. Joe Biden is one of them, former vice president. And others — I don’t want to start naming them — Elizabeth Warren and others — could be good presidents.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So you will definitely vote Democratic in 2020?

  • Jimmy Carter:

    Of course, if I’m alive then.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • Judy Woodruff:

    President Jimmy Carter, thank you very much for talking with us.

  • Jimmy Carter:

    It was a pleasure. Thank you.

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