Friday, February 16, 2007

What's Jimmy Carter Afraid Of? - Editorials, The Emory Wheel

This editorial, published in Emory's student paper, The Wheel, was written in sadness that an institution which I love and treasure [and I know many of the signatories share this feeling] has chosen to go down this route. However, remember that this was caused, in great measure, by Jimmy Carter's persistant refusal to face anyone who can question him seriously and point out his misstatements of fact and far less by Emory.

What's Jimmy Carter Afraid Of? - Editorials

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What's Jimmy Carter Afraid Of?
11 Emory Professors

Posted: 2/16/07
Once again, Jimmy Carter has shrunk from debate. Despite having written a book whose purpose he claims was to promote dialogue and discussion, he has consistently dodged appearing with anyone who could challenge him on the numerous factual errors that fill the pages of his slim book.

First it was at Brandeis University, where he was invited to appear with professor Alan Dershowitz of Harvard Law School. Dershowitz, who has written two books and numerous articles on the topic (not to mention being a respected First Amendment scholar and one of America's most distinguished attorneys), was not even allowed into the building until Carter had left.

When it became known that Carter was anxious to speak at Emory, the administration consulted a group of faculty and was advised that the most fair and academically valuable format would be to have Carter appear with someone who could engage in a productive interchange and discussion on the topic. This clearly would be the only way for the event to meet the educational standard of a leading university.

Everyone agreed that the best person for this interchange was Ambassador Dennis Ross, who was the main negotiator on the Arab-Israeli situation in both the first Bush administration and the Clinton administration. He was responsible for organizing Camp David II, Clinton's last-ditch effort to find a resolution to the situation. Ross agreed to appear, but Carter pointedly refused to appear with him or with any other expert. No explanation was given.

Is this the behavior of a man who wants to promote dialogue? What precisely is Carter afraid of? Could it be that Dennis Ross - who, like President Clinton, places the blame for the failure of the negotiations between the Palestinians and Israelis at Camp David II squarely on the shoulders of Yasir Arafat - would tell the former president, who blames Israel for everything, that he is simply wrong? Remember Ross and Clinton were there; Carter was not.

The Brandeis event had sanitized pre-screened questions, no follow-up, and an audience of students clearly mesmerized by being in the presence of a former president. At least at Brandeis, Dershowitz appeared after Carter to point out that Carter's remarks (carefully scripted to appeal to the largely Jewish audience at Brandeis) were very different from what he said in the book and in numerous media events, including Al Jazeera television, where he falsely claimed that most of the critics of his book have been representatives of Jewish organizations. He has also stated on Al Jazeera that rocket barrages against Israeli homes and families are not terrorist acts. These flirtations with anti-Semitism - however unconscious - have frightened Jewish -Americans.

The Wheel says that it's best to let Carter have "the last word" because to do otherwise will "only prolong the debate indefinitely into the future." As if the debate will go away if Jimmy Carter is allowed a platform all by himself. Would the Wheel recommend that George W. Bush "be given the last word" on Iraq because to do otherwise would "prolong the debate"? The Wheel has joined Carter in his attempt to stifle debate even while he claims to be seeking it. A prolonged debate with a free exchange of ideas is what an academic institution is all about.

In fact, Bush, who is not known for his responsiveness to the press, has the courage to face seasoned reporters who ask tough, unscripted questions with even tougher follow-up questions. These reporters are trained to recognize when a president is dissembling, being evasive or deliberately misleading the public, and they respond accordingly.

Remember, this is a book which has been described as "moronic" (Slate), "strange," a "distortion" (The New York Times) and "cynical" with a "bait-and-switch" title (Washington Post). The Emory administration has thus far failed to create an event with a semblance of balance. The talk of having "someone" or a "panel on the topic" next semester is an embarrassment for an institution which proclaims that it is dedicated to "creative inquiry."

We shall absent ourselves from this staged event, which will be more a political opportunity for Carter to air his biases than an open exchange of ideas. It is unworthy of an institution with Emory's aspirations, and we have to say sadly that at this moment we are not proud of Emory.

Alan Abramowitz is the Alben W. Barkley Professor of Political Science. David R. Blumenthal is the Jay and Leslie Cohen Professor of Judaic Studies. Sander Gilman is a Distinguished Professor of the Arts and Sciences. Herbert R. Karp is an Emeritus Professor of Neurology and Medicine. Harvey Klehr is the Andrew W. Mellon Professor of Politics and History. Melvin Konner is the Samuel Candler Dobbs Professor of Anthropology. Howard I. Kushner is the Nat C. Robertson Distinguished Professor of Science and Society. Deborah E. Lipstadt is the Dorot Professor of Modern Jewish and Holocaust Studies. Andre J. Nahmias is the Richard W. Blumberg Emeritus Professor of Pediatrics. Raymond F. Schinazi is a Professor of Pediatrics and Chemistry, and the Director of the Laboratory of Biochemical Pharmacology. Donald G. Stein is the Asa G. Candler Professor of psychology, emergency medicine and neurology.

© Copyright 2007 The Emory Wheel

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