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Like father, like son, to a point
Seattle Times chief political reporter
Jack Carter is used to sharing the limelight. And even the sunlight.
So when a photographer guided Jimmy Carter to the seat with the best light Thursday, his 58-year-old son didn't mind. Like my father always said, R.H.I.P. — rank has its privileges — and the former president, author, artist, woodworker, nuclear engineer, Nobel Peace Prize winner and elder statesman trumps the first-time political candidate. "My hook here is I'm Jimmy Carter's son and I'm part of that family," Jack said during a two-Carter interview Thursday. The Carters, with their wives, were in Seattle to raise money for Jack's campaign for a Nevada U.S. Senate seat.
Jack knows the value of having a popular ex-president as campaign adviser. And he is used to being asked about his father on the campaign trail.
"If I don't get asked, I bring him up," Jack said. "I don't know if it makes people want to vote for me or not. ... What it does do is it heightens the sense of curiosity, and that's just as good for me because it sort of opens the door and they're ready to hear what I've got to say when I walk through."
Jimmy Carter says he's glad to be able to pay back his son for years of familial campaign work. The Senate campaign is challenging and an adventure, he said. "But fun is not the word I'd use."
The former president walks steady at 81 years old and displays obvious Southern grace and a politician's knack for making people at ease. He came dressed in a suit and tie, looking presidential. Jack wore jeans and a sport coat, looking Nevadan.
They share many political ideals and Jimmy points out Jack's strengths and weaknesses, Jack said, which helps the candidate shape his message.
But they don't agree on everything. Take the former president's plan for getting the U.S. out of Iraq:
"I would like to see this administration complete formation of a government in Iraq, with all of its warts and imperfections, and I would like to see us surreptitiously go to that government and get them to ask us to leave publicly. Then the president, whoever it is, can say, 'We've done our duty. We've got a form of government there (that you can exaggerate to say is a real democracy) they've asked us to leave, and we're complying with a sovereign nation that now wants us to depart.' "
Jimmy wishes Democrats had a consensus position on Iraq. Jack says people will vote for the individual, not the party, and he doesn't want the party telling him what the plan is.
Our interview ended before I could ask him to elaborate.
Jimmy said there is a general sense among incumbent congressional Democrats that they were misinformed about the war, "either inadvertently or deliberately." They just don't want to say that.
"It's hard for them to say, 'I made the wrong decision,' " the former president said.
David Postman is The Seattle Times' chief political reporter. His column appears Fridays. Reach him at 360-236-8267 or at email@example.com
Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company