Carter Explores Health Care, Middle East Politics
Former U.S. President and Emory University Distinguished Professor Jimmy Carter discussed issues ranging from recent conflicts in the Middle East to health care at the 31st annual Carter Town Hall Meeting Wednesday evening.
Carter said that the Atlanta-based Carter Center has been successful and necessary in the Middle East since its founding in 1982.
The Center has played a role in overseeing political elections in many countries to ensure the growth of new democracies in recent years, he said.
The Carter Center recently deployed observers to Egypt and Libya to assess that the elections were running smoothly and to plan for future and fair elections.
One student asked Carter for his thoughts about the potential consequences of the attacks on the U.S. Consulate in Libya this past week.
Carter assured the audience that Libya will not have strained relations with the United States, since the Libyan people have themselves condemned the militants responsible for the attacks.
Carter also expressed confidence that the Carter Center’s previous work in helping the Libyan democracy grow has only resulted in positive relations between the Libyan people and the United States.
Through the Carter Center, he has been able to “fill the vacuums of the world,” he said, because other past organizations had not been addressing violated human rights and suffering issues.
Carter also mentioned his views on President Obama’s Affordable Care Act.
When Carter was president, he said, he had an idea of a type of single-payer health-care system, which would act just as Medicare has, yet the age at which one qualifies for health care would be lower in order to include all Americans.
While this system was not implemented, Carter said he was hopeful that Obama would enact a similar system.
Though Obama’s health-care act was not exactly the type of plan Carter had hoped for, he said he was pleased with the Supreme Court’s recent decision to uphold the constitutionality of the law by stating the health insurance would work as a tax.
This approval, Carter explained, would provide health care to 32 million Americans who did not have health insurance in the past.
In addition to health care in the United States, Carter singled out inadequacies in American political organization, which he sees as having enabled the “poorest democratic processes of elections in the world.”
The heightened polarization of today’s political parties can be linked to the Supreme Court’s 2010 ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which allowed unlimited campaign funding, he said.
Carter added that this ruling has allowed politicians to accept “massive influxes of selfish money,” which they have spent on negative advertising and combative messages to political opponents.
Meanwhile, Carter additionally made several references to the tough decisions that confronted him during his own presidency.
Some of these decisions, he admitted, may have hurt him in his second election. Many students said they were surprised at Carter’s willingness to discuss his experiences in office and how they have affected his re-election.
“It was a breath of fresh air to hear a politician speak so candidly about what he deemed the failures of his time in Washington,” College freshman Ami Fields-Meyer said.
In addition, Carter fielded questions from the audience about non-political issues.
Many students directly posted questions on Twitter, while some members of the audience had their questions read aloud directly to Carter.
One question sent through Twitter asked Carter whether he preferred smooth or crunchy peanut butter. After laughing, Carter said, “peanut butter is one of the best foods on Earth,” adding that he loved crunchy peanut butter “more than anything.”
In answering another student’s question, Carter expressed disapproval at rising college tuition costs in the United States but added, “Emory is worth the struggle with financial costs.”
He cited what he describes as the special connection he feels to the University. He highlighted the fact that the University serves as a partner of the Carter Center and also noted that he enjoys staying informed on the goings-on around Emory through meetings with deans, professors and University President James W. Wagner.