As I was driving home for lunch my unnerving merge onto the highway was enhanced by Jimmy Carter's practiced, statesmanlike rhythms, delivered in his usual irritating, whiny quaver.
I've noticed recently that Bill Clinton has begun to hone this same relaxed cadence: mellow, wise, more than a little smug, designed to help us forget about the embarrassing memories of their actual administrations and think of them as far above such petty details, as in possession of a wisdom too refined to be comprehended by the current, oafish executive branch. Never mind that those details, in Carter's case, included giving Islamic terrorism a new lease on life.
Former President Carter's intonations came to me from one of my local NPR stations, where he was being interviewed by Diane Rehm1 . And at 11:51 on this October 9th, a question having somehow been posed that required the former president to explain why it was appropriate to oppose the Soviet adventure in Afghanistan but would be not appropriate to resist the Chinese phagocytosis of Tibet, he explained it this way: there is a lot of oil in the Afghanistan area, and an interruption in the supply of oil is a threat to the interests of the United States. Tibet doesn't have oil so we shouldn't meddle.* (The name “Tibet” did not come up, but Mr Carter pointed out that China has not invaded a “major country” with oil.)
The question of the behavior of the Chinese government in the arena of human rights was brought up. Mr Carter explained that it used to be bad, sure, but it's much better now because now the Chinese people are allowed to have bibles2 .
At this point I'm sure that many people reading this are thinking that I'm making all this up. You can order a transcript or listen to the show at the website 3 .
My point is not that Carter is a buffoon who supported both the Shah of Iran and Saddam Hussein. I don't know whether Afghanistan oil is really important to U.S. national security. I wasn't aware that the Chinese people, once forbidden the benefits of reading the collection of paleolithic myths upon which Carter bases his life can now learn all about how God wants them to stop eating pork. I'm just rather astonished, and I am wondering one thing: do the people who think Carter is actually good, and I know there are plenty of such people, the people who think he deserved his Nobel Peace Prize; do such people endorse Carter's analysis of the justification of state action? Are they aware that Mr Human Rights thinks that we shouldn't interfere when one country invades or engulfs another as long as it doesn't disturb our fuel supply? Do they also agree that the human rights situation in China is much improved, that the practice of, for example, harvesting organs, including corneas, from living political prisoners is outweighed by the fact that their families are allowed to be consoled by bibles?
* The name “Tibet” did not come up, but Mr Carter pointed out that China has not invaded a “major country” with oil.
 The Diane Rehm Show. http:/
 Christian Today (4 October, 2007). China police impose new restrictions on religious activities. http:/
 WAMU (October 9, 2007). The Diane Rehm Show. http:/