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PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT
Interview with Jimmy Carter
Aired January 18, 2012 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
PIERS MORGAN, CNN HOST: He's the 39th president of the United States, Jimmy Carter. Commander in chief, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, and probably only man who really knows how Barack Obama may be feeling about the potential possibility of becoming a one-term Democratic president.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JIMMY CARTER, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: Well, he hasn't been able to accomplish very much because he's been hamstringed by the most uncooperative Congress we've had in history.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN: Jimmy Carter, his peace-making work around the world.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CARTER: If I had one constant prayer the last 35 years of my life, it would be to bring peace to Israel.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN: His place in history.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN: What's the one piece of advice you would give any president when they walk in the Oval Office for the first time?
CARTER: Tell the truth.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN: And his controversial opinion of some of the GOP candidates.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CARTER: Gingrich in the South Carolina debate, I think he has that subtlety of racism that I know quite well, and that Gingrich knows quite well.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN: Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, for the hour. The PIERS MORGAN interview starts now.
Jimmy Carter was president from 1977 to 1981, but his work since then has won him praise worldwide and a Nobel Peace Prize. His latest book is "Through the Year with Jimmy Carter" and tonight I'm privileged to sit down with President Carter and his wife, Rosalind, who will join us later.
Mr. President, thank you for welcoming to this extraordinary center.
CARTER: It's good to have you at the Carter Center. We're delighted.
MORGAN: Well, I love the dates here. So you became president in '77.
MORGAN: CNN is launched in --
MORGAN: The Carter Center is launched in 1982.
MORGAN: So we're all kind of interwoven here. The Carter Center is unusual in the sense that most ex-presidents went for a big library and that would be the way they would do their work. But this center is really extraordinary. Just walking around the library is really a small part of it. You've got all these different areas, covering all kind of global charities and things that you support and stuff. What was the overriding concept for the center?
CARTER: Well, to promote two things. Human rights and all of its ramifications, and also peace. And we have -- we started out just trying to negotiate peace between people, and we still do that, but I think now about 80 percent of our total budget goes in curing diseases or preventing diseases that afflict hundreds of millions of people in Africa and Latin America, but don't touch rich countries anymore.
We also monitor elections. We just did our 89th election in Egypt. We're still going over there. We just finished in Tunisia and this is a major part of the Carter Center's work.
MORGAN: Do you feel that you've achieved more outside of the presidency than you did when you were there?
CARTER: Well, it's a different kind of thing. You know, I couldn't have brought peace between Israel and Egypt. I couldn't have normalized diplomatic relations with China if I hadn't been in the White House. So those two things might have momentous historic significance in the future. But it's a much more intimate relationship with literally millions of people. For instance, last year we gave treatment to prevent blindness to over 12 million people. And we have now just about eradicated a disease called guinea worm, which afflicted 3.5 million people. Now we're down to about 1,000 cases. So we're almost on the verge of doing away with this disease.
And you know, I couldn't have gone to Egypt and participated in a detailed meeting with all the political parties and monitoring the election if I had been in the White House. So it's a much more personal, intimate relationship with people who are in need than it could have been while I was president.
MORGAN: Do you think you get a bit of a bad rap for your presidency? The reason I ask that is if you look at the achievements and you look at the Israel-Egypt treaty, which has stood to this day. You look at the way that you brought America back into relations with China, the most pivotal relationship now that America could possibly have.
Just on those two things alone, pretty big ticks in the box, weren't they?
CARTER: Well, they were. And we kept our country at peace. We had a lot of challenges, a lot of opportunities, a lot of advice, and I had to start another war, attacks on somebody. We didn't do that. And so we not only kept peace for ourselves and promoted human rights, but we brought peace to other people and formed alliances. China's the most important one, with other countries. That had been a strain for America for 30 years or so.
MORGAN: You've just been in Egypt, and obviously this has been the most extraordinary 12 months. When you look at the Middle East and Egypt in particular and the repercussions for Israel and surrounding countries, what is your sense on the ground there?
Because the big concern is, after all the euphoria of a year ago, that actually the Islamists are taking control in Egypt and that this could be very worrying.
CARTER: Well, we have to remember that Egypt has about 90 percent Muslims. And for Muslim political parties to be elected, it's no surprise. And I think that the Muslim leadership, with whom I've met extensively during this past week, are very determined to put on a good face for the rest of the world and to show that Islamists can govern effectively and fairly and honor human rights.
It remains to be seen, of course. One of the things that's important to realize is that the United States is now recognizing the right of the Islamist parties to form a government.
MORGAN: When you saw people like Mubarak being deposed after 30-odd years, Gadhafi killed and so on. I mean, extraordinary times.
MORGAN: The kind of thing you couldn't have even imagined five years ago. Did part of you celebrate and the other part slightly think, OK, what's going to happen now?
CARTER: Well, both. There was a celebration because democracy had come for the first time really in the history of Egypt. And some trepidation about the future because it's unpredictable, as you know. And I think a lot of what happens in Egypt, and also in Tunisia, and also in the future in Libya and so forth, will depend on the attitude of the United States and European countries toward the new government.
Will we support them and say, these are the premises on which we will give you financial assistance and also give you economic and political support, or will we try to do away with them, just because we don't like the leaders who have now taken power?
I hope that we'll reach out to them with a friendly hand, give them help, and let them have a chance to form a good government.
MORGAN: Well, what should America's role be?
CARTER: I think to promote democracy and freedom. And that is what has happened in Egypt. They have a chance now for a Democratic government, chosen by the people, and they have a chance for freedom that is to have all the human rights that normally go with a free society. And in the past, we haven't always done that. For instance, there was an election in Palestine in 2006 in January, when the Muslim government won. The Hamas won.
And in advance of that, we had supported Hamas and supported their candidates, but after they won the election, the United States said, no, we can't let them take office. So we declared after the election was over that they were terrorists and we forbad them to take office.
MORGAN: Was that a mistake, do you think?
CARTER: I think it was a serious mistake. We probably would have had peace in the Middle East if we had recognized a newly elected government and worked with them with support. But this is what we have now learned in Egypt and I think we'll do a different path and give them a chance to govern.
MORGAN: Israel is understandably pretty twitchy about what's going on. You know, I interviewed Prime Minister Netanyahu and he took me to the map of the region, showing these big countries, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Iran, and so on, and then he put his thumbprint on Israel, and you got a sense of the vulnerability they feel.
You've always been criticized for being more pro-Palestinian than Israeli in the conflict. Do you think naturally that you are?
CARTER: No, I don't. If I had one constant prayer the last 35 years of my life, it would be to bring peace to Israel. And because I know about the Holy Land, I've taught lessons about the Holy Land all my life, and -- but you can't bring peace to Israel without giving the Palestinian also peace. And Lebanon and Jordan and Syria as well.
And I believe that this is still an opportunity for the United States and Europe to play a positive role in bringing about a peace, based on all the international agreements. That it is a withdrawal to the '67 borders with some modifications negotiated to allow the big settlements to stay right near --
MORGAN: How much was your view slightly colored by the fact that -- you've said that whenever you met Menachem Begin, he would always refer to any Palestinian as a terrorist.
CARTER: Yes, he did.
MORGAN: And I did, I might be wrong here, but I kind of got a sense that when you heard this repeatedly, it instilled in you a determination not to portray every Palestinian as a terrorist, and perhaps led you to move slightly more to their side in people's eyes. Would that be a fair comment?
CARTER: I don't think so. When I first went to Israel, about 15 percent of the Palestinians were Christians and they were my friends and they were my soul mates in the worship of the same god in the same way. Now they've almost been removed from Palestine because of some pressures and encouragement from the Israelis.
So the Palestinians, I think, are human beings, just like the Americans, just like the Jews in Israel are, and I think they deserve a right to govern their own territory, and their own territory is Palestine, which has been defined by international law as a West Bank and Gaza and East Jerusalem. And there could be some modifications to that, as President Obama pointed out in May of last year.
But Israel has to realize that they will never have peace unless they basically withdraw from Palestine and they have two governments side by side, that is the two-state solution. And the two-state solution is what the international community all unanimously endorses. And in word of mouth, at least, Prime Minister Netanyahu says, we want a two- state solution. But their present policy --
MORGAN: Do you think he means it?
CARTER: I don't -- I'm not sure. Their present policies are leading to a one-state solution, which I believe in the future will be a catastrophe for Israel.
MORGAN: To the Israelis who say that you don't fully, I guess, feel their pain of being on the receiving end of the suicide bombing and the attacks and so on, what do you say to them?
CARTER: I don't have much chance to talk to Israeli leaders anymore, but last time I was over there, I did meet with the speaker of the House and I met with the deputy prime minister and also the mayor of Jerusalem. So I still talk to some leaders. But I just encourage them to treat the Palestinians fairly and to honor international law, and to realize that Israel can be a strong, safe, and recognized -- all of the Palestinians, if they will go back to the '67 borders. And that's the only solution, I think, in the future.
But I love Israel. I've been there many, many times. I have many friends there, including Menachem Begin, who was my close friend. And many other prime ministers. But I think the current policy under Netanyahu departs dramatically from all of his predecessors, including his most recent predecessor, Olmert, who I knew quite well. He's recognized Palestinian's rights to form a government side by side with Israel.
I'm not sure that Netanyahu will do that under any reasonable circumstances. I hope he will.
MORGAN: You brought this amazing peace accord between Egypt and Israel.
MORGAN: How much of this is done to individual personalities, leaders, who just get it? And do we have the right people in charge of Israel, of Palestine? Are they the people that you could have done business with as president?
CARTER: Menachem Begin, when he was first elected, had a terrible reputation against peace, against any accommodation, absolutely rigid in his policies. In fact, he had been branded by the British government before that as the number one terrorist in the Middle East -- when he hit at the Irgun group. But he came around because of persuasion by me and because of persuasion by Sadat and because he knew what was best for his own country.
And the peace agreement that we worked out, the "Camp David Accords," had two major facets. One was, no more war between Israel Egypt. That party has been honored now for 37 years. Nobody has violated it. The other one was equal rights for the Palestinians and a withdrawal by Israel from Palestinian, which Menachem Begin agreed to. And also the Knesset in Israel agreed to and the United States agreed to and Egypt agreed to.
That part of it has not been carried out, and I believe that's still an integral part of the future process. But I'm very close to the Israeli people and I want very much for them to have peace along with peace for their neighbors.
MORGAN: Let's take a little break and come back and talk about three less than peaceful parts of the world, North Korea, Iran, and Syria. All of which you know rather well.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CARTER: It is a new world, but America should not fear it. It is a new world, and we should help to shape it. It is a new world that calls for a new American foreign policy, a policy based on constant decency.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN: That's President Jimmy Carter speaking at Notre Dame in 1977.
Very prescient words there. I mean, that could almost have been a speech you'd be making in '09. Because it really -- American foreign policy is being reshaped before our very eyes. If you look at the way that Iraq played out and even Afghanistan, and then compared to someone like Libya, you could almost see President Obama watching your speech and thinking, yes, I think this may be the way to go.
CARTER: Well, that was a different time. That was when America first instituted the real application of human rights in dealing with other countries around the world. So we promoted human rights and transformed, for instance, all the countries in Latin America were just about military dictatorship because of that policy, they soon all became democracies.
And that's changed a lot for other countries around the world. And so now, of course, it's a different time. And we see the so-called Arab Spring, which may bring 2011 into history books as a matter of transforming an entire region of the world into a move toward democracy, away from dictatorships.
MORGAN: Could that have happened in Iraq if it had been left to its own devices?
CARTER: Well, I certainly think so. And if we hadn't invaded Iraq, which was a horrible tragedy and a mistake in my opinion, it might very well be that Iraq would have been the first -- one of the earliest Arab countries to fall as the people rose up to replace the dictatorship. And the fact that it surprised everyone when it happened in Tunisia and Libya and Egypt, I think shows very clearly that Iraq would have been a likely candidate for that purpose.
MORGAN: There are three danger spots for America right now, I would argue. And correct me if I'm wrong. You know a lot more about this than I do. But Iran, Syria, North Korea, traditional danger spots, but certainly probably more so now than ever with a change of leadership in North Korea, with Ahmadinejad in Iran behaving ever-more erratically and threateningly, some would argue, and Syria going up in flames.
Is there a consistent policy that America should pursue with the three or are they all very different cases?
CARTER: Well, they are different, but there are basic principles that should be followed. One is to negotiate as best you can through directly or through intermediaries with the people with whom you have differences. For instance, North Korea is a good example. I went over there in 1994 to help prevent an almost certain war between North and South Korea.
I negotiated with Kim Il-Sung, the grandfather, and revered leader, the most revered leader, and worked out a complete agreement that he would do away with nuclear weapons and that he would have peace with the United States and South Korea. And President Clinton adopted that agreement and put it into effect. Unfortunately, when President Bush came into office -- George W. Bush -- he threw all that in a waste basket.
Syria is a different proposition. That's a case where the people are rising up, the regime in power, nobody knows how much support they have among their own people, still are very abusive, and I think the world is very reluctant to go in like we did in Libya, to have a military operation against Syria. It's a much more powerful country and much more a respected country, having been there since ancient times. It's built --
MORGAN: Should Assad go, though, do you think?
CARTER: I think Assad is likely -- very likely to go in the next few months, maybe during this current year. But I would like to see some effort made, the Russians are now supporting Syria, as you know, protecting them in a way, which they are in Iran as well. But I think the Russians would come on board if there was an opportunity for a democratic process in Syria to be orchestrated, very similar to what we are now seeing in Egypt, where the people will have a right to decide who will be their leaders, including their president. And let them elect their own parliament. And let the people decide.
As far as the other problems are concerned, like Iran, there is a regime that I believe is very likely to go to a nuclear weapon capability. They swear that they won't. I don't agree with what they are saying. I think it's very likely that they will go to a nuclear capability.
MORGAN: And the big question then is how does America respond if it has absolute concrete evidence that Iran now has a nuclear weapon?
CARTER: I don't think America has that kind of confidence. And I don't think that our secret information, our intelligence information leads us to that capability. They have the right and ability to go there, not the right to build weapons, but they have the right to purify uranium -- I happen to be a nuclear engineer by training, I understand the process -- in order to use it in their research and also to use it to generate power.
I don't know what the truth is, but I think we need to do everything we can to deter them from going that way. If we cut off Iran's ability to export oil, and -- which would face them with the prospect of a devastating economic blow, then I think that would be an inevitable movement to a war -- to war. And I think it would be a very serious mistake.
MORGAN: I mean you deliberately avoided any kind of military conflict with Iran when you were president?
CARTER: Yes, I did. I was advised by many of our people to go to war with Iran, to bomb them, and to punish them for holding our hostages.
MORGAN: You still think it would have been a terrible error to do that? CARTER: I do, because every one of the hostages came home safe and free. There was no one killed in the war. We didn't have a war with Iran. I was a military officer by profession. I was a submarine officer and I know what it means to have a strong military so that we can deter other people from attacking us.
But whenever possible in government, I think we ought to avoid military conflict and do everything we can to negotiate with other people, even though it seems like we're losing face. And if we can't negotiate directly with them, use intermediaries. So do everything possible before we go to war.
MORGAN: What President Obama or whoever wins the next election cannot afford to do, though, is to look weak in the eyes of the Iranians. Ahmadinejad would jump on that. At what stage would the American administration have to consider military action? What would need to precipitate that?
CARTER: I think a real threat against Israel, for instance, of an atomic attack, and I'm not sure that the Iranians are going toward a nuclear capability. Looking from their point of view at all the pressures that would be exerted on them, if they do, but it would be suicidal if Iran, say if they develop a few nuclear weapons like North Korea has, maybe seven nuclear weapons, if they attacked Israel, it would be wiped off the map by Israel's 200 or 300 nuclear weapons. Nobody knows how many they have.
MORGAN: Let's take another break and come back and talk about Barack Obama. I need say no more. So much to discuss with the next president.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN: This is an exact replica of your Oval Office, isn't it?
CARTER: It is absolutely the way it was when I was president.
MORGAN: Same furniture?
CARTER: Same furniture, same carpet. Everything's exactly the same. And the same scene when you look outdoors.
MORGAN: That's the exact same scene? That's amazing.
MORGAN: When you come in here, how does it make you feel?
CARTER: It makes me feel at home. You know it brings back a lot of memories. I remember the last three days that I was president, I never went to bed at all. I never went to bed until we had negotiated the final release of the hostages.
ROSALYNN CARTER, JIMMY CARTER'S WIFE: And Jimmy and I used to put a table between those two chairs and meet, was it every Wednesday?
CARTER: Every week. We had a private meeting every week, just the two of us.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CARTER: I want to talk to you right now about a fundamental threat to American democracy. Too many of us now tend to worship self- indulgence and consumption.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN: That was President Jimmy Carter delivering his so-called malaise speech in 1979, which didn't go down very well with the American people. And President Carter is back with me now.
I mean, you were right then and you would be right to say that today, wouldn't you?
CARTER: Yes. As a matter of fact, the immediate response of that was the most favorable that I ever had to a speech. But later, then Governor Reagan and my Democratic opponent Ted Kennedy attacked the speech. I never called it malaise speech. It was just a frank analysis of how America needed to change and that we still had resilient strength to overcome any difficulty if we work together.
MORGAN: But the reality is that Americans carried on consuming and many of them carried on being self-indulgent and we ended up $13 trillion in debt with a catastrophic financial meltdown. So, you know, the grassroots were there, which you picked up on, but nobody listened?
CARTER: That's right. Well, we had basically a balanced budget while I was in office, which was a very important thing for me. But that alienated some of the more liberal Democrats to support a balanced budget and from defense. But you're right, since then we've just abandoned those kind of principles and I don't know how we're going to get out of this economic --
MORGAN: Well, one of the ways, may I suggest, this is your book, "Through the Year with Jimmy Carter." A fascinating book, which what you did, you took all these Sunday bible teachings you've done for 30, 40 years, and you put them into an order that made sense, and you related many of your own personal stories, both in your life and your presidency.
And it is absolutely absorbing. I used to have bible teaching when I was young, but they were never linked to events like this. That's what makes it so interesting. And one of the things that you told in there, you told a story about how you grew up on a peanut farm. Everybody knows that. One of the questions people wanted the answers, do you actually like peanuts?
CARTER: I still grow peanuts, I still eat peanuts.
MORGAN: You like peanuts?
CARTER: I hope everybody will join me in eating peanuts.
MORGAN: I couldn't agree more. Love peanuts. But you told the story about how when you were very young, you would get up at 4:00 in the morning and you would, I think, boil the peanuts, having picked them the night before, and you would walk off several miles and you go and sell them on the roadside and you'd make money. But when the money that you made from that you went and did something else.
CARTER: That's right.
MORGAN: And you saw -- crave the other stuff and so -- then you both some property and you sold, and so you built yourself a little empire. That kind of entrepreneurial zeal is just disappearing from modern American youth. And I don't blame them.
I blame the kind of culture and lifestyle that they're being encouraged to lead. What do you think?
CARTER: Well, I think that entrepreneurial spirit was very important for me as a remote -- as a farm boy on a remote farm, who didn't know anything about the outside world, but was raised with hard work and had a nurturing parents. And I made the best of what I had.
And then later, all I wanted to do was go into the Navy. That was my total ambition for life.
MORGAN: When President Obama makes his State of the Union Speech next week, would you like to see him do that kind of speech, what they call the Malaise Speech, but actually was a direct message to people. Yes, we know times are tough. Yes, we know that unemployment figures are very, very high. We know a lot of people are suffering.
But actually, the first thing Americans should be doing right now is self-starting, getting back on their feet, finding ways to make a living, doing the kind of entrepreneurial thing that you did when you were young.
CARTER: Well, I don't want to tell President Obama how to make a speech. He's a much better speech maker than I am. But I think always to tell the truth in a sometimes blatant way, even though it might be temporarily unpopular, is the best approach.
Let the American people know the facts, as expressed to them very clearly and very concisely and inspirationally by the president who's in the White House, I think is always very good.
And we need to be told the truth. You know, we're now approaching 15 trillion dollars in debt. And if we do everything we're supposed to do, in a few years, we'll be 20 billion -- trillion dollars in debt. We haven't addressed that yet.
But at the same time, there's a way to balance cutting back on the expenditures with increased economic opportunity for American people to take advantage of our freedom, our liberty, our entrepreneurial spirit. If he puts that together, which I'm sure he'll do better than I have in these last few minutes, I think he'll make a good impression.
MORGAN: How do you think he's doing as president?
CARTER: Well, he hasn't been able to accomplish very much, because he's been hamstringed by the most uncooperative Congress we've had in history, in my opinion.
MORGAN: Which you never had to suffer from.
CARTER: I had very good support from Democrats and Republicans all throughout my administration. I had a very high batting average. We added more jobs per year in my four years than any other president since the Second World War.
We kept our country at peace. We had some problems, yes. But I think that's very much due to the fact that we didn't have the negative advertising that we have now.
MORGAN: How do you personally get on with President Obama?
CARTER: We don't have any relationship much. I was -- met with him early in his administration. We don't really have any relationship.
MORGAN: Are you sad about that?
CARTER: I wish it was a closer relationship. I get a briefing when I ask for it. For instance, before I went to Egypt last week, I got a briefing from the State Department about their policy that was to accept the results of the election, no matter who won, which was very gratifying to me.
And when I go to North Korea or when I go to some troubled place in the world and come back, I'll always make a report. In fact, Monday morning, I sent President Obama and the secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, and the secretary general of the United Nations, a full report on all the people with whom I had met in Egypt and what my advice was, what my impressions were.
So I stay in close contact with them.
MORGAN: I heard that you felt a little bit let down when the first chance he got to have you speak at a Democratic Convention, he asked you to do a documentary film instead along with President Clinton, and it was can cut from 20 minutes to four minutes, and that you were a bit cheesed off with this?
CARTER: Well, I was, a bit. And his people explained the reasons for that.
MORGAN: Were they good reasons?
CARTER: For him to get elected, yes. And I didn't need the exposure at the Democratic Convention. I've been out of office for 25 years at that time. I didn't need to make a speech to the people. So the four-minute documentary was gratifying to me. And I did have a chance to get on the stage and wave at the people. I was forbidden to speak. But I think he wanted to win the election. And I was -- we had 22 votes in our family. All 22 votes went to President Obama.
And one advantage that he'll have going into next year -- I think he's going to win, by the way, against any Republican nominee. But I had also a divided Democratic party, which is partially my fault. For the last two years that I was running for re-election, I had Ted Kennedy running against me, which divided the party. We never put it back together.
MORGAN: And President Obama doesn't have that problem.
CARTER: No, he doesn't have that. So he's been lucky in many ways. But I was lucky to get elected. I was lucky to be able to serve. And in a way, since I left the White House, I've had a much more productive life and a much more gratifying and happy life than I ever dreamed I would have when I left office.
MORGAN: Let's take another break. And I want to talk to you about the Republican field. We're down to the last five. The famous five, the disastrous five? I want to know what you think.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICK SANTORUM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This president is the most dangerous commander in chief we've seen since Jimmy Carter. And that's why this election is not just about the economy. It is about the security of our country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN: All right, Barack Obama's the most dangerous president since Jimmy Carter.
CARTER: Well, we kept --
MORGAN: I never thought you were that dangerous.
CARTER: I didn't either. I thought I was probably one of the least dangerous presidents.
MORGAN: You found peace wherever you went.
CARTER: I not only kept peace for our country, but kept peace for others, and accomplished our goals.
MORGAN: When you hear Rick Santorum using you as some stick to batter President Obama, what do you feel about that?
CARTER: I think he's mistaken. I don't think he's helping himself, because he's going to be campaigning in Georgia. I got 85 percent of the votes in Georgia. And for him to be attacking me before he comes here trying to prevail I think is a mistake on his part.
MORGAN: Is he meddling with the wrong guy here?
CARTER: Well, I'm not dangerous to him.
MORGAN: What do you think of the Republican race? Has Mitt Romney, from what you're looking at -- has he got it in the bag, do you think?
CARTER: That's the indication now. But what happens in South Carolina will have a major impact. But even if some other candidate should come in first in South Carolina, and Mitt Romney comes in a close second, I think he's still by far the most likely person to prevail.
MORGAN: What you're seeing is most of the candidates, if not all of them, apart from Ron Paul, perhaps, pushing the rhetoric more and more to the right.
CARTER: Yeah, toward war. They all want to go to war.
MORGAN: Not only that, also on social issues. Rick Perry did a commercial attacking gay marriage in a very what many people thought was bigoted manner. When you see that kind of thing, as a very religious man yourself -- a lot of them say, look, we're very religious people; it's all in the Bible -- what do you feel?
CARTER: I feel that they're going to extremes just to try to get votes. And I don't think Rick Perry's been that extreme as a governor, but he's trying to be more extreme. And it's proven to be a mistake for Rick Perry. He's gone downhill when everybody thought he had the best chance when he first got in.
And now Gingrich in the South Carolina debate, I watched part of it, watched the first half of it. I think he has that subtlety of racism that I know quite well and that Gingrich knows quite well, that appeals to some people in Georgia, particularly the right wing.
MORGAN: And you think he's doing it deliberately?
CARTER: I think so. He knows as well the words that you use, like welfare mamas and so forth, that have been appealing in the past, in those days when we had serious segregation of the races. So he's appealing for that in South Carolina. I don't think it will pay off in the long run.
MORGAN: That's a pretty serious charge to level at Newt Gingrich, that he's being racist.
CARTER: I wouldn't say he's racist, but he knows the subtle words to use to appeal to --
MORGAN: It's the same thing, isn't it?
CARTER: Not quite.
MORGAN: What's the difference? CARTER: Well, he's not a racist, I think. Newt Gingrich is probably just as enlightened as I am about being gratified that we ended the segregation years in the south and we're now a part of the --
MORGAN: But if you pander to that kind of rhetoric --
CARTER: He does. And when you emphasize over and over and over, you know, welfare and --
MORGAN: I mean --
CARTER: -- Food Stamps and why don't the black people get jobs, and if I'm president, I'll make sure that they turn towards a work ethic rather than an ethic of welfare and Food Stamps -- I think that's appealing to the wrong element in South Carolina.
MORGAN: You've already said you think Barack Obama will win, whatever happens. What could prevent that happening? What are the warning signs for Barack Obama that you would -- if you had the chance, you would say to him, watch this, be careful about that?
CARTER: Well, as we mentioned on the program earlier, I think luck has a lot to do with it. The president has very little power over what happens in the economy. You know, the Congress, with their tax laws, the Federal Reserve on the supply of money -- he's just one of the three players that have kind of an equal balance.
So if the economy improves dramatically and he can take credit for it next year, then I think he'll have a much better chance to win. If the economy should go downhill or stay where it is now, with 8.5 percent unemployment, I think that the Republican nominee will have a better chance.
But in balance, I think the Republicans have taken such a right-wing extreme position to appeal to the Tea Party and others in their party that they have abandoned the central part of the campaign. But I know from experience, in my 87 years looking back on some of the campaigns, that both parties now -- both Democrats and Republicans will move towards the center as they get into the general election.
And I don't know what's going to happen next year.
MORGAN: They say behind every great man is an even greater woman. And I think this particularly in your case, Mr. President. I hope you don't take that personally.
But after the break, I'm going to bring in Rosalynn Carter, who has been with you, married for 65 years.
MORGAN: That in itself is right up there with the Israel/Egypt Peace Accord for achievement.
CARTER: I take it personally and I agree with it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROSALYNN CARTER, WIFE OF FORMER PRESIDENT JIMMY CARTER: -- my things. He does his thing. We do our things together. And it's good.
CARTER: We were married over 65 years ago. And we've grown to love and know each other more every day, I would say.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN: Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter just a few months ago. And they both join me now.
Welcome, Mrs. Carter. As I say, there's a fantastic story in the book, "Through the Year With Jimmy Carter," which I really enjoyed reading, because, as I said, it's a great fusion of kind of spiritual and religious message, but coupled with really good anecdotes.
And one of them made me laugh out loud. And I think it will every husband and wife who watches this. Which is he forgets your birthday a few years ago.
R. CARTER: That's right.
MORGAN: And he panics, because he can't think of any way he can get you a present that he can buy. So then being quite crafty, as you'd expect from a former president, he thinks, right, I know what I'm going to do here; I'm going to give my wife the one thing I know she'd really like.
President Carter, finish the story for me.
CARTER: Well, I gave her a certificate in writing, and I signed it, that I would never again criticize her for being late.
MORGAN: I mean, one thing is that I know that you're very, very punctual, to a very obsessive degree. And he admits that you're not that bad. But even so, on the one level, I guess it's a nice thing to receive. On the other, I mean, it's slightly irritating that he should be picking you up on your punctuality.
R. CARTER: Well, one minute is too late. And that's not fair. I really appreciate it. He's stuck to it pretty good.
MORGAN: He has stuck to it? So he's never moaned again about your timekeeping?
R. CARTER: There's another story about him forgetting my Christmas present.
MORGAN: How many of these things have you forgotten, Mr. President?
R. CARTER: He said he would give me -- he would do anything I wanted him to do. So I told him I wanted him to bring me coffee in the mornings. So every morning since, he's brought me coffee.
MORGAN: I love this. You must be thinking now, this is really working for me. Rather than some terrible sweater or something I don't really need, now I'm getting a coffee every morning. He never moans about me being late. Are there any other things that you would like to maneuver to make him forget so you can get
CARTER: From now on, I'm going to buy some earrings or a necklace. It would be a lot easier on me.
MORGAN: Sixty five year marriage -- what do you think the secret has been to the longevity of your marriage?
R. CARTER: Well, I think maybe the hardest time we had was when he was when we came home from the White House, because it was the first time we had both been home together all day, everyday. And we the to learn how to figure out that situation.
And what we have learned is that we must give each other space. Things that I want to do that Jimmy doesn't particularly want to be involved in --
MORGAN: Like what?
R. CARTER: Like I want to go in my office and work without interruption.
MORGAN: So you're banned. Who is the boss? Who is the boss here?
R. CARTER: He's the boss.
CARTER: Ultimately, Rosalynn is.
MORGAN: So you both think the other one is the boss. That may be the secret of a happy marriage.
Have you had periods in your lives where you can't stand another day together? Have you ever come times like that? Or have you just been very lucky that you've never had a period in your life?
CARTER: We had one time like that. We tried to write a book together.
R. CARTER: That was a terrible time.
CARTER: We were co-authors. I write very rapidly. I could write a chapter in one or two days. Rosalynn writes very slowly. So I would -- we agreed to exchange chapters. So I would give her my chapter. She looked on at it as say a rough draft.
But she would give me a chapter that she wrote, and it would be like God had given her this text at Mt. Sinai and she had brought it down and presented it to me in stone. And if changed one word, it was very painful for her. MORGAN: So actually writing a book together nearly killed your marriage?
R. CARTER: Absolutely true.
CARTER: It's the worst problem we have ever had since we've been married.
MORGAN: Really? What did you resolve from this?
CARTER: We gave up our advance on the book back to our publisher. He came down the Plains, talked to us and said look, you have this many paragraphs on which you cannot agree. Let this paragraph be Jimmy's, I'll put a J by it, and this paragraph be Rosalynn's, and I'll put an R by it.
So if you read the book, you'll see all the way through, there are paragraphs with Js and Rs. That's how we solved it.
MORGAN: I love that story. And you have never written a book again together?
R. CARTER: And never will.
MORGAN: Never will. Let's take a final break, come back and talk about, you have achieved so much together in life, in work, as well as personal stuff. What are the accomplishments you would still like to -- to knock off? What are the things left that you want to do?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN: This is a cause very dear to both your hearts, Guinea Worms. Tell me about this. Why Guinea worms?
CARTER: It's located in very isolated villages that don't have any source of water except a pond that ponds up during the rainy season. And people drink water out of that. And the Guinea worm eggs accumulate in the water. When they drink the water, a year later, the Guinea Worm grows inside the body about this long. And it penetrates the skin and causes a horrible sore and then comes out.
So we cycled this in 26,500 different countries, 20 different country. We've been to every village. We found 3.5 million cases of Guinea Worms just still existing. Now we have less than 1,000 cases. So we'll soon eliminate Guinea Worm from the face of the Earth.
MORGAN: Back with former President Jimmy Carter and his wife Rosalynn Carter. I just showed a picture there of you with little Amy when she was tiny. I remember that, because I was about 15 or 16 when you were in the White House. I also remember, everyone used to go ga-ga about little Amy. How is Amy? Presumably not little anymore.
R. CARTER: She's great.
MORGAN: How old is she now?
R. CARTER: 43.
MORGAN: Someone asked me on Twitter earlier to ask you this question, probably both of you, actually, how you felt on the first night you spent in the White House as president and Mrs. Carter, as you were? And how you felt on the last night? And whether there was a big difference?
R. CARTER: It's hard to go to sleep the first night, it was so excited.
CARTER: We were grateful and over-awed by the responsibility on my shoulders. And the last night we spent there, I had not been to sleep for three nights. I had been negotiating to get the hostages released from Iran. So I was very fully of prayer that my peaceful approach to Iran would result in the hostages being released.
And I knew they would be. I was successful in negotiating. And they couldn't leave until five minutes after I was out of office. So it was a very exciting time.
MORGAN: You spend, you were just telling me, 41 years in mental health work. Tell me about that.
R. CARTER: Well, I was campaigning for Jimmy for governor. And the community mental health centers that had been passed, which was going to have a community mental health center in reach of every person in the country -- that was John Kennedy's bill.
But when Jimmy was running for governor, it was being moved out of the big horrible institutions into the communities with no services. The community mental health services had not been built.
So everybody people asked me what my husband, if elected governor, would do with someone, a family member, a loved one, at a federal or state hospital. And I -- before the campaign was over, I became really concerned.
Jimmy was getting the same questions. And so when he was elected governor, he established the Governor's Commission to Improve Services to Mentally and Emotionally Handicapped. And that was the beginning of my education about mental health issues.
When I began to work on it, I could see that people with mental illness got funding that was left over after everything else was funded.
MORGAN: They were an afterthought.
R. CARTER: There was just nothing for these people. So I worked hard on the governor's commission, the president's commission. I now have a really good program here at the Carter Center. MORGAN: I think what is undeniable is even though there may be as many people, if not more, suffering from mental illness today, with population increases and so on, awareness is so much better thanks to efforts like yourselves and others, to bring awareness to the public domain.
R. CARTER: We try to raise awareness. I have an annual symposium. I have the leaders from all over the country in the mental health field come here to talk about current issues. For instance, we have been really concerned about prisoners coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan.
CARTER: Veterans coming home.
R. CARTER: Yes, veterans coming home.
MORGAN: You've done a terrific job. And I want to congratulate you on that. And also congratulate you, President Carter, on this book. I can tell you this, when I finished it -- and I read it in about 36 hours, on and off on planes and hotel rooms and so on - I came to one conclusion when I finished this book. This guy should be president. Never too late to come back. Are you allowed to come back?
J. CARTER: I think there's probably an age limit.
MORGAN: Thank you both very much indeed. Good time. I really enjoyed it.
That's President and Mrs. Carter. And that's all for us tonight. AC 360 starts right now.