- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 20, 2008

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Your strength can compensate for my weakness, and your wisdom can help to minimize my mistakes.

Jimmy Carter, Inaugural Address, Jan. 20, 1977

More than 31 years after he uttered those words, America is still trying to compensate for and minimize Mr. Carter’s mistakes and weaknesses — the greatest of which appears to be hubris. This week, our much-traveled 39th president ventured as a “private citizen” to the Middle East on a self-described mission “exploring possibilities for peace.”

Regrettably, what citizen Mr. Carter has succeeded in doing is to encourage our nation’s adversaries, lend credibility to terrorists who have killed our countrymen and disparaged a beleaguered ally.

Mr. Carter’s current sojourn in personal diplomacy is just his most recent foreign foray in post-presidential folly since being voted out of office in Ronald Reagan’s 1980 landslide. During his global quest for relevance, he rarely missed an opportunity to denigrate our country’s interests, helping him to win the Nobel Peace Prize in 2002. But this week’s expedition to Jerusalem, the West Bank, Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Saudi Arabia may prove to be the most damaging excursion yet.

Despite his claims, Mr. Carter is no “neutral observer.” In June 1994 the former president went to Pyongyang to broker a failed nuclear disarmament deal with North Korean despot Kim Il-jung. In 2002, he deigned to dignify the brutal, bearded butcher of Havana — Fidel Castro. While in the “island paradise” he disparaged America’s commitment to human rights and praised Cuba’s education and health-care systems. In 2006, he and his self-appointed “impartial arbiters” declared “legitimate” the Palestinian elections that brought Hamas to power in Gaza. Later that same year in his book, “Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid” — he declared “Israel’s continued control and colonization of Palestinian land have been the primary obstacles to a comprehensive peace agreement in the Holy Land.”

Though Mr. Carter’s present 10-day Middle East trip has been overshadowed in the U.S. media by the visit to America of Pope Benedict XVI, the former president’s travel and talks have been widely celebrated in the Arab press — and particularly on radical Islamic Web sites. All have observed that the former chief executive’s decisions to lay a wreath at the tomb of Yasser Arafat and meet with senior Hamas officials are “unprecedented.”

To note that this entire venture is an extraordinary propaganda windfall for radical Islam is an understatement. If anyone knows that, it should be the former president. His Atlanta-based Carter Center has had a full-time office in Ramallah since 2006 to “monitor developments in the region.” Apparently the staff has failed to apprise its founder that he is being celebrated as the man who will “bring an end to Zionist hegemony.”

Hamas, it should be noted is listed by the United States, Israel and the European Union as an international terrorist organization. Hamas radio pledged as recently as this week to “destroy the illegal Jewish entity” and continue to “deliver Allah’s fire” (meaning Iranian-built 107mm and 122mm rockets) on “the occupiers” (meaning any Israeli within range). Over the course of the last year, Hamas terrorists have repeatedly fired the high explosive missiles into Israeli communities, killing and wounding hundreds of civilians.

Unlike his past efforts on behalf of Habitat for Humanity, it is hard to fathom what good Mr. Carter sought to achieve in this peripatetic itinerary. His trip is taking place during Passover — one of Judaism’s holiest holidays. Other than a brief no-press-allowed arrival meeting with Israel’s ceremonial president, Shimon Peres, he will meet with no other senior Israeli officials. That hasn’t deterred his desperate bid for attention — or his bid to grant legitimacy to Hamas.

On Tuesday, Mr. Carter met with Hamas representatives in Ramallah. He then went to Cairo for “a listening session” with the terror-group’s Gaza leaders: Mahmoud Zahar and Said Siyam. But it was the meeting he scheduled in Damascus with Hamas kingpin Khaled Mashaal — wanted in connection with the death of more than a half-dozen American citizens and scores of Israelis that defies comprehension.

In response to critics — and the entreaties of the Bush administration not to meet with the leaders of Hamas or go to Damascus — Mr. Carter generously says, “I’ll share what I find with the Israelis and with Fatah, and also, of course, with the American government officials.”

That’s mighty kind of the man. By the time his trip concludes, Mr. Carter will have broken bread with the sworn enemies of the United States and disparaged our only democratic ally in the region. He has also broken faith with his countrymen. He’s not naive and he’s not ignorant. But he is on an ego trip.

Oliver North is the host of “War Stories” on the Fox News Channel, the founder and honorary chairman of Freedom Alliance and the author of American Heroes.

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