Former President Jimmy Carter yesterday condemned all abortions and chastised his party for its intolerance of candidates and nominees who oppose abortion.
“I never have felt that any abortion should be committed — I think each abortion is the result of a series of errors,” he told reporters over breakfast at the Ritz-CarltonHotel, while across town Senate Democrats deliberated whether to filibuster the nomination of Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr. because he may share President Bush and Mr. Carter’s abhorrence of abortion.
“These things impact other issues on which [Mr. Bush] and I basically agree,” the Georgia Democrat said. “I’ve never been convinced, if you let me inject my Christianity into it, that Jesus Christ would approve abortion.”
Mr. Carter said his party’s congressional leadership only hurts Democrats by making a rigid pro-abortion rights stand the criterion for assessing judicial nominees.
“I have always thought it was not in the mainstream of the American public to be extremely liberal on many issues,” Mr. Carter said. “I think our party’s leaders — some of them — are overemphasizing the abortion issue.”
While Mr. Carter has previously expressed ambivalence about abortion, his statements yesterday were “astonishing,” said Robert Knight, director of the Culture and Family Institute at Concerned Women for America.
“He has long professed to be an evangelical Christian and yet he had embraced virtually all the liberal political agenda,” said Mr. Knight. “Maybe with Jimmy Carter saying things he never uttered before, more liberals will rethink their worship of abortion as the high holy sacrament of liberalism.”
Running for president in 1976 — just three years after the Supreme Court’s landmark Roe v. Wade decision — Mr. Carter took a moderate stance.
“I think abortion is wrong and that the government ought never do anything to encourage abortion,” he said during that campaign. “But I do not favor a constitutional amendment which would prohibit all abortions, nor one that would give states [a] local option to ban abortions.”
In Washington to promote his latest book, “Our Enduring Values,” Mr. Carter acknowledged he made mistakes in office.
“I can’t deny I’m a better ex-president than I was a president,” said Mr. Carter, who in recent years has traveled the globe with his wife Rosalyn, “trying to help hold 61 elections” in developing countries.
He has been outspoken in condemning Mr. Bush’s policy toward Iraq. “I think all Christians — and certainly all Baptists — are different,” Mr. Carter said yesterday. “I have a commitment to worship the Prince of Peace, not the Prince of Preemptive War.”
But he praised Mr. Bush’s policy toward war-torn Sudan, and declared that the best treatment he has received since leaving the Oval Office was from the first President Bush, and the second-best treatment he got was during the Reagan administration, especially from Secretary of State George P. Shultz. The worst treatment he’s received, the former president said, was from President Clinton.
Mr. Carter said his party lost the 2004 presidential elections and lost House and Senate seats because Democratic leaders failed “to demonstrate a compatibility with the deeply religious people in this country. I think that absence hurt a lot.”
Democrats must “let the deeply religious people and the moderates on social issues like abortion feel that the Democratic party cares about them and understands them,” he said, adding that many Democrats, like him, “have some concern about, say, late-term abortions, where you kill a baby as it’s emerging from its mother’s womb.”