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Jimmy Carter, observed

By A. M. Mora y Leon, The American Thinker

September 30th, 2004 - Jimmy Carter has been acting like a grumpy old man this week, casting somewhat shocking aspersions on the fairness and legitimacy of the forthcoming Presidential election in Florida. Maybe his nasty streak has something to do with a quiet but very significant affront dealt him by the United States Department of State, an insult which has completely escaped the notice of the legacy media, but which is loudly reverberating in the clubby universe of high level diplomacy and elite NGOs.

The Man from Plains, who has so assiduously cultivated a good-guy image, has taken to disparaging the possibility of a fair democratic process in his own country, in a fit of pique.

Carter’s been making a nice little side business out of “observing” foreign elections for years, through the vehicle of his nonprofit Carter Center. In the same op-ed article that he used to disparage in advance Florida’s election, he touted his role in the Aug. 15 Venezuelan recall referendum as proof of his success. The only problem is that evidence is mounting of massive electoral fraud in Venezuela – in the counting of votes, in the machines themselves, in the post-referendum statistical studies showing improbable results, in the voter rolls, and in the auditing. And that’s just for starters.

Thus, the United States Department of State has suspended its plan to endorse former President James Earl Carter’s final report on the Venezuelan election. Carter’s report was to have been the basis for further diplomacy with a certifiably legitimate government there. Instead, State has only “acknowledged” the preliminary findings, leaving Carter’s status as a recognized authoritative certifier of elections hanging out to dry.

This may not sound like much to you, but it effectively disconnects Jimmy Carter’s claim to be a momentous election-certifier from its power source: the ability to get the United States Government to accept the word of its 39th President as dispositive. Carter has been quietly but publicly “dissed,” and he is dissing back. As they might put it in Carter’s rural South, we’ve got us a dissing match!

This morning, Carter posted a 14-page executive summary of his election certification of Venezuela on the Carter Center website. It is a piece of work.

In the short summary, Carter bureaucratically repeats his claim that he matched paper ballots from 150 or 200 voting stations to a few sheets of transmission data, as if that were the only way to commit fraud in a place like Venezuela. Carter continues to muddle the issue of whether there was a problem with the choice of audit boxes picked by the five-member election commission, that even he admitted was stacked for Chavez.

In an earlier report on his Aug. 26 second audit, he admitted disregarding auditing any boxes that had been obviously tampered with. That’s certainly one way to simplify the process and get right to the business of approving the results.

Carter also ignores the problem of server communications with the electronic voting machines before transmitting final tallies, and dismisses post-referendum statistical studies by scientists from MIT and elsewhere, showing highly improbable ‘coincidences.’ On that, Carter’s simple rebuttal reads: “these patterns were not found a basis to assert fraud.”

Meanwhile, Carter skips over discrepancies in areas showing that the number of votes cast exceeded the number of registered voters. And his statement on the auditing process in particular is a beauty: Carter said everything was observed free and clear, except for what went on “in the central totalization room,” and concluded that, except for that minor matter, all was free and fair. It would be like an Olympic judge declaring a last-place finisher a winner - with the exception of what went on at the finish line. For good measure, Carter’s executive summary blames Venezuela’s free press for voter disillusion and recommends more government oversight on it, as well as more public funding for campaigns of this kind. No wonder the Bush Administration has decided to not touch it. The State Department had trusted Carter to give an honest, or let’s say competent, assessment of that mess that has real potential to blow into a crisis for the U.S. Make no mistake about the depth of anger of the Venezuelan people and what they are likely to do. Venezuela’s crucial role as a major oil-supplier role for the U.S. makes anything happening there to destabilize the country and its economy and matter of major immediate concern.

“It’s not really an election, so we haven’t said anything more than that and we’re not going to say any more,” a State Department official admitted. Since then, the Bush Administration’s position has hardened. Carter’s claims of free and fair elections in Venezuela are being shunted aside as a failure. That has denied Chavez the recognition he had been expecting from Carter, which he had hoped would extend into the White House. Bush is much too savvy for that and Chavez’s plan failed. U.S. officials have pointedly refused to congratulate Chavez on his ‘victory,’ and haven’t bothered to invite him to the White House or a key United Nations reception as Chavez had hoped, prompting him to cancel his U.S. trip earlier this month. And the result for Carter? No kudos are coming his way after his rush to declare the recall referendum free and fair. That’s why he must toot his own horn now, if he wants credit, in attack editorials denigrating Bush’s brother running Florida. His vindictive streak is by now well-known. He can only try to tear down others, now that no one is listening to his ‘observations’ after the Venezuela fiasco. And Chavez has been denied the imprimatur of international legitimacy he desperately craves since the reality is, he isn’t going to get it at home. Score another point for President Bush’s good judgment on affairs abroad.

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