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Jimmy Carter, Phony Hate Crimes, Etc.

From the Scrapbook.

Oct 22, 2007, Vol. 13, No. 06
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Phony Hate Crimes Watch

Students at George Washington University awoke the morning of October 8 to a campus blanketed in posters that blared, "HATE MUSLIMS? SO DO WE!!!" The posters depicted a "typical Muslim" with "lasers in eyes," "venom from mouth," a "suicide vest," and a "peg leg for smuggling children and heroin," and purported to be an advertisement for Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week, an event Young America's Foundation in conjunction with David Horowitz's Freedom Center is hosting at GW and campuses around the country to bring attention to the threat of radical Islam.

Before you could say hate crime! the president of the YAF chapter had been asked by a university bureaucrat to sign a letter condemning hate speech, and was summarily dragged before a "peace forum" where he was booed and hissed by 100 of his inquisitor-classmates for suggesting, while he defended his group, that a minority of Muslims, however small, support radicalism and terrorism. Just as quickly, the story of an anti-Muslim hate crime at GW popped up on IslamOnline.net and reached papers as far away as India and Pakistan. Steven Knapp, president of the Washington, D.C., university, issued a statement: "We do not condone, and we will not tolerate, the dissemination of fliers or other documents that vilify any religious, ethnic, or racial group."

For what it's worth, THE SCRAPBOOK isn't sure if President Knapp was playing dumb or simply being dumb. Had he read the fine print on the posters, he would have seen that a group called "Students for Conservativo-Fascism Awareness" claimed responsibility and had posted a link to an antiwar video on the Internet. Even the Washington Post was quick enough on the uptake to caution in the headline of its story that "Posters May Be Intended to Mock Conservative Group."

Sure enough, seven left-wing students admitted responsibility the next day. What a horrible misunderstanding it all was! The seven were shocked that some didn't understand the posters aimed to satirically vilify conservatives, not Muslims. Knapp seemed to sympathize, telling the student newspaper: "I understand that whatever their intent may have been, they also need to appreciate that it caused pain to members of the Muslim community."

If it's not too much to ask, THE SCRAPBOOK would like President Knapp to join in a thought experiment. Pretend that the posters had read "HATE JEWS AND CHRISTIANS? SO DO WE!!!" and purported to be the handiwork of the Muslim Students' Association. How would he have responded?

Irrepressible Jimmy

THE SCRAPBOOK has a weakness for feisty senior citizens--raging grannies, two-fisted geezers, sprightly Notch Babies, etc.--and so has lately taken special notice of 83-year-old Jimmy Carter, whose public pronouncements on the Bush administration have shown an increasing lack of--well, inhibition.

Of course, Carter's superlatives have always had a surreal quality about them: Back in 1976, when he was running for president (and was a mere whipper-snapper of 52), he referred to the U.S. tax code as "a disgrace to the human race" and touted himself in a campaign autobiography with a title that oozed Christian modesty: Why Not the Best? The following year he reviewed the evidence of corruption against his Georgia pal and soon-to-be-ex-budget director, Bert Lance, and told a White House press conference, "Bert, I'm proud of you."

But as the decades have added up, and the galling memory of his 1980 loss to Ronald Reagan has festered in -Carter's nuclear engineer's brain, it would seem that the machinery has begun to falter a little, and there's been a meltdown in the reactor. That's an oblique way of saying that Carter's critical comments about political adversaries, always pointed, now feature an especially nasty, frequently personal, tone. He snarls things publicly that very few former presidents, in living or historic memory, would ever have said about any successor administration.

Case in point is his recent complaint to the BBC that Vice President Dick Cheney has been "a disaster for America"--a little sulphurous, but still within the boundaries of contemporary discourse--followed by the disjointed observation that Cheney is "a militant who avoided any service of his own in the military and he has been most forceful in the last 10 years or more in fulfilling some of his more ancient commitments that the United States has a right to inject its power through military means in other parts of the world."

If it weren't for the fact that this remarkable sentence was delivered with Carter's customary combination of fury and piety, THE SCRAPBOOK would be tempted to laugh. But apart from the mysterious--or maybe not so mysterious--allusion to "ancient commitments," we were struck by Carter's gratuitous assertion that Cheney "avoided any service of his own in the military."

This is not the first, nor will it be the last, time that THE SCRAPBOOK is obliged to point out that some of the greatest Democratic war presidents in history--James Madison, James Knox Polk, Woodrow Wilson, Franklin D. Roosevelt--could also be described as "militant[s] who avoided any service of [their] own in the military," and that Carter's point is an irrelevancy.

When he ran for president, it did not go unnoticed among some veterans of the Second World War that Pearl Harbor had been attacked when Jimmy Carter was in his 18th year, and that he spent the duration of the conflict in safe harbor at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, graduating in 1946, a full year after the fighting had ended. That, too, was an irrelevancy. Carter wasn't fit to be commander in chief, but his military record had nothing to do with it.

Good Night, Dan, and Good Luck

Howard Kurtz's new book Reality Show is mostly about the anointing of the latest crop of network news anchors, Brian Williams, Charlie Gibson, and Katie Couric. But in the course of this tale, the Washington Post's media reporter also gives us great backstory on our favorite journalistic heel, ex-CBS anchorman Dan Rather.

Much of the Rather material is a rehash of the Thornburgh-Boccardi report commissioned by CBS to limit the damage from its use of a forged document in a broadcast on George W. Bush's National Guard service. But Kurtz has two fresh tidbits. The first is that on the night before the Texas Air National Guard story was scheduled to run, Rather was told that the network wasn't promoting the story because there was still a chance it might be held. In a fit of pique, he warned the 60 Minutes Wednesday executive producer that if the segment didn't air, he'd leak one of the documents from the piece to the New York Times.

The second gem Kurtz unearths is a story about Rather in his waning days at CBS. Feeling beset by enemies on all sides, Rather looked for solace wherever he could find it. Kurtz reports, "He had been to see Good Night and Good Luck, the George Clooney film about [heroic anchorman Edward] Murrow, five times, sometimes sitting in the darkened theater by himself."