RENO, Nev. (AP) – Former President Carter urged Nevadans on Thursday to elect his Democratic son, Jack, to the Senate to help combat a Bush administration he says has brought “international disgrace” to the United States.
“This country is now more sharply divided that it has ever been,” the former president told a crowd of at least 300 at the University of Nevada, Reno.
“I’ve been deeply embarrassed as a civil rights advocate that we have had the American government stand convicted around the world as one of the greatest abusers of civil rights,” said Carter, the 2002 winner of the Nobel Peace Prize.
“What has happened the last five years has brought discouragement and sometimes international disgrace to our great country,” he said.
Jack Carter is bidding to unseat Republican Sen. John Ensign. Both father and son said Ensign must go because he has voted 96 percent of the time with the Bush administration, which they said has bungled foreign policy while cutting taxes for the rich to the detriment of working Americans.
“What has happened in the last five years has been a radical departure from what all previous presidents have done, including George Bush Sr., and Ronald Reagan and Gerald Ford and Richard Nixon and Dwight Eisenhower,” the former president said, listing the last five Republican presidents.
“We have never before in this nation had a policy of pre-emptive war, which means we go to war against people not because they are a danger to our country, but because our government feels another leader will not comply with the demands that come out of Washington,” he said.
As a result, the U.S. mounted “an ill-advised invasion of Iraq based on false premises, false statements and this has been the major international debacle that our country has brought on Americans,” he said.
Ensign’s campaign manager, Chris Carr, did not immediately return a telephone call seeking comment.
Carter, who also planned a speech Thursday night at a fundraiser sponsored by the Washoe County Democratic Party, said when the United States entered Afghanistan after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, the country was “perhaps as united as we have been since the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941.”
“We also had the unanimous support of every country on earth. … Every country pledged to the United States, `We will stand by you and be a partner with you in a unanimous commitment to root out terrorism around the world,'” he said.
“We frittered that away. We gave it up by going into Afghanistan in the beginning and then in an ill-advised departure from the war on terrorism, we decided to invade Iraq and we let Al-Qaida build up its strength and we let Osama Bin Laden escape.”
Carter also criticized the Bush administration for rejecting or publicly abandoning “every single nuclear arms control agreement ever negotiated since the time of Dwight Eisenhower” and cutting off all attempts to negotiate peacefully with Iran, North Korean and Palestine.
“For the first time in history since Israel became a nation, this administration for the last five years has absolutely refused to have any substantive peace talks between Israel and its troubled neighbors,” he said.
“It’s a total abandonment of the finer aspects of America that made us great in the past as we brought agreement between Israel and the Palestinians, first of all, secondly with Egypt and also with Jordan,” he said.
It was the second consecutive day the former president campaigned for his son, making appearances on Wednesday in the rural communities of Fallon and Elko.
“These are not Democratic strongholds. I’ll admit I used Dad a little bit as bait,” Jack Carter said, noting that Bush carried 70 percent of the vote in Nevada’s rural counties against Democrat John Kerry in 2004.
Jack Carter said his family is pitching in to mount a “retail” campaign to help introduce his ideas, especially to rural voters.
“Our polls show when people meet us, they like us better than the other guy,” he said.
“I tell people I’m a Democrat because Democrats are for the working men and women in this country and Republicans are not,” he said.