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Former President Carter Says Obama Ready to Lead


Former President Jimmy Carter did not formally endorse Illinois Senator Barack Obama until the primary season was over in June. But in an interview with VOA's Kane Farabaugh at the Democratic National Convention in Denver, he said he and most of his family voted for Obama in Georgia's February primary election. Now, as Obama prepares to formally accept his party's nomination, President Carter says Obama's message of change is also a way to improve the image of the United States abroad.

In 1976, when then-Georgia Governor Jimmy Carter was running as a Democrat against President Gerald Ford, energy security, inflation, dissatisfaction with a Republican administration, and foreign policy issues in Iran and Afghanistan dominated the campaign.

President Carter says there are many similarities between the elections in 1976 and 2008.

"I ran on a platform of change, of course that's what America was ready for," he said "The difference between me and Obama is that I didn't have any money."

Obama also has a message of change that resonated with his supporters during the primary elections. But his critics charge that message is more rhetoric than substance. President Carter says if Obama were to win in November, his inaugural speech and his message of change could be heard well beyond the United States.

"He can say when I am President of the United States, we will never torture another prisoner. While I am President of the United States, we will never go to war against another country unless our own security is directly threatened. When I am President of the United States, we will be the champion of human rights all over the Earth," Mr. Carter said.

Foreign policy challenges marked Jimmy Carter's presidency, from a hostage crisis in Iran to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. The issues contributed to his defeat by Ronald Reagan in the 1980 election.

Obama said he picked Delaware Senator Joe Biden as a running mate in part because of his strong foreign policy credentials. Just before Obama announced his choice, Biden made a trip to the former Soviet Republic of Georgia, which is pressing for Russian troops to leave its territory.

Mr. Carter says relations with Russia will be a major foreign policy challenge for the next president of the United States.

"I'm not defending Russia, but we still need to be sensitive to how they feel as they are surrounded by increasingly friendly nations to the West," he said.

President Carter has kept a relatively low profile at this week's Democratic National Convention. He turned down an opportunity to give a speech on the first day. And his only scheduled appearance before the crowd occurred after a previously taped segment that included his thoughts on flood ravaged New Orleans.

Mr. Carter has mostly stayed out of the political spotlight since he left the White House in 1981. He rarely campaigns for candidates, but says he stands ready to support Obama in any way he can.

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