Former President Jimmy Carter took aim at President Donald Trump on Tuesday night, calling him “a disaster.”
Carter’s wife, Rosalynn, also criticized Trump, saying he has encouraged racism.
The sharp words came as the Carters addressed a crowd at the Carter Center in an update on the Atlanta-based center’s work.
Carter, 94, said it could be the last time he and Rosalynn, 92, would address them as he laid out a plan for how the Carter Center could go on without them.
The former president said he wanted his namesake institution to focus on ending wars, addressing global warming, securing human rights, working on treating people better and constructively criticizing the United States.
Those were also ideas that he wants to pass along to the remaining Democratic candidates vying for the presidency.
“If they do those things, I would probably vote for them. I don’t know who I will vote for, but I will vote for one of them,” Carter said. “I voted for Bernie (Sanders) the last time. But one of the major factors I have in my mind is who can beat Trump. Because I think it would be a disaster to have four more years of Trump.”
Carter then added, amid laughter, “This is a non-political meeting.”
The meeting was the first in the “Conversations with the Carters” series for the 2019-2020 season. Mary Ann Peters, chief executive officer of the Carter Center, said the event sold out in five minutes.
It’s not the first time Carter has criticized Trump. In June, he made international headlines by questioning Trump’s legitimacy, saying he believed Trump only won the 2016 election because Russia interfered on his behalf.
Trump, a Republican, responded at the time by saying Carter was “a nice man” but “a terrible president” who is loyal to Democrats.
On Tuesday, the Carters updated the crowd, as well as hundreds who were watching online, on what the Carter Center has been doing over the last year.
Rosalynn Carter talked primarily about her work in mental health, particularly her mental health task force, as she introduced the program’s journalism fellows.
“If the Carter Center had never done anything other than sponsor Rosalynn’s mental health program, we would have done fine,” Jimmy Carter said.
The couple also talked about their secrets of staying married for so long, which was one of about a dozen questions tossed at them from the audience. Most notably, never going to bed angry with each other and reading the Bible together every night – sometimes in Spanish.
“It is hard to stay mad after you read the Bible,” Rosalynn Carter said.
But politics came up more than once Tuesday. Asked about race relations, the former president called for understanding, but the former first lady was more direct.
“I think we need a new president,” Rosalynn Carter said. “I am so disturbed about white power. He [Trump] says he is not a racist and maybe he is not. But some of the things he says, encourages racism.”
Mapping the future of the Carter Center, Jimmy Carter continued to talk about ending wars. In the 243 years since the Declaration of Independence, he said, the United States has been in some form of war for 227 years.
“That means we have been at peace for 16 years. I won’t tell you who had four of those,” Carter said. “That shows you that the U.S. is deeply inclined to go to war.”
Carter said that despite Trump’s saber-rattling rhetoric, he appears reluctant to go to war.
“Which is something I like about him,” Carter said. “Don’t ask me what else I like.”
On the current conflict between Saudi Arabia and Iran, Carter said he is more friendly toward Iran than Trump is, while noting that Saudi Arabia was supportive of many of his policies while he was in the White House.
“I think we can resolve the issue diplomatically and that is what the president is inclined to do,” Carter said. “Find someone to talk to Iran with mutual respect. But I don’t have a clear answer on what side we should choose.”
Despite his criticism of Trump, Carter said he remained optimistic about America’s future.
“I still have complete confidence that the United States, if given time, will resolve its problems,” Carter said. “We have always been able to do that in the past, whenever we faced difficult questions. The United States still has that innate strength.”
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