Former President Jimmy Carter sat down for an interview with Maureen Dowd for the New York Times and dropped some pretty interesting bombs.  Dowd focused her write-up on his answer to her question about acting as a go-between for the Trump White House and North Korea.  He said that he would go if asked, and that’s certainly both important and within his wheelhouse.  In the interview, however, Carter also defends President Trump and offers surprising assessments of former-president Obama, failed presidential candidate Hillary, and the media.

His comments in defense of Trump might be seen as an attempt to ingratiate himself in order to be called upon to assist with North Korea.  Maybe.  But that doesn’t explain his apparent candor in unflattering critiques of Obama, Hillary, and the media.

On a diplomatic mission to North Korea:

So is it time for another Carter diplomatic mission, and would he do it for Trump, his polar opposite in so many ways?

“I would go, yes,” he said . . . .

I told him that the big shots in Washington were terrified about the childish, bellicose tit-for-tat tweeting battle between the Dotard and Little Rocket Man.

“I’m afraid, too, of a situation,” he said. “I don’t know what they’ll do. Because they want to save their regime. And we greatly overestimate China’s influence on North Korea. Particularly to Kim Jong-un. He’s never, so far as I know, been to China.” (Who knows if he made a surreptitious trip.) Carter continued, “And they have no relationship. Kim Jong-il did go to China and was very close to them.”

He said that the “unpredictable” Kim Jong-un makes him more nervous than his father, Kim Jong-il, and that if the young leader thinks Trump will act against him, he could do something pre-emptive. “I think he’s now got advanced nuclear weaponry that can destroy the Korean Peninsula and Japan, and some of our outlying territories in the Pacific, maybe even our mainland,” Carter explained.

He said he has talked to Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster, Trump’s national security adviser, who is a good friend, including at Zbigniew Brzezinski’s funeral when McMaster asked to sit next to Carter, but has so far gotten a negative response.

“I told him that I was available if they ever need me,” he said.

In defense of President Trump regarding Russia and on America’s diminished role on the world stage:

When I asked about Trump’s souring our image in the world, Carter defended his successor.

“Well, he might be escalating it but I think that precedes Trump,” he said. “The United States has been the dominant character in the whole world and now we’re not anymore. And we’re not going to be. Russia’s coming back and India and China are coming forward.”

. . . .  He also said he liked Trump’s initiative reaching out to Saudi Arabia. He doesn’t know Jared Kushner but is not totally dismissive of the idea that the son-in-law could succeed where others have failed.

“I’ve seen in the Arab world, including the Palestinian world,” he said, “the high esteem that they pay to a member of one’s own family.”

. . . . Carter is also not as bothered as some by Trump’s Putin bromance. “At the Carter Center,” he said, “we deal with Putin and the Russians quite frequently concerning Syria.”

. . . . He said: “I don’t think there’s any evidence that what the Russians did changed enough votes, or any votes.”

On Obama’s reneging on his lofty promises:

Indeed, Carter was harder on Obama during the interview than he was on Trump. Both Carter and Trump had stern, demanding fathers. “Daddy expected me to be perfect,” Carter told me. “So I obeyed his orders and his wishes.”

Saying that he did not think “there’s much hope now that Israelis will ever permit a two-state solution,” he knocked Obama on the Middle East: “He made some very wonderful statements, in my opinion, when he first got in office, and then he reneged on that.”

Recalling that “we have 22 votes in our family and Obama got all 22 of them,” he complained that Obama had “refused” to talk to North Korea more, and then Carter lamented the fact that Obama joined in the bombing of Yemen, which Carter says is the most interesting place he’s ever been. (He even tried chewing khat, an addictive shrub that acts like amphetamines.)

I asked if he had Obama’s email address.

“No,” he said flatly.

For those readers unfamiliar with the South,”reneging” on anything is considered by Southerners the height of ungentlemanly behavior.  People who renege on deals, their word, anything are forever untrustworthy and beneath contempt.

The Carter clan may all have voted for Obama, but they did not vote for Hillary, at least not in the primaries.  Instead, they voted for Sanders.

On Hillary:

Carter noted that in the primary, “We voted for Sanders.”

. . . . When I compared the Clinton Foundation with the Carter Center, Carter noted: “Rosie and I put money in the Carter Center. We never take any out.”

For those readers unfamiliar with the South, Southerners rarely directly say what they think when what they think is unpleasant or unflattering.  Turning the question to themselves, Southerners prefer the side-swipe insult:  “Do you like my new butt-hugging purple lycra sparkly mini-skirt?”  Response:  “I certainly could never pull that off.”  If it’s truly God-awful (say the person plans to wear it to a wedding):  “I certainly could never pull off such a . . . unique look.”

Carter, himself a frequent target of the media while president, notes that the media is harder on Trump than on any other president in his memory.

On the media:

I wondered how the starchy Carter, who put out a White House edict that nobody could fly first class, felt about the louche Trump White House, where conflict of interest has been replaced by confluence of interest.

“I think the media have been harder on Trump than any other president certainly that I’ve known about,” Carter replied. “I think they feel free to claim that Trump is mentally deranged and everything else without hesitation.”

Carter is sympathetic to the argument for removing them, but would like to see explanatory labels afixed to them rather than erasing that part of our history.

On Confederate statues:

On the issue of tearing down Confederate statues, the former president mused: “That’s a hard one for me. My great-grandfather was at Gettysburg on the Southern side and his two brothers were with him in the Sumter artillery. One of them was wounded but none of them were killed. I never have looked on the carvings on Stone Mountain or the statues as being racist in their intent. But I can understand African-Americans’ aversion to them, and I sympathize with them. But I don’t have any objection to them being labeled with explanatory labels or that sort of thing.”

Carter thinks that the NFL #TakeAKnee protesters should find another way to protest and stand for the national anthem.

On the NFL kneeling during the national anthem and before our flag:

On the issue of N.F.L. players kneeling, Carter was less sympathetic: “I think they ought to find a different way to object, to demonstrate. I would rather see all the players stand during the American anthem.”