President Barack Obama wasn’t talking about immigration reform on his inauguration day Monday, but former President Jimmy Carter was.
“I think the next thing that’s going to be achieved is finally a partisan approach to alleviating the problems of illegal immigrants and giving them a chance to have self-respect and be legal in their presence here and have movement toward citizenship,” Carter told NBC.
“And I don’t think there’s much doubt after the remarkable participation of Hispanics voters that both parties are saying, ‘What can we do not to alienate this high degree of influence in the next election?’”
“So I would say immigration reform should be that first major achievement.”
Jimmy Carter was among the former presidents and dignitaries in Washington for the inauguration, recalling that it had been a bitter old six degrees when he was sworn into office in January 1977.
“I think this has been a ceremony of high diversity as you may have noticed with race and background and different ethnic groups,” Carter said of the Obama inaugural.
“I think there’s kind of a spirit of harmony and maybe anticipation for a more productive next four years.”
Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton are the only living former Democratic presidents. Former first lady Rosalynn Carter accompanied her husband at the Capitol’s West front.
The two other living presidents, Republicans George W. Bush and his father George H.W. Bush, did not attend. The elder Bush has been ill and was recently released from the hospital.
Carter said he had called the elder Bush in the hospital and had warm feelings toward him.
“He seemed to be quite vigorous and aware of what’s going on in the world,” Carter said. “And he and I talked about some good times together.
“As a matter of fact, strangely enough, when he was at the White House and James Baker was his secretary of state, I had my most intimate and productive—and I’d say friendly relationship—since I left the White House.”
“So I have a special friendship toward George Bush Sr.”