Georgians Laud Carter Tribute

Monday, August 14th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

LOS ANGELES (AP) — He doesn't have a speaking role, but friends say that's just the way Jimmy Carter wants it.

Instead, Democrats will honor the 78-year-old former president from Plains, Ga., with a video tribute at their nominating convention Monday.

``He's a senior statesman now, and he's above the fray of partisanship,'' said Rep. Sanford Bishop, D-Ga., who flew to Los Angeles with Carter on Sunday.

Carter's presidential status makes him an automatic member of the Georgia delegation. But his staff at the Carter Center in Atlanta wasn't always sure he would attend. He skipped the 1996 convention in Chicago.

Former Georgia Rep. Buddy Darden, a delegate, called the tribute ``long overdue.''

``He was treated like a pariah at earlier conventions,'' Darden said. ``His greatest sin was losing.''

Carter served only one term in the White House; Ronald Reagan beat him in 1980.

And though recognizing defeated presidents can be risky during a political convention, when the party wants to put forth a winning image, some say Vice President Al Gore could win points by showcasing Carter as a president known for his deep religious convictions and upright morals.

``It does make sense,'' Darden said. ``The Republicans' only hope is to try to picture the Democrats as morally bankrupt because of President Clinton's unfortunate mistake.''

On Sunday, Carter attended a reception with former members of his White House staff, including Bert Lance, former director of the Office of Management and Budget, and former Clinton Secretary of State Warren Christopher, who played a key role negotiating the release of American hostages in Iran at the end of Carter's term.

Carter skipped a later reception for Georgia delegates at Fox Studios, but his 25-year-old grandson, Jason, stood in to receive warm greetings from delegates.

``They're excited to be out here,'' the younger Carter said of his grandparents and other relatives who've come for the tribute. ``All of us think it's great. It's an honor.''