Air Force One, which is carrying President Bush, Mrs. Bush, President Clinton, President Bush the elder and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, has probably already landed in Rome; its occupants there to attend the Friday funeral of Pope John Paul II, of course.
From the moment the subject was broached concerning how many people would be in the presidential delegation to the funeral, it was reported that The Vatican deemed that only five could be in the delegation. Logically those members would be the sitting president, his wife and the three living former presidents who had
received Pope John Paul II in the White House met with Pope John Paul II. When the fifth person turned out to be Condi Rice instead of President Carter, however, I knew it wouldn’t be long before a faux controversy got stirred up. Senator Jon Corzine (D-NJ) did not disappoint.
When asked about President Carter's absense from the delegation, The Carter Center said that the White House had “reached out” to President Carter, but when he found out how small the delegation would be, the former president declined.
"We would have been more than happy to have him," White House spokesman Scott McClellan said. "We reached out to former President Bush, former President Clinton and former President Carter to be part of the delegation. It was his decision to make."I suspect that he wished to take Mrs. Carter with him. If so, why? President Bush’s mother and Senator Clinton aren’t even on the plane. (I also suspect that this is also a plausible reason for Jimmy Carter to stay out of company among which he’d rather not be. That roundtrip DC-Rome jaunt is a long time to spend among one’s adversaries.)
All was well. That is, however, until Senator Corzine stirred the pot with his foot. Allegedly he said this (no link yet):
“[I am] livid over the petty way in which the White House has snubbed President Carter.”Way to plant disinformation in the public mind, Senator. The White House says there was no snub, the Carter Center says there was no snub, but if you pretend that there was one, those who don’t look into dispensed information will believe it.
Meanwhile, Air Force One lands in Rome and up to three million will have viewed the pontiff's body by the end of Thursday.
UPDATE: The bit of propaganda is so insidious that even some of the righties have been hoodwinked about "poor" President Carter.
UPDATE: Factual error in main post about the presidential-pontifical meetings corrected.
UPDATE: Former President Carter:
"There has been no dissension between me and the White House concerning the pope's funeral..."But some people simply refuse to believe that President Bush didn't simply tell the former president to swim to Rome:
Although the White House extended the invitation in a letter, they argue, the Republicans did not offer it in spirit.
"The White House is making a blunder by not having Jimmy Carter come with them," said Douglas Brinkley, author of the Carter biography, "The Unfinished Presidency." "Carter has taken a real tilt leftwards. He's the most credible antiwar, anti-Iraq critic globally, and I just don't think Bush and Rice really feel like being in his company." [SNIP]
The aide said the White House indeed called Carter asking if he'd like to join the U.S. delegation, and Carter replied that he would. But, according to the aide, the White House soon called back saying the small group did not include former presidents. So Carter backed out, figuring the seat was needed for someone else, the aide said.There are those who will take offense to the wind blowing and will even create offense out of their own mistaken assumptions. Don't forget this. (And, yes, Republicans do it too. See Schiavo memo outcome, an imperfect analogy. I may blog about this later.)
The White House called once more, saying the first President Bush would, in fact, attend, the aide said. But the aide said Carter declined once more, thinking it was understandable that the president's father would go and assuming the guest list was essentially closed. The aide said that when Carter learned Clinton was going too, it was too late, and thus the former president became visibly absent from the group.