Carter also risks opening up a topic that in the long run it doesn't benefit the president or his supporters to dwell on. It's Obama's opponents who want to remind white, middle-of-the-road voters that Obama is black and therefore not like them. Obama and his supporters would sooner leave these things undiscussed. [...]
Lots of activists think telling the unvarnished truth is what matters in politics. But it isn't. What matters is accomplishing your goals, for yourself and the people. A former president ought to know this. Carter seems to me a good and sincere man. But his presidency was, let's face it, a failure. He does not have the standing to persuade large percentages of Americans to see things his way. Being right can sometimes be wrong.
It's always sad to see a good, smart, respected guy start to lose his marbles, but Carter's behavior over, say, the past five years strongly indicates that this is what's happening. His wildly unsuccessful attempts to intervene in the Middle East peace process have been characterized by extreme political insensitivity--there is an argument to invoking the Palestine/Apartheid analogy, but surely a successful politician must realize that these sorts of rhetorical comparisons turn people off? And then there was the business with handing out with the head of Hamas...
What's been frustrating is that Carter has a point, just as he had a point in the Palestine argument. That this comes on the heels of conservative assholes trying to lubricate racial tension (good take from The League), and the 9/12 march where racist posters abounded. But there's a way to make this point in a less-blunt way, just as there was a way to make the Palestine point in a more nuanced and digestible way.
This being said, I disagree with Tomasky that it's a no-win situation for Obama. Actually, this is the sort of thing he excels at--he can denounce Carter and Limbaugh, occupy the center ground, say that Carter was wrong and that a few rotten apples don't spoil the whole bunch, while Limbaugh is wrong to inject racial overtones into an essentially non-racial incident. But nontheless I think Carter should realize that his political sense is not as sharp as it was back in the day and he should quietly leave the public scene.