Carter’s Breakup on NBC Nightly News: Survivor Guilt?

Brian Williams stood up for Jimmy Carter Monday by airing a wonderful scene from the Carter Center over the weekend. At some panel convened by Williams, Carter volunteered a scene at Camp David with Anwar Sadat that is apparently not in his book. Sadat was leaving. Carter changed into a suit and tie, knelt in his room and prayed to God for guidance, then went into Sadat’s room and, surrounded by suitcases, asked Sadat’s aides to leave him alone with Anwar. Carter addressed Sadat angrily, nose to nose. “You’re betraying me and you’re betraying your people,” he said. If you leave, Carter went on, “I will sever our friendship.” Sadat, of course, stayed, and the rest is history.

As Carter told this story, he started to cry. I wonder about his survival guilt. Sadat may have preserved his friendship with Carter, but three years later he was assassinated. The episode suggests to me (again) the spiritual motivation for Carter’s valiant book. If he’s sacrificing himself, well, he owes as much to his friend.