Carter says he'd back Gore if fellow Nobel winner ran for White House

Former president stops in Gastonia, N.C.

GASTONIA, N.C. -- Cathy Ramsey got to the Gastonia Books-A-Million by 5:45 a.m. Friday. She wanted to thank former President Jimmy Carter.

"I appreciate the things he's saying," Ramsey, 60, said. "People are thinking them, but he actually says them."

On tour to promote his new book, "Beyond the White House," Carter this week stridently criticized Vice President Dick Cheney and accused the U.S. of torturing prisoners.

Hundreds of people swarmed the Franklin Square bookstore Friday morning and many lined up five hours before the former Georgia governor and peanut farmer was scheduled to show.

By 9 a.m., with Carter's actual appearance still two hours away, fans slouched in chairs, red-eyed but eager to talk about the man whose service they admired. Alice Martin of Mount Holly, N.C., wore her "Carter/Mondale '76" button and a necklace shaped like a peanut, with a large set of white grinning teeth.

"His values have always stayed with him," said Judy Edwards of Wesley Chapel, N.C. "We need more leaders like that."

After signing several books, Carter paused for questions.

He said he hoped that "two minutes" after the next president was elected, he or she would announce that America would not use torture, would treat poor people and the very rich equally, would separate religion from politics and would not engage in pre-emptive war.

"I can't imagine a Republican saying those things," Carter said.

Asked if he preferred any of the current Democratic candidates, Carter said he did not.

But he would support Al Gore if Gore decided to run for president, he said.

Carter, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2002, had called Gore on Friday morning to congratulate him on winning the same award.

"Beyond the White House: Waging Peace, Fighting Disease, Building Hope" gives a detailed look at Carter's peace negotiations, along with the rest of The Carter Foundation's work.

It begins with Carter's return to Georgia after losing the White House to Ronald Reagan in 1980. His farm and warehouse business was in debt, and he and his wife, Rosalynn, had to figure out what to do with the rest of their lives.

From their well-known work with Habitat for Humanity to their international human rights program, "Beyond the White House" catalogs their effort.

Just before his public appearance, Carter told the Observer his remarks about Cheney were not personal attacks, but rather criticism of policy.

"He's having the same altercation with Condoleezza Rice as he had with Colin Powell," Carter said. "He's advocating military intervention instead of diplomatic means."

Carter said the Bush administration is the first to use pre-emptive war, and it has led to disaster in Iraq. The administration should not make the same mistake with Iran, he said.

"We should be talking to them directly, not threatening them," he said.