President Joe Biden let slip Monday that former President Jimmy Carter may be closer to the end than previously disclosed.
During his speech at a Democratic Party fundraising event in California, Biden confided that Carter asked him to deliver the eulogy at his funeral proceedings. Biden quickly caught his gaffe, admitting he “shouldn’t say that.”
White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre gave no additional details in response to questions about the president’s eulogy comment but offered, “when it’s time and appropriate, certainly that conversation will happen.”
President Carter, who held office from 1977 to 1981, is at 98 both the nation’s oldest and longest-living president. He was admitted to hospice care on February 19 where facility staff typically treat pain and discomfort during near end-of-life stages.
At the fundraiser, President Biden reflected on his friendship with Carter, saying the former president has lived longer than anyone imagined:
“I spent time with Jimmy Carter, and it’s finally caught up with him, but they found a way to keep him going for a lot longer than they anticipated because they found a breakthrough,” Biden said.
The pair go back to Carter’s first run for president when Biden, then the junior senator from Delaware, became the first Democrat outside of Georgia to endorse the Southerner’s run for the White House at a time when party leaders were being pressured to back more establishment candidates from the North. Carter had just relinquished the governorship of Georgia and with no apparent political base secured an improbable come-from-behind victory in the Democratic primary. Carter went on to upset the “accidental President” Gerald Ford, who assumed office following the resignation of Richard Nixon in light of the Watergate scandal.
Despite winning as a Washington outsider, Carter’s lack of relations on Capitol Hill proved fatal to his reelection prospects. His battles with congressional Democrats over reforms to the welfare state, coupled with high inflation and gas prices, helped propel Ronald Reagan to the White House in 1980.