News - Should Jimmy Carter publicly chastise George W. Bush?

Yes. Carter's criticism helps Bush by reinforcing for many Americans the reasons they sent Carter packing

Speaking as the biggest Dubya fan this side of Laura, I think folks lambasting Jimmy Carter for his recent criticism of President Bush in a Columbus newspaper ought to get a grip.

Your humble correspondent will fight to the death for the right of ex-presidents to freely speak their minds, no matter how misguided they are. (I do, however, reserve the right to change my mind if B.J. Clinton starts popping up again.)

Indeed, I think Carter's statement that he was "disappointed in almost everything [Bush] has done" helps Bush by reinforcing for many Americans the reasons they sent Carter packing in 1980.

Don't get me wrong — I admire Jimmy Carter immensely as a person, and I think his post-presidential career has made the world a better place. As someone old enough to remember the Carter years (but I hasten to add, not old enough to vote at the time), I can confirm that he was not the demon Republicans made him out to be during the Reagan era.

He also was honest and kept his pants on — no small thing given what we endured under Clinton and Nixon.

But as a leader, Jimmy Carter is no Zell Miller. He was the Neville Chamberlain of the 1970s, led astray by a squishy idealism rarely seen in a Baptist. Asking Carter to grade presidential performance is a lot like asking a vegetarian to grade beef. Interesting, perhaps, but not particularly useful.

Carter's dislike of Bush's first six months seems to stem from the very attributes that made him a well-intentioned failure in the White House. Where Carter was naive, Bush is pragmatic. Where Carter was idealistic, Bush is realistic.

The two men also govern in different times. When Carter was president, the world was divided into two nervous camps, with fingers on nuclear triggers. We sometimes had to compromise our self-interest to foster strategic good will.

In the post-Cold War world, though, Bush is free to push what's good for America, despite international disdain. Carter's comments show he doesn't appreciate these changed circumstances.

The biggest irony about Carter's criticism of Bush is that liberals are now shouting, "Right on, Jimmy." There was a time in the late 1970s where many of these same folks on the left viewed Carter as too conservative. They were running around trying to replace him with Ted Kennedy (who, we might note, helped Bush push his education reform measure through the Senate.)

Carter was never a conservative, of course, and judging from his recent remarks, gets less conservative all the time. Nevertheless, his comments add an interesting perspective to the debate — as long as we remember to consider the source.??

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