Monday, May 21, 2007

White House Accuses Jimmy Carter of Breaking Tradition

Those of us who have been watching George W. Bush closely for some time are quite aware of how thin-skinned the current president is and how less than honest the White House is when it comes to defending the president. Although Jimmy Carter is now somewhat backing away from his statements, here's the original story on what the former president said on the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette religious blog:
In a stinging rebuke to President Bush, former President Carter on Friday called the current administration “the worst in history” when it comes to international relations.

During a telephone interview with the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette from the Carter Center in Atlanta, the ex-president also accused the current White House occupant of eliminating the line between church and state and of abandoning “America’s basic values.”

“I think as far as the adverse impact on the nation around the world, this administration has been the worst in history. The overt reversal of America’s basic values as expressed by previous administrations, including [those of] George H.W. Bush and Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon and others, has been the most disturbing to me,” Carter said.

The White House was so concerned by Jimmy Carter's comments that they apparently had a session on how to respond to him and ended up calling him 'irrelevant':
In a biting rebuke, the White House on Sunday dismissed former President Jimmy Carter as "increasingly irrelevant" after his harsh criticism of President Bush.

Well, that sort of begs the question, doesn't it? If Nobel Peace prize winner and former President Jimmy Carter is irrelevant, then why was it necessary to respond?

As I said, Carter has somewhat backed off from his comments and I wish he hadn't. The media has stuck it's usual clumsy foot in the tiff by irrelevantly pointing out that former presidents do not criticize the sitting president. Yes, that has been a tradition but I would point out that the senior Bush has criticized his son in public by noting that his son is thin-skinned. The junior Bush did not object at the time, possibly because an objection would have drawn unwanted attention to what his father said. So the 'tradition' has already been broken, by George W. Bush's own father.

But let's go back to the cozy word, 'tradition.' There are good traditions and bad traditions. Slavery was a tradition at one time and a bad one; it was at one time acknowledged in the US Constitution and our constitution had to be changed. I'm inclined to think that for the most part it is a good 'tradition' for a former president not to criticize a sitting president. But what if the sitting president is breaking traditions himself, breaking them so recklessly and arrogantly that it becomes a bit of self-serving hypocrisy to invoke 'tradition' when it's convenient?

Let's look at some of the traditions Bush has broken:

It has been a 'tradition' for the president to work together with Congress when thinking about going to war. In 2002, Bush and his proxies repeatedly lied to Congress and claimed the president didn't need Congressional authority to go to war.

It has been a 'tradition' to separate Church and State. Our forefathers had many bad experiences with people who tried to conflate the two; the Baptists, in particular, were persecuted in our early history by those who insisted on a government-back denomination and even insisted on taxes being paid to that church which the Baptists were not members of. There are good reasons for that 'tradition' but Bush has found it politically advantageous to break down the wall that separates Church and State.

It has been a 'tradition' that Americans do not torture people. Bush has violated that tradition and pretended not to violate that tradition while seeking legal 'authority' to break the tradition with ridiculous signing statements that themselves ignore the tradition of leaving large legal issues to Congress and the courts. Congress writes the laws, not the president. The courts interpret the law, not the president. And torture is inconsistent with our values as a democratic nation and Bush's attitude on the matter has severely damaged our reputation around the world. When Bush talks about democracy, the world is no longer listening as closely to the United States as it once did.

It would not be difficult to continue listing 'traditions' Bush has broken. Many of those 'traditions' are in fact the law of the land (and there is no such law about former presidents). The fact of the matter is that George W. Bush is a national and international crisis all by himself. As the evidence mounts of the Bush Administration's blunders and even criminal behavior, I would urge Jimmy Carter and other former president to continue making statements on the most reckless and failed president in our nation's history. None of us are saying these things lightly. They have been imposed on us by a president who is unwilling to admit his mistakes and unwilling to change. Change can only come when our nation acknowledges we have a crisis in the White House.



Blogger Vigilante said...

I agree. Too bad Carter felt intimidated into backing off his statement because it's absolutely true. Bush is the worse president in American history. I would go further and say I hope he is the worse possible president, because I would hate to think that someone could be elected who would be even worse. But Carter backed off. He is, after all, 80 or more. Right? A little frail, perhaps. But his judgment is still more sound than most Republicans half his age.

8:53 PM  

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