2007-05-22

Carter eases back on [weasels out of] criticism of Bush

Posted in Linkage at 9:30 am by cori

Former President Jimmy Carter weasels out of his previous comments regarding the Bush Administration:

“This administration’s foreign policy, compared to President Nixon’s, was much worse,” Carter said on NBC. “I wasn’t comparing this administration with other administrations back through history but just with President Nixon’s.” (from The Boston Globe)

In contrast to that statement, here’s what he said to the interviewer:

Carter called the Bush administration “the worst in history” when it comes to foreign affairs and accused the president of abandoning “America’s basic values.” (from Arkansas Democrat Gazette, audio here)

Now President Carter’s right, he was responding to a question about a comparison between the Nixon and Bush administrations.  But what he said, “this administration has been the worst in hist … worst in history,” was clear-cut and patently directed specifically at the current administration, not in comparison to another administration, but in contrast to the arc of the American Presidency.  It was unequivocal and not particularly subject to misinterpretation.

Now I happen to agree with what Mr. Carter said originally; this administration had been an almost unqualified disaster, both for the United States and for the world as a whole.  But as important as that is that President Carter’s not taking responsibility for his statements.  He’s dissembling when he says “My remarks were maybe careless or misinterpreted, but I wasn’t comparing the overall administration and I was certainly not talking personally about any president” (Globe) and it hurts his credibility in my eyes and perhaps on the larger stage.  If he felt he was wrong to say that then fine, he should admit he made a mistake, and apologize if appropriate.  But he shouldn’t try to change what he said to get out of taking responsibility for his words – that’s too similar to what members of the current administration are wont to do.  Perhaps the White House is right when they say that Carter is increasingly irrelevant, and perhaps he should constrain himself to his work in Habitat for Humanity and the Carter Center, where he’s done some real good, and where his words are less likely to get him in hot water.

On a side note, my congratulations and thanks to the Arkansas Democrat Gazette and Frank Lockwood and whatever other editors or publishers were involved in the decision to post the audio so we could hear President Carter’s words for ourselves.  I wonder if they would have done so if the audio would have reflected less favorably on themselves or not been quite as newsworthy – there’s the real test of journalistic openness.

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