« Previous  
 Next »

Carter comments

06/06/07 12:00AM By Olin Robison
 MP3   Download MP3 

(HOST) Former President Jimmy Carter has made some public statements lately that have been widely reported and criticised. Commentator Olin Robison has some thoughts about why they've caused such a fuss.

(ROBISON) It has long been the custom in the United States that former Presidents do not comment publicly on their successors.

Recently, President Jimmy Carter appears to have violated that unwritten rule and he has compounded his public sin by having previously been critical of Israel in a recently published book.

The first of these public sins has provided rich material for the conservative talk-show set; the latter has brought forth a scathing response from the Israel-right-or-wrong crowd.

Prior to the recent remarks about the foreign policies of the current administration I sought at a dinner party to defend the former president only to find myself accused of anti-Semitism. Not surprisingly, I retreated. All I had said was that the man is in his eighties, he is both a former president and a holder of the Nobel Peace Prize, so, said I, if he can't say what he thinks now, when can he?

I still think that is a reasonable position. Besides, in his successor statement, he didn't criticize Bush himself. What he actually said was, "I think as far as the adverse impact on our nation around the world, this administration has been the worst in history."

O.K., so I am a partisan and what I said just proves it. It actually was a swipe at Bush. I would point out, however, out that he was only saying publicly what thousands are saying privately. And the Israel part of what he said is printed almost daily in several Israeli newspapers.

The difference, of course is that he is a former president. If you or I say it, well, the impact to say the least is minimal. Not so for former presidents.

The custom must have been a serious strain on any number of former presidents of both parties - several within living memory.

Now, back for a moment to President Carter, I admire the man and I think that over time history will likely be more kind to him than is the general case now.

Whether, in foreign policy terms, this crowd turns out to be the worst in history remains to be seen although my own prejudices do point in that direction. I predict that we will draw down most of our troops from Iraq sometime soon and then we will go through a sustained period during which we will hear much about how we would have "won" in Iraq except for an unsupportive Congress.

In the meantime, the custom of former presidents keeping quiet about their successors will obtain - most of the time. Meanwhile, President Carter, who has certainly himself endured plenty of public criticism, knows full well what he is doing and I suspect that he is enjoying it.

Olin Robison is past president of both the Salzburg Seminar and Middlebury College. He now lives in Shelburne.

comments powered by Disqus
Supported By
Become an Underwriter | Find an Underwiter