Sunday, May 20, 2007
LITTLE ROCK, May 19 -- Former president Jimmy Carter called President Bush's international relations "the worst in history" and also took aim at Bush's environmental policies and the administration's "quite disturbing" faith-based initiative program.
The criticism came in an interview with the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, which reported Carter's remarks Saturday. The denunciation of a sitting president was unprecedented for Carter, a biographer said.
The former president also lashed out at British Prime Minister Tony Blair. Asked by BBC Radio how he would judge Blair's support of Bush, Carter said: "Abominable. Loyal. Blind. Apparently subservient. And I think the almost undeviating support by Great Britain for the ill-advised policies of President Bush in Iraq have been a major tragedy for the world."
In his interview with the Democrat-Gazette, Carter, who won a Nobel Peace Prize in 2002, criticized Bush for having "zero peace talks" in Israel. Carter also said the administration "abandoned or directly refuted" every negotiated nuclear arms agreement, as well as environmental efforts, by other presidents.
"I think as far as the adverse impact on the nation around the world, this administration has been the worst in history," Carter said. "The overt reversal of America's basic values as expressed by previous administrations . . . has been the most disturbing to me."
Carter said that Bush's policy of preemptive war, "where we go to war with another nation militarily, even though our own security is not directly threatened," was "a radical departure from all previous administration policies."
Carter also offered a harsh assessment for the White House's Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, which helps religious charities receive billions in federal grants.
"As a traditional Baptist, I've always believed in separation of church and state and honored that premise when I was president, and so have all other presidents, I might say, except this one," he said.
Carter spoke while promoting his new audiobook series, "Sunday Mornings in Plains," a collection of weekly Bible lessons from his hometown of Plains, Ga.
"Apparently, Sunday mornings in Plains for former President Carter includes hurling reckless accusations at your fellow man," said Amber Wilkerson, Republican National Committee spokeswoman. She said that it was hard to take Carter seriously because he also "challenged Ronald Reagan's strategy for the Cold War."
"This is the most forceful denunciation President Carter has ever made about an American president," said Douglas Brinkley, a Tulane University presidential historian and Carter biographer. "When you call somebody the worst president, that's volatile. Those are fighting words."
In February, Carter indirectly criticized the Bush administration at the funeral of Coretta Scott King, when he alluded to its handling of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
"The struggle for equality is not over," Carter said. "We only have to recall the color of the faces in Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi -- those most devastated by Katrina -- to know there are not yet equal opportunities for all Americans."
The comments drew a scornful reply from Bush's father, former president George H.W. Bush.