Carter Infuriates White House

By Dan Froomkin
Special to
Monday, May 21, 2007; 2:08 PM

After years of maintaining an exasperated silence in the face of uncommonly harsh scolding by the 39th president, the White House finally let loose over the weekend.

There was apparently something about being called the worst president of all time by Jimmy Carter that President Bush just couldn't abide.

Carter was quoted over the weekend as calling the Bush administration "the worst in history" when it comes to international relations. He also characterized British Prime Minister Tony Blair's support for Bush as "abominable, loyal, blind, apparently subservient."

Tradition calls for former presidents to avoid personal attacks on their successors -- and for the White House to treat previous presidents with great respect.

But with Carter's hyperbole apparently having violated the rules of the game, the White House responded with fire.

"I think it's sad that President Carter's reckless personal criticism is out there," White House spokesman Tony Fratto said yesterday in Crawford, where Bush was spending the weekend. "I think it's unfortunate. And I think he is proving to be increasingly irrelevant with these kinds of comments."

As it happens, Carter this morning backed down in a TV interview, saying his "worst" comment had been "careless." He said he is normally careful "not to criticize any president personally." As for the White House assertion that he was irrelevant, Carter replied disarmingly: "I don't claim to have any relevancy."

Nevertheless, another milestone in the polarization of political discourse had been achieved.

The Back and Forth

Frank Lockwood, the religion editor at the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, started it all off with a blog post on Saturday based on an interview that was supposed to have been about the former president's new audio book series of Bible lessons.

Lockwood wrote: "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....

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