The Carter Critique

By Dan Froomkin
Special to
Thursday, October 11, 2007; 1:10 PM

Former president Jimmy Carter is once again lambasting the current occupants of the White House.

In one interview yesterday, Carter accused President Bush of abandoning the basic principles of human rights, engaging in torture, and lying about it. In another, he called Vice President Cheney a disaster for our country and a militant who is "trying again to promote once again what might well be a counterproductive and catastrophic military venture."

While it's traditional for former presidents to show some deference to their successors, this is not the first time Carter has publicly scolded Bush. Back in May, for instance, he infuriated the White House by calling Bush the worst president of all time when it comes to international relations. A Bush spokesman responded by calling Carter "increasingly irrelevant."

Carter may or may not be politically irrelevant, but the 2002 Nobel Peace Prize winner's critique is certainly timely -- coming as Bush's torture policy and Cheney's itchy trigger finger continue to provoke controversy.

Carter's Words

Here's the video and transcript of Carter's appearance on CNN with Wolf Blitzer yesterday.

Carter: "I think the entirety of the global human rights community . . . would agree with the fact that our country, for the first time in my lifetime, has abandoned the basic principles of human rights. . . .

Blitzer: "President Bush said as recently as this week the United States does not torture detainees."

Carter: "That's not an accurate statement if you use the international norms of torture as has always been honored, certainly in the last 60 years, since the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was promulgated. But you can make your own definition of human rights and say, 'We don't violate them.' And we can -- you can make your own definition of torture and say 'We don't violate it.'"

Blitzer: "But by your definition, you believe the United States, under this administration, has used torture."

Carter: "I don't think it, I know it, certainly."

Blitze: "So is the president lying?"

Carter: "The president is self-defining what we have done and authorized in the torture of prisoners, yes."

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