Former President Jimmy Carter has gone to new levels of disrespect and outrageous behavior lately. In an interview with the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, he not only criticized President Bush’s foreign and domestic policies, but went so far as to call the Bush administration “one of the worst in history.”
Understandably, the Bush administration is not very popular at the moment, and according to the most recent Fox News/Opinion Dynamics Poll, his job approval rating sits at around 34 percent. However, to put this in perspective, Congress’s approval rating is actually lower and sits at 32 percent. While these numbers are certainly low, at the end of Carter’s presidency, his approval rating actually hit 21 percent, the lowest in polling history. Similarly, The Wall Street Journal, in an ideological balanced survey of presidential scholars taken in 2005, found Carter ranked 34th out of 40 presidents, barely beating out John Tyler, Millard Fillmore, Andrew Johnson, Franklin Pierce, Warren Harding and James Buchanan (William Henry Harrison and James Garfield were not rated, and Grover Cleveland was rated only once). In the same survey President Bush was ranked 19th.
Traditionally, presidents who retire from office refrain from attacking presidents and undermining the credibility of the United States, but not Jimmy Carter. In 2005, in a speech at American University in Washington, D.C., he was still sour over the 2000 election, claiming that, “the country failed abysmally in the presidential election process.” Likewise, he doubted the election results of 2004, and when asked about the recounts in Ohio, said “I don’t know about that” and proceeded to call Ohio’s secretary of state “highly partisan.” While, Carter may disapprove of the election results, questioning the credibility of the results, which he did without evidence, undermines the entire democratic process.
Carter was a poor president and is now simply a bitter man who has lost touch with reality. While most presidents happily retire and take up philanthropic activities, Carter still thinks he’s too important for that. Perhaps, his most controversial move was to write “Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid.” The book drew very negative reactions from Republicans and many in his own party, particularly from Nancy Pelosi and Howard Dean. Regardless of one’s view of the situation between Israel and Palestine, using the word apartheid to describe the situation is completely ridiculous. Israel has always had Arab citizens and through government efforts has attempted to educate children concerning humanitarianism and egalitarianism, while in other Arab countries the opposite is true. In the words of Nancy Pelosi, “The Jewish people know what it means to be oppressed, discriminated against, and even condemned to death because of their religion. They have been leaders in the fight for human rights in the United States and throughout the world. It is wrong to suggest that the Jewish people would support a government in Israel or anywhere else that institutionalizes ethnically-based oppression, and Democrats reject that allegation vigorously.”
What former presidents do after they leave office has been a concern since the beginning of our nation. For instance, in Federalist Paper No. 72 Alexander Hamilton asked, “would it promote the peace of the community, or the stability of the government to have half a dozen men who had credit enough to be raised to the seat of the supreme magistracy, wandering among the people like discontented ghosts, and sighing for a place which they were destined never more to possess?”
Former President Cleveland when asked about what to do with former presidents said, “Take them out and shoot them.” Another former president, William Howard Taft, suggested administrating a dose of chloroform once a president left office. While I don’t suggest either of these options for Carter, I do suggest that he take a vacation and at the very least learn to control himself.
Brian Eller is a materials engineering junior and Mustang Daily political columnist.