Jimmy Carter criticizes Bush’s first 6 months as U.S. president

PLAINS, Georgia, AP

In a rare instance of one former president criticizing a current one, Jimmy Carter is taking issue with just about everything George W. Bush has done in office.

Carter criticizes Bush for not pressuring Israel to withdraw from the Gaza Strip, for threatening to abandon the anti-ballistic missile treaty and for not supporting human rights more strongly.

He says Bush has ignored moderates in both parties and calls Bush’s proposed missile defense shield a “technologically ridiculous” idea that will “re-escalate the nuclear arms race.”

“I have been disappointed in almost everything he has done,” Carter told the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer in an interview last week from his home in Plains.

Asked to comment, White House spokesman Scott McClellan said:

“President Bush is just returning from successful, productive meetings with European leaders, including a meeting with Mr. Putin where significant progress was made toward implementing new strategic framework that meets the threats of the 21st century.

“The president is looking forward and continuing to build upon the bipartisan progress we are making to achieve meaningful and real results for the American people.”

Carter also was critical of President Bill Clinton during the fellow Democrat’s administration, calling the Monica Lewinsky scandal an embarrassment and disparaging Clinton’s policy in North Korea and Haiti.

Carter is “a guy with strong views, and I think that’s always been the case,” said presidential scholar Charles Jones of the University of Wisconsin. “What surprises me is a kind of a sweeping critical analysis, at what has to be said is an early stage.”

Carter noted that he had volunteered to be one of the few Democrats at Bush’s inauguration because he was optimistic about the administration.

“I hoped that coming out of an uncertain election he would reach out to people of diverse views, not just Democrats and Republicans but others who had different points of view,” Carter said. “I thought he would be a moderate leader, but he has been very strictly conforming to some of the more conservative members of his administration, his vice president and his secretary of defense in particular. More moderate people like Colin Powell have been frozen out of the basic decision-making in dealing with international affairs.”

He was also critical of Bush for not calling for the removal of Israeli settlements on the West Bank.

“George Sr. took a strong position on that issue, and so did I,” said Carter, whose offer to mediate the conflict was declined by both the Israelis and the Palestinians.