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Jimmy Carter's remarks misrepresented and his administration criticized to deflect scrutiny of Bush foreign policy disaster

Reported by Chrish - May 21, 2007 -

The flap over former President Jimmy Carter's remarks about the Bush administration has been, from the start, focused on Carter's propriety in saying them and his standing from which to judge. On the Big Story today 5/21/07, guest host Jon Scott asked questions that clearly showed his defense of Bush against Democrat Carter.

Democratic Strategist Steve McMahon tried to keep the focus on the content and meaning of Carter's comments, while Republican Strategist Terry Holt tried to make it about everything but the Bush performance and it's effect on America's standing.

Carter's comments, in an interview last Friday with the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette included

"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."

"We now have endorsed the concept of pre-emptive war where we go to war with another nation militarily, even though our own security is not directly threatened, if we want to change the regime there or if we fear that some time in the future our security might be endangered," he said. "But that's been a radical departure from all previous administration policies."

A Bush spokesperson has called the Nobel Peace Prize winner "irrelevant," to tamp down the effect of such critical words.

The segment came under the "Big Outrage" banner and Scott introduced it with some disparaging remarks about Carter: "Who's calling who the worst preseident of the United States? Jimmy Carter isn't going down in history as one of America's greatest leaders, but he isn't afraid to bad-mouth our current one." Scott said Carter was in damage-control mode again for another "off-color comment", back-pedaling from "calling Bush the Worst President in History. Carter said that is not what he meant." That's not what he said, either.

Carter was shown in a clip (from a Habitat for Humanity site where he was working) trying to put his words in context after being put on the defensive by the "liberal media." He said he was responding to a question comparing the Bush administration's foreign policies with those of the Nixon administration; Nixon had, in his estimation, a "very good and productive" foreign policy.
He said his remarks might have been careless or misinterpreted, but he was not comparing the overall administration and was certainly not talking personally about any president.

Scott showed the actual words used, "I think as far as the adverse impact on the nation around the world, this administration has been the worst in history," and speculated if they were careless or misinterpreted, ignoring option #3, the comments were being deliberately misrepresented. (Hence the big outrage.)

McMahon and Holt went back and forth, basically saying

McMahon: A lot of people might think it's not appropriate for en ex-president to criticize a sitting president, but there's no question GWBush has done enormous damage the the US standing in the world, damage that will take generations to repair.

Holt: Americans are sick of anger and hostility and partisanship in Washington, and then this mild-mannered humanitarian, from many people's perspectives, lashes out during most challenging foreign policy circumstance ever. He invoked 9/11, saying we had to take the fight not of our choosing overseas. Carter's administration characterized by weakness and indecision; imagine if he was president now. (The chyrons read ""Does Carter have any right to insult other presidents?" and "Who's calling who the worst president in history?") Bush has put us on offense, and Carter needs to apologize to Bush personally.

Scott recalled when Carter was president, he remembers gas lines and interest rates pushing 20%; those weren't exactly rosy years.

McMahon: This isn't about the Carter presidency, it's about what Jimmy Carter said. And it's about the situation today, because Bush chose to fight a war based on intelligence that was either hyped, misrepresented, or outright lied about. We're pinned down in Iraq rather than fighting the war on terrorism, which everyone agrees needs to be fought, and the whole world thinks less of us than they did five years ago because of these actions. We can only hope that after he's done...

Holt, overtalking and interrupting: Sia dthis is grand revisionism; it wasn't Bush's administration that originally said Iraq was a fundamental threat, but the Clinton administration. At the start of this "engagement" there were Democrats who were fully supportive. (But, but, but...Bush is the Decider!) Now that public opinion has changed, he can't imagine a worse foreign policy gaffe than just changing your mind in the fight...

McMahon: I'll give you one: sending your Secretary of State to make a presentation to the world about WMD when there was ample evidence that there were no WMDs, getting this country into an elective war, where we're pinned down now. That's a worse case of judgment than anything that happened in the Carter administration.

Holt: But a bad speech at the United Nations...

McMahon: It was a false speech.

Holt: A bad speech at the UN doesn't solve the policy position we're in today. What are you going to do now? The way the Democrats always get shut up when it comes to the war in Iraq is, what's your plan for victory? You only have a plan for defeat.

McMahon: We're five years in. We've made sure there were no WMDs, Saddam Hussein is gone, and there have been two elections. How much longer do we stay, 1,000 years?

Surprisingly, that was the end as the music started and Scott thanked them both.

Holt clearly didn't want to discuss Bush's foreign policy, turning the discussion (read: blame) to Carter, Clinton, Democrats then, Democrats now, anyone but Bush. Scott, in his role as moderator, only had snide comments about Carter, adding to the impression that the former president should be on defense. McMahon did a fine job keeping focused on Bush administration policy despite the efforts to change the subject by his opponent and the decidely not objective "moderator."