Who doesn’t like to play Monday morning quarterback? Certainly, former President Jimmy Carter is comfortable in that role.
It might explain his propensity to criticize his successors, the latest being President Barack Obama and what Carter calls “disturbing proof of how far our nation's violation of human rights has extended.”
In a Sunday New York Times op-ed piece, the 39th president denounced the current administration for “clearly violating" 10 of the 30 articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Carter’s commentary cited revelations that top officials have a “kill list,” and recent legislation that gives the president the power to detain individuals on "suspicion of affiliation with terrorist organizations or 'associated forces.'" Carter called this legislation “a broad, vague power that can be abused without meaningful oversight from the courts or Congress;” a federal judge blocked the law for any suspects not affiliated with the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
“This law violates the right to freedom of expression and to be presumed innocent until proved guilty," Carter wrote.
While Obama was never mentioned by name in the commentary, Carter called for "concerned citizens" to "persuade Washington to reverse course and regain moral leadership."
This month began bleakly for Obama with abysmal unemployment numbers; Wisconsin Republican Gov. Scott Walker surviving a recall election and now Carter’s criticism. Next up for the president is the Supreme Court’s expected decision on healthcare reform on June 28.
If there’s one bright spot in this for Obama, it’s that former presidents Bill Clinton, Ronald Regan and both George H. and George W. Bush have been taken to task by Carter for their handling of human right matters.
Carter was president in November 1979 when Islamic revolutionaries overran the U.S. Embassy in Tehran. More than 60 Americans were held hostage for 444 days. Freedom for the hostages came just minutes after Ronald Regan was sworn in as the 40th president.
An American Experience: Jimmy Carter, a PBS program, raises the question of whether Carter was to blame for allowing it to happen.
"President Carter inherited an impossible situation—and he and his advisers made the worst of it," historian Gaddis Smith wrote. "Carter seemed to have a hard time deciding whether to heed the advice of his aggressive national security advisor or that of his more cautious State Department, according to the program. In the end he did neither and suffered the consequences."