When I wrote about Jimmy Carter's antics recently, some suggested I should quit wasting my time discussing someone so irrelevant. Well, I'd be happy to comply, except that their assumption is incorrect. What this misguided and increasingly bitter man says, especially on foreign soil, does matter.
Don't forget that the Democratic Party leadership embraces Carter, as witnessed by his prominent role in the party's national convention, where he called President Bush -- in no uncertain terms -- a liar. Remember that when you're tempted to think of Carter as just a benign senior statesman.
I'll concede Carter has done some good works since he was defeated in 1980, but why that should insulate him from scrutiny for the many inappropriate and mean-spirited statements he's made since then escapes me.
I thought Democrats unanimously agreed that one of America's highest aspirations should be to ingratiate itself to its allies and other nations. Above all else, we should strive to be the most popular player on the international block.
They have brutalized President Bush for acting "unilaterally" and alienating the rest of the world. They say that by attacking Iraq he has made peaceful Muslims the world over -- who are otherwise inclined to love us dearly, of course -- hate us and become homicidal suicide bombers.
Why then, does Carter get a pass for constantly contributing to America's negative image by telling the world how bad we are?
Well, now he's not just telling them how bad (SET ITAL) we (END ITAL) are, but how bad our greatest single ally in the war is. Carter told The Sunday Telegraph, "I have been surprised and extremely disappointed by Tony Blair's behavior. I think that more than any other person in the world the Prime Minister could have had a moderating influence on Washington -- and he has not. I really thought that Tony Blair would be a constraint on President Bush's policies towards Iraq."
Carter said he holds Blair "substantially responsible" for his "compliance and subservience" to Bush, which has exacerbated America's unpopularity overseas "in countries like Egypt and Jordan," where "our approval ratings are less than five percent."
Notice that Carter gets a twofer here, blasting both Blair and Bush with his rhetorical popgun. His unstated premise is that if Muslim countries disapprove of our policies in the war, they must be right and we must be wrong. Wouldn't it be shocking if -- just once -- people like Carter would draw the opposite conclusion: that Egyptians and Jordanians are improperly sympathetic to the terrorist cause? And don't tell me this isn't about sympathy for Muslim terrorism.
Would you prefer to believe the Jordanians and Egyptians are righteously angry with us for deposing an incredibly evil dictator who enslaved, tortured and slaughtered his own people? Does that sound more reasonable to you?
Look at the Lebanese people's overwhelming support for the Hezbollah terrorists. How much more evidence do we need that it isn't our actions that cause them to hate us? Or, even if it is, that we can't quit fighting this war just so we can score higher in foreign popularity polls? (This is just a wild hunch, but I'll bet Jimmy's best buddy, Fidel Castro, disapproves of Bush's foreign policy, too.)
Since Carter has no plans to rebuke himself for slamming the leader of America's strongest ally, perhaps other Democratic leaders will step up to the plate and at least gently admonish him for alienating our allies and trying to validate the Muslim world's complaints against us.
The truth is that Tony Blair has been a courageous statesman and a refreshingly reliable ally throughout the war. He's stood tall against those in his own country and ours who have, in the spirit of Neville Chamberlain, turned their backs on the realities of 9/11 and pretended the evils we face don't exist, rather than confronting them.
By contrast, Jimmy Carter only sees evil in those who are fighting for good and opposing evil, like George Bush, Tony Blair, the United States and Great Britain.
Since the Democratic ex-presidents club is so determined to violate the traditional rule that former presidents don't criticize sitting ones, maybe President Bush should consider breaking that rule in reverse. As the sitting president, he might apologize to Tony Blair and the British people for the uncharitable, unfair and reprehensible remarks of former president Jimmy Carter, who has dishonored the sacrifices of America, Britain and their respective armed forces.
When it comes to foreigners' attitudes toward America, I'll take respect over popularity any day.