Tuesday, September 21, 2010

September 21: Carter Steps Over the Line

By Sylvia Gurinsky

Some months ago, former President Jimmy Carter said an "Al Chet," the expression used on Yom Kippur to indicate one's sins, to the people of Israel.

Now, he owes one to the family of the late U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy.

Most former presidents, such as Bill Clinton, are relatively gentle in their remarks about political adversaries in memoirs and discussions. Some, such as Gerald Ford, leave the most critical remarks for others to release after they're gone.

Not Carter. He's releasing his "White House Diary," which includes notes he made during his presidency.

Carter was myopic about seeking support from Congress. Both Clinton and President Barack Obama would love to have had the support and quality of congressional leadership - Speaker Thomas P. "Tip" O'Neill of Massachusetts and Senate Majority Leader Mike Mansfield of Montana - that Carter had during his presidency. Carter didn't make use of that brainpower, though. His go-it-alone approach was one of the things that ultimately cost him a second term.

It also led to Ted Kennedy's eventual disenchantment and run for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1980. Carter hasn't forgiven Kennedy for that run, as he indicates in his book and his recent interviews.

In his autobiography "True Compass," Kennedy, who died in July, 2009, was tough on Carter, with good reason. Carter evidently hasn't forgiven that, either.

Health care reform simply wasn't a priority for Carter, whose one shining domestic achievement was the energy reform that President Ronald Reagan sadly rolled back when he took office. That's likely one of the reasons Kennedy challenged Carter in 1980.

During his political life and since, Carter has made much of his born-again Christian beliefs. He's still got a ways to go in the categories of forgiveness, humility and acknowledging his own mistakes.

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