Oct. 4, 2004: Florida Doesn’t Need Carter’s Political Meddling

It was a classless thing to do, even by Jimmy Carter’s standards.

As the people of Florida dug out from under the quadruple whammy of deadly hurricanes, President Gooberhead graced us with the latest in a string of unwanted, unneeded and unsolicited opinions. This time he wanted you to know that he is concerned about the fairness of the Florida election system. The people of Florida want him to know that they are more concerned about getting a roof back over their heads, electricity back in what is left of their homes and some sense of normalcy back into their lives after the deadliest set of hurricanes to hit that state in more than 100 years. They also want him to know they don’t give a rat’s rump about his opinions and believe that he takes these kinds of cheap shots to get his name in the paper.

Carter questioned the integrity of Gov. Jeb Bush, the president’s brother, saying Bush and other Florida officials “hold strong political biases that prevent necessary reforms” of the state’s election procedures. The governor, Carter opines, is “naturally a strong supporter of his brother, (and) has taken no steps to correct these departures from principles of fair and equal treatment or to prevent them in the future.” This statement was issued from the Carter Center in Atlanta, presumably while the former president sat in his comfy office, staring out the window at the sunshine. Gov. Bush and other Florida officials haven’t had that luxury lately. There aren’t many windows left in the state, and there has been even less sunshine.

Just so you could understand that he is foot-stomping indignant, Carter added, “It is unconscionable to perpetuate fraudulent or biased electoral practices in any nation. It is especially objectionable among us Americans, who have prided ourselves on setting a global example for pure democracy. With reforms unlikely at this late stage of the election, perhaps the only recourse will be to focus maximum public scrutiny on the suspicious process in Florida.”

Let me tell you what is unconscionable. Jimmy Carter’s shooting his mouth off after what the State of Florida has been through is unconscionable. He should apologize for bringing up a blatantly partisan political issue when Mother Nature has shaken Florida’s psyche like a limp dishrag. He should confess that his timing, like a belch at a funeral, was in very bad taste. He should inform people that he is an expert on biased political practices, having run a racist campaign for governor of Georgia like a George Wallace clone and then turning into a “progressive” once he had successfully slandered his opposition.

When he has done all that, Jimmy Carter should then discuss his performance as one of the least effective presidents in the Republic’s history. He couldn’t handle inflation, Iran or the Congress of the United States and made “malaise” a part of our lexicon, until Ronald Reagan came into office and got us to believe in ourselves again.

Carter showed the world 25 years ago that he didn’t have the ability to lead a one-piece band, but he has earned a permanent spot in history as one of the all-time second-guessers. No ex-president in my lifetime has ever gone so far to undermine a sitting president as has Jimmy Carter — and I’m not talking just about George W. Bush. He drove the Clinton Administration nuts with his independent “fact-finding” trips around the world. He seems less concerned about boogering up American foreign policy than in carefully cultivating his image as a wiser-than-everybody-else statesman.

Jimmy Carter could better spend his time writing bad poetry and teaching fawning acolytes in his Marantha Baptist Church Sunday school class about that part in the Bible that suggests we not judge others, particularly those who have been through four hurricanes in five weeks. While he is doing that, Florida officials can concentrate on getting their state back on its feet without having to endure Carter’s crass political meddling. I am sure they would appreciate the opportunity. So would I.