There used to be a code among former presidents that you did not speak ill of other occupants of the White House. In the summer of 1998, President Gerald Ford told me that he would not comment on President Bill Clinton’s personal problems, saying only that he hoped ‘‘respect for the presidency would be restored soon.’’ A couple of weeks ago, George W. Bush also declined to speak about President Barack Obama, except to say that raising taxes on anyone right now would not be a good idea.
But former President Jimmy Carter is apparently not a code keeper. On his recent book tour, Carter has taken to blasting the Republican Party and Bush-the-Younger. Carter is also very, very disenchanted with Fox News.
Speaking to liberal NPR host Diane Rehm, Carter put forth that ‘‘public broadcasting networks on radio and television basically tell the honest, objective truth. And, I think, the Republicans who (want funding for public broadcasting cut) would like for everybody to have one channel that they can watch every day, and that’s Fox News.’’
Since there are very few conservative commentators on the public broadcasting payroll, while dozens of liberal pundits are collecting paychecks, the fair and balanced claim by the committed-liberal Carter is suspect. But his hatred of Fox News (he calls us vicious) is interesting in light of his stature.
Carter’s main beef seems to be that the media are not totally dominated by left-wing thought as they were during his time in office. If you analyze the campaign between Carter and Ford in 1976, you will find that the media tilted heavily toward the man from Plains. Ford was portrayed as a bumbling fool on ‘‘Saturday Night Live,’’ and that was often echoed by the press. The fact that Ford pardoned Richard Nixon for Watergate activities sent the liberal media into a frenzy that persists to this day.
But now it is Obama who is getting roughed up, and Carter doesn’t like it one bit. In fact, the former president has even implied that some of the current criticism is race-based. Carter is a big Obama fan and is very protective of the president.
There’s nothing wrong with that, unless you become hysterical, which Jimmy Carter has. I believe he identifies with the Obama administration because the same kind of problems that sunk him — the economy and Iran just to name two — are vexing the White House today. Carter does not believe he received a fair shake in the court of public opinion and sees Obama as being in the same boat. Thus, he’s acting out.
But Carter should remember that he once held the most prestigious position this country has to offer. Running around whining about unfair media coverage and Republican meanness is beneath his station. As much as Carter loathes what George W. Bush stands for, he should take a page from W’s posture on public criticism. Button it, Jimmy. It’s just making you look small.
Veteran TV news anchor Bill O’Reilly is host of the Fox News show ‘‘The O’Reilly Factor.’’ Visit his website at www.billoreilly.com.