White House says Carter is `irrevelant'

May 21, 2007|By James Gerstenzang | James Gerstenzang,LOS ANGELES TIMES

CRAWFORD, Texas -- Perhaps not since Herbert Hoover took issue with the blame heaped on him for the Great Depression by Franklin D. Roosevelt have two presidents or their spokesmen feuded quite so publicly - and angrily - as former President Jimmy Carter and President Bush. Yesterday, the White House fired a new salvo.

Carter kicked off the war of words by declaring that Bush's tenure in the White House was "the worst in history" in terms of international relations.

Bush spokesman Tony Fratto, who had shrugged off the comment Saturday, decided to return fire.

Responding to a question Sunday, he said Carter's criticism had been "reckless" and "out there."

"It's unfortunate," he said. "He has proven to be increasingly irrelevant with these sorts of comments." The exchange broke the unwritten but rarely breached code of the presidential fraternity - that members of the exclusive club treat each other gently.

That a Democratic former president would find fault with the conduct of a Republican president, particularly in pursuing a foreign policy built around an increasingly unpopular war in Iraq, is not surprising. Nor was a White House decision to respond to criticism.

But the vehemence of the language was unusual - especially in contrast to the friendship that Bush's father, former President George Bush, has developed with former President Bill Clinton, who tossed him out of office after one term in the bitter 1992 campaign. Clinton and the elder Bush have traveled the world together, sharing a cabin on an Air Force VIP jet, and set out on the golf course as a pair.

James Gerstenzang writes for the Los Angeles Times.

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