First this week it was Leon Panetta, former secretary of Defense. Now it’s former President Jimmy Carter who’s bashing President Obama’s approach to the Islamic State takeover of territory in Syria and Iraq.
In an interview with the Fort Worth Star Telegram at a local Habitat for Humanity building site, Mr. Carter said it’s hard to figure out exactly what Mr. Obama’s doing in the Middle East.
“It changes from time to time,” Carter told the Star Telegram. “I noticed that two of his secretaries of Defense, after they got out of office, were very critical of the lack of positive action on the part of the president.”
Carter’s referring there to Mr. Panetta and his predecessor, Robert Gates. Both men have published books critical of some aspects of Obama’s decision-making, particularly the president’s reluctance to support moderate rebel factions in the Syrian civil war.
Carter echoed their main point.
“We waited too long,” Carter told Star Telegram writer Jim Jones. “We let the Islamic State built up its money, capability, and strength and weapons while it was still in Syria. Then when [it] moved into Iraq, the Sunni Muslims didn’t object to their being there and about a third of the territory in Iraq was abandoned.”
The nation’s 39th chief executive also took a swipe at the administration’s reliance on covert drone strikes, noting that four of the militants killed by drones were American citizens. That’s unconstitutional, Carter said.
Carter’s critique of Obama’s foreign policy isn’t ground-breaking, per se. Lots of people, including former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, have expressed frustration that Obama didn’t move quicker to back some factions in the anti-Assad fight in an effort to keep IS from growing in power.
But the fact that it’s Jimmy Carter saying these things has drawn lots of attention on Wednesday. Carter’s critics said much the same thing back in the day. Why didn’t he move faster to confront Iran during the hostage crisis? Why didn’t he order a more robust rescue operation? Jibes like that.
Thus there’s a lot of “whoa, when Jimmy Carter is criticizing your foreign policy, you’re in trouble” sentiment on social media. It’s like Bill Buckner criticizing your fielding ability, apparently.
Right-leaning commentators were particularly brutal.
“When it gets to pnt that Carter is attacking u, u’ve pretty much hit rock bottom,” tweeted Ana Navarro, a former John McCain campaign official and CNN contributor.
All this might be causing Obama to sit in the Oval Office grumbling about piling on by people who he thought were on his side. Gates, sure, he’s a Republican. But Panetta? Jimmy Carter?
If given the chance, Obama might point out to Carter that earlier this month he (Carter) defended himself on the Iran issue by saying he could have won reelection by wiping Tehran off the map but instead exercised prudent restraint. Eventually the US hostages came home safe.
So the current president might tell the former one that maybe action for the sake of action isn’t always the right answer, is it?
Also, Obama may wish he could take back that greeting he sent out on Oct. 1, the day Carter turned 90.
“Wishing President Jimmy Carter a very happy birthday,” tweeted Obama from the official Democratic account, over a picture that shows the two men, formally dressed, deep in some sort of serious conversation.