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Former Presidents Who Don't Understand the Word 'Former'

Tuesday, 14 May 2002 12:00 AM

Last week the administration accused Cuba of sending bioweapons material to rogue nations. In a P.R. counteroffensive, El Jefe offered Carter complete access to "anywhere he wants to go" in Cuba and denied the administration's charges.

Carter's presence in Cuba sends confusing and unhelpful signals about American foreign policy to the American people, the freedom-hungry people of Cuba, and our allies. Quite a trifecta from a man whose own foreign policy was an unmitigated disaster. Will Carter, who is deservedly praised for his humanitarian efforts, demand to visit any of the thousands of the country's political prisoners, whose only crime was speaking their minds?

Then there's the former president who takes the word classless to an entirely new level – Bill Clinton. Last week in a speech to Hunter College, he urged the U.S. to head a global peacekeeping force in the Middle East. Clinton magnanimously said he'd support President Bush, IF Bush promoted the peacekeeping force idea.

But that's not the end of Clinton's meddling. We learn in today's USA Today that Clinton met for 90 minutes with Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia when the crown prince was in Houston during his visit to the Bush's Crawford Ranch. At a time when U.S.-Saudi relations are so sensitive, one would think that Clinton would have at least alerted the White House to the meeting. He did not.

The point is former presidents aren't just ordinary citizens. They still carry with them a level of prestige and cachet that requires that they pay special heed to the effect of their public pronouncements and visits with foreign leaders.

If President Bush had asked either Carter or Clinton for assistance with Saudi Arabia or with Cuba (heaven forbid), there would have been no story. (Can anyone imagine former President Reagan, were he healthy, doing what Carter or Clinton are doing now?)

Carter and Clinton are just the most recent in a long line of public figures who don't know how to let go. Even Johnny Carson – one of the few men to understand the meaning of the word "retirement" – gave an interview to Esquire magazine recently, trashing today's "reality television."

Septuagenarian network news anchors, who are desperately fearful of life after television, suffer from the same addiction to the spotlight. In search of that next publicity fix, they lose all good sense.

It is incumbent upon the Bush administration to force them to go cold turkey. Rather than rolling over for Carter and Clinton, President Bush should take a tough, unequivocal line: "Thanks, but we'll call you when we need you."

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Last week the administration accused Cuba of sending bioweapons material to rogue nations.In a P.R. counteroffensive, El Jefe offered Carter complete access to anywhere he wants to go in Cuba and denied the administration's charges. Carter's presence in Cuba sends...
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Tuesday, 14 May 2002 12:00 AM
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