It’s probably the first lesson they teach in “Former President 101”: after leaving the White House, avoid controversy at all cost. Generally, it’s advice that most ex-presidents follow – they make appearances, support inoffensive charities and help to bolster patriotism. Therefore, it’s particularly surprising when someone like Jimmy Carter declares, “America has no functioning democracy.”
At 88 years old, Carter isn’t pulling any punches. It’s damning criticism coming from a man who used to be the figurehead of the government. To break protocol this severely, he must realize that the protocol has already been severely broken.
As rare as it is for a one-time Commander in Chief to expose the government as a sham, it is rarer still when that President belongs to the same party as the current administration. Although Carter admits he voted for Obama, the Democratic Party allegiance hasn’t stopped him from making several criticisms of the nation’s current leadership:
1. Surveillance State
Prior to the recent revelations made about the NSA, Carter warned about the loss of civil liberties and the government’s penchant for tapping everyone’s phones, not just in cases of national emergency. Since Edward Snowden brought more attention to the subject, Carter has commended the truth-telling fugitive. “I think that the secrecy that has been surrounding this invasion of privacy has been excessive, so I think that the bringing of it to the public notice has probably been, in the long term, beneficial,” he told CNN.
Meanwhile, the House of Representatives voted against limiting the funding and power of the NSA, even after all of the public outrage.
Carter laments the fact that a country once so committed to justice is now targeting terrorist suspects and taking no accountability for the innocent bystanders who are killed in these attacks. Carter refers to drone assassinations as “disturbing proof of how far our nation’s violation of human rights has extended.”
Meanwhile, last month Obama continued to defend the drone program, calling it both “legal” and “effective.”
3. Indefinite Detention of American citizens
Carter chides the government’s blatant abuse after granting itself the power to “indefinitely detain” an American citizen merely suspected of a terrorist association without due process. “This law violates the right to freedom of expression and to be presumed innocent until proved guilty,” Carter notes.
Meanwhile, after three previous court losses, last week Obama’s administration finally appealed to a court crooked enough to deem the NDAA’s indefinite detention clause “legal”. It’s back on the books, folks.
4. Campaign Spending
Carter reminds us that, during his presidential campaign, he did not fundraise, instead using federal campaign money to fund the race. In fact, he points out, all presidential candidates did that… up until Obama’s run in 2008. It’s a decision and precedent that cannot be ignored when pinpointing when the President became so beholden to corporate and private interests rather than serving the public.
5. Voting Rights Act
Carter disagrees with the Supreme Court that racism is a thing of the past, and worries about the repercussions of such a decision. “I think this is going to open up Georgia and other Southern states to take actions that may deprive minorities and poor people and possibly elderly people and others of the equal right to vote with those who are influential and affluent,” he said.
Meanwhile, Texas waited all of two hours after the Supreme Court verdict to start acting to restore discriminatory voting laws.
Take it from a former president himself – with the loss of liberties, human rights violations, and power siphoned to the rich – this is not the America we were once proud to be a part of.
Photo Credit: Marion Doss
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