President Carter helped dedicate a new wing of a University of Virginia presidential
studies center Monday and criticized President Bush for pursuing Saddam Hussein
without the support of many allies.
Carter, 77, warned in a speech that America risks what he called "a particularly
great danger" for this country if it embarks on military action alone.
The Georgia Democrat told about 300 guests at UVa's expanded Miller Center
of Public Affairs that American presidents traditionally have maintained "the
ability to cooperate with other nations of the world to address difficult challenges."
Keynoting the dedication of a Miller Center pavilion and library, Carter said
American presidents of both parties have upheld certain traditions, including
"the preservation of the peace."
Carter, who spoke after taped remarks from four other presidents, said that
presidential legacy includes "the tradition that our country has had from the
time of George Washington to avoid unnecessary military conflicts, and to deal
with troubling issues in a peaceful manner, and when necessary to engage in military
conflict to make sure we have harnessed the cooperation of allies and a global
commitment to address a challenge to peace."
"These kinds of traditions now being studied by the Miller Center are those
that have made our nation great and will preserve the nation's greatness in the
future," he said.
"Departure from those traditions is a great challenge and a particularly great
danger also for our country," Carter told the UVa crowd.
After his speech, Carter said he is "quite concerned" that Bush is veering
from adherence to those traditions.
"I think it is just a radical departure from the traditions that have shaped
our nation's policies under Democratic and Republican presidents for the last
50 or more years in dealing with the Middle East, in dealing with the United Nations,
in honoring our international agreements that we ourselves have helped to forge
and supporting a common commitment through the United Nations and marshaling allies
before we take military action," Carter said. "I think in all those ways it's
a matter of concern."
"I think we should not do anything with Iraq until the United Nations Security
Council prescribes a means and a time schedule in which we act," Carter said,
calling talk of unilateral action "a mistake."
Gov. Mark R. Warner also spoke briefly at the celebration of the Miller Center's
$7 million expansion and renovation. Warner said the Miller Center, which maintains
and studies the nation's most expansive collection of presidential tapes, represents
Thomas Jefferson's "commitment to education as the cornerstone of democracy and
Presidents Ford, George H.W. Bush, Clinton and George W. Bush recorded comments
played on several television screens under a large tent for the audience. Former
first lady Nancy Reagan sent a letter praising the center and its director of
20 years, Kenneth W. Thompson, for whom the new pavilion is named.
Philip D. Zelikow, the center's director since Thompson retired in 1998, said
the new pavilion and library house scholars, offices for professors and once-secret
tapes made in the White House by Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt, Truman, Eisenhower,
Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon.
Carter and Ford, who last year led the center's National Commission on Federal
Election Reform, both urged Congress to send Bush a final package of voting changes
developed by the bipartisan commission.
Bush, in his message taped at the White House on Wednesday, also urged both
houses of Congress "to settle their differences and send me legislation based
on the principles underlying this important work."
Zelikow called the Carter-Ford commission's work and pending legislation in
Congress "the first national framework for holding elections" and said the House
and Senate are nearing agreement on the reforms stemming from the 2000 presidential
Carter said he had visited Ford a few weeks ago in Colorado, remarked on the
closeness of their friendship and called him "one of the finest men I have ever
He said every president since Truman had shared in the traditions of supporting
human rights, protecting the environment, preserving peace, avoiding unnecessary
conflicts and engaging in war only with the cooperation of other countries.
In his final two years as president, Carter dealt with his own terrorist hostage
crisis as 52 Americans were held at the U.S. Embassy in Iran. The 444-day standoff
in Tehran, plus high inflation at home, contributed to Carter's 1980 loss to Republican
Ronald Reagan. The hostages were released on Carter's final day in the White House
as Reagan prepared to take the oath of office.
Zelikow, who worked in the administration of the elder Bush, said Carter's
remarks were "a perfect glimpse into who he is. He cares deeply not only about
what we do but about the direction of the country, and he shows that concern in
100 different ways."
Charlottesville Mayor Maurice Cox, who attended the dedication ceremony, called
Carter "an extraordinary individual."
"I so admire him. He was the first president who compelled me to vote," Cox
said. "He set the standard for what a president can be, and some of his greatest
accomplishments have actually happened since his presidency."
© 2002 Media General