LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — President George W. Bush's administration is "the worst in history" when it comes to international relations, former President Jimmy Carter said Friday, taking aim at the White House's policy of pre-emptive war and its Middle East diplomacy.
The criticism from Carter, which a biographer says is unprecedented from the 39th president, also took aim at Bush's environmental policies and the administration's "quite disturbing" faith-based initiative funding.
"I think as far as the adverse impact on the nation around the world, this administration has been the worst in history. The overt reversal of America's basic values as expressed by previous administrations, including those of George H.W. Bush and Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon and others, has been the most disturbing to me," Carter said in a copyright story in Saturday's edition of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.
"We now have endorsed the concept of pre-emptive war where we go to war with another nation militarily, even though our own security is not directly threatened, if we want to change the regime there or if we fear that some time in the future our security might be endangered. But that's been a radical departure from all previous administration policies."
Carter, who won a Nobel Peace Prize in 2002, criticized Bush for having "zero peace talks" in Israel. Carter also said the administration "abandoned or directly refuted" every negotiated nuclear arms agreement, as well as environmental efforts by other presidents.
Carter offered his harshest assessment for the White House's Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, which helped religious charities receive $2.15 billion in federal grants in fiscal year 2005 alone.
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"The policy from the White House has been to allocate funds to religious institutions, even those that channel those funds exclusively to their own particular group of believers in a particular religion. Those things in my opinion are quite disturbing," Carter said. "As a traditional Baptist, I've always believed in separation of church and state and honored that premise when I was president, and so have all other presidents, I might say, except this one."
White House spokesman Blair C. Jones declined to comment, referring questions to the Republican National Committee. Republican National Committee spokeswoman Amber Wilkerson questioned why Carter, who teaches a Sunday School teacher in his hometown of Plains, Ga., would attack Bush.
"Apparently, Sunday mornings in Plains for former President Carter includes hurling reckless accusations at your fellow man," she said. "It's hard to take a lecture on foreign policy seriously from President Carter considering he's the same person who challenged Ronald Reagan's strategy for the Cold War."
Douglas Brinkley, a Tulane University presidential historian and Carter biographer, described Carter's comments as unprecedented.
"This is the most forceful denunciation President Carter has ever made about an American president," Brinkley said. "When you call somebody the worst president, that's volatile. Those are fighting words."
© 2007 The Associated Press.