COMMENTARY | Election season is in full swing and President Obama, of course, is busy trying to make the case as to why he should remain in his position for the next four years. The last thing he needs is a former president criticizing his human right record. Especially a former president from his own party. According to ABC News, that's precisely what is happening.
Former President Jimmy Carter, in a New York Times op-ed on Monday, accused the Obama Administration of violating human rights with the use of unmanned drones and continued operations at Guantanamo Bay. I'm sure these events weren't the sort of thing that Obama, who promised the closure of Guantanamo and criticized the last administration for inhumane treatment during the war on terror, really wanted the rest of us to be thinking about. I'm sure he didn't want the voting American public to know that there have been more than 200 drone strikes in Pakistan since January, 2009. I'm sure he also didn't want us to know that -- on his watch and in spite of his own criticism about Guantanamo -- prisoners there have been waterboarded or "threatened with semiautomatic weapons, power drills or threats to sexually assault their mothers."
And I'm sure Obama doesn't really want a lot of election-time talk about his administration's wiretapping practices, the government's methods of gathering information on private citizens or its ability to detain "terrorists" indefinitely. But that's what Jimmy Carter -- in a break from party politics -- wants to talk about. And maybe we should be talking about these things.
Maybe we should be talking about what the president has promised to do. Such as the promise to close Guantanamo. Or the promise to work with both parties. And maybe we should talk about how many of these promises the president has kept. I'm sure on other topics he has done exactly what he said he has done. And, certainly, there are things to praise the president for. The argument could be made that Guantanamo needs to remain open, that drone attacks in Pakistan and elsewhere are necessary for national security as are wiretaps and indefinite detention of suspected terrorists.
All of these things could be explained. But I get the feeling that Obama doesn't want to explain these things. He would rather they didn't come out at all and particularly not now. But these topics are, in fact, out now. And available for discussion. The way Obama chooses to respond will say a lot about the sort of leader he is, or isn't.