From Jimmy Carter, the Faintest of Praise for Clinton

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He's still incredibly active, of course. Just this year, at 76, Jimmy Carter's gone fly-fishing in southern Argentina, flown in a glider in Nevada for the first time, and visited the homes of 23 of the poorest families in his native Plains, Ga.

But it was with some reluctance that Carter came to L.A. Back in April, Al Gore pulled him aside at a meeting in Washington and asked if he'd speak at the convention. The former president, citing the nonpartisan work of his Carter Center, demurred. Gore followed up: Would he sit for a film tribute? Carter agreed. "For five minutes it will be my night," Carter jokes.

In an interview with a half dozen reporters crammed into the CNN greenroom at 7:30 a.m., Carter lavished praise on Al Gore. No surprise there: The two both came to Washington in 1976 and have stayed close ever since. More unsettling were Carter's digs at President Clinton. While Carter hailed the departing President as "brilliant" and having done good things like moving the Democratic party to the center, Carter allowed: "I haven't had an intimate relationship with President Clinton.... The Carter Center's had some problems with Washington and in trying to get some permission to do things around the world which we thought were important. Whenever I've had a problem I've gone to Al Gore. He's been my entrée into the White House."

Carter didn't elaborate on what Clinton thwarted or what Gore helped with, but it's well known that in Clinton's first term, administration officials complained of what they saw as Carter's meddling in foreign affairs. On Clinton's legacy, Carter was, well, less than effusive: "He's going to have a mixed legacy. I think 50 years from now he's going to be remembered as one of the two presidents impeached from office but not removed His foreign achievements are going to be seen as adequate, not startling. The economy is going to show up on charts on the third page of The Wall Street Journal showing that inflation was at a bottom when Clinton was in office and jobs created were the best in history. Those things kind of balance. But what do you remember Nixon for — going to China or being forced out of office?"