President v. President

This week former Vice President Dick Cheney slammed President Obama’s decision to close down the Guantanamo Bay prison and end controversial interrogation methods that some have called torture (http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0209/18390.html).   This made me recall criticisms of then sitting President George W. Bush by some of his predecessors such as Gerald Ford,  Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton (basically, every living president besides his father), and the controversy they created because it is supposedly taboo for a former president to criticize a sitting president.  But is there really historical precedent which says that presidents cannot speak out against their successors once they have left office, especially with regard to foreign policy?  In fact, there have been many instances to the contrary.  Theodore Roosevelt not only criticized Taft, he ran against him.  Hoover attacked FDR, Truman disparaged Kennedy, Bush Sr. disagreed with Clinton, etc. 

          

 There is not anything inherently wrong about a former president criticizing a sitting president.  Former presidents are private citizens and have the same freedom of speech rights that everyone else has.  Moreover, having their perspective in the public domain could be helpful if it contributes to policy debates.

 

Thus far, former President Bush 43 has refrained from openly disagreeing with President Obama.  It will be interesting to see if he remains silent.

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