The irony in Carter’s attack on the Tea Party protesters is that his 1976 campaign was based in part on attacking the elites of Washington, the lobbyists, the bankers, the inside traders – precisely what has the Tea Party protesters up in arms today. Indeed, Carter wanted to reduce their power and influence and give Americans a government “as good” as they were.

If Carter were true to his revolutionary campaign of the bicentennial year, he’d be defending the Tea Party protesters, not smearing them. What’s got them upset is not racism, but elitism. Carter, in 1976, would have torn into tax cheats like Obama appointees Timmy Geithner and Kathleen Sebelius.

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In his dotage, Carter should give his fellow citizens the benefit of the doubt, seeing they are lusting in their hearts not for racism or women, but for freedom and ethics in their government.

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Craig Shirley is president and CEO of Shirley & Banister Public Affairs in Alexandria, Virginia. He is the author of the forthcoming book "Rendezvous with Destiny" about Ronald Reagan’s 1980 presidential campaign.