INDEPENDENCE, MO. -- Former President Jimmy Carter, in an apparent swipe at New Right activist groups, Friday night blasted 'fringe political groups' who use 'scare tactics' to get their way.
Without naming his target but seeming to refer to the Reagan administration, Carter also criticized 'those who argue that the main business of government is to do nothing.'
Carter made the remarks in a speech prepared for delivery at a ceremony where he was presented the Harry S. Truman Public Service Award. After his speech Carter was to hold his first news conference since leaving office.
Carter said in his first speech as a former president that he likes his new title 'Private Citizen.'
He said in a tradition going back to Franklin Roosevelt, Democratic presidents 'were all committed to the important role that government can and must play in building a just society, a secure nation and a peaceful world.'
Saying he faced many of the same problems Truman wrestled with and that they are still present with a 'strange persistence,' Carter ticked off such issues as peace in the Middle East, nuclear arms control, civil rights, Poland, China and the Soviet Union.
In what appeared to be an oblique criticism of the Reagan administration, he questioned those who are skeptical of what government can accomplish in behalf of the people.
'As in Harry Truman's day, it is a difficult and challenging time to represent the people's interests in public office,' Carter said.
'Well-heeled lobbyists still haunt Washington seeking favorable treatment at the expense of the general public. Fringe political groups use scare tactics to intimidate those who disagree with them. And now there is a heightened skepticism about what government can or should accomplish.'
'There are even those who argue that the main business of government should be to do nothing -- to abandon those who need help and to retreat from the field of political battle, especially on the most controversial and vital issues,' he said. 'These voices are not new -- for the time being they are only louder.'
'Some of the critics simply do not have faith in democratic government, because they fear the exercise of the public will -- the demand for justice and broader economic opportunity,' he said.
Carter's speech also was marked by nostalgic recollections of Truman and quips about the presidency. He said that last year he came to agree with what Truman said about being president: 'There is one thing about this job. It has no future in it.'
A vague pall surrounded the ceremony, on the anniversary of the birthday of the 'Man from Independence,' because Truman's 96-year-old wife Bess Truman was in the hospital. Carter called Mrs. Truman's hospital room Friday to wish her well in her recovery from hip reconstruction surgery Thursday.