WASHINGTON -- Rosalynn Carter said today that Sen. Edward Kennedy was a poor loser who 'tore the Democratic Party to pieces' in 1980 when he ran in the primaries against President Carter.
'I thought that Senator Kennedy had a perfect right to run against an incumbent president of his own party if he disagreed with him,' Mrs. Carter said in a taped interviewed on ABC' 'Good Morning America.'
But, she said, when he failed to do well, 'He should have quit. He was a poor loser. I thought that once he saw that he could not win he would try to help the Democratic Party because I thought it was so important to keep Ronald Reagan out of the White House and I thought he should have helped. Instead, he tore the Democratic Party to pieces.'
Mrs. Carter blamed her husband's loss to Reagan on the Iranian hostage crisis, when Americans were held by Ayatollah Khomeini's forces in Tehran. The hostages were released as Reagan was sworn in as president.
'I wanted him to do something,' Mrs. Carter said. 'On the campaign every question was, 'When are you going to do something?' I would come home and say, 'Do something.' He'd say, 'What do you want me to do?''
Mrs. Carter added, 'I still believe we could have bombed Tehran ... and won the election; killed many of the hostages in the process.'
Mrs. Carter said she she 'never, ever' told Carter what to do, but was always asking why he did what he did.
'Mine was almost always political,' she said. 'Why do you do budget cuts a week before the New York primary? That's a dumb thing to do. He was always right.'
She said she counselled Carter to save the controversial actions for a second term, but that he always answered, 'Suppose I don't have a second term?'
Mrs. Carter said if her husband 'had not done any of those things that I didn't want him to do and then had been defeated at the end of his first year, he would have been a nothing president. Instead, he is going to go down in history as one of our great presidents because he did those controversial things.'