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Jimmy Carter is the only ex-president to commit to Trump inaugural

It wasn’t much of a shock when former President Jimmy Carter told his Sunday school class he’d attend Donald Trump’s inauguration. What’s more surprising is that he’s the only ex-president to so far RSVP for the Jan. 20 bash.

Politico reported that former Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush have not yet decided whether to attend. And a spokesman for George H.W. Bush, who like Carter is also 92, has said he won’t attend because of his ailing health.

President Barack Obama is also likely to attend – the outgoing president has hosted his successor on every inauguration day for more than a century – though there’s no official confirmation yet. A refusal would defy his promise to work with Trump during the transition.

It’s a dicier proposition for the other ex-presidents. Trump repeatedly mocked Jeb Bush during the GOP primary, casting him as a low-energy tool of the establishment. Bush ’41 and Bush ’43 both refused to endorse Trump in the general election, and Barbara Bush and Jeb Bush openly opposed him.

And Trump ran a highly personal campaign against Hillary Clinton, invoking scandals from Bill Clinton’s past in the final stretch of the campaign - and vowing to sic a special prosecutor on the former secretary of state to probe her use of a private email server.

Carter showed little affinity for either candidate in the final stretch of the race. He supported Clinton – “everybody knows that I’m a Democrat and I’ll be voting Democratic,” he said – but he did little to actively campaign for her. And he noted she was “quite unpopular” in one August interview.

As for Carter’s stance on Trump, the Georgia Democrat said during a speech before the British House of Lords before Trump locked up the nomination that the New York businessman might not be the worst Republican in the field.

“The reason is, Trump has proven already he’s completely malleable,” Carter said then. “I don’t think he has any fixed (positions) he’d go the White House and fight for. On the other hand, Ted Cruz is not malleable. He has far right wing policies he’d pursue if he became president.”

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About the Author

Greg Bluestein is a political reporter who covers the governor's office and state politics for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.