Former President Jimmy Carter has set a positive example by building Habitat for Humanity homes for the poor.

But since leaving the White House in 1981, he also has set a negative example by making a habit of verbally tearing down his presidential successors and their policies.

His latest rough review of the U.S. came Tuesday in Atlanta, where, according the German magazine Der Spiegel, he told an international “Atlantic Bridge” meeting: “America has no functioning democracy at this moment.”

Mr. Carter delivered that over-the-top lament in the context of his alarm over the National Security Agency’s unprecedented surveillance of U.S. residents.

Yes, many Americans rightly share President Carter’s concerns about the continuing extension of the federal government’s Big Brother-like reach.

Yet many Americans also are tired of the ex-Georgia governor routinely casting the U.S. as the bad guy — and of his occasionally detrimental meddling in American foreign policy.

Though Mr. Carter has the same free-speech rights as any other American, other former presidents have been far more reluctant to publicly bash current presidents’ actions — especially on the international front.

As for Mr. Carter’s complaint that the “America is no longer a functioning democracy,” that smells like lingering sour grapes about the way our political process operated in 1980, when he carried only six states against Ronald Reagan.

If America is no longer a functioning democracy, why did more than 129 million voters cast ballots in last year’s presidential election?