His Very Best: Jimmy Carter, a Life

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His Very Best: Jimmy Carter, a Life

His Very Best: Jimmy Carter, a Life

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In this biography Alter takes a fresh look at the man and argues, with some success, that he was a much better president than he is usually given credit for. When he first ran for political office in Georgia, he was reduced to dog-whistling messaging, for instance, about Jim Crow laws and luring George Wallace segregationists into his camp. He was also just way too honest to be President, such as the famous malaise speech, or giving himself a B- on national TV when asked to grade his performance, rather than just avoiding the question. What he had done was tell staff they must speak to his secretary if they wanted to book a tennis session. He is the winner of numerous awards, including the National Headliner Award for his coverage of 9/11, the Gerald Loeb Award, and the Book Award from the New Jersey Council of the Humanities.

Until he was eleven, his homestead had no running water, no electricity, no insulation, and no mechanized farm equipment; only slop jars and outhouses, hand-pumped wells, kerosene lamps, ancient mule-driven plows, and black laborers to work the land in a feudal system just one step removed from slavery. Tricky Dick was Watergate-disheveled enough at this time that Kissinger and Haig acted unilaterally. Both authors agree that the president was correct in his diagnoses of America’s ills and ahead of his time on some of his cures (Perlstein doesn’t like them all). He and Rossalyn have a very good marriage, but they went through some rough patches, mostly caused by Jimmy’s obstinacy. His vice president, Walter Mondale, who was thinking of resigning, told a colleague: ‘It went from sugar to shit right there.It snowed in California and ‘fifty-two whales simultaneously stranded themselves on a Mexican beach’. Yet Alter also doesn’t shy away from the complexities of the president’s life, including his reluctance to support civil rights publicly for fear it would hurt his career. The music that he played in the Oval Office, and in his study just off the Oval Office, was mostly classical. He might be considered a great man, but I think it is obvious that he is a good man, trying to make a difference in whatever way he can.

His administration (in which I served) produced the nation’s first full-scale energy policy, pushed through significant legislation on the environment and government ethics, carried out the first civil service reform in a century, created cabinet departments of energy and education, pursued sweeping economic deregulation, and transformed the federal bench by appointing more women (including Ruth Bader Ginsburg) and Black jurists than all of his predecessors combined. He exerted similar energies to win from a reluctant Congress the Panama Canal treaties, which Alter says avoided a major war in Central America. But when this book gets into the presidency it really takes shape and gives an excellent portrait of both the positive/negative and good and bad. He took office in 1977, the year Star Wars dominated cinemas, Björn Borg won Wimbledon and Joe Biden was a dynamic young senator from Delaware. This included being dodgy in his private and public position on segregation and the Black civil rights movement.

It’s never too late” to become a believer, he told Gierek, skillfully exploiting the tension between Gierek’s ancestral Catholicism and the atheism of Communist doctrine. It’s time for America to move and to speak, not with boasting and belligerence, but with a quiet strength—to depend in world affairs not merely on the size of an arsenal but on the nobility of ideas—and to govern at home not by confusion and crisis but with grace and imagination and common sense. He is a very judgmental man and was unable to hide this from the country and I think this created a lot of pushback against him. And Alter quotes extensively from Jimmy’s love letters to his wife, Rosalynn, during his Navy years — including intimacies seldom entrusted to a biographer while the subjects are still alive. I am currently in the middle of the audiobook for this title so I have yet to finish it but I have no doubt that the second half of the book will be just as informative and enlightening as the first half.

I thought it was great that the time in their marriage that was rockiest was when they worked on writing a book together.To him, that wasn't tough but, rather, a sign of insecurity, and he viewed the killer instinct that he lacked as a bogus prerequisite for good leadership.

Enjoyed this Biography, 800 pages from birth to 2020, Probably the deepest book I've read and I hope the Principles Learned will stick to the end of my life. In the early pages of this hot-off-the-press biography, Alter works diligently to offer an explanation for his five year investment in one man’s life. Jonathan Alter has done his very best with the first cradle-to-present biography of a modern president best known for gas station lines, captives in the desert, and his life as an ex-president. I've since paid a few visits to Plains and his presidential library and museum, and even met him a couple of times.The perfectly flat and circular town, a mere mile in diameter, had been founded only forty years earlier by enterprising merchants anxious to convert the cotton bales that lined the unpaved roads into an outcropping of low-slung buildings that might bring prosperity for themselves and local farmers. He could easily be compared to the founding fathers in his constant desire to know and understand the world whether it be about farming practices, woodworking or international relations. And when Kennedy appeared on stage with the president, he refused to hold his hand aloft in the traditional display of unity. His rural background and strict upbringing planted the seeds of discipline, honesty, and compassion for others that would grow to define him later in life.

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