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Jimmy Carter: A Comprehensive Biography from Plains to Post-Presidency

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Jimmy Carter's friend and former White House associate reassesses this enigmatic and paradoxically private, public man, vilified and misunderstood as our 39th president, beloved and admired today as the Great Peacemaker and social activist. photos.


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Jimmy Carter's friend and former White House associate reassesses this enigmatic and paradoxically private, public man, vilified and misunderstood as our 39th president, beloved and admired today as the Great Peacemaker and social activist. photos.

30 review for Jimmy Carter: A Comprehensive Biography from Plains to Post-Presidency

  1. 4 out of 5

    Steve

    https://bestpresidentialbios.com/2018... Peter Bourne’s “Jimmy Carter: A Comprehensive Biography from Plains to Post-Presidency” was published in 1997. Bourne is a psychiatrist who worked in the Carter Administration as Special Assistant to the President for Health Issues (but resigned after writing a prescription for an aide under a false name). Bourne is currently a visiting fellow at Green Templeton College, University of Oxford and is the author of a biography of Fidel Castro. Bourne’s 508-pag https://bestpresidentialbios.com/2018... Peter Bourne’s “Jimmy Carter: A Comprehensive Biography from Plains to Post-Presidency” was published in 1997. Bourne is a psychiatrist who worked in the Carter Administration as Special Assistant to the President for Health Issues (but resigned after writing a prescription for an aide under a false name). Bourne is currently a visiting fellow at Green Templeton College, University of Oxford and is the author of a biography of Fidel Castro. Bourne’s 508-page biography almost seems to be two different books merged under one roof. For its first two-hundred pages it is a relatively traditional biography of Carter’s early life – a survey of his ancestry and a review of his childhood, marriage and naval career. For the final 300 or so pages it is a curious blend of personal memoir (from the point of view of the author) and political biography. Given Bourne’s close knowledge of his subject (and the fact he is not a historian) it seems surprising that I value the first part of the book over the second. But while I appreciate Bourne’s direct observations of Carter’s political life and actions, the later chapters focusing on his campaign for national office and on his presidency often prove dry, tedious, hard to follow and unnecessarily wonky. The first thirteen chapters of the book feature several excellent moments: an interesting description of his time in the naval academy, an in-depth introduction to his wife Rosalynn and a revealing review of his religious beliefs and evolution. The last sixteen chapters, however, often feel more like a run-on collection of political observations and campaign-related minutiae than a methodically crafted narrative stitched together with keen analysis and cogent conclusions. To his credit, Bourne admits his admiration for Carter early in the book but exercises admirable balance throughout; he is not reluctant to identify his subject’s strengths or his weaknesses (both personal and political). In addition, the author’s review of Carter’s gubernatorial career was interesting and I enjoyed reading about Carter’s decision-making process while pondering a run for the presidency. But given Bourne’s training in the dissection and evaluation of complex personalities it is a shame he is never able to animate his subject. Throughout the book Carter remains a relatively rigid and somewhat uninteresting two-dimensional character. And the two chapters focused on his post-presidency lack the vitality and vigor which Carter himself seems to possess in retirement. And where Bourne provides seemingly endless detail relating to certain events (such as an exhaustive – and exhausting – blow-by-blow account of nearly every state primary leading up to the Democratic convention), other moments go almost untouched such as his Cabinet selection, his day-to-day relationships with his most trusted advisers and much of his personal life. Overall, Peter Bourne’s biography of Jimmy Carter is an undoubtedly useful and informative – though uneven and often colorless – review of Carter’s life through the late 1990s. As a comprehensive introduction to the 39th president it is more than adequate. But as an incisive and engaging review of his personal and political lives it is far from ideal. Overall rating: 3½ stars

  2. 5 out of 5

    Keith Karr

    Jimmy Carter is one of the most respected American statesmen, and this biography reinforces why. At the same time this book also reinforced why Carter's presidency is so forgettable. It seems as if more space is spent documenting Carter's campaign for the Democratic nomination and against Ford than is spent on his four years in the White House. Outside of the Camp David Accords, there is little that is memorable about his administration. As a biography written by an insider and a friend of Carte Jimmy Carter is one of the most respected American statesmen, and this biography reinforces why. At the same time this book also reinforced why Carter's presidency is so forgettable. It seems as if more space is spent documenting Carter's campaign for the Democratic nomination and against Ford than is spent on his four years in the White House. Outside of the Camp David Accords, there is little that is memorable about his administration. As a biography written by an insider and a friend of Carter, the admiration is apparent, but Bourne is not blind to the compromises Carter made in his political campaigns and his shortcomings as an administrator. Unlike the majority of other Presidents, Carter's life before his rise to the Presidency is little known. Outside of his service in the Navy and his being a peanut farmer, little else is known about his life. This relative anonymity may have served him well on his run for the White House. Carter's background may have been humble, but his intelligence and hard work consistently allowed him to rise above his external circumstances. This pattern is seen in his education, military service, business and finally in his political career. However, his political rise was not without compromise. Carter's later image of integrity does not fully coincide with the means used in his campaign, with and without his knowledge. This political pragmatism can be seen in his courting of the conservative Democratic votes by equivocal support for civil rights. Carter's integrity did not hinder him from using less than noble means to gain power. While Carter does not emerge unscathed, his overall integrity remains. Carter may not have been perfect, but he is worthy of respect. He may not have been the greatest President, but his work post-Presidency is far more important and wide-reaching, and 4 years of less than stellar Presidential leadership has been richly repaid by the Carter Center. Carter has become the gold standard by which post-Presidencies will by judged, and a challenge that has not yet been surmounted.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Dan Dundon

    Peter Bourne has done an admirable job of collecting a great deal of information on the Carter presidency while at the same time capturing the essence of Jimmy Carter. A reader comes away with a much better understanding of the inner workings of Carter and the reasons behind his sometimes moralistic approach to the presidency. I also appreciate the effort the author expended to examine the work Carter has done after his one term in the White House. While there are some negative elements to his r Peter Bourne has done an admirable job of collecting a great deal of information on the Carter presidency while at the same time capturing the essence of Jimmy Carter. A reader comes away with a much better understanding of the inner workings of Carter and the reasons behind his sometimes moralistic approach to the presidency. I also appreciate the effort the author expended to examine the work Carter has done after his one term in the White House. While there are some negative elements to his review of the Carter presidency such as his poor opinion of some of the individuals appointed to high positions, in general the biography is a very positive assessment of this president. Unfortunately Bourne tends to gloss over the negative issues while emphasizing the positive accomplishments, a natural tenancy for an author who obviously as a deep admiration and respect for Mr. Carter. This is a common pitfall for any author who has a close personal relationship with the subject about which he is writing about.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Charlie S

    Carter is the first president I have memories of, in fact I started my first job during his presidency, selling drinks and snacks to people stuck in the gas lines, lol. I know a good deal about Carter's post-presidency, and this book really sets that up even though not it's intention. Well written and very informative on Carters early years and government work, I really enjoyed this and learned quite a bit. I would recommend this as a good single-volume bio of Jimmy Carter.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Virginia

    Tediously detailed book on Carter and how he was elected, life after he lost second term. Didn't realize the extent of his service in the Navy. Focused detailed man who studied issues before dealing with them. Although he would listen to others advice he often stubbornly kept his own counsel. He was so driven morally and religiously I never got the feeling he every let down and had any fun.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Jill

    This book does recount major events in Jimmy Carter's presidency, but the author, being a former White House staffer, doesn't seem to give a fair account of some of those events. That being said, Bourne does paint an interesting picture of Carter's personality, strengths, and weaknesses.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Jeff

    I didn't realize this book would be the project that it turned out to be, but "ch

  8. 4 out of 5

    Brian Schwartz

    Bourne’s biography is simply not a well conceived book. On the positive side, Bourne does describe and analyze in great detail Carter’s unshakable Christian faith and how that faith shaped his personal and political conduct. When it comes to being a Christian, Jimmy Carter is the real deal. I doubt any other president has been so dedicated to his faith. Most interesting (and unknown to me until I read Bourne’s book) was Carter’s devotion to the teachings of theologian Reinhold Niebhur. Carter emb Bourne’s biography is simply not a well conceived book. On the positive side, Bourne does describe and analyze in great detail Carter’s unshakable Christian faith and how that faith shaped his personal and political conduct. When it comes to being a Christian, Jimmy Carter is the real deal. I doubt any other president has been so dedicated to his faith. Most interesting (and unknown to me until I read Bourne’s book) was Carter’s devotion to the teachings of theologian Reinhold Niebhur. Carter embraced, in toto, Niebhur’s teachings. Niebhur preached religion and faith as something that should be incorporated into the actions of all politicians. Carter based many of his political and governmental decisions based on his Baptist faith. What makes Bourne’s biography bad is what he ignores. The Bert Lance affair was devastating to Jimmy Carter. Not only was did it result in a tremendous loss of faith in Carter by the American people, it deprived him of the only wise political counsel he had within his administration. Also missing is any discussion of Hamilton Jordan who was a constant embarrassment to Carter and eventually found himself before a special prosecutor for allegedly using cocaine at New York’s notorious Studio 54. Nor does Bourne acknowledge his own scandal. Bourne, a professional physician, wrote a fraudulent prescription to a member of the White House staff. Why he did this, he does not explain. He does not even mention it in the book which seriously undercuts his credibility. What Bourne does do is take shots at people he apparently does not like. Chief among those is Vernon Jordan who is a now a major power broker in DC, and Ronald Reagan. At every opportunity, he points up Jordan’s ineptitude, arrogance, and ignorance. Yet it was Jordan, not Bourne, who emerged from the Carter presidency stronger and more influential than when he entered it. His criticisms of Reagan are too foolish to be discussed in any context. One can’t argue with results and Reagan’s results, while certainly not perfect, were better than Carter’s. I went into Bourne’s biography knowing he was an admirer of Carter. I’ve read biographies of presidents written by admirers and found them analytical and informative. Bourne spends too much time trashing those he doesn’t like and making excuses for Carter’s missteps or simply blaming them on others. I don’t like Jimmy Carter. I make no secret about that. I don’t like him as a person. I find him to be petty, bitter, angry, and hopelessly pious. I acknowledge that the man has made great contributions to American and global society for which he deserves to be lauded. But deep down, the man has an abrasive arrogance I don’t like. I loathe him as a president. Not since James Buchanan has such a weak and inept man been at the helm of the nation at a time of such great crisis. So many things were going wrong in the second half of the 1970s and so much damage was done to our nation. While I’ll not compare Carter to Nero, what little effort he did make was too little and when he failed, he blamed the American people. Bourne acknowledges none of these shortcomings. To blame them on others and memorialize them in a book does an injustice to history.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Chi Pham

    I picked up the book when I saw its title for the first time. The title reminded me that I have absolutely no knowledge about Jimmy Carter. I knew he was an American president. But what did he do? I could conceal my ignorance behind the facade that I have no need to learn about American politics & history, but then this political regime wielded influence all over the world, and affected so many human lives. So in the end, what did this book teach me? I repeat, I still have no interest in Jimmy C I picked up the book when I saw its title for the first time. The title reminded me that I have absolutely no knowledge about Jimmy Carter. I knew he was an American president. But what did he do? I could conceal my ignorance behind the facade that I have no need to learn about American politics & history, but then this political regime wielded influence all over the world, and affected so many human lives. So in the end, what did this book teach me? I repeat, I still have no interest in Jimmy Carter after this book. He was not a President of my lifetime, and perhaps because he sought to alienate the Soviet leadership, and secretly supported Chinese initiative to invade Vietnam at the end of the 1970s, he did not win much positive portrayal in my own country either. But what I did learn, is the difficulty of politics, not only of presidency & leadership, but also politics of daily life-to-life undertakings. Whatever you want to do, you have to compromise. Because it is simply the world we live in. No matter how eccentric you are, how right you believe yourself, you will eventually have to compromise even if you wish half of the things you want to be done. At the same time, compromise might not be all that bad. If you could comprehend that no matter how selfish the other party is, that party would not display hostility as long as you shower sincerity, and you might eventually get things done. The Jimmy Carter presidency also reminds me of the recent Democratic Party of Japan leadership. Yes, they failed the recent election against the Liberal Democratic Party, the way Jimmy Carter lost out to Ronald Reagan, being a complete outsider to traditional politics. But at the same time, they could still seek to inspire. Overall, I actually would not recommend this book. Too long and not interesting enough for the uninterested. But as with all the other books, you would eventually learn something.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Jacki

    Came in just under the wire for this one! Finished on the last day of February :) I loved this except for the 70 dense pages on his campaign for presidency. That part was a yawn, but the author was personally involved so I felt like he was just pumped about it. I kind of loved Jimmy Carter's love for all things human rights. He got into politics almost accidentally, just because it seemed like a way to help out and then just kept getting elected. The presidency maybe wasn't the greatest fit for Came in just under the wire for this one! Finished on the last day of February :) I loved this except for the 70 dense pages on his campaign for presidency. That part was a yawn, but the author was personally involved so I felt like he was just pumped about it. I kind of loved Jimmy Carter's love for all things human rights. He got into politics almost accidentally, just because it seemed like a way to help out and then just kept getting elected. The presidency maybe wasn't the greatest fit for him, but he did what he could then went on to have a truly awe inspiring post-presidency. Cool dude. Highly recommend this book.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Tim Basuino

    Bourne presents a much more in-depth look at Carter than I'm used to seeing/hearing. It turns out Jimmy was an outsider who managed his way to the nation's top honor, which is for some reason lost on those who take Fox News seriously. This bio also underscores what I've thought all along - like it or not, Americans need "real politicians" in Washington, and anybody who runs for office with their main qualification being a non-politician are best ignored.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Clayton Brannon

    If you lived through the Carter years then this is a must read. It is not a one sided look into Jimmy's life but a comprehensive one. Peter G Bourne is a friend of President Carter but he did not spare Jimmy's feelings when dealing with his short comings. Many of the things written about are from Peter's on experience when he worked for the President. Lots of first hand information that is backed up from other sources. Great read. This book should be on everyones to read list.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Sotaing

    Good Heart President! But DID nothing!

  14. 5 out of 5

    Alethea Hammer

    Fascinating detailed biography of an interesting man and interesting times.

  15. 5 out of 5

    John

    Very insightful regarding his presidency and the major politically and world news events occurring in the late 70's.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Comte De saint-germain

  17. 4 out of 5

    Wendy

  18. 4 out of 5

    Colin

  19. 4 out of 5

    Sandy

  20. 4 out of 5

    Jim

  21. 4 out of 5

    Bruce Greene

  22. 5 out of 5

    Chris

  23. 4 out of 5

    Andrew Carolan

  24. 5 out of 5

    Dennis

  25. 5 out of 5

    Paul Clinton

  26. 5 out of 5

    Suzanne Hlotke

  27. 5 out of 5

    Edward

  28. 5 out of 5

    Michelle

  29. 5 out of 5

    Sacha

  30. 5 out of 5

    Jeff

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