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An essential re-evaluation of the complex triumphs and tragedies of Jimmy Carter's presidential legacy--from the expert biographer and Pulitzer Prize-winning author of American Prometheus Ever since Ronald Reagan's landslide win in November 1980, pundits have labeled Jimmy Carter's single term in the White House a failed presidency. But Carter's time as president is a compe An essential re-evaluation of the complex triumphs and tragedies of Jimmy Carter's presidential legacy--from the expert biographer and Pulitzer Prize-winning author of American Prometheus Ever since Ronald Reagan's landslide win in November 1980, pundits have labeled Jimmy Carter's single term in the White House a failed presidency. But Carter's time as president is a compelling and underexplored story, marked by accomplishment and adversity. In this deeply researched, brilliantly written account, the first full presidential biography of Jimmy Carter, Kai Bird approaches Carter's presidency with an expert hand, unfolding the story of Carter's four years with few allies inside Washington and a great many critics in the media. As president, Carter was not merely an outsider, but indeed an outlier. He was the only president in a century to grow up in the heart of the old confederacy, and though he held strongly to the separation of church and state, his born-again Christianity made him the most openly religious president in memory. As Bird shows, this background manifested itself in an unusual complex of arrogance, humility, and candor that neither Washington nor America was prepared to embrace. Forty years before today's broad public reckoning with the vast gulf between America's creed and its actions, Carter looked out over a nation torn by race, crippled by stagflation, and demoralized by both Watergate and Vietnam and prescribed a radical self-examination from which voters ultimately recoiled. The cost of Carter's unshakeable belief in doing the right thing would be a second term--and the ascendance of Reagan. The issues that Carter contended with in the late 1970s are still hotly debated today: national health care, growing inequality, energy independence, racism, immigration, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Forty years after voters turned him out of the White House, Carter appears remarkably prescient on the major issues facing the country in the twenty-first century, even if in his own time he was a prophet scorned. Drawing on interviews with members of Carter's administration as well as recently unclassified documents from his presidential library, Bird delivers a profoundly thorough, clear-eyed evaluation of a president whose legacy has been debated, dismissed, and misunderstood The Outlier is this generation's definitive account of an enigmatic presidency--as it really happened and as it is remembered in the American consciousness.


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An essential re-evaluation of the complex triumphs and tragedies of Jimmy Carter's presidential legacy--from the expert biographer and Pulitzer Prize-winning author of American Prometheus Ever since Ronald Reagan's landslide win in November 1980, pundits have labeled Jimmy Carter's single term in the White House a failed presidency. But Carter's time as president is a compe An essential re-evaluation of the complex triumphs and tragedies of Jimmy Carter's presidential legacy--from the expert biographer and Pulitzer Prize-winning author of American Prometheus Ever since Ronald Reagan's landslide win in November 1980, pundits have labeled Jimmy Carter's single term in the White House a failed presidency. But Carter's time as president is a compelling and underexplored story, marked by accomplishment and adversity. In this deeply researched, brilliantly written account, the first full presidential biography of Jimmy Carter, Kai Bird approaches Carter's presidency with an expert hand, unfolding the story of Carter's four years with few allies inside Washington and a great many critics in the media. As president, Carter was not merely an outsider, but indeed an outlier. He was the only president in a century to grow up in the heart of the old confederacy, and though he held strongly to the separation of church and state, his born-again Christianity made him the most openly religious president in memory. As Bird shows, this background manifested itself in an unusual complex of arrogance, humility, and candor that neither Washington nor America was prepared to embrace. Forty years before today's broad public reckoning with the vast gulf between America's creed and its actions, Carter looked out over a nation torn by race, crippled by stagflation, and demoralized by both Watergate and Vietnam and prescribed a radical self-examination from which voters ultimately recoiled. The cost of Carter's unshakeable belief in doing the right thing would be a second term--and the ascendance of Reagan. The issues that Carter contended with in the late 1970s are still hotly debated today: national health care, growing inequality, energy independence, racism, immigration, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Forty years after voters turned him out of the White House, Carter appears remarkably prescient on the major issues facing the country in the twenty-first century, even if in his own time he was a prophet scorned. Drawing on interviews with members of Carter's administration as well as recently unclassified documents from his presidential library, Bird delivers a profoundly thorough, clear-eyed evaluation of a president whose legacy has been debated, dismissed, and misunderstood The Outlier is this generation's definitive account of an enigmatic presidency--as it really happened and as it is remembered in the American consciousness.

30 review for The Outlier: The Life and Presidency of Jimmy Carter

  1. 5 out of 5

    Thomas

    I enjoyed reading this comprehensive biography of a much maligned President. I rate it 4.5 stars rounded up. The author goes beyond the Reagan electoral landslide to point out that the popular vote was fairly close if you add Anderson and Carter together--47,6% to Reagan's 50.7%. In addition, nearly 50% of eligible voters did not vote. The author lists some of Carter's major accomplishments: Domestic: Deregulation of energy, trucking and airline sectors. Energy set the US on the road to energy inde I enjoyed reading this comprehensive biography of a much maligned President. I rate it 4.5 stars rounded up. The author goes beyond the Reagan electoral landslide to point out that the popular vote was fairly close if you add Anderson and Carter together--47,6% to Reagan's 50.7%. In addition, nearly 50% of eligible voters did not vote. The author lists some of Carter's major accomplishments: Domestic: Deregulation of energy, trucking and airline sectors. Energy set the US on the road to energy independence of today. Airlines opened up to middle class Americans. Foreign: Camp David accords between Egypt and Israel Panama Canal Treaty Alaska National Parks/wilderness/Wildlife refuges expansion--the largest of any US President Succeeded in getting all US hostages released from Iran without a single person getting killed. Contrast that with 284 US Marines killed by Hezbollah in Lebanon under Reagan a few years later. This is a door stopper of a book--628 pages of text with another 150 pages of bibliography, footnotes and index. It took me 11 days to read it. The author did extensive research, interviewing about a hundred people, reading Carter Presidential papers and many other sources. One quote: Then Georgia governor giving his inaugural speech: "This is a time for truth and frankness...I say to you quite frankly that the time for racial discrimination is over." Lieutenant Governor Maddox, sitting on the platform, was stunned, and soon denounced him as a liar. Jody Powell retorted. "Being called a liar by Lester Maddox is like being called ugly by a frog." I won this book in a Goodreads giveaway. Thanks to Kai Bird and Random House for sending me this book.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Montzalee Wittmann

    The Outlier The Unfinished Presidency of Jimmy Carter by Kai Bird Crown Publishing I want to thank the publisher and NetGalley for letting me read this terrific book! Jimmy Carter has to be my favorite President. Obama was good but even he had flaws he just hid them. With Carter, he was open and honest and according to polls, people would rather have someone that breaks the rules a few times if it means getting things done. Not me, I want someone with integrity and honestly! But Carter did get things The Outlier The Unfinished Presidency of Jimmy Carter by Kai Bird Crown Publishing I want to thank the publisher and NetGalley for letting me read this terrific book! Jimmy Carter has to be my favorite President. Obama was good but even he had flaws he just hid them. With Carter, he was open and honest and according to polls, people would rather have someone that breaks the rules a few times if it means getting things done. Not me, I want someone with integrity and honestly! But Carter did get things done. I think Carter's time in office was often bad timing on the world stage and other staged plots by Roy Cohn as described in the book. This follows Carter from his humble beginning on a farm with no running water or electricity to after his Presidency. From boy, man, husband and soldier, to Senator, Governor, then to President and beyond. It deals with family, friends, co-workers, his ideals, his accomplishments, and his failures. It told how he was conservative on some things and liberal on others. As Governor, and this really wasn't too different than when he was President, he worked for prison reform, education, climate and preserving land, childcare, hunger, and more. But he also was ok with the death penalty for some cases. As President, he was before his time in climate change. He put solar panels on the White House. (Of course ignorant Reagan took them down!) The only big problem he had was one of his main advisors was accused of cooking the books and the rest of his staff made the guy resign. After the trial, he was proven innocent. Roy Cohn later was the one that started it all to bring shame on Carter's legacy. Carter's popularity went down due to that. He was working on the high inflation, about had it going in the right direction but not in time to save his election bid, and he should've cut defense spending and focused more on internal development. But the was no wars but a hostage situation at the end of his term, again due to interference. Overall, Carter manage to get the Panama deal, and several more international issues started or completed. Social security running well. Other major accomplishments we take for granted today. He tried to get a universal healthcare but couldn't get it through. Obama's healthcare piggybacked off of Carter's. Carter, in his later 90's, is still helping humanity. Still the honest, sweet man that did what he felt was right and didn't care what side of the political stick you were on. This is a very informative and interesting look into a great man. It doesn't matter if you are a Democrat or Republican, this is a story of a solid citizen, too honest for politics, but he accomplished things anyway! Highly recommend!

  3. 4 out of 5

    Lorna

    The Outlier: The Life and Presidency of Jimmy Carter was a well-researched biography of probably one of the most underestimated and misunderstood presidencies of our time. And I include myself in those in that quandry about President Carter's time in the White House and the valuable contributions that were made. One of my favorite southern writers is William Faulkner and he was also one of Carter's favorite novelists. Kai Bird alludes to the significance of this as follows: "William Faulkner, The Outlier: The Life and Presidency of Jimmy Carter was a well-researched biography of probably one of the most underestimated and misunderstood presidencies of our time. And I include myself in those in that quandry about President Carter's time in the White House and the valuable contributions that were made. One of my favorite southern writers is William Faulkner and he was also one of Carter's favorite novelists. Kai Bird alludes to the significance of this as follows: "William Faulkner, later one of Carter's favorite novelists, described his homeland as a 'deep South dead since 1865 and peopled with garrulous outraged baffled ghosts.' Carter later read all of Faulkner's novels, and he said that 'on many occasions I've read them aloud to my children.' He thought Faulkner had captured the struggle between 'good and evil. . . perhaps better than any other Southern writer.' This Southern novelist, he said, understood the 'self-condemnation resulting from slavery, the humiliation following the War Between the States.' More than most white southerners, the rural folk of South Georgia had defied assimilation and loyally clung to their native culture as a matter of principle. They had their own vernacular and distinctive accent. And they had their own religion, an unvarnished evangelical southern Protestantism that affirmed the supremacy of the white race in society and patriarchy at home." Jimmy Carter from the very beginning of his candidacy was an outsider and also an outlier in that he had no ties with the political elite in Washington, nor did he care. He came to power from the heart of the Deep South in 1976 on the heels of the scandalous Nixon presidency and the Watergate debacle as well as the gaping wounds in the nation from the disastrous Vietnam war. Jimmy Carter was not only a former Naval officer but a Calvanist at heart and determined to do what was right for the country with little consideration to the potential political consequences. But in that vein, he accomplished far more than most people give him credit. "Taken together, Carter's early record on all these foreign policy issues--human rights, SALT II treaty, the Panama Canal treaties, and his decision to cancel an expensive weapons program like the B-1 bomber--suggested a president who was unafraid to take on major foreign policy issues, even as these achievements came with considerable political costs." There are parts of this book that are heartbreaking as we see how hard his administration pushed for national health care insurance, a program ironically modeled closely after the Carter bill by Barack Obama three decades later with the introduction of his universal health care plan, as we know as 'Obamacare.' And for me the kicker was that Senator Edward Kennedy's refusal to support Carter's incremental, catastrophic national health insurance bill in 1978-1979 condemned the country to wait three decades for meaningful healthcare reform. And then of course there were the American hostages in Iran taken captive for 144 days as the Carter administration continued to work for their release, ironically achieved minutes after the inaugaration of Ronald Reagan as president. Probably one of the single most far-reaching highlights of his presidency was the Camp David Accords where he brought Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin together for twelve days of secret negotiations at Camp David resulting in political agreements signed on September 17, 1978. This resulted in a sea change in Middle Eastern politics prompting the disintegration of a united Arab front in opposition to Israel. But I would be remiss if I didn't mention the dedicated ragtag Georgia boys that had been with Jimmy Carter during his governorship and now were in the White House in their blue jeans with very different and shocking ways to the Washington D. C. establishment, namely Hamilton Jordan and Jody Powell. I think the author says it best: ". . . the Secret Service watched silently as a disheveled Jody Powell pushed his aging blue Volkswagon off the White House grounds and into the street. The fifteen year-old engine refused to start. It was a metaphor. The Georgia boys were done. But contrary to conventional wisdom offered by the Washington punditocracy, they left behind a consequential presidential legacy. Jimmy Carter changed the country."

  4. 5 out of 5

    Bill

    Jimmy Carter is enjoying a real renaissance lately, as the subject of several new biographies and documentaries. It could be because enough time has passed that his presidency can now be analyzed as history, it could be because of his sheer longevity and status as the eldest of our elder statesman, or it could be because even a conventional “failed presidency” looks pretty good now compared to what we just lived through. At any rate, it’s difficult not to compare Kai Bird’s biography with Jonatha Jimmy Carter is enjoying a real renaissance lately, as the subject of several new biographies and documentaries. It could be because enough time has passed that his presidency can now be analyzed as history, it could be because of his sheer longevity and status as the eldest of our elder statesman, or it could be because even a conventional “failed presidency” looks pretty good now compared to what we just lived through. At any rate, it’s difficult not to compare Kai Bird’s biography with Jonathan Alter’s His Very Best: Jimmy Carter, a Life, the last major Carter biography that came out last year, and even Bird gives a hat tip to Alter’s work in his acknowledgments. I like reading multiple biographies of the same person to get different perspectives (says the guy who just read seven books in a row about Martin Van Buren), so I was interested to get Bird’s take on Carter. But I have to say, beat-by-beat, Bird’s and Alter’s works are substantially the same book, with many of the same emphases, the same anecdotes and the same structure - both offer dialogue-heavy, fly-on-the-wall, chronological, sympathetic portrayals of Carter's public life. There are, however, a few key differences, the main one being that Bird’s book is very good - but Alter’s is much better. The main, obvious difference is that Bird chose to focus mostly on Carter’s presidency while Alter devotes more time to his full life story. To his credit, Bird doesn’t race through Carter’s upbringing and pre-presidency in a brief prologue - he devotes a good 100+ pages to it. While it’s not as satisfying as Alter’s longer treatment of this part of Carter’s life, it does help lay the foundation for the story of Carter’s presidency. That said, Bird looks at Carter’s upbringing mostly through the lens of race relations, which is an important part of his life story and political development, but equally important are his education and experience as an engineer and businessman, which aren’t explored as thoroughly. Bird devotes the bulk of his book to Carter’s presidency, though I find it difficult to pinpoint exactly what he did with all this extra space that Alter didn’t also thoroughly cover in 1/3rd fewer pages. Bird does sketch out fuller portraits of many of Carter’s staffers and Cabinet members, and provides more background leading up to major events like the Camp David summit and the Iran hostage crisis. And his telling of those events is excellent, particularly the dramatic, day-by-day tick-tock of the Camp David talks. Carter’s domestic struggles with the economy, the energy crisis and his tense relations with more liberal members of his party and the Democratic Congress are also well-covered (though curiously, Joe Biden only gets a couple of cursory mentions in the book, even though he was the first Senator to endorse Carter in 1976 - even slightly more space devoted to their relationship would have made the book just a little more timely). Two drawbacks about Bird’s book really stood out to me, though. One, he never seems to question or fact-check some of the more colorful anecdotes he uses. Alter takes with a grain of salt some of the stories Carter relates in the many autobiographical books he's written. A story Carter tells in which, as a young businessman, he threatened to flush a $5 bill down the toilet instead of paying it as dues to a local white-supremacist business organization is described as “suspiciously colorful” in Alter’s book, as he notes that Carter included the story in only one of the three books in which he described the incident. But Bird relates the story as fact, with no attribution in the text and no skepticism. Bird also relates without question Carter’s anecdote about his mother being surrounded by reporters and asked after his inauguration if she’s proud of her son, to which she cheekily responds, “Which one?” This question-and-retort has been attributed to many others prior to Miss Lillian, including Dwight Eisenhower’s mother, and I can find no reporting at the time that this exchange really happened on Inauguration Day, or any other time. A 1985 Helen Thomas column claims it happened during the campaign - it’s possible she created this legend and Carter ran with it and elided some of the details (he even tells the same story in slightly different ways in two of his books), but I question whether it happened at all. Bird doesn’t. And Alter, tellingly, doesn’t mention it. Bird also tells the story of Carter getting on stage with Dizzy Gillespie to sing “Salt Peanuts” - but he tells it twice in the book, describing it as happening at two different events at two different times. It only happened once, but Carter conflated the two events in one of his books - so Bird does, too, even though by doing so, he ends up contradicting himself in his own book. And in one of the most memorable parts of Carter's "malaise speech" in which he quoted "a southern governor" as telling him, “Mr. President, you are not leading this nation - you’re just managing the government," Bird misattributes that quote to Bill Clinton instead of South Carolina governor Richard Riley. Not only that, but he somehow combines several different comments from several different people into one long quote and attributes all of it to Clinton! These are all small, relatively unimportant little stories in the grand scheme of things. But they illustrate Bird’s somewhat troubling tendency of taking people’s word for what happened, or picking up some "fact" from somewhere, without considering the source or bothering to double-check whether the accounts are really true. If he didn’t fact-check the small stuff, what are we to make of the more important stuff he writes about? The second drawback of Bird’s book is laid out right in the prologue. “No modern president worked harder at the job and few achieved more than Carter in his one term in office,” he writes gushingly. Carter’s commitment to human rights “contributed more to the disintegration of the Soviet system than did Ronald Reagan’s reckless spending on Star Wars.” Etc., etc. At least Bird shows his hand and expresses his point of view right up front, but he could have been a little less hyperbolic in his praise. Alter’s portrayal of Carter’s presidency is sympathetic but fair - he credits Carter for his tangible achievements, and points out where he deserves credit for initiating programs or reforms that didn’t fully come to fruition until after he left the White House. But he also doesn’t hesitate to point out Carter’s missteps and shortcomings. In Bird’s telling, Carter’s efforts are always underappreciated, his critics are always wrong, the press is always unfair, and everyone who judged his presidency to be a disappointment is simply mistaken. Carter’s National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski is portrayed as a Svengali who was responsible for many of Carter’s biggest missteps, and the irresponsible press was solely to blame for “the public perception of the Carter administration as weak and ineffectual.” But perception is no small thing. Carter’s presidency cannot be dismissed as a complete failure, and both Alter and Bird rightly try to correct that. But his presidency also cannot be whitewashed as a great, unheralded success that America just didn’t appreciate at the time. It's true, after all, that Carter could be a micromanaging technocrat whose actions and words were often not persuasive or inspirational. The best leaders inspire you to do better, they don’t lecture you about what you’ve done wrong. They are strong in their convictions and don’t vacillate in their responses. And no one can be an effective leader if they can't persuade anyone to follow. Alter acknowledges all of these faults. Bird excuses them. Alter’s book is a balanced biography that celebrates Carter’s successes but also helps you understand why his is not a celebrated presidency. Bird’s book is thorough, well-meaning and well-written but veers too close to hagiography in its conclusions, and he doesn’t really make a case in support of his subtitle describing Carter’s presidency as “unfinished”. Together with his troubling tendency to get simple facts wrong - even little things that an amateur like me was able to spot - these drawbacks keep his book from being excellent. It’s a very good read. But in the final analysis, Alter’s is simply better.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Steve

    https://bestpresidentialbios.com/2021... Kai Bird’s “The Outlier: The Unfinished Presidency of Jimmy Carter” is the most recent full-length review of the life and legacy of the 39th president. Bird is a journalist and author who has written biographies of McGeorge and William Bundy, CIA operative Robert Ames and presidential adviser John McCloy. His co-written “American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer” won the 2006 Pulitzer Prize for Biography. Although this book is th https://bestpresidentialbios.com/2021... Kai Bird’s “The Outlier: The Unfinished Presidency of Jimmy Carter” is the most recent full-length review of the life and legacy of the 39th president. Bird is a journalist and author who has written biographies of McGeorge and William Bundy, CIA operative Robert Ames and presidential adviser John McCloy. His co-written “American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer” won the 2006 Pulitzer Prize for Biography. Although this book is the direct result of six years of research and writing, Bird has been intrigued with Jimmy Carter for nearly four decades. Drawing from the unpublished diaries of members of Carter’s presidential staff and his lawyer/adviser Charlie Kirbo, Bird is able to provide behind-the-scenes color unavailable in previous Carter biographies. But his thesis – that Carter was a more successful and decisive president than is generally recognized – is by now a fairly conventional perspective. Bird’s writing style is straightforward and rarely flashy; he relies on well-articulated facts and embedded dialogue rather than descriptive scene-setting and literary flourishes to guide the reader. And although Bird’s emphasis is clearly on Carter’s presidency (consuming more than three-fourths of the 628-page narrative) he does devote meaningful attention to Carter’s upbringing and post-presidency. Most readers will quickly notice Bird’s fondness for his subject. But if the author’s affinity for Carter is undeniable (and his praise consistently effusive) he is almost as quick to point out Carter’s peculiarities, flaws and shortcomings. On balance, however, Bird is notably forgiving of Carter’s faults and believes his presidential legacy has more room to rise. One of this book’s greatest strengths is its consistently-thorough introductions to important supporting characters. Nearly everyone who plays an important role in Carter’s political life receives a robust, context-rich portrait. These are not quite as colorful as the “mini-biographies” featured in Robert Caro’s series on LBJ or in Adam Cohen’s review of FDR’s first 100 days, but they are invaluable in educating and engaging the reader. Additionally, Bird provides an interesting chapter on Carter’s selection process for cabinet members and senior advisers, a fascinating review of Carter’s life in the White House and a colorful chapter on Carter’s relationship with his first speechwriter. Bird also provides a notably memorable chapter on the Camp David Accords and countless entertaining “fly on the wall” moments during Carter’s presidency. Finally, Bird’s observations in the book’s final pages regarding Carter’s legacy prove thoughtful. But while this biography of Carter is quite good, it falls short of the standard set by Jonathan Alter’s “His Very Best: Jimmy Carter, A Life.” Bird’s biography is only slightly shorter, but devotes less than half the pages to Carter’s childhood, naval career and early political life that Alter provides. All the essential elements of Carter’s extraordinary climb are present in Bird’s narrative but his biography fails to include certain observations, anecdotes, context and nuances vital to fully capturing Carter’s persona. And while Bird’s coverage of the Carter presidency is 150 pages longer than Alter’s, I cannot think of an important presidential moment missing in Alter’s treatment. But where both authors feel Carter’s presidential service is under-appreciated, Alter’s biography explores Carter’s strengths and weaknesses with equal fervor while Bird more frequently seems to excuse Carter’s most politically-problematic flaws. Overall, Kai Bird’s “The Outlier: The Unfinished Presidency of Jimmy Carter” is unquestionably good…but not quite great. Readers relying on this biography of Carter as a sole source of insight into his life will walk away with a solid understanding of his life and times. But in my view, Jonathan Alter’s book (published last fall) remains the undisputed “go to” biography of Jimmy Carter. Overall Rating: 4 stars

  6. 5 out of 5

    Brandon Westlake

    Bird's book sheds light on the life, presidency, and post-presidency of one of our most recent overlooked presidents. The Outlier is detailed in scope; "comprehensive" is a good word to use in describing it. The central chapters of the book are his presidency, which the book views as the central part of his life (the first section is about before, then the third is after). Throughout all of these, we see Bird argue that Carter has always viewed himself and acted as an outlier. Being anti-establi Bird's book sheds light on the life, presidency, and post-presidency of one of our most recent overlooked presidents. The Outlier is detailed in scope; "comprehensive" is a good word to use in describing it. The central chapters of the book are his presidency, which the book views as the central part of his life (the first section is about before, then the third is after). Throughout all of these, we see Bird argue that Carter has always viewed himself and acted as an outlier. Being anti-establishment defines him; it forms his political philosophy and guides his religious beliefs. Implicit in the book, is a thread that I found about this populist mindset. Recent populist politicians have been popular, but their goals don't align with Carter. These (unnamed, but known) politicians have consistently put themselves first, thinking about gaining or staying in office. Carter, viewed his populist, outlier mindset from a moral standpoint. The best and easiest example to see this is the pardon of Vietnam draft dodgers. Knowing it wasn't popular, he argued "it was the right thing to do." Forgiveness over ambition. Right action over personal attainment. You don't have to agree with Carter's presidential decisions to appreciate him as a historical figure. Misunderstood at the time, maybe. He can be a guide, though, for us as we try to navigate the dark paths of political division in our country today

  7. 5 out of 5

    Trevor Seigler

    I really enjoyed this biography of Jimmy Carter, AKA "History's greatest monster!" All kidding aside (and that Simpsons quote aside), Jimmy Carter was one of those presidents that I grew up being told was a bit of a failure. There was his obvious inability to get re-elected in 1980 (a year after I was born), and then the fact that I grew up in the South, which is almost mind-numbingly conservative and backwards when it comes to regarding someone with Carter's decency and integrity as anything oth I really enjoyed this biography of Jimmy Carter, AKA "History's greatest monster!" All kidding aside (and that Simpsons quote aside), Jimmy Carter was one of those presidents that I grew up being told was a bit of a failure. There was his obvious inability to get re-elected in 1980 (a year after I was born), and then the fact that I grew up in the South, which is almost mind-numbingly conservative and backwards when it comes to regarding someone with Carter's decency and integrity as anything other than "a damn dirty liberal" for daring to come into office with any sort of interest in helping those less fortunate or ignored by the white power structure that has long dominated American politics. But Carter's administration was, according to this biography, much more substantial than it might first appear. "The Outlier" by Kai Bird goes a long way towards rescuing Carter's time in office from its reputation as a time of malaise and heartache, though it doesn't shy from acknowledging the faults that made Carter a one-term president. Almost from the beginning, his time in office was characterized by his reluctance to play the Washington power game, and the sense that he and his cohorts were "Georgia hayseeds" who didn't want to mingle with the Georgetown set. That snobbishness was in a sense justified, as Carter had been elected on a promise of being an outsider and meant to maintain that status in many ways, often to his detriment. Carter came to office after a run at being the governor of a Deep South state that was mired in the Civil Rights movement as a bastion for white supremacy; his 1970 campaign for Georgia's highest office wasn't exactly a bellweather for racial harmony. But Carter distinguished himself in many ways on the issue of race in Georgia, and emerged as an unlikely harbinger of post-Watergate, post-Vietnam healing of the divides in this country. With his ascent to the White House, he baffled the pre-conceived notions of post-JFK Democrats and liberals, governing in many ways like a more conservative president than they would've liked. Bird lists many of the moments that he says showed Carter to be a more shrewd and adept president than historians or pundits would be likely to admit. I'm admittedly not well-versed in Carter's life and work, but before this book I read Rick Perlstein's "Reaganland" and can tell you that Perlstein's version of Carter's time in office is somewhat less flattering than Bird's. But I think the truth is that Bird, while obviously playing up some of Carter's better moments as president, doesn't shy away from the times when Carter's hubris and belief in his intelligence got him into a situation that a different president might have handled better. From his lack of a chief of staff to his detail-oriented approach to solving problems, Carter could not delegate authority at times when he would've benefited from a less hands-on approach. But in the long term, Bird argues quite convincingly that Carter was a more substantial president than his one term would suggest (and he also argues that the release of the American hostages in Iran was held up due to subterfuge on the part of Reagan's campaign manager, which I don't find hard to believe honestly). "The Outlier" is a portrait of a man who, though not perfect in his time in office, may deserve more praise for his presidential administration than he has so far. Jimmy Carter is, as of this writing, the longest-lived former president, and he has built a reputation in his post-presidency that few before or since can claim. Kai Bird has written a moving, revealing book about a man whose decency and intelligence may not have made him a successful president in many terms, but whose efforts were usually coming from the right place (and who had to fend off challenges from many in his own ranks, including Ted Kennedy's self-aggrandizing presidential bid in 1980). The time to re-evaluate Jimmy Carter's presidency has come, and this book is a good place to start.

  8. 4 out of 5

    J Earl

    The Outlier: The Life and Presidency of Jimmy Carter by Kai Bird is an enlightening reassessment of Carter's presidency by putting it in line with the rest of his life. Doing so shows that what went right or wrong in his administration was less about doing the "wrong" thing but doing what he believed was the "right" thing regardless of political fallout or the impact on his reputation. When embedded in a system that rewards corruption and rarely does the "right" thing because it is right, trying The Outlier: The Life and Presidency of Jimmy Carter by Kai Bird is an enlightening reassessment of Carter's presidency by putting it in line with the rest of his life. Doing so shows that what went right or wrong in his administration was less about doing the "wrong" thing but doing what he believed was the "right" thing regardless of political fallout or the impact on his reputation. When embedded in a system that rewards corruption and rarely does the "right" thing because it is right, trying to be fair and equitable becomes unpopular and comes largely to failure through efforts of those who want to undermine. What makes this such a compelling read is that Carter is not presented as some kind of saint, his mistakes and weak points are mentioned as well as his good. But we see the consistency with which he leads his life. So often in politics, some current new upcoming right wing terrorists that have been elected to Congress are perfect examples, when a politician gains a platform those who knew them before don't recognize them. they change in big ways, not just shifting a bit on policy one way or another. Carter has been, as a human being, far more consistent than most of us and definitely far more than almost all politicians. Thus the dismal view of his term, we tried to do what he thought was right rather than what might get him reelected. And the evil regime that followed threw American lives away in order to seal that fate. I would recommend this to those who would like to reconcile, in their minds, Carter's presidency with the Carter we have all come to respect in his post-presidency. In addition, for those who appreciate a good biography that contextualizes the events rather than simply telling them will enjoy this book. Reviewed from a copy made available by the publisher via NetGalley.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Clem

    I was too young to remember much about the Jimmy Carter presidency. When I attended college in the late 1980s, I had a professor who sardonically commented that Carter was “the last president who ever died while in office”. After reading this wonderful, yet somewhat sad, biography of Carter, I now know where such sarcastic sentiments come from when looking at the ill-fated one-term presidency of Jimmy Carter. Although one could argue that this book is in fact a biography, the vast majority of the I was too young to remember much about the Jimmy Carter presidency. When I attended college in the late 1980s, I had a professor who sardonically commented that Carter was “the last president who ever died while in office”. After reading this wonderful, yet somewhat sad, biography of Carter, I now know where such sarcastic sentiments come from when looking at the ill-fated one-term presidency of Jimmy Carter. Although one could argue that this book is in fact a biography, the vast majority of the book focuses on the four years of 1977-1980. Author Kai Bird does give us a little bit of Carter’s youth and upbringing, but does so sparingly. This section seems to be included only to emphasize the fact that the deep south was highly racist during Jimmy Carter’s youth, and the only person south of the Mason-Dixon line who was NOT a racist, was Carter himself. At least that was the feeling one gets while reading this. We then make great leaps from Carter the youth to Carter the soldier to Carter the local politician to Carter the governor of Georgia in only a few pages. In fact, once Carter becomes governor, this book doesn’t really tell us anything he did during his tenure, other than use it as a steppingstone to the White House. There’s not really a whole lot here about the campaign during 1976 either. It seems like the author is simply trying to quickly get to the presidency since that is where he wants to put the majority of his focus. I don’t really mean this as a criticism, merely an observation. I’ll just warn you that if you’re wanting a deep dive into Jimmy Carter before he became president, I’m not sure this book will scratch your itch. In fact, AFTER the presidency, there’s only one measly chapter dealing with Carter’s life from 1980 to the present. So doing the math shows you that you get about twenty pages of book detailing forty-plus years of the man’s life. So this book is really devoted to Carter as President of the U.S.A. The book is incredibly interesting and captivating. Sometimes books about political figures draw you too deep into the weeds and bore the helpless reader. I felt this way at times when I read Stu Eizenstat’s (Carter’s Domestic Affairs Advisor) book on The Carter administration, which included an entire 77-page chapter on stagflation. Oy. This isn’t the case with Kai Bird’s account. This book moves swiftly from event to event and each chapter is told in the exact amount of detail that is required. Obviously, such chapters that deal with the Camp David Accord and the Iranian hostage crisis go into far more detail, but it’s all necessary and never boring. In fact, there were times when I would be so enraptured when reading about the politics of Iran before the Shah was deposed, I forgot that I was actually reading a book about a presidency and not the event itself. When a chapter such as this ended, I felt rocked and jarred upon arriving at the next chapter. I simply didn’t want the former narrative to end. Kai Bird’s underlying theme here is that Jimmy Carter was ahead of his time. Carter had great initiatives (human rights, energy conservation, environmentalism, etc.), but they weren’t really at the forefront of most voters minds back in the 1970s. The author focuses on this at the beginning, and at the end, of this book. He definitely is an apologist for Carter and is obviously a fan. Fortunately, though, this opinion isn’t tainted throughout the whole narrative. He doesn’t make excuses for Carter’s gaffes as president, and there were sadly tons. The main theme here is that Carter was (and is) a great human being, but he simply wasn’t that great of a president. In fact, we come to the conclusion that the only reason a man like Jimmy Carter could get elected president, was because the country was in more turmoil than it had ever been due to Watergate. Voters were so sick of politics as usual, that they were very eager to welcome an unheard of, fresh, smiling face into the office; even if he was a peanut farmer from the deep south. It couldn’t be worse than what they had gone through during the last four years. Could it? Well, here is where we see the warts of Carter. The man simply doesn’t understand politics and/or how to get things done in Washington. He inherits a legislative branch that is highly tilted in the Democratic party’s favor, yet Carter seems to alienate his own base far more often than the minority party on the other side. We constantly read about conflicts with Tip O’Neill, Ted Kennedy, and a host of other liberal democrats. Even Ed Koch, the Democratic mayor of New York City, can’t stand him. Carter, it seems, simply doesn’t want to play their politics game. He also manages to alienate the high-profile Washington press corps by avoiding silly things such as cocktail parties and refusing dinner invitations. He made a lot of enemies in Washington awfully quick. If you want to be successful in Washington, you just can’t do these things. We then must admit that he wasn’t a terribly exciting leader. Whenever Carter gave a speech or appeared on television, he always looked and sounded like a cat suffering from indigestion after eating a sour mouse. It seems like the man could never catch a break. We read about how he disappeared to Camp David for about ten days with no explanation as to why (presidents really aren’t supposed to do this), and when he comes back, delivers his infamous “malaise” speech, and then fires roughly half of his cabinet. And on and on and on. When it comes time for the 1980 presidential race, all I could think of was “Why on this Earth would this man WANT to run again after all he’s been through??”. So this is overall a sad account, yet incredibly truthful. It says an awful lot when an author such as Kai Bird who honestly thinks highly of his subject matter, is brutally honest when revealing his subject’s multitude of shortcomings. I loved this book. This was about 630 pages of reading material (not including sources, indices, etc.), yet I gobbled it up in less than a week. It greatly held my attention and I learned an awful lot about this particular time of history. In fact, there’s so much more I want to say about this book, but my review that I’m writing is already rather long. So I’ll conclude by saying: read this book. If you love history, you’ll love it.

  10. 4 out of 5

    msleighm

    Audiobook. 5 stars. Thank you to the author and publisher, Crown, for this Goodreads giveaway, in exchange for a fair review. It was published June 15, 2021, I read nonfiction at a much slower pace than fiction. I was born in 1969, my political conciousness did not develop until the 80s with Ronald Reagan. Camelot and Nixon are well referenced, but I really didn't know anything about this one term president, other than he was a peanut farmer. This is why I entered the giveaway, even though nonfic Audiobook. 5 stars. Thank you to the author and publisher, Crown, for this Goodreads giveaway, in exchange for a fair review. It was published June 15, 2021, I read nonfiction at a much slower pace than fiction. I was born in 1969, my political conciousness did not develop until the 80s with Ronald Reagan. Camelot and Nixon are well referenced, but I really didn't know anything about this one term president, other than he was a peanut farmer. This is why I entered the giveaway, even though nonfiction is more difficult for me to get through. I wanted to know more about this man, and a prize winning author should give me a better book (of course, one never expects to win these giveaways, but I was so pleasantly surprised). The chapters leading up to inauguration and following his defeat were the most interesting to me. The details about the presidency itself were very dense, often minute by minute. Other than the Camp David Accords and the Iranian hostages (which I knew about from prior reading), I wasn't interested in the minutiae. This was a president before his time, but thank goodness; without him, who knows where this country would be. If I had known more about him, I might have tried to work at the Carter Center after college graduation, the work he did there was very much in line with my interests. I have already recommended this book to several people. I can't say enough good things about it. It's eye opening and refreshing coming after another one term president, #45. If Carter was "before your time," like me, or you lived through the 70s and would like an intelligent retrospective, this book has so much to offer. Talking about the book, the presidency, and his life, a friend commented that at least he lived long enough to see so many of his passions succeed. According to the biographer, he died satisfied, and I can only suppose that's the best any of us can achieve.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Lee Woodruff

    Jimmy Carter was my “coming of age” president and led through such a pivotal time in history.  This thorough biography takes an inside look at the man and the legacy…and reminds us of the many continuing gifts of a leader with heart. To this day Rosalynn Carter inspires so many with her focus on caregiving. Class acts.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Socraticgadfly

    Per reviewer Bill, with whose similarly long review I agree? "Too hagiographic" is the bottom line and what keeps this from five stars. (I've not read the Alter bio mentioned by him and one other 4-star reviewer, but it sounds like I maybe should.) When I saw this book at the library, being familiar with Kai Bird in general, and having loved “American Prometheus,” the bio of Oppie that he co-authored, I said “Gimme that.” At the same time, by the title, I was worried that Bird might put lipstick on Per reviewer Bill, with whose similarly long review I agree? "Too hagiographic" is the bottom line and what keeps this from five stars. (I've not read the Alter bio mentioned by him and one other 4-star reviewer, but it sounds like I maybe should.) When I saw this book at the library, being familiar with Kai Bird in general, and having loved “American Prometheus,” the bio of Oppie that he co-authored, I said “Gimme that.” At the same time, by the title, I was worried that Bird might put lipstick on our first neoliberal president. Well, my worries were somewhat unfounded. But, NOT totally unfounded. That said, some of those worries were partially offset in the epilogue. Bird, from back in his Georgia gubernatorial days, does sometimes gush over Carter. And, while he picked up a bit already then on Carter’s management style, he doesn’t really delve into the issue of whether this was THAT big a problem or not. In his early presidency, he doesn’t address the “phony” issue. For example, some Secret Service agents, in those tell-all books, have claimed that the “own bags” that Carter insisted on carrying? That luggage was empty. (The main one of such books says that Poppy Bush was, overall, the most considerate to the Men in Black and to White House staff.) Related, on the phony issue? He never addresses whether that smile was a real one, or whether it was often a practiced, rehearsed version of a fake smile or a real Duchenne smile. And, there are doctors who could relatively easily have told him that. Personally, I think about half his smiles, maybe more, are real. But all of them? He does address deregulation issues. (I made sure to hit the index before I got past the prologue, to make sure he did.) Bird does note the negative side on trucking, and somewhat on airlines, but there, he doesn’t tie Carter’s dereg there to the PATCO strike in Reagan’s first year. Nor, other than noting in a general way that this was a matter of concern to northern liberals, does he dive into just how anti-union Carter may have been. As for Carter the president? This quote is illustrative: “No president since Lyndon Johnson had achieved more legislative victories in his first year in office.” That actually says very little, of course. First, there were only two presidents between LBJ and Carter. Nixon was only a plurality president in 1968 and faced Dem majorities in both houses of Congress. (The GOP did gain five seats in both the House and Senate.) Ford, of course, was unelected and soon hung the Nixon pardon albatross around his own neck. The book is “interesting” in other ways. There’s little about the 1976 general election and NOTHING, other than a passing note that Scoop Jackson was one of his opponents, about the 1976 primaries. I mean, this was the last major party presidential primary run until the 2016 GOP where the eventual nominee took less than half the vote. Carter was actually a smidge under 40 percent, and Jackson only finished fifth in popular vote; even if you throw out California favorite son Jerry Brown, he was still a distant fourth. That said, Wiki’s piece on the 1976 Dem primaries is weak tea. Yes, I know this book is mainly about his presidency, but he covers Carter’s time as governor with more depth by far. OK, on to Carter’s two big presidential issues. Bird is very good overall on the Camp David Accords and everything leading up to them. He notes that Begin snookered Carter at the end. He had pledged that he would accept some written document sidebars, including one that spelled out details of a settlement freeze. Then, surely knowing everybody was in a hurry and Carter was in a rush to get back to D.C., gave Carter’s assistants a substitute document and never would submit what had been agreed-upon orally. Bird doesn’t get into analytic history and ask if this, plus the fact that Camp David was going to produce an Egypt-Israel deal, whether Carter should have pulled the plug on the whole thing. Yes, it eventually led to Oslo, but because Oslo gave Arafat three-quarters of a jelly roll, but denied the one-quarter that’s the sweet jelly, it was doomed to failure. (That’s my analogy on half-loaves of bread.) The other, of course, was the hostages. Here, Carter was both ill-served by others and ill-served by himself. If he was going to let the Shah into the US, then, at a minimum, given the earlier temporary hostage seizure, at least all remaining non-essential embassy personnel should have been evacuated. In reality, probably the whole embassy should have been. On the rescue attempt? Carter didn’t ask enough questions of Zbigniew Brzezinski on the big picture, or Col. Beckwith on the tactical details. Operation Eagle Claw was Delta Force’s first operation, after all. Special Command didn’t exist then. It was complex enough without all that as well. That said, Bird claims that the Shah would have lived for years more had he not been subject to bungled surgeries and “poor medical treatment at the hands of Rockefeller’s high-priced doctors,” claiming this is what actually killed him. He’s right, and why heart surgeon Michael DeBakey was doing a splenectomy is …. Interesting. Maybe the Shah asked, seeking a celebrity surgeon? But, Bird ignores that it wasn’t just Zbigniew Brzezinski, Henry Kissinger, and David Rockefeller saying the Shah needed US-level medical care. Doctors in Mexico said so, too. And, before that, French doctors in Zurich saw that he had been given the wrong medication, and that his condition was worsening. Wiki’s entry on chronic lymphocytic leukemia says its five-year survival rate is 83 percent. Well, it was 5 years (or more) past diagnosis, and probably more than that since its inception. He probably would be at the 70 percent rate today, and even less than that in 1979. Per this piece, the Shah DID seem to be showing “progression” by the time of start of his exile. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/... He was already on chemotherapy, his dosage had been raised, and he was told that, if he stayed in Mexico, the isotopes would have to be flown there. And, by the time DeBakey did do the splenectomy in Cairo, both the liver and pancreas reportedly had tumor nodules. Even without the damage to the pancreas, the Shah likely had only a couple of years left. Had the Shah been better served with less secrecy BEFORE his exile, he might have indeed lived a number of years longer. But, by the time we’re to early 1980, not so likely. So, Bird was less than fully right there. And, with that? Zbig vs Cy Vance. Bird does note early in the book that Carter was warned not to make both part of his administration, but he did anyway. (Carter was also advised to hire an actual chief of staff, but didn’t for three years until Ham Jordan got the job. Shades of Slick Willie, but for different reasons, on this issue.) Until Vance forced the issue by his own resignation over the attempted hostage rescue, the two had been at sixes and sevens, with Zbig getting more and more the upper hand the second half of Carter’s term, especially after Afghanistan. It was Zbig, who before the second 1979 revolution and Soviet intervention, who first started arming the mujahideen, but had little appreciation for the nuances of Afghanistan, including why the Soviets backed the second revolution. And, Bird, even in the epilogue, doesn’t explain why Carter didn’t fire him, except noting Carter bemoaning Vance’s lack of loyalty. In reality? This appears to be another installation of Carter’s “smartest man in the room” arrogance. To wrap up? The title of the book is true. Carter, vis-à-vis the Washington establishment was an “Outlier” — and an “outsider.” Clinton was not totally either one, even at the start, and still got trashed. And, especially on Carter’s 1970 gubernatorial campaign, Bird omits a lot of stuff, like how Carter went right, and hard, in the Dem runoff against Sanders, like attacking him for supporting MLK. Summary? Bird has a lot of depth over the presidency itself, but lacks some elsewhere. Between that and some lack of analysis? Between that and not always fact-checking Carter? Can’t give him the fifth star.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Stephen Morrissey

    Jimmy Carter's reputation is experiencing a re-birth in recent years, with books from Stu Eizenstat (also one of Carter's domestic policy aides), Jonathan Alter and now Kai Bird. Bird's book is less a full on biography of Carter (what Alter accomplished in "His Very Best") than a personality-focused narrative of Carter's presidential years and the policies, triumphs and tragedies that marked the 1970s. Far more than Alter, Bird's take on Carter veers toward the hagiographic: much of the blame for Jimmy Carter's reputation is experiencing a re-birth in recent years, with books from Stu Eizenstat (also one of Carter's domestic policy aides), Jonathan Alter and now Kai Bird. Bird's book is less a full on biography of Carter (what Alter accomplished in "His Very Best") than a personality-focused narrative of Carter's presidential years and the policies, triumphs and tragedies that marked the 1970s. Far more than Alter, Bird's take on Carter veers toward the hagiographic: much of the blame for Carter's failed initiatives falls upon Ted Kennedy (for not compromising on healthcare reform), Zbig Brzeznski (for his too-tough posturing on Iran and sowing dissension with Secretary of State Cy Vance), and forces beyond any human's control (stagflation; high energy prices; etc.). At certain points, Bird is too deferential towards Carter, particularly in his relations with Ted Kennedy: Carter possessed a manic obsession with balancing the federal budget and curbing inflation, while Republicans both before (Nixon with price controls) and after (Reagan with tax cuts and high defense spending) managed to sink America into the red without any compunction, nor any grand scheme to assist and uplift ordinary Americans. Bird does achieve much success in painting Carter's presidency as a successful one. From deregulating airlines to achieve lower fares for consumers to environmental protections and new safety standards for cars and power stations (and even unleashing the craft beer revolution!), Carter actually achieved a good amount of reforms compared to liberal torchbearers like LBJ and FDR. On foreign policy, Carter was nothing if not brilliant with respect to Arab-Israeli peace via the Camp David Accords, pushing a humans rights-oriented agenda, and opening up relations further with Communist China. This is not a failed presidency; rather, it is one beset by forces beyond one's control. But even then, Carter shoulders some of the blame. By appointing Paul Volcker as Fed chair, Carter almost promises Americans a recession in order to control inflation. With respect to Iran, Carter focuses too much attention on the matter, highlighting the lack of good options at his disposal. Carter's lecturing attitude in is so-called malaise speech may have been philosophically sound, but was not what Americans wanted to hear, confirmed by the ascension of Ronald Reagan and his "shining city on a hill" approach to communications. Bird's book is a vital antidote to the traditional notion of Carter's "failed" presidency. Perhaps Carter should be remembered less for his post-presidential years and more for his accomplishments while in the White House.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Joseph J.

    Entering my final semester of college I was approached about being candidate Jimmy Carter's driver during his 1976 Presidential run. I deferred to my parents, completed my degree, but it remains a big "what if?" It remained so throughout Carter's troubled Presidency, the early years of defeat and on though his successful and admired post-Presidency. With this volume by Pulitzer winner Kai Bird, and last year's His Very Best by Jonathan Alter, it is obvious a reevaluation of Carter's life and yea Entering my final semester of college I was approached about being candidate Jimmy Carter's driver during his 1976 Presidential run. I deferred to my parents, completed my degree, but it remains a big "what if?" It remained so throughout Carter's troubled Presidency, the early years of defeat and on though his successful and admired post-Presidency. With this volume by Pulitzer winner Kai Bird, and last year's His Very Best by Jonathan Alter, it is obvious a reevaluation of Carter's life and years in the White House are undergoing a reevaluation. I will sum up the books by saying that Alter's book is a biography of the complete man, while Bird's is more of a political biography showing his development as a (non?) politician, focusing then in the main on the White House. and spending a relatively small amount of time in the post-Presidency. BOTH works are excellent, readable, and informative. Bird acknowledges his communication with and help from Alter. Bird is fortunate in gaining access to the papers of Carter advisor Charles Kirbo, located in Kirbo's widow's attic. MUCH of the Georgia and Washington years employ the words and advice of the cagey Atlanta lawyer. Bird also focuses on the antagonisms within the White House years, from speechwriter James Fallows to Teddy Kennedy to Menachem Begin, the latter of course covered largely in a day to day account of the Camp David summit. Zbigniew Brzezinski is treated harshly in his role as hardline foreign policy advisor. Reagan's 1980 campaign director and later CIA chief William Casey comes across in almost traitorous terms, possibly urging Iranians through contacts in Europe to keep the U.S. hostages in Iranian captivity until after the election, evoking shades of the Nixon campaign contacts with South Vietnam in the autumn of the 1968 Presidential campaign. Indeed, what is old is new again, as the role of GOP operative Roger Stone is noted thwarting Carter's reelection chances in 1980. Thank you Roy Cohn. I found it readable and some parts unforgettable. My Republican leaning late pastor in Washington would agree; he thought Carter too good for Washington and the White House. Carter's friend and "brother" Anwar Sadat would agree, seeing his friend Jimmy as moral and principled and therefore ill equipped as a leader to meet the evil which directs the affairs of the world.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Nader Rizkalla

    Carter’s one-term presidency was not the failure that some pundits claim it was, claims Kai Bird in this interesting biography and convincingly so. Carter was elected as the 39th president of the US on the merits of his characters. In the late 70s, the US was troubled with a loss of faith in the presidency thanks to Nixon. A Southern Baptist, conservative and Washington outsider with an unblemished political career seemed to be the right answer. But Carter was faced with unorthodox challenges. Sta Carter’s one-term presidency was not the failure that some pundits claim it was, claims Kai Bird in this interesting biography and convincingly so. Carter was elected as the 39th president of the US on the merits of his characters. In the late 70s, the US was troubled with a loss of faith in the presidency thanks to Nixon. A Southern Baptist, conservative and Washington outsider with an unblemished political career seemed to be the right answer. But Carter was faced with unorthodox challenges. Stagflation due to persistent oil price hikes has left the Americans weary of a change from the post-war “abundance mentality” to the nuisance of scarcity of a basic commodity. Meanwhile, US institutions were taken by surprise by the fall of a reliable ally- Shah of Iran and the rise of an Islamic state with explicit animosity. However, Carter was not soft. His relentless will and over-confidence in his judgement that he is doing the right things made him capable of going into battles, external and internal, to execute on his agenda. Domestically, Carter was able to pass consumer-rights laws, deregulate airlines and transportation, implement energy policies and programs that led America to be independent of Middle East oil on the long-term. Internationally he adopted the Middle East crisis and was able to facilitate an unprecedented peace treaty between Egypt and Israel. He also completed normalizing the relationship with China, sign SALT II agreement with USSR and execute the Panama Canal treaty. So what went wrong? His honesty and drive to do the right things during and after the elections has driven animosity with different sorts of people; Jews, democratic left, feminine activists and industry tycoons. Sadat- Egypt’s president at that time- summarized it well: “[Carter] is the most honorable man I know. Brilliant and deeply religious, he has all the marvelous attributes that made him inept in dealing with the scoundrels who run the world”. The Hostage crisis in Iran reveals exactly so. Carter was faced with a lobby led by Kissinger and Rockefeller that forced him to host the fallen Shah and directly led to the crisis. Carter was working relentlessly for a year to find a solution that save America’s face and ensures the safety of hostage. Meanwhile, the republican nominee, Regan, has made the back channel connection with Iranians to delay the release the hostages until after the election. Great book to read, and really it is time that Jimmy Carter gets his due.

  16. 5 out of 5

    John Saveland

    This is an excellent (and long overdue) biography of the Carter presidency. It's clear, unbiased, frank, and enlightening about President Carter's achievements (and surprising to this reader, that is no short list) and failures, and the 'why' and the 'how' of how they happened. I'm not a big fan of biographies, but this makes me think I should read more of them. What Bird wisely does here is to focus the lion's share of the book (80%+?) on the administration itself, without getting lost in preamb This is an excellent (and long overdue) biography of the Carter presidency. It's clear, unbiased, frank, and enlightening about President Carter's achievements (and surprising to this reader, that is no short list) and failures, and the 'why' and the 'how' of how they happened. I'm not a big fan of biographies, but this makes me think I should read more of them. What Bird wisely does here is to focus the lion's share of the book (80%+?) on the administration itself, without getting lost in preamble. He gives us enough texture and background to understand Carter the man before he steps into the White House; it's on Carter to show us who he is when he gets there. And that's really the heart of this story. These pages illustrate so well — seemingly without the author’s help — Carter’s devout, dynamic Christian faith. It is exhilarating to learn so much about someone’s character purely through *how they behave*, and not what they merely preach. (For a politician, it’s downright stunning.) Because one of the things that stands out in every chapter is how Carter's lived faith made his presidency so unique; he was willing to tackle difficult problems with unpopular (yet consequential) solutions, and he also became flustered when offered politically convenient choices. I have often wondered what this presidency was like, past the punchlines. What did he really accomplish? How has he impacted the world (before his post-presidency lifetime of global service) and why did his administration falter? Reading this was revelatory. Strong recommendation. This may be *the* volume about this period in US history, and I'm happy that it's such an entertaining, enlightening entry.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Russell

    Absolutely outstanding in every respect, Kai Bird's biography spends most of its pages covering Jimmy Carter's presidency, with a hundred pages or so about the formative experiences in his early years growing up in rural Georgia and maturing in the US Navy submarine forces. The general view of Carter's term in office is as a failure, but while Bird does not shy away from the things Carter could not achieve, he educates us fully on Carter's impressive accomplishments. Not least of these accomplis Absolutely outstanding in every respect, Kai Bird's biography spends most of its pages covering Jimmy Carter's presidency, with a hundred pages or so about the formative experiences in his early years growing up in rural Georgia and maturing in the US Navy submarine forces. The general view of Carter's term in office is as a failure, but while Bird does not shy away from the things Carter could not achieve, he educates us fully on Carter's impressive accomplishments. Not least of these accomplishments is always striving to do the right thing in pursuit of justice and human rights despite the danger of drawing fire for his principled positions. Given the scars of the Trump presidency that are only slowly healing, if at all, it's refreshing to remember a President truly worthy of the title.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Andre Masnari

    Does what it says on the tin. This is a detailed biography of Carter's presidency. There are a lot of achievements that Carter does not get enough credit for, and this book does well to highlight them. At the same time it does not gloss over the failures, and they are many. There are quite a few folks who think Carter is unfairly maligned, but even with this biography which clearly has a sympathetic view, its hard not to see Carter as a man ill suited for the job. Does what it says on the tin. This is a detailed biography of Carter's presidency. There are a lot of achievements that Carter does not get enough credit for, and this book does well to highlight them. At the same time it does not gloss over the failures, and they are many. There are quite a few folks who think Carter is unfairly maligned, but even with this biography which clearly has a sympathetic view, its hard not to see Carter as a man ill suited for the job.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Anthony

    JC was president when I was a child so, this book explained so much of what was going on the time which I was oblivious. I enjoyed this book; I feel that Kai Bird portayed history in a politically nuetral way by sharing excellent research and minimal opinion. Kai enlighten me on the Presidents (amazing) accomplishments and failures in a very contextual way. I related to this former President as the outsider (outlier).

  20. 5 out of 5

    Johnett

    4+ Long and detailed but extremely well-researched and well-written. President Carter is my hero, so I was really looking forward to reading this book. The portions dealing with the Camp David Accords and the Iran hostage crisis were especially insightful. Be ready for a giant doorstop of a book, but one that’s worth your time. — js

  21. 5 out of 5

    Robert Kendall

    This is an outstanding biography. Bird's focus is the Carter presidency, He concludes that Jimmy Carter had substantial achievements in domestic and foreign affairs, and that he was ahead of his times, in several respects. The book is thoroughly researched, well-organized, and highly readable. This is an outstanding biography. Bird's focus is the Carter presidency, He concludes that Jimmy Carter had substantial achievements in domestic and foreign affairs, and that he was ahead of his times, in several respects. The book is thoroughly researched, well-organized, and highly readable.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Jay Gabler

    Thank you Random House for the free book. A biography of a one-term president may not seem like a beach read, but Kai Bird makes the epochal late ‘70s turning point in American politics as gripping as any paperback thriller.

  23. 4 out of 5

    John P. Davidson

    Jimmy Carter, the former president who has done more good with his post presidency than any other, has had an interesting life, and this biography appears to cover it all. Engaging, well written, and comprehensive, this is a book I can definitely recommend.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

    I don't know why I waited so long to read a biography of Jimmy Carter. I've explored parts of his presidency, like the Iran hostage crisis and his malaise speech but this is the first book where I got the whole story. Very well written! I don't know why I waited so long to read a biography of Jimmy Carter. I've explored parts of his presidency, like the Iran hostage crisis and his malaise speech but this is the first book where I got the whole story. Very well written!

  25. 5 out of 5

    Robert

    A very balanced and sympathetic study of an underrated administration.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Richard Goodwin

  27. 5 out of 5

    Julia Prater

  28. 5 out of 5

    Warren

  29. 4 out of 5

    Peter Podbielski

  30. 4 out of 5

    Erik

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