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26 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Carter as he was, mostly failure but some major successes, April 27, 2002
Several years ago, a young co-worker asked me about Jimmy Carter and my response was that he was a much better ex-president than he was a president. His subsequent work in areas such as Habitat for Humanity as well as international relations has been excellent. He has served as a goodwill ambassador, election monitor and has negotiated several international agreements that favored the United States. He has also continued to be a champion of human rights causes throughout the world.
Contrasting his success after his presidency with his performance while in office demonstrates the reasons why his presidency is generally assigned a mediocre grade. His idealism in championing human rights was the most obvious example of the truism that idealism may help get you elected, but it gets in the way of governing effectively. In the age of the cold war and international tensions, a cold, heartless pragmatism seems to be the only thing that works.
I found Kaufman's explanations of the Carter presidency to be the most even-handed and honest that I have read. Carter made many mistakes, had some made for him and in other cases was just the victim of circumstances. Nevertheless, he did have some striking successes, the two most notable being the Camp David accords between Israel and Egypt and the treaty relinquishing the Panama canal. In these events, Carter showed how much potential he really had as a president. I remember when the networks pre-empted their regular programming as Carter, Sadat and Begin came back from Camp David with the agreement in hand. It was a stunning achievement and it amazed the world. The magic of that moment is captured in the book, as well as the subsequent problems that continue to plague the region. Despite all the violence in the area of Palestine and Lebanon in the years since the accords were signed, the fact that Israel and Egypt still continue to have formal relations and are at peace show how sturdy those agreements are.
As someone who lived through those years and followed the Carter presidency in great detail, reading this book brought back a great deal of memories. Without attempting to boast, I do have an excellent memory, and the recounting of the events are all exactly as I remember them.
The author closes with a very important and often overlooked point. Carter's presidency is considered a failure, and yet he refused to negotiate away anything in order to release the hostages in Iran. Reagan's presidency is considered a success and yet he attempted a bribe for the release of the hostages in Lebanon by selling armaments to Iran. There is no doubt that on that point, Carter bests Reagan.
I would like to close this review with a personal point. Yes, Carter's pushing of human rights did create problems. But, when you consider that some of those whose rights were being violated, Walesa in Poland and Havel in the Czech Republic, rose to the leadership of their nations, perhaps he was just ahead of his time.
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6 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fair and thorough presentation of his White House years, January 12, 2009
This review is from: The Presidency of James Earl Carter, Jr. (American Presidency Series) (Paperback)
Having read a biography on each prez up to Carter, I was a little disappointed to find this book as the best reference on Carter the President. I had hoped for a well written book on his whole life, but since it's not over yet... The author seems to present the subject in an objective fashion. At times I felt he was trying hard to make Carter look better than he was, but the subject just wouldn't allow it. In the end, I didn't feel any better about Carter's term - just justified in my disapointment with his abilities as a leader. I can now say that I respect him as a man, but not as a President.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great review of Carter's major presidential issues, May 22, 2011
This review is from: The Presidency of James Earl Carter, Jr. (American Presidency Series) (Paperback)
As I get closer to reading a book on every US president, this one seemed to be good one to describe Carter's four years in office. I think the author did a great job explaining the details of Carter's difficult term and although it was a bit more favorable of Carter than a lot of writers, I think it was fair. What is interesting is reading how Carter was perceived by the general public and how that compares to Obama in today's climate. There are numerous issues that they are parallel but in general, Carter had more stumbles. In summary, this is a very good book to describe the Presidency of Jimmy Carter and I highly recommend.
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The Presidency of James Earl Carter, Jr. (American Presidency Series)
The Presidency of James Earl Carter, Jr. (American Presidency Series) by Burton Ira Kaufman (Paperback - September 21, 2006)
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