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White House Diary Hardcover – September 20, 2010
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From Publishers Weekly
The snarl behind the toothy grin emerges in these acerbic entries culled from the 39th president's personal diary. Carter vents against everyone, from Congress ("disorganized juvenile delinquents"), to the press ("completely irresponsible and unnecessarily abusive") and the incoming Reaganauts ("group of jerks"). By contrast, he comes off as the principled, rational, speed-reading master of policy detail, with a cogent-to him-agenda of human rights, internationalism, and disarmament in foreign policy, and fiscal restraint, deregulation, and energy conservation at home. His account of the "national malaise" episode reveals a technocrat groping awkwardly toward a political vision. But the hectic, sketchy entries, annotated with after-the-fact elucidations, mainly show President Carter breasting the maelstrom of over-scheduling, mundane politics, and brother-Billy issues, while eruptions like the Iranian hostage crisis sneak up; the Sadat-Begin Camp David negotiations and other summits, where his leadership could be proactive and untrammeled, provoke his most involved and insightful passages. Carter's judgments will stir controversy: he tars Ted Kennedy with torpedoing his healthcare reforms and abetting Reagan's 1980 victory, and paints Israel ("obstinate") and its Prime Minister at the time, Menachem Begin, as the main obstacles to peace in the Middle East. His tart wit and cutting candor add flavor to a revealing portrait of presidential achievement and, especially, frustration. Illustrations.
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Fascinating...The pace gives a sense of what it is like to be president, and the entries contain blunt appraisals of the people with whom he dealt. (The New York Times)
Outstanding…Anyone seeking insight into the thirty-ninth president of the United States would do well to pick up [this] book. (The Christian Science Monitor)
A substantial contribution to [history]… a uniquely unfiltered look at what occupying the Oval Office day to day means. (Los Angeles Times)
[Carter's] tart wit and cutting candor add flavor to a revealing portrait of presidential achievement. (Publishers Weekly)
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Top customer reviews
Narrated by both Jimmy Carter and a professional narrator, the two men take turns narrating this memoir. Carter is at times hard to understand as he tends to mumble and has a lisp, so the other narrator helps for better listening. Carter narrates shorter passages and tends to narrate the passages that are more reflective.
One learns that he disliked Begin and Helmut Schmidt of Germany, thought Strom Thurmond and Jesse Helms were "nuts" and the extremists were "idiots" and he always battled the media, especially the Washington Post. He comes across as naive at times about the Middle East peace process, but in hindsight he was right one about the Department of Energy (which Reagan dissolved when he took office) and many environmental issues. His big theme in his presidency was human rights honesty and the environment, which some see as his biggest weakness at times. He did not play the political game and wanted the entire world to be honest and nice as himself.
By far the most interesting track is the last disc, which covers his post-presidential year. Spoken mostly by Carter, he admits the flaws that cost him a second term: he did not play White House games, he didn't have a sense of humor (evident also in his diary entries), he didn't (doesn't) take criticism well and tended to be a bit of an autocrat. Other world leaders such as Helmut Schmidt from Germany and Margaret Thatcher from England thought he was a goon. Sometimes in this audio version I also had the feeling Carter felt he was always right and that others simply had to see things his way. Politics doesn't always work that way.
Although these memoirs aren't too insightful and at times naive coming from a world leader, it's a nice audio about the Carter era and the beginnings of Islamic terrorism, Arab oil wars and White House protocol. It's a good addition for any presidential buff. He clearly loved his family and always added little snippets about his wife or children in his diary.
"Pennsylvania congressmen sent a message that they were going to vote against all my bills unless we appointed their choice for U.S. attorney in Philadelphia. I told then in a nice way to go to hell."
The diary entries are printed as written with some clarifications, like last names, in brackets. Carter then inserted in italics comments written in the present day about some of the events described. In the Afterward, Carter mulls over this successes and failures and what he might have done differently to win re-election. One of the areas of difficulty he had was relations with the press despite various efforts to improve that relationship.
"Editors and key reporters of "Time" magazine came to do a cover story on our foreign policy, and we had a very surprising argument. They wanted to paraphrase my replies to their questions, shift my reply to a different question, and still put quotation marks on them as though they came directly from me. They refused to back down until we threatened to release the entire transcript of the interview to the wire services."
As Carter mentioned in the Afterward, there are many parallels between the issues and problems during his term in office with those faced by President Obama today as I noted often as I was reading. I kept hoping that President Obama has in fact read Carter's "Diary", it seemed like it would be helpful in many ways.
Would love to see the full set of notes/diary that is at his 'museum'
This book really seemed to be about settling some issues though and really stuck on a few things...many other important things were happening and I wanted to see those things.
Lot on Israel..lots. He is hell bent on clearing the air and proving some things here. And I do find some of it very interesting versus the hype you hear from fake journalists.
If you like history this is ok.