There’s no way a book entitled “The Real Jimmy Carter” can’t be good. We know that.
But Steven Hayward’s effort here is especially good, as he unmasks the humble peanut farmer as something other than a benevolent do-gooder. The final chapter, “The Myth of St. Jimmy” is terrific and highly revealing.
The entire book is a great investigative piece into Carter’s life, particularly the latter years, when he damaged America’s standing worldwide with his bumbling (yet, strangely malevolent) forays into the inner sanctums of dictators.
Carter, who seemingly came out of nowhere to launch a bid for the presidency on the heels of Richard Nixon’s meltdown, is quite a bit more calculating than his admirers contend.
For example, his famous smile presiding over Israel’s Menachem Begin and Egypt’s Anwar Sadat gives the impression that he was an unbiased interlocutor.
Carter’s animus toward the Jewish state has been documented by writers like Yehuda Avner, and Hayward’s book also explores that period of time in American diplomatic history when Carter pressed tiny Israel to shrink herself dramatically in exchange for Sadat’s signature.
In fact, Hayward reports that two of Carter’s top advisors revealed that the Sunday school teacher from Plains actually referred to Begin as a “psycho.” So much for even-handed negotiations.
It is also revealing, as Hayward shows, that for his Camp David “accomplishments” Carter made sure he was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize – repeatedly – and that the usual suspects involved in the nominating process included the left-leaning American Friends Service Committee. Carter finally won, which means that peace lost.
Hayward makes the discerning point that Carter is a mass of contradictions.
“How to sum up this maddeningly contradictory man?” Hayward asks. “He is a famously professed Christian, and yet a particularly unhumble and mean-spirited politician.”
This kind of analysis – so dead-on – is sprinkled throughout the book, and Hayward backs-up his commentary with facts.
In “fact,” there are so many of these disturbing details, one is hard-pressed to pick a winner among Carter’s bad decisions as president. Further, name another former president who caused as much damage after office as he did while in office (and Carter had less than 1,500 days to cover the U.S. in a gooey malaise that Ronald Reagan removed in epic fashion).
Carter’s general weirdness and contradictory nature was never more evident than during and immediately after his inauguration. This man, whose very real mistakes at critical times during our nation’s history damaged the country, presented himself as a plain fellow from Georgia, selling the presidential yacht, refusing a limo ride and refusing a chief of staff, relying instead on his admonition that everyone have “direct access” to the Oval Office. Evidently, Carter thought he had just succeeded Andrew Jackson, rather than John Kennedy and Gerald Ford (who miraculously avoided assassination).
It is also interesting to note – in light of Carter’s famous Southern Baptist roots – that, as Hayward puts it, Carter’s “campaign piety” included the slick use of Southern rock stars like the Allman Brothers at campaign rallies. That wouldn’t have set well with the deacons, surely, had they known Greg and Dickey were swapping stories with Jimmy.
Hayward digs into some rich detail, such as the exchange between Carter and average citizens during a call-in show with Walter Cronkite. The scene no doubt inspired Dan Aykroyd’s famous impression of Carter on “Saturday Night Live.”
Carter, during this surreal exchange, actually counseled a “Mrs. Dehart” on the best way to secure a supply of Laetrile, which had not been approved by the American Medical Association.
So we see that Carter could mess up the fairly benign little situations, and also create the conditions for the mullah-dominated Iran to become a poison that is slowly killing our world today. In fact, Carter’s apparent naiveté in dealing with the Iranians is eerily similar to that of the man from Kenya, who now plays a real president on TV.
Not content with eternal humiliation over his handling of the despicable Iran Hostage Crisis, Carter has for 30 years traveled from one despotic regime to the next. Whether he’s breaking bread with Hamas or observing elections in Haiti, Carter never misses an opportunity to malign his own country.
Prior to meeting the grandfatherly psychotic Fidel Castro in 2002, Carter inexplicably discussed Cuba’s “superb systems of health care and universal education,” evidently confusing euthanasia by bullets and torture chambers with Western-style health-care facilities.
There is no doubt that “The Real Jimmy Carter” is the classic volume about a man who hates his own country as much as he loves terror states.