Government as Good as It's People

Jimmy Carter, Author University of Arkansas Press $24.95 (224p) ISBN 978-1-55728-398-6
It is astounding how little attention has been paid to Jimmy Carter's life--before, during and after his presidency--by publishers and biographers. University of Georgia sociologist Morris tries to fill the void with this thematic biography of a U.S. leader generally seen as a failure in office and a success as a statesman after defeat at the polls. Morris succeeds as an intellectual biographer but largely fails as the teller of a life story. He admires Carter as an above-board moralist during an age when such a persona could have been drowned by cynicism. But Morris is also convincing when he suggests that Carter's moralism didn't suit the country's needs during the last half of the 1970s. Morris is especially critical of Carter's failure to formulate and convey a platform for domestic policy reform. A president cannot, should not, try to govern with a foreign policy vision only, Morris asserts. While his decision to plumb the depths of Carter's moral lobe is a wise one, he could have done so while also giving more consideration to the events in Carter's life. That glossing of externalities often makes it difficult to understand Carter's moral judgments. Although Morris leaves the field open for a more thorough recounting of Carter's life before and during his presidency, his treatment of Carter at age 70 does offer satisfying insights. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 04/29/1996
Release date: 05/01/1996
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