Do We Really Want to be Reminded?

A new book that has received recent critical acclaim is former President Jimmy Carter’s White House Diary (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2010).

You can read this description on  “Each day during his presidency, Jimmy Carter made several entries in a private diary, recording his thoughts, impressions, delights, and frustrations. He offered unvarnished assessments of cabinet members, congressmen, and foreign leaders; he narrated the progress of secret negotiations such as those that led to the Camp David Accords. When his four-year term came to an end in early 1981, the diary amounted to more than five thousand pages. But this extraordinary document has never been made public—until now…..By carefully selecting the most illuminating and relevant entries, Carter has provided us with an astonishingly intimate view of his presidency…. Thirty years after the fact, he has annotated the diary with his candid reflections on the people and events that shaped his presidency, and on the many lessons learned.”

I guess that depends upon how depressed you want to be, and the value you personally place on learning from mistakes so you don’t repeat them.

President Carter was an expert in energy and initiated programs in that field that are still developing today.  He boldly worked toward peace in the Middle East, and we will not forget the images of himself with Menachem Begin and Andwar Sadat.

However, my guess is that most Americans remember his errors more.  We did not return him to the White House for a second term.  In fact, he almost lost his own party’s nomination in 1980 when challenged by Senator Ted Kennedy, which would be a remarkable event if attempted today.

For all he did well, he also presided over extreme inflation and  massively high interest rates.   He did not win fans from the sports world by removing American athletes from the opportunity to compete in the Olympics.  He unsuccessfully tried to level the office with the working American  by wearing blue jeans in the White House, and using a photograph instead of an oil painted portrait for his official picture.  He redefined the American motto, “give us your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,” by opening our borders to Cubans who were criminals and mentally ill.   He angered the Iranian people by toasting the Shah at a New Year’s Dinner, then he could not successfully obtain the release of American hostages, who were held for 444 days.

Every United States President has had accomplishments and also has made mistakes.  Carter was no different.  Some consider him the worst American President we have ever had.  I don’t know about that.  Who am I to make that judgment? 

Perhaps you will consider this book insightful, or perhaps you will find it self-serving.  Regardless,  I just don’t know that we need or want to be reminded.  It will be interesting to watch how well it sells.

What do you think?  Let’s talk about it!

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