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The Presidency of James Earl Carter Jr. ) University Press of Kansas 2 Revised edition Burton Ira Kaufman


31st May 2012 History Books 8 Comments

He has been called America’s greatest ex-president, a man who lost the White House after one term but went on to become a respected spokes-man for peace and human rights.

Burton Kaufman’s book on the Carter years was hailed as the best account of his administration. This new edition probes more deeply into Jimmy Carter’s approach to the presidency and the issues that he faced. It features more information on his foreign and environmental policies and expanded coverage of his personal background-both his upbringing and naval career-along with insights into his wife’s activist role.

Drawing on Carter’s previously unavailable Handwriting File, as well as on new oral histories and Carter’s own books, Burton and Scott Kaufman show the ways in which Carter had the opportunity-but failed-to be a successful transitional president. By the fall of 1978 he had become a more effective leader than during the first part of his presidency but could not undo his earlier mistakes and continued to make serious errors of political judgment.

Weighing achievements such as the Alaska Land Bill with shortcomings such as disarray within the White House and strained relations with Congress, the authors re-examine the world events that shaped Carter’s presidency, from Koreagate and the Cuban boatlift to the Camp David accords and the Iran hostage crisis. They explore bureaucratic infighting over his human rights policies, describing how the administration’s position changed with greater emphasis on security issues after 1979; they also examine the issue of arms control in the light of newly opened Soviet archives and argue that the Vance-Brzezinski dispute was more profound than had originally been thought.

In the final analysis, the Kaufmans fault Carter for not crafting a coherent message that would offer the American people a vision on which to build a base of support and assure his success. As his reputation as an ex-president continues to grow, this updated book offers an even better understanding of his White House years.

This book is part of the American Presidency Series.

As president, Jimmy Carter was “long on good intentions but short on knowledge.” The author of this superb book (history, Virginia Tech.) firmly grounds his research in the massive collections of the Carter Library in Atlanta. He demonstrates convincingly that while Jimmy Carter was certainly “one of the nation’s brightest chief executives,” he failed to articulate “an overarching purpose and direction for his administration.” Though personally sympathetic toward Carter and his efforts in such fields as energy conservation, arms control, and the Mideast, Kaufman must conclude that “his was a mediocre presidency and that much of the reason for this was his own doing.” This reasoned and sprightly monograph will inform scholars and lay readers alike. Highly recommended.
- Thomas H. Appleton Jr., Kentucky Historical Soc., Frankfort
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. –This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.

Jimmy Carter as failed President. Kaufman (History/Virginia Polytechnic Institute; The Oil Cartel Case, 1978) suggests that Carter’s difficulties were less a consequence of the problems he faced (the demoralizing effects of Vietnam and Watergate and the rise of the PACs most obviously, the CIA time-bomb in Iran less so) than of a conceptual failure. It was the President’s inability (or refusal) to grasp the rules of the game, the author says, that led to the impasse with Congress and the national sense of futility. Carter saw himself as a “trustee of the public good,” willing to do and say things that reduced him politically; he wasn’t concerned enough with the process by which things get done, and squandered his unsure mandate. Kaufman makes his case well and clearly, offering a subtle appreciation of Carter as a wholesome, patient, plain-spoken technocrat who tried to do what he’d promised, starting with a more representative Cabinet. But the members of that Cabinet weren’t “original thinkers, grand strategists, or innovative planners,” and one in particular, Attorney General Griffin Bell, was anathema to minority groups and was, simply, a bad choice. Carter’s failure to prioritize his legislative agenda in light of real-world possibilities was similarly naive, says Kaufman–as was the idea that “fiscal conservatism” could go hand-in-hand with a costly and activist liberal agenda. Kaufman is anything but a Carter-basher, though, and while repeatedly detailing the President’s awkwardness, he doesn’t fault him for his goals. Why was Carter so unpopular despite a peaceful presidency and foreign-policy success in Panama and at Camp David? The question never dealt with here is whether Carter’s traditional honesty and ethics simply were out of tune with a nation preferring to avoid energy reform, the legacy of Vietnam, and the implications of Watergate–a nation waiting for Ronald Reagan. — Copyright ©1993, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. –This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.

The Presidency of James Earl Carter, Jr. (American Presidency (Univ of Kansas Hardcover))










  • 8 responses to "The Presidency of James Earl Carter Jr. ) University Press of Kansas 2 Revised edition Burton Ira Kaufman"

  • Tom Planker
    4:13 on May 31st, 2012
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    This book is a well-researched and thought provoking book. It is the best book on a bad subject. The author obviously knows what he is talking about, sometimes to the detriment of the reader. Very in-depth. This is NOT the place to start for a study of Gerald Ford. It may be the place to end.

  • groundhod day
    5:31 on May 31st, 2012
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    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.

  • Benji
    10:25 on May 31st, 2012
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    Greene adroitly recognizes that Ford’s domestic legislative proposals faced staunch opposition from a Democratically controlled Congress. In foreign affairs, Ford failed to get SALT II ratified and an Egyptian-Israeli accord never materialized during his term. In addition, the author acknowledges that Ford used assertiveness in the Mayaguez incident. Furthermore, Greene avers that Ford received bad publicity from the press. Finally, Greene argues that Ford did not make a secret bargain with Nixon for a Presidential pardon. This book gives a balanced account about a much maligned President.

  • Thibault L.
    3:27 on June 1st, 2012
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    Gerald Ford is our most underrated modern president. Many books have, and continue to be, written on Nixon, Carter and Reagan, but few on Ford. This work helps one to both grasp and understand the pros and cons of Ford’s tenure, as well as the turbulent, uncertain mid 70s. I came away seeing Gerald Ford as a competent man, and a solid president. I believe this very good book could have been better in one area. Greene, like Kissinger, Leslie Stahl, Tip Oneil, et. al., focuses on Ford the healer. To me this limits the work, as Ford’s policies have grown in stature after two decades of review. His focus on a balanced budget , and his veto activity to that end, stand in sharp contrast to words and non-deeds ofhis successors. His handling of the Mayaguez incident helped re-establish presidential power over the lopsided war powers act. As well, Ford’s signing the Helsinki agreements over opposition helped bring an end to the Soviet Union–a human rights stand that gave Carter a foundation for his work. I believe the nation would have been better off with a Ford victory in 1976. Overall, Greenes work should be read by anyone wanting to study Ford’s presidency. It is a valuable resource on an era few have studied.

  • CACyberCoders
    12:08 on June 1st, 2012
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    Gerald Ford is not the most popular of presidents to write about. He’s almost forgotten in studies of America after 1945. This book gives him his due. Profesor Greene does a fine job of examing the important issues that faced Ford, like “stagflation,” the Mayaguez incident, and dealing with the Cold War. It’s a balanced account and written for scholars and the general reader.

  • Uh Huh
    16:34 on June 1st, 2012
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    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.

  • GuessWhat
    6:03 on June 2nd, 2012
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    This book provides the reader with a close insight into a time of healing from the twin traumas of Vietnam and Watergate. Beginning with a brief biography, it quickly follows Ford’s advance into House Leadership and to his selection as vice-president. A loyal vice-president, Ford defended President Nixon until belief in Nixon’s innocence was mad untenable by the developing evidence. As heir apparent, Ford moved to maintain his credibility by stating that he would no longer support the President’s claim to innocence.

    Author John Robert Greene presents the challenges and failings of his presidency. Ford’s succession was unique in a number of ways. Having never been elected president or vice-president, Ford lacked the mandate of having been selected by our ballots. The circumstances of Nixon’s departure deprived Ford of mandate to carry on the policies of a beloved, fallen predecessor. He inherited an administration that was not his own, but was his party’s. Lacking the time to plan an orderly transition, Ford landed in chaos of which he had to gain control while dealing with the non-stop crises du jour.

    Author Greene presents the reader with his reporting and analysis, often critical, of the events of Ford’s presidency. The big early issue was the Nixon pardon. Essentially Greene accepts Ford’s claim that there was no deal but disputes the claims that there was no discussion of the issue before Nixon’s resignation. Greene concludes that the Nixon pardon closed many doors that could have made Ford’s presidency different and more successful.

    A telling insight is Ford’s choice of, and relationship with, Nelson Rockefeller. Chosen on the advice on Richard Nixon, Ford bucked party preferences by choosing the leading representative of the GOP’s liberal wing. After accepting the position under the impression that he would have significant responsibilities, almost the co-presidency that Ford would later ask of Ronald Reagan, Rockefeller was left to dangle as the administration took a turn to the right. Contrary to explanations given at the time, that Rockefeller chose not to run in 1976, Greene indicates that he did so at Ford’s request.

    One good thing about a book like that is that it reminds us of the events that shaped an administration and an era. Events like the capture of the Mayaguez, the Whip Inflation Now buttons devised to rally the nation to bring a crippling economic disease under control and the uplifting Bicentennial year revive memories of those old enough to remember. On these pages we sense Ford’s disappointment in the Reagan challenge and his toil through the week by week struggle that ended with Ford’s narrow convention victory. This book presents the fall campaign against Jimmy Carter as a roller coaster ride that many have forgotten. The general memory is that Ford, burdened by the Nixon pardon, a painful misery index, a party divided by the Reagan challenge, entered the campaign hopelessly behind but still managed to make a credible showing that few other candidates could have matched. This book tells it a little differently. Here we are reminded of Ford’s debate blunder of denying that there was any Soviet domination of Eastern Europe, followed by his stubborn refusal to try to explain it away. But for this, Greene suggests, Ford might have pulled it off.

    Ultimately this book gives Ford credit for helping our country to heal, an accomplishment of which Ford himself was proud, but faults him for not accomplishing more, when more was possible.

    As one who voted for Ford, I was rankled by some of the criticisms of the man who I believed, and hoped, had done better. Even so, I believe that it is a fair and informative chronicle of an important, but short era. It reminds us of a man of decency and honor, a betwixt and between figure, more conservative than Eisenhower and Nixon before him, but too liberal for the Reaganites who followed him. I am glad that I read it. Whether you view the Presidency of Gerald R. Ford as a part of our history or remember it as a part of your life, I am confident that you will appreciate it also.

  • Hurr durrr
    14:24 on June 2nd, 2012
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    Throughout history, no presidential administration needed to be given more benefit of the doubt than that of Gerald Ford. While other administrations had to come into existence as a consequence of death by natural causes or assassination, only Ford had to follow a person who resigned in disgrace. The political atmosphere was forever changed by the actions of Richard Nixon, as the American public no longer took the word of the president on faith. Jimmy Carter, who defeated Ford in the next election, made a simple, effective campaign pledge, “I will never lie to the American people.”
    However despite all of those problems, the sheer resilience and strength of the American political system was demonstrated, and that is the main theme of the book. Yes, Ford had his faults and probably could not have otherwise gained the presidency, but he is a good man and was the right person for the times. As someone addicted to the political theater, I was mesmerized by Watergate, disgusted with Nixon and sometimes laughed at Ford. And yet, I still liked him, and do so even more now that I have read this book. Given all the political problems, Ford did many things about as well as could be done. His downfall was the one really big mistake that he made, namely the premature pardon of Nixon.
    Had he waited longer to issue the pardon, more could have come out, tensions would have been eased and the act would not have been quite so controversial. While I know why he did it, I will never understand why he felt he had to do it so soon. The behaviors of Nixon even as the pardon was being discussed and described in the book are amazing, showing a man who was still contemptuous of the political system. A delayed pardon may have altered that.
    Gerald Ford was not a great president in terms of great accomplishments, initiatives or rhetoric. However, he was and is a decent man who was forced to pick up after an indecent one. For that reason he needs to be respected for what he did, helped make the political system work. This description of his presidency is a tribute to that decency and I encourage you to read it and pay a little more attention to him the next time you see him speak. I know I will.

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