The former president shares his personal thoughts, saturated with his religious beliefs, on the moral decline of the U.S. political sphere.
What has become of the principles that were thought to guide American political practice, asks Carter? What has become of the ethical notions of peace, economic and social justice, freedom and human rights, a quality environment, the rule of law and global cooperation? Carter (Sharing Good Times, 2004, etc.) traces the rise of thuggish American triumphalism to the ascendancy of special interests, governance through secrecy, fundamentalist influence and the impact of 9/11, when politics lost the nuance of diplomacy and slid into the tinderbox of black-and-white. Though he speaks frankly about his Southern Baptist life—and explains exactly how it influenced his worldview while president, and continues to instruct every step he takes—he is quick to advocate a separation of church and state on the institutional level (even if readers may wonder about his time spent, on the taxpayer’s dime, with leaders of Poland, South Korea and China, on what might be considered evangelical matters). Homosexual rights, abortion and the death penalty may always serve as divisive issues, Carter avers, yet he takes issue with the areas where common ground was squandered: fudging or outright abandonment of nuclear non-proliferation; the ham-handed treatment of the Kyoto Protocols and the retreat from landmark legislation dealing with clean air and water, mining, grazing, forestry, toxic wastes and endangered species; the rush to punish rather than rehabilitate the prison population; legalizing the abuse of civil liberties through the Patriot Act; the thirst to engage in preemptive war; and the pandering to the rich at the expense of the poor.
Plenty to nit-pick, but Carter’s overarching decency, his care for the human condition and the health of planet Earth shines through.