JIMMY CARTER, AMERICAN MORALIST by Kenneth E. Morris

JIMMY CARTER, AMERICAN MORALIST

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A revisionist study of a controversial and misunderstood president, stressing the origins, nature, and central importance of his beliefs. In this in-depth portrait of Carter, Morris (Sociology/Univ. of Georgia) argues that Carter's unique moral outlook was critical to his career as a politician, from his election as governor of Georgia through his presidency to his statesmanlike contributions to national and international policy today. On July 15, 1979, Jimmy Carter gave his memorable "malaise" speech (though that word was not used in the address). Ostensibly a talk about the energy crisis, it became a sermon about a "crisis of confidence" born of a national spiritual decay. It was, Morris asserts, quintessential Carter, treating private morality as a public problem. Morris uses this speech as a springboard for a discussion of Carter's morality, which he believes animated many of his actions as a politician. Carter's beliefs are a mixture, Morris suggests, of concepts drawn from his fervent evangelical Christianity and from an old-fashioned southern populism. As a young man, his emerging racial liberalism estranged him from white society in Georgia, and together with a fragmented family life, fostered in him a yearning for community that, Morris argues, propelled much of his political life. Morris traces the influence of those close to Carter (most prominently Admiral Hyman Rickover, who became a surrogate father to Carter during his years at Annapolis) on his ideas and provides a succinct record of Carter's career, from his days as a prosperous businessman through his successful campaign for the presidency in 1976. Evaluating Carter's approach to political problems, Morris argues that he consistently attempted to use private spirituality as a moral basis for addressing world problems, including poverty, human rights, and world hunger. A penetrating analysis of the unique moral outlook that animated an enigmatic president.
Pub Date: Nov. 5th, 1996
ISBN: 0-8203-1862-0
Page count: 448pp
Publisher: Univ. of Georgia
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15th, 1996




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