Jimmy Carter’s chief domestic policy adviser tells all.
In 1981, Eizenstat (The Future of the Jews: How Global Forces Are Impacting the Jewish People, Israel, and Its Relationship with the United States, 2012, etc.) began research on a history of the Carter presidency. Drawing on 5,000 pages of his own “detailed, often verbatim” notes; 350 interviews with individuals within and outside of the administration (including Carter, his wife, and Walter Mondale); and copious material from the Carter Presidential Library and many other sources, the author has created a mammoth, authoritative, and comprehensive history of four tumultuous years. A born-again Christian peanut farmer, Carter promised to fight “for the common good against Washington’s entrenched interests.” He disdained politics and had no interest in—or talent for—“buttering up Congressional egos and rallying interest groups and the public” to support his policies. Eizenstat highlights Carter’s many accomplishments: He championed human rights domestically and internationally; reined in Soviet interests in the Persian Gulf and Middle East; doggedly negotiated a peace accord between Israel and Egypt; deregulated crude oil and natural gas prices as well as the transportation industry; pursued an aggressive conservation policy; bailed out New York City and Chrysler from bankruptcy; and oversaw the creation of 10 million new jobs. From the outset, though, Carter’s administration was undermined by mismanagement, astounding ineptitude, and bad luck. He assembled a strong Cabinet but provided no clear guidance on his own goals, and most staff were inexperienced. A micromanager, he drowned himself in details, and he failed to communicate adequately to the press, lawmakers, and the public. He was also beset by divisiveness in Congress and among various constituencies. Domestically, he faced stagflation (high inflation and rising unemployment). In his final year, to the CIA’s surprise, Iran erupted in revolution, resulting in 52 Americans held hostage in the U.S. Embassy. Eizenstat enlivens his chronicle with deft portraits of a huge cast of characters, including a headstrong 29-year-old pollster who became “almost like Rasputin” to Carter.
An astute, often shocking, behind-the-scenes chronicle.