As usual, when Victor Lasky separates man from myth, the man loses. Having dissected John and Robert Kennedy (among others) in earlier books, Lasky gives us Jimmy Carter--""undoubtedly the most amazing man ever to become President,"" and ""undoubtedly one of the more inept."" The story begins with Carter's childhood (the self-styled ""poor boy from Plains"" actually grew up in comfortable surroundings) and takes him through the Naval Academy, numerous campaigns, and the Presidency, with Lasky hammering away at Carter's image as the ""champion of compassion and love"" and describing him instead as ""setting a new standard for hypocrisy."" Most surprising, in light of the relentlessly negative slant, is the fact that none of the material is new. In fact, most of the abundant notes cite newspaper articles or other Carter biographies. Except for a wealth of negative comments by others (former Atlanta Constitution editor Reg Murphy calls Carter ""one of the three or four phoniest men I ever met""), Lasky's presentation is straightforward and factual: Carter raising funds for a ""whites only"" public swimming pool; describing himself as ""a Conservative"" and a ""Dick Russell Democrat"" in his brief run for Congress in 1966; claiming an economic reorganization of Georgia government (denied by the state auditor and the man who succeeded him as Governor). ""He stayed with me as long as I was popular,"" charged George Wallace in 1976, referring to Carter's having courted him during his gubernatorial race, but withholding promised Presidential support in 1972 to nominate Henry Jackson at the convention. There is even Carter carrying the famous garment bag, only to have it ""quickly taken from him by an aide once the cameras"" go off. A discouraging tale, but all so familiar that it should hardly cause a ripple in the Tidal Basin.