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Jimmy Carter A Comprehensive Biography from Plains to Postpresidency By Peter G. Bourne Scribner's, 1997 544 pp. Cloth, $43.00 Jimmy Carter American Moralist By Kenneth E. Morris University of Georgia Press, 1996 486 pp. Cloth, $29.95 Reviewed by Leo P. Ribufffo, professor ofhistory at George Washington University and the audior of The Old Christian Right The Protestant FarRightfrom the GreatDepression to the Cold Warma Right CenterI,eft: Essays inAmerican History. He is writing a history of the Carter presidency framed in a broad social and cultural context. These volumes are the first full-fledged biographies ofJimmy Carter to appear since 1980, when political scientist Betty Glad published what may be the best biography ever written about a sitting president. When Glad's Jimmy Carter: In Search of the Great White House appeared, her subject was widely derided as the prophet and source of national "malaise." Peter G- Bourne's and Kenneth E. Morris's books arrive at a time when Carter is widely hailed as the country's "best ex-president." Nonedieless, these three biographies written over a period of almost two decades overlap sufficiendy to suggest diat Carter is not as "enigmatic " as coundess commentators (including Morris) believe. Bourne, a psychiatrist from Great Britain who helped Carter plan his presidential campaign and then served on die White House senior staff, supersedes Glad in providing die fullest account available ofCarter's early years. Raised in an affluent but demanding family on the outskirts ofPlains, Georgia, Carter dreamed of a wider world and increasingly resented his father's "dictatorial ways." Appointment to Annapolis and subsequent service in the navy brought access to the wider world but no less chafing discipline. As Bourne observes, perhaps with some hyperbole, Carter suffered from "deep-seated problems with authority." In Reviews in 195 3 me deadi of his fatiier, Earl, provided an honorable exit from the navy. Carter returned to Plains, assumed Earl Carter's place as a community leader, served in the state senate, and, after losing in 1966, won the governorship in 1970. That campaign was marked by dirty tricks and subde appeals to racist voters. Bourne shows, however, that the tricks were par for the course in Georgia politics and diat Carter was more liberal on race than his opponent Carl Sanders. As governor he promoted education, administrative efficiency, and racial reconciliation ; he also began considering a campaign for the presidency in 1976, even before Democratic nominee George McGovern lost in 1972. Sociologist Morris covers the same ground in more judgmental and speculative fashion, ultimately concluding that Carter was raised in a nearly pathological family. He speculates that Earl participated in a lynching, displayed an "unhealthy affection" for daughter Ruth, and felt disappointed by Jimmy (though Earl's references to his eldest son as "Hot Shot" suggest instead diat he recognized Jimmy's accomplishments but was jealous of them). Moreover, Morris often mixes psychobabble with insight while examining Carter's endless quest for community , "malleable" personality, and "multifaceted" worldview. Carter skillfully used his multifaceted worldview to woo diverse constituencies in a divided Democratic party and to win die presidency in 1976. Although this story has been well told before, by Glad and journalists Martin Schräm andJules Witcover, Bourne adds a valuable insider's perspective. He deftly introduces the campaign aides Carter picked up along the way, many ofwhom later served in the White House. And he righdy notes that Carter's straddle of die abortion issue represented both shrewd politics and an "inherent psychological need to resolve conflict by accommodating opposing views in his own mind." Morris places Carter's rise to the presidency in a much broader context. His book calls to mind a nineteendi-century "life and times" portrait—only the "times" are conceived to include not only major developments in government and politics, such as the stresses produced by the Vietnam War and Watergate scandal, or major social movements, such as the religious awakening in progress since World War II, but also a large dose of popular entertainment. Part of a "generation of seekers," candidate Carter was "eerily in sync with America's wider culture," Morris writes. Morris has mixed feelings about both the national...


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