One of his military commanders admiringly called Carter “tough as woodpecker lips.” His former strategists still cringe when they recall the flash of contemptuous blue steel the president would level at them when they would go into the Oval Office to suggest a politically expedient move. Famously and infamously candid, Carter is just as hard on himself, writing in an afterword that he could have been “somewhat less rigid” and “autocratic,” that he was not “a natural politician” and that he’s sorry he alienated Jews and the press.
In the last 30 years, Carter has accomplished many grand and important things in the world. Yet it must hurt, I say, that his name is synonymous with presidential ineptitude. Before he got elected, Barack Obama praised Reagan as a “transformative” president. Now in a slump, Obama morphs into Carter, an eat-your-peas president for an ice-cream-sundae nation.
Carter agrees that unfavorable comparisons are odious, before protesting: “But I don’t think I failed.”