- Expected May 11, 2021
An essential re-evaluation of the complex triumphs and tragedies of Jimmy Carter's presidential legacy--from the expert biographer and Pulitzer Prize-winning author of American Prometheus
Ever since Ronald Reagan's landslide win in November 1980, pundits have labeled Jimmy Carter's single term in the White House a failed presidency. But Carter's time as president is a compelling and underexplored story, marked by accomplishment and adversity. In this deeply researched, brilliantly written account, the first full presidential biography of Jimmy Carter, Kai Bird approaches Carter's presidency with an expert hand, unfolding the story of Carter's four years with few allies inside Washington and a great many critics in the media.
As president, Carter was not merely an outsider, but indeed an outlier. He was the only president in a century to grow up in the heart of the old confederacy, and though he held strongly to the separation of church and state, his born-again Christianity made him the most openly religious president in memory. As Bird shows, this background manifested itself in an unusual complex of arrogance, humility, and candor that neither Washington nor America was prepared to embrace. Forty years before today's broad public reckoning with the vast gulf between America's creed and its actions, Carter looked out over a nation torn by race, crippled by stagflation, and demoralized by both Watergate and Vietnam and prescribed a radical self-examination from which voters ultimately recoiled. The cost of Carter's unshakeable belief in doing the right thing would be a second term--and the ascendance of Reagan.
The issues that Carter contended with in the late 1970s are still hotly debated today: national health care, growing inequality, energy independence, racism, immigration, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Forty years after voters turned him out of the White House, Carter appears remarkably prescient on the major issues facing the country in the twenty-first century, even if in his own time he was a prophet scorned.
Drawing on interviews with members of Carter's administration as well as recently unclassified documents from his presidential library, Bird delivers a profoundly thorough, clear-eyed evaluation of a president whose legacy has been debated, dismissed, and misunderstood. The Outlier is this generation's definitive account of an enigmatic presidency--as it really happened and as it is remembered in the American consciousness.