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Martin's Must Reads: 'The Outlier'

Penguin Random House

“Jimmy Carter’s one-term presidency is often labeled a failure; indeed many Americans view Carter as the only ex-president to have used the White House as a stepping stone to greater achievements. But in retrospect the Carter political odyssey is a rich and human story, marked by both formidable accomplishments and painful political adversity.”

These words from the dust cover of Kai Bird’s book The Outlier: The Unfinished Presidency of Jimmy Carter sets the stage for a wonderful biography of a one term president who was a complex and misunderstood individual and president.

Raised in abject poverty of rural Georgia and a graduate of the Naval Academy, President Carter was lambasted by liberals as too conservative and hated by conservatives as too liberal.

James Earl Carter’s presidency was as complicated as the man himself. He was elected at a time in American History when the country was still reeling from the assassinations of President John Kennedy, his brother Robert and Martin Luther King Jr., from the disaster that was Vietnam, and the shattering of confidence in our political system in the wake of Watergate.

This deeply religious, highly moral, very loyal, and misunderstood man was president at the dawn of the era of harsh partisanship, political division, and extremism that remains to this day. Yet in a presidency with so much failure—i.e. the Iranian hostage crisis--, there was so many significant achievements that are foundational to our lives today. The real value of Mr. Bird’s biography are the erudite descriptions of President Carter as a person, his presidency’s accomplishments and failures and how they connect to both the times in which they happened and today.

There are many great biographies of ex-presidents. Kai Bird’s new book The Outlier is destined to join them.

Mark co-hosted "Martin's Must Reads" until October 2022. He passed away unexpectedly on October 21, 2022.
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