This essay by Joe Queenan on Jimmy Carter’s literary diarrhea is so on-target and plain hilarious.
Jimmy Carter tries hard to paint himself as some virtuous dude, but the reality is that he is hypocritical and cruel. When he was President, Carter treated with contempt the Secret Service agents who would take a bullet for him. He told them not to look at him or speak to him even to say hello when he went to the Oval Office. Carter once tried to kill a small stray dog with a bow saw because the terrier ate some food his wife had put out for their cat in their home in Plains, GA. The dog managed to dodge Carter’s attack, but Carter then insisted that Secret Service agents take the dog away. The agents instead gave the orphan dog to the press corps. This is what a bow saw looks like:
By Joe Queenan – Wall St. Journal – October 9, 2010
In November 1980, the American people made a disastrous decision whose reverberations are still being felt today. Rather than biting the bullet and re-electing the glum, uncharismatic, hopeless Jimmy Carter to the White House—thereby ensuring that he would return to Plains, Ga., at the conclusion of his second term and keep his blabberpuss shut—they turfed him out into the street.
That made him mad. Really mad. By giving one of America’s dopiest presidents the bum’s rush, the American people ensured that Mr. Carter would spend the rest of his life trying to even the score, trying to persuade them that they had made a huge mistake when they cast their lot with Ronald Reagan, trying to convince them that they were a bunch of jerks.
The particular form of retribution Carter chose was as sinister and cruel as any known to man. He took his pen in hand and began to write books. Long books. Boring books. Dour books. Yes, long, boring, dour, numerous books. Books with sanctimonious names like “Keeping Faith” and “Living Faith” and “Leading a Worthy Life.” Books with pompous names like “Turning Point,” “Our Endangered Values” and “Always a Reckoning.” Books with hokey names like “Christmas in Plains” and “Everything to Gain: Making the Most of the Rest of Your Life.” And yes, even books with names like “The Little Baby Snoogle-Fleejer” that defy classification.
He has not set his pen down since.
With the recent release of the exquisitely pointless “White House Diary,” his 25th entry in the literary sweepstakes, Mr. Carter has now written more books than James Joyce, Jane Austen, Gustave Flaubert, George Eliot, Virgil, Homer and Jonathan Franzen. He has also written more books than Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Lyndon Baines Johnson, Dwight Eisenhower, Woodrow Wilson, Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington and a whole lot of other presidents who got more points on the scoreboard than he ever did. Most ex-presidents have the good grace to stop at a single publication after they leave office, though more than a few have obligingly opted for the public’s favorite number in this lethal genre: zero.
The Oval Office equivalent of the Edsel, Mr. Carter has spent three decades in the wilderness retrofitting his image as the best, the brightest, and the noblest ex-president of them all. This is like trying to get credit for touchdowns 30 years after the clock has run out, with the score reading Eureka College 50, Navy 0.
Being history’s most admired ex-president is like being the most beloved former skipper of a torpedoed aircraft carrier. If the ship sank while you were at the helm, it doesn’t really matter what a great job you did manning the inflatable lifeboat afterward. Mr. Carter inhabits some weird parallel universe with people like George Foreman, who were despised when they were at their peak and then manufactured a touchy-feely post-career aura that made some people forget how much they disliked them when they were famous. But George Foreman, unlike Jimmy Carter, is funny. And George Foreman could throw a punch.
Carter’s extraneous exhumation of the musty old diary he kept during his four long, horrid years in office suggests that he is scraping the bottom of the barrel for material. Publishing a diary describing the four years in office that were so awful they got you booted out into the street is like George Pickett publishing “Gettysburg Diary” or Mike Brown publishing “Quiet Days in Katrina: A FEMA Diary.” And if Carter’s gone back to the dismal years 1977-80 to exhume diary material, what comes next? “Tuesdays with Bert Lance”?
This is a classic case of being careful what you wish for. The American people wanted Jimmy Carter out of office in the worst way, and to this day they are paying the price. If we had to do it all over again, I think a lot of people would vote to amend the Constitution and allow presidents to run for five, six—as many terms as they wanted. That wouldn’t leave them much spare time to write books.