December 6, 2006

"Being a former President does not give one a unique privilege to invent information..."

Historian Kenneth Stein ends his 23-year association with the Carter Center over Jimmy Carter's new book, "Palestine: Peace, Not Apartheid," the "inflammatory" title of which he cannot bring himself to put in his scathing letter of resignation. (Via Instapundit.)
Aside from the one-sided nature of the book, meant to provoke, there are recollections cited from meetings where I was the third person in the room, and my notes of those meetings show little similarity to points claimed in the book. Being a former President does not give one a unique privilege to invent information or to unpack it with cuts, deftly slanted to provide a particular outlook. Having little access to Arabic and Hebrew sources, I believe, clearly handicapped his understanding and analyses of how history has unfolded over the last decade. Falsehoods, if repeated often enough become meta-truths, and they then can become the erroneous baseline for shaping and reinforcing attitudes and for policy-making. The history and interpretation of the Arab-Israeli conflict is already drowning in half-truths, suppositions, and self-serving myths; more are not necessary.
Jimmy Carter is 82. A bizarre number of books have been published with his name on the cover. What is it, 20 since leaving the Presidency? Almost one a year! What is his role in the production of these rectangular objects? He needs to come forward with some honest information. Professor Stein deserves a response.


Ruth Anne Adams said...

Hey, This was on the black blog a minute ago!

And people were upset at Nixon using a certain presidential privilege.

But Carter does have "truthiness" on his side.

Ann Althouse said...

The "black blog" is constantly tripping me up. At least it's really, really obvious when I make that mistake.

knox said...

Yes, the sheer quantity of books is bizarre. But he fact that he wrote a book of poetry says it all for me.

Troy said...

Maybe Billy killed Jimmy and is scamming us.

I agree knoxgirl... Jimmy's poetry. Wow! Jewel could be President.

reader_iam said...

Carter must rewrite history. Otherwise, he would have to confront honestly his own place in it.

Jake said...

Jimmy Carter should be living in an Afghanistan cave. There he can spend the rest of his days communing with his soul mate-Bin Laden.

Josef Novak said...

black blog?

Laura Reynolds said...

Rather than just being an embarrasment, it is sad that so many take him seriously. That does not include the damage done by his presidency.

There are plenty of nice old men who deserve attention, he is not one of them and someone should explain this literary diarrhea.

Anonymous said...

The books will continue to be published as long as people buy them.

I used to think of Jimmy Carter as one of the kindest men ever elected president. My politics have changed over time, but my opinion of him has totally tanked. It is sad really. Some people age wonderfully, others just get crabby.


alphie said...


Bloggers arguing quality over quantity?

Funny stuff.

MadisonMan said...

JohnK -- did you know that if you rewrite your post, and substitute W for Carter, you get a post that might be written by others right here?

I agree with Trey -- Carter will stop writing when people stop buying. In the meantime, he's the Ann Coulter of ex-Presidents...saying whatever and trying to stay relevant to boost book sales.

garage mahal said...

No specific complaints, or gripes about the book from Stein.

Or here.


Will said...

John K.:
Heath died in 2005.

Mark Daniels said...

I'm reading the latest Carter book and will be interested in his response to this resignation.

The title is provocative. But I found his explanation of it on 'Fresh Air' interesting.

I don't consider the number of books written by Carter since the end of his presidency in 1981 to be bizarre. Carter's productivity as a post-presidential author is roughly equivalent, in its pace, to that of Theodore Roosevelt. Twenty books in twenty-seven years is hardly cause for suspicion of any kind. He, like TR, has always been a workaholic capable of mastering diverse subject material. This capacity for multiple mastery in fact, was probably the cause of his failed presidency. Carter stuck his nose into too many crannies of the Executive Branch and didn't sufficiently focus, a mark of a great administrator, but not a great leader.

I mention Carter's presidential style here:

By the way, consider the voluminous correspondence of Thomas Jefferson after his presidency ended in 1809 until his death in 1826. Unwilling to issue boiler plate correspondence in response to the more than 1000 letters he received annually in that seventeen-year period, his correspondence would fill a lot more than twenty average-sized books.

Mark Daniels

Mark Daniels said...

My Math is bad. Carter has been out of office for twenty-five-plus years, not twenty-seven.

Mark Daniels said...

I expand on this discussion, mentioning several presidents' literary output, here:

Mark Daniels

Richard Dolan said...

Rev. Daniels writes: "This capacity for multiple mastery in fact, was probably the cause of his failed presidency. Carter stuck his nose into too many crannies of the Executive Branch and didn't sufficiently focus, a mark of a great administrator, but not a great leader."

Unfortunately, Rev. Daniels' instinct for kindness is getting the better of accuracy here. I agree that Carter's presidency is largely remembered, both domestically and in foreign policy, as a failure for many reasons. But I don't think Carter's supposed "capacity for multiple mastery" was one of them. Instead, I think it stemmed more from his strange combination of indecisiveness with rigid self righteousness.

With the manifest problems in the Middle East -- Hamas in charge in the West Bank, Iranian threats to wipe Israel off the map, Gaza and Southern Lebanon vying to be the next spark for larger hostilities, Syria doing what it's been doing for decades to cause problems through surrogates, etc., etc. -- Carter posits the issue as Peace, not Apartheid. That doesn't strike me as a helpful way to conceptualize the issues, or a useful place to start in trying to deal with them. Nor does it suggest any reason to delve further into the details of Carter's views, particularly when combined with Professor Stein's criticism, to the effect that Carter is making up events to support his preferred story line.

Soccer Dad said...

There's something else about Prof Stein's charges:
President Carter's book on the Middle East, a title too inflammatory to even print, is not based on unvarnished analyses; it is replete with factual errors, copied materials not cited

Got that last phrase? He's also accusing Carter of plagiarism.

KCFleming said...

Why would I waste my time reading another superfluous book by Carter? Stein has the credentials to review it, and he trashed it, but good. Plagiarism is the least of Carter's crimes, and crimes they are.

Whatever made Carter think he was learned enough to instruct anyone but a 5th grader at Sunday school is a mystery. I wouldn't ask the man his opinion on the weather, and if he said it was raining, I'd still have to look first.

I'd rather chew glass.

knox said...

"you people"

LOL! Almost as haughty as the commenter on the Iraq thread who's going by the handle "reality check."

Laura Reynolds said...

Disgustipated: Under your criteria, no one could reach a conclusion about anything they did not personally witness. Just because you disagree with someone's judgement doesn't make it "comically simplistic reduction of an amazingly complex issue."

Make your own arguement rather then just criticizing some one else's. I'd like to see a good rationale for "his" point of view.

Revenant said...

I'm glad Dr. Stein was willing to takes the stand that he did. It definitely gave me a higher impression of his intellectual honesty.

Laura Reynolds said...

We agree to disagree. I am able to comfortably say he is guilty as charged. He is not worthy of my time or intellectual curiosity. I have to make choices and I believe history will bear me out.

Unknown said...

"I agree knoxgirl... Jimmy's poetry. Wow! Jewel could be President."

LOL, I just about fell on the floor.

You know, in publishing you have to keep writing books even if you have a hit; otherwise, the first book goes off the shelves fast. So maybe Carter is just responding to marketing efforts.

Charlie Martin said...

No specific complaints, or gripes about the book from Stein.

Garage, coming from an academic, an accusation of copying material without attribution is pretty specific, and pretty damning.

Nor would one expect a letter explaining his resignation to include footnotes.

AlphaLiberal said...

Maybe Carter could take a page from your book, call whatshisname an "idiot" and then take issue with something barely related someone else said.

Word verification" "dumfawq"


mark drago said...

What about the issue of Ms Althouse's baseless insinuation that Mr Carter is not the author of his own books? "formidable law blogger" indeed.

Ann Althouse said...

It's baseless to question whether Carter is writing a book a year at his age without the participation of ghostwriters?

buddy larsen said...

I agree with disconstipated, Comrade Carter was the greatest president ever, on the basis of his re-awakening the world to the dangers of 20+% interest rates and inflation.

Wiping out such a catastrophic amount of asset valuation from the American account was the ideal "waker-upper' for a people become overconfident about the non-stupidness of their political process.

garage mahal said...

Garage, coming from an academic, an accusation of copying material without attribution is pretty specific, and pretty damning

Then he should cite it !

Laura Reynolds said...

It was a letter of resignation, not a thesis

Hey said...

How many books truly are written by their authors? The non-authorial celebrity of a writer is inversely correlated with the likelihood that they wrote the book, or even substantially contrubuted to it.

The number of professors who don't write their own books is vast. Dershowitz is one, but most business profs are barely aware that they HAVE a book coming out, never mind doing the writing. I know one famous B Prof, whose second book in a series added a second author. The second author only made it onto the cover as he'd gotten his Phd. So it's even worse than the authorship of a scientific paper, where the assistant comes up with the idea and does the work and gets 3rd billing if she's lucky.

The problem with Carter's book is that his ghost authors are getting sloppy, and he's using far too ideological interns to do too much of the writing.

Far too many people don't know how these things actually work!