When Presidents Tell It Their Way

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Our most effective Presidents have been imaginative pragmatists who have known simultaneously how to rally support through the power of words and personality. Carter never seemed quite up to that part of the job. Aside from his reiterative pledge not to lie to us, the closest his memoirs come to explaining the course he hoped to set as President is to assert that the “subliminal theme” of his administration was “dealing with limits.” In Keeping Faith we learn a lot about how the machinery of the Presidency worked while he was at the controls but get little sense of where he wanted it to go. Carter’s tired, dispirited tone is miles away from Theodore Roosevelt’s frank delight in the opportunity the Presidency afforded him to get things done and his undisguised joy in telling everybody all about it.