As President, he was the boring guy at a party who explains everything but gets little, least of all his own failure to connect with people. Three decades later, Jimmy Carter is still amiably garrulous.
If, during four years in the White House, he was always dictating his thoughts, why insist on sharing them now? On claiming that Ted Kennedy kept him from enacting health-care reform? Or bragging that "my role as a former president is probably superior to that of other presidents?”
Promoting his book, Carter, who gratuitously told Playboy before election that he "lusted in my heart" for other women, now flummoxes Jon Stewart, of all people, by trying to confess his own experience with self-pleasuring while alluding to a favored topic of Tea Party candidate Christine O'Donnell.
A fellow octogenarian can sympathize with his need to stay in the game, but younger generations should know this good-hearted but clueless president responded to an energy crisis and long gas lines by wearing a sweater on TV and talking about a "national malaise," backslapped the Russians and then cancelled our Olympic participation when they disappointed him, was unable to free American hostages for 444 days in Iran or stop Castro from exporting criminals and mental cases along with political dissidents to Florida with the Mariel boatlift.
As an ex-president, his humanitarian work is admirable but pales in scope next to Bill Clinton's. And when it goes beyond building homes for the poor, there is the same political naïveté that marked Carter's presidency as he bumbles through the Middle East and trades presidential prestige to free a single innocent American in North Korea.
As it happens, Jimmy Carter's umpteenth book coincides with a memoir by his running mate, Walter Mondale, a capable politician who was served up as a sacrificial lamb to Reagan in 1984.
“At heart, he was an engineer,” Mondale now tells the New Yorker about Carter. “He wanted to sit down and come up with the right answers, and then explain it. He didn’t like to do a lot of emotional public speaking.”
Most presidents learn quickly there are no "right answers," only complicated human transactions in connecting with people. Jimmy Carter never did.