Stuart Eizenstat’s magnum opus, his lengthy history of the Carter presidency during the latter half of the 1970s, “President Carter: The White House Years,” is a portrait of the ups and downs of a national leader who came to Washington determined to shake things up.
This comprehensive re-appraisal examines how well Carter succeeded in that task by a consummate political insider whose long record of public service in the nation’s capital, including his celebrated efforts on behalf of Holocaust survivors, began as Carter’s chief domestic policy adviser.
He draws upon 5,000 pages of notes he took during the four years on Carter’s White House staff, and more than 350 interviews, including five with Carter and his intensive experience as a high-ranking official over a quarter century of public service. This helps to give us a close-up view of how American government operates at the highest levels. Our 39th president, he argues, was much better than his present-day reputation suggests.
He examines with a thoughtful, tho-rough and generally-objective eye the many successes of those years, including the history-making agreement between Prime Minister Menachem Begin and Egypt’s Anwar Sadat, describing the Carter presidency as “one of the most consequential in modern history.”
While many may remember the time for its long lines at the gas pump, high inflation, and the lengthy and disheartening Iran hostage crisis, Eizenstat argues that it was a time of history-making programs in energy reform, human rights and international diplomacy that played an important role in shaping history in the last 40 years.
In this well-written and important work, he provides an absorbing portrait of a complex man many Jews have found hard to forgive for his latter-day views on Israel and his characterization of that nation as an apartheid state.
The book is the Esther G. Levine Community Read at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 11, and is sponsored, in part, by Ahavath Achim Synagogue.