Eizenstat is an insider and fan. But he is hardly blind to Carter’s flaws. He is even cheeky, occasionally ... Through it all, you get a big and colorful cast of characters, not all of them southern, but with the accent on the South ... Eizenstat’s account is fascinating: detailed, intimate, even page-turning ... From Stuart Eizenstat, you can learn a great deal — about Carter, sure, but also about the presidency at large. He took copious notes during his time in the White House and had his eye on everything. He has done meticulous work since. He writes clearly and well. No one can endorse every jot and tittle in the book: no conservative, no liberal, no Carterite (including Carter). But that Eizenstat has contributed something valuable to literature on the presidency is certain.
Eizenstat is no neutral arbiter. A fellow Georgian, he joined Carter’s 1976 presidential campaign and became his White House domestic policy adviser. He is an unabashed admirer who in judging Carter against his presidential peers deems him 'one of the most consequential in modern history' ... relying in part on more than 5,000 pages of his own contemporaneous notes and 350 interviews, including five with his former boss, Eizenstat has produced a thoughtful, measured and compelling account that bemoans Carter’s weaknesses even as it extols his strengths. If readers are not convinced that Carter was the second coming of Kennedy, they will come away with a three-dimensional portrait ... For the following 37 years, Carter’s presidency has been held hostage in a way, too — to the string of missteps, the missed opportunities and the two-dimensional image. He has Eizenstat to thank for seeking to free him from the chains of history and provide a fuller picture.
The author is well positioned to provide an insider’s account of the period between the election of 1976, when Carter defeated President Gerald Ford, and Ronald Reagan’s landslide victory in November 1980 ... For this book, Eizenstat also consulted the voluminous records at the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and conducted 350 interviews with top participants from those years. The result is a comprehensive and persuasive account of Carter’s presidency that stands far above the familiar confessional and reveal-all accounts by former White House officials we are accustomed to reading ... Though readers may find the nearly 900 pages of text overwhelming, Eizenstat offers a compelling narrative filled with colorful stories about events such as the Camp David Accords ... Political junkies and presidential-history buffs will love this book ... Regardless of what readers think of Carter’s legacy, the book will interest anyone who wants to learn about a president who took the job of governance seriously.