Four decades after Ronald Reagan's landslide win in 1980, Jimmy Carter's one-term presidency is often labeled a failure; indeed, many Americans view Carter as the only ex-president to have used the White House as a stepping-stone to greater achievements. But in retrospect the Carter political odyssey is a rich and human story, marked by both formidable accomplishments and painful political adversity. Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer Kai Bird unfolds the Carter saga as a tragic tipping point in American history.
Kai Bird’s landmark presidential biography of our 39th president, The Outlier, begins, almost lyrically, by recreating the world in which Jimmy Carter grew up ... Bird is able to build a persuasive case that the Carter presidency deserves this new look ... Curiously, Bird’s story [...] does not create an overwhelming sense of Carter as a tragic, misunderstood president. Instead, his narrative engenders as much impatience with Carter as respect ... Kai Bird’s important book intentionally, and inadvertently, explains why American presidents continue to learn as much from President Carter’s mistakes as from his many achievements.
... while Kai Bird does not spare us even the slightest detail of the failures of the Carter years...he offers a bracing reminder that the 39th president was a man of probity, decency, high hopes, and high moral standards ... We needed this biography ... An admirer of the content of Carter’s character if not the content of his politics, Bird’s take on whom he calls 'our most enigmatic president' is relentlessly fair-minded ... Overall the Bird book also is a timely reminder that the Carter years were consequential years, beyond the Camp David accords ... Many historians and commentators have wrestled with the role of the South in the life of the first Southerner elected to the presidency since Reconstruction ... Bird approaches this with sensitivity and insight ... Bird’s biography redeems his presidency and reminds us of how callous we might have been during his years in office.
... balanced, detailed and very readable ... This compelling portrait of Carter, a complex personality who was finally undone by the Iran hostage crisis, is an absorbing look at his life and administration that should be appreciated by anyone interested in American history.