Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Has Jimmy Carter Written Too Many Books?

Historian Kenneth Stein has resigned from the Carter Center, asserting that former President Jimmy Carter's new book on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is both inflammatory and historically inaccurate.

But blogger Ann Althouse seems as interested in the number of books written by the ex-President since he left office on January 20, 1981, calling it bizarre, as she is in Stein's allegations. (She also says, rightly I think, that Carter should respond to Stein's letter of resignation.)

But as to the number of Carter books, I don't consider twenty books in twenty-five years to be bizarre.

The former President's productivity as a post-presidential author is roughly equivalent, in its pace, to that of Theodore Roosevelt. He wrote a total of 37 books. (John Quincy Adams wrote 24. Grover Cleveland's literary output represents the median number for American presidents; he wrote ten books.)

Carter, like TR, has always been a workaholic capable of mastering diverse subject material. This capacity for multiple mastery in fact, was probably the cause of his failed presidency. Carter stuck his nose into too many crannies of the Executive Branch and didn't sufficiently focus, a mark of a great administrator, but not a great leader. (See here.)

By way of comparison, too, consider the voluminous correspondence of Thomas Jefferson after his presidency ended in 1809 until his death in 1826. Unwilling to issue boiler plate correspondence in response to the more than 1000 letters he received annually in that seventeen-year period, his correspondence would fill a lot more than twenty average-sized books. (For more information on Jefferson's post-presidential writing, see Joseph Ellis' book, American Sphinx.)

[UPDATE: I appreciate the link from Smart Christian. But I really express no opinion on the accuracy of President Carter's book here. I am reading it, but presently I'm only about 100-pages into it. My interest here is in Ann Althouse's belief that Carter's literary output is "bizarre" because it's so prolific. I think that's silly.]


Brendt said...

Yeah, but how much workaholism is required to plagiarize and/or pull "facts" out of various orifices?

Mark Daniels said...

This is the first time in all these years that I've read about any allegation of plagiarism against Carter. So, I will continue to presume his innocence until proof of his guilt is presented.

As to the allegation that Carter manufactured "facts," I await proof of those allegations as well.

So far, all we have to support these allegations is the word of one person obviously upset--as others have been--with Carter's provocative title and approach in his latest book.

No matter how one may feel about Carter's politics, it seems to me fairness requires the presumption of innocence.

Thanks for dropping by.