Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Book Review: The Miracle of Jimmy Carter

Title: The Miracle of Jimmy Carter

Author: Howard Norton and Bob Slosser

Illustrations: black-and-white photos

Publisher: Logos

Date: (June) 1976

Length: 134 pages

Quote: “The first presidential nominee in history to confess openly to the voters that Jesus Christ came first in his life...could bring a spiritual revival to the United States and its government.”

The Miracle of Jimmy Carter was a campaign biography. Jimmy Carter had, like most presidential candidates, written a reasonably successful book of his own, Why Not the Best, by which he was remembered (at least until he'd written the more inspiring Everything to Gain). But he'd also identified as a more evangelical kind of Christian than the majority of buttoned-up Christian candidates; Logos sensed sales potential, for themselves and for the Democratic Party, in a biography of Jimmy Carter the Christian.

Well...was President Carter more of a Christian, or a better Christian, than other politicians, or just a typical politician who happened to talk about his religious beliefs in a more blunt, late-twentieth-century style than most of his colleagues? I've heard this question raised, and frankly, Gentle Readers, I don't think it's worth a Christian's time. “Judge not, lest ye be judged,” as far as other people's spiritual conditions are concerned.

A more profitable question might be, “Since Jimmy Carter was a bit of a political outsider, as well as a rather young and less experienced candidate in 1976, what exactly were his qualifications for the Presidency and how were those qualifications marketed, to what kind of voters, in order for him to become President?” To that question, The Miracle of Jimmy Carter provides some answers.

We learn, for example, that despite the oddly chosen, tired-looking image on the front cover of this book, and the slow speech and patient manner, as a young man Jimmy Carter was known for reading, thinking, and working fast—he was even nicknamed “Dasher.” We see him steering the middle course on several issues, proud of a “zero-based” budgeting rule that subjected each proposed budget increase to scrutiny while allowing several increases to be made, identifying with “the rednecks” whenever possible while promoting desegregation, using “faint praise” to condemn a colleague he later described as a lifelong enemy.

In short, although he had a different accent, Jimmy Carter had much in common with other successful politicians: he was intelligent, hardworking, ambitious, extremely gregarious, and willing to compromise--“But I didn't compromise in a back room,” he said proudly. (Doing it in the front room is so much better...)

The Miracle of Jimmy Carter is recommended as an historical document, or for anyone interested in measuring President Carter's actual achievements against the goals stated during his campaign (which are conveniently spelled out in chapter seven). His goals were not everyone's at the time, but some readers may be surprised to realize how many of them he could be said to have met.

Howard Norton, who was also described as a Christian writer, has no use for a dollar now. The Miracle of Jimmy Carter is not a Fair Trade Book. However, if anyone out there wants to buy it as an historical document, 10% of the total price (standard $5 per book, $5 per package) can be donated to Habitat for Humanity.