A couple of times now, I’ve posted items imagining Jimmy Carter as being motivated by a spiritual debt to Anwar Sadat. Carter made Sadat stay at Camp David in 1978 when he wanted to leave; and Sadat gave his life for the accords he signed there. Now Carter is making up to his old friend.
Well I’m finally reading Carter’s book, and I’m wrong. Carter is passionless (as James Fallows told us many years ago). He describes Sadat as the closest friend he formed in all his presidential meetings, but Sadat’s 1981 assassination is dismissed in a couple of brief references. No tears are shed, no guilt expressed. Carter is utterly impersonal. His speech the other day at Brandeis was that way too—he dropped a few (Jewish) names, like Stu Eisenstadt and Stephen Breyer, but there wasn’t really a friendly word about anyone. Compare him to Bill Clinton’s tearful speech at Terry McAuliffe’s book party at Four Seasons the other night—they’re night and day.
It’s worth remembering that Carter was a submarine commander who trained at Annapolis and the Georgia Institute of Technology. He’s a technocrat, and a Christian. His motivation in writing his bombshell book is largely technocratic: there’s a big problem here, I’m going to try and fix it. The prose in this book is dry. Carter saved his emotional moments for NBC News and Brandeis. The most emotional moment I’ve come to is when he’s running in East Jerusalem with two Israeli soldiers accompanying him and one runs ahead and kicks the newspapers out of the hands of some Arabs who are sitting and reading the papers, to make sure they’re not hiding guns. Carter goes over to apologize. He’s still offended by that behavior, as he should be.