If You've Wondered How People Could Ever Have Liked Jimmy Carter...

... you could well invest seven minutes, or even a couple, in watching his appearance with Jon Stewart earlier this week. I saw it only now; preoccupied with, sigh, work when it first aired.

I am sure that people who don't like Carter will find confirmation of everything they think. But there is an edge and honesty to the guy that got attention at the time and are still unusual -- and that come through in the clip. While his joke about himself as the original Tea Party member, starting around time 4:00, may seem labored in the set up, his line to Stewart about 30 seconds later creates a rare moment when Stewart actually seems to blush.

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I'm not saying that this appearance alters large historical debates about Carter's strengths and weaknesses. But it shows a little flash of the personality and intelligence that made people notice when he came out of nowhere in 1975 and 1976. He's candid, too, about the chain of odd circumstances that made a coming-from-nowhere run for the presidency possible.
For the record: I worked as a speechwriter for Carter for two and a half years on the campaign and in the White House, starting when I was 26. After joining the Atlantic in 1979, I had some criticisms to offer of where the Administration was heading.

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James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

Fallows welcomes and frequently quotes from reader mail sent via the "Email" button below. Unless you specify otherwise, we consider any incoming mail available for possible quotation -- but not with the sender's real name unless you explicitly state that it may be used. If you are wondering why Fallows does not use a "Comments" field below his posts, please see previous explanations here and here.


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