Jimmy Carter on Colbert

Our 39th president, at his relaxed best
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The X-Presidents ( Comic Collector Live )

No doubt I'm biased, but I thought our 39th president did a great job on the show last night—as did Colbert, in being mock-disrespectfully jokey right up to the limit of what is seemly with an 89-year-old former president, but not beyond.

What I really liked about this segment, apart from seeing Carter so relaxed and quick, was the glimpse it gave of the person with enough political instinct to have become president in the first place. For example, check out Carter's little deadpan retort in the time between 1:05 and 1:15 in this first part of the interview. Or approximately 1:45 through 2:15, in which Carter explains the circumstances in which he might stop being a Baptist and join the Catholic Church. (Pre-roll ads involved.)

[UPDATE: The embedded videos seem not to be loading. As far as we can tell, this is a problem on Comedy Central's end rather than ours. For the moment, here's the link to Part 1 of the Carter-Colbert interview.]

While you're at it, why not watch that whole clip, and this second installment of the interview too? It includes great riffs on Carter's home-building activity for Habitat for Humanity and whether the other X-Presidents consider him the odd man out. [Update: Here is the link to interview Part 2.]

Politicians still bearing the obligations of office, especially presidents, can be only so informal, before the "but let's be serious" part kicks in. Politicians on the rise are often trying a little too hard to show that they are hip. This is a rare instance of someone far enough past those days (though not past the sting of losing, as Carter mentions several times) to be at his relaxed best, and still in good enough mental shape to pull it off. This was an unexpectedly nice moment, by Carter also Team Colbert. 

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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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