Thursday, October 1, 2015

A review of PBS's "Jimmy Carter" movie

"For the first time in the history of our country a majority of our people believe
that the next five years will be worse than the past five years."

- Jimmy Carter's "malaise" speech, 1979 (after he'd been president for two and a half years)

PBS made a three-hour documentary about the life of Jimmy Carter. The documentary was a lot like Carter himself: frequently boring (particularly in the first part).

In fairness to the documentary, the research is fairly good, with lots of old photographs and even footage of Carter, and clips from a modern interview with his wife. But despite Jimmy Carter still being alive today, the documentary surprisingly had no modern interview clips with Carter himself, perhaps omitting them to combat (accurate) audience perceptions of pro-Carter bias in the documentary.

Jimmy Carter

Ronald Reagan

To its credit, it reports the dismal facts about his presidency's economic situation candidly in explaining his loss to Ronald Reagan in 1980, but its liberal bias becomes apparent when former Carter administration members and other left-wing talking heads try to spin these events Carter's way. They blame the recession of that time on previous administrations' spending on the Vietnam War, which ended two years before Carter's inauguration, and six years before his defeat in the 1980 elections - too long before, in my opinion, to explain the downward economic spiral of the Carter years.

Line at a gas station, 1979

The documentary felt more like a story about current events than a history, some of which is inevitable when talking about events so recent; but even allowing for the recentness of the events, this is probably my least favorite of the presidential biographies I've seen. I think Carter is mostly a good man, but I think he was a terrible president, and this documentary isn't much more interesting than he is.

DVD at Amazon

Can be viewed online at PBS website

If you liked this post, you might also like:

Richard Nixon movie

Cold War miniseries

Ronald Reagan movie

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