Friday, May 23, 2014

US History 1973 - 2014 Commonplace Book: Lecture 9, Ford, Carter and Politics in the 1970s (Con't)

Carter believes fifty things, but no one thing. He holds explicit, thorough positions on every issue under the sun, but he has no large view of the relations between them, no line indicating which goals (reducing unemployment? human rights?) will take precedence over which (inflation control? a SALT treaty?) when the goals conflict. Spelling out these choices makes the difference between a position and a philosophy, but it is an act foreign to Carter's mind.... Carter thinks in lists, not arguments; as long as items are there, their order does not matter, nor does the hierarchy among them. Whenever he gave us an outline for a speech, it would consist of six or seven subjects ("inflation," "need to fight waste") rather than a theme or tone.... Carter's cast of mind: his view of problems as technical, not historical, his lack of curiosity about how the story turned out before. He wanted to analyze the "correct" answer, not to understand the intangible irrational forces that had skewed all previous answers.

— James Fallows, "The Passionless Presidency" (1979)
Introduction to (and explanation of) this quote series can be found here.  Read this tag to see all of them.

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