chapter  3
42 Pages

The Carter Administration

WithRichard A. Melanson

Jimmy Carter’s narrow victory over Gerald Ford in 1976 represented the culmination of one of the most unlikely journeys in the history of American national politics. Not since the Civil War had either major party given the presidential nomination to a nonincumbent southerner, and no one from the Deep South had been chosen since Zachary Taylor of Louisiana had run for the Whigs in 1848. For Jimmy Carter, the fundamental task for his administration was the restoration of the faith of the American people in themselves, their government, and their government’s foreign activities. This crisis of faith had produced a debilitating national disunity, which Carter believed had been exacerbated by Vietnam, Watergate, and the CIA revelations. Despite his own notable lack of foreign policy experience, Jimmy Carter made the Kissinger legacy a centerpiece of his 1976 campaign and leveled a series of substantive and stylistic charges against the secretary’s stewardship.