By all accounts, Carter’s faith-based integrity was, and is, quite authentic. He notes in his diary: “The last thing Rosalynn and I do every day is read a chapter in the Bible in Spanish, and we’ll have prayer at all our meals and attend regular church services.” Carter’s personal values were at the core of his strengths, illustrated best by his dogged determination to find a peaceful solution in the Middle East. Yet his values could also lead him to be uncompromising. As Zelizer explains (and Carter’s diary abundantly confirms), “he simply did not like” the horse-trading ways of legislative politics.
One of Carter’s first presidential acts was to kill public-works projects that he considered wasteful “pork.” Carter accurately predicted in his diary, “I know this is going to create a political furor.”
Carter’s difficulties with Congress were many. As Congress dragged its feet on Carter’s unpopular Panama Canal Treaty, for example, Carter notes “[t]he House has been ridiculously irresponsible this week ... just a bunch of disorganized juvenile delinquents.” Carter’s hugely complex energy bill also bogged down amid Congressional lobbying and horse-trading. Carter’s diary entries expose his frustration: “This last week in Congress has been like a madhouse with everybody threatening filibusters and constant squabbles.” Looking back, an older, more reflective Carter writes (in the diary’s “afterword”) that “I was sometimes accused of ‘micromanaging’ the affairs of government and being excessively autocratic, and I must admit that my critics probably had a valid point.”