I was an early supporter of Jimmy Carter and campaigned for him in the 1976 NH primary. I remain a huge fan. I don't dispute Joe Firestone's criticisms of him, Jimmy thought that being president was like being governor except with a foreign policy and a military. He did not understand fiat currencies.
Let me list all the reason I think he was a great president.
He was the ONLY president, and one of the few politicians to talk about the legitimate rights of the Palestinians, or even recognize that they HAVE legitimate rights.
Which brings me to the Camp David treaty, easily his greatest accomplishment. It is worth reading Keeping Faith just for the description of the Camp David negotiations.
The first energy policy of the US and creation of the department of energy. The only reason the US has a viable solar industry is the seed funding provided during the Carter years.
The passage of the Community reinvestment act.
Deregulation of Natural Gas, which put downward pressure on the price of oil.
Expansion of federal funding for community heath services, which was almost entirely eliminated by Reagan.
Creation of the Department of Education.
Establishment of Human Rights as an official part of US foreign policy. Carter intervened in many many cases of political prisoners. I have met many people who have told me that they owe their life to Jimmy's intervention.
Pardon of draft evaders who went abroad to avoid the Vietnam war. He took a HUGE hit for that one.
Passage of the Panama Canal Treaty in the teeth of fierce jingoistic opposition.
Rescue of Chrysler Corp.
He accomplished all these things and more in the teeth of opposition from a Democratic congress that was determined to destroy him.
I like all his books, but my favorites are:
A Call to Action: Women, Religion, Violence, and Power
Palestine Peace Not Apartheid
Our Endangered Values: America's Moral Crisis
Blood of Abraham
not by Jimmy Carter, but vital reading if you are to understand how our country ran off the rails:
October Surprise: America's Hostages in Iran & the Election of Ronald Reagan
Trick Or Treason