Robert Costa’s notebook: Jimmy Carter stays busy

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By Robert Costa

These days, former president Jimmy Carter is 93 years old, but he’s still spry — and far from retired.

There Carter was on Tuesday, speaking at the late Georgia senator Zell Miller’s memorial service in Atlanta, alongside former presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton. That same day, his latest book, “Faith: A Journey for All,” was published. And there he was last Sunday, appearing on CBS’s “Sunday Morning” program.

“I'm glad to hear that, and hope he'll be successful. I pray that he will,” Carter told CBS News about President Trump’s decision to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. “I've offered to President Trump directly, on two occasions, since he's been to office, that I would be glad to help in any way, to go to North Korea if needed. I don't want to go if I don't have to. I'm, as you said, over 93 years old. But I would be glad to do whatever he wanted me to do.”

It’s just the latest chapter in a remarkable ex-presidency. Carter left office in January 1981, yet he has remained deeply involved in public service ever since, whether he’s working at the Carter Center on international projects or with Habitat for Humanity.

Regardless of what you think about his politics — and he has certainly taken controversial positions over the years that have lost him friends and allies — Carter has remained engaged and part of the American conversation. He never quits.

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Growing up, I was intrigued by how an unknown, one-term Southern governor could get elected president. So, I read books like “Dasher” by James Wooten and learned about how Carter and his team of brash aides, the so-called “Georgia Mafia,” navigated through the Democratic Party to win the White House.

If you have a moment, listen to this podcast I did about Carter.

Occasionally, I’ve had the chance to meet Carter, albeit briefly. One time, he passed me at Reagan National Airport and I shook his hand. He flies commercial. Another time, he stopped by The Washington Post for a book signing. Most memorably, I saw him at Trump’s inauguration last year, vigorous and proud as he walked through the U.S. Capitol with former First Lady Rosalynn Carter.

One day, I’d love to visit Plains, Georgia, and hear Carter teach Sunday school. My colleague Dave Weigel’s story on that experience is worth a read.

Many of you know that I like to collect non-fiction books about presidents and campaigns. Well, I’ve collected quite a few signed Carter books. Here’s a collector’s tidbit: Carter often signed documents as “Jimmy Carter” while he was president. But since he left office, he has simply signed “J. Carter” on books and photographs.

Carter will sit down with PBS NewsHour's Judy Woodruff Tuesday night. Click here to read an excerpt of the interview.