BOTH THESE AUTHORS are furious at President Carter, but neither offers a very clear idea why. Mollenhoff's book is presented as an expose', in the "tradition of Mencken, Steffens, and Woodward and Bernstein," whatever that tradition might be, but it actually is just a hasty romp through the clip file.

There is no original research and certainly no original thought. Mollenhoff's technique is to find someone else's long expression of disgruntlement with Carter over some matter, any matter, and then to quote or paraphrase it at length. By interpolating an occasional "he continued" or "so-and-so went on," it's possible to fill up half a dozen pages at a crack. The Congressional Record is the most fertile source of unrefined bulk, but newspaper editorials and columns and the occasional interview also supply raw material.

There are disadvantages to this approach. It's only natural for the reader's attention to wander a bit when the source is chattering on about completely irrelevant matters and the author appears to have left to go grab a beer. Another sure sign of excessive clipmanship is to quote one person quoting another person. A typical passage: "Heinz continued by noting that Dean Monroe Freedman of Hofstra had testified 'that Judge Bell violated the canons [of ethics] and the Federal recusal statutes by sitting on this case.' He added that Dean Freedman, a former chairman of the Federal Bar Association's Committee on Disciplinary Standards and Procedures, was the author of Lawyer's Ethics in an Adversary System, a book which won an award of distinction from the American Bar Association." Dean Freedman's mother must be very proud, but I really must be going now. . . .

(The only other occasion I have encountered so many quotes within quotes was in editing a recent New republic article by Daniel Patrick Moynihan. But, in Senator Moynihan's case, he was always quoting himself.)

Mollenhoff provides useful reminders of some of the forgotten tawdry episodes of the Carter administration, such as the way Carter tolerated Midge Costanza's fund-raiser to pay off $17,000 of debts to herself, then fired her for aggravating the boys. Remember Dr. Peter Bourne? David Marston? Mollenhoff remembers. But his discussions of the major scandals, such as the Bert Lance business, are in incomprehensible melange of quotations and chronology. And he reports a variety of non-scandals -- Hamilton Jordan's divorce, Secretary of Labor Ray Marshall's support for repeal of right-to-work laws, and so on -- with undifferentiated outrage. Yet for all his bile, Mollenhoff is fond of the phony-objective technique of prefacing negative remarks with words like, "Critics charged that . . ."

A hard man to please, Clark Mollenhoff. In his kitchen-sink approach, he quotes liberal Sen. Howard Metzenbaum's (D-Ohio) objections to the industry connections of an Energy Department nominee, shortly after pages and pages of conservative Sen. Malcolm Wallop's (R-Wyo.) objections to Attorney General Benjamin Civiletti. He says the problem with Carter's 1977 energy plan is that it was "drafted by nonpolitical influence" like those scattered throughout the rest of the book.

Laurence H. Shoup's objection to Jimmy Carter and life in general can be summarized in three words: the Trilateral Commission. This is the kind of book with charts full of boxes connected by lines, intending to demonstrate how often members of the ruling class are liable to run into one another at meetings. There are 13 "interlocks" between the Trilateral Commission and the Council on Foreign Relations, and even more with various New York clubs, the eastern media, and of course the Carter administration.

The concept of a ruling class in America is not silly, but Shoup's treatment of it is. Shoup's version is flexible enough to cover any contingency. As part of its nefarious plot, the ruling class holds elections to determine which politicians are popular. "A key function of primaries from the point of view of far-sighted ruling class leaders is to determine which of several acceptable candidates can gain broad support from the American people." Another ruling class ploy is to adopt sound policies, which lull the people into complacency. Carter's human rights campaign, for example, "seeks to build a domestic consensus to support a foreign policy with interventionist and confrontationist tendencies." If business and political leaders disagree, it is "split within the ruling class." And of course any outsider, such as Carter, who comes to a position of leadership has been absorbed by the ruling class.

In short, the ruling class consists of anyone in a position of power or influence. Needless to say, this is a very powerful and influential group.

Shoup spends 30 pages on the press coverage of Jimmy Carter before he was elected president. (This book, like Mollenhoff's, is full of clippery and other padding.) He notes that, "although there has been little research on the topic, the mass communications media do appear to be extremely effective in creating opinions on new personalities and issues." Fancy that! And is it not curious that the very person the media favored went on to win the election? No, it is not curious at all. But if your mind warms to conspiracies of this sort, Shoup has lots more to unveil. Other evidence of his world view is his fondness for the verb "to zap" and his description of the Communist world as "socialist."

If the banks and the large corporations really are pleased with Jimmy Carter these days, they are either stupider or more subtle than anyone previosly has supposed. Carter's administration has been a botch by anyone's standards, for reasons too obvious for either of these two long books to go into.