Just when I was wondering what Obama was going to do next to emulate Jimmy Carter this came on the news. I feel bad for the sailors because Obama only just became president. Will it be almost four years before this hostage crisis gets resolved?
See, Obama is trying to be all of the previous Democratic Presidents of the 20th Century, all at the same time.
Which means he’ll send helicopters to try to rescue the hostages from Somalia, but some will crash into a refueling aircraft in a sandstorm, and others will go down in the middle of downtown Mogadishu, to be mobbed by the natives. In a fit of pique, he will bomb an aspirin factory.
Meanwhile, he’ll send CIA and operatives, in concert with Somali refugees, to take out the head pirates, but inexplicably withdraw air support at the last minute, causing the operatives to be cut to ribbons on the ground by enemy fire.
Back home, he’ll confiscate all of the privately-owned gold bullion in the United States, enact a plethora of socialist make-work programs, and present the United Nations with a fourteen-point list of conditions under which the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan would be brought to a satisfactory conclusion. It will piss everyone off, allies and enemies alike.
The American Conservative, echoing Andrew Bacevich, noted that Carter’s famous “malaise” speech is the most conservative thing any American politician has said in decades:
"Self-sufficiency, discipline, sacrifice, conservation, independence, the striving for meaning and purpose beyond material wealth. All of these characteristics were once associated with conservatism, and they were all part of a speech given by a man who was naval officer, farmer and large landowner, small businessman, Sunday school teacher, and Southerner. Does this not sound the background of a conservative?
In a nation that was proud of hard work, strong families, close-knit communities and our faith in God, too many of us now tend to worship self-indulgence and consumption. Human identity is no longer defined by what one does, but by what one owns. But we’ve discovered that owning things and consuming things does not satisfy our longing for meaning. We’ve learned that piling up material goods cannot fill the emptiness of lives which have no confidence or purpose.
Mr. Conservative himself, Barry Goldwater, said much the same thing when he accepted the Republican nomination in 1964: ‘There is a virtual despair among the many that look beyond material success for the inner meaning of their lives.’ But just as Goldwater’s words were of no help in the year of Lyndon Johnson’s landslide, Carter’s words did not prevent his defeat in 1980.
Caddell and Carter had hoped the speech would create a new synthesis between the neoliberalism that emerged from the 1960s and the traditional conservatism of, say, the Nashville Agrarians, but the exact opposite took place. Instead, the backlash led to a synthesis between New Deal liberalism and nationalistic Cold War conservatism. Reagan never repudiated his four votes for Franklin Roosevelt and soon began gathering elements of the traditional New Deal coalition into his fold: neoconservatives; socially conservative Democrats of the Midwest, urban Catholic Northeast, and the Protestant South; and idealistic Kennedy Democrats who could not stomach the notion that a country that put a man on the moon should turn down the thermostat.
The new anti-malaise coalition, Left and Right, agreed on a nationalism that regarded an America with any kind of limits as a place that could never be America in any meaningful sense. They believed in the divine American mission and the rhetoric behind it: ‘leader of the free world,’ ‘the last best hope for man on earth,’ ‘the shining city on a hill.’ Carter’s speech, to them, was heresy. Thus Reagan, with help from other former liberals, could transform conservatism from a traditional doctrine of prudence, caution, and sustainability - a tough sell politically - into a highly marketable brand of American exceptionalism.
Unfortunately, as Carter feared, the American mission and lifestyle proved unsustainable. In the short run, the Saudis and other OPEC nations and oil producers slaked America?s dependence on foreign oil. The Chinese and other emerging industrial nations were willing to provide cheap consumer goods and buy U.S. Treasuries so that American consumers could have plenty of choices at the marketplace. This cut the inflation that bedeviled the Carter administration. In return, the U.S. military provided protection and stability around the globe through deficit financing. The hoped-for reduction of government that was a part of Reagan’s rhetoric was junked because it threatened to shatter the ‘you can have it all’ coalition. Instead, government grew, in part through a neat trick called supply-side economics in which the New Deal, the New Frontier, and even the Great Society could be offered at low cost to taxpayers through massive levels of borrowing. Wrapped around all of this was a nationalistic attitude. The launching of a few cruise missiles every now and then disguised the loss of American economic independence.
After what happened to Carter, no American politician today is brave enough to ask for limits. Bush I said that our way of life is non-negotiable. Bush II told Americans to go shopping after 9/11. President Obama says Americans ‘will not apologize for our way of life.’ President Carter is remembered as a weak man - yet no politician now (outside of perhaps Ron Paul) has the guts to make a similarly bold speech during our current economic crisis."
Excellent post, I think the problem is he was a Democrat not that he was not conservative enough