In 1976, following the Watergate scandal and the placeholder administration of Gerald Ford, the country cried out for a change from the politics of Washington. A little known governor from the state of Georgia, a graduate of the Naval Academy and peanut farmer, James Earl Carter, appeared on the political scene offering an outside-the-Beltway hometown approach to government. Carter is about as far from Nixon and Ford as one can get.
As president Carter created 2 new cabinet-level departments: Education and Energy. Carter had several notable moments in his presidency, none of which endeared him to the American public. On April 17, 1977 Carter appeared on television wearing a sweater and delivered a fireside chat where he declared that the energy situation was the moral equivalent of war while clenching his fist. One of Carter’s most controversial decisions was a boycott of the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow in response to the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. The Soviet Union retaliated by boycotting the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles and did not withdraw its troops from Afghanistan until 1989 (eight years after Carter left office).
Carter’s fiscal decisions were among his most controversial as the country’s economy remained flat as the expressions “malaise” and “stagflation” became the defense for an administration’s inability to energize the economy to rebound from the oil crisis and stock market collapse of 1974. Carter was seen as hapless and the final nail in his political coffin was the 1979 Iranian Hostage Crisis.
The parallels between the final years of the Ford administration and Bush administration are notable. Despite Ford’s distinguished tenure in Congress he couldn’t escape being Nixon’s Vice President, the soaring fuel prices, a stock market collapse and the media projecting him as a dullard. Bush suffered from war weariness, a debt-staggered economy and a press that took extraordinary steps to make him appear as a simpleton.
Carter’s presidency is widely viewed as an utter failure, in fact Carter has received far more positive reviews of his post-presidential activities with Habitat For Humanity and his foreign visits; yet the man who called George McGovern “too Liberal to win the presidency,” is considered the most Liberal president of the latter half of the 20th Century.
Years before the end of Bush’s 2nd term, Hillary Clinton was the odds-on favorite as his successor, but her fate was sealed before the 2nd Bush term even began. At the 2004 Democratic Convention, a barely known state senator from Chicago, running for the U.S. Senate, Barack Obama, gave the keynote address and Democrats and the press were in love. A man of little accomplishment but with 2 key ingredients would steamroll Hillary Clinton just 4 years later.
Obama had everything Clinton lacked. He was new enough in Washington to pull off the “outsider” label and he’d played a minimalist role in the Senate, so there was little legislative record to be held to account for. Clinton was the quintessential Washington insider; a 2 term First Lady in her 2nd term as a U.S. Senator and married to an ex-president. The Democrats were faced with a dilemma: do we nominate the first woman president or the first president of African-American descent? Sadly for the Democrats, their choice was engineered not from within their ranks, but by the media that “got chills up their legs,” with each Obama speech.
Hillary Clinton had everything that Obama lacked. She spent years as a practicing attorney while Obama was a “community organizer,” had an inside view of a presidency and 8 years in the Senate to Obama’s 16 months. Clinton had collected record campaign funds yet she was a dead-woman walking: the press wanted Obama and Obama they got.
While those on the right pointed to a multitude of questionable activities by Obama, such as a questionable real estate deal with convicted felon Tony Rezko, associations with a domestic terrorist and 20 years in the church of a devout America hater, the press would have none of it; while Clinton was a virtual angel by comparison, none of that mattered.
The press created a generational character, set to transform America into all that it could be, but never was. The media constructed a man who did not exist in a make-believe world where experience and knowledge doesn’t matter; they were sucked into their own delusions because he made them feel so damned good. The Republicans nominated a non-charismatic man who had spent 30 years in Washington to run against a media superstar and McCain was led to slaughter. A majority of the voters fell into the trance fashioned by the press and Obama became the 44th.
Obama believed he was the transformational entity fabricated by the media and set about transforming America. Social reconstruction, from the Stimulus to Obamacare, Cap & Trade and Card Check were Obama’s focus and the economy languished. Obama’s out-of-control spending on an ideological agenda took divisive partisanship of Washington to new levels and gave birth to the Tea Party movement. Obama’s presidency demonstrates the value of experience and pragmatism as his blind social re-engineering may well have squashed economic expansion for a generation.
Incumbent president are hard to unseat, yet the lessons of Jimmy Carter appear lost on Obama. His fate is no longer in his own hands and much like Carter it may not matter who the Republicans put up against him. Reagan, an ex-Governor of California referred to by the press as an actor with his finger on the nuclear button coasted into the White House. As Dennis Miller said on The O’Reilly Factor, the Republican candidates should all change their names to “Not Obama.”
Somewhere in Georgia Jimmy Carter sips a Mint Julep and thanks God for Barack Obama. Soon…very soon, Carter will no longer be considered the worst president of recent history.