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Thursday, May 29, 2008

Obama: Jimmy Carter Reborn

Time magazine came out with a piece yesterday from Ramesh Ponnuru entitled "In Carter's Shadow."

Ponnuru points out the similarities between that Barack Obama and John McCain have with the presidency of Jimmy Carter, arguably the worst presidency in American history.

While I don't really disagree with any of Ponnuru's descriptions of the McCain/Carter similarities, I think Obama's resemblance to Jimmy Carter is much more direct and and much more striking:

Of the two likely nominees this year, Obama is closest to Carter in background and policy leanings. The parallels between his campaign so far and the one Carter ran in 1976 are striking. Like Carter, Obama had little national experience when he started to run. Neither was given much chance of winning the nomination. Instead of running on a detailed platform, Carter told crowds that what Washington needed was "a government as good as its people"—just as Obama promises "change we can believe in." Carter's message sold well after Richard Nixon's disgrace, and press accounts from the time suggest that people found the born-again Carter to be charismatic. That parallel is a promising one for Obama.

But his Carterish echoes come with two potential dangers. The first is that running as the embodiment of hope can lend itself to a certain self-righteousness—what critics have already started to call elitism. The second danger is that the public will come to see Obama as naive about America's enemies abroad, as it eventually concluded Carter was. Ever since Obama said he was willing to negotiate with those enemies directly and "without precondition," Republicans have been trying to tag him as the son of the Georgia governor.

Many liberals have long put George W. Bush's presidency right down there with Adolf Hitler and Satan (only they don't believe in the latter guy). But either they are too young to remember the Carter years, or have very selective memories.

Carter's socialist policies and gross incompetence led to a sad state of affairs domestically and America becoming a laughing stock around the world. Remember the high unemployment, the double-digit inflation, the interest rates over 20%, the high gas prices, Carter's impotence as a bunch of Iranian radicals took our embassy staff hostage for more than a year, gave up the Panama Canal, left several South American countries to the communist dogs, smooched with the Soviets, and displayed more impotence when the Soviets invaded Afghanistan?

I was still a kid during this time, but I recall it was a pretty sad time to be an American (something that should never be). It was Ronald Reagan's reversal of this state of affairs that made me realize that I was a Republican, despite having come from a family of registered Democrats.

My greatest fear for the near future of America is that if Obama does get elected, we'll have a Carter redux both at home and abroad. And in many ways, the world is a more dangerous place now than it was when Carter was in the White House.


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