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July 15, 2008

29 Years Successfully Wasted

Jimmy Carter delivered his so-called "malaise" speech 29 years ago today. What we wouldn't give today to have done what he advocated (except perhaps for the expanded use of coal):

CARTER: Point one: I am tonight setting a clear goal for the energy policy of the United States. Beginning this moment, this nation will never use more foreign oil than we did in 1977 -- never...

Point two: To ensure that we meet these targets, I will use my presidential authority to set import quotas...

Point three: To give us energy security, I am asking for the most massive peacetime commitment of funds and resources in our nation's history to develop America's own alternative sources of fuel...

I will soon submit legislation to Congress calling for the creation of this nation's first solar bank, which will help us achieve the crucial goal of 20 percent of our energy coming from solar power by the year 2000.

These efforts will cost money, a lot of money, and that is why Congress must enact the windfall profits tax without delay...

Point four: I'm asking Congress to mandate, to require as a matter of law, that our nation's utility companies cut their massive use of oil by 50 percent within the next decade and switch to other fuels, especially coal, our most abundant energy source...

Point five: To make absolutely certain that nothing stands in the way of achieving these goals, I will urge Congress to create an energy mobilization board...

Point six: I'm proposing a bold conservation program to involve every state, county, and city and every average American in our energy battle. This effort will permit you to build conservation into your homes and your lives at a cost you can afford.

To further conserve energy, I'm proposing tonight an extra $10 billion over the next decade to strengthen our public transportation systems...

Our nation must be fair to the poorest among us, so we will increase aid to needy Americans to cope with rising energy prices. We often think of conservation only in terms of sacrifice. In fact, it is the most painless and immediate way of rebuilding our nation's strength. Every gallon of oil each one of us saves is a new form of production. It gives us more freedom, more confidence, that much more control over our own lives...

I do not promise you that this struggle for freedom will be easy. I do not promise a quick way out of our nation's problems, when the truth is that the only way out is an all-out effort. What I do promise you is that I will lead our fight, and I will enforce fairness in our struggle, and I will ensure honesty. And above all, I will act. We can manage the short-term shortages more effectively and we will, but there are no short-term solutions to our long-range problems. There is simply no way to avoid sacrifice.

Thanks, America's crazy right wing. We couldn't have ignored our most important problems for three decades and thereby made them much worse without you.

(The speech can be watched here.)

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at July 15, 2008 04:30 PM

Just about every ill our country now faces can be attributed to our (and by that I mean democrats) pusillanimous backstabbing of Jimmy Carter. He was the true heir of FDR who called on the nation to sacrifice to defend democracy. That he has been totally marginalized by both the dem plutocrats and the new ’progressives’ is an added shame. The person he came closest to endorsing in the primary, Dennis Kucinich, is of the same mold. Unfortunately, dem ’leaders’ and wannabe ’leaders’ agree that the wrapper is more important than the content.

Posted by: john in california at July 15, 2008 06:00 PM

I'd heard for years about that horrible, horrible "malaise" speech before I read it. I was quite surprised to feel wistful that we hadn't followed through on Carter's rather sensible suggestions, and a bit confused as to why on earth what looked like a speech that this country needed to hear was written off as the worst presidential action ever.

I learned, then, that my finger is absolutely not on the pulse of America, and that speaking to one's fellow citizens as if they were thoughtful, mature adults is a losing proposition.

Y'know, this happened to Brazil, and while they trashed a lot of their ecosystem to get there, and it was considered a ridiculous boondoggle until quite recently, they dumped a ton of investment into energy independence and achieved it just recently. We could be there. This could be a solved problem.

I wonder what role the "malaise" thing played in the reluctance to lay out actual problems Americans face and instead fluff their tender egos with assurances about what a Great! Nation! We! Are!

Posted by: grendelkhan at July 15, 2008 06:46 PM

As sombody said elsewhere, Carter promised hard work and sacrifice for the long-term good. Reagan promised magical ponies forever. Guess which turned out to be the better electoral strategy?

I believe we have the skills, the resources, and the technology to make it through the 21st century just fine as a technological civilization. Unfortunately, that depends on our removing from positions of political power a leadership that is committed to warfare against objective reality.

Posted by: Bruce at July 15, 2008 06:57 PM

I don't have more than Robert Perry clearly in mind, but here's a bit of my take: Poyson Raygun (PR) was put into place by a very determined and organized effort on the part of reactionaries and the amok fringe conservatives that began in the early '70s (I think) and advanced through the '70s (Banana Republicans). It was the concerted backlash against the populism of the '60s and the larger effects of a representative and somewhat insurgent Congress and a public move to de-militarize, accentuated by the defeat of US forces and policy in Vietnam and the panoply of history that was starting to look like the great nation wasn't so good or great.
It's not much to say that the effort to establish the radical upset of such democratic effrontery was top-down and Popeye Bush's emplacement at CIA was a decisive achieved objective. From that power center, and with conservative money purchasing the public relations as well as funding political developments such that conservatives gained cover as democrats that culminate in the October Surprise unfold accordianly...(Friendly Fascism)
I defer and listen to any who claim better details. Carter was a set-up who learned too late that he was to be trashed; his "Clinton period" led to our Afghan debacle and the expression of a belligerence that Reagan polished into the Iran-Contra scandal--and that Congress and the Amcits accepted as our due. I would like someone's explanations about why a supposedly ethical national effort was so betrayed.

Posted by: Woodyeofalb at July 15, 2008 08:38 PM

Woodyeoflab: WE got GREEDY, WE got STUPID, WE got Hypocritical and NOW WE got problems, serious problems. WE got what WE asked for, WE got what WE wanted, WE got what WE deserve, enjoy.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at July 15, 2008 11:00 PM

Antarctica is now melting in the winter. I'd say intelligence is an evolutionary dead end.

Posted by: Carl at July 16, 2008 05:49 AM
Antarctica is now melting in the winter. I'd say intelligence is an evolutionary dead end.

Now, see -- that's more amusing than the TNY cover.

Posted by: Labiche at July 16, 2008 06:58 AM

I'd say intelligence is an evolutionary dead end.

Thus the solution to the Fermi Paradox.

Posted by: Mike at July 16, 2008 07:38 AM

Jimmy Carter's three major sins were to challenge the energy cartel, to try to clean up the CIA and allow, as much as it occurred, some of the secrets of the intelligence community to come to light.

All of these things struck at the post-WWII alliance that ruled the U.S. Eisenhower's "military-industrial complex" if you will.

As far as conventional wisdom goes, it's about time for that concept to be retired in favor of something more proactive for the M-IC. It was during the Carter years that we got a glimpse of how in lockstep our MSM has been with this alliance, either directly connected to the CIA or just comfortable with it (people should read Christopher Simpson's THE SCIENCE OF COERCION to get an idea of the vastness of the "common wisdom" machine).

Carter was smeared over and over. We remember he was weak against Iran but few of us remember that Colonel Oliver North was in charge of those hostage rescue missions that failed in the desert. While we had gas lines at service stations oil tankers parked offshore. The fired CIA secret ops guys were "campaigning" for Bush and Reagan.

In the 70s because Americans still loved JFK and cared enough to suspect the circumstances around his murder, the CIA and its MSM friends needed to conduct a second assassination, a character assassination. Take a look at the people who've embraced the Marilyn Monroe-JFK lie.

So how Jimmy Carter was buried is all part of a reality most folks don't want to see. In essence, the JFK assassination is why there was a FISA cave-in. And why we're paying $4.50 a gallon and why 2009 is looking a lot like 1929, except that back then the U.S. was a democracy.

Posted by: Bob In Pacifica at July 16, 2008 09:52 AM
Thus the solution to the Fermi Paradox.

I may have mentioned this before: Intelligence and ambition are overrated. Education for fun is OK, but education for the "betterment" of man is self destructive. The high points of our culture are that the ilk of Norquist and Greenspan ran/run/will run this country and culture.

So many earth cultures have the variation of "Give me liberty or give me death". It seems to me to be a false choice, but what the heck -- have death if it's an either/or and you can't settle for just some liberty.

We badly need more bass fishing, and general lazy ass pot smoking in our culture. Those pot criminalizing moms from the 1970s have seriously fucked us up.

Posted by: Labiche at July 16, 2008 09:55 AM

Jimmy Carter was also defeated by a quite real malaise: high unemployment and high inflation. And Democrats, particularly liberal Democrats, did what Phil Gramm is doing today: told people that it was all in their heads, that inflation is really not a bad thing.

The 1980 elections were a rout of liberal Dems in favor of far-right Republicans, not just Carter v. Reagan. There was a big element of happy-talk vs. hard truths (particularly wrt foreign policy), but that wasn't all that was going on.

For instance, if Jimmy Carter hadn't let the Shah of Iran come here for medical attention, the hostages probably never would have been taken. (The threat was explicit and known beforehand.) So Carter sabotaged his own program.

Posted by: Nell at July 16, 2008 10:25 AM

Nell, Iran was screwed up by the CIA, from the Mossadegh coup in the fifties onward. The Shah's torturers were trained by the CIA. The hostility against Carter was bred by the Agency's decades of dirty work. At the same time the CIA and its allies were working hard to sink Carter (remember Casey's public org of "ex" agents?), they were working hand in glove with the oil companies to manipulate oil supplies and prices. I would not doubt that when we finally get the whole story that they had more than a passing knowledge of what was going to happen in Tehran and who would do it long before it happened. Maybe even helped it along. The media held us in hostage leading up to the election. And we know of those meetings between Reagan people and the Shah's people.

I don't remember that Democrats telling me that inflation was in my head.

Posted by: Bob In Pacifica at July 16, 2008 08:51 PM

I don't remember liberals saying that inflation was in my head.

Posted by: Bob In Pacifica at July 16, 2008 08:53 PM

yes, Carter was right on, and it is painful to think about how much time we have wasted, etc.

But take a look at his "Carter Doctrine" speech of 1980.

he gets his share of the blame...

Posted by: dewar at July 20, 2008 07:25 PM

Carter and Gore -- baptists both -- suffered from what the baptists call THEIR CHRISTIAN WITNESS .... and unless you were raised in this faith, you will not grasp the weight of my argument. So I will just say this : Carter takes on a burden when involved with heavy issues as your President, Sunday School teacher, christain brother --- so his tone is sooooo pedantic and serious -- not good traits when selling GIANT CHANGE in America --- you saw the same thing in Gore that went away at the last when he got loose and shot from the hip --- and we said WHERE DID THIS GUY COME FROM AND WHY WAS HE NOT HERE EARLIER??? Well in their sunday school mode they want every word heard and understood -- NOW BOYS AND GIRLS. It is the curse of their faith, our collective souls are on their head during such an exchange. Had Jimmy Carter been an methodist or congregationalist -- or even a Quaker like nixon ---- his speech might have gone over with wit and humor and optimism. That is how ole ronnie reagan got away with it.. ah shucks kids, we Americans can do anything........Carter has been more candid since in office, than he ever was in the White House.........

Posted by: douglas in oklahoma at July 21, 2008 11:26 AM

Quite frankly (as one who lived thru those times) the fact that the Democratic Party stabbed Carter in the back and turned the nation over to a bunch of drunks intent on looting the treasury and squandering the future finally convinced me that our species as a whole is just not smart enough to survive. We are living thru the beginning of Peak right now. From now on things will head downhill. We will no doubt use the last obtainable gallon of gas on the planet to make a third trip that day to Walmart to buy plastic curtain rings cheaply turned out of a Chinese factory by slaves and when we are alerted to the impending arrival of the Big-Rock we will discover that we just don't a source of energy left that could deflect the deadly blow. This is not just an 'American' problem about whether your family can afford to drive to Disney World this year. This is an issue of survival. Most people do not understand this and are incapable of doing so. To say 'we are doomed' implies we ever had a chance. We didn't. The earth is young and can try again to produce an intelligent species.

Posted by: Terrier at July 21, 2008 02:16 PM

Peak oil is a LIE! We will never run out of oil but we will run out of breathable air. After we are gone, it(Mother Earth)will start over and maybe give the next thinking organism a BRAIN that uses reason instead of fear.......maybe.

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Posted by: Roger Drowne E.C. at July 21, 2008 04:37 PM

This speech is probably what lost him the election.
Remember that the ostensible downfall was the Iran hostage crisis, but we know about that now.
The oil industry (Bush, et. al.) set Carter up to lose because they don't want conservation and they love the Saudis.
Look where we are now. Twelve years of the 29 under Poppy (Ronnie was a hand puppet) and now eight more under Junior (another hand puppet) for a total of twenty.

Posted by: dave at July 21, 2008 11:22 PM