Richard recommended this David Brooks column, which aptly captures what I think a lot of Americans are feeling. Why must we lurch from one politcal extreme to another and never seem to make any real progress?
With every new Administration and new Congress there is a window of opportunity where Americans will listen to what they have to say and, in many instances, give them the benefit of the doubt. That window seems to be rapidly closing for President Obama and Congress. I think many voters now feel like Congress took advantage of a convenient crisis atmosphere to enact legislation that paid some political debts but really didn’t do much of anything to help the country as a whole. The payment of those political debts will now be laid at the feet of the American taxpayer, present and future. Given the apparent failure of the stimulus legislation, why should Americans now trust Congress to exercise sound, objective, dispassionate, apolitical judgments as they tackle enormous issues like health care, or enact restrictions on how our economy can function in the name of climate change legislation?
Here’s another article on the 30th anniversary of President Carter’s so-called “malaise” speech, and apparent efforts by some to “rehabilitate” President Carter’s historical reputation. Good luck on that front! President Carter seemed like a decent man who was doing his best, but he was just grossly overmatched in the job. His presidency was marked by significant failures in the economy (inflation, unemployment, interest rates, gas prices) and in foreign policy (Iran, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan). To be sure, President Carter helped to negotiate a peace agreement between Egypt and Israel, but I think that accomplishment, noteworthy though it is, is overwhelmed by the many serious problems that the country experienced during his presidency. In 1980, when I graduated into a dismal job market and a failing economy, the country clearly needed a change.
President Carter himself seems to realize that his reputation is poor, and he has been working hard to try to improve it through public service and efforts to broker additional peace agreements. Unfortunately for him, his effort is probably doomed to failure. There already seems to be a consensus among historians that Presidents Carter and Nixon are the two worst presidents of the second half of the 20th century, and by a wide margin. I think that consensus will only grow as time passes.