Hooray for Amazon. The online giant announced Wednesday that it was booting WikiLeaks off its servers, requiring the notorious organization to retreat. Not that it seems to matter much; WikiLeaks’ site is still going strong. Still, at least somebody is doing something to retaliate against the dumping of U.S. state secrets.
The Obama administration appears inert. Though pledging to forestall any future releases after the devastating leaks of military records last month, President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder have responded to the recent publishing of hundreds of thousands of diplomatic cables by…..what exactly?
Apparently, people can divulge classified information from our government agencies with impunity.
Americans are understandably angry. Not only are the leaks seriously compromising our military and diplomatic missions, they are embarrassing. They show the U.S. to be powerless; we feel humiliated.
The American people are proud – proud of our country and our accomplishments. We don’t do humiliated well.
The last president to learn that lesson was Jimmy Carter. Jimmy Carter was that rare bird -- a one-term president – mainly because he made the United States look weak on the world stage.
He cozied up to North Korea, sending hundred of millions of dollars in aid to the outlier nation, which nonetheless continued to pursue its nuclear ambitions.
He was mocked by Russia, despite memorably exchanging a kiss with Communist leader Leonid Breshnev to celebrate the signing of the Salt II treaty. The Russians celebrated on their own by invading Afghanistan a mere six months later.
Where his “love your enemies” program really came unglued, of course, was in Iran. After lecturing the Shah – a long-time ally of the U.S. – on human rights and pressing him to release thousands of dangerous dissidents, he allowed the takeover of Iran by Islamic extremists, who promptly took our embassy staff hostage. In one of the most humiliating chapters in our history, Carter’s administration was unable to secure the release of the hostages. A bungled rescue attempt was the last straw. Americans veritably raced to the polls to elect Ronald Reagan president.
Is any of this sounding familiar? It should. Like Carter, President Obama arrived in Washington naively convinced that he could woo the despots of the world by dint of his winning personality. In North Korea, in Iran, we continue to pander to tyrants who delight in embarrassing us.
The similarities extend beyond international relations. Carter was also defeated because he left the economy in tatters. Inflation during his tenure rose to nearly 15% -- a record level – and we headed into a recession.
His response to a rapid increase in fuel costs was to impose price controls, which naturally magnified the problem, resulting in long lines at the gas pumps and tremendous market dislocations. Just as Obama has produced record budget deficits heeding the guidance of left-leaning economists, so did Carter willingly experiment.
The parallels are eerie. Trying to appease environmentalists and in response to the Three Mile Island accident, Carter banned the transmutation (processing) of nuclear fuel – procedures that have safely taken place in Europe for thirty years - in effect shutting down our nuclear energy program and increasing our dependence on oil imports. (President Reagan lifted the ban in 1981.)
Just this week the Obama administration, also to curry favor with eco-warriors and in response to the Deepwater Horizon spill this past spring, shut down offshore drilling in several promising (and politically crucial) regions. The billions of barrels potentially available from within our own country will have to wait til the next president, or the next oil crisis.
And there will be a next oil crisis. Both Carter and Obama have pressed for a more even-handed approach to Middle East peace. Carter has famously backed Palestinian demands while Obama presses friendship with the Muslim community. So far, his overtures have resulted in disappointment and frustration in the Arab world and a dangerous chill in our relations with Israel. A more belligerent Iran could well read this fissure as opportune; nothing would better secure the power of Iran’s rulers than a confrontation with Israel.
Presidents Obama and Carter both arrived at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue carrying the slimmest of dossiers, swept into office by a wave of anger against Republicans. Both appear strangely poor at reading the American people.
On day one of his term, Jimmy Carter pardoned all Vietnam draft dodgers. That did not go over well – it went almost as badly as Obama’s decision to hold 9/11 terror trials in New York City.
Their personalities overlap, too; for instance, both men are quick to blame others for their shortcomings.
Carter has famously held the late Ted Kennedy responsible for his inability to pass health care legislation; Obama blames George W. Bush for, well, everything.
Both Carter and Obama have been criticized for talking down to Americans; both tend to lecture, instead of lead.
Any minute now we can expect Obama to deliver his version of the famous “Malaise” speech, in which Carter whined about the despair pervading the country. Carter didn’t realize that the despair was emanating from the White House. The minute he was gone, the sun came out, ushered in by Ronald Reagan.
Ironically, former President Jimmy Carter dropped by the White House on Wednesday. He must have felt entirely at home. The nation is reeling from self-inflicted embarrassments that have Americans feeling impotent and humiliated – just like the good old days when he lived at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
Oh – and here's one more parallel: Presidents Carter and Obama simply hate Fox News.