It took Barack Obama less time to become Jimmy Carter than it took Carter. Sure, their presidencies have taken similar tracks – relative Washington newcomers amidst bad economies and talk of cities defaulting on debt. Even the election of Sen. Scott Brown to take over for the late Sen. Ted Kennedy was similar to the GOP taking the seat held by the late Sen. Hubert Humphrey in 1978.
That was just the opening act. Carter went down in history as man overwhelmed by the office he held. And Tuesday night, in front of the entire nation, Barack Obama sounded just like him.
Not just like Carter on any day. Obama’s first speech to the nation from the Oval Office sounded a lot like Carter’s famous “malaise” speech July 15, 1979, that all but defined the end of his presidency.
Only, Obama sounded out to lunch more than a year earlier than Carter. Both wanted to intervene in the energy crisis. Both wanted to rally a divided America. Neither was up to the task.
See if you can guess which one said the following:
“In little more than two decades we've gone from a position of energy independence to one in which almost half the oil we use comes from foreign countries, at prices that are going through the roof.” Or: “I laid out a set of principles that would move our country towards energy independence.”
Same issue, same bogus fantasy about “energy independence.”
“I'm proposing a bold conservation program to involve every state, county, and city and every average American in our energy battle.” Or: “Tonight I’d like to lay out for you what our battle plan is going forward.”
Same claim to military analogies, same fight for conservation.
Reading a letter from a constituent, “This was a good one: ‘Be bold, Mr. President. We may make mistakes, but we are ready to experiment.’” Or: “Now, a mobilization of this speed and magnitude will never be perfect, and new challenges will always arise. I saw and heard evidence of that during this trip. So if something isn’t working, we want to hear about it.”
OK, government doesn’t know what it’s doing. We know that. Apparently both presidents found that out as well.
The first answer, in each case, was Carter. The second Obama. The only true clue which quote was which is Obama’s wonky, academic presence that lacks sincerity and heart. But give him a bit of a folksy drawl, and Obama would sound like the second coming of Jimmy Carter.
But don’t take my word for it. Go to the Democrats’ own talking point network, MSNBC. Their own anchor Chris “thrill up my leg” Matthews said Obama is trying to push the exact same transition from oil that “broke Carter.” He and host Keith Olbermann complained that Obama didn’t seem to have command of the situation. “I don't sense executive command,” said Matthews.
They aren’t alone. Obama’s popularity is plummeting almost as fast as BP’s. A new poll finds Louisiana residents thoroughly disgusted with the White House, even more so than they were with Bush. The results show “a majority of voters there think George W. Bush did a better job with Katrina than Obama's done dealing with the spill.”
And it’s no wonder. Obama’s response to this crisis has been slow and incompetent. We are nearly two months into the worst ecological disaster the United States has ever faced and the government response still seems haphazard.
Obama says the economy is improving, then shuts down deepwater drilling for a six-month moratorium. With the fishing and tourism industries swamped by the spill, what is supposed to drive the Gulf states’ economy? They’ll have to wait for the results of a commission instead of speedy governmental action.
When Obama wasn’t emulating Carter, he was laughably optimistic. At one point he predicted, “in the coming weeks and days, these efforts should capture up to 90 percent of the oil leaking out of the well.” No one believes it. CNN had local fishermen and their families on afterward and they expect the Gulf will be crushed for a decade or more.
Obama’s assessment came the same day Reuters reported that scientists “upped their high-end estimate of the amount of crude oil flowing from BP PLC's stricken Gulf of Mexico well by 50 percent, the second major upward revision in less than a week.” Neither the government nor BP have any credibility on this issue at all.
At least the last part of the speech was predictable. Using vintage Rahm Emanuel strategy of never wasting a crisis, Obama tried to promote his “strong and comprehensive energy and climate bill.” Because Americans already overburdened by the Gulf catastrophe need to pay even more money for energy.
All Obama has to do is tell everyone to wear a sweater and we’ll officially return to Carter country.
Dan Gainor is The Boone Pickens Fellow and the Media Research Center’s Vice President for Business and Culture. He is a frequent contributor to the Fox Forum. He can also be contacted on Facebook and Twitter as dangainor.
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