Monday, July 13, 2009

The Jimmy Cater Comeback?

An interesting article from the Washington Examiner.

Has the rehabiliatation of Jimmy Carter begun?
By: Mark Tapscott
Editorial Page Editor
07/12/09 2:32 PM EDT
Those too young to recall cannot appreciate what a terrible state the country was in during the four long years in which President Jimmy Carter was in the White House. The nation lurched from one crisis to another, with double-digit inflation, soaring interest rates, long gas lines during the summer, and natural gas shortages in the winter.

There were Democrat majorities in Congress determined to make everything worse with higher taxes, government-guaranteed jobs for everybody, and an unprecedented blizzard of new bureaucratic regulation issuing from Washington departments and agencies, including two new ones created at Carter's suggestion, the Department of Energy and the Department of Education.

In retrospect, it was almost no wonder that Carter was blown out by Ronald Reagan, while the Republicans regained a Senate majority for the first time in decades in the 1980 election. Carter went home to Plains, Ga, to sulk for a few years, then began, slowly but surely, reminding us of what a disater he was by making steadily more frequent public appearances. Along the way, he was bought and paid for by the anti-Israel lobby, and, in more recent years, has repeatedly demonstrated a complete lack of understanding of the legitimate and vital role of the U.S. on the world stage.

Now along comes Ohio University historian Kevin Mattson's "What the heck are you up to, Mr. President." In the words of Carlos Lozada, deputy editor of the Outlook section of The Washington Post, Mattson "offers a dramatically different reading" of Carter and his infamous "Malaise" speech.

As described by Lozada, Mattson argues that "the speech, far from a miscalculation, was a brave attempt by a thoughtful president to reimagine the nation and bind citizen and government in a common purpose, one that the author believes should still resonate today."

Lozada adds that, according to Mattson, "if the speech failed, it was not because of the president's words, but because of the way his message was twisted by his opponents and because of strategic flubs Carter made shortly thereafter."

I freely admit to not having read Mattson's book, and odds are good that I never will. I lived through the Carter years, saw those interest and mortgage rates up close and personal, and sat in the long lines waiting to get 10 gallons of gas. I also marvelled at the short-sightedness of Carter's "inordinate fear of communism" speech and his obvious inability to deal with either the Iranian hostage crisis or the Soviet Union's invasion of Afghanistan, (he at least admitted that the latter "surprised" him).

Carter's was a disastrous presidency from beginning to end, and nothing that Mattson might say will change the facts of history. On second thought, I might buy it for laughs. It must make for hilarious reading to find somebody trying to rationalize an incompetent, mean-spirited peanut farmer as an underappreciated or misunderstood chief executive.

What strikes me about Lozada's mostly sympathetic review is the above quoted passage about Carter's attempt to "reimagine the nation and bind citizens and government in common purpose." It has been quite some time since I encountered a sentence that so captures the liberal mind in all its conceit and arrogance. This is the eliteratti at its most vivid.

There are two things that bear discussion here. First, "reimagining" is another word for re-founding. Liberals want a "living constitution" so they can continually reimagine it further and further from the Founders' intention. It is an illustration of the gnostic habit described by philosopher Eric Voegelin in his landmark book,"The New Science of Politics" as "immanetizing the eschaton."

Thus, "reimagining" should be seen as the imposition of the liberal's abstract conception of what should be on the always recalcitrant reality of what is. Since the abstract can never be perfectly achieved, the political process is thrown into a permanent state of upheaval. Sooner or later, those who oppose the march to the progressive liberal/socialist/marxist nirvana end up as silenced second-class citizens, in prison, re-education camps, or worse.

Second, note the equal status of "citizen" and "government" in the effort to bind both to the [new] "common purpose." That formulation neatly puts aside the fundamental fact of the American regime - the federal government is the creation of the people, acting through their state governments.

Thus, the 10th Amendment's reservation of all powers to the states or the people that are not explicitly given to the central government. People and government are in no way equal. The people rule, the government is ruled. That is also why, incidentally, to be conservative in the current American political context is to be populist in the most fundamental sense of that much-misunderstood word.

Remember that the next time President Obama summons us to his latest version of reimagining the nation. Interestingly enough, Lozada commends Carter's "malaise" speech to our current chief executive because, "with the economy again in crisis and Iran again in turmoil, the parallels are hard to ignore."

Indeed the parallels are hard to ignore, though not for the reasons touted by Lozada or Mattson.

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