Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Carter and Reagan

Today's Daily News has an interesting column by Richard Cohen:
Those of you with keen memories may recall that the energy crisis is not new. In 1977, Jimmy Carter called it the "moral equivalent of war." In the sort of speech a politician rarely delivers, he told a not particularly grateful nation that his energy program was going to hurt, but "a policy which does not ask for changes or sacrifices would not be an effective policy." The core of his initiative was conservation. Carter had earlier asked us to lower the thermostat and wear a sweater. He wore one himself.

Ronald Reagan, who followed Carter to the White House, wore only a smile. For him, there was no energy crisis. Whereas Carter had insisted only the government could manage the energy crisis, Reagan in his first inaugural demanded that government get out of the way. Speaking of general economic conditions at the time, he said, "Government is not the solution to our problem." He went on to call for America to return to greatness, to "reawaken this industrial giant," and all sorts of swell things would happen. It was wonderful stuff.

To contrast the two speeches is like comparing the screeching of a cat to the miracles of Mozart. Yet today, Carter's speech reads as prescient. Most of his dire predictions - "It is a problem we will not solve in the next few years, and it is likely to get progressively worse through the rest of this century" - have generally come true, although not quite as soon or calamitously as he warned. The pity of it all is that in American politics, being right is beside the point.

Albany Catholic recommends you read the entire article here.