Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon Sign up for Free News & Updates

May 20, 2008
By: Kevin Drum

1977 ALL OVER AGAIN?....Matt Yglesias is in a bad mood this morning, so he's thinking grim thoughts about the last time the conservative movement seemed down for the count:

One wonders if it didn't feel this way in 1976 — or even more so in January of 1977. Conservatism triumphant, yet unmoored from principle in the figure of Richard Nixon, then brought into a disgrace from which the more moderate Gerald Ford couldn't solve it. A new president from the outside promising change, and a new bumper crop of "watergate class" members of congress ready to shake things up. But it all went to shit. I am, personally, an apologist for the Carter administration which I think was doing good things and got torpedoed by an unfortunate combination of objective reality (oil shocks, the need to curb inflation) and blinkered behavior by congressional leaders.

....So I dunno. Maybe none of that will happen. Certainly it would be bizarre for history to repeat itself precisely, so doubtless some of it won't happen. But I'll be ready to write the conservative movement's epitaph when (a) Barack Obama is inaugurated, and (b) Obama, Nancy Pelosi, and Harry Reid enact some stuff with more lasting impact than the meager results of 1977-80 or 1993-4.

Shorter Matt: Is Barack Obama another Jimmy Carter or is he the Democratic Ronald Reagan? I wonder that a lot too.

But I guess I'm in a good mood this morning, so I'll offer a more cheerful take. First, as Matt says, today's Democratic caucus is much less dependent on conservative southerners than the 1977 version. Even with the malign influence of the Blue Dogs casting its usual pall, next year's congressional class is likely to be the most genuinely liberal in decades. That makes a big difference.

Second, Democrats show every sign of being way more united than they were in 1977. Senators are still senators (i.e., famously arrogant and prodigiously jealous of their fiefdoms), but overall, Dems seem to be almost panting for a bit of unity and genuine progress. They've been out of power for a long time now, and that changes people.

Third, and most important, the zeitgeit is exactly the opposite of 1977. Back then, it was liberalism that was tired and increasingly out of touch with the mood of the country. The Watergate blip aside, Carter was fighting an ascendant conservative tide during his entire term, and after the Iranian revolution and the ensuing oil shock/recession/hostage crisis it engulfed him. This year, though, the roles are exactly reversed. Obama will be taking office on a rising tide of genuine revulsion against conservatism, and this gives him the best chance to restore the liberal brand of any president since LBJ.

Can he do it? My crystal ball is no better than anyone else's on that score, and Obama continues to be (in my eyes) an infuriatingly difficult politician to read: sometimes bold and willing to assert himself in ways that I haven't seen much of from Democratic pols recently, sometimes a cautious technocrat who seems unwilling to upset the applecart much. I guess there's nothing really wrong with that as long as he has good instincts for when to fight and when to compromise, and we won't know that until he takes office and fights a few fights. Overall, though, unless Obama turns out to be a uniquely empty suit — and I don't think he is — I don't see a repeat of 1977 on the radar. The mood of the country is just too different.

Kevin Drum 1:59 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (104)

Bookmark and Share
 
Comments

Prayers for Ted Kennedy and his family

Posted by: keith g on May 20, 2008 at 2:02 PM | PERMALINK

Shorter Matt: Is Barack Obama another Jimmy Carter or is he the Democratic Ronald Reagan? I wonder that a lot too.

Come on Matt. Defy your age and be a serious thinker, or just a thinker.

Maybe Barak is simply just an Obama, an original. I voted for him with the notion that he might well be better at being President than Carter or Reagan.

Posted by: keith g on May 20, 2008 at 2:08 PM | PERMALINK

I wonder if a Senator Frank is in the works? That should make history not repeat itself, though histrionics will go through the wringer again.

I see some similarities to Nixon, but I also see one substantial difference: in this case, Nixon isn't going to resign. There will be some interesting court cases in the years ahead. We might even become a republic again.

With the economy going through a huge transition as we deal with the end of cheap oil, a housing bubble, a declining dollar, and a China that may or may not recover quickly (which won't help the price of building supplies worldwide,) I don't envy the next Administration. But I sure hope it's an Obama one.

Posted by: jon on May 20, 2008 at 2:10 PM | PERMALINK

And the dirty f***king hippies of the 70s are the bloggers of the 21st century, and we're blessed with an abundance of good liberal young voters. The country is more open-minded and progressive overall than they were 3 decades ago.

Posted by: Tom Hamill on May 20, 2008 at 2:10 PM | PERMALINK

He is much, much, much more like Reagan....in his movement importance only, of course.

One eerie similarity to Reagan...those who aren't his fans are baffled by his appeal...and his fans love him.

Posted by: Frank Carmelo on May 20, 2008 at 2:11 PM | PERMALINK

Obama won't be a replay of Carter, largely because the circumstances are different. This year, the new influx in Congress will be of like-minded Democrats seeking similar changes, while in 1974-1976 the Watergate Babies who were elected were much more liberal than either Carter or the electorate as a whole.

Posted by: TR on May 20, 2008 at 2:12 PM | PERMALINK

Obama will preside over a less powerful government, a smaller government and a government that plays a smaller role in our lives.

Obama can understand why this is happening, and accommodate the process so that we do not overershoot and we understand where the next equilibrium point for government lies.

If he bucks the trend he will be out in four years.

But the trend moving back to small government is not his fault (or his achievement).

Posted by: Matt on May 20, 2008 at 2:13 PM | PERMALINK

Is he FDR, Romulus Augustus, or papa smurf?

Posted by: B on May 20, 2008 at 2:13 PM | PERMALINK

shorter matt- waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa...

Posted by: mestizO on May 20, 2008 at 2:16 PM | PERMALINK

I think your key point is the understanding that conservatism now is like liberalism then. Watergate was, indeed, an anomaly that just put off the inevitable conservative ascendancy for a couple years.

It's too early to know if liberalism is on the rise in the same way, but I think you're response is spot on.

Posted by: BombIranForChrist on May 20, 2008 at 2:16 PM | PERMALINK

But the trend moving back to small government is not his fault (or his achievement).

Huh?

Matt, what leads you to that conclusion?

Posted by: keith g on May 20, 2008 at 2:19 PM | PERMALINK

My best wishes to Ted Kennedy and his family.

I am hopeful Obama is Carter, and I make no apologies for my Cartermania.

As yet, I see no reason to believe he is Carter or Reagan.... His fans still seem to claim (at different times)

a) The rightwing are complete jerks when they claim he is the most liberal senator

b) He really is much much much much much much more liberal than his voting record shows.

I am afraid he is a Joe Lieberman, who was, after all, his mentor.

Posted by: jerry on May 20, 2008 at 2:20 PM | PERMALINK

I see a repeat of 1977 on the radar.

Back then - oil shock/recession/hostage crisis engulfed Carter.

Today we have - oil shock/recesseion/iraq war and heightened terrorist threat.

Posted by: optical weenie on May 20, 2008 at 2:24 PM | PERMALINK

Matt would be in a much better mood if he didn't automatically support a top-down analysis.

There is no upside, and vanishingly little constituency, for anything called conservatism, which is why Republicans are offering Democrat Lite these days.
.

Posted by: Grand Moff Texan on May 20, 2008 at 2:28 PM | PERMALINK

Is he FDR, Romulus Augustus, or papa smurf?

You mean Romulus Augustulus?

I dunno. Bush has done his best Valens, though.

Posted by: Odoacer of the Sciri on May 20, 2008 at 2:30 PM | PERMALINK

If Obama were to actually lay out in detail what he has in mind and plans to do he would be toast before sundown because the herd can`t tolerate the truth. The masses ARE asses in general.

Just remember that what someone running for office says has NO relation to what they will actually do once in office.

Bet on it.

"During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act." - George Orwell

Posted by: daCascadian on May 20, 2008 at 2:33 PM | PERMALINK

I dunno. Obama on the campaign trail seems to say a lot of sensible things, and panders far less than most of the other candidates, active or gone. If he is running on the claim that his judgement is more important than the experience of HRC and JMc, then I am inclined to accept his argument. (And I voted for HRC in my state's primary.)

I believe that Obama does not have the desire to micromanage, which is the reputed downfall of Carter. He is much more like Reagan, and will trust his team to get the details once he sets the general policy scope. It is a much better position than Carter's in 1977. Also, the disaster is happening on GWBs watch. Obama can rightfully elude responsibility for the problem, and work toward a longer-term solution. No guarantees, but its better than 1977.


Posted by: troglodyte on May 20, 2008 at 2:38 PM | PERMALINK

Even in 1977, Carter didn't look great. He won the election by only 2% of the popular vote, after leading by ~40% in the polls after the Democratic convention.

Sure, each party normally gets a 'bounce' from its convention, but to ever be ahead by ~40% and nearly blow it, is pretty unnerving. Carter won Ohio by just over 11,000 votes, and Hawaii by less than 7,500; if both had gone the other way, Ford would have won.

And even immediately after the inauguration, the Dems in Congress were suspicious of Carter, who they viewed as an outsider. Carter got no honeymoon to speak of.

So there was never a feeling in 1977 that this was the Democrats' magic moment.

Posted by: low-tech cyclist on May 20, 2008 at 2:42 PM | PERMALINK

I agree it's not 1977, when the revolutionary/liberal impulses of the 60's and 70's were dissipating and conservatism was on the upswing.
On the other hand, wouldn't it be nice if the music scene and the club scene and the real estate prices in NYC were the same as they were in 1977? Now if I could only go back in time in my city ...

Posted by: Diana on May 20, 2008 at 2:44 PM | PERMALINK

He is a uniquely empty suit, as you astutely recognized, at least as a possibility. The Shelby Steele biography is the best indicator. Even Obama doesn't know who he is. I have enough confidence in the American people to believe they will not hand the keys to the family car to this irresponsible child.

The Republican Congress has fouled their own nest and will pay the price. Pelosi and Reid are so inept that the period of exile will not be too long. In the meantime, McCain can keep the wolves from the door.

Posted by: Mike K on May 20, 2008 at 2:45 PM | PERMALINK

Another difference... McCain is no Ronald Reagan.

Posted by: Memekiller on May 20, 2008 at 2:49 PM | PERMALINK

I don't really get this sentiment:

Obama continues to be (in my eyes) an infuriatingly difficult politician to read: sometimes bold and willing to assert himself in ways that I haven't seen much of from Democratic pols recently, sometimes a cautious technocrat who seems unwilling to upset the applecart much.

Do politicians really need to be bold and different ALL THE TIME in order to count as bold? I mean, nobody can upset the applecart all the time... isn't that the whole reason why we have the phrase "political capital"? Because there's a limited number of new initiatives and reforms that any politician can "invest" in?

Posted by: LittleMac on May 20, 2008 at 2:50 PM | PERMALINK

One unnerving parallel: In the fall '76, the media turned on Carter and greatly favored Ford. They had been in Carter's hip pocket throughout the Democratic primary season. But overall, this era isn't anything like 1977. Matt is too young and ignorant to know that.

As for Carter and the Democratic Congress: He surrounded himself with inferior staff. Remember his Congressional liaison, Frank Moore? Or Hamilton Jordan ("Hannibal Jerkin" to Tip O'Neil), Bert Lance, Jody Powell? - to name a few of the clowns - who then systematically insulted their Democratic party allies at every turn. No wonder Carter had one of the worst records of legislative success - even when his own party was in control. That was Carter's fault. (He had a similar record as Governor with the Georgia Legislature.)

In temperment, intellect and judgment, Barack Obama and Jimmy Carter don't have much in common.

Posted by: maxgowan on May 20, 2008 at 2:54 PM | PERMALINK

As a Chicano from the Sonoran Desert, I still much appreciate my Cartermania too. Sadly, one of the more positive aspects of a Carter Presidency that never gained 'traction' within the Democratic Party but which still resonates with me to this day, has its 'modest' origin here in the Sonoran Desert.

Last year, I wrote a manuscript for a book that has yet to be published, and one item is on both Carter and Governor Raul Castro of Arizona. I go on to explain that when Carter was considering his run for the presidency, he showed up on Castro's doorstep seeking support. Initially Castro refused out of not knowing Carter, and later relented. Thus, Castro's airplane known as Pinata One, was utilized by Carter, Castro and Coretta Scott King. All three criss-crossed America together, and that is when America's Construct for Human Rights, and hence, all three gave the initial breath of life to Human Rights, and which later became our national public policy. Consequently, not much mention is made of this history nor has this history found its way into our history books. And that is what I find to be an egregious error on the part of America's Academy of Historians. From my perspective, Carter, Castro, and King, personified America at its most elemental, and still do to this day.

Now, if Barack Obama, can be remembered by folks like myself after twenty-five years, an Obama Presidency will indeed be a success. Moreover, the "metric" in which to measure or cast the "moral judgment" is equivalent to a daily mispelling of a word or two. In contrast, for an Apache or a Pasqua Yaqui, and that's me, it's all about the "idea". And the Idea of Human Rights is the sole "motivator" or our current engagement on Immigration or Border Security, and thusly, is just one of the many features in daily life for any political engagement.

In closing, I won't take Yglesias and others too seriously in their concerns, and yet, who inadvertently seem to diminish the value of Carter, and to me, that just means their still "youngsters" and are still trying to find their way in this life.

Posted by: jaango on May 20, 2008 at 2:54 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin - what did you think of the back and forth on Iran? What's your take on Obama's "What's Bush and McCain afraid of?" riff?

If you were to see a picture of me, you wouldn't think a guy who looks like me could swoon over anything. The walloping Obama is delivering on foreign policy (to frame the debate at least at the outset) is definitely getting me close to swooning....

Posted by: reader on May 20, 2008 at 2:55 PM | PERMALINK

In 2016 the US will still occupy Iraq, will still be without universal healthcare, but will still have the largest military in the world. Moderates will lament the disappointing accomplishments of Obama's presidency, but will remain puzzled over why.

Posted by: Brojo on May 20, 2008 at 2:58 PM | PERMALINK

As for Carter and the Democratic Congress: He surrounded himself with inferior staff.

Funniest Ben Sargent cartoon of all time: "Who let Cyrus Vance order lunch?!?"
.

Posted by: Grand Moff Texan on May 20, 2008 at 3:04 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, are you so young or unread that the '70s look like just one big blur to you? The major oil shock came in 1973 and lasted for nearly two years. That's also when gas lines formed, horse meat steaks made a brief appearance in super markets, and brown paper grocery sacks mysteriously disappeared.

The secondary shock under Carter arose in 1978/79, and it was largely a function of the inflationary times that Nixon and Johnson assured when they refused to pay for the Vietnam war they waged.

Watergate was different than Bush's criminal reign in no small measure because BOTH parties were on view, nationwide, digging into the crimes of the Nixon administration. Republicans almost as much as Democrats.

By contrast, almost no one this side of Russ Feinstein has had the courage to openly oppose Bush and expose his criminal enterprise.

Carter's approach to the presidency (he served from 1976 to 1980) was to use it not so much as a bully pulpit as a teacher's lectern. He thought, bless the man's soul, that American were mature enough to listen and smart enough to understand when he explained that the energy crisis and Middle East and Iranian troubles were complex and there could be no simple solutions.

Carter just might have succeeded, too, if Casey and Reagan hadn't done that secret deal in Paris guaranteeing the hostages would not be released until after Reagan was elected, all part of the arms-for-hostages deal.

That was when the Republican Party lost its soul. And that's why Barack Obama and the Democrats today face a different future than did Carter in that blurring thing you've heard about called the 1970's.

Posted by: John B. on May 20, 2008 at 3:08 PM | PERMALINK

It's a trap!

The implicit idea is that liberal-ism and conservat-ism are locked in a sort of perpetual ebb-and-flow, pendulum-swinging battle.

Nonsense. Liberalism has been on the rise from the outset (by which I mean the end of the Dark Ages), and has been occasionally interrupted by various attacks and misdirections of conservatism.

Jimmy Carter's Presidency was assassinated by evil Republicans manipulators. Had the Iraninan hostage crisis been allowed to unfold unmanipulated by Republicans, I believe Carter would have been re-elected and Reagan would have had the notoriety that his talents really entitled him to.

The question is not whether Barack is Jimmy Carter (weak failure) or Ronald Reagan (idiot failure). The question is simpler than this post suggests.

The question to me is can you fool 51% of the people all the time? I think the answer is no.

Posted by: Jim Pharo on May 20, 2008 at 3:13 PM | PERMALINK

Don't forget in many ways Carter was conservative. The defense build-up started under Carter. He was by no means a left winger.

Posted by: Chicago guy on May 20, 2008 at 3:15 PM | PERMALINK

keith g

Re smaller government

Economic forces, not political forces dominate the economy. When America moves to elect a Democrat, they do not regard the particular candidate as much as they regard the current trend in the economy.

The reason the economy moves toward smaller government is because the economy just went through its expansion phase.


Why does the size of government move first toward expansion then toward reduction? Because there are two states for the economy, we carry with us two systems, and they alternate. All government do this.

Why do Dems get stuck with reducing government? Because the people who vote democratic want smaller government otherwise they would be Republican.

Posted by: Matt on May 20, 2008 at 3:15 PM | PERMALINK

I'd have to agree that Carter was a weak candidate and a weaker president. Had Jerry Brown got into the game a bit earlier there would have been no Carter nomination, much less presidency. And even with the Watergate wind at his back, Cater barely managed to edge past the unelected Nixon-pardoning Ford.

I also remember the way that, in 1981, it seemed as if the world turned upside down; Reagan pushed the political center very far to the right, and put through a shift in the political zeitgeist that we still live with. It was almost like a phase shift, like water turning to ice.

I suspect that the shift in the opposite direction under Obama will shock conservatives, who thought their ideas would be on top forever, and amaze youngsters like Matt who have never experienced an era of liberal influence.

Posted by: jimBOB on May 20, 2008 at 3:17 PM | PERMALINK

"To be to the right of Carter is to be a Republican."
- William F. Buckley, 1978.

This is why, in '78 and '79, so much of the bulk of the Democratic party begged Ted Kennedy to run.

Would that be the same Cyrus Vance who resigned in protest in '80? Memory fades . . .

Posted by: maxgowan on May 20, 2008 at 3:20 PM | PERMALINK

"One eerie similarity to Reagan...those who aren't his fans are baffled by his appeal...and his fans love him."

True, and like Reagan you at least hear talk that Obama has significant crossover appeal.

Let's hope Obama is a genuine canny pol like Reagan, and not an anti-politician in the right place at the right time to catch a wave of disgust with politicians like Carter.

Frighteningly, it is still too early to tell. Carter ran a hell of a campaign for the longest time, and that persuaded an awful lot of people that meant he was great pol. What is the best evidence so far Obama is a true pol? He's running a helluva campaign.

In case you can't tell I believe in electing politicians. Candidates running as non-political outsiders scare me, becasue I have to hope it is all a clever cover story, and not the truth. Non-political outsiders are swallowed whole when we make the mistake of electing them.

Hence the amibivalence many Democrats have in this primary. HRC is a pol for sure. The primary is over, Obama's the man, fingers crossed that he can close the deal and then get something done.

Posted by: tomtom on May 20, 2008 at 3:27 PM | PERMALINK

Due to my Gen-X cynicism for the Democrats, I got to the end of this blog entry and thought, "He'll find an entirely new way to fail spectacularly!" But I'm hoping for and think we'll see much better from Obama.

Posted by: Chris on May 20, 2008 at 3:47 PM | PERMALINK

*

Posted by: mhr on May 20, 2008 at 3:53 PM | PERMALINK

Our assessment of presidents is heavily influenced by external forces that have no relationship to their own abilities. But for the Iranian hostage crisis and oil shock, Carter would never have been vulnerable in 1980. And, but for a sandstorm, the hostage rescue operation might have succeeded, which would have all but guaranteed Carter's reelection and a very different place in history.

Similarly, there was a time when America was ready to carve GWB's head on Mt. Rushmore, notwithstanding the fact that he was no less an idiot on September 12, 2001 than he had been on September 10.

The qualities we see in Obama today are likely to have little or no influence on whether his presidency is viewed as a success or a failure. But would even the worst-case scenario be worse than a President McCain nominating the replacements of Justice Stevens and perhaps Justice Ginsburg?

Posted by: Novemberist on May 20, 2008 at 4:00 PM | PERMALINK

I also remember the way that, in 1981, it seemed as if the world turned upside down; Reagan pushed the political center very far to the right, and put through a shift in the political zeitgeist that we still live with. It was almost like a phase shift, like water turning to ice.

Yep. It was like everybody was listening to Pink Floyd one day and then Paul Harvey the next...

Posted by: Doc at the Radar Station on May 20, 2008 at 4:02 PM | PERMALINK

One similarity: in 1977, Carter's opponent was a klutz. In 2008, Obama's opponent is senile.
.

Posted by: Grand Moff Texan on May 20, 2008 at 4:09 PM | PERMALINK

Sorry, I have nothing good to say about Carter and I voted for him in 1976. He had some tough things happen on his brief watch and he blew everyone of them. Indeed he gives Dumbya some competition for being the worst president in my lifetime--Dumbya wins (loses?) because he managed to do so much more damage than Carter. Two things stand out about Carter--his decision to spray pot plants with paraquat knowing that the pot would still be sold and smoked by millions of Americans who would suffer permanent lung damage as a result and his decision to abort the hostage rescue mission when he lost some helicopters in the desert. Like Dumbya Carter had no empathy for ordinary Americans and he was a coward when the going got tough. He also had the ability to make a fool of himself when trying to display his athletic prowess like our current zero in chief. I do fear Obama will have a Carter-like presidency. Certainly the challenges will be there to make his presidency a complete failure. If he can meet those challenges, however, he could take his place alongside the likes of FDR. I am optomistic, but have no good reason to be other than noting that at least Obama is smart. Unfortunately so is/was Carter.

Posted by: terry on May 20, 2008 at 4:12 PM | PERMALINK

The only hope for this nation is to have leadership capable of directly galvanizing the citizenry to action.

In the language of the layman... to get the people angry and off their asses. Working 'Inside the Beltway' isn't going to work as the system is not capable of reform from inside.

This is why Clinton wouldn't have provided change... she promoted herself as a consummate back room dealmaker. And of course why McCain can't provide it either.

Obama has the talent to speak directly to the people. He will also need to find the politcial courage as the power elite is heavily opposed to any significant change.

Nothing really new here...

Posted by: Buford on May 20, 2008 at 4:17 PM | PERMALINK

I seem to recall that there was a lot of pushback to Carter policy proposals from the dem-dominated congress. Maybe that was because, as Kevin infers, the party was more reliant on the conservative southern dems, but I think dem politicians realize that hteir lives will be much easier with a productive Obama presidency.

Posted by: MeLoseBrain? on May 20, 2008 at 4:26 PM | PERMALINK

Indeed he gives Dumbya some competition for being the worst president in my lifetime

This is really unfair to Carter, whose Camp David accords were a diplomatic achievement that Bush would not even have any notion of trying to attempt. Carter didn't start any elective wars that turned into disasters, and he didn't deliberately destroy the government's fiscal position. Carter had many failings, not least of which was his inability to deal effectively with the Washington power establishment. His presidency failed as it tried to do the right thing, while Dubya's has consistently tried to do the absolute worst things, often succeeding. And Dubya I find to be an utterly contemptible human being, unlike Carter who was a decent guy in over his head.

Posted by: jimBOB on May 20, 2008 at 4:33 PM | PERMALINK

Funny, I think Obama's presidency will be like Clinton 92. He'll come in taking on the wrong things first, fail, and then triangulate. Which sounds kind of wacky, but is a key reason I supported Hillary Clinton as between the two (after Feingold and Gore not getting in, supporting Kucinich, then Dodd). As between Obama and Rodham Clinton, I think HRC was more likely to get the legislation that has a chance of getting past done because of her previous experience as an advisor in the WH and as a US Senator. I think Obama will fumble quite a bit. Not sure where that will leave us.

Posted by: ally's gift on May 20, 2008 at 4:39 PM | PERMALINK

jaango, I remember thinking then, and thinking now, how cool, wonderful, and correct basing foreign policy on human rights was. Imagine a global world today where we didn't know the meaning of "blowback." We could still travel freely in that world, even with a US passport.

Posted by: jerry on May 20, 2008 at 4:52 PM | PERMALINK

I see a repeat of 1977 on the radar.

Back then - oil shock/recession/hostage crisis engulfed Carter.

Today we have - oil shock/recesseion/iraq war and heightened terrorist threat. Posted by: optical weenie

Was Yglesias even alive in 1977? If he was, what was, 5?

There are superficial circumstantial similarities. However, all the problems that supposedly undid Carter happened at the end of his presidency - the hostage crisis and the second oil shock occurred in 1979. Obama will be inheriting a somewhat analogous set of circumstances, but not things directly related to events he had a hand in.

Posted by: Jeff II on May 20, 2008 at 4:59 PM | PERMALINK

Well, if nothing else, Carter did repeal the Federal restriction on homebrewing. For that, I will be eternally grateful. This is of course only slightly less important then sound foreign, fiscal, and environmental policy. The buzzsaw Obama is walking into is much worse than for Carter. My expectations are tempered by how FUBAR is the state of the country as handed down by Junior.

Someone upthread mentioned the doofuses (doofi?) Carter surrounded himself with. To me, that is going to be absolutely vital for Obama. No President can succeed unless he has good people around him. All the talk of experience is overrated if you don't have smart (and rational) people on staff.

Posted by: e henry thripshaw on May 20, 2008 at 5:13 PM | PERMALINK

1977 again?

I don't think so. The Ramones are all deceased now.

Posted by: thersites on May 20, 2008 at 5:16 PM | PERMALINK

It will be nice to just have a president who is intelligent, articulate, willing to listen to two sides of an argument and can think on his feet.

Posted by: The Conservative Deflator on May 20, 2008 at 5:30 PM | PERMALINK

"Obama will be inheriting a somewhat analogous set of circumstances, but not things directly related to events he had a hand in." - JeffII

"The buzzsaw Obama is walking into is much worse than for Carter." - e henry thripshaw

I agree with you both, but e henry I disagree with your assertion that experience is overrated. Obama can stuff his admin with all the academics and intelligensia he wants, but it isn't going to get him anywhere close to getting the problems solved.

He's going to need the lowly (as per Swan), career federal employees in the agencies. These are the folks who actually know how to enact legislation passed by the congresscritter circus. Academics and newbie political appointees have no idea how to do this - just look at what has happened with the Dubya admin - bunch of flack political appointees who managed to piss off existing employees to the point where they fled in droves, thus crippling their agency's functioning. Ya think Obama's new set of "Outside of Washington" pals will be any better?

You can direct $600 billion to any project you want, but if there is no one there to cut the check, then no work will get done. Hope certainly doesn't cut checks.

Posted by: optical weenie on May 20, 2008 at 5:40 PM | PERMALINK

mhr >"...who learned to fly a combat jet fighter...."

Do you know ANYTHING ?

The A-4 is/was not a fighter. It is/was an attack bomber. There is a real difference.

I don`t mean to take anything away from Grumpy McSame on that score because he did the "catch the wire" thing which ain`t a small deal.

"There is no such thing as inaccuracy in a photograph. All photographs are accurate. None of them is the truth." - Richard Avedon

Posted by: daCascadian on May 20, 2008 at 5:40 PM | PERMALINK

The A-4 is/was not a fighter. It is/was an attack bomber. There is a real difference.

The "A" is a dead giveaway.

A-10

F-22

F/A-18

Didn't you guys build models or anything? Geeze!
.

Posted by: Grand Moff Texan on May 20, 2008 at 5:44 PM | PERMALINK

1977 again? I don't think so. The Ramones are all deceased now. Posted by: thersites

I see you had the skunk for lunch.

Posted by: optical weenie on May 20, 2008 at 5:45 PM | PERMALINK

Didn't you guys build models or anything? Geeze!

I think we need to consider that maybe the glue was being used for *ahem* other purposes.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State on May 20, 2008 at 5:51 PM | PERMALINK

The key to the ignorance in mhr's remark is in the phrase "combat jet fighter."

I saw a lot of aircraft in the AF, but I never saw a non-combat jet fighter.

Posted by: thersites on May 20, 2008 at 5:54 PM | PERMALINK

Optical Weenie:

My key word was if. As in, All the talk of experience is overrated if you don't have smart (and rational) people on staff. I am not advocating that Obama come into DC and start with newbies galore. Far from it. My expectation (or at least, fervent desire) is that he surround himself with enough experienced staff to affect necessary legislation/change. I may be off -- but given that, then judgment becomes paramount. Their have been plenty of very experienced politicians with poor judgment.

Posted by: e henry thripshaw on May 20, 2008 at 5:57 PM | PERMALINK

"I don't see a repeat of 1977 on the radar."

Then how about 1988?

Posted by: Out in Pasadena on May 20, 2008 at 5:58 PM | PERMALINK

Jeebus, Weenie. First you put a guy out on the highway with your bad chest-beating "my way or g=the highway" attitude, then you criticize the road kill he's forced to eat. Can't win.

Posted by: thersites on May 20, 2008 at 5:59 PM | PERMALINK

I saw a lot of aircraft in the AF, but I never saw a non-combat jet fighter.

Well put - but there has to be an air show joke in there somewhere.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State on May 20, 2008 at 6:06 PM | PERMALINK

"my way or the highway"

Stupid bronze keyboard.

Posted by: thersites on May 20, 2008 at 6:06 PM | PERMALINK

Blue Girl: there has to be an air show joke in there somewhere

Or a G.W. Bush joke. After all, he was a "fighter pilot."

And I agree with e.h. thripshaw at 5:57.

Posted by: thersites on May 20, 2008 at 6:09 PM | PERMALINK

BUT I this is true. Carter as brought down by his deficiencies.

There is point where Carter comes out and says he could do anything - But Obama seems a very pro-active doing.

I just can't see Obama being a "black" Carter. It is so implausible that is outright laughable. Obama does seem to be very much on his game, not sure how conserative he is - but he is no corrupt Bush administration neo-con - and that's fine by me.

But what is with this comment? ...best chance to restore the liberal brand of any president since LBJ. - Yeah, should that be BEFORE LBJ, the man the lied about the reasons for Vietnam and drop the party into the hands of Nixon??? I think we have to remember to NEVER elect anyone from Texas.

I'm sure Obama is going to look a whole lot more like a Kennedy era if anything.

Posted by: Me-again on May 20, 2008 at 6:11 PM | PERMALINK

Thersites,
When have I ever demonstrated a "my way or the highway" attitude. In another thread someone accused me of chest beating - in reference to my post regarding how one particular gender was not allowed to take advanced classes in certain subjects some 30 years back.
I offered to make you a grilled cheese sandwich for lunch. You didn't go for it and then said that you would go out on the highway. I never told you to go out on the highway. I only suggested that if you were choosing roadkill for lunch that the skunk might be nice. I thought I was being kind. Sheesh, you're so sensitive!
Sorry up front for the criticism, do you need a hanky?

Posted by: optical weenie on May 20, 2008 at 6:14 PM | PERMALINK

shees!

BUT I think this is true. Carter was brought down by his deficiencies.

There is point where Carter comes out and says he couldn't do anything with congress - But Obama seems a very pro-active doer.

Posted by: Me-again on May 20, 2008 at 6:16 PM | PERMALINK

e henry,
"All the talk of experience is overrated if you don't have smart (and rational) people on staff."

This is what I didn't quite 100% agree with on your first post. I agree with the clarification you made on your second post. But I must note, being smart (and rational) doesn't always help when it comes getting stuff through the government meatgrinder.

Posted by: optical weenie on May 20, 2008 at 6:21 PM | PERMALINK

sniff...

Posted by: thersites on May 20, 2008 at 6:27 PM | PERMALINK

Thersites,
Do you want a grilled cheese sandwich now? I'll make you a 2-tone.

Posted by: optical weenie on May 20, 2008 at 6:30 PM | PERMALINK

No thanks. The skunk has left me a mite bilious.

But under Bushco has the civilian side of the Federal gov't been losing competent career people the way the military has? That's something I worry about because, as you say, they're the ones that can make policy happen or fail to happen.

I seem to remember that even during the worst of the Nixon era, good policy was happening in a number of areas, because of said career people.

Posted by: thersites on May 20, 2008 at 6:34 PM | PERMALINK

I don't get to view all parts of govn't, but from my perspective career people from the civilian side have been leaving in larger droves than in the mil side. It's not good.

Posted by: optical weenie on May 20, 2008 at 6:38 PM | PERMALINK

I guess those of you that are left will have to spin your notebooks on your pencils (h/t Swan) a little faster.

Posted by: thersites on May 20, 2008 at 6:40 PM | PERMALINK

the music sure isn't as good.

Posted by: eeek on May 20, 2008 at 6:42 PM | PERMALINK

I saw a lot of aircraft in the AF, but I never saw a non-combat jet fighter.

He "may" have been referring to combat jet fighter non-fighters?

F-111
F-117A

Also, since I love the A-4 (and other small "personal" jets) I'll point out that it was the premier "adversary" jet trainer and as such fought in many non-combat situations presumably whipping the pants off of F-14 pilots like Mav, Ice, Merlin and Slider.

Posted by: jerry on May 20, 2008 at 6:43 PM | PERMALINK

I've never quite gotten the trick of spinning my notebook on my pencil, that's why I prefer photons. But the extra paperwork is starting to get effing irritating. I'd rather spend my time solving problems, as opposed to getting the money moved from one place to the other.

Posted by: optical weenie on May 20, 2008 at 6:46 PM | PERMALINK

Weenie,
Try a spiral-bound notebook.


jerry,
I ought to know better than to play aircraft nomenclature with anyone. But if the subject is pre-1960 avionics, I'll whoop your butt. Which is ironic when you consider I was in the AF in the early 70's.

Posted by: thersites on May 20, 2008 at 6:54 PM | PERMALINK

thersites, I envy your AF experience. On average, the closest I get to these aircraft is oh, about 40,000 feet.

Posted by: jerry on May 20, 2008 at 6:58 PM | PERMALINK

thersites >"Or a G.W. Bush joke. After all, he was a "fighter pilot.""

An air defense F-102 as I recall. A very obsolete aircraft (much like, it appears, that particular pilot) at the time.

"...Never was such a cleverness used in the design of making us all stupid...." - Voltaire

Posted by: daCascadian on May 20, 2008 at 7:02 PM | PERMALINK

jerry,
I didn't get near any of the aircraft you mention. Mostly luck of the draw, of course, but I saw a lot more 50's cargo aircraft than anything else. The only "personal" jet I got to work on was the T-33.

Posted by: thersites on May 20, 2008 at 7:05 PM | PERMALINK

The Ramones have always been deceased. If it was 1977 again, Talking Heads would be releasing a new album.

Posted by: Brojo on May 20, 2008 at 7:08 PM | PERMALINK

jerry >"...presumably whipping the pants off of F-14 pilots like Mav, Ice, Merlin and Slider."

Jeez, movie nonsense.

A good pilot flying an inferior aircraft can best a so-so pilot flying a superior aircraft. See John Boyd for instance.

"The surest way to corrupt a youth is to instruct him to hold in higher regard those who think alike than those who think differently." - Nietzsche

Posted by: daCascadian on May 20, 2008 at 7:11 PM | PERMALINK

"A good pilot flying an inferior aircraft can best a so-so pilot flying a superior aircraft. See John Boyd for instance."

That was sort of my point, but it was also to suggest that the A-4 was probably good enough to be considered a fighter if it had had different armament and avionics. I don't know if that's true or not.

Posted by: jerry on May 20, 2008 at 7:20 PM | PERMALINK

Brojo,

You trying to start a fight or something? You're usually so careful to avoid making controversial statements, too...

Posted by: thersites on May 20, 2008 at 7:20 PM | PERMALINK

the music sure isn't as good. Posted by: eeek

Then you're listening to the wrong stations. I'd recommend KEXP.org (also at 91.5 WNYE in NYC) and BBC6 Radio.

Posted by: Jeff II on May 20, 2008 at 7:21 PM | PERMALINK

I'd recommend KEXP.org (also at 91.5 WNYE in NYC) and BBC6 Radio.

BBC6....yum...

Posted by: shortstop on May 20, 2008 at 7:48 PM | PERMALINK

On the right, the analogy conflates the Republican party with the conservative movement. In 1976, the Republican party was down and out (even though Ford almost won re-election), but the conservative movement (Buckley, Reagan, et al.) was still in ascendancy. Now, however, the movement itself seems adrift, not just the Republicans.

Posted by: me on May 20, 2008 at 8:24 PM | PERMALINK

Ford "re-elected" RE-ELECTED?!?!?

Go the the board and write "I am not a crook" one hundred times.

Posted by: maxgowan on May 20, 2008 at 8:38 PM | PERMALINK

Obama had better come prepared with a plan for what to do in case we are attacked by terrorist bunny rabbits.

Posted by: Tom Hamill on May 20, 2008 at 8:48 PM | PERMALINK

I stand corrected, but my larger point survives.

Posted by: me on May 20, 2008 at 9:17 PM | PERMALINK

I really like Obama, but he honestly does lack experience. Change without experience and competence is destined for failure. I see the results of this all the time in my role as a very senior consultant for one of the largest IT consulting companies. Far too many of our clients advance younger people who energize everyone with talk of change. One to two years after these "change champions" are promoted again or move into another role, their failed changes hit the fan and we are called in to bail them out.

Bottom line, without experience and competence, change alone doesn't get it done. But, it does give us a never ending string of clients. :-)

Posted by: Ex - Republican Yankee on May 20, 2008 at 9:44 PM | PERMALINK

Meant to add...John McCain is way too old even if he is competent and has the experience. How long before he starts losing the mental capacity to make sound judgements based on all that competence and experience? Unfortunately, if Obama is the democratic candidate then I fear McCain will be POTUS.

Posted by: Ex - Republican Yankee on May 20, 2008 at 9:51 PM | PERMALINK

The sad fact is, he's nowhere near as solid as Carter. As someone who is pretty famliar with both Illinois politics and the U.S. Senate, I know that Obama's M.O. for his entire career has been to talk about things he will do in the FUTURE. Despite his enormous intelligence, he just has never been able to actually do many things, you know, with the elected offices he is in at the time he is in them. The big stuff is always out there on the horizon, in the future, in the next job. And dammit, I guess you have to admit he paints a real pretty vision. But really, he's just a carnival barker. "Step right up. Got your hope here!" Actually deliver? I hope he does. But nothing in his record indicates that is likely.

Posted by: Pat on May 20, 2008 at 9:56 PM | PERMALINK

BO is going to end up being another Carte because, like Carter, he's going to have to mop up after 8 years of disastrous republican policies. If he doesn't face at least 10% interest rates & 8% unemployment I'll eat my hat.

Posted by: marsk on May 20, 2008 at 10:01 PM | PERMALINK

The times they are a uh going to be different!

Comparing a current candidate to past presidents is nearly always going to lead one to bad conclusions. Name one president who, as candidate, was compared to a past president and then governed anything like that other president. It doesn't happen.

A president is an individual unlike any other and that comes through more clearly today than ever before.

I have felt for some 6 months or so that we have turned a corner and there is now great reason for optimism. It's just that the events needed to fulfill that optimism haven't all happened yet.

We did have Dems take Congress in '06.
We are likely to win the White House in '08.

But, when will the economy pick up?
When can we again reduce unemployment?
When will we leave Iraq and Afghanistan?
When will the war on drugs end?
When will we 'win' the war on cancer?

There are many things we can easily imagine happening in the next few years, but they haven't yet happened.

Obama isn't the inspiration (in my mind) for that hope. He's one of the manifestations of the direction the American people have already decided they want to go. Perhaps that will lead to other solid achievements.

P.S. I say this as one who has supported John Edwards for president.

Posted by: MarkH on May 20, 2008 at 10:02 PM | PERMALINK

> The A-4 is/was not a fighter. It
> is/was an attack bomber. There is a real
> difference.

The A-4 was built as an attack plane, and that is how McCain flew it. However in recent years it has seen widespread use in training and "aggressor" (black hats in Top Gun school) use because its extreme power/weight ratio and excellent maneuverability at high speed when lightly loaded let it run rings around heavier full-featured late model fighters.

In fact the A-4 is often cited as one of the 10 or so airplanes that could still be sold today if it were put back in production.

Cranky

Posted by: Cranky Observer on May 20, 2008 at 10:09 PM | PERMALINK

The A-4 was built as an attack plane, and that is how McCain flew it. However in recent years it has seen widespread use in training and "aggressor" (black hats in Top Gun school) use because its extreme power/weight ratio and excellent maneuverability at high speed when lightly loaded let it run rings around heavier full-featured late model fighters.

In fact the A-4 is often cited as one of the 10 or so airplanes that could still be sold today if it were put back in production.

What would have had to change to make an A-4 a credible fighter back then?

I'd happily buy a new one if it was placed back in production, especially since we can now buy carriers on eBay.

What are some of the other aircraft that could still be sold today (and maybe we should consider it considering the cost of new new aircraft)?

Posted by: jerry on May 20, 2008 at 10:24 PM | PERMALINK

jerry: ...the A-4 was probably good enough to be considered a fighter if it had had different armament and avionics.

Yes, it was and is, in close combat. Which is why it is still used to teach close combat tactics and air combat dynamics today. Nothing better for inculcating knowledge of basic air combat dynamics as Boyd articulated. While those basics are important, they count for much less in today's environment. While an A-4 is very good in a knife fight, it stands little chance against an opponent which can kill it from BVR and has the legs to get away from it.

Posted by: on May 20, 2008 at 10:48 PM | PERMALINK

Indeed he gives Dumbya some competition for being the worst president in my lifetime

Remember Carter pulled the rug out from under the Shah and Somoza, then told them to fire on/bomb their own citizens to salvage their dictatorships, as long as they promised to do it ineffectively.

Posted by: loki on May 20, 2008 at 11:27 PM | PERMALINK

sometimes bold and willing to assert himself in ways that I haven't seen much of from Democratic pols recently, sometimes a cautious technocrat who seems unwilling to upset the applecart much. I guess there's nothing really wrong with that as long as he has good instincts for when to fight and when to compromise, and we won't know that until he takes office and fights a few fights.

I think we already know because he's certainly kept himself out of fights. I don't think that will change. Go with poll-tested 'incentives' and avoid 'mandates' and that sort of thing.

Posted by: Steve-O on May 21, 2008 at 12:52 AM | PERMALINK

I think it's very plausible to imagine a conservative movement that's still strong enough to frustrate progressives' main legislative goals, force Democrats to unilaterally make the tough moves to get the fiscal situation in control, and then once that's done return to power on a new platform of tax cuts for rich people.

Obama is dead on arrival, for Bush, the King of Spenders, the Coyote-in-Chief, spent all our money on Iraq that was left after buying beads for our colorful native costumes from China. How then to fund a new lib program of spending? The people, an unreasoning mob, will then blame the Democrats for the coming troubles. Reality will force a return to fiscal conservatism.

Posted by: Luther on May 21, 2008 at 1:20 AM | PERMALINK

Presidents have to be good administrators, good communicators, great at making decisions, and superlative in politics.

Bill Clinton had all of these things going for him. His problem was personal discipline.

Obama ran a great campaign, but what does that mean? Is he a great administrator.

Carter was a bad President because his minions weren't good pols. Carter himself micromanaged and always assumed he was right and new better. I recall reading in Newsweek about "Leadership" vacuum in the country during Carter's years.

The country wanted the gap filled and Reagan's persona fit the bill perfectly. Unfortunately he was hard to the right.

For the record, if Ford had beaten Carter, the Reagan 'dark right, hard right' wing of the Thugian party might not have emerged and the world would be much different.

I think Obama shows enormous promise. But still, he's new. Politics is a trade learned through years of experience. We'll see....

Posted by: Bub on May 21, 2008 at 4:32 AM | PERMALINK

Matt overlooks something.

In 1976 - 77 the Watergate disaster could be blames on Nixon, and he carried the can into the sunset as the scapegoat for conservatives. It was Nixon's personal disaster, not a disaster for conservatives and conservatism in general. Nixon was sufficiently unconservative in some of his policies so that conservatives could claim that Nixon failed, but conservatism did not.

Today, with Bush in office, that is not true. Sure Bush is incompetent, but he was placed there by conservatives and for all his failures, he was acting conservative enough for them to reelect him in 2004. Today it is clear that conservatism is what has failed, not JUST Bush. Katrina proved that decisively, as has the economy. Bush has given conservatism its purest test since 1929-33 or 1952-54, and Conservatism itself has failed!

That's what the three lost by-elections this year in deep conservative territory have proven.

But we Democrats had better build a strong narrative to describe the current conservative failure and repeat it ad nauseum. If we don't, the conservative think tanks will do to the failed Bush period what they have done to the loss of Vietnam.

Conservatives screw things up and steal what they can, then blame Liberals for the resulting failures. Liberals, looking to the future, let them get away with redefining the past. That's how conservatives keep reappearing after previous defeats like the monster in the "Aliens" movies.

Conservatives will sell a new lie blaming Democrats/Liberals for the failure of the Bush years and the loss in Iraq, and if they present the only narrative, as they have for the last three decades since Vietnam, then in a short time they will convince much of the electorate that the last seven years and the current economic/foreign Policy disasters have been a Liberal failure.

McCain will begin the propaganda effort even as he loses the election. The College Republicans will be well-funded and hard at work. So will Regent University and it's family of propaganda institutions. The American Enterprise Institute and the CATO Institute remain hard at work, and are well-represented in the rolodexes of Tim Russert and Brian Williams. (Does Katy Couric even know what a rolodex or its current computer descendant is?) FOX still spews lies and fear. The Weekly Standard has already kept the NeoCons from being blamed for the disasters of Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan, and they are advising McCain.

The Wall Street conservative "free market" libertarian propaganda machine is momentarily silenced by the credit disaster. The credit disaster won't last because it cannot be allowed to last, and the free marketers will be driving conservative elections again soon. (Two years?)

The conservative disaster is a disaster they made themselves. We Democrats are the beneficiary of their failures, but we did not earn the forthcoming Presidential victory. It's being handed to us. We better do something to put a stake into the heart of conservatism or it's be back again, as Matt Yglesius says. It's just going to take a while this time for the conservatives to regroup as they did after 1954, 1964 and 1976.

Posted by: Rick B on May 21, 2008 at 8:45 AM | PERMALINK
Overall, though, unless Obama turns out to be a uniquely empty suit — and I don't think he is — I don't see a repeat of 1977 on the radar.

The more realistic danger is a repeat of 1992, where you have a Democratic President and a Democratic Congress, the former brought into office in a wave of dissatisfaction with the status quo and the latter an already-established majority, who take very different directions, can't work together, and set the stage for a Republican resurgence.


Posted by: cmdicely on May 21, 2008 at 9:17 AM | PERMALINK

In 2016 a Republican could be elected president and the military will be available for that Repbuclican to start more wars with because a President Obama and a Democratic Congress will continue the wasteful and dangerous tradition of maintaining the world's largest military for no good reason.

MarkH, when will median incomes begin to increase?

Posted by: Brojo on May 21, 2008 at 12:28 PM | PERMALINK

CARTER AND OBAMA
OBAMA AND CARTER
JIMMY CARTER and BARACK OBAMA
BARACK OBAMA and JIMMY CARTER

It works for me either way, and I'm a conservative, "God Bless America", card carrying Republican.

BTW, my Bible states that only by God's Holy Spirit can anyone say "The Lord is Jesus", and that it is by a good spirit that a person states "Jesus is The Christ"; George Walker Bush has never stated "The Lord Jesus Christ", nor can he. Anyone who calls themselves a Christian either confesses with their mouth "THE LORD JESUS CHRIST" or they are a deceiving liar about being a Christian by Bible standards.

Most Muslims and Hindus look to The Creator as the Almighty, Living God,and they can get behind the Bible's "Glory to God in the highest and on the earth peace to THOSE OF GOOD WILL"; they simply need to read Marshall's Interlinear New Testament, or even The New American Standard New Testament, and realize the truth about THE LORD JESUS CHRIST.

But George Walker Bush is a liar, and I can't support anyone who supports him.

The Carter Center's works and expertise and network of real DOERS is proof that James Earl (Jimmy)Carter is ready to help push through useful changes in this country. We need Jimmy Carter to be working for us United States of America citizens from the White House. So:

*JIMMY CARTER and BARACK OBAMA*
or
*BARACK OBAMA and JIMMY CARTER*

Word.

Posted by: Coronella Keiper on June 7, 2008 at 5:09 PM | PERMALINK

Hi guys. A billion here, a billion there, pretty soon it adds up to real money. Help me! There is an urgent need for sites: Purple razor electric scooter. I found only this - green electric razor scooter. Razor electric scooter, euro comfort, and has then a recycle and cheap situation to it. It might be a business, but it can well be hilly, razor electric scooter. With respect :mad:, Berit from Greece.

Posted by: Berit on March 16, 2010 at 9:34 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

Read Jonathan Rowe remembrance and articles
Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon Sign up for Free News & Updates

Advertise in WM



buy from Amazon and
support the Monthly