Saturday, July 25, 2009

Malaise Forever

They Expected Lincoln,
They Got Carter

In the Simpson’s episode “Marge in Chains,” the residents of Springfield hold a bake sale to raise funds to purchase a statue of Lincoln for their park. When the final sales count comes in, the organizers discover the shocking truth – their efforts have fallen $15 short of their goal. Dejected, they announce instead of a sculpture of Lincoln, the citizenry can only afford one of Jimmy Carter. The crowd riots. Once things settle down, the end credits run and we see Bart and Lisa using the statue to play tetherball. As the ball winds its way around the figure, it comes to a rest over the base inscribed with our thirty-ninth President’s legendary lament: “Malaise Forever.”

Carter delivered his speech thirty years ago on July 15th, 1979. The dour rhetoric came to symbolize the leadership weakness of Jimmy Carter, a weakness he tried to anthropomorphize onto the American public. Unfortunately for him – and fortunately for us – true Americans don’t accept any personal weakness, even their own, as an excuse for failure. Ironically, this most noteworthy oration came almost ten years to the day after NASA’s greatest triumph. You remember NASA, don’t you? They’re the organization that gave us American heroes and the defiant phrase “Failure is not an option.”

One can’t help but wonder if we’re seeing déjà vu all over again. We’ve just past the six month anniversary of Obamerica and, well, things don’t seem to be going quite as expected. Those desperately needed stimulus funds don’t appear to have been as desperately needed as advertised. Indeed, how dare the market – and perhaps even the economy – show signs of life before Washington had the chance to spread its green manure across America’s financial pastures!

Now we’re being told we need to nationalize our health care system “before it’s too late.” Well, you know what they say about fooling me once and fooling me twice. I guess Obama’s deflating poll numbers suggest middle America has no intention of being fooled twice. These independent minded folks realize you don’t have to overhaul an otherwise successful system when a few strategically placed tweaks will do. Worse, you don’t mess with a tax system in a way that’ll discourage job growth in the middle of the worst recession in more than a generation. (About those jobs: That much needed porkulus package passed during Obama’s ascendency sure delivered as promised – not!)

So we’re now left with a despairing President grasping at straws to convince even his own party to promote his plan. I once publicly mused – oh, I don’t when, but I’m pretty sure it was right at the height of Obama-mania – that our first Kenyan President had jumped the shark. The more I read the comments from his friends and the more I listen to his famed rhetoric flourish lamely, the more I am reminded of one James Earl Carter – the last one-term Democrat president.

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