Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Carter's unsoliticited advice for Obama

My unsolicited advice for Obama about Carter: ignore him-- for both practical and political reasons. On the former, it's bad policy; on the latter, to borrow a phrase from Dave Ramsey, it's rarely wise to "take financial advice from broke people".

I have an old friend who used to be exceedingly even-keeled with two exceptions:
1.) someone criticizing the Baltimore Orioles; and
2.) someone claiming that Jimmy Carter had been a good president.

On the latter, I was able to help him by suggesting, instead of anger, to ask the asserter to name three good things from Carter's presidency. At most, you'll get one or two debatable propositions as evidence for the claim-- and the point is made.

Putting it another way: it is often said that Carter is our nation's finest ex-president. I'm not sure about that, but it tells you a lot of what you need to know about his presidency.

Here's Neil King Jr. in the WSJ on Carter's counsel to Obama on energy policy:

By most measures, the Carter years were the high-water mark for energy reform, but the movement has dwindled as oil prices dropped in the 1980s....

Now President-elect Barack Obama is heading to Washington with a set of energy goals as ambitious as Mr. Carter's back in 1976. He promises to free the country from "the tyranny of foreign oil" and to save "our planet for our children." He's calling for a "spirit of service and sacrifice," and promoting hybrid cars and wind and solar power.

But Mr. Obama must now champion his $150 billion energy plans in the face of a sinking economy and oil prices that have fallen 70% since their record mid-summer high. Forces like these have killed at least four similar presidential efforts in the past....

Mr. Carter offers Mr. Obama this advice: Try to inspire Americans to see the virtue in making energy sacrifices, a notoriously tough sell, especially in the face of falling prices. Get energy legislation to Congress quickly, during the presidential honeymoon. And stick with it.

"I think he can prevail if he does it early and with a great deal of dedication and enthusiasm -- and with tenacity," Mr. Carter says in an interview.

History isn't tilted in Mr. Obama's favor. Presidents all the way back to Richard Nixon -- whose "Project Independence" promised to make America independent from foreign oil by 1980 -- were thwarted by short attention spans, other urgent problems and gyrations in the energy market. President Ford set a similar target for 1985....

Perhaps no other president staked more of his credibility on trying to wean the U.S. off foreign oil. Just two weeks into his presidency, Mr. Carter gave his famous "fireside chat" on energy. Clad in a yellow cardigan that now hangs in his presidential museum, he called on Americans to save energy by lowering their thermostats to 65 degrees during the day. Two months later, he called the energy crisis "the moral equivalent of war."

Later, in his most politically costly address dubbed by critics the "malaise speech," Mr. Carter announced a massive program to boost solar power and make synthetic fuel from coal. He vowed the U.S. would never again import more oil than it did in 1977.

But in that 1979 speech, he also described a nation gripped by a "crisis of the American spirit." Mr. Carter's foes seized on the gloomy language and said the president was blaming Americans for his own travails....


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home