Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Obama Is The New Carter

by Bill Holmes

Let me start out by saying of the John McCain, Mit Romney, Barack Obama choices we've had for president the last few years, I think Obama is the best choice. That's not to say he is a good choice, just the best of a very mediocre lot. Lack of a strong presidential leader is especially troubling now since we have a completely dysfunctional congress. Obama's recent speech on the national security changes, Robert Gates new book Duty, the Obamacare website fiasco and a rerun of the POTUS on a Leno show from August reminded me how empty the oval office is. We have seen this same scenario before.

I use the comparison of Obama to Jimmy Carter because I see so many similarities. A little history to set the stage. I am old enough to remember the Carter presidential campaign, election and term in office. I also remember Carter as the governor of Georgia. When I moved to Atlanta after college Lester Maddox was the governor of the state. Good old boy, segregationist, racist, bigot Lester was cut from the same cloth as Alabama's George Wallace only less articulate and dumber. He was a colorful guy who today would probably have his own reality show on E!, Bravo or A&E. Maddox was a restaurant owner in Atlanta with a GED education prior to entering politics. He failed in campaigns for Atlanta mayor twice and lieutenant governor prior to his election as governor in 1966. He rode the white's fear of integration to victory. He was also a joke and embarrassment. So when Jimmy Carter ran for governor in 1970 I was in favor. He was articulate and well educated and less a bigot than Maddox although not exactly fully in favor of integration during the campaign. Carter did a good job as governor. He did embrace more integration and could be characterized as a moderate. His biggest accomplishment as governor was the consolidation of about 300 state agencies into 30. I was a staunch supporter when Jimmy ran for president.

When Carter entered the 1976 presidential campaign he was a definite underdog. He was the little known Washington outsider governor from the South. After the Nixon/Agnew/Ford administrations, the country was ready for a change and a Beltway outsider was attractive. The economy was in the toilet. Jimmy was the candidate of hope and change. Sound familiar?

When Obama entered the 2008 presidential campaign he was a definite underdog. He was the little known first term Senator from Illinois, a virtual Washington outsider. After the Bush/Cheney years and the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan the country was ready for a change and a young, black Beltway outsider was attractive. The economy was in the toilet. Barack was the candidate of hope and change. Sound like deja vu?

The problem was that Carter and Obama had to govern after their hope and change elections. Neither seemed well prepared for that task. One major flaw was the lack of understanding how to get legislation through congress. Carter brought most of his staff from the Georgia governor days with him to Washington. They had little or no experience with Beltway politics. Obama has also failed to put together an effective Capitol Hill lobbying team. Both appear to be micromanagers who have trouble making a decision, analysis paralysis. Both are more intellectual and less political. They both appear to be overwhelmed and frustrated by the office. Neither is a very inspiring leader.

There are other similarities. They are both perceived as less than strong supporters of the military. That is particularly surprising about Carter who was an Annapolis graduate and a Naval officer. Under their administrations the world view and influence of the United States was diminished due to their policies and decisions.

One big difference is that Obama was re-elected for a second term despite a less than stellar first term. In my opinion that has as much to do with the incredibly weak opposition in the form of Mit Romney. Carter had the unfortunate luck of having to run against Ronald Reagan. It was no contest.

Carter and Obama came into office with much support by the populace. There was great anticipation that they could pull off the hope and change promised in the campaign rhetoric. Neither did.

Obama has three more years to change his legacy. Carter's fate is sealed. He, in my opinion, will go down in history as one of our worst, least effective presidents. He was not a bad or corrupt man, just incompetent and overwhelmed by the job. Obama may give Carter a race for incompetency if he doesn't get a few accomplishments under his belt. I don't think Barack will get the same good guy pass that Jimmy has since he left office. Although in my opinion Jimmy Carter has been one of the worst ex-presidents of our time. He has done some good things, but he has also stuck his big teeth and big mouth into places they don't belong.

I supported Carter and Obama. I have been disappointed by both. They failed to live up to their promises and potential. The country stagnated during these administrations. Maybe the fact that I supported both candidates and shared the hope for change makes me more critical. Twice burned.

I wish Obama and our country good luck in the final three years of his administration. Unfortunately unless there is a major turnover in congress in the midterm elections, I doubt that will happen. We'll be plagued by stalemates on almost every important issue. Lack of leadership is not the sole purview of the White House, there's also a vacuum at Capitol Hill. Hopefully someone will emerge for the 2016 election who has a plan and leadership skills. Any guesses?


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