Comparing Presidents Obama and Carter

Thursday, 08 Jul 2010 09:43 AM

By Matt Towery

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Let me first always remind readers that polls are a snapshot in time. Two years from now, President Barack Obama could be sitting on top of the world politically.

But for now, Obama has lost all but 38 percent approval from the critical "independent" American voters. They're the ones that gave him the presidency. He appears headstrong in his determination to show the nation what a disastrous presidency looks like.

Pundits often point to the presidency of Jimmy Carter as the modern example of a failed leader.

It is no secret that I have, despite my former years as an active Republican, always viewed the Carter administration with a kinder overall assessment than have most of my friends. That's partly because, like Carter, I'm a Georgian. I grew up knowing many Carter friends and associates. I also know many behind-the-scenes stories that shape my view of him.

I no longer feel the need to defend Carter, largely because of the direction the Obama presidency has taken. Let's compare the two administrations.

First, national healthcare. It was Carter's intra-party nemesis at the time — the rabidly liberal Sen. Ted Kennedy, now deceased, who pushed Carter over and over to create a universal healthcare program. Carter demurred. He suggested that instead it should be brought about incrementally.

Carter figured that an immediate, all-out push for healthcare might bust the national treasury. Imagine that!

Now consider Iran. Because of Carter's unwillingness to simply cave in to every demand of the Iranian militants who overthrew the Shah's government, Iranian extremists stormed our embassy in Tehran and took hostages. This calamity was likely the single issue that sealed Carter's doom when he ran for re-election.

Few know that Carter's own chief of staff, the late Hamilton Jordan, took a tremendous physical risk when he operated in disguises in trying to negotiate the hostages' freedom. And when it became clear that Carter's long-suffering negotiations were failing, he at least tried a daring, if poorly executed, rescue of the hostages.

Fast forward to today. The U.S. government and some in media seem obsessed with appeasing anybody and anything Islamic. Only the latest example is the decree from NASA that its "foremost" mission is to recognize and appreciate the contributions of Muslims to science.

More, we seem unable to properly respond to crises, or even to recognize them as such, when they happen. That's the case in the Gulf of Mexico. Massive amounts of oil continue to gush at a rate far greater than was first admitted.

We've all read and heard about oil-skimmers and other ships unavailable for clean-up duty because of government red tape and concessions to American labor unions. State governments' requests for early help defending their coastlines were all but ignored.

Jimmy Carter's response to a tragedy like this might have been a blunder. Who knows? Yet I have little doubt that by now he would have tried something — anything — daring and bold to help save the coastlines of what, after all, is his own native region of the country.

Look, I'm not trying to boost Carter into the "top 10 presidents list." I do want to point out that Carter spent much of his time fighting with Democratic congressional leadership that was more liberal than his own administration was.

Plus, the Carter administration didn't view every real or perceived crisis as a political "opportunity." Quite the contrary: The Carter administration learned that crises can lead to political demise.

Where did that demise eventually come from? Independent voters. They had committed to Carter because they were weary of Watergate and President Gerald Ford's pardon of Richard Nixon. They wanted change they could believe in.

President Obama had better rethink his governing philosophy of implementing liberal policies at every opportunity. He desperately needs to convince Americans that he will tackle a crisis and run the government with moderation.

The so-called "Georgia Mafia" of the Carter years may have earned a bad name in the history books, but Obama's "Chicago Mafia" is making Carter's crowd look like a band of consummate professionals.

Thirty-eight percent approval from independents. Who could have guessed it?

Matt Towery is author of the new book, "Paranoid Nation: The Real Story of the 2008 Fight for the Presidency." He heads the polling and political information firm InsiderAdvantage.



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