Could Obama Make Jimmy Carter Look Good?

As I write, Illinois is in chaos, which may be an improvement. In the Wall Street Journal, Brian T. Kennedy of the Claremont Institute posits the detonation of an Iranian nuclear device in space over the continental United States, launched from a freighter in the Atlantic by a Shahab-3 missile. It would generate electromagnetic pulses that hurtle America back into the early 19th century.

Our money market checking account is now earning us one-fifth of 1 percent APY — compounded and before taxes. The value of our IRAs has dropped by more than 20 percent since September. Two weeks ago, in some Moslem hellhole, a 13-year-old girl was buried up to her neck and stoned death in a soccer field before approximately 1,000 cheering spectators. Her crime: insufficiently defending her honor when she was kidnapped and gang-raped; i.e., she survived. At one point, she was believed to be dead and was dug up. A nurse declared her still alive, but barely, so the wheels of justice turned yet again.

President-elect Obama has told us that he does not underestimate “the enormity” of the situation he is inheriting and said we shouldn’t worry about the deficit for the next two years. I am relieved. His approval rating is 73 percent. This is a man who has done nothing since his election except talk, hire people, take a tour of the White House, and enroll his daughters in a private school.

Tomorrow, I’m going to look for the button I sported during my law school daze with our esteemed editor: “Rethink Universal Suffrage.”

But say not the struggle naught availeth. Orenthal James Simpson sojourns in the land of the striped sunshine, and the misery index is only 8.01.

Remember the misery index? It is an artificial and meaningless number concocted by economist Arthur M. Okin that is arrived at by adding the unemployment rate to the inflation rate. Jimmy Carter seized on it to pillory President Gerald Ford because the number stood at 15.93 in 1976. Four years later, it was 16.27, and Ronald Reagan made him eat his words. Okin’s heirs still linger near the phone waiting for news of his posthumous Nobel.

I was born during Harry Truman’s first term. I rate Lyndon Johnson and Jimmy Carter as the two worst presidents in my lifetime, for very different reasons: their misfeasances occurred in vastly different eras despite the fact that their administrations were separated by only eight years and had very different results — all disastrous nevertheless. So, too, will Obama’s be different, but also disastrous.

“Progressives” are alarmed at The One’s reliance on Clinton administration retreads to populate his administration, not to mention a Clinton in-the-flesh. “He’s moving toward the center!” is their alarum. Take heart, counsels no less a liberal light than E. J. Dionne, Jr. “It’s . . . plain that Obama is no left-winger,” but he has a “sense of history.” He may be forced to govern from something called the center, but it’s clear that the center has moved left in response to President Bush’s blundering delicts and the worsening economic situation, as have those who served Bill Clinton. Even a stopped clock is right twice a day and Dionne has nailed it.

Besides, among Obama’s closest associates are whackos, zanies, domestic terrorists, Hamas shills, and a sleazy embezzler or two. Why has no one ever asked him why he is most comfortable in the company of people who hate America and everything good and great it has stood for these 232 years? He may secretly lust after someone like unrepentant bomb thrower Bill Ayers, who he once dismissed as just “a friend from the neighborhood,” as his Secretary of Education, but that’s just not going to happen. He has settled on his idea of the second string: superannuated Clintonistas. Given his ideology and the available labor pool he could have done much worse.

Events may prove me wrong, but I do not take Obama to be petty, hypocritical, vindictive, mean-spirited, small-minded, or anti-Semitic — all of which Jimmy Carter was and is. He may be the first former President to die of a hissy fit. Obama charms and reassures while Carter scolded and proudly proclaimed that “[w]e have lost our inordinate fear of Communism” not long before the Nazi-style war of annihilation waged by the USSR against Afghanistan. Obama will never say the same thing about terrorism or respond to the next attack by screwing his courage to the sticking point and boycotting the Olympics.

Carter mismanaged the economy so badly that the prime interest rate soared to a record that still stands: 21.5 percent. Gold went to over $800.00 per troy ounce in late 1970s dollars and silver to $50.00. My silly wife was needlessly alarmed when I weighed the Darwin family silver: something over 50 pounds, as I recall. I say “needlessly’ because the spawn of H. L. Hunt briefly cornered the world silver market. No one was buying so no one could sell.

Obama can sail with a smile into a disintegrating economy with no fear of having any blame for its creation pinned to his tail. As things get worse, which they inevitably will, it will take time for our anxious electorate to turn its collective finger in his direction. For instance, the Department of Energy established by Carter will continue to chug along silently, below the radar, wasting $24.2 billion a year not fulfilling one of the principal mandates given it by our 39th President: free us of our dependence on foreign oil. If things get ugly, President Obama can say, “Hey, I’m not the guy. What do you want me to do? Close down DoE and put 116,000 more people out of work? They can’t go to work for GM or Chrysler, y’know.”

Turning to economic stimuli, how many of you remember that Carter had one, too? It was $50.00 each for every man, woman, and child in the country. I can’t recall whether illegal aliens were eligible, but that’s not important; there were 86 illegal aliens here at the time. To the under-40 crowd I say, “Don’t laugh.” In our Bicentennial year I was knocking down a cool $18 thou a year, buying a small house, and supporting a family of four. Two-hundred bucks was serious beer money. My check must have gotten lost in the mail.

At least we got W’s and are almost certain to get Obama’s. To what effect? Dick Morris appears to be a semi-reformed Clintonista, having forsaken left-wing employment and as far as I know $200-an-hour prostitutes. He recently wrote that $5 out of every $6 in the last stimulus canoodle went to pay down debt, not into purchases which would actually stimulate the economy. Of the remaining $1.00 out of those $6.00 what percentage was spent on products imported from Red China, thus stimulating its economy instead of ours? Morris does not know. Neither do I.

So the solution is another stimulus package, of course. Albert Einstein defined insanity thus: “Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Smart guy.

The principal and most alarming difference between Carter and Obama is that the former was not at his core a socialist. My skin crawled when candidate Obama told Samuel J. Wurzelbacher that he planned “to spread the wealth around.” How much spread-around wealth would he give to have those words back, or at least to have uttered them far from an open mike? Obama bin Biden got away with more gaffes than Spiro Agnew ever said in his worst nightmares because of the naked partisanship of the news media; and I don’t mean that Obama didn’t mean what he said. He slipped and actually said what he meant. If he’d reflected on his response to Joe the Plumber for only a second or two, he would not have formulated it in terms that would have brought warm smiles to the faces of Karl H. Marx and the world-renowned syphilitic Vladimir I. Ulyanov.

Given our heritage, the President-elect should know as well as I do that what our country has been imperfectly about these past centuries is spreading the opportunity around, not the wealth. I am the grandson of a lower working-class seventh generation American and three penniless immigrants who spoke no English and brought no significant skills from the Old World; and one of the three was almost certainly a fugitive who was nearly deported as an enemy alien during World War II. No one spread any wealth around them, or my parents, or me for that matter.

Despite the terrible detours and setbacks of the Depression and a war during which nothing less than the survival of Western Civilization was on the line, the Greatest Generation procreated another, one that had opportunity “spread” out before it as none ever had in the history of the human race. There will always be those who, in the words of my distant in-law Thomas Edison, “do not recognize opportunity . . . because it usually goes around wearing overalls looking like hard work.” Whose fault is that? Certainly not the government’s, nor should it be the government’s job to insure us against our own laziness and inertia.

My father was a 10th grade dropout, a man who read perhaps two books after he quit school. He gutted and struggled his way through flight training during World War II, after which he spent most of his working life as a tool & die maker for Engelhard Hanovia industries. He was forced to join a union and whenever its demands became unreasonable, whenever something smelled to him like soak-the-rich socialism — a term he probably never heard — he’d say something like, “Don’t these fools realize that the richer Charlie Engelhard gets, the better off we all are?”

Our next president doesn’t get it, and to me that is the most frightening thing about him. So, no — Obama isn’t Arabic for Carter. We may come to wish it were.

Perhaps it’s Arabic for immanentizing the eschaton.