Friday, the editors of National Review make the familiar (often conservative) argument: Obama is a bit like Jimmy Carter. In this case, the editors are bringing out this standard comparison specifically to debunk the idea that Obama is like Reagan, who "accepted a great deal of short-term unpopularity" in order to "[lay] the groundwork for three decades of unprecedented economic expansion." Obama, they argue, like Carter, is just plain unpopular.
This seems like a good time to point out that, whatever one's feelings on the Obama-Carter meme, one must acknowledge the National Review to have been on top of the issue from the get-go. It has become, in fact, something of a specialty. Here's a quick, and by no means exhaustive, summary of the coverage.
The National Review editors first hauled out the Carter comparison in January of 2007, when Obama first announced his intention to run. That's early. "Voters have turned once before to a newcomer with thin experience in the midst of a dangerous international environment," they wrote. "His name was Jimmy Carter." Then Stanley Kurtz had a particularly original Obama-Carter post on The Corner in April of 2008. He wondered whether Obama--who had not yet been elected--would be a terrible ex-president, like Carter.
The real problem with Obama may be what sort of ex-president he'd be. Think about it. It's taken decades for Jimmy Carter to shift from grave weakness in the face of the Iranian revolution to an even more extreme stance as ex-president. Now it's reached the point where Carter is undercutting U.S. foreign policy by negotiating unconditionally with the terrorist extremists of Hamas. Given Carter's performance, I dread an Obama ex-presidency. Obama would actually begin his term in office very near to the point that it's taken Jimmy Carter years to arrive at.
The next month, James Robbins had a post on the subject. He said Obama worrying about American fuel consumption relative to other countries was similar to "the Club of Rome, neo-Malthusian mentality of the 1970s," where other countries got a say in "set[ting] limits on American living standards." Once the presidency actually began the comparisons sped up. "Obama's Bow Is Carter's Kiss," proclaimed Kathryn Jean Lopez in April of 2009. "Carter in Reverse?" asked Rich Lowry in June. Carter at least, "for all his faults, was a fiscal hawk," noted Steve Hayward in July. Peter Kirsanow managed to find a way to link Carter's completely independent denunciation of Rep. Joe Wilson in September back to Obama's opponents' fears of being labeled racist in the campaign. Then in November Seth Leibsohn writes:
This is reminiscent of the Jimmy Carter years--the last time the U.S. was seen as weak--unable to move and coax other countries, unable to reassure dependent allies, unable to have the respectof the world and, of course, unable to move the mullocracy of Iran.
Whether President Obama and President Carter are, in fact, this similar remains to be seen. We know, at least, where to look for updates as more information comes in.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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