Yes. We are bad about making difficult decisions that
everybody knows are right. I don't know how to talk to you frankly without
being so self-defensive, but of the major decisions that I made as president, I
would say none of them were politically attractive or positive. I harassed the American
people constantly about doing something about energy conservation, and we were
remarkably successful in getting laws passed and putting other things in the
hands of future presidents.
Reagan, unfortunately, reversed those energy conservation
measures over which the president has a lot of control, like mandatory
efficiency of automobiles and the allocation of support for renewable energy
sources, photovoltaic cells, windmills. He reversed all that because his
premise was that America was self-sufficient, that there was no shortage of
energy. We had a right to use what we wanted--not what we needed, but what we
wanted--and we shouldn't be insinuating that our country was so weak that
Americans had to make a sacrifice to face the future. And that attitude was
totally different from what I had, and it was pretty well adopted by Reagan's
successors. I think that some of these things are coming back to haunt us.
But even if we just
look at consumption in terms of living the way we want versus the way we need--
I know. Now, Obama is beginning to see that some of these
things need to be resurrected.
Right. But why won't
he fall in that same trap? Why won't he speak honestly?
He hasn't done that yet.
But if he were to,
wouldn't he be undercut--?
Yeah. Well, I don't know.
By an opposition that
says we can continue our present course without making sacrifices?
I'm not sure. That wasn't the reason for my failure to be
reelected. It was a relatively minor position. The main reason was, we didn't
have the hostages back. And the Democratic Party was split, and Iraq attacked
Iran and cut off about 20 percent of the world's oil supply, which created a 21
percent inflation rate in Europe. Well, Kennedy split the Democratic Party so
that I lost by 10 percent of the Democratic vote. But I have always felt that
I didn't need to be justified, to answer your first question.
I never have felt that I made a mistake in going to the
American people and saying, "This is what we must do to show our resolve and
we're capable of doing it," with the so-called malaise speech, which was a
phrase that you know I never used. I never had any doubt about the accuracy of
that speech and the necessity for that speech, so I didn't need to be
Does that distance
concern you? That distance between what is right and what needs to be done...
Yeah, it concerns me.
And what the American people are willing to give?
Yeah, it concerns me greatly.
Could it--is it likely
that will be our undoing, that this is the flaw of our nation?