Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Barack Obama is brilliant - so what's the good news?

Isn't it interesting that usually the press accords someone with degrees from Harvard and Yale with intelligence - unless his name is George Bush? I am old enough to remember the emergence of Jimmy Carter on the national scene. He was trumpeted as being perhaps the most intelligent candidate for president since Woodrow Wilson. Indeed, he went to the US Naval Academy and was a nuclear engineer. Consider that he is also a Nobel laureate, a professor, best selling author, humanitarian and farmer, it is difficult to quarrel with Carter being an accomplished individual. The Christian Science Monitor has gone as far as saying that “Carter was one of the most brilliant presidents we have ever had”. I am not going to dispute that. One evidence of the truth of the statement was that he appointed me to run the National Credit Union Administration. However, all that brilliance and intelligence did not translate into a successful presidency. Carter was plagued by the Iranian hostage crisis and skyrocketing energy prices. He gave the impression that he could not make a tough decision. The usually fawning Washington Post ran a Herblock cartoon with Carter and his senior advisor Hamilton Jordan walking into a room full of the polls with Carter saying “Let’s go see what our policies are today”. The pundits concocted a misery index. The economy was in sad shape and there was a “crisis of confidence”. Carter famous “malaise” speech said:

“I want to talk to you right now about a fundamental threat to American democracy. . . . I do not refer to the outward strength of America, a nation that is at peace tonight everywhere in the world, with unmatched economic power and military might. The threat is nearly invisible in ordinary ways. It is a crisis of confidence. It is a crisis that strikes at the very heart and soul and spirit of our national will. We can see this crisis in the growing doubt about the meaning of our own lives and in the loss of a unity of purpose for our nation. . . .In a nation that was proud of hard work, strong families, close-knit communities, and our faith in God, too many of us now tend to worship self-indulgence and consumption. Human identity is no longer defined by what one does, but by what one owns. But we've discovered that owning things and consuming things does not satisfy our longing for meaning. . . .I'm asking you for your good and for your nation's security to take no unnecessary trips, to use carpools or public transportation whenever you can, to park your car one extra day per week, to obey the speed limit, and to set your thermostats to save fuel... I have seen the strength of America in the inexhaustible resources of our people. In the days to come, let us renew that strength in the struggle for an energy-secure nation.”

Isn’t it stunning how this speech – with the exception of the reference to God – could have come from the mouth of our current intelligent, brilliant president – Barack Obama?

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