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President Obama: Jimmy Carter Redux?

That’s not my own title — that’s the subject of a Politico forum on whether Obama is another failed president. I think we can all agree that Obama is in bad shape if that’s the conversation.

Stuart Gottlieb of the Jackson Institute for Global Affairs at Yale has this to say:

For 18 months Obama supporters, especially in the media, have returned time and again to the “Reagan analogy” — a transformative president comes to office in a time of deep economic recession and intense foreign policy challenge, charts a bold course, loses popularity (and many seats in Congress) during his first term, only to see his economic and foreign policy visions vindicated in time for a landslide re-election and a revered place in presidential history. Unfortunately, Obama has thus far charted an opposite course.

Steven G. Calabresi of Northwestern University adds:

Obama is showing signs of serious incompetence in crisis management with the Gulf oil spill that do call to mind memories of Jimmy Carter’s botched effort to manage the Iranian hostage crisis. In addition, he is projecting U.S. weakness abroad which is emboldening Iran, Turkey, Brazil, and North Korea to take aggressive anti-Western threats. At home, he is pursuing economic policies that will eventually lead to a return to the stagflation of the 1970s. There is essentially no new jobs creation in the private sector because Obama has scared the daylights out of small businesses and no one wants to invest or expand in this economic climate. Meanwhile, the steady cranking of the government printing presses to pay for our gargantuan deficits almost guarantees that inflation will eventually return. Once the Bush tax cuts expire at the end of this year, the recovery will take a huge hit as taxes go up. Higher unemployment, higher inflation, and ultimately higher interest rates are what lie before us. Taken together these three things mean a higher misery Index. Wouldn’t it be nice if this trip back to the 1970s were limited to just wearing bell bottoms! But, it is not.

The Democrats’ rebuttals aren’t that effective. Patrick J. Egan says: “The Gulf oil spill is certainly hurting and humbling the Obama presidency. But unlike the Iranian hostage crisis, the disaster does not give Republicans any evidence they can use to promote an obvious policy alternative.” Umm, executive incompetence? A government stretched too thin to do the fundamental tasks? A blame-somebody-else fixation? Surely they can do better than that.

This, from Princeton’s Julian E. Zelizer, might be the wisest counsel:

Carter stumbled as a result of the difficulties he faced heading his own party – failing to offer policies that nurtured intraparty alliances – as well particular decisions that he made which did not offer effective political responses to the crises. President Obama is still early in his presidency and can chart a different history for himself. But Carter’s history is one he should take a close look at.

True, but does Obama know he’s failing? Does he want to change? We’ve seen no evidence of that to date, but maybe after the midterms, there will be some soul-searching in the White House.



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