Can we end up with another "Jimmy Carter"?

I don’t remember the Jimmy Carter years all that well, but in reading about his term in office the impression I get is that he didn’t have a political base. Essentially, he didn’t have the right friends despite being a Democrat with a Democrat-controlled Congress. Obviously, this is a gross simplification, and I’ll happily be corrected if I have it by the tail instead of the collar.

What brought these thoughts up? One of the things Republican pundits like to point out about Palin is that she shook up the Republican party in Alaska, and it obviously needed shaking. But it makes me wonder if that sort of party-shaking can work in the White House. She seems to have a lot of enemies in Alaska and not many friends, though the voters appear to like her.

Carter got elected, which means that enough voters liked him to put him in. But just having enough voters doesn’t necessarily give you the ability to get things done especially if you’ve set the back of your party up against you.

So, the debate: With either of the major candidates, are we looking at another potential Jimmy Carter presidency, with an elected president who doesn’t have the support of his own party in Congress and who will then flail about ineffectually? Are there important factors in the Carter presidency that preclude it from happening this time? Are parties simply more partisan and therefore more likely to go along with the titular head of the party rather than shutting him or her out?

BHO would definitely have the support of his own party in Congress. McCain has annoyed Republicans in the past, but they won’t be in the majority, and will need to hope he succeeds, if elected, so that they can maybe ride his coattails in 2010.

As many have said recently, the VP choice matters a lot around the time of the Conventions, may matter a good bit more here because of McCain’s age, but typically, the VP is not a super-major figure in the Administration.

The VP can be anywhere from “very important” to “not important at all”. I don’t see her playing a major role in a McCain administration unless he dies in office. Barring that, I don’t see how a comparison to Carter is relevant. Carter was the president.

If he does what he claims he will do, what he claims that Palin did in Alaska, how much support is he going to get from the Republicans? Palin was just a handy example of someone who claims to be a reformer who is now pretty disliked by members of her own party. McCain is not the darling of the right and he needs someone on his side if he wants to do anything at all, but he’s declaring war on “his side.” Mild war, but war nonetheless.

Jimy Carter’s problem wasn’t a hostile Congress. Lots of Presidents have had hostile Congresses. Clinton had a Republican-controlled Congress for the last six years of his Presidency, and did just fine. Reagan had a Democrat-controlled Congress, and did just fine.

Carter’s problem was that he was Carter. His instincts were all wrong for a President. I remember the Carter years. He wasn’t exactly an inspirational leader. When times got tough, he’d go on TV and give a speech telling everyone that… times were really tough. When gas went up in price, he put on a sweater and called for the public to sacrifice. He managed to single-handedly suck the spirit out of the country. Then he went on TV and told everyone there was ‘malaise’, and that Americans were really sad. He was a huge downer, which is why the optimistic Reagan crushed him in a landslide.

Carter would be a fine church leader, but he was a lousy president. It had nothing to do with having a hostile Congress.

If McCain is elected, he will most likely have to work with a Democratically controlled Congress. That will mean a certain amount of gridlock, but it will also mean there will have to be lots of compromising going on. McCain can do that. Bush can’t. Reagan knew how to do it, and McCain learned from Reagan. Reagan managed it because he could be magnanimous. He was not afraid to give Democrats credit when they worked with him. He maintained a close friendship with Tip O’Neill, the Speaker of the House. He brought Democrats into the White House, explained his policies carefully, asked what they wanted in return for support, and compromised as much as he could.

Clinton, after his first two years, did the same thing. Welfare Reform happened while the government was divided - no mean feat, and lots of credit goes to Clinton for that.

I think McCain would govern in that vein. He’s always shown an ability to be pragmatic and cross the aisle when needed. Palin, I’m not so sure about. She strikes me as a little more like Bush in the single-minded, dogmatic way she looks at things. On the other hand, she actually does have a record of working with Democrats in Alaska, so maybe I’m wrong about that.

If Obama is elected, on the other hand, he will have a sympathetic Congress, and the bigger question with him is whether he’ll pull a Clinton '92 and use the opportunity to try to move hard to the left, which could result in a major backlash and lose him the Congress in the mid-term elections, or whether he’ll be smarter than that and govern more as a moderate despite having the Congressional support to do what he wants.

If the initial reports of McCain wanting to pick Lieberman but letting himself be strong-armed by his party are correct, he certainly has the potential to be a president as weak as Carter, or worse.

Although I was around then, I don’t remember the Carter Administration much (I was born in 1978 :D) Sam Stone’s description reminds me of Obama a little and I voted for Obama.

Carter came in with his southern boys who were going to change Washington. They pissed everyone off and got no cooperation. They were able to do nothing.
If Palin became pres she might get the same treatment and her time would be wasted. She would likely say the Alaskans will show you guys how it is done. They would get stomped.

Sam Stone’s description is only partially correct. The Carter Administration’s relations with fellow Democrats in Congress were chilly from the get go. Whether through arrogance, inexperience, or both, members of Carter’s “Georgia Mafia” like Hamilton Jordan did a lot to alienate many of the more established Democratic figures in the House and Senate thereby stupidly hindering Carter’s attempts to get his programs passed (e.g., it took over a year to get his energy plan approved). From there, things just steadily unraveled for Carter.

If Obama’s elected, I don’t see this happening to him. For one thing, he is a senator rather than a governor and thus won’t be handicapped by being too much of an outsider. Also, he’s a lot more savvy and will avoid the mistakes Carter made.

Yeah, but I actually count it as a plus that Carter asked Americans to make do with less. Of course, the American Way is to consume, consume, consume so Carters words fell on deaf ears. People want to be bullshitted.

I don’t think that’s entirely fair. Sure, I wanted him to pick Ridge or Lieberman, but that wasn’t because I saw it to be in his best interest. To the contrary, I thought it would destroy his chances AND if I was wrong it would also give me the slight hope that he wouldn’t be gung-ho on stacking the SC.

But I don’t think it’s unreasonable for someone from his party, advisers, etc. to say, “Don’t be a dumbass, John. If you do that, you’ll regret it and won’t have anyone to blame but yourself.”

If Obama had picked Hagel, I would have been furious. If I wanted to vote for a Republican, I would have voted for a Republican. While I wasn’t in a position to say that to Obama, I would have if given the chance and I would have expected him to pay attention.

What Sam Stone said (except perhaps for the implication that McCain has learned anything in particular from Reagan on this subject). And NDP, except that I’d add that Obama has a rolodex full of nationally respected advisers, while Carter depended too much on his Georgia cronies.

Incidentally though, Jimmy Carter was a man of high integrity and political courage. He lost the 1980 election for 2 reasons.

  1. He appointed Paul Volker, who raised rates, instigated recession, but finally broke the back of inflation. Unlike Nixon, he wouldn’t play the political business cycle game.

  2. He put the Iranian hostage lives first.
    Great church leader. Tone-deaf President – utterly. Terrific ex-President - the best ever.

I’ve said this before, but this is exactly why several people I know were very pleased with Biden. They remember Carter.

I voted for Carter both times and have always thought he got a bum rap reputationwise. I remember everyone blaming him personally when the hostage rescue attempt failed, as if he should have been able to predict freak sandstorms. By that time, people were so disillusioned with him not being able to change very much that he took the blame for anything people could possibly think to pin on him.

For the record, he never used the term “malaise”, although it has become something of a legend.

Mr. Obama is a brilliant orator. Carter couldn’t speechify even a little.

But Carter was a governor of Georgia for some years. He had executive experience.

I don’t see anything in Mr. Obama’s resume that would lead me to believe that he has the ability to sit in the Oval Office and make the hard decisions. Talking a good game is very different from playing one.

I think that Jimmy Carter was simply inept, but he was his own man.

I don’t know who, or what, Obama is.

I get the feeling that he was created to fill a vacuum.

I’ll admit, when I bought the kit, that was all I was trying to do. Sorry; I understand it’s gotten a little out of hand.

Don’t ever make me laugh again or I will hunt you down and give you a wedgie.

I hate laughing!

The notion that the US presidency is the varsity to a governor’s junior varsity is misguided because governors are not heads of state. The US president is both the head of government (like a British prime minister) and the head of state (like a British monarch). He must not only run the executive branch, for which the best skill is the ability to organize. But as head of state, he is supposed to represent all that is the best about America. He should be very intelligent, well spoken, well liked abroad with the strength to negotiate and marshal the support of other world leaders. John McCain is completely lacking in the ability to function as either head of government or head of state. Obama’s massive campaign staff has a budget larger than many countries, and he has run it efficiently and debt free for almost two years. That is his executive experience, and it’s as good as anyone else’s. He also has demonstrated that the world will follow his lead, and that he can restore America’s good standing and respect. That’s why he is no Jimmy Carter.