• Jimmy Carter’s Gettysburg Address

    March 9, 2023

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    Posted in: Democracy

    The word malaise, a general feeling of uneasiness whose exact cause is difficult to identify, should be starting to creep in to discussions. It’s a word, albeit like most everything these days, politically-loaded, after its use by President Jimmy Carter in 1979 to describe the country he could not figure out to how lead.

    Carter’s specific use of the term focused on the energy crisis, when OPEC and the Iranian Revolution monkeyed with America’s oil supply and Americans could not simply buy as much cheap gas as they wanted for their huge cars. It can sound trite, but it was a crushing blow to the American spirit, as somebody got the best of us while we stood aside hopeless. But Carter saw something much deeper than lack of cheap gas was wrong. Not just an oil shortage to manage, but a recession of hope, a crisis of confidence that someone would have to lead America out of. He perceived we were tired, worn down, unable to come together in common purpose to fix something. He was right then; how about right now?

    It would be interesting to hear what Carter thinks about Joe Biden and 2023, where lots of things don’t work well. Flights don’t fly. Inflation returned. Gas is expensive in ways 1979 never could have imagined. Supply chain problems mean Americans are since WWII rationing getting used to hearing “We don’t have any and aren’t sure when we will.” Under/unemployment plagues us as Covid tore the wool off many Americans’ eyes about how little meaningless jobs for sub-living wages contributed to their piggy banks or their sense of self-worth.

    There appears no definitive end to Covid, with little hope the economic devastation caused by mismanaged restrictions will ever be addressed. There is a declining sense Covid is a problem that can be managed as it has been in much of the world (see Europe, especially Scandinavia.) The conclusion is no one is really in charge who cares. Economic inequality has risen to where there are two systems, one for the wealthy and one for most of the rest of us, for everything. Education, healthcare, travel, shopping, how you are treated by the law, and where you can eat or entertain yourself. Diseases of despair, suicide, alcohol, and drug overdoses, drive a drop in our life expectancy. America is the only developing nation with a rising maternal death rate. We suffer on average more than one mass shooting a day. Is there anyone who can claim, in the American tradition, that our lives are getting better?

    Looking for leadership, Americans come up short. The best our system could produce last election was two geriatric candidates. Biden has done little to move the nation past Covid, instead choosing to stand there as it petered out in most places. He hid behind our national exhaustion with Afghanistan to not suffer a greater political defeat over the botched Gotterdammerung in Kabul. His open borders policy created a massive humanitarian crisis, and a growing political one as an unknown number of immigrants play a version of the Squid Game to flood America. The Border Patrol reports 200,000 encounters with migrants along the U.S.-Mexico border this summer, with some of the highest monthly totals since Bill Clinton was president.

    The president can’t even exercise leadership over his own party, and it appears his signature infrastructure bills and social spending initiatives are more symbolic than transformational. In the background, police reform legislation failed, and most defunded departments have been refunded to face down rising crime. “Disappointed” is likely the term most Biden voters would be apt to use.

    America alongside all this has become a deeply cynical place. We once were to the annoyance of most of the world an endlessly optimistic place. We didn’t always know how to solve problems but we were confident we would solve them. Now we take for granted AOC and the media would be at the border for the Trump Kids in Kages spectacular but missing when an even worse situation unfolds on Biden’s watch. We roll our eyes when the media tells us what we’re hearing isn’t what we’re hearing but “Let’s Go, Brandon” instead. MSM will print any Trump gossip but not one actual Hunter Biden email.

    All of this bleeds over into how we interact with each other. Never mind the street fights over whether black lives matter, or the hand-to-hand combat on planes, in restaurants, and at Walmart. We don’t discuss things, never mind disagree because we don’t just hate ideas, we hate the people who hold those ideas. When we run out of big issues we discover microaggressions. We enjoy as classist blood sport how businesses care so little about their employees they’ll fire them if a Karen among us makes a scene. We video everything in hopes of settling matters by embarrassing someone virally.

    Carter was a decent man, if a poor politician. Seen the latest front-page Carter Center scandal? Hear about the six figure fees former president Jimmy Carter pulls in from shady foreign companies? Maybe not. Many feel Carter has been a better ex-president than he was a president. His Carter Center focuses on impactful but unglamorous issues such as Guinea worm disease. When Carter left office, the disease afflicted 3.5 million people. Now it’s expected to be only the second disease, after smallpox, to ever be eradicated worldwide. Until about yesterday Carter still donated a week of his time yearly to Habitat for Humanity. Not a photo-op, Carter goes out without the media in tow and hammers nails. Carter also tirelessly monitors elections in nascent democracies, lending his stature as a statesman to that work over 100 times. Summing up his own term in office, Carter said “We never dropped a bomb. We never fired a bullet. We never went to war.” That was the last time since 1977 a president could make that claim.

    Jimmy Carter’s “Crisis of Confidence” malaise speech, delivered from the Oval Office on July 15, 1979, has since become to  many a symbol of Democratic defeatism. The speech was controversial at the time because it was seen as overly pessimistic and critical of the American people. However, in retrospect, many people view the speech as a courageous and honest assessment of the problems facing the country. But how prescient was Carter in 1979? The seeds he saw being planted have now grown to sad, desperate fruition. What he said then might well describe where we are now:

    “There are two paths to choose. One is a path I’ve warned about tonight, the path that leads to fragmentation and self-interest. Down that road lies a mistaken idea of freedom, the right to grasp for ourselves some advantage over others. That path would be one of constant conflict between narrow interests ending in chaos and immobility. It is a certain route to failure.

    “All the traditions of our past, all the lessons of our heritage, all the promises of our future point to another path — the path of common purpose and the restoration of American values. That path leads to true freedom for our nation and ourselves. We can take the first steps down that path as we begin to solve our… problem.”

    For all he foresaw in his ferocious tenderness towards America, Carter failed to find a way to lead, and in 1980 suffered complete election defeat at the hands of someone who promised he would. As Carter did not create fully the malaise he spoke about, Biden alone certainly did not create the current malaise in America. But his failures, far too many in too short a time, have not helped fix it. Cheering on Ukraine is not the same as cheering for America. Without Jimmy Carter’s Gettysburg address, telling us where we are and what we have to do, we might forget that.

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  • Recent Comments

    • Rich Bauer said...



      Come on, dude, what’s with all these negative vibes? Jimmy Carter is leaving US, but hey, we got Jimmy Jordan to take his place.

      Feel better?

      03/10/23 8:12 AM | Comment Link

    • John Poole said...


      PVB has covered everything that needs to be corrected. Despair of youth is the most rueful symptom for anyone who is a grandparent. “All the Advocacy we see fit to push” is now the NYTime’s mantra. Kamala Harris running for POTUS if Biden’s diminished cognitive health can no longer be politically concealed easily matches any decrepit, incompetent and corrupt Roman ruler circa 400 AD.

      03/10/23 11:10 AM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...


      “The word malaise, a general feeling of uneasiness whose exact cause is difficult to identify, should be starting to creep in to discussions. It’s a word, albeit like most everything these days, politically-loaded, after its use by President Jimmy Carter in 1979 to describe the country he could not figure out to how lead.”

      Here’s a word to describe the zeitgeist for the MAJORITY OF THE disUNITED States: disgust. WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH 70 million dumbass Americans who want Donald Trump, that walking evil piece of shit, to occupy the White House again. The evil piece of shit watched gleefully and did nothing while his dumbass followers attacked the Capitol. And you criticize Carter for failing to lead? The conclusion is no one really in charge cares. Oh, Trump cares…about himself.

      03/10/23 9:15 PM | Comment Link

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