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Jimmy Carter II
Forget Kansas, What's the Matter with Liberals?

Liberal icon Thomas Frank, author of What’s the Matter with Kansas?, is the latest lefty to compare President Obama to Jimmy Carter—and he doesn’t mean it as a compliment. Frank writes in Salon:

I pretty much ignored the Carter-Obama comparison in those days because it was so manifestly empty—a partisan insult based on nothing but the lousy economy faced by both Carter and Obama as well as the recurring problem of beleaguered American embassies in the Muslim world. (Get it? Benghazi=Tehran!) More important for Republican purposes was the memory that Jimmy Carter lost his re-election campaign, which they creatively merged with their hopes that Obama would lose, too. Other than that, the comparison had little connection to actual facts; it was a waste of trees and precious pixels.

What has changed my mind about the usefulness of the comparison is my friend Rick Perlstein’s vast and engrossing new history of the ’70s, “The Invisible Bridge.” The book’s main subject is the rise of Ronald Reagan, but Perlstein’s detailed description of Carter’s run for the presidency in 1976 evokes more recent events so startlingly that the comparison with Obama is impossible to avoid. After talking over the subject with Perlstein (watch this space for the full interview), I am more startled by the similarities than ever.

Some of the parallels Frank claims he sees will make him seem somewhat unhinged to those not on the far Left: the statement that, “Like Barack Obama, Jimmy Carter was drawn instinctively toward austerity”, for instance, or that Obama searched for “the answer to the savagery of the right—the way to trump the naked class aggression of the One Percent.”

But his overall diagnosis is one gaining increased acceptance from Left to Right: a presidency sold on a combination of sunny idealism and trust in the cult of experts foundering on the rocks of reality. We doubt, though, that most Americans will agree with Frank that the problem is that Obama hasn’t gone far enough to the Left.

Jimmy Carter’s presidency has become a byword for failure. With more than two years to go in Obama’s second term, the fact that this comparison has become a consensus does not bode well.

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  • Flying Tiger Comics

    medium intellect Thomas Frank ignores the carter-soetoro parallels until they are too obvious to deny. Proudly holding a false view until facts are icontravertible seems to be a marxist trait.

    • mikekelley10

      Hey, I have a medium intellect, and I’m way smarter than this guy.

  • Jacksonian_Libertarian

    Obama is clearly the worst President in American history, Jimmy Carter never rose to more than worst President in living memory, and he was easily supplanted even in that in Obama’s first term.

    • Tom

      Buchanan still holds the title of “Worst President Ever.”
      Obama probably wins “Worst President in Living Memory.”

      • rheddles

        It’s a contest. History will tell.

      • Gutz_Otoole

        Obama has two more years to close that “worst president” gap. Besides, Buchanan gets the rap mainly because “he did nothing to avert the coming civil war.” Nevertheless I have read no history of the period that creditably suggests what he could have done differently that would have made a difference in 1861. Secession and war had been discussed and threatened in newspapers and stump speeches for twenty years before Fort Sumter. Buchanan can only be held to be 50% responsible for being stupid and unlucky.

        Obama, on the other hand has created or exacerbated every crisis his administration has faced. Obama’s mistakes derive not from stupidity (though evidence of a first-rate mind in the Oval Office is hard to find) but from a basic hostility to the United States and its founding principals.

        • Tom

          Buchanan could have done little to nothing to prevent secession. However, what he could have done was prevent his secretary of war, John Floyd, from sending 115,000 muskets and rifles to Southern arsenals, an operation that makes “Fast and Furious” look like the work of Ferris Bueller, and scattering the army even worse than it was.

      • MarkJ

        Well, Buchanan was (allegedly) our first gay President, so methinks that counts for something. 😉

      • SeverelyLtd

        Tom, he’s not done yet!

        • PoohBear57

          He doesn’t need to. The only reason he’s brought it up is to make his base see him as an unappreciated champion of those in trouble. Thus maybe gaining just a few more votes from those probably inclined not to vote at all.
          It’s just all part of his turnout-the-vote program.
          Ditto for letting 100,000 Haitians into the country without visas – aimed squarely at getting the Haitian community in Miami and environs to the polls.

      • mikekelley10

        I hadn’t heard that Buchanan brought plague victims into the US for treatment.

  • Gene

    These people really believe that the “one percent”–which, in their fevered imaginations is somehow a single block, perhaps even a hive-mind–not only wants a larger piece of the pie but actually seeks THE IMPOVERISHMENT OF EVERYONE ELSE. I’m losing hope, and fast, when I realize how many people I know would consider this a reasonable, centrist view.

    • Cellec

      I’ve learned to stop reading at the first reference to “the 1%”, or the Koch brothers.

    • megapotamus

      And it is certain, isn’t it? that Frank is empirically within the 1%. Probably a fraction thereof.

  • FriendlyGoat

    People tend to forget that the middle class peaked in the seventies and has been in decline ever since. Because people are so mad at being in decline, they tend to blame the wrong thing—–namely Jimmy Carter, as though he caused their decline. There is not an ounce of truth in it.

    • stanbrown

      Jimmy Carter made an offer to the Soviets — if they would help him win re-election, he would sacrifice America’s national security for the Soviet’s benefit. Jimmy Carter was not, and is not, a good man. He’s not just an incompetent. He’s an anti-Semite, a liar, and a traitor.

    • larryj8

      I was an adult serving in the military during the Carter administration. He sucked more than you can possibly know.

  • stanbrown

    The next time Thomas Frank writes something intelligent will be his first.

  • Cellec

    Say what you will about Carter, at least during his presidency the American press still went through the motions of being objective, and criticized him when appropriate.

    Under Obama the whole of American Journalism became a 24/7 cheerleading/turd-polishing squad.

  • GlendaleGreyBeard

    Why waste time worrying about what Thomas Frank thinks, assuming he thinks at all. He’s got the brains of a frankfurter (and I’m not talking about Justice Felix Frankfurter here).

  • Gutz_Otoole

    Jimmy Carter lost his re-election bid because he was too honest (or too arrogant) to accept the support of dead and/or fictitious people.

  • john mcginnis

    Frank is too young (born in ’65, he was 12 when Carter took office) to remember the gas lines, the 21% interest rates, the economic desolation and the yellow sweater malaise speech. Yet to those of us that have, we picked up on the comparison of Obama – Carter before Obama took the oath of office. If you had lived it, it was that plain to see that Obama was just rehash of the same tired Democratic polices.

    Obama was not “the one we have been waiting for” but “the same ole same ole we already had.”

  • MarkJ

    “Some of the parallels Frank claims he sees will make him seem somewhat unhinged to those not on the far Left….”

    There is no “somewhat” when it comes to Thomas Frank.

    Thomas Frank’s world outlook in 9 words:

    “Wreckers! Hoarders! Saboteurs! Right Deviationists! Agents of British Intelligence!”

  • Curious Mayhem

    Carter came in the wake of the Vietnam war and Watergate, with a message of personal piety and rectitude, as well as a projection of technical competence. Four years later, Americans were sick of it and rightly saw through the image of righteousness to a core of self-importance and incipient pseudo-messianic delusions, as well as basic incompetence. Fortunately, Carter was out of office before these tendencies became full blown.

    One of the differences with Carter is that Obama is openly allied with an ultraliberal plutocracy, something that was just twinkling in Warren Buffett’s eye in 1980. This plutocracy funded his 2008 campaign and wanted (and wants) him as a figurehead. The media has also learned what it didn’t know in 1980, which is to not openly talk about how bad their president is or promote an alternative to the left. (The media made that mistake in 1980 by promoting Ted Kennedy, until it became clear that he, too, was a hollow man.) Of course, the media never really liked Carter, unlike Obama. Selective news coverage, news blackouts of important issues, and a generally mindless cheerleading atmosphere are what the media offers now — as Mead puts it, they’ll reluctantly report at least some of the dots — but not all, and they’ll never connect those dots together or to the fake messiah, at least not in public.

    The notion that Obama needs to move left is more delusion and self-deception, both objectively and as a misunderstanding of why Obama got nominated and elected. He’s a phony national savior with “one-percent” financial backers. He’s easily one of the worst presidents of the last century, up there with Wilson (the worst), as well as Nixon and Carter.

  • Fat_Man

    Carter was a far better President than Obama. He mucked up Iran and caused a burst of inflation, but in the end he opposed the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and gave way to Paul Volker so he could clean up the economic mess. Domestically, his time saw the deregulation of transportation industries, including, airlines, railroads, and trucks.

  • Brett Champion

    Austerity? If that was an austere Obama in his first term, I’d hate to see what he does when he’s being profligate.

  • John Tyler

    What’s wrong with liberals??
    Nothing; nothing that is out if the ordinary for elitist, leftist, totalitarian , despotic , arrogant, intolerant little Hitlers and Stalins.

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