Way back in the old days after the Republican debacle of Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, the Country wanted a CHANGE. Coming forward was a candidate from Georgia, a Governor. Jimmy Carter appeared on the scene as a Democratic Party unknown running for President. He talked of changing Washington business as usual, changing foreign policy business as usual, and being an outsider.
The Country narrowly gave him a victory over more experienced people because his message was seen as a breadth of fresh air. In our haste to put Watergate, the beginnings of an inflation problem, and a gas shortage behind us we never stopped to look at the credentials of this candidate with a fresh outsider message. We just knew that Jimmy Carter represented a fresh start and that he was not of the beltway. Sounds like another candidate running today, doesn’t it?
Jimmy Carter was elected with 50.1% of the vote, but a clear majority of Electoral votes. His handling of the economy resulted in a 40% increase in prices over three years, the prime rate moving from 6.75% to 21.5%, and mortgage rates of 17.5%. Oil prices skyrocketed and Carter instituted an energy policy. This ill conceived energy policy was based on conservation and high prices to help reduce U.S. consumption. It was a policy that simply punished this nation for using oil. The Carter administration economy proved to be the catalyst that brought a “misery index” to the voters in the next Presidential election.
Jimmy Carter’s foreign policy, consisting of “we can talk with our enemies” and “work things out” was perceived as weak in many areas of the world. He did accomplish the Camp David Peace Accord. We lost respect among other Middle East nations, especially Iran. This unprepared, inexperienced administration run by a novice in international affairs may have fostered the Iranian Hostage Crisis. Iranian students seized our Embassy and took our State Department staff hostage. Fifty two State Department diplomats assigned to the Embassy were taken captive by Iranian students in support of the Iran Revolution. This was a violation of a long standing principle of international law, which granted diplomatic immunity to our representatives in Iran. These hostages were held for 444 days and were only released after it was clear that Ronald Reagan would be elected President and would take large scale overt military action against Iran.
Mahmūd Ahmadinejād, the current President of Iran, was a ring leader of this stain on our foreign affairs history. Yes that right, Mahmūd Ahmadinejād, was the Mayor of Tehran and was a ring leader of this reckless disregard of international diplomacy. He denies it was him, but many of the hostages and the former Iranian President Abholhassan Bani-Sadr have asserted that Ahmadinejād was a ring leader.
The lesson here is that our rush to make CHANGE for the sake of change caused this Country to suffer the naivety of a “Washington Outsider” President with no foreign policy experience. He did have Gubernatorial Executive experience – one term, and one term as a State Senator. Change we did receive, but it was an unpleasant change.
The populace sometimes in its ill informed zeal to start fresh and fix the ills of Washington fell for the smooth talking great message Washington Outsider called Jimmy Carter. This agent of change left this nation to be a veritable basket case on the domestic and international scenes.
Due to the reappearance of a misery index economy, we are now hurtling down this same path. The current candidate of CHANGE, Barack Obama, wants to sit down, right out of the chute, with Mahmūd Ahmadinejād. Senator Obama wants to raise taxes and spend heavily against the backdrop of a fragile economy. He wants to stop free trade rather than prepare us for free trade. This is a formula for an exponential increase in misery index.
While experience is not a formula for success, it is much better than uninformed good intentions. We have too much to lose to just blindly make change. We need to address change with a blend of judgment and experience – even a poor history of experience is a learning tool. The very limited experience of a local politician with just two years in the U.S. Senate, less experience then Jimmy Carter held, should be weighed very carefully.