James Fallows, a former Carter speechwriter, wrote a May 1979 piece in The Atlantic in which he reflected on the first years of the Carter presidency. He noted that Carter promised during his first "fireside chat" that he would present the nation with a comprehensive plan to deal with energy independence "within 90 days." Fallows goes on to note that Carter later came to understand that strict deadlines could be destructive "in that they might force him to go ahead with half-baked ideas."
Well, if ever there was a collection of half-baked ideas, it is the combination of George W. Bush's rushed bailout plan, which we now realize had no structure or oversight, followed up with Barack Obama's "infrastructure" effort to get people working with "shovels in the ground." That's now turned into the world's biggest collection of rubbish for not creating jobs.
Carter had to deal with a tough and Washington-savvy house speaker, Tip O'Neill. O'Neill and Carter started off on the wrong foot when Carter's staff failed to give O'Neill the proper number of inaugural tickets he sought. Things went downhill from there. And on the Senate side, Ted Kennedy was licking his chops to challenge Carter, thus forcing Carter to more liberal positions than he was expected to take.
Now Barack Obama has Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who, along with fellow Democrats, loaded Obama's bill with everything but the kitchen sink; and he has Harry Reid, who early on made it clear it was his Senate, not Obama's.
Now that the stimulus bill is in real trouble, Obama is trying desperately to pull back from the breadth of the bill.
But it was President Obama's own words to NBC's Brian Williams this week that tells the true story. He told Williams that it was necessary to use the current crisis to force the nation to deal with long-term issues such as healthcare ... and energy.
But wait: I thought Jimmy Carter had that one solved within 90 days after his first fireside chat. And look where he ended up four years later.
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