Matt Towery

Remember the hit 1970s TV sitcom "Welcome Back, Kotter"? I can almost see Vinnie Barbarino and the "Sweat Hogs," plus their teacher, "Mr. Kotter." I see them joining with the real-life president of the day, with his cardigan sweater. They're all morphing in my mind into today's "Dancing With The Stars," "American Idol" and another president, whose style of dress is more that of a John Kennedy or Ronald Reagan.

So what will it be? Will Barack Obama become the Kennedy or Reagan of our generation, or should we start singing the tune to the show that launched John Travolta into superstardom?" That '70s refrain "Welcome back, welcome back, welcome back."

The similarities between Obama and Jimmy Carter were startlingly similar, even prior to Obama taking office. Both men had relatively brief careers as elected officials before entering the White House.

Carter had served in the Georgia state Senate just four years before later becoming governor of what at that time was a mid-sized Southern state. He was term-limited to four years in office, but managed to emerge as the bracing "fresh face" that captured the Iowa caucus and ultimately the Democratic presidential nomination in 1976. He was elected to the presidency during a time that had seen the nation torn apart by Watergate, inflation, an on-going energy crisis, a deep recession and the aftermath of a costly war. Sound familiar?

"Welcome back, welcome back, welcome back."

There's no need to recount Obama's prior experience in government or the circumstances and mood of the country when, this past January, he took office. What really matters are the actions and words we've witnessed in his nearly three months since taking the oath.

If you will recall, President Obama early on was lamenting the dire circumstances our nation faced economically, to the point that his advisors pointedly suggested that he was putting the nation into a deeper funk.

It took Carter until two years into his presidency to tell Americans that the nation suffered from "a crisis of confidence," in a speech that later became dubbed the "American Malaise" address. In a matter of days he, too, started backtracking from his gloomy pronouncement.

To prove that he was "in touch with the people," Carter held the first -- and one of the last -- "national radio call-in broadcasts" in March of his first year in office. While the technology has changed, the gimmick hasn't. Obama held his "national online townhall meeting," also in March of his first year.


Matt Towery

Matt Towery is a former National Republican legislator of the year and author of Powerchicks: How Women Will Dominate America.
 
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