Both presidents used energy reform as a central issue around which they built their earliest initiatives as president. Carter gave his first address on the nation's energy crisis and the need to move to energy alternatives in February of his first year. Before that first year was done, Carter was at war with the big energy companies, declaring that the oil companies were guilty of "the biggest rip-off in history."
Now, with banks, insurance companies and automakers collapsing before the nation's very eyes, President Obama nevertheless chose to make energy, and a new energy policy, the centerpiece of not only his stimulus package to rescue the nation economically but as part of his "budget." He put forth a concept to mandate that energy companies pay for permits for carbon emissions. Again, this is a policy designed to force the nation toward energy alternatives, even if they can't adequately replace traditional sources, and even if they drive up the cost to individuals and their employers.
"Welcome back, welcome back, welcome back."
Perhaps the eeriest resemblance between the Carter presidency and the early days of the Obama administration is foreign policy. In an effort to mollify the Soviet Union, Carter, giving the commencement address at Notre Dame in May of his first year in office, declared that America suffered from "an inordinate fear of communism." Carter pushed for arms control agreements with the Soviets, did away with the B-1 Bomber, and put a halt to production of the neutron bomb. In "appreciation" for his efforts, the Soviets rolled into Afghanistan and took over that country on Christmas Day, 1979.
During his recent trip abroad, President Obama made it clear that America "is not at war with Islam." Let's hope the feeling is mutual. Just as Carter cut out the B-1 and other staples of our defense system of his era, President Obama's administration has announced plans to drop future production of the F-22 fighter. He has also faced bipartisan criticism for proposing cuts in missile defense spending. And all this in the same month North Korea lobbed a test rocket that could prove an ability to deliver nuclear warheads to our allies or, one day, to our own nation. (Alaska is already afraid.)
Obama doesn't have the cardigan sweater, and much of his rhetoric and some of his actions may prove to be far more like Kennedy or Reagan. But I'm starting to get the feeling that by next winter, I'll need my cardigan sweater to watch reruns of "Welcome Back, Kotter."