I’d have been hard-pressed to explain why Jimmy Carter’s win over Gerald Ford caused a few tears to flow in 1976. I was not politically involved at that time. In fact, I had two children under the age of two. I really didn’t have time for politics. I don’t remember paying much attention to the campaign at all. Yet, I was incredibly disappointed that Ford lost.
On my old, now defunct blog created in the fury of Dan Rather’s last hurrah, then continued because I thought defeating Kerry was a good thing, I wrote:
Shocking, I know.
I once said that even though Jimmy Carter was a horrible president, that as a person I’d be happy to invite him into my home because he was a decent man. This was in contrast to Clinton, who I thought was a much better president, but not as decent. Forget it, Jimmy. I rescind the dinner invitation.
After reading that post, my brother (who I identify there as merely a reader) lent me
Jimmy Carter has proved he’s smart and tough; I also suspect he’s about half mean. This conviction is based on more than the observation that his mouth often smiles when his eyes do not. He’s a “born-againer,” an evangelical. You can shake every goober plant and magnolia bush between here and Stone Mountain without finding a group more wedded to its absolutes or less tolerant of dissent. Jimmy may prattle on about love and Jesus, and believe it, but at the bottom that soft spiritual goop is a bedrock conviction that the vengeful Old Testament God, extracting eyes for eyes and teeth for teeth, is what makes the mule plow.
Evangelical proponents of anything make me suspicious, whether it’s politically right or left, spiritualism or materialism, PC or Mac, Coke or Dr. Pepper.
Ain’t no free lunch, you see. You gotta pay the piper for all dances. Jimmy Carter’s creed teaches that what you sophisticated Damyankees often call fun is the sort of sinful mischief certain to be taxed — even to the extent of eternal roastings. Maybe that’s why you’ll never discover more than a nickel’s worth of humor in Jimmy. Fun is for the frivolous, and Jimmy sees the world as a hard and serious place.
A humorless world view is a bleak one. Only a humorless man could have engaged in “the most remarkable exercise in presidential navel-gazing in American history.” [Steven Hayward, Reagan biographer]
That navel-gazing produced the “Crisis of Confidence” speech, called by some the most important speech of the Carter presidency. It was at least equally responsible for his failure to get re-elected as the Iranian hostage crisis. It was a sermon. And liberals today worry about George W. Bush’s religious roots?
…home boys who’ve learned the difference between Pouilly-Fuisse and RC Cola, or who’ve had their tastes for Moon Pies replaced by craving for caviar, may find Carter more a throwback to laissez-faire, simplistic Rotary Club solution or even Nixonian repressions than will comfort them. Jimmy’s talked a fair liberal game, sure. But Mo Udall wasn’t just whistling Dixie when he cracked, “If Carter’s elected he’ll never make Mount Rushmore because there’s not enough room for two more faces.” Jimmy is as hard to get a handle on as a greased pig, which is about as elusive as a lightning bug.
Awright. I’m admitting my reservations. My fear is that I’ve seen hundreds like the man, ruling boondock courthouses and marking up prices in their shops on the square, and, yes, I gotta squirm a little bit when a humorless man grins like he’s in a grinning contest. But there’s this history, all this goddam haunting history, of the South having been shut out for so long that even us lontime expatriates defensively feel that should Jimmy Cah-tah prove to be a sumbitch, then at least he’s our sumbitch.
And, dammit, that’s what Jimmy has forgotten about: loyalty to your own sumbitches. He’s already forgotten his own words, “Whenever you have a chance, say something good about our country.”Instead, since at least 2000, he seems to be going out of his way to say not–so–nice things.
Dangit, I have an even worse time trying to figure out where Obama’s coming from. Chicago? Sure, that’s easy and probably applicable. Perhaps someday a political scientist will compare today’s Chicago with yesterday’s Ole South.
Yet, it is as difficult to get a handle on Obama as it was Carter. They are twins in their combination of upper/downer talk. They are, IMHO, twins as far as a mean-streak. Though Carter didn’t (to my recollection) try to remake the entire country and its economic system in the first month of his presidency, both Carter and Obama have different historical and future visions of this country than do most of its inhabitants.
The stimulus bill passed this evening was never read by a single Senator or Representative or by the President and his staff. No one person knows what the hell is contained in the full thing. I expect Obama to sign it Monday, not knowing having a clue what he is doing.
This is the reason for my tears tonight.