Both, beyond argument, are exceptionally intelligent men, with a rare ability to get to the heart of a problem. But both have seen their rationality – their ability to see the world not as they would like it to be, but as it is – attacked as weakness. Somewhat illogically, however, Obama, just as Carter was 30 years ago, has also been accused of surrounding himself with a palace guard of intimates who have cut him off from the real world. Last but not least, both are Nobel Peace Prize winners.
The writer then goes on to give a list of the achievements each managed, complimenting them from the more-or-less-standard vaguely leftoid European viewpoint. Cornwell closes with a flourish:
It’s hard not to sense a watershed at these mid-term elections. Many experts argue the US is already close to ungovernable. If the polls are correct, the country will be even less governable after these elections. Republicans are riding the Tea Party tiger to the right, while a thinning of Democratic ranks would push their opponents further to the left. The two sides would be bound only by an uneasy sense of national decline. Of course, Obama would not be the first modern President identified with national decline. That distinction belongs to a certain Jimmy Carter.
Nice to see him make his own point, indirectly. I lived through that era, and to my later shame I actually voted for Mr. Peanut. Hey, it seemed right at the time.
In the latter part of the Carter Presidency, massed-strings wails that “the country is ungovernable” and “the Presidency is an impossible job” went up from all the pundits. Various remedies were proposed — that the Vice President be given real responsibility; a splitup of the Presidential duties, with a Premier for foreign policy and the President kept for domestic; a panel (for which read, “committee”) instead of a single individual to head the country.
Then as now, such suggestions are wrongheaded. In the first place, the United States is not supposed to be “governed” in the sense meant. The original concept was that the people would govern themselves, with Government there to provide minimal coordination, and enough of that spirit yet remains that Americans are at best uncomfortable with top-down, “do this don’t to that can’t you read the sign!” Government. That shows up both as direct resistance (tea parties, e.g.) and in passive-aggressive actions like shifting investments to protect assets, staying on “funemployment” instead of trying to get work, and seeking bureaucratic do-nothing jobs with Government.
Even more, though, it means electing somebody else. Ronald Reagan’s real achievement was demonstrating that the Presidency could be done if it was occupied by somebody who was competent, could efficiently delegate to other competent people, and didn’t expect either to rule by decree or that his words were Gospel that would inspire everyone to immediate compliance. Obama’s successor is likely to make the same point.