Friday, August 25, 2006

It's Your Fault America

Twenty-seven years ago Jimmy Carter didn’t say that there was a malaise afflicting America. He did deliver a speech on July 15, 1979 in which he said there was a “crisis of the American spirit.” That speech has ever since been known as “The Malaise Speech,” even though the word malaise was never used.

I find a certain catharsis in this: It’s somehow comforting to remember that at least in many ways the news media sucked back then too (though not nearly as badly as today).

Nevertheless, the speech proved to be a political disaster when critics succeeded in spinning it as an attempt by Carter to blame the American people for his own failures.

(Interestingly, when you read the speech from today’s perspective you realize his discussion of the energy crisis was nothing short of brilliant. If America had listened to Jimmy Carter back then, instead of following Ronald Reagan’s more seductive advice to let the energy good times roll, this would be a much more secure nation today, not to mention a world much less at risk from global warming.)

Yet, I couldn’t help but hear the faint voice of Carter’s supposed malaise in George W. Bush’s comments today about Iraq:

“War is not a time of joy,” he said. “These are challenging times, and they’re difficult times, and they’re straining the psyche of our country. I understand that. You know, nobody likes to see innocent people die. Nobody wants to turn on their TV on a daily basis and see havoc wrought by terrorists.”

Ah, so the problem isn’t that Bush lied in order to get us into this God awful war, or the fact he’s been utterly incompetent in the way he’s prosecuted it. No, the problem is with the American people themselves. It’s our psyches that are all screwed-up, not his policies. It’s our fault, not his.

Yeah, that’s the ticket. Take that one to the bank, GOP. It’s a winner if I’ve ever heard one — really.


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