Barack Obama's 'malaise' - and America's

In July 1979, President Jimmy Carter made a nationally televised address still known as Carter's "malaise" speech.

Intended to address energy policy, the speech, as PBS reported, evolved through "the most remarkable exercise in presidential navel-gazing in American history" into a dissertation on what Carter described as a "crisis of confidence."

In it, Carter mentioned no policy errors, made no apologies, and acknowledged no personal management deficiencies.  Carter spoke of “confidence” – specifically, Americans' lack of it.  

After offering nothing positive about Americans, Carter concluded by imploring viewers to "say something good about our country."

Appearing hapless and ineffectual, in 1980, Carter was fired.

In a September 2011 Orlando, Florida statement, President Barack Obama had a Jimmy Carter moment, saying: "[T]his is a great … country that had gotten a little soft and, you know, we didn't have that same competitive edge that we needed over the last couple of decades.”

In that moment, Obama joined Carter in attempting to deflect attention from his own problems and inadequacies by placing the blame on the American people.  According to Obama, we're “soft.”

A month later, Obama told a San Francisco crowd, “We’ve lost our ambition, our imagination, and our willingness to do the things that built the Golden Gate Bridge.”  Two months on, Obama told an audience of American CEOs that “we’ve been a little bit lazy over the last couple of decades…”  

In a September 60 Minutes interview, Obama said, "The country is definitely better off than … when I came into office" but that Americans “don’t feel” it.

So, by failing to appreciate their good fortune, Americans have disappointed their president – again.

Much earlier, in his 2009 inaugural speech, Obama spoke of “America’s decline.”  Then he nominated an attorney general who called America "a nation of cowards."

Insiders gave early warning that the president suffers from personal malaise.  During the 2008 campaign, David Axelrod labeled the president “no-drama Obama,” and adviser Valerie Jarrett revealed that Obama has been “bored to death his whole life.”  

In a CBS News interview, former defense secretary Robert Gates related Obama’s “absence of passion … of a conviction of the importance of success.”

Another Carteresque moment occurred on August 28, when, after personally calling a press conference to relate one, Obama announced that he had no strategy for addressing the threat posed by ISIS/ISIL.

Two weeks later, on national TV, Obama said, “ISIL [the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant] is not Islamic” and that, with 475 non-combatant American troops and an air campaign, he will defeat a heavily armed ISIS/ISIL army numbering perhaps 50,000 in Iraq and Syria – although the real news is ISIS/ISIL’s success on the ground.

Usually reliable sycophants at MSNBC criticized Obama’s speech as “wildly off base.”  The friendly New York Times labeled Obama’s air campaign “a bad decision.”

Reaction to Obama’s ISIL speech recalled a famous Boston Globe headline covering a Jimmy Carter address: "Mush from the wimp."

Humiliatingly, even Carter criticized Obama’s ISIS/ISL strategy as too passive and ineffectual..

Like Carter, Obama hasn’t proven to be the strong, credible leader America needs during crises.  In fact, our current crises are largely Obama’s handiwork.

Obama’s approaches to the economy, health care, immigration, and foreign affairs have been feckless or worse.

A recent New York Times poll revealed a growing lack of faith in the president’s policies.  In a Wall Street Journal-NBC News poll, 54 percent of Americans said they felt that Obama cannot lead the country and get the job done.  And, according to a Washington Post/ABC News poll, a majority of Americans, including many Democrats, consider Obama's presidency a "failure."

His political tipping point may have occurred when, following perfunctory public comments about James Foley’s beheading, Obama turned away from the microphones and walked, laughing, onto a golf course – and squandered America’s goodwill.

After campaigning on changing the way Washington works, the man who wanted the job – twice – displays weakness by publicly venting frustration over his own inability to deal with the same challenges all presidents face.

During Carter’s and Obama’s tenures, the American people’s "crises of confidence" were never self-directed.  Productive Americans aren’t “soft,” “lazy,” or ambitionless – they simply lack confidence in counterfeit leaders who express contempt for the people they govern.

The writer may be reached by e-mail at jshenk2010@gmail.com.

In July 1979, President Jimmy Carter made a nationally televised address still known as Carter's "malaise" speech.

Intended to address energy policy, the speech, as PBS reported, evolved through "the most remarkable exercise in presidential navel-gazing in American history" into a dissertation on what Carter described as a "crisis of confidence."

In it, Carter mentioned no policy errors, made no apologies, and acknowledged no personal management deficiencies.  Carter spoke of “confidence” – specifically, Americans' lack of it.  

After offering nothing positive about Americans, Carter concluded by imploring viewers to "say something good about our country."

Appearing hapless and ineffectual, in 1980, Carter was fired.

In a September 2011 Orlando, Florida statement, President Barack Obama had a Jimmy Carter moment, saying: "[T]his is a great … country that had gotten a little soft and, you know, we didn't have that same competitive edge that we needed over the last couple of decades.”

In that moment, Obama joined Carter in attempting to deflect attention from his own problems and inadequacies by placing the blame on the American people.  According to Obama, we're “soft.”

A month later, Obama told a San Francisco crowd, “We’ve lost our ambition, our imagination, and our willingness to do the things that built the Golden Gate Bridge.”  Two months on, Obama told an audience of American CEOs that “we’ve been a little bit lazy over the last couple of decades…”  

In a September 60 Minutes interview, Obama said, "The country is definitely better off than … when I came into office" but that Americans “don’t feel” it.

So, by failing to appreciate their good fortune, Americans have disappointed their president – again.

Much earlier, in his 2009 inaugural speech, Obama spoke of “America’s decline.”  Then he nominated an attorney general who called America "a nation of cowards."

Insiders gave early warning that the president suffers from personal malaise.  During the 2008 campaign, David Axelrod labeled the president “no-drama Obama,” and adviser Valerie Jarrett revealed that Obama has been “bored to death his whole life.”  

In a CBS News interview, former defense secretary Robert Gates related Obama’s “absence of passion … of a conviction of the importance of success.”

Another Carteresque moment occurred on August 28, when, after personally calling a press conference to relate one, Obama announced that he had no strategy for addressing the threat posed by ISIS/ISIL.

Two weeks later, on national TV, Obama said, “ISIL [the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant] is not Islamic” and that, with 475 non-combatant American troops and an air campaign, he will defeat a heavily armed ISIS/ISIL army numbering perhaps 50,000 in Iraq and Syria – although the real news is ISIS/ISIL’s success on the ground.

Usually reliable sycophants at MSNBC criticized Obama’s speech as “wildly off base.”  The friendly New York Times labeled Obama’s air campaign “a bad decision.”

Reaction to Obama’s ISIL speech recalled a famous Boston Globe headline covering a Jimmy Carter address: "Mush from the wimp."

Humiliatingly, even Carter criticized Obama’s ISIS/ISL strategy as too passive and ineffectual..

Like Carter, Obama hasn’t proven to be the strong, credible leader America needs during crises.  In fact, our current crises are largely Obama’s handiwork.

Obama’s approaches to the economy, health care, immigration, and foreign affairs have been feckless or worse.

A recent New York Times poll revealed a growing lack of faith in the president’s policies.  In a Wall Street Journal-NBC News poll, 54 percent of Americans said they felt that Obama cannot lead the country and get the job done.  And, according to a Washington Post/ABC News poll, a majority of Americans, including many Democrats, consider Obama's presidency a "failure."

His political tipping point may have occurred when, following perfunctory public comments about James Foley’s beheading, Obama turned away from the microphones and walked, laughing, onto a golf course – and squandered America’s goodwill.

After campaigning on changing the way Washington works, the man who wanted the job – twice – displays weakness by publicly venting frustration over his own inability to deal with the same challenges all presidents face.

During Carter’s and Obama’s tenures, the American people’s "crises of confidence" were never self-directed.  Productive Americans aren’t “soft,” “lazy,” or ambitionless – they simply lack confidence in counterfeit leaders who express contempt for the people they govern.

The writer may be reached by e-mail at jshenk2010@gmail.com.