Tuesday, November 04, 2008

A Comparison of Two “Messianic” American Presidents

As Americans head to the polls today in record numbers in order to effectuate the coronation of the new “messiah” Barak Obama, I am reminded of a time as a youth when I was also caught up in the whirlwind bandwagon effect of a presidential political campaign.

The last time there was a candidate for president of the United States with similar messianic like qualities that Barak Obama seems to exude to the masses, I was a young twenty-one year old college junior at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. Seemingly out of thin air, a little known man with the plan to set America back on course appeared on the scene and had massive appeal to the populace that had not been experienced in years. With 2% name recognition even his mother replied “president of what” when he told her of his plan.

The candidate appealed to liberals and conservatives, people of all races, creeds and colors. Whatever someone wanted to see in a president, he appeared to have it. The bandwagon got rolling early in the year and grew through the primaries. I had never voted for president before and I knew that pulling the lever for this world changer was something that I would never be as excited about again in my voting lifetime.

The opposition candidate was a true old school party hack that had carried the torch for his party for years. He was a loyal public servant, was fairly well versed on the issues and had experience that a national leader would need. Unfortunately, to a young impressionable college student looking for something new, improved, different and not the same old business as usual inside the beltway D.C. approach, the old guy just wasn’t cool.

My man was not the most qualified candidate even in his party. He had minimal experience in foreign policy and in other areas of how to get things done in the Federal government. None of that mattered because we were going to elect a new breed of politician that would change the way things were done in Washington. “Throw them all out” was the mantra – the good, the bad and even the ugly.

The man’s vice presidential running mate was more of an old school party hack that was likable enough but not one that could lead the country should something happen to the president. That really didn’t matter to me because my vessel of change was a young guy and ready to lead for the entire eight years after his coronation as president.

At that time, the country that my man was set to lead had been through a difficult time. There had been a very unpopular military conflict that split the country like no war ever had. The office of President had also been tarnished by a leader who had resigned under threat of impeachment. The national mood was in need of a change and my man was ready to take us back to the nation of a chicken in every pot and unlimited opportunity for all.

The more caught up in the ground swell and enthusiastic I got cheering for my man, the more others tried to make me come to my senses. My parents tried to get me to take a more objective look at who was best able to right the country’s ship. A neighbor from Chicago named Wayne tried reasoning with me on a daily basis that I was being caught up in a gush of enthusiasm and being hoodwinked by the media circus surrounding the rising popularity of my man. I thought he was a kook, and after all he was over 30, so what did he know.

None of this ever mattered. I was ready for change for change sake and on November 2, 1976 I went into the presidential voting booth for the first time in my life and pulled the lever for the man for our country’s future, James Earl “Jimmy” Carter. That night I went to a big celebration sponsored by the local Democrat party and partied throughout the night, toasting each state as the results came in. The next morning, in spite of all my enthusiasm, loyalty to the cause, and feelings of exuberance, all I really had to show for my efforts was a bad hangover.

Unfortunately, my hangover was probably the least damaging thing that happened to the United States as a result of the election of an inexperienced, unqualified, “messianic” president that was swept into office on nothing other than promises of change and a new way of doing things.

The next four years were some of the more dismal years in our country’s two hundred year history. The pride of the tall ships in the harbor during our national Bi-centennial celebration quickly faded.

As could have been expected there was an immediate expansion of the Federal government in spite of such niceties of asking cabinet members to drive their own cars. The federal government deficit rose to the highest levels in the country’s history.

The country was driven to its economic knees early on in the Carter administration by the skyrocketing price of oil driven by the OPEC nations flexing their muscle for the first time sensing a weak president unable to deal with exerting force on the world market. My man Jimmy’s answer was to turn down the heaters and wear cardigan sweaters giving rise to the moniker of Jimmy “Cardigan”.

The economy tumbled into what Jimmy described as a “malaise”. The term “stagflation” was created to describe a situation never experienced before. It was an all encompassing term that was to take in consideration of double digit inflation, high interest rates, a dead housing market, skyrocketing unemployment, and a complete halt to the nation’s productivity growth.

Taxes were increased and the defense budget was cut leaving us vulnerable to the world during a cold war era that showed no sign of disappearing. The SALT II treaty signed by Mr. “Change” in 1979 did a good job of making us even more vulnerable to the worldwide Communist forces.

The Panama Canal, a longtime strategic asset of the United States was given by treaty to the foreign country of Panama. This was done in the spirit of goodwill and not wanting to seem like a bad guy to the world by allegedly “occupying” a foreign country. The US built it and many American lives were sacrificed in the process. This was one of the most unpopular actions with the public ever undertaken by a sitting US president.

I could go on ad nauseum with the failures and bad policy of my former “hero” but the crowning failure that cast the national demeanor lower than ever before was Mr. Peanut’s dealing with the revolutionary forces in our then best friend country in the Middle East, Iran.

After the fall of our country’s friend, the Shah, on November 4, 1979, the revolutionary forces overtook the American Embassy and took 52 American diplomats as hostages. This was no bank robbery gone bad situation. This was a national embarrassment that lasted for 444 days. Our citizens were blindfolded, mocked and paraded for the cameras on a regular basis and we as a nation appeared impotent to respond. They were tortured, abused, and at one point were the victims of a “mock execution”. Jimmy did noting but talk of economic sanctions and looked to the failed body of the United Nations for answers.

In April 1980, while fighting off an unheard of Democrat Party primary challenge to a sitting president by the infamous Ted Kennedy, the agent of change finally did something other than “negotiate”. “Operation Eagle Claw” was devised to attempt a rescue of the hostages. All that resulted was a massive failure and further national embarrassment that cost the lives of eight soldiers and loss of two aircraft and only worked to embolden the spirits of the revolutionary forces.

The country’s national swagger appeared lost forever. We were at the mercy of a minor third world country and could do nothing to effect “change” at all. Carter was soundly defeated by the military hawk, Ronald Reagan, in the November elections. It was no coincidence that on the day Reagan took office the hostages were released ending the national nightmare that a weak kneed, unqualified, poor choice of the electorate had allowed the country to endure for 444 long bitter days.

As we approach the witching hour tonight when the celebrations begin for the “hope” and “change” crowd, I am committed to pray for our country and for our future president, Barak Hussein Obama. The world is a much more dangerous place than it was in the late seventies when we last placed the country’s security and leadership in a man as unqualified as what we are electing today. While many, including myself, will never agree with Obama’s policies, we are called by the Creator of the universe to pray for those who rule our nation. While that is a bitter bill to swallow, we have no choice. Our country will not stand if we don’t repent as a nation and submit to God’s will and learning to be obedient and pray will be a good place to start.

Buddy Oakes for Musings About Life in a Fallen World

1 comment:

Super Maw Maw said...

I too was caught up in that euphoria as a new Christian. Well, he DID say he was born again, right? That is all a new believer needed to hear. I knew NOTHING about his policies, beliefs or anything and didn't even care. Never again did that happen.
He was so weak, our enemy Iran wouldn't even negotiate with him...then Reagan stepped in.