Obama and Carter

A look at former (and still kickin’) President Carter, and our current President, yields some interesting parallels.  First of all, both men come from relatively unknown backgrounds to capture the national election.  In order to do this, each campaigns largely on personal appeal.  Carter was apparently “fuzzy” on the issues, but used his big smile and morality to secure the vote of many Americans.  Although Obama was probably a bit less imprecise in articulating his political views, few would deny that he held (and arguably continues to hold) celebrity status.  This inevitably drew many potential supporters to his side who voted for the President based on personal appeal.

            We also can glimpse a bit of a populist mentality in each President.  Carter tried to portray the image of a common man, walking in the inauguration parade and attempting to resurrect the “fireside chat.”  In Obama we also witness a populist approach, although his mentality tends to manifest itself differently.  I would argue Obama attempts to emanate a sense of intellectual superiority, which is dissimilar to the “common man” approach Carter takes.  But Obama, during his short tenure in office, has repeatedly appealed to the American people for support through town hall meetings, speeches, and late night TV interviews, providing the sense that he is a president of the people, a populist.

            But at this point, that is where the similarities stop, and the rest remains to be seen.  It is completely possible Obama may follow in Carter’s footsteps if he fails to enact his central legislative policies, and if little progress occurs in Afghanistan and in U.S. relations with a host of other nations.  Conversely though, I suspect Obama innately possesses more political tactfulness than his high-minded predecessor, and will ultimately avoid the disgrace and unpopularity Carter experienced.  The current President demonstrates a willingness to actively engage the legislature and recognize political realities, an ability Carter obviously did not possess.  But the President must be careful; I think he is realizing the extent of his political and social capital, and reacting in a manner like Carter (i.e. “Crisis of Confidence” speech) would further reduce his popularity.  In the end though, I am relatively certain our current President will use his intelligent mind to avoid the same pitfalls Carter fell into.


~ by aakort on November 18, 2009.

3 Responses to “Obama and Carter”

  1. I know that one of the main critiques of Carter’s administration was that he was soft in situations of international crisis–ineffective in diffusing the Iran Hostage Crisis and labeled as “cowardly.”

    Similarly, it appears that Obama is having similar accusations leveled on him. As of yet, Obama’s mettle has yet to be tested, but what do you think?

    You mentioned in a comment on my blog that Obama isn’t the “lightweight” (paraphrasing) I made him out to be. As things progress in Iran and across the planet, do you still agree with that statement? Right now the concept of skipping across the world and actually talking to foreign enemies is a novel one–and Obama has been praised for it. However, if nothing comes of these talks, if Iran continues to arm, if China continues to devalue its currency and ignore civil rights, and if Russia continues to be mean, do you think that the American public will get tired of it? Apparently we all have the attention span of a ground squirrel, so I wouldn’t be surprised if “talking” ceases to be endearing.

  2. Ahah! I feel a blog post coming on. Ignore my last comment.

  3. Lets not forget how much discussion the entire media had over the dog that President Obama would choose, or the stores that the first lady shops at…. If only Carter hadn’t worn his cardigan we would not be in this situation…

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