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Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Presidential Losers #45: Jimmy Carter and John Anderson

Usually a president will be strong in foreign policy and weak on economic policy, or else weak in fiscal policy and strong in international affairs.  Jimmy Carter was the rare president who proved equally effective in both.  

In a tiny insignificant country called Iran, students had taken Americans hostage.  Carter's rescue attempt, "Eagle Claw," accomplished little more than the deaths of eight servicemen.  

At home, energy prices were spiraling, making filling up the car and heating the house into major expenses, but with the interest rate topping out around 18%, Americans could console themselves that they probably couldn't afford a home or car anyway.  

Carter's response was a televised "fireside chat" in which he addressed the American people in a sweater.  The implied message seemed to be: if you want to stay warm, better get a sweater and build a fire.  Somehow this failed to reassure the voters.  Carter also put in solar panels, which President Reagan subsequently removed.1

The other candidate was a moderate Republican, John Anderson.  Like Carter, Anderson was a man of principle, willing to champion unpopular causes.  As with Carter this spelled inevitable defeat.  Anderson was not afraid of bipartisanship, going so far as to tell an audience he supported Carter's grain embargo to the Soviet Union.  Unfortunately, he was speaking in Iowa, where the only thing folks hated worse than the Ruskies was the chance not to sell them grain.  Anderson got a measly 6.6% of the popular vote.  

Jimmy fared better, but not enough better, and Reagan won the biggest landslide by a non-incumbent candidate.


Result

Ronald Reagan: 489
Jimmy Carter: 49
John Anderson: 0

1. When Nixon was in the White House, he kept the air conditioner going so he could have a fire in the fireplace.  Now that was presidential!

1 comment:

  1. To be fair to Carter in fiscal policy, he did EXACTLY the same thing that Clinton did later on. He raised taxes.
    The big difference was that Carter had an oil crisis he had to deal with. And it was a REAL crisis, too. Unlike later "crises", which merely resulted in the price of gas going way up...Carter's crisis had gas stations having to close up because they couldn't get gas at ANY price, because the OPEC countries were conducting an embargo. And "energy" is the one thing no modern economy can do without...especially one that depends on it as much as the U.S. economy does.
    When Clinton raised taxes, he just happened to luck into a technology bubble, when venture capitalists of all stripes (individuals as well as large international conglomerates) were all shoveling hundreds of billions of dollars into the economy so they wouldn't miss out on the "next big thing." Some venture capitalists in Silicon Valley would take a prospective entrepreneur to lunch, get him (or her) to draw up a simplified business plan on a napkin, and commit two or three hundred million dollars in start-up capital, promising more as the business grew. And new businesses were hiring left and right, paying huge bonuses and enormous starting salaries because the competition for tech workers was so fierce.
    The difference between Carter and Clinton...economically, at least...was sheer luck. Carter's was terrible, Clinton's was probably the best a president ever had. A president has to take blame for a lot of bad things that he's not responsible for, so I guess it's only fair that he gets take credit for good things that he's not responsible for, either.

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