Thirty-one years and eleven months to the day after another speech, Barack Obama made his first televised address to the American people since he assumed office. The circumstances precipitating this pivotal event in the Obama Administration are dire. Like it or not, the United States stands at the edge of the cliff and by arriving at this precipice, we have taken the remainder of the globe with us. So, I share with you words from a man to whom this night belongs:
Our people are losing that faith, not only in government itself but in the ability as citizens to serve as the ultimate rulers and shapers of our democracy. As a people we know our past and we are proud of it. Our progress has been part of the living history of America, even the world. We always believed that we were part of a great movement of humanity itself called democracy, involved in the search for freedom, and that belief has always strengthened us in our purpose. But just as we are losing our confidence in the future, we are also beginning to close the door on our past.
In a nation that was proud of hard work, strong families, close-knit communities, and our faith in God, too many of us now tend to worship self-indulgence and consumption. Human identity is no longer defined by what one does, but by what one owns. But we've discovered that owning things and consuming things does not satisfy our longing for meaning. We've learned that piling up material goods cannot fill the emptiness of lives which have no confidence or purpose.
The symptoms of this crisis of the American spirit are all around us. For the first time in the history of our country a majority of our people believe that the next 5 years will be worse than the past 5 years. Two-thirds of our people do not even vote. The productivity of American workers is actually dropping, and the willingness of Americans to save for the future has fallen below that of all other people in the Western world.
As you know, there is a growing disrespect for government and for churches and for schools, the news media, and other institutions. This is not a message of happiness or reassurance, but it is the truth and it is a warning.
That pretty much sums it up, doesn’t it? Is that not the way we feel today? The words you’ve just read were spoken by President Jimmy Carter on July 15, 1979. And here we are. We’re standing at the precipice. And last night, Barack Obama addressed the Nation.
Let’s revisit the “Malaise Speech:
Looking for a way out of this crisis, our people have turned to the Federal Government and found it isolated from the mainstream of our Nation's life. Washington, D.C., has become an island. The gap between our citizens and our Government has never been so wide. The people are looking for honest answers, not easy answers; clear leadership, not false claims and evasiveness and politics as usual.
What you see too often in Washington and elsewhere around the country is a system of government that seems incapable of action. You see a Congress twisted and pulled in every direction by hundreds of well financed and powerful special interests. You see every extreme position defended to the last vote, almost to the last breath by one unyielding group or another. You often see a balanced and a fair approach that demands sacrifice, a little sacrifice from everyone, abandoned like an orphan without support and without friends.
Often you see paralysis and stagnation and drift. You don't like, and neither do I. What can we do?
First of all, we must face the truth, and then we can change our course. We simply must have faith in each other, faith in our ability to govern ourselves, and faith in the future of this Nation. Restoring that faith and that confidence to America is now the most important task we face. It is a true challenge of this generation of Americans.
Nothing much has changed, has it? James Earl Carter, with the guts and vision of a Prophet, laid out a road map to lead this country out of the 1979 quagmire. How did we respond? We elected a cowboy who forever changed the course of America by virtue of the team he selected to lead this Nation. From Ronald Reagan we continued with George H.W. Bush. And in that first Bush Administration the plan was hatched. After the inconvenience of 8 Clinton years, the Bush machine came back into power. And we all know how that turned out. Today, Republicans will have you believe that Barack Obama is the problem. In the meantime, the President and Democrats will have you believe that the GOP brought us to the cliff by their mismanagement and wanton spending of defense dollars. The truth? We did this to ourselves by not holding our government accountable.
Last night, Barack Obama spoke to the Nation. He has wasted his time and ours. All he delivered was another level of bureaucracy and gave us empty words. Until today I had hope for this President. I've consciously made excuses for a series of missed opportunities. Last night, he failed yet again. Last night he played the role of Pope, more than Leader. President Obama can't pin this one on George W. Bush. Last night, the President laid the foundation for an interesting 2012 election process. He need not worry about Jeb Bush running — he'll have plenty of opposition within his own party.
Until Americans pick up the gauntlet and hold their respective members of Congress to the bonfire, nothing will change. It doesn’t matter if it’s a Republican or Democrat. They all brought us down because we let them do it. In my mind, last night belonged to James Earl Carter. He should get in front of a camera tonight, look square in the lens, and utter those dreaded words – “I told you so, beyothches!”