February 01, 2006


Malaise Days are Here Again!

When Jimmy Carter delivered his infamous "malaise days" speech back in 1979, many people thought that it (along with the Iranian hostage crisis) killed his chances of being reelected. Carter never actually used the word malaise but he did say this in his speech:
"I want to speak to you first tonight about a subject even more serious than energy or inflation. I want to talk to you right now about a fundamental threat to American democracy...

The threat is nearly invisible in ordinary ways. It is a crisis of confidence. It is a crisis that strikes at the very heart and soul and spirit of our national will. We can see this crisis in the growing doubt about the meaning of our own lives and in the loss of a unity of purpose for our nation.

The erosion of our confidence in the future is threatening to destroy the social and the political fabric of America."
Wow, bummer dude.

Fast forward 27 years (gosh I feel old) to George Walker Bush:
"Fellow citizens, we have been called to leadership in a period of consequence. We have entered a great ideological conflict we did nothing to invite...We see great changes in science and commerce that will influence all our lives. And sometimes it can seem that history is turning a wide arc, toward an unknown shore."
As Ron Fournier of the AP writes in his excellent analysis of last night's speech:
"Unknown and uneasy."
Not malsaisey enough for you? Here are some more excerpts from Fournier:
The state of the union is fretful. President Bush acknowledged the public's agitated state Tuesday night when he gave voice to growing concerns about the course of the nation he has led for five years.

His credibility no longer the asset it once was, the president begged Americans' indulgence for another chance to fix things

There is no shortage: the Iraq war, global terrorism, a nuclear Iran, a stingy global economy, skyrocketing health care costs, troubled U.S. schools, rising fuel costs, looming budget deficits and government corruption. All received presidential attention Tuesday night...

The problem for Bush is that few of these troubles are new. He's had four years to ease people's pain.

Nearly 46 million Americans have no health insurance, up nearly a million in the last year. Health care costs are increasing three or four times the rate of inflation.

One of Bush's first successes of his presidency was the 2002 No Child Left Behind, but parents still wonder about the quality of education in their schools. For the first time in generations, American children could face poorer prospects than their parents and grandparents did.

Calling for less dependency on foreign oil is a State of the Union evergreen. Bush has done so in every address.

The president who promised to be a uniter, not a divider, has presided over the hyper-polarization of Washington.

Osama bin Laden has not been caught.

Weapons of mass destruction were not found in Iraq.

Victory in that war seems elusive, with more than 2,240 American troops killed — and counting.

The solutions Bush offered were relatively small-bore and wrapped in familiar language: tax cuts, health savings accounts, alternative energy research and investments in education to help keep America competitive with emerging democracies; and a stay-the-course approach to fighting terrorism...

Bush spoke of the global economy and suggested that competitors like China and India are making gains on the United States. "This creates an uncertainty, which makes it easier to feed people's fears."

He said violent crime, abortions and teenage pregnancies are down in an era that has seen Americans take more responsibility — "a revolution of conscience" he called it. "Yet many Americans, especially parents, still have deep concerns about the direction of our culture, and the health of our basic institutions," he said.

The mood of the nation is unsettled. Nearly 7 of 10 American believes the country is headed in the wrong direction. Bush's job approval ratings are among the lowest of his presidency.
With the Democrats still scrambling to find a unified message and create a new image for themselves, perhaps our only chance of regaining a majority in either the House or Senate this fall will be Bush's continued failures -- only if voters decide to hold his fellow Republicans accountable as well (but I'm sure, in order to deflect criticism of Republicans, we'll be hearing a lot from Karl Rove about how the Democrats are "obstructionists" and, of course unpatriotic).

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