Obama hasn’t hit Carter depths

June 3, 2010


— “This is the worst,” a Democratic friend exclaimed over the phone on Tuesday, the first day back at work after the Memorial Day weekend. I knew without asking what he meant — the oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico that dominated television coverage and was into its second month with no quick solution in sight.

No, I told him. It’s not yet the worst.

They haven’t built a popular new television program around it — yet. No one has created a new media franchise for himself out of it. There isn’t a name for it that has become part of popular culture.

I was thinking back to when another Democratic president, Jimmy Carter, found himself stymied in another seemingly endless ordeal. Iranian militants stormed the U.S. embassy in Tehran in 1979 and held 52 officials and workers hostage for 444 days, while the U.S. was helpless to free them.

Many of us recall the event by the name that became attached to it: “America Held Hostage.” That was the title ABC News slapped on its half-hour news update that aired each night, with Ted Koppel as anchor. The show later became the long-running program “Nightline.”

This is when you know you are truly harpooned, when your dilemma has become someone else’s meal ticket.

As sinister as the jet stream of escaping oil and gas looks via the underwater camera in the Gulf, Barack Obama has not yet moved into the category of the late-night patsy that Jimmy Carter became. The Iranians were more clever, or diabolical, in exploiting their hostages than the restrained BP executives or their enviro foes are in this situation.

Obama keeps popping up in new settings, sounding as if he is in command, and he has refused to be confined to the White House as Carter was by the hostage crisis. His good-guy Coast Guard retired admiral has not melted under the pressure and the BP execs we’ve seen on TV refuse to play cartoon capitalists, instead conveying the sense that they grieve over the accident.

As a result, this saga, painful as it is, has not yet become the simple demonstration of monumental futility and incompetence that the hostage crisis became for Carter, who let his personal frustration become the nation’s humiliation. When he finally mounted a rescue effort, and the helicopters crashed into each other in the desert, it was the final proof that he was cursed in anything he tried to do.

That truly was the worst. Today we’re not there — yet.

But we have seen this movie before, and we know how it ends politically. Somebody else shows up and says he can fix this. Or end it. Or make it come out right.

This is why Democrats are right to be very nervous as this Gulf incident drags on in its second month. We have endured about as much technical explanation of the rigors of deep-sea drilling as we can stand.

The chart talks demonstrating that we had figured out where the hostages were being held didn’t do Carter a lick of good when voters were aching to see the captives walk into their families’ arms.

Nothing is going to help Obama unless or until the engineers come up with a method for shutting down this gusher of pollution. He clearly couldn’t prevent it, and he was slow in signaling its severity. But he owns it now and until it is over, the man who aspired to be the next John Kennedy or maybe Franklin Roosevelt will have to hope he doesn’t end up as Jimmy Carter.

— David Broder is a columnist for Washington Post Writers Group. davidbroder@washpost.com


Tom Shewmon 8 years ago

Is this a surprise? Obama will replace Carter as >>>>>THE<<<<< worst president in the history of the US. This fall, in exactly 152 days, disaster will befall the Democratic party, and two years from then, we can finally put this mistake (electing Obama) behind us. In Alabama, GOP-jumping Griffith just lost the primary to the tea party candidate, just like in KY. Looks like people are fed up with Dems who have been hijcaked by the far-left.

May God bless.

Cait McKnelly 8 years ago

Looks like people are fed up with a GOP hijacked by the tea party and the religious right to me.

whats_going_on 8 years ago


I think people are just fed up by extremists on both sides, but there are too many of them to make rational decisions in the middle and work together. It's frustrating.

whats_going_on 8 years ago

yes, because thats a rational assumption. Good lord dude, get a grip.

rabb 8 years ago

Hillbillies elect a tea-party candidate? WOW!

Richard Heckler 8 years ago

Hey Broder the repub party has a few blemishes you seem to forget.

Think about it. In the past 30 years the repub tea party has been in involved two major home loan scandals that effectively took the USA economy down the tubes. One is too damn many but twice represents repub economic policy. Wreckanomics is a failed economic policy. In fact wreckanomics is beginning to smell like well planned crimes.

The republican tea party have become masters at putting millions upon millions upon millions of people out of work. AND stealing taxpayers retirement plans along the way.

What Tea Party Repubs do with a remarkable degree of consistency is wreck the economy,initiate huge movements of shipping jobs abroad aka the Reagan-Bush Global Economy and try to wreck social security and medicare.

Is there a definite pattern? Absolutely!

  1. The Reagan/ Bush Savings and Loan Heist ( A REPUB ENTITLEMENT) http://rationalrevolution0.tripod.com/war/bush_family_and_the_s.htm

  2. The Bush/Cheney Wall Street Bank Fraud on Consumers ( A REPUB ENTITLEMENT) http://www.dollarsandsense.org/archives/2009/0709macewan.html

  3. What did Bush and Henry Paulson do with the $700 billion of bail out money? http://www.democracynow.org/2009/9/10/good_billions_after_bad_one_year

  4. Why did GW Bush Lie About Social Security?( This would cost taxpayers $4 trillion,place taxpayers insurance money at risk and wreck the economy) http://www.dollarsandsense.org/archives/2005/0505orr.html

  5. Still A Bad Idea – Bush Tax Cuts - The ENTITLEMENT program for the wealthy at the expense of the middle class http://www.dollarsandsense.org/archives/2001/0301miller.html

  6. The "tea parties" BTW are part of the wreckanomics program funded by the Koch Brothers... well known oil billionaires. These thinkers back a tax payers bill of rights which is another scheme to reward the upper 1% which is designed to wreck local and state governments.

The Other ENTITLEMENT Program for the Wealthy http://www.dollarsandsense.org/archives/2005/0705rebne.html

All of the above displays reckless economic behavior that which drains the cookie jars.

What do Reagan,Bush and Bush tea party republicans plan for 2010?

Start the typical repub character assassination campaign which in essence is a massive cover-up scheme for the financial disasters that illustrate how the repubs are NOT the financial giants of our time.

Look for Repubs to meddle in other peoples sex lives to distract voters from the issues!

Repubs are NOT good about minding their own business!

Richard Heckler 8 years ago


  1. Watergate
  2. Iran Contra Weapons Deal
  3. Secret Energy Meetings in the White House
  4. Lying to the world about weapons of mass destruction which has resulted in thousands of innocent men,women and children being slaughtered
  5. Irag war ALSO taking our economy down the tubes:

Taxpayers in Kansas will pay $8.3 billion for total Iraq and Afghanistan war spending since 2001. For the same amount of money, the following could have been provided: 1,515,775 People Receiving Low-Income Healthcare for One Year OR 159,122 Police or Sheriff's Patrol Officers for One Year OR 191,066 Firefighters for One Year OR 1,006,145 Scholarships for University Students for One Year OR 1,487,645 Students receiving Pell Grants of $5550 OR 4,778,026 Children Receiving Low-Income Healthcare for One Year OR 1,282,319 Head Start Slots for Children for One Year OR 1,853,544 Households with Renewable Electricity - Solar Photovoltaic for One Year OR 161,101 Elementary School Teachers for One Year OR 4,942,785 Households with Renewable Electricity-Wind Power for One Year

Flap Doodle 8 years ago

Woo hoo! Iran/Contra reference! Gotta be at least two days since we've seen that. Way to go, merrill. Keep posting the same set of links. We'll all read them this time.

Cait McKnelly 8 years ago

It seriously amazes me when people state something on these boards and people yell. "State your reference!". Then somebody comes along and states his reference to prove his point and he's made fun of. You guys are out and out bullies.

Flap Doodle 8 years ago

The first 400 times merrill posted the same set of links he got a pass. Not so much for the next 400 times.

whats_going_on 8 years ago

at least he does research and has something to input, rather than just slinging sh*t all over the place like everyone else.

rabb 8 years ago

They're not bullies. They're mentally defective.

Cait McKnelly 8 years ago

OMG! You actually put up a link to Fox news as a reference? The only hysteria on the left is hysterical laughter at the sheer ignorance of the right. Why don't you go watch E! Entertainment channel, Tom. It's just as entertaining and empty and whole lot more truthful.

jafs 8 years ago

You wrongly equate popularity with reliability as a news source.

whats_going_on 8 years ago

Thats like saying Paris Hilton is a great role model for girls because she's in the tabloids.

Mark Zwahl 8 years ago

Children. All of you. Only children think there is an absolute right and wrong - and that they know what it is...

ReadingSports 8 years ago

Only the Sith traffic in absolutes! Oh wait....

So, is your post right or wrong? It must be right, no wait it must be wrong. It must be childish and therefore right. It must be there therefore adult, and therefore wrong.

You are morally confused. Congratulations though, you have entertained me today.

cato_the_elder 8 years ago

Obama has become Jimmy Carter faster than Jimmy Carter became Jimmy Carter.

Cait McKnelly 8 years ago

Comparing Obama to Jimmy Carter is such a right wing thing to do. It's apples and oranges. Ignore the truth, Tom, Cato, Snap. What happened to Carter was a perfect storm that no president could withstand. (Interesting to note that Katrina was part of what destroyed GWB. Well that and dragging us into an unwinnable war for spurious reasons.) You also completely ignore the contributions to statesmanship that Carter gave this country post presidency. The truth is Carter made a better president after he was kicked from office than when he was in it. I sometimes wonder what would have happened to this country had Carter been allowed his full eight years. Instead we actually bent to the will of the Iranian kidnappers and elected a president we may not have wanted just to get the hostages back. Bah! You all make me sick. The man's been in office for just over a year and all of you have been waiting with baited breath from the day he took office for him to make just one teeny little mistake that you could pounce on to prove your point. I saw a recording of the Glenn Beck show where he stopped just one inch short of calling him the "N" word. Your true feelings are obvious.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 8 years ago

Just a suggestion--

Your wackosphere mantras would sound really cool if you could figure out how to do them as Gregorian chants.

whats_going_on 8 years ago

"He thinks he knows better than anyone else what is good for this country."

Yeah, just like every single president we've had. THATS THE JOB. If he weren't confident in his views, than people would be saying that he's weak-minded. Furthermore, you can give EVERYONE what they want, especially now, since everyone wants something radically different.

whats_going_on 8 years ago

I'm wondering when the tea baggers, with support from "mommy dearest" (that was for you) will singlehandedly ruin the Republican party.

Wanna start a wager?

jaywalker 8 years ago

Not really sure what the President can do other than expedite requests from the Gulf for help with the sand berms. That is a tremendous blunder of red tape riduculousness, otherwise his hands are fairly well tied, in my opinion.

jd 8 years ago

and this is the government you trust with your healthcare?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 8 years ago

No, this is the government that is primarily the legacy of Reagan/Bush. The government that has been intentionally sabotaged so that the only things it can effectively do are subsidize major corporations and blow stuff up.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 8 years ago

I'm more than happy to blame Obama for anything he does wrong. And so far, he's done plenty wrong-- primarily perpetuating the crap that his predecessors (including Clinton and Carter) started.

whats_going_on 8 years ago

how about YOU offer some legitimate sane-minded solutions to how to fix everything in 5 seconds, whilst making everyone happy, whilst dealing with new AND old stuff that needs to be handled.....instead of just insulting people. just a thought.

Cait McKnelly 8 years ago

BS! Eight years of GWB was supposed to be solved in one year? Let's see you do it.

cato_the_elder 8 years ago

Cait48, what Carter and Obama have always had most in common is that neither had the requisite experience to qualify him for the presidency. In Obama's case, his complete lack of executive experience has been front and center since the day he took office, and has been confirmed on numerous occasions since then. This includes the frustrations he has encountered in dealing with his fellow Democrats, which have occurred precisely because of his previous lack of understanding of the practical aspects of the relationship between the executive and legislative branches of government (and, I might add, the fact that D.C. is not Chicago, no matter how much Obama and his sycophants try to make it so).

Cait McKnelly 8 years ago

Oh and I suppose Reagan's experience as a state governor did. That's hogwash. Obama had been part of Congress. He knew what it was like. Believe me, his "sycophants" are a lot better than the "psychophants" that GWB had. (Starting with "Daddy Warbucks" as his VP..) You're spouting BS. Carter had been a state governor when he was elected and he was replaced by one. Try again. Oh and by the way, Obama's problems with his own party stem from two things; Blue Dogs (Republicans in sheep's clothing, also referred to as "Republican Lite") and the fact that NO ONE seems to have any idea these days what "bi-partisanship" is.

Flap Doodle 8 years ago

"Obama had been part of Congress." His experience voting "present" in the IL legislature has certainly been a great help to him.

jaywalker 8 years ago

You should probably stop posting now. Your idiocy is showing.

yourworstnightmare 8 years ago

This is facile.

The screamers here and across the county were comparing Obama to Carter before Obama even took office.

Obama is having a rough month, and the screamers are using this to support their presupposed claim.

If you notice, the point of Broder's article is that comparison to Carter is wrong.

Flap Doodle 8 years ago

"This is facile." Been into the Roget's, have we?

jayhawklawrence 8 years ago

I don't think this tactic by the Repugnuts is going to work because most people have a very good opinion of Jimmy Carter these days and Americans are on to the political tricks these guys have used on us to get votes.

8 years of Bush has that effect on people.

I am not going to defend Jimmy Carter but there is no comparison at all to Jimmy Carter and anyone I know of that has been President. I voted for Reagan and liked the change. I just wish Reagan would not have made so many mistakes.

None of these guys is God and even God has his problems.

Flap Doodle 8 years ago

This just in, Rahm's been offering Cabinet positons to caddies if they will allow unlimited mulligans to the current occupant of 1600 Penn Ave. Not wishing to be associated with the epic fail that is the present regime, they have been declining.

Cait McKnelly 8 years ago

You really DO have nothing to offer this debate, do you?

MyName 8 years ago

So does anyone recall what Reagan was polling at this point in his Presidency? How about Clinton? The answer: around 40% approval, and they both won reelection and did a decent job. I don't see how you can compare this Presidency to Carter as Obama is actually getting things on his agenda finished.

What you also have to realize is that the Republican party doesn't have a Ronald Reagan (or even a Barry Goldwater) up their sleeve to run against him either. Heck, Reagan would probably have been turned out of the party for being "too liberal" and Goldwater for being "not crazy enough" or maybe for stealing Rand Paul's thunder.

What the Republicans have right now is a bunch of losers that have virtually zero appeal to mainstream America, and that's a big problem if you're talking about trying to replace the current administration.

Cait McKnelly 8 years ago

Well there is Mitt Romney. But I think the fact that he's a Mormon will go against him.

jayhawklawrence 8 years ago

Mitt Romney was a decent candidate. Too bad he didn't pass the litmus test from the right wingers. We might have had a good debate on the issues.

I just saw the movie "W" for the first time (About George Bush, Jr.).

It really makes you wonder how these idiots worm their way into power. I guess it shows the power of the political parties to con the voters.

whats_going_on 8 years ago

haha with as much republican crap as you spew on a daily basis, there is no WAY you are agreeing with the fact that republicans are crooks.

I smell bullsh*t.

gogoplata 8 years ago

I can't stand Obama, but how is this his fault?

whats_going_on 8 years ago

didn't you hear, everything is Obama's fault.


gogoplata 8 years ago

This just shows me how silly partisan politics is.

Obama could go into a burning building and save a baby and there would probably be someone on the right finding fault in his actions. Same was true for the left when Bush was in office.

When are people going to learn it isn't the right vs the left. Its the people vs the government. The longer we fight each other the more crap the government gets away with.

Liberty275 8 years ago

North Korea is obama's iran. Kim sinks one of our strongest allie's ships and barry is too cowardly to do squat.

cato_the_elder 8 years ago

Cait48, you apparently don't understand what the term "executive" means. Obama never had any executive experience, period. Moreover, you imply that Reagan's experience as a governor was not significant but Carter's was, so consistency is apparently not one of your strong points. Obama spent most of his truncated Senate term running for President, a fact that was emphasized strongly by Hillary Clinton and her supporters during the Democrat primaries in 2008. The bottom line is lack of executive leadership ability: Carter couldn't lead a dog out of a doghouse, and it becomes more apparent every day, especially to many of those who voted for Obama and now regret it, that he shares precisely that failing.

Cait McKnelly 8 years ago

"Moreover, you imply that Reagan's experience as a governor was not significant but Carter's was.."

I implied no such thing and would appreciate not having words "put into my mouth" so to speak. YOU said that Carter's failing was "no executive experience". I basically said , "How is that when he was the governor of a state and was succeeded by the governor of a state?" Go back and reread what I wrote. I never downplayed Reagan's experience as governor. I simply want to know how that background made Carter "inexperienced" yet didn't do the same for Reagan? Isn't it more of a situation where the Washington sharks ate Carter alive but left Reagan alone because he had stronger cronies (along with his own personal little ankle biter, Nancy)? The truth is Carter was too damned nice and honest to be president. That, sir, was his biggest failing. I don't think you will find that in Barack Obama. He has enough brass to stave off the PACs, the sharks and the power brokers or use them to his advantage. We will see.

Tamara Degner 8 years ago

If Obama would start to lead, things could improve greatly.

Tamara Degner 8 years ago

If Obama would start to lead, things could improve greatly.

cato_the_elder 8 years ago

Cait48, perhaps you are the one who needs to do some re-reading. I didn't say that Carter had "no executive experience." What I did say was that neither Carter nor Obama had the "requisite experience" to serve as President. In Carter's case, the experience he had had was very parochial, and it showed almost immediately after he took office. Again, in Obama's case, his executive experience was non-existent. He was nothing more than a petty radical leftist on a mission who moved to Chicago in order to connect himself politically with Chicago liberals; more often than not chose to vote "present" while in the Illinois legislature; nominally served a short part of a Senate term while actually running for the presidency; and became President of a country whose citizens knew less about his real background than anyone else who has held that office in the 20th century.

As for your denigrating Reagan, here's what you said to my comment that neither Carter nor Obama had the requisite experience to serve as President: "Oh and I suppose Reagan's experience as a state governor did. That's hogwash." You then went on to cite Obama's (short) experience in the U.S. Senate, demonstrating conclusively that you didn't know the difference between executive and legislative experience, and apparently still don't.

As for your comparison of Carter's and Obama's respective characters, I agree with you that Obama doesn't have to worry about being too honest to serve as President. The rapidly developing Sestak and Romanoff scandals are but one good example of same, and are somehow not quite consistent with the "transparency" promised by your anointed hero.

Mixolydian 8 years ago

Obama's economy keeps sinking and we're going to be nostalgic for Carter's malaise. At least back then we had WKRP in Cincinnati.

jafs 8 years ago

Finally one thing we can agree on!

Flap Doodle 8 years ago

We'll see if Dear Leader goes into pout & sulk mode after the mid-term elections....

Flap Doodle 8 years ago

Will Blago go totally Sampson and pull the temple of Chicago corruption down on the heads for IL politicians?

c_doc77 8 years ago

The president should have stuck closer to some of his Goldman Sachs homies. As "luck" would have it, they dumped 44% of their BP stock ($250 million worth) three weeks before the spill.


This won't ruin Obama. If anything he'll be able to play hero with so-called energy legislation. How else did you think they were going to get the "cap and trade" bill to pass? Like Obama's Chief of Staff, Rahm Emanuel, likes to say, "You never want a serious crisis to go to waste." This kind of crisis can only help Obama as long as he can use it to his political advantage. It may not give him the boost that 9/11afforded Bush II, but at least he has something to work with now. Things were looking grim with the economy and all. This will only make it worse in the long run and put even more of our tax dollars in the pockets of the international bankers, but they may be able to distract the dumbed down public with the appearance of progress, or "hope" if you like.

beatrice 8 years ago

Tom, what was it you said recently -- "White people have no power now." -- wasn't that it?

Yes, I think we know why you blame Obama.

Too bad McCain and Palin aren't in office now. They could have stopped the oil leak by getting all Mavericky and getting out of the way of big business. Yep, that would have worked.

c_doc77 8 years ago

"You guys on the left would be grilling W, but not Obama. Don't get me wrong, I don't have a problem with it, but again, were it GWB, you on the left would be out marching in the streets. "

Exactly. As soon as Obama became the president the anti-war movement on the Left died. Really it was never really that vibrant anyway, being carefully contained within acceptable political boundaries to be used as a tool for the Democrats to regain power. Of course, I was predicting this all along when Obama was making all his campaign promises, and touting the fact that he was opposed to the Iraq invasion and all that.

Flap Doodle 8 years ago

Maybe Rahm will offer the oil well a cabinet job......

SLOPOKE 8 years ago

I think it's called BALL'S!! OOP'S I meant Batters , UP !!

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