This is something I posted on Facebook a few months ago. Decided it belonged here as well. Hope you enjoy it!
As I was watching a documentary “Decisions that shook the world” about Ronald Reagan last night, I just had to make a comment about it because the documentary did a good job of capturing the mood of the late 70’s early 80’s.
I’ll try to capture some of it here for those of you who don’t remember. Jimmy Carter was President. He was quite possibly the most inept President ever. Even worse than Bush I. Maybe even worse than Bush II. For example, there was a revolution in Iran and a bunch of students took over the American Embassy late in 1979.
The Iranians held 53 Americans hostage for 444 days. Carter’s response was to negotiate. When (after months and months) it was obvious to even the thick headed dufus President that negotiations weren’t working, Carter authorized a rescue mission. Due in large part to Carter’s interference and general ineptitude in military matters (even though Carter was a former submariner) the rescue mission failed miserably.
I’m too lazy to look it up right now, but I know the US only sent like 6 or 8 helicopters and 2 or 3 or them crashed on the way. None of them even made it to the embassy before turning around. It was a PR (and military) disaster.
Another item – the Soviets had invaded and occupied Afghanistan. Carter’s response was to boycott the 1980 Olympics being held in Moscow. That really taught those commie bastards a lesson….
Another – Communists took over El Salvador sometime late in Carter’s term. His response was nothing.
Another – The Sandanista’s (Communists) took over Nicaragua about the same time. Carter again did nothing. In the post Vietnam era, Carter wasn’t about to do a damn thing with the military. He was “born again” (hey, like Bushie II – maybe that should tell us something?) and everyone assumed he meant well, but he truly sucked as a President.
Oil embargo – Carter’s response was to wear a sweater and order the heat to be turned down in th White House.
Inflation at 12% and 13% and unemployment at 7% and interest rates over 20%. The economy was so bad new terms were being invented to describe how bad it was. Terms like STAGFLATION and MISERY INDEX.
With very few exceptions, everyone in the world was convinced that America was done. The cold war was over and the Russians had won. After all, we had lost Vietnam, Communists/right wing dictators – I paint with a broad brush, both are totalitarian – were taking over Central and South America, Japan was buying up American real estate and businesses, Americans waited in gas lines to buy gas (even numbered days only if your license plate was an even number and vice versa), and drugs…
Crap, if you were a teenager from 1977 through 1980 (I turned 16 in 1978) and you say you didn’t do drugs, you’re almost certainly a liar. I was in a small town, Bonnots Mill, MO, population about 70, and pot was everywhere. If it was available there, it was available everywhere. Seriously. Something like 1/3 of all military personnel admitted to using drugs on a regular basis.
Carter’s response was to make a speech saying (I remember this distinctly) “we need to stop cursing and start praying” and (I don’t remember the exact words) “we will limit energy use” and/or “we will ration gas” and/or “we will turn down our thermostats, wear sweaters, join carpools, use public transportation” etc, etc, etc.
It struck me at the time as an attempt to do a Churchill-like “blood, toil, sweat, and tears”, “we will fight on the beaches”, or “this was their finest hour” type of speech. You know, shared sacrifice for the greater good and better days ahead type of speech – without ANY of the the optimism of Churchill.
It became known as the “malaise speech” or the “limits speech”. It was a speech about how America sucked, why we sucked, and how we – possibly, with a lot of sacrifice – could suck less.
Carter made it embarrassing to be an American in 1980. The Charlie Daniels Band had a hit song (In America) about America pulling together and kicking ass and Carter still managed to pull everyone down.
About this time Ronald Reagan started talking about what we could be, not what we couldn’t be. I took the time to look this up, because I wanted to capture it as he said it. Keep in mind the defeatist mood of the country at the time, as exemplified by Carter’s numerous (did he do ANYTHING right?) failures and inability to inspire and lead. Now read these lines from Reagan’s speech anouncing why he was running…. Direct quote follows….
“There are those in our land today, however, who would have us believe that the United States, like other great civilizations of the past, has reached the zenith of its power; that we are weak and fearful, reduced to bickering with each other and no longer possessed of the will to cope with our problems.”
“Much of this talk has come from leaders who claim that our problems are too difficult to handle. We are supposed to meekly accept their failures as the most which humanly can be done. They tell us we must learn to live with less, and teach our children that their lives will be less full and prosperous than ours have been; that the America of the coming years will be a place where — because of our past excesses — it will be impossible to dream and make those dreams come true.”
“I don’t believe that. And I don’t believe you do either. That is why I am seeking the presidency. I cannot and will not stand by and see this great country destroy itself. Our leaders attempt to blame their failures on circumstances beyond their control, on false estimates by unknown, unidentifiable experts who rewrite modern history in an attempt to convince us our high standard of living, the result of thrift and hard work, is somehow selfish extravagance which we must renounce as we join in sharing scarcity. I don’t agree that our nation must resign itself to inevitable decline, yielding its proud position to other hands. I am totally unwilling to see this country fail in its obligation to itself and to the other free peoples of the world.”
Another part of his speech – and the main reason I think Reagan was one of the greatest Presidents. “The 10th article of the Bill of Rights is explicit in pointing out that the federal government should do only those things specifically called for in the Constitution. All others shall remain with the states or the people. We haven’t been observing that 10th article of late. The federal government has taken on functions it was never intended to perform and which it does not perform well.”
I can’t think of a single federal law enacted under Reagan where individual citizens lost either rights or income. There is no other president since Herbert Hoover who could even remotely make that claim that I can think of right now – possibly excepting JFK. (JFK made some starts on civil rights that I don’t believe belonged at the fed level, but overall he also did a good job of leadership.)
I’m not saying they were all bad, but all others expanded the role of the feds – Reagan didn’t in any way that I recall right now. I could – quite probably even – be wrong, but no one could have done more to change the tone of the country than Reagan in the early 80’s.
We went from Carters’ “don’t do that, can’t do that, no way we can afford that, turn down the temp, stay home, we don’t wanna get involved cause we’ll lose like in Vietnam, don’t, can’t, won’t” to “you/we can, you/we will, make it happen, America can do it, we will stop aggression” etc. etc. etc…
Reagan carried (I looked this part up) 44 states in1980. Reagan inspired people. The totalitarian regimes around the world KNEW that Reagan meant what he said. It’s no coincidence that the Iranians released the hostages the same day Reagan was sworn in. Th Iranians KNEW that Reagan would have hit them with everything we had – admittedly not much in Jan of 1981, but a hell of a lot more than 6 or 8 fucking helicopters in the middle of the night. They KNEW that they would die if they didn’t release the hostages unharmed. So they did. (I had joined the Army in August 1980. I bet my dad that the hostages would be released if Reagan won – before Reagan took office. I lost that bet by a few hours)
Within a few years, Reagan could run an ad that said:
“It’s morning again in America. Today more men and women will go to work than ever before in our country’s history. With interest rates at about half the record highs of 1980, nearly 2,000 families today will buy new homes, more than at any time in the past four years. This afternoon 6,500 young men and women will be married, and with inflation at less than half of what it was just four years ago, they can look forward with confidence to the future. It’s morning again in America, and under the leadership of President Reagan, our country is prouder and stronger and better. Why would we ever want to return to where we were less than four short years ago?”
Is it any wonder that he won with a 49 state landslide? Mondale only carried his home state of Minnesota.
Reagan turned the country around. Without him (in my opinion and many others) the Soviet Union would still be here, there’d still be a Berlin Wall, and America would be MUCH worse off than we are – and we are in bad shape right now IMHO.
Yes, Reagan screwed up. He spent way too much and he should’ve vetoed more spending. But without him, it might have been the US gone instead of the USSR. And I don’t think that’s much of an exaggeration. Spending too much money is a venial sin when viewed through that lens.