Forty years ago today, Jimmy Carter gave one of the worst speeches in American presidential history. Reading it again, I am surprised to see that the notorious “malaise” speech is even worse than I remember.

It was Ted Kennedy and Ronald Reagan, not Carter himself, who used the word “malaise” to describe the supposed problem on which Carter focused in his speech. The official title of the speech, “Crisis of Confidence,” was bad. Still worse was the way Carter described America and the government-centric solutions he offered for the nation’s alleged ills.

“The true problems of our nation are … deeper than gasoline lines or energy shortages, deeper even than inflation or recession,” Carter said. After quoting a series of “ordinary people,” Carter continued: “All the legislation in the world can’t fix what’s wrong with America….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.”

Later, Carter described “the emptiness of lives which have no confidence or purpose.” Americans just love their president preaching about what’s wrong with them.

Carter’s theme about Americans having no confidence was, amazingly enough, not even the speech’s worst part. The worst involved his proposed solutions.

For Carter, the soul crisis and the then-ongoing “energy crisis” seemed inextricably linked. He devoted a full third of the speech to “solv[ing] our energy problem.” His solutions were monumentally statist….

[For the rest of this July 15 column, please do follow this link.


Tags: , ,