Soon-to-be-former United States Senator from Utah, Bob Bennett, gives some advice to the Tea Party activists who helped unseat him at Utah GOP convention: don’t be like Jimmy Carter, be like Ronald Reagan. I think he has it exactly backwards:
Bennett refers to Carter’s famous speech (in which the word “malaise” never appears, by the way); I wonder whether he’s ever read it. Yes, it’s almost certain too pious, too earnest, to be taken seriously as a piece of presidential rhetoric (though, as I and others have defended the speech before, the fact is it was taken seriously, for a short time at least). However, the larger point is that, even if it was the case (and I would argue that this is a debatable point, but let’s assume it for now) that Carter’s moralistic approach to leadership was shallow and simplistic, his speech wasn’t; on the contrary, the speech reflected a historically sensitive and brave willingness to confront difficult intangibles effecting America’s civic culture, and called upon Americans everywhere to confidently shoulder the responsibilities of truly pursuing a common good….If nothing else, it wasn’t the spirit of Carter’s moral seriousness which resulted in Bennett losing his job; it was the spirit of someone who was convinced, unreasonably, that anyone in government must be part of the problem. Bennett, far from encouraging those who come after him to adopt the attitude of his Republican hero, ought to be encouraging them to think twice about the insight of the man he beat.