Tales on vacation, re-post from May 13, 2011:
Almost everyone who lived thru the Carter administration (1977-1981) knows from personal experience what a disaster it was. I have two such personal anecdotes.
I remember checking out home prices in the early 1980's for future reference as I knew it wouldn't be long before I would be married in March of 1982.
Boy was I shocked. At that age I was ignorant of how interest rates could so impact mortgages payments. I remember looking at this house that in a normal time would have been about $500/month. When I asked the realtor approximately what the mortgage payment would be he figured out the calculation with the 18% fixed interest rate and said it would be a little more than $1000/month. Double of what I was thinking. That's how much interest rates affected the mortgage payments. No one could sell a house at that time, and no one, unless they were rich enough to pay cash for the house, could purchase a house at that time.
My second anecdote came at the gas pump. Because of a shortage in fuel, Carter instituted this crazy policy of allowing Americans to only buy gas on a certain day of the week depending on what your license plate ended with. Then when you bought gas you could not top off, i.e., having 3/4 of tank of gas and trying to fill it to the top. I think you had to buy at least 8 gallons of gas or you could not get any on your day. What his policy led to was long, long lines at the gas stations. You could wait well more than an hour just to fill your tank, and then you hoped and prayed by the time it was your turn there was still gas to fill your tank. This policy was such a disaster that they had to stop it after a very short time otherwise literally risking riots at the gas stations.
President Carter's administration was a disaster both domestically and on foreign policy. His policies were so bad that they led to an unbearable 18% inflation rate, and 18% interest rate, with close to a double digit unemployment rate at the same time. It led to a new way of calculating how Americans were doing. It was called the 'misery index'. The misery index was miserably high under Jimmy Carter.
As bad as he was on domestic policy he was equally as bad on the foreign scene. His policies helped lead to the removal of the Shah of Iran at that time and the introduction of the Ayatollah Khomeini. Iran had become an Islamist state. This could very well have been the genesus of the extreme Islamist terrorists we see today. With this Islamist state came what might be considered the first terrorist act against Americans.
On November 4, 1979, Iranian Muslim terrorists stormed the United States Embassy in Tehran and took approximately seventy Americans captive. This terrorist act triggered an almost unbearable crisis for the Carter presidency that lasted 444 days.
This weighed heavily not only on the president, but on all the people of America. It was the beginning of the ABC program after the late night news we now know as 'Nightline'. At that time, it was called America Held Hostage [and they would count each day, for ex. Day 152]
What a low feeling for all of Americans. Their fellow Americans were being held hostage by radical Muslims and there was nothing we could do about it.
After foolishly and weakly trying to negotiate with the terrorists, Carter finally in April 1980, authorized a daring military rescue operation. It had to be aborted, however, when three of the eight helicopters involved developed mechanical problems, and, in pulling out, one of the helicopters collided with a transport plane, killing eight men and injuring others. I actually remember at the time being so proud of our country, and for that moment proud of Carter for just trying a rescue attempt. Of course, at the same time I was saddened by it being unsuccessful and sad for the lost lives.
Now, what if, just what if this "gutsy" call by President Carter had succeded and the hostages were rescued. Wow, would there have been jubilation in this country, patriotism abound and the whole country would have been so proud of our president. Even with all of the misery that people felt in the country, Carter's approval rating would have sky rocketed. The media at the time would have talked about the courage of the president to make such a gutsy move. You might have seen photos of the president with his security team listening intently to the riveting accounts of the event. You might have heard the media ask, 'does this make the president unbeatable.' You would have, I'm sure, heard president Carter praise our brave military that pulled off the mission and at the same time talk about not gloating, not wanting to spike the football. And you might have heard the president say he didn't want to spike the football, over and over again as he would go from one event to the next telling of how he made the tough decision and how he gave the orders to go.
And what if, after pulling off this great accomplishment and the exhuberation the country rightly would have felt, it led to Jimmy Carter's re election. Remember what all of his policies had led to. High interest rates, high inflation rates, high unemployment rates, long lines at the gas stations, and the high misery index. They would have all still existed and the same president that led to this misery would have had another four years to continue his same incompetent policies. How would this have changed the country today. I sure don't think for the better. Also, his re election would have almost surely meant there would have been no Ronald Reagan presidency. No calling the Soviet Union the evil empire. No trying to build a missle defense system that would have forced the Soviet Union to spend way beyond their means. No telling Gorbachev to 'tear down this wall'. No lowering of tax rates across the board leading to one of the greatest economic recoveries in history. No, the country would have had four more years of Jimmy Carter and his disastrous policies.
Impossible you say with the high unemployment and high inflation rate. Well we may never know. Then again,
President Obama has had his successful 'what if' moment. The country [including me] is exubherant over the killing of the evil animal who orchestrated the attack on our country. We celebrate and are proud of our president for making the 'gutsy' call. The president, who many of us call the second Jimmy Carter, has rightfully had a spike in his approval ratings. Many are asking does this make the president unbeatable. Will we give another four years to this president, who will continue his same policies that many, if not most people in this country have said show incompetence?
You might think it is crazy to say that Jimmy Carter would have been re elected just because of one 'gutsy' call.
Wouldn't it be just as crazy now?