These were visionary words for their time and in the years since they were uttered they have proven themselves true time and again, so much so that they are now conventional wisdom. Why is it then that so many ignore their fundamental truth? Why do people ignore the omnipresent warnings, the constant reminders, and the pleas from their leaders to change their ways? Why has America pawned its problems off to the next generation?
Comparisons between Barack Obama and Jimmy Carter have been increasing in recent months. Has anybody really stopped to ask why? It’s not just the single-term predictions for Obama; it may also have something to do with this speech, dubbed the ‘Crisis of Confidence’ speech, that President Carter delivered on July 15, 1979, during what would be the final summer and tail end of his administration:
Good evening. This is a special night for me. Exactly three years ago, on July 15, 1976, I accepted the nomination of my party to run for president of the United States.
I promised you a president who is not isolated from the people, who feels your pain, and who shares your dreams and who draws his strength and his wisdom from you.
During the past three years I’ve spoken to you on many occasions about national concerns, the energy crisis, reorganizing the government, our nation’s economy, and issues of war and especially peace. But over those years the subjects of the speeches, the talks, and the press conferences have become increasingly narrow, focused more and more on what the isolated world of Washington thinks is important. Gradually, you’ve heard more and more about what the government thinks or what the government should be doing and less and less about our nation’s hopes, our dreams, and our vision of the future.
Ten days ago I had planned to speak to you again about a very important subject — energy. For the fifth time I would have described the urgency of the problem and laid out a series of legislative recommendations to the Congress. But as I was preparing to speak, I began to ask myself the same question that I now know has been troubling many of you. Why have we not been able to get together as a nation to resolve our serious energy problem?
It’s clear that the true problems of our Nation are much deeper — deeper than gasoline lines or energy shortages, deeper even than inflation or recession. And I realize more than ever that as president I need your help. So I decided to reach out and listen to the voices of America…
Is it just me or is this like collective deja vu all over again?! How did we get out of our energy crisis last time? Reagan took out the artificial supply bottleneck. There’s nothing artificial about our current situation, though. With our demand out of control, our refineries at near-full capacity, and crude oil at record highs, we need real solutions. Ironically, we need to look to the future to correct mistakes of old; we need new technologies, not empty promises and skyrocketing prices, and yet if Obama wants a future term, he simply needs to look back at the mistakes of our 39th President. Or better yet, he can look again to Mr. Churchill (photo above) for advice:
Jimmy Carter, Al Gore, and indeed many other Democrats would disagree with that statement, instead opting for a cruel to be kind approach. Even Santa Ana Mayor Miguel Pulido thinks that high gas prices are a good thing.
Speaking of technology through the ages, Reuters India reported on Sunday that NASA is exploring the possibility of purchasing unmanned cargo spacecraft from Japan. Japan?! Why? The space shuttle program is slated for retirement in 2010 and we don’t have another way to get cargo into space? Each unit would cost $130 million dollars, or approximately 10% of the budget of the current space shuttle program and carry 6 tons of materials into space.
“In April, NASA started a project to assist U.S. companies’ development of a spacecraft to succeed the space shuttle. However, it is uncertain whether it will be possible for the successor vehicle to be developed in the two years left before the space shuttle is to be scrapped, prompting NASA to discuss buying foreign spacecraft. The U.S. Congress has a psychological resistance to buying Russian spacecraft, and the ATV’s transport capacity is smaller than that of the HTV. NASA, therefore, is considering ordering HTVs.” -Spaceref.com
But hold the phone, the very next day after the announcement of unofficial talks between NASA and JAXA, the Japanese space agency, NASA is denying everything, instead claiming that they intend to rely on ‘commercial resupply,’ which is just a fancy way of saying outsourcing. Some European countries and Russia currently have the ability to transport cargo, so some entity that is not American is going to get our tax dollars. I’m not sure how one option is better than the other, but once again, this is a crisis that could have been forseen. In fact, it was around the time of Jimmy Carter’s speech that our first space shuttle, Columbia, was finally delivered to NASA after 7 years in development after President Nixon ordered plans for a reusable spacecraft in 1972.
But of course, the story doesn’t stop there. We still don’t have a space shuttle replacement yet. Who knows whether or not we’ll be able to construct a feasible manned spacecraft within the 2 years left in the current program? NASA’s main lead on a solution is slated for completion in 2010, but it will be untested, and if the project ends in failure, our next best hope is slated for a 2018 completion.
President Bush promised us Mars. How do we intend to get there? In a ’79 Chevy Nova at 8mpg? And with NASA at the forefront of inspiring and providing consumer technologies, what will become of future advancements here on the planet Earth?
We’re American. We’re known for ingenuity. We’re known for technology. We’re known for setting the standard and a creative, pragmatic spirit. And yet we follow in the fields that we pioneered. Welcome to the new space race. It’s with ourselves.