Tuesday, July 29, 2014
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The past as prologue

Barack Obama's Oval Office address, and the echoes of 1979

The past as prologue

 


Behold the spectacle of a nation spinning its wheels in perpetuity.

Here was Barack Obama last night, in the Oval Office: "For decades, we have known the days of cheap and easily accessible oil were numbered. For decades, we’ve talked and talked about the need to end America’s century-long addiction to fossil fuels. And for decades, we have failed to act with the sense of urgency that this challenge requires. Time and again, the path forward has been blocked - not only by oil industry lobbyists, but also by a lack of political courage and candor."

Here was Jimmy Carter, on July 15, 1979, in the Oval Office: "Why have we not been able to get together as a nation to resolve our serious energy problem?....What you see too often in Washington and elsewhere around the country is a system of government that seems incapable of action. You see a Congress twisted and pulled in every direction by hundreds of well financed and powerful special interests. You see every extreme position defended to the last vote, almost to the last breath by one unyielding group or another....Often you see paralysis and stagnation and drift."

Obama, last night: "The consequences of our inaction are in plain sight....Each day, we spend nearly $1 billion of our wealth to foreign countries for their oil....We can't afford not to change how we produce and use energy - because the long-term costs to our economy, our national security, and our environment are far greater."

Carter, 31 years ago: "Our excessive dependence on (foreign oil) has already taken a tremendous toll on our economy and our people....This intolerable dependence on foreign oil threatens our economic independence and the very security of our nation."

Obama, last night: "(T)he time to embrace a clean energy future is now. Now is the moment for this generation to embark on a national mission to unleash America’s innovation and seize control of our own destiny."

Carter, 31 years ago: "We must face the truth, then we can change our course...Energy will be the immediate test of our ability to unite this nation, and it can also be the standard around which we rally. On the battlefield of energy, we can win for our nation a new confidence, and we can seize control again of our common destiny."

Obama, last night: "Each of us has a part to play in a new future that will benefit all of us....the transition to clean energy has the potential to grow our economy and create millions of jobs - but only if we accelerate that transition. Only if we seize the moment. And only if we rally together and act as one nation – workers and entrepreneurs; scientists and citizens; the public and private sectors."

Carter, 31 years ago: "The solution of our energy crisis can also help us to conquer the crisis of the spirit in our country. It can rekindle our sense of unity, our confidence in the future, and give our nation and all of us individually a new sense of purpose."

Obama, last night: "The one answer I will not settle for is the idea that this challenge is somehow too big and too difficult to meet. You know, the same thing was said about our ability to produce enough planes and tanks in World War II. The same thing was said about our ability to harness the science and technology to land a man safely on the surface of the moon."  

Carter, 31 years ago: "We are strong. We can regain our unity. We can regain our confidence...We ourselves are the same Americans who just ten years ago put a man on the moon."

Obama, last night: "We know we'll get there....What sees us through, what has always seen us through, is our strength, our resilience, and our unyielding faith that something better awaits us if we summon the courage to reach for it."

Carter, 31 years ago: "I firmly believe that we have the national will to win this war."

Oh really? We do? What are the odds that, 30 years from now, yet another president will offer up a third version of the same speech to an oil-addicted electorate?

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The sole proprietor of this blog is on the road for the month of June. Virtually all June posts will be briefer than the norm, except on the rare weekdays when posts won't show up at all. Apologies in advance for this disturbance in the force. The standard verbosity will return on Monday, June 28.

 

Dick Polman Inquirer National Political Columnist
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Dick Polman Inquirer National Political Columnist
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