Will Obama Be the ‘Jimmy Carter of the 21st Century’?

06/17/2010 03:14 PM

The World from Berlin

Will Obama Be the ‘Jimmy Carter of the 21st Century’?

Can US President Barack Obama lead America away from fossil fuel dependency? German commentators don’t think so. Some say he is in danger of turning into an idealistic, one-term president like Jimmy Carter.

US President Barack Obama’s address from the Oval Office on Tuesday was supposed to be a moment of leadership during the worst environmental disaster in American history. But critics from across the political spectrum wondered afterwards whether he’d shown leadership at all. The geyser of oil in the Gulf of Mexico seems, technologically, to lie beyond anything either BP or the US government was prepared for, and Obama failed to mention any specific new ideas.

“The tragedy unfolding on our coast is the most painful and powerful reminder yet that the time to embrace a clean-energy future is now,” he declared, without offering policy details. Of course, it wasn’t a policy speech. But the fact that Obama failed to outline a clear path toward this clean-energy future seems to have disappointed a lot of people. “He didn’t boldly push an agenda,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham, a Republican senator from South Carolina, to Politico, the Washington-based news website. “I think a lot of people took that to mean lukewarm support for anything big.”

One immediate result of White House talks with the American arm of BP, though, was a series of concessions on Wednesday. BP Plc agreed to set aside $20 billion (€16.1 billion) in escrow to cover damage claims by shrimpers, restauranteurs and other Gulf-Coast residents hurt by the spill. The energy giant also said it would suspend shareholder dividends until 2011, when it expects to have a clearer notion of the catastrophe’s costs. Another $100 million (€80.8 million) will be set aside for compensation to BP workers hurt by the spill.

These gestures from the energy giant are the most tangible form of good news local residents have heard in the two months since the spill began. German commentators on Thursday think BP’s concessions are genuine as well as worthwhile — but they warn that Obama will need to paddle harder to realize the shining future he promised in his speech on Tuesday.

The center-left Süddeutsche Zeitung writes:

“Obama wants to lead the US out of its dependence on oil. Absolutely right. In fact it’s the very thing people have been wanting to hear from Obama for weeks.”

“But how cautious he seems, and how vague his suggestions. In 1961 President Kennedy declared a national mission to place a man on the moon by the end of the decade. Obama has chosen not to name concrete goals. No numbers, no time frame. He doesn’t dare mention how things will have to change to favor the climate. Professor Obama waits for new ideas and looks forward to a public debate. He doesn’t dare push the Senate to settle on a climate-change bill. This president won’t lead America out of a crisis this way — and he certainly won’t usher in a new era.”

The left-leaning daily Die Tageszeitung argues:

“International markets have started to take environmental problems seriously. BP stock has fallen by almost 50 percent since the start of the oil catastrophe. Ratings agencies have downgraded its creditworthiness to near-junk status. And banks have stopped sealing long-term contracts with BP.”

“This situation is new. When oil companies in the past soiled the Niger Delta or the Amazon, markets tended to reward them — because corporations that skimped on security also increased their profits, to the detriment of the environment and the public interest. Now the costs of environmental damage have started to weigh on the balance sheet, with consequences extending to the possible bankruptcy of a multinational.”

“This new environmental sensibility has been possible not through a sudden display of reason on the markets, but through political decision-making. President Barack Obama made it clear (in early June) that BP won’t be exempt from criminal investigation. He’s also maintained a moratorium on new oil exploration on the deep-ocean floor, and looks determined to end corruption in federal oil agencies.”

The Financial Times Deutschland writes:

“The oil company could be prosecuted by shareholders for paying billions upon billions into a fund for damages without being legally required to do so … It’s therefore a good thing that the US government has not asked for a blank check to cover damages. With the high sum (of $20 billion), the government can now offer quick and unbureaucratic First Aid (to people living near the Gulf).”

“But the firm can’t just run free now that an arbitrary sum has been set. What the final cost for damages might be, and which mistakes were made by whom, have yet to be determined. Civil and criminal complaints against BP have to remain an open possibility. This fund is just a first step toward stopping the holes that the oil catastrophe has ripped in the finances of many affected people.”

The conservative daily Die Welt writes:

“When Obama surprised people by lifting his opposition to offshore drilling, just before the , he meant it as one part of a package deal: Citizens who worried primarily about high fuel prices were meant to be placated by expanded domestic oil production — as a gambit to win more acceptance for the core of his new-energy agenda. This strategy is marked by a typical American pragmatism, unlike Europe’s forces of climate protection. The emphasis rests on incentives to save energy, on building more nuclear-energy plants and on developing new ideas in renewable energy.”

“This is the right way to make America independent of problematic nations. Going forward, the mix will also have to include exploitation of (America’s) domestic energy resources, even if it also means heavier regulation to avoid a new disaster. But if this oil shock accelerates America’s shift to new energies, and moves the West away from a dangerous dependency on fossil fuels, then the catastrophe will have at least one positive outcome.”

The left-leaning Berliner Zeitung writes:

“If Barack Obama isn’t careful, he will become the Jimmy Carter of the 21st century.”

“In his speech, Obama tried to make a virtue of an emergency. He said a shift to new energy sources was now a ‘national mission.’ Just as the nation once mobilized its powers for World War II, now it needs to conquer its devilish dependence on fossil fuels … If Obama wins this debate, and achieves a true shift in energy dependence, then his name will perhaps be mentioned again in the same breath with great American presidents.”

“Politically, though, it’s fraught with risk. His opponents have already charged Obama with using the Gulf catastrophe to advance his climate agenda in Congress. Republicans rely on the tendency of Americans to prefer cheap fuel and big cars with a certain level of power. Over 30 years ago, after all, another president called for smarter American energy policies in a televised speech from the Oval Office. He wanted to know, ‘Why have we not been able to get together as a nation to resolve our serious energy problem?’ That president’s name was Jimmy Carter.”

— Michael Scott Moore


Carter’s Terror Tour

Carter’s Terror Tour

By Jacob Laksin
FrontPageMagazine.com | 4/14/2008

The trouble with having an open mind, the novelist Terry Pratchett once observed, is that people will insist on coming along and trying to put things in it. That caveat seems especially relevant in light of the news that Jimmy Carter will travel to the Middle East this week to meet with, among others, Khaled Meshal, the notorious Hamas commander living in exile in Damascus.


It isn’t clear who convinced the former president that the road to peace in the Middle East lies through one of its leading saboteurs. But Carter’s justification for the trip – he intends to come with an “an open mind and heart to learn from all parties” – is an object lesson on the perils of open-mindedness.


For one thing, there is little to be learned from Khaled Meshal. His resume speaks gruesomely for itself. A Hamas veteran, Meshal is suspected by Israeli authorities of being the mastermind of several high-profile terror attacks. The June 2006 abduction of Israeli soldier Gilad Schalit reportedly was carried out on his orders.


Less compromising than even his counterparts in Gaza, who have at least paid lip service, however implausible, to the idea of honoring a peace treaty with Israel, Meshal makes no effort to conceal his true aim: destroying the Jewish state through a relentless campaign of terrorism.


In a 2006 interview with the BBC, for instance, Meshal explained that any truce with Israel would be “limited because there is a Palestinian reality that the international community must deal with.” That “reality” was the mere fact of Israel’s existence, which Meshal, along with the rest of the Hamas leadership, deems intolerable.


Out of earshot of Western media, Meshal has sounded still more sinister notes. In taped speeches to his supporters, Meshal can be heard declaring that “Israel with the help of Allah will be defeated.” With chilling candor, he has confessed that “resistance” – i.e., terrorism – is not only the “basis” of Palestinian politics but the “destiny” of the Palestinian people.


“[W]e won’t pretend to be something we’re not,” Meshal revealingly told Al-Ahram newspaper in 2005. “Yes, suicide operations… anger international public opinion, but you must observe the Palestinian popular mood.” Terror is Meshal’s business, in other words, and he has no intention of closing down shop.


With this public record to go on, to believe that an arch-terrorist like Meshal has a role to play in peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians requires self-delusion on a momentous scale. Regrettably, the 39th president is more than equal to the task.


Indeed, this is not the first time that Carter has extended an olive branch to the suicide-belt set. In the aftermath of Hamas’ electoral victory in January 2006, Carter was among the first to congratulate the terrorist group, meeting with Hamas leaders in Ramallah, where his Carter Center has an office, and cheerfully parroting their assurance that they “want to have a peaceful administration.” When Hamas subsequently reneged on its promise, purging Gaza of all Fatah opposition and stepping up its rocket attacks against Israel, Carter was unchastened.


On the contrary, Carter undertook a vigorous one-man lobbying campaign on behalf of the terrorist group, urging the international community to launder money to Hamas through U.N. aid programs and then calling it “criminal” when the money for Hamas’ war of terror was not forthcoming.


Today Carter remains a believer in Hamas’ essential goodness. Despite its genocidal agenda, unmistakably set forth in the Hamas charter, and notwithstanding its continued embrace of terrorism, Carter has maintained that “there is a good chance” that Hamas could become a non-violent organization.


Deluded though it is, there is a reason why Carter is prepared to believe Hamas’ rhetoric over brutal reality. As he made clear in his book Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, Carter shares the Palestinian terrorists’ belief that Israel’s “occupation,” as opposed to the Palestinians’ refusal to recognize Israel and their war against it, is to blame for the stalemated conflict. “Israel’s continued control and colonization of Palestinian land have been the primary obstacles to a comprehensive peace agreement in the Holy Land,” Carter argued in the book.


Even a cursory familiarity with the facts is sufficient to demolish that claim. Since Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza in 2005 and the end of the so-called “occupation” there, Hamas and other Palestinian terrorist groups have launched over 6,000 rockets and mortars into Israel. By Carter’s logic, such attacks should never have occurred.


But instead of reconsidering the “occupation” narrative, Carter has adopted a see-no-evil approach to Palestinian terror. In 2006, when Hamas supposedly was honoring a ceasefire against Israel, over 1,000 rockets rained down on southern Israel from the Gaza strip. That deadly barrage did not deter Carter from claiming, absurdly, that “Hamas leaders have continued to honor a temporary cease-fire, or hudna, during the past 18 months.” For good measure, Carter quoted a Hamas spokesman who told him that the ceasefire “can be extended for two, 10 or even 50 years if the Israelis will reciprocate.” A more skeptical observer might have wondered how Hamas could honor for decades a ceasefire it failed to uphold for a single year. Carter simply took Hamas at its word.


Whatever else may be said of Carter’s forthcoming meeting with Khaled Meshal, it is entirely in keeping with his disgraceful post-presidential career. Whether out of a dangerous naiveté or genuine malice toward Israel – and there is evidence that both are at play in Carter’s aggressive advocacy for the Palestinian cause – Carter has become a pawn of terrorists who have the blood of countless Israelis, as well as Americans, on their hands. That Carter continues to see these committed killers as peacemakers is only further proof that an open mind should never be confused with a wise one. 


For more on Carter’s anti-Israel campaign, click here. — The Editors


Jacob Laksin is a senior editor for FrontPage Magazine. He is a 2007 Phillips Foundation Journalism Fellow. His e-mail is jlaksin@gmail.com