Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Carter’s “Malaise” Speech 30 Years On

Today marks the 30th anniversary of President Jimmy Carter’s “Malaise” speech, in which author Kevin Mattson points out, the word “malaise” never actually appears.

Mattson’s new book, What the Heck Are You Up To, Mr. President (Bloomsbury) is bright and upbeat, but also a bit disturbing sad. From an excerpt in today’s New York Times:
It was the kind of secular sermon -- introspective, searching, occasionally soaring -- that can be a tear-jerker when delivered to swelling music on a TV show like “The West Wing” but works less well for real-world presidents. Mr. Carter’s speechwriters Hendrik Hertzberg and Gordon Stewart were brilliant, but they weren’t Aaron Sorkin.

Mr. Carter’s speech was a Hail Mary pass by a president in trouble. And like so many Hail Mary passes, it was picked off. Republicans clubbed Mr. Carter with its downer themes for the next year and a half. Ronald Reagan handily won the 1980 presidential election, denying Mr. Carter a second term. There wouldn’t be another Democrat in the White House for a long 12 years.
The excerpt can be found here.



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