With Ford the communists and OPEC blatantly
defied us, and at home a poor economy
derived from regulations and complacency.
And Carter's passion for unproven energy
alternatives and human rights produced a haze
of misdirection and a damaging malaise.
Post-Nixon, Gerald Ford was honest, rather bland,
a welcome change -- although he didn't understand
the issues of the war or the economy.
The country, focused on the criminal debris
of Watergate, was trying to forget the war,
and so the communists assailed Saigon, the roar
of helicopters drowning out the frantic pleas
of stranded people, many taking to the seas
(boat people) to escape. And so the 'dominoes'
were falling. In Cambodia the specter rose
in "killing fields," the butchering of innocents.
And trouble followed in the Middle East: intense
aversion to the West caused OPEC to increase
the price of oil, and we responded with caprice
and folly -- lowering the price of gas! And worse,
a thousand regulations -- the exact reverse
of market principles. Pollution standards, speed
restrictions where unfettered markets would impede
demand for wasteful vehicles instinctively.
But business wasn't blameless. Its complacency
allowed Japan to take the lead. Consumers found
their products cheap and good, while here at home a round
of steep inflation and recession battered us.
In social issues, women's backers raised a fuss
about abortion. Feminism and divorce
were on the rise. Her newfound freedoms were to force
the woman from the home, and progress with 'career'
was tempered by the broken home, an atmosphere
contributing to church decline. Society
was changing fast, especially with energy
concerns. So Jimmy Carter, Baptist, businessman,
and veteran, took office with a costly plan
for energy alternatives (the nuclear
approach was thwarted by a public insecure
with overstated fears). His foreign policy
was hampered by an ineffective tendency
to champion human rights instead of mastery
of practical alliances. Admittedly
his Middle East (Camp David) summit kept the peace.
But Russia, sensing weakness, hurried to increase
development of missiles. Terrorism rose
as well. The Ayatollah started to impose
his anti-western views, and then the headlines cried
"America Held Hostage!" in Iran. Our pride
was damaged, rescues failed, and with Afghanistan
invaded by the Russian army we began
to doubt ourselves -- the only blessing, it would seem,
for Carter, was our 1980 hockey team.