The talk around town is that President Carter is going to be a one-term president, but the question is when is he going to start serving it. His energy of the other evening was so poor it had to have been made by someone who hopes to be president some day, not by one who is. For fumbled delivery, for misplaced emphasis and improperly timed gesture, Carter rivalled Nixon.
Incomprehensible. He has been making this speech over and over at press conferences and impromptu get-togethers. With him, practice makes worse, and this isn't a quibble by a political columnist with nothing better to do than peck specks of food out from between Carter's teeth. Not all presidents have seen fit to try to rally the nation. Well and good. A Collidge or a Ford chose to go with the folk, but if a president is going to whip up popular support he had best know how to do it. In every democracy from Athens to this one, every leader of stature has had to master the forensic arts.
The text of the Nov. 8 effort was so bar that not even Franklin D. Roosevelt, who could make you enlist in the Marines by reading the Yellow Pages on the radio, could have done much with it. Either the people who hand Carter these texts should send away to the Great Writers' School or, heaven forfend, the President is writing hiis won stuff. It's the most moving prose to come out of a first magistrate's mouth since Herbert Clark Hoover, who was also an engineer and wrote like one.
It's been the presidential custom for the past 30 years to get on the tube from time to time, announce a crisis or national emergency and see a certain amount of scuffling around the next day . . . press secretaries giving accounts of the volume of favorable mail, statements by hig shots agreeing with the boss and concurring in the need to rally around. The last six or seven years have seen this procedure wear thin, but never has the nation responded more lethargically to a White House-called crisis than to the one Carter declared last week.
If now is the four of decision, one does not, as Carter did, to meander to and for maudering about leaving a drop of oil for our grandchildren. Americans are not interested in posterity. Our grandparents never though about the mess they were leaving us, and we haven't been brought up to give a tinkle or a titter about the unborn.
What the President had to do was to dramatize the seriousness of the situation now, for us the living. He failed. Indeed the lackadaisical nature of the program he's trying to [TEXT OMITTED FROM SOURCE]
To make that point he should have proposed a symbolic act that would have reminded us that the crisis is real, not the managed posturing of politicians and supranational oil interests. Why didn't he ask for something like cutting back on outdoor illuminated advertising one night a week or giving up energy-wasteful soda pop cans or anything that would make this situation less abstruse and more convincingly palpable?
Instead he clings to his demand for a huge tax levy without being able to show these taxes will lower consumption. To date no one has worked out the formula of the elasticity of the demand for oil; we do not know how much the price of oil must be raised to realized if gasoline goes to a dollar or a dollar and half? We don't know.
But under the President's proposal it doesn't matter because he is going to jack up the price of oil by billions in new taxes to discourage consumption and then rebate the money to lower-income people so they can buy the gas and oil he is taxing to discourage them from buying. Meanwhile upper-income people who can afford the price hike will continue their old consumption patterns.
The President can claim only one achievement with his energy effort thus far, and it isn't to be sniffed at. He's made Russell Long, oh! most unlikely of men, a minor national hero.
The Louisiana senator is the one who has thus far stopped this tax craxiness from being enacted. Some of the other things Long had done aren't so noble, but with Carter every time a senator slaps him in the face, all he does is smile and say, "Thanks, I needed that."
As soon as he learns how to fall down the steps of an airplane, he'll make at least as good a president as Jerry Ford . . .