The jury is still out on President Carter's Sunday night speech and the amplifications that have followed.
Partisan politicians have praised and attacked the program and the man who fashioned it. Their reactions were largely predictable.
Much editorial opinion has been critical of the nuts and bolts of the president's plan. That's what columnists and commentators are supposed to do. Their function is to examine every word and every detail of a proposal and then tell us whether it will accomplish its purpose.
A Washington Post survey indicated that the average resident of this area had "considerable sympathy for President Carter and his goals but also considerable doubt about whether his speech or his programs can meet the needs of the nation."
However, the views of the average resident of the Washington area are not necessarily those of the average American. It will take a while to learn whether a nationwide consensus has been reached.
The president says unity and confidence are essential to success. If he gets unity and confidence from average citizens, partisan politics will be swept aside. So will critical editorial opinion.
The big question, therefore, is how people reacted in Des Moines and San Jose and Mobile.
The commentators are examining each word the president uttered. But the man in the street listens more closely to the music than to the words.
Listeners who found the overall tone of a reborn Jimmy Carter persuasive will say, "He's the only president we have. We've got to get behind him and give him a fighting chance to make this thing work."
But if those who listened to the music concluded, "We've heard this song before," their reaction will be negative.
The pollsters will be busy in the next few days. In due course, they will tell us how people reacted.
Meanwhile, two things can be noted:
Implicit in the Sunday night speech was the proposition that the American people have become self-indulgent and selfish. Every wage-earner wants one last salary increase before we begin the fight against inflation. Every producer of goods and services wants one last price increase. There is no great enthusiasm for making individual sacrifices now to improve the general welfare of the nation at some future date. Everybody wants to live the good life. Now. On credit.
If these things are true - and I think that in large measure they are - we may well ask: Can any speech or any program change such deep-seated attitudes quickly?
Another major question is: How much cooperation will the new energy program get from people who are concerned about clean air and clean water?
In his Sunday night speech, the president didn't even mention nuclear power. It may be just as well that he left that controversial issue for later clarification, and didn't get into it in his opening salvo.
Right now, we need all the nuclear capacity we have. Tomorrow we may need even more if we are to free our generating plants from their dependence of foreign oil. Further down the road, we may be able to replace nuclear energy with solar power, or perhaps will something else that is not yet envisioned.
But, for the moment, we need nuclear power, dangerous as it is. We need coal, dirty as it is. We need synthetic fuels, ominous as their side-effects may be. We need reasonable compromises that will result in unity, not continued bickering.
No man can achieve all these things, but all men and women working together can.
The commentators say Jimmy Car's political future is at stake, and I suppose it is. But I think it is more important to realize that your future and mine are also at stake. And whether we like it or not, Carter's future and ours are inseparable right now. If the program to make this country self-sufficient in energy fails, we fail.