AFTER FRANKLIN ROOSEVELT began his first term as president, he found that he was going to have to adopt programs that cost lots of money. But during his campaign he had given a stirring speech in Pittsburgh, in which he denounced government spending and "loose fiscal policies." He mentioned this to his adviser Sam Rosenman and asked how the difference could be reconciled. Rosenman replied, "Deny you were ever in Pittsburgh."
In 1976, Jimmy Carter campaigned for president as an outsider -- a non-Washington or anti-Washington candidate. As he prepared for his 1980 reelection campaign, with many earlier promises unfulfilled, it looked for a while as if he might deny he was ever in Washington.
In late July, 1979, he was speaking publicly about Washington as an "isolated world," an "island" where he has supposedly been running the government -- and where he wanted to be sentenced for another term.
Emerson may have been right about consistency being the hobgoblin of little minds, and most of us don't want in the White House an ideologue who carries everything to an illogical conclusion. But Carter managed to be consistently inconsistent and firmly vague. As Lucy said to Charlie Brown in Charles Schulz's strip, "If you're going to be wish-washy, be definite about it!"
When parts of a Carter program were not passed, Congress was to blame. At the same time, he could assure press conference questioners that Congress was doing very well, and they were getting along just fine.
One of the hallmarks of his administration was the "movable centerpiece." In every plan there was what he called the centerpiece of his entire program. When that centerpiece went down, he pointed to some other section as the centerpiece.
There was also the movable rug, on which he and his supporters in Congress could take a stand for something he said was most important. Then, without advance notice, he might disappear, taking the rug along with him and leaving the congressmen in mid-air.
A foreign ally could also find himself treading air if -- for example -- he publicly agreed to an American request to install neutron weapons in his country, only to find later that Carter had decided to abandon them.
About half a year after Carter's early 1977 speech on "the moral equivalent of war," I wrote an imaginary speech on how he might have coped with an earlier and greater emergency. Looking at it now, it seems to be a fair enough takeoff on the Carter style during his first years in the White House: THE MORAL EQUIVALENT OF ENERGY Address by President Carter Dec. 20, 1941
Many of you have heard by now of the unfortunate bombing of Pearl Harbor that took place on Dec. 7, a date that will live in many memories as a sad one.
I had planned to speak to you nearly two weeks ago but rescheduled the broadcast to provide time to prepare a program and to have further meetings -- involving extremely delicate negotiations -- with representatives of the Imperial Japanese government who are still in this country.
Our talks, which have been useful and hopeful, have covered a wide range, including the need for a Japanese military homeland in Hawaii, and our need for repairs at Pearl Harbor and to our vessels there. We intend also to ask that they consider, as a matter of urgent priority, the return to us of the Philippines, Southern California and Oregon.
These are matters of concern to all of us, even if we do not live in Pearl Harbor or the Philippines or Southern California or Oregon. The loss of these areas could have serious consequences for our people as well as for our friendly relations with the Imperial Japanese government.
If there is no improvement in these relations, we will be faced with a very serious situation, and I am asking Congress for legislation to deal with the major problems confronting us. This legislation, which we have planned carefully, will call for sacrifices on your part to meet the emergency.
Our program is divided into three main sections. The first of these concerns Japanese toys. In recent years, we have imported millions of dollars' worth of toys from Japan, imports that have steadily risen. Each of us -- and the children and grandchildren in our families, which form such a basic unit in our country -- must learn to make do a little longer with the Japanese toys we already have, instead of importing newer and greater numbers of Japanese toys every year. This will be a hardship for some, but it is necessary, and I am meeting with leaders of both parties of Congress next week to ask if their families will go along with this measure.
The second part of our program is of even greater importance and affects still more of us. This involves tea. Our country is less dependent on tea than some others. Nevertheless we have been a tea-importing country, and much of our tea comes from Asia. A reasonable cutback in the consumption of tea should help during the present emergency, without working undue heardship on the importer of tea or manufacturers of teapots and tea tables in our country. I shall consult shortly with members of Congress, who may have tea shops in their districts, to ask what they consider a fair and equitable tea program. i
As substitutes for tea, there are several alternatives. Our own Coca-Cola is a popular beverage, especially in my native Georgia, though it is seldom served hot. Milk is a nutritious and versatile drink, which can be served hot in cocoa or can be used cold on our native American corn flakes -- what the Indians used to call maize. Milk has the advantage that it can also be made into cottage cheese. This can be served with root beer, another moral equivalent of tea.
The third part of our emergency program concerns travel abroad. Many of you have probably looked forward to a vacation in Hawaii or the Philippines. I have postponed my own plans for a trip that was to include stops at Tokyo, Peking, Manila, Brazil, Outer Mongolia, the Canary Islands, Tierra del Fuego, and Yonkers.
We must face the fact that we may not be able to vacation in Hawaii or the Philippines this winter, or perhaps for several winters. I shall ask that you travel instead to places like Miami Beach, Las Vegas, or Acapulco. Such changes also will involve sacrifice, but in the present emergency there is no other possible way. I shall meet soon with members of the Congress and with representatives of American travel bureaus to ask if they know of any other way.
These three groupings -- toys, tea, and travel -- provide the carefully integrated plan we have worked out to deal with the present Pearl Harbor emergency. If any sections of this plan are not approved by the Congress, we will try to replace them with other parts, providing the replacement parts are not imported from Japan.
These sacrifices involved in this emergency program will be a test of our national will and character and strength, our mercy and mildness, our forbearance, decency, honesty, consideration, and goodness, our willingness to love, honor, and cherish, in sickness and in health, our desire to be trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent, and out capacity for national survival and all-round good sportsmanship.
To succeed in this national test it is absolutely crucial that we achieve all of our objectives -- or most of them -- or perhaps some of them. And if we do nothing at all, at least we know that we have done our very best.