"There is nothing that can be done about it." It is an anthem, an axiom, a metaphysical revelation. For the past couple of years, since recalcitrant foreigners began frustrating our designs abroad and the economy began turning Jimmy Carter into Keynesianism's Hoover, it has been the current wisdom, the eructation of the collective unconscious. In the White House this magisterial declaration of impotence has assumed the proportions of a simpleton's benediction.
Slip into the Oval Office, secret yourself behind the arass and whisper into our president's ear something like: "His eminence the Imam of all Persia has locked away 50 American nationals, and they would like to go home." Without looking up from his document-laden desk, our president will respond: "There is nothing that can be done about it." Whisper something to the effect: "The Soviets are on the prowl around the globe; they haven't left Cuba, and they aren't removing their peace-keeping force from Afghanistan." Our president will respond automatically: "There is nothing that can be done about it." Cough, stomp your foot and shout: "Our Western European Allies Shun Our Counsel. Third World Countries Shun Our Aid. Many Of the Nations Of The World Feel They Had Better Treat Emissaries From Moscow More Cordially." Still the little man behind the big desk will reply: "There is nothing that can be done about it."
I have not been in the White House since the dark days of the Ford Despotism, and neither Jimmy nor any of the members of his moon-pie mafia have invited me over for an Amaretto and cream, but I would not be surprised to learn that those gloomy words are framed and hung on every wall -- the Carter equivalent of old Harry's "The Buck Stops Here." Those words compose the wisdom and the salvation of our president's regime. Mischievous foreigners, prehensile captains of industry, the vested interests, the labor unions, the bureaucracy, the judiciary -- all have pilfered the president's powers. There is nothing Jimmy can do about it.
Nonetheless, he is running for the presidency once again. This past week it was learned that he intended to run a campaign stressing "love and compassion."
Mothers and fathers of America, keep your children out of sight during this campaign. Not even household pets should be allowed out unchaperoned. The most shameless flatterer ever to sit in the White House is about to start crooning, "I'm in Love With You Always," and insisting that he personally cares about each and every one of us in a very special way. In that odd cadence of his, that andante con pingpong cadence, he will be telling us of our goodness, our humanity, our love and . . . God, I shall be on Dramamine for whole months.
Will anyone be moved by this drivel? Shocking as it might sound to those familiar with the economic news, reports from abroad and a modest amount of history, some find it cogent.
"He's doing the best that he can." These are the words of the true-blue Carterite. They have been sounded fatalistically despite his every blunder. They are the watch words of our president's New Coalition. Richard Nixon based his administration on the Silent Majority. Our president is basing his on a newer phenomenon, the Whipped American.
We see the Whipped Americans' sad, puzzled faces on the TV news. Microphones are stuck in their faces as they are asked about their leader's record.
"Pardon me, what do you think of the president's overall performance?"
"Well, I think he's doing the best that he can."
"Yes, and -- sir, would you just step over here, your left foot has disturbed some dog droppings -- now, what about Mr. Carter's 18 percent inflation rate?"
"He really is doing the best that he can."
"Well, what about the hostages -- we have them in two countries now -- and what about the restless Soviets? Rising inflation rates? Rising unemployment? The budget? The stock market's fall of some 130 points in some six weeks?"
"Well, he is a good man . . . he's done the best that he can."
Are there no limits to the passivity of the Whipped Americans?
My guess is that there are none. My guess is that Carter could return America to the rustic drear of the 1930s, and still the limits of the Whipped American would not be reached. But there are limits to his number. We saw this in last week's primaries. In New York, Jimmy received a jolt, and those who would have us believe that Jimmy was the victim of a Zionist conspiracy ought to review the election returns. Jimmy's shifty blunders have alarmed non-Jews too; his loss in Connecticut showed that.
The sudden and surprising defeat of our president in last week's primaries was explicated to me by one of Manhattan's legendary political pundits, David Citron. Citron studies political behavior 14 hours a day from behind the wheel of one of the five cabs that he has acquired over the past 20 years, and he is a vigorous lecturer. According to him, Americans want to work, to achieve and to prosper. They want their country strong and secure. Citron is a Democrat, but this fall he will probably vote for Ronald Reagan without remorse. When he thumps his hand on his dashboard and expounds on rising taxes, rising inflation, rising government spending and diminishing American power, he leaves his audience in no doubt -- "there is something that can be done about it." h