Maybe it's because I spent so much time in Georgia, maybe it's because I believe in the work he's done since he left office, but I believe in that man from Plains, Georgia: Jimmy Carter.
From the 1980 election through today there has been this attempt to use Carter as some sort of prat fall president, like Mr. Magoo: just incapable in every way. The argument recently was put forward by that opportunist and purveyor of baseness, Peggy Noonan, in effect saying, "Thank god we had Reagan, imagine what Carter would have done!" Never mind all the good that Carter has done. The man won a Nobel Peace Prize, for crying out loud!
What did Reagan do other than lower America's credibility around the world and sink America further and further into national debt? What is his legacy? He promoted McCarthyism early in his career and his general distrust of humanity would be his long-term legacy on America - a country now perceived by the rest of the world as meddling and self-absorbed. A nation of avenging cowboys, all flash and no substance.
Anyhow, here's a link to Carter's "Malaise" Speech made in 1979. In this speech Carter calls for Americans to reinvest in their communities by practicing more conservation, calls for Congress to reappropriate funding to create a solar bank (a reserve of energy from solar energy rather than a reserve of only oil), and to treat energy independence as a national security issue. He presciently noted that America in 1979 was at a fork in the road: choose either the path of sacrifice in the name of community, or go down the path of self-interest and fragmentation.
Clearly Carter was correct in his assessment of America's trajectory. The history of the last thirty years is the story of individual insularity (a real marked drop in civic engagement) and the resultant international bullying swagger of a nation so scared of itself that rather than address its own monsters it bullies all the other kids at school. America's gone Lord of the Flies, convinced there are no adults around. Now all political leaders look like Piggy to America.