You know how bad things have got when Jimmy Carter's critique of your presidency is taken seriously. This week the former US President attacked the current one, saying that, "as far as the adverse impact on the nation around the world", George Bush's Administration had been "the worst in history". It's one thing to have to listen to Bill and Hillary Clinton claim that things were better when they were in the White House, but Jimmy Carter? Being told by Mr Carter that you're the worst president in history is like being told by William McGonagall that your poetry stinks.
For the younger reader, perhaps already infused with a nostalgia that recalls the 1970s as a time of peace and prosperity, a brief reminder of the golden era of Carter is in order. It wasn't all disco and flared trousers and sex without condoms. Also fashionable in those days were unemployment, inflation and communism.
The US jobless rate was more than 10 per cent. Inflation touched 15 per cent. Soviet troops marched unmolested into Afghanistan. America watched helpless as its diplomats were held hostage by Iranian revolutionaries for 444 days. In the rest of the world, from Latin America to Asia, American power yielded to the communist advance; economically, America was being bested by Japan and Germany.....
Start with economics. America is not going to be overtaken by China any time in the next century. So large is the US advantage that, even growing at 3 per cent, the country's economy adds more to the level of global activity than China does growing at 10 per cent.
Its soft power may have been attenuated these past few years, but not destroyed. Who is there to replace America? China? Do me a favour. Does anyone out there really think they would prefer to live in China rather than America? Europe? Viewed from the comforting perspective of a pavement cafe in Paris, Europe might look a more appealing place. But the continent is in the midst of a long, slow suicide; falling birthrates and a moral surrender to the forces of relativism have left it an easy prey for less tolerant cultures.
There's no denying that Iraq is a self-inflicted wound and an energy-sapping one at that. But the scale of the damage to America there can be overstated too. All we've really learnt in the past five years is that even the US is probably not powerful enough to remake 700 years of history in five years. That doesn't mean America is weak, just less strong than it thought it was.
Of course, a president, an inept one, can set back the course of a nation's progress. Like Mr Carter before him, Mr Bush's ledger is heavy on the liabilities. But America recovered from Mr Carter, thanks to good leadership and the ingenuity of a people whose great gift is their constant capacity to recreate themselves. Who's betting it won't do so again?
(For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here.)
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