An alert reader sent this in last night, and highlighted her favorite parts. It’s Jimmy Carter’s speech to the Democratic Convention of 1980. I (sorta) remember that speech, his last great speech before losing to Ronald Reagan. What’s worthy about it today is that it’s stunningly accurate and applicable to the situation in which we find ourselves today. Chillingly so. The Republican aims are the same, and their tactics are the same. Carter put solar panels on the roof of the White House; Reagan had them torn down because he didn’t like the way they looked.
Tonight the Republicans trot out their biggest guns, and Bush makes his case for another term. So far, the convention has been utterly devoid of any talk about energy policy. The Progress Report’s analysis of the convention last night did a great job of reviewing the many hyprocrisies and flat-out lies that it included, and did this word count on Cheney’s speech, which of itself offers a good profile of the convention as a whole:
In a 2,800-word speech, Cheney devoted just 50 words of his speech to health care, 92 to the economy and 102 to education. There was no mention of energy policy, trade or the environment. Even Iraq, undoubtedly the focus of Cheney’s term in office, merited just 34 words. Number of words Cheney devoted to personally attacking and distorting the record of John Kerry: 671.
Contrast that with Carter’s speech in 1980, which was completely about policy. (Maybe that’s why Reagan beat him with happy talk.)
I don’t think it’s overstating the case to say that this election is a defining moment in the history of Man. By the time of the next election in 2008, we will have reached the global peak of oil production and we will be beginning our descent to a post-carbon world. If the Republicans win this election, with their hydrocarbon-based energy policy and their illegitimate wars of hegemony against oil-producing nations, we are sunk. As goes the U.S. with its energy policy, so will go the world. The party who wins will determine whether we have a chance to use our precious little remaining time and energy to execute a rapid transition to energy effiency and renewable generation, or whether we will squander it while denying scientific fact and maximizing profits for the energy companies. Literally, everything is on the line here.
As we wrap up a week of listening to the GOP carrying on about 9-11 and their endless war on “terror,” while the elephant of energy policy makes itself comfortable in the living room, Carter’s warnings and assessment of the world in 1980 are a good jolt back to reality.
Of course we’re at a different point with energy now than we were 24 years ago. Increasing domestic drilling won’t help us out of this mess any more–it’s but a drop in the bucket. And we know that increased coal use has cost us dearly in damage to our health and the environment. But Carter was generally pointing us in the right direction: energy independence. If we had only used the last 24 years to keep going in that direction, we’d be in a very different place today. Indeed, in all likelihood, 9-11 would have never even happened.
Thanks to the alert reader for digging this up and highlighting the best parts.
in an address to the Democratic National Convention
accepting its nomination for President
August 11, 1980 in New York
Fritz and I will mount a campaign that defines the real issues, a campaign
that responds to the intelligence of the American people, a campaign that talks
sense. And we’re going to beat the Republicans in November.
We’ll win because we are the party of a great President who knew how to get
reelected–Franklin Delano Roosevelt. And we are the party of a courageous
fighter who knew how to give ’em hell–Harry Truman. And as Truman said, he just
told the truth and they thought it was hell. And we’re the party of a gallant
man of spirit–John Fitzgerald Kennedy. And we’re the party of a great leader of
compassion–Lyndon Baines Johnson, and the party of a great man who should have
been President, who would have been one of the greatest Presidents in
history–Hubert Horatio Hornblower–Humphrey. I have appreciated what this
convention has said about Senator Humphrey, a great man who epitomized the
spirit of the Democratic Party. And I would like to say that we are also
theparty of Governor Jerry Brown and Senator Edward Kennedy.
I’d like to say a personal word to Senator Kennedy. Ted, you’re a tough
competitor and a superb campaigner, and I can attest to that. Your speech before
this convention was a magnificent statement of what the Democratic Party is and
what it means to the people of this country and why a Democratic victory is so
important this year. I reach out to you tonight, and I reach out to all those
who supported you in your valiant and passionate campaign. Ted, your party needs
and I need you. And I need your idealism and your dedication working for us.
There is no doubt that even greater service lies ahead of you, and we are
grateful to you and to have your strong partnership now in a larger cause to
which your own life has been dedicated.
I thank you for your support; we’ll make great partners this fall in whipping
the Republicans. We are Democrats and we’ve had our differences, but we share a
bright vision of America’s future–a vision of a good life for all our people, a
vision of a secure nation, a just society, a peaceful world, a strong
America–confident and proud and united. And we have a memory of
Franklin Roosevelt, 40 years ago, when he said that there are times in our
history when concerns over our personal lives are overshadowed by our concern
over “what will happen to the county we have known.” This is such a time, and I
can tell you that the choice to be made this year can transform our own personal
lives and the life of our country as well.
During the last Presidential campaign, I crisscrossed this country and I
listened to thousands and thousands of people-housewives and farmers, teachers
and small business leaders, workers and students, the elderly and the poor,
people of every race and every background and every walk of life. It was a
powerful experience–a total immersion in the human reality of America.
And I have now had another kind of total immersion–being President of the
United States of America. Let me talk for a moment about what that job is like
and what I’ve learned from it. I’ve learned that only the most complex and
difficult task comes before me in the Oval Office. No easy answers are found
there, because no easy questions come there.
I’ve learned that for a President, experience is the best guide to the right
decisions. I’m wiser tonight than I was 4 years ago. And I have learned that the
Presidency is a place of compassion. My own heart is burdened for the troubled
Americans. The poor and the jobless and the afflicted-they’ve become part of me.
My thoughts and my prayers for our hostages in Iran are as though they were my
own sons and daughters.
The life of every human being on Earth can depend on the experience
and judgment and vigilance of the person in the Oval Office. The President’s
power for building and his power for destruction are awesome. And the power’s
greatest exactly where the stakes are highest–in matters of war and peace.
And I’ve learned something else, something that I have come to see with
extraordinary clarity: Above all, I must look ahead, because the President of
the United States is the steward of the Nation’s destiny. He must protect our
children and the children they will have and the children of generations to
follow. He must speak and act for them. That is his burden and his glory.
And that is why a President cannot yield to the shortsighted demands, no
matter how rich or powerful the special interests might be that make those
demands. And that’s why the President cannot bend to the passions of the moment,
however popular they might be. That’s why the President must sometimes ask for
sacrifice when his listeners would rather hear the promise of comfort.
The President is a servant of today, but his true constituency is the
future. That’s why the election of 1980 is so important.
Some have said it makes no difference who wins this election. They are wrong.
This election is a stark choice between two men, two parties, two sharply
different pictures of what America is and what the world is, but it’s more than
that–it’s a choice between two futures.
The year 2000 is just less than 20 years away, just four Presidential
elections after this one. Children born this year will come of age in the 21st
century. The time to shape the world of the year 2000 is now. The decisions of
the next few years will set our course, perhaps an irreversible course, and the
most important of all choices will be made by the American people at the polls
less than 3 months from tonight.
The choice could not be more clear nor the consequences more crucial. In one
of the futures we can choose, the future that you and I have been building
together, I see security and justice and peace.
I see a future of economic security-security that will come from
tapping our own great resources of oil and gas, coal and sunlight, and from
building the tools and technology and factories for a revitalized economy based
on jobs and stable prices for everyone.
I see a future of justice–the justice of good jobs, decent health care,
quality education, a full opportunity for all people regardless of color or
language or religion; the simple human justice of equal rights for all men and
for all women, guaranteed equal rights at last under the Constitution of the
United States of America.
And I see a future of peace–a peace born of wisdom and based on a
fairness toward all countries of the world, a peace guaranteed both by American
military strength and by American moral strength as well.
That is the future I want for all people, a future of confidence and hope and
a good life. It’s the future America must choose, and with your help and with
your commitment, it is the future America will choose.
But there is another possible future. In that other future I see
despair–despair of millions who would struggle for equal opportunity and a
better life and struggle alone. And I see surrender–the surrender of our energy
future to the merchants of oil, the surrender of our economic future to a
bizarre program of massive tax cuts for the rich, service cuts for the poor, and
massive inflation for everyone. And I see risk–the risk of international
confrontation, the risk of an uncontrollable, unaffordable, and unwinnable
nuclear arms race.
No one, Democrat or Republican either, consciously seeks such a
future, and I do not claim that my opponent does. But I do question the
disturbing commitments and policies already made by him and by those with him
who have now captured control of the Republican Party. The consequences of those
commitments and policies would drive us down the wrong road. It’s up to all of
us to make sure America rejects this alarming and even perilous destiny.
The only way to build a better future is to start with the realities of the
present. But while we Democrats grapple with the real challenges of a real
world, others talk about a world of tinsel and make-believe.
Let’s look for a moment at their make-believe world.
In their fantasy America, inner-city people and farm workers and
laborers do not exist. Women, like children, are to be seen but not heard. The
problems of working women are simply ignored. The elderly do not need Medicare.
The young do not need more help in getting a better education. Workers do not
require the guarantee of a healthy and a safe place to work. In their fantasy
world, all the complex global changes of the world since World War II have never
happened. In their fantasy America, all problems have simple solutions–simple
It’s a make-believe world, a world of good guys and bad guys, where
some politicians shoot first and ask questions later. No hard choices, no
sacrifice, no tough decisions–it sounds too good to be true, and it is.
The path of fantasy leads to irresponsibility. The path of reality
leads to hope and peace. The two paths could not be more different, nor could
the futures to which they lead. Let’s take a hard look at the consequences of
You and I have been working toward a more secure future by rebuilding our
military strength–steadily, carefully, and responsibly. The Republicans talk
about military strength, but they were in office for 8 out of the last 11 years,
and in the face of a growing Soviet threat they steadily cut real defense
spending by more than a third.
We’ve reversed the Republican decline in defense. Every year since I’ve been
President we’ve had real increases in our commitment to a stronger Nation,
increases which are prudent and rational. There is no doubt that the
United States of America can meet a threat from the Soviet Union. Our modernized
strategic forces, a revitalized NATO, the Trident submarine, the Cruise missile,
the Rapid Deployment Force–all these guarantee that we will never be second to
any nation. Deeds, not words; fact, not fiction. We must and we will continue to
build our own defenses. We must and we will continue to seek balanced reductions
in nuclear arms.
The new leaders of the Republican Party, in order to close the gap between
their rhetoric and their record, have now promised to launch an all-out nuclear
arms race. This would negate any further effort to negotiate a strategic arms
limitation agreement. There can be no winners in such an arms race, and all the
people of the Earth can be the losers.
The Republican nominee advocates abandoning arms control policies which have
been important and supported by every Democratic President since Harry, Truman,
and also by every Republican President since Dwight D. Eisenhower. This radical
and irresponsible course would threaten our security and could put the whole
world in peril. You and I must never let this come to pass.
It’s simple to call for a new arms race, but when armed aggression threatens
world peace, tough-sounding talk like that is not enough. A President must act
When Soviet troops invaded Afghanistan, we moved quickly to take action. I
suspended some grain sales to the Soviet Union; I called for draft registration;
and I joined wholeheartedly with the Congress and with the U.S. Olympic
Committee and led more than 60 other nations in boycotting the big propaganda
show in Russia–the Moscow Olympics.
The Republican leader opposed two of these forceful but peaceful actions, and
he waffled on the third. But when we asked him what he would do about aggression
in Southwest Asia, he suggested blockading Cuba. [Laughter] Even his running
mate wouldn’t go along with that. He doesn’t seem to know what to do with the
Russians. He’s not sure if he wants to feed them or play with them or fight with
As I look back at my first term, I’m grateful that we’ve had a country for
the full 4 years of peace. And that’s what we’re going to have for the next 4
years-peace. It’s only common sense that if America is to stay secure
and at peace, we must encourage others to be peaceful as well.
As you know, we’ve helped in Zimbabwe-Rhodesia where we’ve stood firm for
racial justice and democracy. And we have also helped in the Middle East.
Some have criticized the Camp David accords and they’ve criticized some
delays in the implementation of the Middle East peace treaty. Well, before I
became President there was no Camp David accords and there was no Middle East
peace treaty. Before Camp David, Israel and Egypt were poised across barbed
wire, confronting each other with guns and tanks and planes. But afterward, they
talked face-to-face with each other across a peace table, and they also
communicated through their own Ambassadors in Cairo and Tel Aviv. Now that’s the
kind of future we’re offering–of peace to the Middle East if the Democrats are
reelected in the fall.
I am very proud that nearly half the aid that our country has ever given to
Israel in the 32 years of her existence has come during my administration.
Unlike our Republican predecessors, we have never stopped nor slowed that aid to
Israel. And as long as I am President, we will never do so. Our
commitment is clear: security and peace for Israel; peace for all the peoples of
the Middle East.
But if the world is to have a future of freedom as well as peace,
America must continue to defend human rights.
Now listen to this: The new Republican leaders oppose our human rights
policy. They want to scrap it. They seem to think it’s naive for America to
stand up for freedom and democracy. Just what do they think we should stand up
Ask the former political prisoners who now live in freedom if we should
abandon our stand on human rights. Ask the dissidents in the Soviet Union about
our commitment to human rights. Ask the Hungarian Americans, ask the Polish
Americans, listen to Pope John Paul II. Ask those who are suffering for the sake
of justice and liberty around the world. Ask the millions who’ve fled tyranny if
America should stop speaking out for human principles. Ask the American people.
I tell you that as long as I am President, we will hold high the banner of human
rights, and you can depend on it.
Here at home the choice between the two futures is equally important.
In the long run, nothing is more crucial to the future of America
than energy; nothing was so disastrously neglected in the past. Long after the
1973 Arab oil embargo, the Republicans in the White House had still done nothing
to meet the threat to the national security of our Nation. Then, as now, their
policy was dictated by the big oil companies.
We Democrats fought hard to rally our Nation behind a comprehensive
energy policy and a good program, a new foundation for challenging and exciting
progress. Now, after 3 years of struggle, we have that program. The battle to
secure America’s energy future has been fully and finally joined. Americans
‘have cooperated with dramatic results. We’ve reversed decades of dangerous and
growing dependence on foreign oil. We are now importing 20 percent less
oil–that is 1 1/2 million barrels of oil every day less than the day I took
And with our new energy policy now in place, we can discover more,
produce more, create more, and conserve more energy, and we will use American
resources, American technology, and millions of American workers to do it with.
Now, what do the Republicans propose? Basically, their energy program has two
parts. The first part is to get rid of almost everything that we’ve done for the
American public in the last 3 years. They want to reduce or abolish the
synthetic fuels program. They want to slash the solar energy incentives, the
conservation programs, aid to mass transit, aid to elderly Americans to help pay
their fuel bills. They want to eliminate the 55-mile speed limit. And while they
are at it, the Republicans would like to gut the Clean Air Act. They never liked
it to begin with.
That’s one part of their program; the other part is worse. To replace
what we have built, this is what they propose: to destroy the windfall profits
tax and to “unleash” the oil companies and let them solve the energy problem for
us. That’s it. That is it. That’s their whole program. There is no more. Can
this Nation accept such an outrageous program?
AUDIENCE. No !
THE PRESIDENT. No! We Democrats will fight it every step of the way, and
we’ll begin tomorrow morning with a campaign for reelection in November.
When I took office, I inherited a heavy load of serious economic problems
besides energy, and we’ve met them all head-on. We’ve slashed Government
regulations and put free enterprise back into the airlines, the trucking and the
financial systems of our country, and we’re now doing the same thing for the
railroads. This is the greatest change in the relationship between Government
and business since the New Deal. We’ve increased our exports dramatically. We’ve
reversed the decline in the basic research and development, and we have created
more than 8 million new jobs–the biggest increase in the history of our
But the road is bumpy, and last year’s skyrocketing OPEC price increases have
helped to trigger a worldwide inflation crisis. We took forceful action, and
interest rates have now fallen, the dollar is stable and, although we still have
a battle on our hands, we’re struggling to bring inflation under control.
We are now at the critical point, a turning point in our economic history of
our country. But because we made the hard decisions, because we have guided our
Nation and its economy through a rough but essential period of transition, we’ve
laid the groundwork for a new economic age.
Our economic renewal program for the 1980’s will meet our immediate need for
jobs and attack the very same, long-range problem that caused unemployment and
inflation in the first place. It’ll move America simultaneously towards our five
great economic goals–lower inflation, better productivity, revitalization of
American industry, energy security, and jobs.
It’s time to put all America back to work–but not in make-work, in real
work. And there is real work in modernizing American industries and creating new
industries for America as well. Here are just a few things we’ll rebuild
together and build together:
–new industries to turn our own coal and shale and farm
products into fuel for our cars and trucks and to turn the light of the sun
into heat and electricity for our homes;
transportation system of railbeds and ports to make American coal into a
powerful rival of OPEC oil;
–industries that will provide the convenience
of futuristic computer technology and communications to serve millions of
American homes and offices and factories;
–job training for workers
displaced by economic changes;
–new investment pinpointed in regions and
communities where jobs are needed most;
–better mass transit in our
cities and in between cities;
–and a whole new generation of American
jobs to make homes and vehicles and buildings that will house us and move us
in comfort with a lot less energy.
This is important, too: I have no doubt that the ingenuity, and dedication of
the American people can make every single one of these things happen. We are
talking about the United States of America, and those who count this country out
as an economic superpower are going to find out just how wrong they are. We’re
going to share in the exciting enterprise of making the 1980’s a time of growth
The Republican alternative is the biggest tax giveaway in history. They call
it Reagan-Kemp-Roth; I call it a free lunch that Americans cannot afford. The
Republican tax program offers rebates to the rich, deprivation for the poor, and
fierce inflation for all of us. Their party’s own Vice Presidential nominee said
that Reagan-Kemp-Roth would result in an inflation rate of more than 30 percent.
He called it “voodoo economics”. He suddenly changed his mind toward the end of
the Republican Convention, but he was right the first time.
Along with this gigantic tax cut, the new Republican leaders promise to
protect retirement and health programs and to have massive increases in defense
spending-and they claim they can balance the budget. If they are serious about
these promises, and they say they are, then a close analysis shows that the
entire rest of the Government would have to be abolished, everything from
education to farm programs, from the G.I. bill to the night watchman at the
Lincoln Memorial–and their budget would still be in the red. The only
alternative would be to build more printing presses to print cheap money. Either
way, the American people lose. But the American people will not stand for it.
The Democratic Party has always embodied the hope of our people for justice,
opportunity, and a better life, and we’ve worked in every way possible to
strengthen the American family, to encourage self-reliance, and to follow the
Old Testament admonition: “Defend the poor and the fatherless; give justice to
the afflicted and needy.” We’ve struggled to assure that no child in America
ever goes to bed hungry, that no elderly couple in America has to live in a
substandard home, and that no young person in America is excluded from college
because the family is poor.
But what have the Republicans proposed?–just an attack on everything that
we’ve done in the achievement of social justice and decency that we’ve won in
the last 50 years, ever since Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s first term. They would
make social security voluntary. They would reverse our progress on the minimum
wage, full employment laws, safety in the work place, and a healthy environment.
Lately, as you know, the Republicans have been quoting Democratic Presidents.
But who can blame them? Would you rather quote Herbert Hoover or Franklin Delano
Roosevelt? Would you rather quote Richard Nixon or John Fitzgerald Kennedy?
The Republicans have always been the party of privilege, but this year their
leaders have gone even further. In their platform, they have repudiated the best
traditions of their own party. Where is the conscience of Lincoln in the party
of Lincoln? What’s become of their traditional Republican commitment to fiscal
responsibility? What’s happened to their commitment to a safe and sane arms
Now, I don’t claim perfection for the Democratic Party. I don’t claim that
every decision that we have made has been right or popular; certainly, they’ve
not all been easy. But I will say this: We’ve been tested under fire. We’ve
neither ducked nor hidden, and we’ve tackled the great central issues of our
time, the historic challenges of peace and energy, which have been ignored for
years. We’ve made tough decisions, and we’ve taken the heat for them. We’ve made
mistakes, and we’ve learned from them. But we have built the foundation now for
a better future.
We’ve done something else, perhaps even more important. In good times and
bad, in the valleys and on the peaks, we’ve told people the truth, the hard
truth, the truth that sometimes hurts.
One truth that we Americans have learned is that our dream has been earned
for progress and for peace. Look what our land has been through within our own
memory–a great depression, a world war, a technological explosion, the civil
rights revolution, the bitterness of Vietnam, the shame of Watergate, the
twilight peace of nuclear terror.
Through each of these momentous experiences we’ve learned the hard way about
the world and about ourselves. But we’ve matured and we’ve grown as a nation and
we’ve grown stronger.
We’ve learned the uses and the limitations of power. We’ve learned the beauty
and responsibility of freedom. We’ve learned the value and the obligation of
justice. And we have learned the necessity of peace.
Some would argue that to master these lessons is somehow to limit our
potential. That is not so. A nation which knows its true strengths, which sees
its true challenges, which understands legitimate constraints, that nation–our
nation–is far stronger than one which takes refuge in wishful thinking or
nostalgia. The Democratic Party–the American people-have understood these
All of us can sympathize with the desire for easy answers. There’s often the
temptation to substitute idle dreams for hard reality. The new Republican
leaders are hoping that our Nation will succumb to that temptation this year,
but they profoundly misunderstand and underestimate the character of the
Three weeks after Pearl Harbor, Winston Churchill came to North America and
he said, “We have not journeyed all this way across the centuries, across the
oceans, across the mountains, across the prairies, because we are made of sugar
candy.” We Americans have courage. Americans have always been on the cutting
edge of change. We’ve always looked forward with anticipation and confidence.
I still want the same thing that all of you want–a self-reliant
neighborhood, strong families, work for the able-bodied and good medical care
for the sick, opportunity for our youth and dignity for our old, equal rights
and justice for all people. I want teachers eager to explain what a civilization
really is, and I want students to understand their own needs and their own aims,
but also the needs and yearnings of their neighbors.
I want women free to pursue without limit the full life of what they want for
I want our farmers growing crops to feed our Nation and the world, secure in
the knowledge that the family farm will thrive and with a fair return on the
good work they do for all of us.
I want workers to see meaning in the labor they perform and work enough to
guarantee a job for every worker in this country.
And I want the people in business free to pursue with boldness and freedom
And I want minority citizens fully to join the mainstream of American life.
And I want from the bottom of my heart to remove the blight of racial and other
discrimination from the face of our Nation, and I’m determined to do it.
I need for all of you to join me in fulfilling that vision. The
choice, the choice between the two futures, could not be more clear. If we
succumb to a dream world then we’ll wake up to a nightmare. But if we start with
reality and fight to make our dreams a reality, then Americans will have a good
life, a life of meaning and purpose in a nation that’s strong and secure.