Students will assess the "Malaise" speech and determine its influence on Jimmy Carters presidency.
Students will determine, evaluate, and then support with evidence if Jimmy Carter's Presidency was a miserable failure or where their outside forces working against him (did events conspire against him)?
Carter’s battles over energy exemplified the strengths and weaknesses of his broader domestic initiatives. He tried to do a lot; some would say too much. In the spring of 1977, he introduced an energy plan with 113 components. Two years later, he added dozens of additional ideas. A major White House visual occurred on June 20, 1979, when Carter dedicated solar panels on the roof and audaciously called on the country to produce 20 percent of its energy from renewable resources by the turn of the century. The broad scope of his proposals set him up for the perception of failure. Congress deliberated for well over a year on each set of energy proposals, leaving the impression of congressional opposition, even after most, though far from all, of them were enacted into law.
The "MALAISE" Speech
"It was an incredibly successful speech, until he fired the Cabinet, which changed the whole tenor of things," said Patrick Caddell, who was the president's pollster and a chief architect of the speech.
"It got a great reception. I've never felt more that American political journalism bordered on Soviet history-making than on that speech," he said. "From the misnaming of it, to the trying to say later that it was unpopular - the historical revisionism. The speech itself was an extraordinary success."
Kevin Mattson, author of "‘What the Heck Are You Up To, Mr. President?': Jimmy Carter, America's ‘Malaise,' and the Speech That Should Have Changed the Country," agrees.
"It's clear that the speech was a success on its own grounds," he says. Carter "had an incredible bump in the polls. The mail that he was receiving at the White House was overwhelmingly positive, and a lot of it was people saying they were going to cut down on their consumption of gas and cut out unnecessary trips." At least initially, he says, "a lot of it resonated."
"I do think people were ready to follow in those first days after the speech," says The New Yorker's Hendrik Hertzberg, who was the lead speechwriter on the address. "And then there was the Cabinet Jonestown, and I think that's where the elites turned definitively against Carter, and that trickled down before too long to everybody else."