Today is the 30th anniversary of President Carter's "malaise" speech. Gordon Stewart, Carter's deputy chief speechwriter, has had published on today's Times' op-ed page a pathetic piece in praise of his boss and his boss' spoken words.
There is also pathos in the description of the speechwriting process. Here's just what one instance of how the Carter (and presumably also some of his staff) collected ideas: "Some 130 V.I.P.'s from Gov. Bill Clinton to Walter Cronkite were shuttled in and out of Camp David to offer their advice on what he should tell that nation. The great and wise talked and talked and the president took careful notes..."
Another quote: "Eventually, we had to insist that all the principals gather around a very long table until they reached agreement."
This is embarrassing enough.
But the speechwriter is still puzzled by why the populace never stopped knowing the address as the "malaise speech."
It was not only that there was no gasoline. Or that interest rates and unemployment rates were very high. (Remember, if you're old enough, the "pain index.")
A catastrophe had also befallen American foreign policy. The shah had fallen and been replaced by the regime of the ayatollahs. But, just before that, at a New Year's Eve party in Tehran, the president did such a suck-up toast to the incumbent of the peacock throne that even his allies in the C.I.A. and at State blushed deep red.
The regime of the ayatollahs is still in power.
And President Carter's very visage inexorably reminds of the holy bearded one whose epigones are still torturing their young and threatening the rest of us with nuclear weapons.