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As Ferguson sees it, “America under this president is a superpower in retreat, if not retirement. . . Small wonder 46 percent of Americans—and 63 percent of Chinese—believe that China already has replaced the U.S. as the world’s leading superpower or eventually will.” And so on.
An Harvard historian saying such things in a high-profile liberal magazine proved too much for the president’s media cheerleaders. Ferguson was accused of “unethical commentary,” and calls rang out for Harvard to fire him or investigate his moral character to determine whether he was fit to teach. For James Fallows, the piece doubtless evoked memories of his former boss.
According to his Atlantic profile, Fallows “once worked as President Carter’s chief speechwriter.” Like Obama, president Jimmy Carter was known for economic decline at home, reflected in his famous “malaise speech” and the “misery index.” Abroad it was full retreat. On Carter’s watch, Iranian “students” invaded the U.S. embassy in Tehran, took more than 60 Americans hostage, and held them for 444 days. What speeches Fallows may have written about this for Carter remains unclear, but one can look up the results of the ensuing election.
Jimmy Carter, a liberal Democrat, lost to conservative Republican Ronald Reagan in 1980, after which Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini promptly released the American hostages. That is worth recalling in the run-up to the November 2012 election, with Iran still headed by genocidal theocrats and rattling sabers like never before. National correspondents not blinded by partisanship might find an historical parallel or two.
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