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Carter and Obama: Eerie Parallels



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An ailing economy with persistently high unemployment, non-existent wage growth, and expanding deficits. And then, towards the end of his first term, crisis abroad: In one country, a mob storms the U.S. embassy, tearing down the U.S. flag and raising its own revolutionary one instead; and in another country, militants brutally murder the U.S. ambassador.

As of yesterday this, of course, describes the situation in which President Obama currently finds himself. But it also describes the final throes of Jimmy Carter’s presidency.

In 1979, in the midst of the Iranian revolution, a group of angry students stormed the U.S. embassy compound in Tehran, resulting in the notorious hostage crisis that lasted through the end of Carter’s term. Earlier that same year, militants kidnapped and killed the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan.

When Americans went to the polls in 1980, they punished Carter primarily for his failure to catalyze an economic recovery. But they also had, fresh in their minds, these two glaring examples of how Carter’s weak foreign policy had invited America’s enemies to so boldly disrespect her diplomatic missions abroad.

Now that the parallels between the two presidents have become uncanny, we will see if Obama suffers the same fate as Carter in November.

— Alexander Benard is managing director of an advisory and investment firm focused on the Middle East and Central Asia. He has worked at the Department of Defense and the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.



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