- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 20, 2001

James Earl Carter, the 39th president of the United States, arrived on the national scene in 1976 as a self-righteous, unctuous politician who promised Americans he would never lie to them. A quarter of a century later — obsessed with the need to rewrite the history of the disastrous roles he played in U.S. economic, foreign and energy policies — Mr. Carter has reappeared on the op-ed page of The Washington Post as the self-declared energy expert who single-handedly saved the American way of life. In fact, he nearly ruined it.
Audaciously, Mr. Carter implores America to "continue the policies of the late 1970s." In an essay titled "Misinformation and Scare Tactics," he provides a barrage of misinformation and rewritten history in a pitiful effort to bludgeon the proposals offered by the Bush-Cheney administration to address the energy crisis they inherited from the Clinton-Gore administration. Mr. Carter accuses Messrs. Bush and Cheney of making "misleading statements" for the purpose of "distort history and future needs." Well, lets see whos distorting what.
Mr. Carter asserts that "oil shortages and an OPEC boycott produced a real energy crisis in the United States" in 1973. The so-called "shortage" was in fact an artificially orchestrated one. OPEC, which was actually formed in 1960, finally was able to wield the immense market (i.e., pricing) power it gradually accumulated as the industrial democracies became ever-more dependent upon the cartel for their oil. Moreover, the boycott was not undertaken by OPEC, as Mr. Carter asserts; rather, it was the brainchild of OAPEC, or the Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries, which was peeved at the Untied States for its support of Israel during the 1973 Yom Kippur War, which began with a surprise Arab attack upon Israel on the Jewish religions holiest day of the year. In any event, because oil is a fungible commodity and OAPEC supplied only 6 percent of U.S. oil consumption, the boycott itself had little or no effect on the United States. The artificially created shortage, however, certainly did.
"Five years later," Mr. Carter writes, "the Iran-Iraq war shut off 4 million barrels of the worlds daily oil supplies almost overnight, and the price of energy more than doubled in just 12 months. This caused a wave of inflation in all industrialized countries and created energy shortages."
For a man who occupied the most powerful office in the world during this period, Mr. Carter does not know what he is talking about. In fact, the Iran-Iraq war did not begin until September 1980, or seven years not five after the 1973 Mideast war. It was the turmoil in Iran, where oil production plummeted in 1978, that caused world oil prices to begin soaring in early 1979. Interestingly, the Iranian turmoil, which eventually led to the shahs ouster in January 1979, began bubbling shortly after that crafty geostrategist that would be Mr. Carter praised the Shah of Iran as "an island of stability in one of the more troubled areas of the world." Indeed, in October 1978, three months before the shah went down the tubes, the Carter administration concluded that Iran was "not in a revolutionary or pre-revolutionary stage."
Well, Ayatollah Ruholla Khomeini returned to Iran on Feb. 1, 1979, and oil prices began to skyrocket. With price controls curtailing the production of U.S. oil reserves, Mr. Carter demanded on Feb. 26 that Congress give him the power to ration gasoline and to close service stations on weekends. This was the reaction from the man who, while wearing a cardigan sweater during a White House speech to the nation in 1977, declared "the moral equivalent of war" or MEOW, as New York Times columnist Russell Baker later observed on the nations energy problems. Thus, as gasoline prices soared and lines formed at service stations during the spring of 1979, instead of issuing an executive order decontrolling domestic oil prices, as President Reagan did on his eighth day in office, Mr. Carter concerned himself with the need to tax the "windfall profits" that U.S. oil companies might earn if prices were decontrolled at a later date. Meanwhile, Mideast oil that sold for less than $13 a barrel in 1978 was fetching $40 by June 1979. Mr. Carter reacted by delivering the worst presidential speech in history the so-called "malaise speech." The commander in chief lectured Americans about their "moral and spiritual crisis," self-righteously bemoaning the fact that "too many of us now tend to worship self-indulgence and consumption." Less than four months later, Iran seized American hostages, setting off another round of spiraling oil prices.
Still, the most breathtaking statement Mr. Carter made had to be his almost cavalier observation describing todays energy situation, to wit: "World supplies are adequate and reasonably stable, price fluctuations are cyclical, reserves are plentiful and automobiles arent waiting in line at service stations." While that statement precisely describes the situation that confronted Mr. Carter when he praised the shah as "an island of stability," its all the more reason why the Bush-Cheney administration must not repeat that losers strategy.


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