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Tore Down, Almost Level with the Ground

"I'm LeBron, baby. I can play on this level. I got some game."

-- Senator Barack Obama at the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston.

"I was just learning that some of the equipment right behind us — this was a huge investment. How much did you guys — $90 million. Think about that. That’s what made you guys competitive, having the best workers but also having the best equipment. You had to up your game. And that’s what we’ve got to do as a country as a whole. I want the cars and planes and wind turbines of the future to bear the proud stamp that says “Made in America.” That’s what I want."

-- President Barack Obama, June 28, 2011

Last week my friend Steve Green and I sat-in on blogger and podcaster Jimmie Bise's 100th podcast. I joked that in honor of the occasion, I was going to "up my game," to borrow from the speech the president had made earlier that day.  As I mentioned to Jimmie and Steve, "Up Your Game" is simply a 21st century repeat of Carter's Malaise speech. As J.R. Dunn wrote last year at the American Thinker, after Obama's spectacularly ill-advised speech on behalf of the Ground Zero Mosque:

For Jimmy Carter, [the point of no return as president] was the "malaise speech" of July 15, 1979, in which he attempted to shuffle the blame for his tepid performance as president from his own administration onto the shoulders of the American people. Carter claimed that a national "crisis of confidence" (he never actually used the word "malaise") made it impossible for him to adequately grapple with the country's problems. It was America's fault, not Jimmy Carter's. The public reaction was open disgust and the abject collapse of any support for the Carter presidency.

Obama's malaise speech was last week. And not coincidentally, as Toby Harndarn writes today, America is "Down on the Fourth of July." Harnden may write for the London Telegraph, but his snapshot of how many in "the United States of gloom" feel today reads as pretty accurate to me:

Across America today, people will gather for barbecues in their backyards, parades through their towns and firework displays lighting up the night sky.

They’ll be celebrating Independence Day – the birthday of the United States and the 235th anniversary of shaking off the oppressive yoke of British rule.

On this day in 1776 a group of 13 colonies broke away to found a new nation free to govern itself as it saw fit, pledging that each citizen would have the unalienable right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”. A nation, as Americans are apt to declare without equivocation, which became the greatest on the face of the earth.

That’s the good news. On the flip side, however, a country whose hallmark has always been a sense of irrepressible optimism is in the grip of unprecedented uncertainty and self-doubt.

With the United States mired in three foreign wars, beaten down by an economy that shows few signs of emerging from deep recession and deeply disillusioned with President Barack Obama, his Republican challengers and Congress, the mood is dark.

The last comparable Fourth of July was probably in 1980, when there was a recession, skyrocketing petrol prices and an Iranian hostage crisis, with 53 Americans being held in Tehran.

Frank Luntz, perhaps America’s pre-eminent pollster, argues that his countrymen are much more downbeat now than in 1980. “The assumption with the Carter years was that it was a failure of the elites, not the system. We thought the people in charge screwed up. We didn’t blame ourselves.” Remarkably, many Americans think things will only get worse and the good times will never return.

Actually, perhaps the president is right -- we'll see next year if we're prepared to up our game, or if we're going to meekly accept four more years of the same old malaise.