Skip to main content

tv   Book Discussion on Panic at the Pump  CSPAN  August 14, 2016 3:45pm-5:01pm EDT

3:45 pm
know. we kept pushing -- we didn't get married for a long time. i was putting off so many things because i was kind of in their lives. by the time i came to write "enter helen," i thought i want to do something that's immerse sieve, but i want -- immersive, but i want to have my own life. i can't be trucking to queens and staten island and the bronx and living in other people's lives. i would like to have my own life. [laughter] so that's ooh kind of -- that's kind of, it was partly a great subject and partly practical. something i could do. >> we have time for one more question. >> if helen were here today, do you think she would like your book? [laughter] >> i don't know. i mean, a couple people who knew her well have said that she would, and that's heartening, you know? it's kind of like do i want her to like the book, and i think that i do, but i also wouldn't want her to like everything because it won't be an honest depiction of her.
3:46 pm
she did a lot of great things, and she also gave a lot of nutty advice and did some questionable things, and she was a complicated, you know, complex person. to the the result is, hope any, the complicated, complex portrait of her. and i think anyone who reads something about themselves has very mixed feelings about it. i would hate to read manager this long about myself -- something this long about myself. [laughter] >> [inaudible] >> and she never did like puff pieces -- >> [inaudible] >> and she liked a zippy read. [laughter] thanks, barbara. anyway -- >> that's all we have time for. thank you for coming, everybody. let's give another round of applause for our authors. [applause] again, we've got plenty of books up at the register as well as
3:47 pm
wine. >> and hard-boiled eggs. just kidding. laugh -- [laughter] [inaudible conversations] >> watching the nonfiction authors on booktv is the best it's for serious readers. >> on c-span they can have a long or conversation and delve into their subjects. >> booktv weekends, they bring you author after author after author that spotlight the work of fascinating people. >> i love booktv and i'm a
3:48 pm
c-span fan. >> meg jacobs, it's really a pleasure to get a chance to talk to you here at the carter center. i -- and also welcome the audience that's come out tonight to listen to our conversation. meg jacobs is the author of "panic at the pump: the energy crisis and the transformation of american politics in the 1970s." meg is a, teaches history and public affairs at princeton. you've written, this is third or fourth book? >> something like that. >> something like that. you wrote a book i was interested in because we're going to be talking about conservatives, liberals, but one of them is you were the co-author of "conservatives in power, the reagan years, 1981-89." okay, interesting. >> okay.
3:49 pm
>> we're going to talk a bit about conservative politics, and liberal politics for that matter too tonight. let me, let's start with this, if we can. >> okay. >> and you correct me. you have a thesis for this book. and i'll let you describe it, obviously, but essentially what you argue in this book is that the two energy crises of the '70s, '73, '79 -- >> yeah. >> -- essentially were part of and a major factor in the transformation of american politics, and among other things, made americans realize that perhaps government could not take care of them the way we had assumed for a long time and, thus, paving the way for a conservative revolution. fair enough? >> fair enough. very good job. thank you.
3:50 pm
[laughter] and thanks for having me here. that is, that is what i discovered in writing this. and it's really, and it became a really interesting story, the way that all of the anger, the frustration as americans waited hours upon hours on gas lines during these two oil shocks really led to a transformation in how americans perceived their relationship to government, that government, in fact, could no longer take care of them, provide for them, guarantee them is access to the kind of lifestyle they'd been living and that really comes to a head in the summer of 1979 when people are just furious and blame washington, hold washington accountable. >> we'll, of course, explore that in more depth as we move through our conversation. but, you know, some of the people who will listen to this, some of the people who are here
3:51 pm
have no recollection of what either of these crises were like. this was, in both cases, tremendously traumatic episodes in our contemporary history, weren't they? >> well, if you think about it, right, regardless of when you were born because i think this still holds true, if you ask americans what possession sort of best symbolizes, you know, your sense of, you know, of being an american, people would say the car, right? it's sort of long romance with the car. and, indeed, right up until the oil shock, right up until the energy crisis american cars were getting bigger and bigger and bigger. they were living rooms on wheels. and people felt a deep attachment. and now you take the car, this sort of symbol of progress, of american success, and now it's become the opposite. it's a sign can and symbol of -- sign and symbol of weakness, of
3:52 pm
decline and decay as people wait for hours upon hours in these mile-long gas lines. >> that, that's it. the gas lines were the most dramatic symbol of how americans had to rethink how we lived. and they were, i mean, i remember them quite well. i remember the fear that we had of driving with almost no gas left in our cars and hoping that we could get to a gas station that might have a short enough line that there'd be gas left. it was really extraordinary. it was not the america that we thought we lived in. >> well, i chose the title "panic at the pump," it's a praise that journalists and roars used at the time -- and reporters used at the time. and i thought it was really apt to call the book "panic at the pump," because a that sense of pan panic, of pandemonium captured americans' mindset at the time, and it's interesting to think about why. the actual shortage of fuel was
3:53 pm
not overwhelming, did not in and of itself require a massive change in lifestyle, and yet americans reacted as if this was the end of the world as they had known it. and so this triggered a kind of behavior, a sort of panic-like behavior where as you describe, this sort of fear of running out. so people were driving around with a month's supply of gasoline in their tanks rather than, you know, rather than in the ground which, of course, exacerbated the crisis. >> well, the energy crisis of the mid -- or the continuing energy problems that led to a crisis at the end of the '70s had a major impact on the carter presidency as you talk about in great detail. because we're sitting here in the carter presidential library, we will get to a little bit more in-depth conversation specifically about carter and what he experienced in trying to deal with the problems that he faced with energy. but let's back up.
3:54 pm
>> okay. >> for a minute. you kind of bookend your book -- >> yes. >> -- with george h.w. bush. >> yeah. >> you open the book with george and barbara bush moving to odessa, texas, to do what? >> they go in search of oil and the american dream. so george h.w. bush graduates from yale in 1948. he decides he doesn't want to follow in his family's footsteps and go to wall street, he's going to go search for his own fortune, albeit with some family connections, out in texas. and it really sort of captured what i was talking about a moment ago, this sort of sense of endless abundance, right? this is a moment of great discoveries in west texas, and he arrives at the right moment, and it's there that he's going to seek his fortune and also helped to build the republican party which we can talk about too in texas. and so we start there before
3:55 pm
1973 arab embargo, because i want to sort of capture what america, what american culture was like, what expectations of the average american were like that sort of best represented by this free-flowing black gold that came out of the ground. and i end the book in 1991 after we've been through the emergency crisis which americans saw as a crisis of shortage, a crisis of scarcity, a crisis of dependence on foreign oil. and so the book ends with george h.w. bush, the oil man, as president in the white house with the gulf war when americans go to secure the access of oil from the middle east. >> fascinating story arc, actually. one of the things you point out is that in terms of searching for the american dream, when he and barbara arrive, they arrive in texas in, as you say, '48, and they're the perfect time. because there's been a huge, a
3:56 pm
discovery of a huge oil reserve. >> yeah. >> this raybury trend? >> yeah. >> so this was a promise that we made the right decision. we were going to make it big in the oil business. >> yeah. and what's interesting and what then sort of sets the story in motion is when that appears to no longer be the case. so america had been the great energy producer, oil producer throughout the 20th century. it literally helped to fuel the growth of our economy, a sort of car-driven economy. but by late 1960, there was the sense that we had reached our geological peak of production, of domestic production. >> let's back up even a little bit more because, you know, bush may have gone to the oilfields hoping that he would just been n oil man. but when you're dealing with oil in this country, you can't escape politics, and he learned that relatively quickly. >> yeah. >> in 1954, you remind us, the the supreme court made an
3:57 pm
important ruling that would help trigger george bush's interest in getting involved politically in the production and distribution of oil. >> so the supreme court ruled that the government had the right, the ability to control natural gas prices. and natural gas and oil often come out of the same well in the ground. they're seen as interchangeable fuels in some instances, and so the fear and the concern of oil men like bush is that now the government's going to interfere across the board and control the price of oil too. and what's interesting about this supreme court decision is it comes out of this sort of new deal mentality that americans sort of have the right, as fdr said in 1932 when he was first running for president, that electricity is not a luxury, right?
3:58 pm
that americans have a sort of right to cheap and affordable energy, and americans sort of have that mentality, and it hadn't really been a problem until we start to have demands that exceed our supply. >> one of the important points that you make, excuse me, one of the important points that you make in the book is that we associate the new deal with roosevelt and the democrats but, in fact, the new deal infused a lot of republican thinking of the time as well. federal government having a major role in helping people live better lives. >> well, i think that we could see the period from the '40s, '50s on as a sort of consensus of that position. but then there were interesting people like george h.w. bush who in response to the supreme court decision and then also to the environmental movement felt that the problem is too much government interference. and so bush quite deliberately -- and it's an
3:59 pm
exaggeration to say single-handedly -- but he's very instrumental in trying to build up the republican party in texas. and with the argument that it's the republican party that supports free enterprise, and is so to actually increase our domestic supply, to make us secure that we have to sort of vote republican and remove all of these controls. >> and in this sets up a tension, a dynamic that will be at play throughout your entire book. controls, deregulation, where do we get our oil from, domestic or foreign. and this plays out through the entire history of this period that you're writing about. >> yes. one thing that we tend to lose sight of is that the new deal in some ways, that kind of mentality lived a lot longer than we remember. this sort of expectation that government will take care of us, and if all of a sudden there's a
4:00 pm
shortage and gasoline prices spike through the roof, well, then it's government's job to do something about it. and that mentality is really still very much in play in the 1970s including when president carter has to deal with this problem in the summer of 1979. and it looked to me like a crucial moment came with the energy crisis. of course the stories that sort
4:01 pm
of the disillusionment with washington started before so we have vietnam, of course, we have watergate, but i see those events playing out differently than the energy crisis. so, the argument essentially is that if vietnam and watergate taught americans they could not trust their political leaders, then the energy crisis demonstrated that washington didn't work. >> let's walk through the crises. we'd look at the -- first crisis a little bit more quickly because we want to focus on our host here tonight, jimmy carter. by the way, we will, at a certain point, turn the microphones over to you, so if you want to think about questions you may want to ask. 1967, the arab-israeli war breaks out, and that is the
4:02 pm
first time that the arab states decide that perhaps they should work together to use oil as a pressure against america's involvement with israel. but they can't make it work at that point. why not? >> well, this is -- what the difference between 1967, when it ineffective, and 1973 when they are effective, is the changing situation in the global oil market. it's just at this moment that demand for energy is endless in the united states, so we make up about at that time a fifth -- five percent of the world's population but we use something like -- >> you say 80% in the book? >> i think we use a third of the world's energy. so five percent -- so, there's this growing demand as people
4:03 pm
move further and farther from where they work and drive more and more and expect all climates to be fully i.r.a. -- air conditioned and that's a trop in supply, and it's because of the changing situation that the arab producers understand they have more leverage in the marketplace. >> even in the first arab israeli war, the fact that it was known that the arab states were thinking about using oil as a weapon woke some people up in the political leadership that we could not risk dependence on middle eastern oil. by 1970 you say opec was produces twice as much oil as the united states, so we were in a dangerous situation. >> and yet one -- that leaders
4:04 pm
are not fully aware of because the other thing that happened in this period, as sort of domestic decline -- supply declined is for the first time we become major importer of oil. so, in 1970, we don't import that much. by 1973, we import about a third of our oil needs. >> so, actually george h.w. bush -- i thought -- maybe i'm wrong but i want to clarify, because if it isn't right i want them to be aware of it. he -- i thought h. w. said war brought home the fact they free world could not risk dependence on foreign oil. >> so oilmen in this country -- he's this back and force character because he is in washington washington as a congressman. they're sounding the warning but
4:05 pm
no one is listening. >> it's not the political leaders. it's the oil interests. >> he is sort of there, republican voice from the south, and -- but no one is really listening, and so when the arab embargo comes in the fall of 1973, one of nixon's advisers describes it as an energy pearl harbor. comes as that much of a shock. >> let's talk about that. although we could say we -- in 1969, nixon is in office and we have the san bernardino oil spill, horrendous natural disaster and forces nixon to subtly think about becoming a conservationist. >> true, and we could say that nixon did a lot for the environmental movement and he signed into law the national
4:06 pm
environmental policy act, this sweeping piece of legislation, one that is impossible 0 imagine today russian talks about the coexistence between man and nature and nixon things this will boost is standing for this re-election battle in '72 and these are the pressures the oil industry is experiencing. so as they're having to drill in sort of more remoter and harsher locales, they're now perceiving themselves to be saddled with new regulations and this intensifies the crunch and they're the first ones to talk about the crunch. >> thank you for setting that up. now we come to 1973, when you point out that the energy crunch really hit hard. the northeast, midwest, had tremendous shortages of heating oil. >> yep. >> the arab-israeli war, the yom
4:07 pm
kippur war comes along, and this time the arab states say, yeah, we are going to use oil as a weapon and they announce an embargo. right? >> yes. so, in retaliation for the united states' support of israel, the arab producers announce an embargo and also do another thing, which is even more consequential, they announce a cutback in production which will shrink the supply and allow them to do a massive price increase. so it's the combination of a shortage and a surge in prices that americans are completely stunned by. >> what is the nixon white house to do to respond to this? how do they decide first to act on this? >> well, nixon was a good politician. he understood issues that resonated with voters. he understood this would be what
4:08 pm
his pollsters said was a gut level issue, and he is trying to figure out what to do, and is faced with a democratic congress, and the congress says, well, you know, let's ration, which is impossible to imagine today, and the 1970s are closer to the 1940s than they are to today, and rationing falls eight votes short in the senate and say, let's put -- let's roll back the prices at the pump, and these things actually happened, which is impossible for us to imagine today. but the sort of anger and even violence and sense of chaos on the gas lines is quite intense. so under pressure, nixon appoints the first ever energy czar, and as a reminder, there is no such thing as a department of energy because energy is not perceived to be something that we have to do anything about. we just have a lot of it so we
4:09 pm
don't have to do anything about it. so, there is no department of energy, and nixon appoints, under pressure, the first ever energy czar, william simon, who is a sort of free-market, wall street guy, but finds himself under pressure to make decisions like, which public events should go on as planned should we have the daytona 500 or maybe this year it should be the daytona 450. >> that was an actual conversation? >> an actual conversation. and decision. that he had to decide. so, you have -- so this really sort of elaborate intervention to deal with a sense of crisis from the gas lines. >> at the same time what was happening withinflation.
4:10 pm
>> i thought you were going to say something different. this is the beginning of what will become the sort of decade-long problem with inflation, which the energy crisis mag any tied, and so -- magnified so this is generating support for something that is impossible for us to conceive of now. government should just set the prices. if they're too high, let's do something about it. and we -- it's really hard for us to imagine that being in place today, but as i say they not only put into place price controls but actually insist on rolling back the prices retailers are charging. >> yeah. inflation, you point out that inflation was so bad that a price of meat rose, like, 70%. and so we were really feeling this incredible pressure. again, an america that was totally foreign to us. >> and then later in the decade
4:11 pm
you have this phenomenon of rises prices at the same time that you have a stagnant economy, and so it's just sort or double whammy. >> so, this is, i think, really important. on october 16th opec impose the biggest price hike we had if seen from $3 to $5 per barrel. what is oil a barrel these days? >> well, it is about -- you know, between 30, 40 in that range. >> right. but these are 1973 prices. and then they decided, as you say to cut back production, and this is what you say about all of that. and they decide to cut back production as long as israel remains in the occupied territory. >> right. >> you say in a single blow these arab acts against the united states and its allies signaled a substantial shift in international geopolitical power of the third world.
4:12 pm
the psychological shock was devastating. >> true. again, nobody saw this coming. not henry kissinger, not any of the other members of the foreign policy team. this idea that they would unleash the oil weapon, even though the saudi oil minister said we are going to do this. and nixon said, yeah, don't think you will. >> november 7, 1973, president nixon goes on national television to address the energy crisis, and he makes a statement that you have already basically kind of told us we were going to hear. some of you may wonder whether we're turning the clock back to another age. gas ration, oil shortages, reduced speed limit. sound like a way of life we left behind with glen mill her and the war of the '40s and then says, there's no crisis of the
4:13 pm
mesh spirit. that would come later. >> right. exactly. and what he does in this speech is he declares project independence, and by virtue of sort of announcing project independence by which the united states -- this is the early version of drill, baby, drill. so, he is now won re-election and says even though he doesn't have the political muscle to do this, he says we need to get rid of all of these regulations and stimulate production here, and he says, we can be energy -- self-sufficient in energy by 1980. this big -- and yet he didn't make this speech but he makes the next speech he gives from disneyworld in florida without any sort of apparent irony. so, he declares project independence, and thereby sort of naming the problem we perceive ourselves to be dependent, and that was -- that
4:14 pm
came as a shock, we were dependent and therefore vulnerable. >> so all this is playing out while watergate begins to kick in. the investigation starts, develops, and he's got to deal with both things at once. you point out that -- let's make a side trip to jimmy carter -- right after the saturday night massacre when he fired three attorneys general who would not do what he wanted them to do in terms of the tapes, he -- governor carter here in georgia called him unfit to be president. george h.w. bush got in -- he was chairman of the republican national committee. where did he come? >> he came down here for a republican fundraiser, to try to sort of preach to the converted --
4:15 pm
>> he blast carter, too? >> and he blasted carter and -- the thing that is really interesting is this sort of overlap between the energy crisis, the embargo, and watergate, because public opinion polls at the time -- we remember watergate and so muff of the literature on the period is focused on watergate. this is the first book on the energy crisis if you can believe it. but polls showed at the time, the nix job white house believed, that headlines at the time, americans were more focused on the pocketbook pain they were experiencing at the gas pumps and this sense of crisis than they were whether their president was sort of lying to them. >> right. okay. so, let's get nixon out of office. >> okay. >> the articles of impeachment. four days later president nixon resigns. gerald ford takes over you.
4:16 pm
have a great quote from ford in the days he came into office. he says -- i think it's a direct quote: the state of our economy is not so good. >> right. sort of, the gloomiest peaches. speeches. no interruptions for applause, and he really had this sort of dooms day mentality, and so did the adviser around him. people like alan greenspan and william simon and donald rumsfeld and rick cheney and believed that the oil crisis was going to bring the united states down because it was making us usual on the bier national -- international stage. the oil shortennages were a problem because we used so much in the aggregate but proportinally it's even bigger problem for european and japanese allies who even more
4:17 pm
dependent on oil imports. so they were incredibly worried that in their need to secure their own access to oil, that our allies would break off from us. >> we're going to make a quick trip through the ford administration. >> i'm ready to go. >> during the ford years the energy crisis was forcing a massive expansion -- you say in the book -- of federal government involvement in the economy. giving the old democratic liberals another chance to stepped their federal government's reach. say just a few words about that. that's very important. >> the concern when nixon resigned from the right, they were unhappy about watergate but they -- but someone like milton freedman, what they were even more -- >> chicago -- >> what they're even more upset is the sort of policy legacy that nixon leaves behind. everything from all these environmental measures, to the economic controls, to the
4:18 pm
complete control of the energy industry. they think this is going to be an even worse legacy. and they're quite concerned. and so you have ford's advisers saying, you're at a crossroads here, what are you going to do? sort of try to defy the democratic congress? are you going to try to defy the american public and just sort of say, let's have at it, you know, you're going to have to pay a lot more for energy and that's the solution or not? >> this is a nice moment to just pause for a second. because what you just said is all part of this larger thesis of the book. it may be hard for many of us in today's political climate to think about a republican -- or two in a row, two republican administrations -- that have these liberal republican
4:19 pm
agendas, more government control, you know, no free market. we don't want the free market. we have to control the market. this is when we start -- this is where we start with the republican party, and this is -- we'll watch as it evolves to the reagan republican party. fair enough? >> yeah. i think in the same way that we underestimate the perseverance of liberals in the 1970s, we also miss another big part of the story and our rush to reagan, that is the conservative washington insiders who i write about. the guys i mentioned before, who are trying to shift the republican party to the right, even as ford feels the need to appoint -- to name nelson rockefeller, moderate republican, as his vice president. >> you make a really interesting point along that line. you say when we think about the
4:20 pm
shift to conservatism in the republican party we tend to think of it as a grassroots effort. but you just said it. this was being driven by republican political leaders in washington. >> yes. so, who knew first hand exactly what was going on, who hated things like osha, for example, or the epa, all of these very heavy-handed -- so when reagan, as we flash forward -- we're not going to skip over jimmy carter but when reagan comes into office and says government is not the solution to our problem, government is the problem, it's because it's been a huge expansion in the 1970s, and so that's the context for that sort of antigovernment campaign that he can run. in addition with the failure of government to deliver in 1979. >> poor gerald ford becomes one of a line of presidents who can't get a handle on this at
4:21 pm
all. right? >> yeah. so, he makes a really interesting decision. one which is hard to sort of fathom today, which is really an ideological decision because in '74, '75 in part because of the oil shock, the economy goes into a recession and he has this democratic congress and they want a huge public works spending bill, and he says i'm not going to do that because i think that inflation is the bigger threat than depression, and so they negotiate back and forth, and so he really embraces this austerity agenda, which we will see in our more recent history, but it starts with ford. >> and -- >> he pays the consequences, ford in '76. >> which brings us to jimmy carter to the white house. you write again: it would be up to jimmy carter and the democrats to they can the reins
4:22 pm
of power and chart the future of policy where ford and the conservatives had left off. this, as nixon, carter, and now -- nixon, ford, and now carter, are going to grapple with his monumental problem. it is a gordian knot. >> yes. and not to give it away but it is history. nothing good is going -- >> spoiler alert. >> yes, nothing good is going to come of jimmy carter's very sincere efforts to grapple with the energy crisis. so jimmy carter comes into office in january 1977, and we might all remember one of the sort of iconic moments is when he gets out of the limousine and he is going to walk from capitol hill to the white house -- >> it's freezing that day. >> you just stole my line. >> i'm sorry. let go back.
4:23 pm
what was one of the iconic moments. >> so what is amazing we all remember this. what is amazing about this moment is it's one of the coldest days in all of washington's history. the country was suffering from this deep freeze. we recovered from that so, the country is suffering from -- so it's snowing in miami. this really unusual historic weather. and here he is, shedding his overcoat and walking, and it's a problem -- the energy crisis is a problem from day one and it's not long before he appears on tv -- this is the moment when he wears the card began sweater and -- cardigan sweater and sit biz the fireplace and announces to the country the energy crisis is still with us, it's permanent, this is going to require sacrifice and the only solution is for us to change our
4:24 pm
wasteful ways. this is after two weeks of him wearing long underwear and he announces that the solution is going to be to cut back, and so if richard nixon during the arab embargo said we have to dial down to 68 degrees. now jimmy carter says it has to be 65. >> there are number of things they do symbolically in the white house. you note that they posted signs all over the white house, signed by the management. what do to the signs say. >> you might have to remind me. >> please keep thermostats at 65 degrees the management. >> all throughout -- and so it's this combination, right, of carter urging americans to use less to put away their cars one day week, to carpool, to use mass transit. he ended limousine service for
4:25 pm
white house staff. this combination of sort of conservation and cutting back, with the embrace of possible solutions. so, jimmy carter very much was a believer in technology and technology can solve or problems. after he walks down pennsylvania avenue he watches the rest of the parade in a solar heated viewing room. so, it's just sort of combination of cutting back and trying to figure out hopeful solutions for the future. >> that first talk that you just described really sets the tone for his entire administration. it's -- you know, it's all about sacrifice. it's all about permanent problems, permanent changes, and you describe it, i think, in a really wonderful way. in the book.
4:26 pm
as you begin to talk about carter. would you like to read a little bit of this for us? >> sure. if you'll let me. for carter, this was in fact a moral issue. above all else, carter believed in the necessity of conservation. a devout born again christian and sunday school teacher, he held the sacrifice of simple pleasures. having grown up during the great depression in a house without electricity or indoor plumbing he worked side-by-side with his father on the family farm. for his inauguration he shunned traditional formal attire and instead donned a suit he purchased the week before off the rack in georgia. in his first presidential address he preached, we have learn that more is not necessarily better. that even our great nation has its recognized limits, and that we can either answer all
4:27 pm
problems, nor solve all problems. we cannot afford to do everything. >> thank you for reading that. i think that really says it so well. this is a guy who saw everything in those moral terms, and the energy crisis was among those things. >> yes. he believed it. he believed it from a moral standpoint; he believed it also from a foreign policy -- he was sympathetic to the idea that now if we -- during the arab embargo we're importing a third, when he takes office it's up to 42% and is mindful this is making the country vulnerable, and as you say -- as i say -- there's this sort of moral ethical component to it that he is deeply committed to, and i don't want to steal any of your questions but this is going to cut against the grain of america.
4:28 pm
>> i was going to say, as we're going to discover, it is this attitude that ended up costing him the white house essentially. he is facing monumental problems. may not have been able to win re-election anyway, nevertheless this didn't help. >> you know, we all tend to remember the melee speech in which he didn't use the word melee because he wouldn't use a french word, and it's in this speech which he delivers at the peak of the 1979 summer gas lines in which he urges americans to cut back. he says, you know, basically he's been shown polls from foot goodells pollsters that for the first time a majority of americans are more pessimistic than optimistic about their future, and carter really takes
4:29 pm
this on at cadels urging and says basically we can restore our path in ourselves if we embrace the energy crisis as this urgent priority and change our ways. and that if we have learn, he says, that piling up goods and consuming more does not make us happier. and he says it to the american public. these were seen, though, that he -- themes, though, that he started from the very beginning. >> pat goodell, his 29-year-old pollster, when he presented these findings to the president, you report, said that he found them -- cadell found them chilling and dangerous. >> yeah. he believed, and carter was sympathetic to this point of view, that the country was really sort of in this moral decline, and any sort of sense
4:30 pm
of community, of good will, of common purpose, which is framed, and the energy crisis was magnifying that, and you can see this in carter's remarks, his urging people to cut back. he flies when -- when the gas lines start in may 1979, they start first on the west coast and he flies -- starts the morning in iowa at the beginning of his re-election campaign. then flies to los angeles. his motorcade has to go 20 miles out of the way just to fuel up. there's gas lines with 500 cars, and he says in a courageous way, he says to the american public, you are going to have to change. and it's not what the public wanted to hear. >> so, again, if you don't mind we'll just back up a step on
4:31 pm
this because i think it's worth pointing out. we have alluded to it. when he took office, couldn't have been a worse moment. as you said, the weather in the northeast -- well, across the whole eastern seaboard, the coldest winter people had experienced in forever. heating oil was at a premium. you say navigating the current political landscape would have proven challenging for even the most skillful leaders but carter is an outsider at a distinct disadvantage, and we know that to be true. however many of the people here in georgia love to think about jimmy carter and jody powell and hamilton jordan, they were outsiders. they didn't understand the washington environment at all. >> yeah. and that is certainly true, and it certainly works for carter in
4:32 pm
a certain way because it allowed him to craft this incredibly ambitious energy proposal that nobody, had they been advised by washington insider, would have said you can do that's. >> what did he want to do? >> everything. he wanted to do everything. when tip o'neill, the new speaker of the house got this, he just groaned. the side of five phone books. 113 different proposals and he just thought i can solve this problem, and i can balance the different constituents within washington, and it was truly ambitious, but i do want to add it wasn't simply just he didn't receive good advice, nor just that he sort of was stubborn in his insistence. he was facing real division in his open party. >> let's talk about that.
4:33 pm
we talked about how the republican party was shifting ground because of the energy crisis. talk to us about just that. how tide things play out for the democrats in the middle of this? >> there was no love lost between carter and tip o'neill, who remarked after watch thing cardigan sweater speech that no northerner would have used only one log, and so for tip o'neill, who was a new deal democrat through and through, the idea that a democratic president would sort of issue the same austerity agenda that existed under ford was an abomination, and really unforgivable in a certain way because people were experiencing real pain, and forget inflation. that was not the problem he and ted kennedy and other liberals wanted to solve. it was the stagnating economy. they wanted a massive public works program. their solution for the energy crisis was to hand out fuel stamps. so if people cooperate afford it, this is like food stamps you
4:34 pm
supplement their income. so that's one constituent. this is also a time period when southerners were still part of the democratic party. >> i remember those days. >> and that included all of the south and southwest energy producers, and so carter was sort of caught between these two groups, and the oil producers had the same point of view as the republicans, which is, let get rid of all these regulations and we'll be able to produce more, and if you don't, then the solution came in an aptly titled best-selling song in the summer of 1978 "freeze a yankee." that was their solution to the problem. bumper stickers in louisiana, texas, oklahoma, "drive '75 and
4:35 pm
freeze them alive. "these were well worn themes. you had these different groups, and then you had another group, also vying for carter's attention, group he was sympathetic to, which the environmentalists and everybody had different understandings of the energy problem and the solution to it, and he environmentalists, even though carter was sympathetic to their agenda, didn't think he did enough. so, he is the president who installed 32 solar panels on the white house roof and promises that by the year 2000, we'll get 25 -- 20% of our energy from renewables, and -- but for. the it wasn't enough either. >> everybody was suspicious of the other one. everybody. and the american people particularly -- were continuing to be suspicious that the crisis was perhaps artificially
4:36 pm
produced by the oil industry, which was trying to jack up prices, which contributed to the pressure for control and the price controls and that sort of thing. you have a -- you describe in the book a tv commercial that the group "energy action" ran, which i think described it clearly. can you tell us what we sunny. >> this is a commercial -- as you say, just to set it up, the vast majority, more than three-quarters of americans, believed that the energy crisis was a big oil conspiracy with a capital b, big o, con sirs. even though foreign events precipitated the shortams they could not imagine that the inheritors of john d. rockefeller, the oil companies, were not all-powerful and they were quite certain that oil tankers, for example, were just
4:37 pm
waiting offshore until prices went up to deliver. that is what most americans believed, made it very hard for carter to propose real solutions, and as you say, generated support among liberals for continuing controls of the industry. so, energy action is this liberal group that is sort of a ralph nader type group, led by this guy, james fluke, who worked for kennedy on the hill. financed by people like paul newman and robert redford. this was the hot issue of the day, regulation. and they run a commercial called "mugging." in which they have somebody dressed in arab garb with a gasoline nozzle going up to an american driver, holding him up, only then to reveal that the
4:38 pm
clothes come off and it and it's a big oil executive. so that the popular perception at the time. >> this is all that carter and his team in the white house have to try to deal with. it's just completely overwhelming. and into this -- a couple things happened. number one, the '78 mid-term elections come along. democrats retain the majority -- yes -- but it's clear they're losing seats, and you describe -- you say there was panic in the white house. >> yes. this is when cadel kicks it into high gear and says we're going to get creamed in 1980. >> here we are in georgia. we should point out, who won a seat in congress that year? >> newt gingrich. >> third try. >> they're looking at this and
4:39 pm
they see these election returns, and this is when goodell says, americans are disheartened and disspiritted and they have no crisis -- no confidence in the future and this is a real crisis and if you want to really lead the country you have to speak to these larger themes and this is when carter starts to listen to him. that's november 1978. this map perfect live with the beginning of the iranian revolution, which is going to destabilize the oil markets and they see a disaster coming. by january '79, they know they're going to be gas lines coming and there's going to be no good outcome there. >> and there isn't. the iranian revolution is complete. the shah is deposed. the ayatollah comes in, and that's when the panic really, really hits hard. in some ways, when i read your
4:40 pm
book, everything that followed, the trucker strike -- truckers blocking highways. violence in the streets. this crisis manifests itself in a much more dramatic and sort of scary way. did it? am i right? >> yeah. so, it's summertime, first of all, so people are just hanging out on these gas lines, some see it as a party but most are not seeing it as a party. this is just one of carter's advisers, people are hot summer mad. so maybe that's a georgia expression. don't know. and the temperature is really rising on the gas lines. so there are fistfights, stabbings, shootings that result in death. people are getting -- stealing gasoline out of other people's cars, siphoning it off so people are buying locks for their gas
4:41 pm
tankses and a sense of chaos has broken lose. >> what happened in levitttown, pennsylvania. >> it goes up in flames. here's sort of the quintessential american suburb, the symbol of all progress that goes up in flames. the thing that magnifies the shortages and the sort of sense of chaos in the summer of '79 is there's a trucker strike. there's one in '74, too, and they do it -- and at the truckers go on strike again, and because they can't get diesel, they have to stop every 25 miles to fill up. it's costing -- costs are through the roof. they're still suffering under this 55-mile-per-hour speed limit, and so they go on strike, and in order to make sure that all truckers comply with this, they set up snipers on the side of the road. they drop bricks from
4:42 pm
overpasses. and, again, deaths, killings, and the nation's interstate commerce comes to a standstill for many industries. >> so, what is interesting, though, about this, is that gallup released a poll, you tell us, at one point in all of this in which half of all americans said it was inflation that they were most concerned about, and only a third of them said it was energy. is that late center. >> that's a little built later. -- little bit later. a slightly little bit later. >> i apologize. i'm sorry. >> that's okay. >> what does happen is that carter gives another speech. and has an opportunity to have inspiring people to help the american people through. what does he do? >> this situation is unfolding.
4:43 pm
there's a trucker strike then there's the levitttown strike which goes up in flames and people have signs that say, more gas, more gas, and things that rhyme with gas that a maybe i'm not supposed to say on tv. "no gas, my ass." >> we're adults. >> and "carter kiss my gas" it's an sense of collapse and that's when carter puts the solar panels on the white house and this does nothing to mitigate the breakdown on the gas lines, and then right at this moment, which contributes to the inflation part of the story, opec announce asthmases -- announces a massive price increase, so it seems like it's all over again. so stewart -- one of carters advisers says, here's your chance. this is what you should do.
4:44 pm
blame opec. blame opec. rally the country. you want to sort of have this massive sort of alternative energies bill you want mass transit. rally the -- blame opec. rally the country. and carters says, i'm not going to give that speech. i'm going to listen and try to do the steps that pat talked about because i believe that if i don't talk about this larger crisis of confidence i won't be able to lead the people. so he goes on television, after ten days at camp david, where everyone is wondering what is going on, and he says to people, you know, we have a crisis of confidence and the way to end this is by using less. >> he blames it -- i'll quote -- carter responded to the gas lines by criticizing the country for self-indulgence and overconsumption. because americans have little optimism about the future, carter said, they turn instead to mindless consumerism and then
4:45 pm
the coat from the speech. too many of us worship self-indulgence and cob assumption. humanizing is no longer defined by what one does but by what one owns. we discovered that owning things and consuming things does not satisfy our longing for meaning. wow. let me throw something out. a couple weeks ago in this room, randall wood, university of arkansas history professor, talked with me about his book on lbj and the great society, and one of the things we discussed was that lbj went into office with such extraordinary dreams and visions for the country, and more than anything else, the vietnam war, and then unintended consequences of some of the great society programs brought him down. accomplish so we talked about the fact that in many ways lbj's story is a tragic one. and we are going to let people read your book but as we come to
4:46 pm
the end of our time, there's a tragic element to what jimmy carter had to go through in the white house. this, too, is a man who came into office with tremendous hopes and a moral belief about what america is and could be, and yet this problem, the iranian hostage crisis so many other things, really were unsolvable problems. >> i mean. declared that solving the energy crisis is a moral equivalent of war and says it's early on in his administration and this where it ended up. so, he is so far down in the polls at this moment, because people are so dismayed and angry, and they're angry because they believe this is an artificial crisis, they want washington to do something. they want washington to bring the bill oil companies to heel.
4:47 pm
and that's not what jimmy carter tells them. he explains the situation as he sees it and lays out a plan, and it doesn't really have political traction, and there is a real tragedy to that. >> if you were writing this as a novel, and carter were your central character, you would look for some resolution. you would look for -- maybe not a happy ending. you might look -- who knows. but the bigger point is, it's almost as if there is no ending other than the carter, like nixon, like ford, did not solve this problem. and left office with it still there. >> yeah. a couple of final things. one is, when he gives this speech, he has had sizers telling him -- advisers saying this is going to get thrown right back him and this is what happens when reagan runs for
4:48 pm
office in 1980, and reagan really uses the energy crisis as exhibit a in the failure of washington to solve a problem. and never has government tried to do so much and achieved so little. this is what he says about carter's handling of the energy crisis. and it makes carter incredibly vulnerable, and gives reagan momentum, and then the other thing that happens, too is the failure to embrace conservation. i should say -- let me just add a little -- let me interrupt myself to say he did accomplish a lot of things so we should say that. >> the same way that lbj did. >> ways, so, for example, he passed a clean air act amendment, and he -- anti-strip mining bill.
4:49 pm
he protected much of the land in alaska. he had that sort of mentality, and also encouraged public policy to help try to improve energy efficiency. and so a lot did happen -- >> the energy area, he was able to accomplish some important goals. >> yeah, but where this story also tragically ends up -- this is not unlike the lbj story -- is in the foreign policy arena. so, what happened is by '79, you don't see this in '73 and '74, but by '79, special with the massive opec price increase, we're being held hostage and then we do get held hostage that following fall and there's this momentum, a shift to blame not only big oil but also the arab sheikhs that sort of build up momentum for more aggressive
4:50 pm
action in the middle east, which will ultimately come to fruition. >> by introducing reagan you bring us full circle health started at a point with george h. w. and barbara bush going down to odesto texas, living in a country with unlimited resources, post war euphoria that america -- there's nothing americans can't do. government will take care of us. republicans and democrats believe that. we go through all of this, and the oil crisis is -- crises of a huge part of it. we come to reagan, who says, no, government isn't the -- government isn't the answer to your problems. government is the problem. and that completes this fascinating transformation that you write about in this book. yes? >> yes. so one of the things that reagan
4:51 pm
promises he'll do, for example, is get rid of the 55 miles-per-hour speed limit. and -- >> we hated that. some people in here may not remember that was -- how dare you? >> i finally came to understand why my father got so many speeding tickets when i was a kid elm he didn't accommodate. so reagan makes a promise, we'll get rid of speed limits. we don't need to live in an age of limit. so what happened by the time george w. bush is president is our -- george h.w. bush is president, our reliance on imports and it's up over 50% and the move is away from conservation to -- and fear of dependence to a concern with security. and so -- that will culminate in
4:52 pm
the intervention in the gulf in '91. >> matt jay cox -- we have time for a few questions of you have them. if you do. we have a microphone on both sides of the room here. so, you're welcome to come on up and ask a question, but if not i want to ask you one added question. how do you put all this into cop text of what -- context of what we are living through right now especially donald trump because i think you have written about that. am i right? >> yes. i wrote an article about that. the point of donald trump was simply to say, as outlandish as he sounds and he says things, i'll just take the oil, that actually echos a longer trend, especially in the republican party, to solve our energy problems by military intervention and security in the
4:53 pm
middle east. so, tide we're living in a very different world, and fracking has changed the calculus -- >> how has it changed the calculus? >> because now we appear to be living with abundance and low prices, and so in fact the concern in the middle east is more on terrorism than it is on oil because we perceive ourselves to be doing okay in that regard. it's hard, too, because -- you know, we -- what happened with so much of the momentum of sort of the environmental movement, of those who believe in conservation, those who are advocates of solar energy, it's not unlike today where, when you have a decline of energy prices, the question is, can we sort of sustain our interest in alternative energy even as people tell us that we are
4:54 pm
almost at the point of no return with climate change and all of that. the question really is, how much do americans care about that versus that same old concern of having a full tank. >> matt jacobs, the book is "panic at the pump: the energy crisis and the transformation of american politics in the 1970s." thank you for taking us on a really fascinating journey. your research, your thinking through what happened, i kind of marveled at it as i read this book. so thank you so much for joining me for the conversation, and sharing it with the audience here at the jimmy carter presidential library. >> thank you. thank you. [applause]
4:55 pm
[inaudible conversations] [inaudible conversations] >> booktv visited capitol hill to ask members of congress what they're reading this summer. >> i am a multiple read sore i read a lot of books all at the same time, and so sometimes i'll finish a book in one sitting but more often than not i read different parts of a book. but, for example, one book i finished reading a short time ago was a book that i understand
4:56 pm
you did a whole segment on is "the millionaire and the bard." i'm a big fan of shakespeare and so know that the folger library is right down the street from where i live and i saw this book and i picked it up. it is a terrific book about folger, who went on a spree, really, to buy shakespeare's folios and he amassed a huge collection of not just the folios but enough material on shakespeare that he created the -- folger library and it ended up in washington, d.c. i'm re-reading "the righteous mound" and how we communicate. if you picture analphabet and there's a rider on the elephant. the elephant is making all the decisions forks left, right, forward, backward, the writer explains that the el fab --
4:57 pm
elephant is doing, and you talk to the rider who is not making the decisions. you ought to be talking to the elephant. it's a good way to remember you should be talking to the elephant making the decision, not the person explaining the decisions, and i think in a time of a political situation arena, it's important that we keep in mind who we ought to be talking to. so it's a book i'm re-reading. i'm also reading a book i picked up at the national gallery a week or so ago, called "the accidental masterpiece" about how you see art and really to me, because i am a great lover of art, you can see beauty and art in everyday objects and everywhere you look. another interesting book i just picked up. you can see by my office that i like color, i like art, i also
4:58 pm
do my own art. i do ceramics. intend to keep my day job here. reading, just want to mention, is foundational because i was not born in this country. english is not my first language, and i credit a librarian when i was in elementary school who awakened my love of reading and i still remember the book she read to the little kids who would sit at her feet at the library and she read "mary poppins." that really brought on the love of reading for me, which as i said is foundational. i think basically in order to be a good writer, you should be a reader. and i'm a pretty voracious reader. >> is there anything else that you're reading this summer? >> oh, well, let's see. i also picked up "h is for hawk," and i also read the "the
4:59 pm
new yorker" compilation of short stories and those are things i read when i have time. i have a number of those kinds of books on my ipad. the one other thing i want to mention is that often when you think about the books that changed your way of thinking, one book did that for me when i was in college and that was "the feminine mystique" and a light bulb went on and i decided that maybe my life was not going to consist of getting married and having children and living that kind of life that i should be thinking about taking care of myself and expanding my own horizons. i can honestly say that is one book that totally changed my way of thinking about myself. >> booktv wants to know what you're reading this summer. tweet us your answer@book tv or you can post it on our facebook
5:00 pm
page. >> after tonight's talk we'll have time for questions from the audience. after which we'll have a book signing which will be here at this table. we have copies of "frack opoly" at the registers. this event i just -- thank you for buying books here at harvard book store. your purchases support the seize ex-we're placed to have booktv here when asking questions. please wait for the microphone, and thank you for silence your cell phones for tonight's talk. now i'm very pleased to introduce tonight's speaker. the found founder and exec with director of food and water watch.


info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on