It is worth recalling how Carter reacted to these events. In the case of Iran, he infamously ordered a rescue mission — Operation Eagle Claw — that ended in humiliating failure on April 24, 1980, when one of the U.S. helicopters intended to evacuate the hostages crashed into a transport aircraft, killing eight American servicemen. But he also imposed economic sanctions, freezing about $8.1 billion in Iranian assets and imposing a trade embargo.
In the case of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, Carter again opted for sanctions. He placed an embargo on shipments of commodities such as grain to the Soviet Union and suspended high-technology exports. He also boycotted the 1980 Olympics in Moscow and withdrew the SALT II treaty from consideration by the Senate.
Carter’s approval rating had touched an all-time low of 28% in June 1979 and, despite rallying briefly in early 1980, never got back above 40% as the election campaign unfolded. Inflation, which had stood at 5.2% in the month of Carter’s inauguration, hit an all-time high of 14.6% in April 1980, driven skyward by the surge in oil prices that followed the Iranian Revolution.
In January 1979, the spot crude price for a barrel of West Texas Intermediate had been $14.85. By July 1980 it had more than doubled to $39.50. Carter tried to counter inflation by nominating Paul Volcker to be Fed chair in July 1979. But, as Milton Friedman long ago taught us, monetary policy operates with long and variable lags. Inflationary expectations were not truly broken until 1982.
If all of this sounds strangely familiar, it is because we are living through our own version of these events. Karl Marx memorably observed that history repeats itself “the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce.” But sometimes you just get two tragedies in succession.
Although this time around, the first tragedy was getting Joe Biden foisted on us by people who knew better but didn’t give a damn.
UPDATE (FROM GLENN): Flashback: The ‘cabal’ that bragged of foisting Joe Biden on us must answer for his failed presidency.