In a Wednesday night interview, CNN's Piers Morgan affirmed former President Jimmy Carter's criticism of many Americans for "self-indulgence and consumption" in his infamous 1979 "Malaise Speech."
"I mean, you were right then and you would be right to say that today, wouldn't you?" Morgan told Carter. He also blamed the recent financial meltdown on the public's failure to listen to voices like Carter's.
"So, you know, the grassroots were there, which you picked up on, but nobody listened?" he asked Carter about the fallout from his address. He even asked Carter if he would want Obama to give a similar "Malaise Speech" for his upcoming State of the Union Address.
Carter sympathized with Obama because he has been "hamstringed" with "the most uncooperative Congress." Morgan didn't correct him that Obama first had enjoyed two years of comfortable Democratic majorities in the House and Senate.
Later in the interview, Carter smeared candidate Newt Gingrich as having a "subtlety of racism" in his words. "And now Gingrich in the South Carolina debate, I watched part of it, watched the first half of it. I think he has that subtlety of racism that I know quite well," Carter said, "and that Gingrich knows quite well, that appeals to some people in Georgia, particularly the right wing."
[Video below. Click here  for audio.]
Both Carter and Morgan nailed GOP candidates for pandering to the "extremes." Morgan gave Rick Perry as an example, who "did a commercial attacking gay marriage in a very, what many people thought was bigoted, manner."
A transcript of the segment, which aired on January 18 at 9:27 p.m. EST, is as follows:
JIMMY CARTER, former President of the United States: I want to talk to you right now about a fundamental threat to American democracy.
Too many of us now tend to worship self-indulgence and consumption.
(End Video Clip)
PIERS MORGAN: That was President Jimmy Carter delivering his so-called "Malaise Speech" in 1979, which didn't go down very well with the American people. And President Carter is back with me now. I mean, you were right then and you would be right to say that today, wouldn't you?
CARTER: As a matter of fact, the immediate response of that was the most favorable that I ever had to a speech. But later, then-Governor Reagan and my Democratic opponent Ted Kennedy attacked the speech. I never called it "Malaise" speech. It was just a frank analysis of how America needed to change and that we still had resilient strength to overcome any difficulty if we worked together.
MORGAN: But the reality is that Americans carried on consuming and many of them carried on being self-indulgent and we ended up $13 trillion in debt with a catastrophic financial meltdown. So, you know, the grassroots were there, which you picked up on, but nobody listened?
MORGAN: When President Obama makes his State of the Union speech next week, would you like to see him do that kind of speech, what they called the "Malaise Speech," but actually was a direct message to people. Yes, we know times are tough. Yes, we know that unemployment figures are very, very high. We know a lot of people are suffering. But actually, the first thing Americans should be doing right now is self-starting, getting back on their feet, finding ways to make a living, doing the kind of entrepreneurial thing that you did when you were young.
MORGAN: How do you think he's doing as president?
CARTER: Well, he hasn't been able to accomplish very much, because he's been hamstringed by the most uncooperative Congress we've had in history, in my opinion.
MORGAN: Which you never had to suffer from.
MORGAN: What you're seeing is most of the candidates, if not all of them, apart from Ron Paul, perhaps, pushing the rhetoric more and more to the right.
CARTER: Yes, toward war. They all want to go to war, is the major –
MORGAN: Not only that, also on social issues. Rick Perry did a commercial attacking gay marriage in a very, what many people thought was bigoted, manner. When you see that kind of thing, as a very religious man yourself - a lot of them say, look, we're very religious people; it's all in the Bible – what do you feel?
CARTER: I feel that they're going to extremes just to try to get votes. And I don't think Rick Perry's been that extreme as a governor, but he's trying to be more extreme. And it's proven to be a mistake for Rick Perry. He's gone downhill when everybody thought he had the best chance when he first got in.
And now Gingrich in the South Carolina debate, I watched part of it, watched the first half of it. I think he has that subtlety of racism that I know quite well –
CARTER: – and that Gingrich knows quite well, that appeals to some people in Georgia, particularly the right wing.
MORGAN: And you think he's doing it deliberately?
CARTER: I think so. He knows as well the words that you use, like welfare mamas and so forth, that have been appealing in the past, in those days when we cherished segregation of the races. So he's appealing for that in South Carolina. And I don't think it will pay off in the long run.
MORGAN: That's a pretty serious charge to level at Newt Gingrich, that he's being racist.
CARTER: I wouldn't say he's racist, but he knows the subtle words to use to appeal to –
MORGAN: It's the same thing, isn't it?
CARTER: Not quite.
MORGAN: What's the difference?
CARTER: Well, he's not a racist, I think. Newt Gingrich is probably just as enlightened as I am about being gratified that we ended the segregation years in the south and we're now a part of the -
MORGAN: But if you pander to that kind of rhetoric –
CARTER: He does. And when you emphasize it over and over and over, you know, that welfare and – Food Stamps and why don't the black people get jobs, and if I'm President, I'll make sure that they turn towards a work ethic rather than an ethic of welfare and Food Stamps - I think that's appealing to the wrong element in South Carolina.
- Matt Hadro is a News Analyst at the Media Research Center