If there's one thing we've learned after nearly a week on THE WEEKLY STANDARD cruise, it's this: Jimmy Carter was the best thing that could have happened to modern conservatism.
We jest – but not entirely. You see, talk at the dinner table often turns to how cruisers became conservative. And nearly every Baby Boomer on board has given the same answer: Jimmy Carter.
Of course it was the mess our 39th president created that inspired these people, around the end of his first (and last) term in 1980, to look for alternative ideas. But it was still surprising to hear so many conservatives mention that name and not another from the same time period: Ronald Reagan. We haven't gone to a conservative gathering in decades without hearing approving words about the man who kept Carter to one term – and this one has been no exception. Yet it is Carter's calamity, not Reagan's rousing rhetoric, most Boomers cite as the one thing that really changed their political lives.
The man from Plains has gotten a lot of attention on the cruise's panels, too. We've lost count of the number of speakers who have referred to the 1980 matchup – with many, especially John Podhoretz, noting many similarities between that election and this year's showdown between President Obama and Mitt Romney. (And Jonathan Last recommended Jules Witcover's Marathon: The Pursuit of the Presidency, 1972-1976 during the “best political books panel,” joking that a focus on Carter’s rise and fall left this fairytale with a happy ending.)
In other news, Friday night, at sea, saw a focus after dinner on the casino. John McCormack had the steel in his spine to quit the blackjack table while (modestly) ahead. But the highlight was one of THE SCRAPBOOK's favorite cruisers winning a $6,017 jackpot at a slot machine. She took it in stride. Luck be a lady!