OPEC says it is President George Bush and "mismanagement of the U.S. economy." Bush says he thinks it is a mistake for OPEC to insist on not boosting output. The price of gasoline to the American consumer goes up overnight and the economy moves closer to recession.
Working people are hurting. Houses face foreclosure, food prices rise and citizens feel their comfort level moving in a downward spiral. Some people have cut their heating bills by turning down the thermostat and closing off unused rooms. People wear sweaters and jackets in the house and carpool with neighbors.
Travel and vacations are reduced and trips are shorter. More of us eat at home or carry our lunches to work. Some folks work extra jobs, cut grass, or paint houses to supplement their incomes. Everyone is making some adjustment to their lifestyle and all of us have had to become more frugal.
Old timers remember how it was in the Great Depression. Back in the 1920s and 1930s, people also had to change their outlook on life and adjust to change. Jobs were scarce, men hunted any kind of work, stood in bread lines and faced hard times. People were united as they faced the hazards of life and sought some measure of security.
The dominant figure of that time proved to be Franklin Delano Roosevelt. He was an articulate, attractive leader and knew how to appeal to the underdog with promises of change. He addressed the economic stress felt at the time by most Americans.
Candidates running for president today face some of the same challenges. Those of the younger generation are attracted to Barack Obama in spite of a less than attractive resume or exceptional experience. He leads in delegates as he speaks of the future and promises change. Better-credentialed candidates have already fallen. Even though Hillary Clinton has won in Texas, Ohio and Rhode Island, she hasn't enough delegates to win the nomination, so the fight goes on. John McCain already has enough delegates to be the Republican nominee for president.
Will it be Obama or Clinton who faces John McCain for the job of president and the chance to address the nation's many problems? The winner will not be able to give each and every one of us a new car in the garage and a fresh chicken in every pot. There will continue to be dissatisfaction, but, certainly, we can hope for relief from distress, and opportunities that will again make America strong and prosperous.
One of our candidates may be able to inspire people just as Roosevelt excited citizens with his vision for change. And, just maybe, silver-tongued oratory may not be enough to overcome years of experience in government service. Time will tell. Leading a nation may require more skills than verbal persuasion and political rhetoric.
Jack Simpson is a former educator, veteran, author, and law enforcement officer. His column appears each Sunday.