The Black John F. Kennedy


Watching the pundits and mavens of the mainstream press fawn over Sen. Barak Obama is reminiscent of watching a bunch of pre-pubescent teenagers go hysterical at the sight of Elvis or the Beatles. It is irrational and amusing at the same time.

They ascribe characteristics and accomplishments to Obama that are nothing short of ludicrous — women feinting, the lame walking and the blind seeing. This intelligent and very serious man is going to have trouble living up to the legend, and thus the expectations, being created for him. For most of it, a good sense of humor on Obama’s part will mitigate that tendency of “rock stars” to believe their own press.

But there is one disturbing comparison that is most unsettling and, in the end, can be most destructive. That is the comparison of Obama to Pres. John F. Kennedy — I mean the real John F. Kennedy, not the legends created by Pierre Salinger, Scotty Reston and Arthur Schlesinger. Don’t get me wrong, there is a heroism about Kennedy that cannot be denied. He was a World War II hero whose boat was torpedoed and who rallied his men to survive in a hostile sea. In the end he gave his life for his country when Lee Harvey Oswald ruthlessly gunned him down in Dallas and for that he joins Lincoln, Garfield and McKinley as men who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country.

But for those of us who were actually alive during the Kennedy years, the myths of John F. Kennedy bear little relationship to actuality. At best he was a handsome leader with a beautiful wife who brought attention, style and glitter to a White House that had suffered the stress of a world war under Roosevelt and Truman and the dowdiness of Dwight and Mamie Eisenhower. But Kennedy had a remarkable succession of international failures including the commencement of America’s involvement in Viet Nam, the Bay of Pigs, and the Berlin Crises. Even Kennedy’s greatest moment, the confrontation of the Soviet Union over the placement of missiles in Cuba, was precipitated by a generally acknowledged perception of weakness by the international community. The fact that the Soviet Union felt emboldened to place missiles twenty six miles off our shores was a testament to Kennedy’s foreign policy weakness.

On the domestic front, the lone significant accomplishment was the introduction of tax cuts to stimulate the economy, the last time a Democrat president advocated the use of this repeatedly successful methodology. It was not Kennedy that spurred the Civil Rights Act, rather it was Martin Luther King, Jr., who shamed President Lyndon Johnson into embracing the concept of equality without regard to race. Yes, John Kennedy spoke of reaching the moon after being embarrassed by the initial successes of the Soviet Union in the exploration of outer space. But it was a succession of presidents after Kennedy that actually succeeded in recapturing and holding the lead in interstellar exploration. It was not Kennedy that launched the war on poverty, rather it was Lyndon Johnson and his Great Society programs. (It should be noted that after forty years and billions of dollars, the level of poverty in America remains virtually unchanged.)

On a personal level Kennedy was one of the most prolific womanizers ever to hold public office. The Secret Service served as a taxi service for the parade of women — starlets, debutantes, female reporters, bored wives, and hookers — that Kennedy bedded. (For some reason I can’t see Michelle Obama remaining silent about such things as did Jacqueline Kennedy and Hillary Clinton.) The compliant press turned a blind eye to his dalliances, just as they turned a blind eye to his deteriorating physical condition and use of pain killers for a back injured during the sinking of the PT-109.

Kennedy introduced the secret taping of White House conversation — a practice that eventually brought down Richard Nixon. He authorized domestic surveillance of civil rights figures including Martin Luther King, Jr. And he knuckled under to the threats of J. Edgar Hoover who routinely used the Federal Bureau of Investigation as his own personal character assassination machine.

Barak Obama is a serious man. Surely he and those who support him, should aspire to something greater than a very flawed man whose legend exceeds his meager accomplishments.

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  • Rupert in Springfield

    Whoa – Knocking Kennedy? That’s going to have more than a few in a tizzy. Also I notice the author left out Kennedys single most important contribution – The absolute moral absolution the Democrats now feel they have for all of their past support of segregation in the South. God knows how he did it, but somehow, with the election of Kennedy, and the eventual signing of the Civil Rights Act by Johnson ( a man who the left almost universally despised except when the history is useful on this one issue ) the Democrats now see themselves as the moral absolute on all matters regarding race. All the ugly past was vaporized with that single signature in the minds of the anointed. This re-writing of history on that one issue is perhaps the most amazing aspect of the legend of the Kennedy years. It remains quite effective to this very day.

    • dean

      Rupert…now there you go again.

      • Rupert in Springfield

        Naaahhhhh – Just stating the obvious to thinking fans everywhere! Perhaps the phrase “Question Authority” which I used to literally wear on my sleeve in those halcyon days of college should be changed to “Question the Liberal Boiler Plate”.

        As for you comment…. noted and logged…warp factor 3 if you please ensign Chekov…. Yeoman Rand… an espresso post haste!

  • carol

    Explain feinting, or does he mean fainting?

    • dean

      Rup…questioning authority is still a good thing. Last I looked Bush is still the present authority. Kennedy is long gone. Have you questioned Bush of late?

      For whatever it may be worth to you, I don’t feel myself or my party to be a moral absolute on anything. I do think that on race and some other matters, we managed to scale the moral high(er) ground. But you guys made that too easy. Some competition would have been welcome.

      Carol…you are still out there. Very good.

      • Rupert in Springfield

        >questioning authority is still a good thing.

        I never said it wasn’t. I just would add to it, “question the liberal boiler plate”.

        Dee – I think one would have to pretty much have been living on a desert island for the last 8 years to think that conservatives aren’t fairly questioning of their leaders. For a liberal to be advising a conservative to question authority is the height of folly.

        Did you miss the whole Bush amnesty thing Dee? How about the Bush spending Dee? Miss that too? Conservatives everywhere had had a big problem with all of these. Did ya miss the questioning of the AGW hoax? It seems to be coming more from my side than yours.

        Did you notice the response to the revelation that Al Gore uses as much electricity in a month as most do in a year? I didn’t notice a lot of “Question Authority” then. If ever there was a time, that was it, but all we got was smears against those who found this out. I saw very few on the left thinking about the obvious question this prompted: “if Al Gore, through his actions, doesn’t believe in AGW, then why should I?”

        >I don’t feel myself or my party to be a moral absolute on anything.

        Don’t be silly, of course you do. In our last conversation you actually said when your side used race in an election, it was for equality, and when my side used race, it was to oppress. A fact easily disproven by the deaths of those in the riots started by Al Sharpton, Democrat, in his ascendancy. Your party definitely has the better political machine when it comes to racializing a situation, and using it to your advantage. The hubris to think that translates into a moral high ground is the fascinating aspect of it to me.

        • dean

          Okay…conservatives certainly do question their authorities when they stray from orthodox conservatism. I agree. And i encourage you to keep it up. Don’t vote for McCain okay?

          On Gore, first, he is no longer in a position of authority. But that aside, there are his PUBLIC actions: book, PowerPoint show, movie, etc…and his PRIVATE actions…big house, flying around, buying carbon offsets, etc. I support his public actions, and wish he did differently on his private actions. I don’t view his private actions as indicating he does not believe what he says in public.

          And either way it would not matter. It is reality that is important, not what Gore, you, or I believe is reality. The earth is either warming or it isn’t (it is) and this is either substantially caused by a buildup of greenhouse gasses or it isn’t (preponderance of evidence says it is).

          Al Sharpton’s actions in New York were not “in an election.” And he did not “start riots.” He rallied his community, organized protests to try and get justice for what he thought were crimes that were going unprosecuted (a long standing grievance), and some among the protesters rioted and committed crimes. Was he responsible for those crimes? Not in a court of law. Morally, yes if he reaonably could foresee the consequences. Did he “racialize” the issue? No. Disproportionate justice was already a racial issue before he got there. Did he use the situation to build his political base? I think he did.

          I don’t think many situations need to be “racialized” Rupe. They are what they are. When people point out racial inequalities they are not “racializing.” If police departments pull over more African Americans not for actual crimes, but for looking more supicious than white people, and someone points that out, and it is supported by fact, is that “racializing?” If black children are stuck attending poorly funded inner city schools while suburban whites have much better schools, is that “racializing?” If young black men are sentenced to jail for 10 years for crack cocaine, while young white men are given a slap on the wrist for powder cocaine, is pointing that out “racializing?”

          My “party” has taken upon itself the job of helping poor and minority people get justice and equality because your party is indifferent and sometimes openly hostile to this issue. Deal with it by changing the way your party deals with the actual issue. Or remain indifferent if you think that is a good moral stand or political strategy.

          Or continue trying to re-write history. Maybe that will work out in time.

  • Rupert in Springfield

    You know, for a guy who is all on about not “poisoning the well, you sure seem to use a lot of grade school tactics. What’s with the goofing on my name? Is this something you commonly do when you don’t have an argument?

    On Gore – Look, if someone is running around creating hysteria over AGW, saying the debate is over, shut up if you dissent, and then runs around living his life in a way completely at odds with what he preaches, it is perfectly reasonable to assume he thinks the threat is not so dire as his words indicate.

    On Racializing –

    >Did he “racialize” the issue? No.

    You’re kidding right? I mean that is about as inane as it gets. Are you familiar with Sharpton and what he did in NYC? I lived there during those times, so maybe I am more acquainted with the Reverend. Anyone who would say he did not racialize situations for personal benefit simply hasn’t got a clue of what they are talking about.

    Sorry, but when someone stirs up a riot with a megaphone yelling about “White Interlopers” and Jews. That’s a textbook case of racializing. He is one of yours, and people are dead because of him. Live with it and get off your high horse. Your party will racialize anything if they see political advantage, just look at the disparity between Dodd’s treatment and Lott’s treatment for virtually identical remarks with Byrd and Thurmond. Try actually questioning authority Dean, instead of aspiring to be a good soldier for your party.

    Woops, sorry. I guess Dodd is from CT so anything racist he says doesn’t count, Lott is from Mississippi, where we all know, you hear a lot of code words and weird dog whistles, and what the heck, all those Southerners are racists anyway.

    >My “party” has taken upon itself the job of helping poor and minority people

    Hmm, and the illegitimacy rate among blacks has soared, poverty has remained unchanged since the dawn of the “Great Society” and you guys spent roughly $6 trillion of everyone’s money on that fiasco. How’s that working out for you? By any measure, your party most certainly hasn’t helped the poor, but you sure helped yourself to everyone’s money, and so impoverished everyone a little more. But hey, it bought you some elections. Good going!

    >Or continue trying to re-write history. Maybe that will work out in time.

    Weird, when I question authority on racial issues, its rewriting history. When you question authority, its valid. Hmm, very strange, don’t know where that really works out too well, but who knows, it might carry some weight in your circles, but certainly not among most.

    • dean

      Rupert in Springfield (no more shorthand…I seem to have pressed a sensitivity button inadvertantly,) like I said…Global warming either is or isn’t and is or isn’t, no matter the size of Al’s house or the light bulbs he uses. I mean…if you want to base your own view on warming based on what Al says or does or doesn’t do, that is up to you. As one who questions authority, I’ll look more widely for information.

      No, I did not live in NYC, and other than what I read in the papers many years ago, I’m not intimate with the Reverand’s antics. Having grown up in Chicago, I am very familiar with big city ethnic racism and the legitimate grievences of black people however.

      He is one of mine and people are dead because of him? Gee Rupert in Springfield…I feel terrible. How do you feel about Bush? How many are dead and maimed because of him? I mean…where do you want to take this one? Should we do a total historic body count and assign it to political ideologies?

      Senator Byrd apologized for his “youthfull indiscretions” (Henry Hyde’s term) a long time ago. Strom Thurmond, to my knowledge never did, though over the years he certainly softened his position.

      Dodd said something “racist?” Sorry…I missed it.

      It seems to me it was your own team that took down Lott. Bush never liked him and let him twist in the wind, as did his Republican Seate colleagues. Personally I did not take much notice of Lott’s comment, which was merely verbalizing what he really thought. i’m more interested in lott’s actions, and he has not exactly been a friend of the poor. But don’t lay his demise on me.

      Again Rupert from Springfield, you try and rewrite history. Johnson’s “War on Poverty” lasted barely longer than Johnson. Nixon aboloshed the OEO. And your man RR cut Federal spending for anti-poverty programs to the bone. The welfare reform act of 96, a joint project of Congressional Rs and Clinton, sealed the deal.

      What we have left is an underfunded Head Start and the remnants of the Job corps. $6 trillion? You get that number from where? Spent on what? And what have we got to show from the Iraq war spending so far?

      Poverty rates went down fairly significantly in the few years after the Great Society, then stabalized for a long time, and are now going up again. The US has the highest poverty rate in the western world not because we spend *too much* on the poor Rupert from Springfield.

      • Rupert in Springfield

        >Rupert in Springfield (no more shorthand…I seem to have pressed a sensitivity button inadvertantly,)

        Get over yourself. You knew exactly what you were doing and got called on it. Making fun of someone’s name as a form of argument is so third grade. Not being able to respond with some grace to being asked not to do so is very first grade. Continuing to do it, as you do in your post, is Nursery school at best, but more likely Neanderthal.

        Anyone who gets irate and claims I’m digging into their personal life and “poisoning the well” when I ask about how you pay your employees and then thinks its perfectly ok to make fun of someone’s name as a form of rebuttal reveals themselves for what they are. A childish individual, incapable of doing wrong on their own part, and getting cranky and mad at the slightest affront to them.

        >No, I did not live in NYC, and other than what I read in the papers many years ago, I’m not intimate with the Reverand’s antics. Having grown up in Chicago, I am very familiar with big city ethnic racism and the legitimate grievences of black people however.

        He is one of mine and people are dead because of him?

        You sir are a fool. Anyone who would in one post claim Sharpton was not a racialist, and then in the next reveal that he was completely ignorant of the deaths associated with his riots is a partisan lackey. Excusing Sharptons behaviour based obviously on his party affiliation first, and not on any real knowledge of the mans history, which in your statement you have just revealed you have none. Not being able to condemn a man, and then trying childish dodges like with Iraq is quite indicative that you are anything but a questioner of authority. You are simply a partisan, nothing more.

        You – Dean – cannot admit wrong within your own party. You – Dean – are a good little foot soldier and nothing more, since you are incapable of questioning authority when it comes to your Democratic party masters, further discussion with you is ludicrous and a waste of my time.

        And for Gods sake, if you cant get out and read a little, at least learn to use a spell check.

  • carol

    Oh yes, I’m here, watching y’all tilt at windmills. What a way to entertain yourself. And by the way, Dean, listen to the legal rumbles over M49. Not that I’d be the kinda person to say “Told ya so”, nto me!

    • dean

      Hi Carol. Yes, you predicted it. Hat’s off.

      Rupert. You have degenerated into name calling now. You appear to be locked into constructing arguments by assigning your own meaning to whatever I said or didn’t say.

      Not without irony…you are starting to remind me of Rupert Pupnik, from “The King of Comedy,” who fancied himself a guest on a a late night talk show. He had cardboard cutouts of various characters and a replica set (in the basement of his mother’s home) and would make up conversations between them and himself, posing whatever questions he wanted them to ask and giving witty answers, then imagining the approval of the crowd. You should rent the DVD sometime and learn new tricks.

      So I’ll just say goodnight, let you continue to argue for both of us, and work on my spillchck.

  • carol

    Dean, Dean, you are a glutton for punishment. this goes beyond tiltin’, this is bull baiting, be careful, this one has a vocabulary! Good luck.

    • dean

      Carol…I grew up on the mean streets of Chicago, and have encountered every type of insult, some accompanied by brass knuckles and baseball bats. I know how to duck and run when I need to. Rupert won’t lay a glove on me. No to worry.

      Though I remember saying something similar just before my first Golden Gloves bout. They were scraping me off the canvass a short time later. As he repaired my nose the trainer said: “Looks like you was talking when you shouldda been listening.”

      • carol

        Dean, you are much braver than I. And that’s a good reason for me to continue this as a spectator sport. I’ll back out now, only poppin’ up when I simply can’t resist an occasional smart— contribution

  • Trevor

    Larry,

    Your assessment of the Great Society is historically inaccurate and far to categorical, and all to typical of right wing commentors. Great Society was of immeasurable benefit to many people; poverty rates WERE reduced, particularly among the elderly ,and the lives of many poor people were improved by access to health care, cash payments, education, and nutrition programs.

    Why are poverty levels as high today. Because there was a quick retreat in the war on poverty, specially among the poorest. By the late 1960s, programs for the working-age poor were already being scaled back, while programs for the elderly and middle class continued to expand. Social Security was expanded again, and when combined with Medicare, these programs eliminated much of the poverty among the elderly.

    The high poverty levels to day have much more with 30 years of ideologically conservative economic policies that are rigidly assume that that private corporations, tax cuts for the wealthy, and cutting government investment is always and everywhere the solution to economic growth.

    Was the Great Society the answer to end poverty. No. Did it improve the lives of many poor people. Yes… as far as it went.

    By 1968 Martin Luther King recognized the limits to the liberalism of the Great Society. He began to see poverty as systemic part of capitalist system. In his last major address to the SCLC, King rejected the liberalism of the Great Society, with its commitment to minor remedies rather than systemic remedies:

    “We are called upon to help the discouraged beggars in life’s marketplace. But one day we must come to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring. . . Now when I say question the whole society, it means ultimately coming to see that the problem of racism, the problem of economic exploitation, and the problem of war are all tied together.”

    King pointed us to the unfinished business ending poverty and achieving real social and economic justice.

    Trevor

    • Larry Huss

      Trevor: Your comments are Dr. King are correct and well said. However, you are perpetuating a myth about the great society. According the U.S. Census Bureau poverty rates in America were on a steady decline from about about 1959 to 1969, the rate of decline changed little with the advent of the Great Society. Those rates leveled off from about 1969 to 1979 and then began rising from 1979-1981 (the Carter years), thereafter they leveled off and have remained relatively unchanged for the last twenty-five years. The decline from 1959 to 1969 probably had more to do with the rapid industrial growth (jobs) than any government program.

      • dean

        Larry…poverty measurements prior to 1964 are suspect because of the change in the way poverty was calculated then.

        Most poverty experts agree the US understates the number of poor people by using an absolute standard based primarily on the cost of food. If we use the OED standard (less than 50% of mean income) we have 17% poor, not the 12% or so you get otherwise.By the way, this makes us the 2nd highest of all advanced nations in terms of poverty rate.

        About 30% of all African-American kids under 18 are living in poor households, more than twice the rate for whites. The US has the highest child poverty rate in the developed world, and the highest rate of fellow citizens dying before reaching age 60.

        You may be right that the best anti-poverty program is a good economy, but only if the gains are well distributed amongst the people. That is our core problem in the US with respect to poverty.

        The implication in your post is that social spending programs, like those temporarily employed in the Great Society, are not helpful in aleiviating poverty. But the experience of every other industrialized nation suggests otherwise. The poverty rate in Sweden & Norway, which have the most generous social spending, is only 6% or so.

        Over the last 30 years the bottom 20% of our population is losing ground economically, in spite of a lot of economic growth.

      • carol

        I can’t resist putting my 2 cents worth in here, can’t resist being a smarta– again. When I think of the division of wealth in the world today, A slogan from the nineties comes to mind, over and over. “What would Jesus do?” Many who profess to follow the teachings of Christ, are not about to share with the ones for whom poverty is a way of life. And I’m talking about people who have more $$$ than they can ever spend. Let us only hope that that old parable about a camel passing thru the eye of a needle is true. Ya cna’t take it with you, have y’all ever seen a U-Haul following a hearse?

        • dean

          Carol…I would guess that he would have been branded a radical socialist and run out of Dodge no?

          You can’t take it with you its true, but you can leave the entire estate to your puppy dog.

          • carol

            Hi Dean, I think I have used this statement at least once before,maybe twice. I think that you have responded before, but other’s responses are conspicuous by their absence. I don’t call myself a Christian, however all of us would do well to live by Jesus’ radical socialist way. I am not sure how much of Jesus’ story is fact and how much has been embellished over the years, but I know that his teaching would benefit all mankind if mankind would adhere to his way of life.

            Unfortunately, mankind tends to take the easy, exciting way. All that ‘stuff’ that we can buy with the $$$, offers a more immediate thrill. The thrill that obtaining ‘things’, soon wears off, and like any addiction must be renewed by buying more and more ‘stuff’ The satisfaction of giving to someone less fortunate, also is real, but seldom sought.

            All of us can find a way to give to another without judgeing whether that person is deserving, and many do My argument is with the ones who have more than they can ever use, and are still unsatisfied. And they don’t know why. Those are the ones that need to pay attention to Jesus’ teachings.

          • dean

            Carol, I’m a committed agnostic. But I think certain people are naturally “tuned in” to some greater gestalt, and I suspect Jesus was one of those (prophets). He had a lot of good advice, but I think at the end of the day most humans just are not good enough to live as he suggested. So we gravitate to short term gratifications, power, money, bigger houses, bigger cars, more stuff….you know the drill.

            I would be happy if we could all just lighten up a bit and not get so dug in on being so sure we are right about anything. And yes, we would do a lot better if we were more generous and forgiving and glorified our peacemakers as much as we honor our war heros.

  • oh

    why would anybody take this seriously if the guy cant even spell barack obama correctly?