Obama the heir to JFK? Not so much.
Watching the Democratic National Convention last night with its homage to Ted Kennedy and the concomitant comparisons, by the media between Barack Obama and John F. Kennedy, I had to ask myself, what history are these people reading.
Ted Kennedy specifically used the “passing the torch” metaphor to compare Obama to his slain brother. That mushy pablum works as fodder for whooping up the fervor of a convention floor full of partisans hoping for change and unifying in the hope of being one of the one’s we’ve been waiting for. The reality however, is that the true legacy of John F. Kennedy and what Barack Obama actually stands for could not be farther apart.
John F. Kennedy was an old school Democrat, a tax cutter and liberal cold warrior. He represents the proud and honorable past of the Democratic Party. Barack Obama is the heir to the radical sixties and the movement that sought to destroy the liberal consensus, which Kennedy personified. Think Obama’s Chicago associate and Weather Underground terrorist Bill Ayers and his ties to ACORN.
The problem is that too many people fall for the myth of Camelot, a term contrived after Kennedy’s death, by a sycophantic journalist. By the time the mythmaking machine was running full bore, it had transformed Kennedy into a martyred peacenik cut down by hate before he could redeem this fallen nation.
Oliver Stone took the mythmaking to extreme absurdity in JFK by arguing the CIA, corporations, the mafia, and the Maytag Repairman assassinated him because he wanted to pull out of Vietnam.
The fact of the matter is that to the day he died, Kennedy was fully committed to the fight in Vietnam. This policy fit squarely in line with his staunch anti-communism. Kennedy was one of the loudest voices screaming, “Who lost China” at the Truman administration. Both he and his father were political allies of Joseph McCarthy, Robert Kennedy even served as counsel to McCarthy’s senate sub-committee, and Kennedy was far more hawkish than Richard Nixon during the 1960 presidential campaign. Kennedy went eyeball-to-eyeball with Khrushchev over Berlin, authorized the Bay of Pigs, and was willing to invade Cuba a second time to remove Soviet nuclear missiles from the island.
Although he died before his Congress passed his proposed tax cuts, he saw the cuts as a means to “to cut the fetters which hold back private spending,” and “reduce the burden on private income and the deterrents to private initiative.” Kennedy’s tax cuts fueled one of the largest economic expansions in U.S. history.
Obama wants to raise taxes and seeks a less hawkish foreign policy. We can argue the merits or demerits of Obama’s policies. If you are speaking in myths and fables then yes JFK and Obama align like the stars in their courses. However, once you get into the substantive weeds, to say that Obama is direct heir to John Kennedy is an argument built on quicksand.