One of the selling points for Barack Obama was that he and his wife would be the new Kennedy dynasty: young, attractive, articulate and Democratic. They were Jack and Jackie all over again. As with so many things about the Obamas, that was completely false hype. Indeed, a closer look at JFK and Jackie shows that, if anything, the Obamas are the un-Kennedys.
I got that closer look last night when I watched a new HBO documentary, JFK : In his own Words, based entirely upon day-to-day footage shot during Kennedy’s campaign and presidency. Alec Baldwin’s narrative was minimalist.
What is so striking is how not Kennedy-esque the Obamas are.
John Kennedy was a man of tremendous wit, which he used to turn aside barbs, make political points, and charm voters. Obama is a man without wit. To the extent he makes “jokes,” they are invariably vicious rejoinders against political opponents.
John Kennedy was erudite. As recent historical records show, he may have been passive about applying to Harvard but, somewhere along the line, he picked up a sophistication and knowledge that came through clearly in both his speeches and his asides. Obama has repeatedly demonstrated a mind devoid of the furniture that makes for an erudite, educated Western man.
John Kennedy was experienced. As he repeatedly boasted, despite his youth, he’d seen active service during World War II and served 14 years in the US Senate. Obama wrote a book (maybe).
John Kennedy was not afraid of naming and calling out the enemy. When it came to the Soviets, he was a hawk on steroids. He may have muffed the Bay of Pigs, but he didn’t blink on the Cuban Missile Crisis. He talked freely and openly about Communism’s evils and the threat it posed to America’s freedoms. He was not politically correct, and he was not afraid to speak out for his values. I actually think Obama is the same. The only difference is that, in Obama’s world, America is the evil one, and he’s not ashamed to speak out against her, especially when he’s speaking to people who dislike or hate her.
John Kennedy showed courage when it came to defending his values and his nation. Obama shows courage when it comes to defending himself.
Even when it comes to vices, Obama falls short. Kennedy was an enthusiastic womanizer. Obama doesn’t seem to like them very much.
And as for the missus, while Jackie had a look of perpetual wonderment about her (that open-mouthed, bovine smile seemed to say “Wow! Am I lucky”), it’s rare for Michelle to abandon her angry, sullen demeanor.
So, I’ll borrow Lloyd Bentsen’s snarky, and inappropriate insult to Dan Quayle, an insult that is entirely apropos here: “President Obama, you’re no Jack Kennedy.”