I’ve said for years that Democrats — and even some Republicans — treat John F. Kennedy the same way most Republicans treat Ronald Reagan. They’ve turned him into a mythical figure that bears little resemblance to the real thing. Here’s a perfect example from a former Democratic legislator:
If you are an American over sixty, you remember when you learned that John Kennedy had died. If you are one of my contemporaries, you might remember almost as vividly the moment you thought Jack Kennedy had been reborn, in the form of some youthful contender who could turn an inspirational phrase and stab a finger in the air.
Your moment might seem absurd now – Gary Hart in the glow of winning New Hampshire in 1984. Or bittersweet – the November night in 1992 when Bill Clinton retired the WWII generation. Yours might be agonizingly recent – Barack Obama on a dream-lit stage in Grant Park. It’s been the longest quest in modern politics, the effort to recreate an ideal of power that was extinguished almost exactly 48 years ago, and it has never ended well.
Pretenders like Hart imitated the style without Kennedy’s strength of purpose. Clinton, Kennedy’s equal as a tactician, never matched his capacity to lift the country’s moral tone. As for Obama, he has gone backward in terms of his hold on the public’s imagination. Kennedy did the opposite, expanding a one vote per precinct squeaker into the last presidency that never dropped below fifty percent approval.
JFK? Lifting the nation’s moral tone? Is he serious? He didn’t drop below 50 percent because he wasn’t in office long enough. He was a mediocre president for the time he was in office, no better than that. But because he died young, he’s been turned into Ghandi and Jesus rolled into one.