Blog Credo

The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.

H.L. Mencken

Friday, November 22, 2013


It is striking to me that Kennedy grades out as the most popular president of the last 50 years.

He beats out Reagan and Clinton, who both finished strong.

It's striking to me because Kennedy did jack squat as President. He nearly got us into nuclear war over Cuba, after a botched Bay of Pigs fiasco pushed Castro into Kruschev's waiting arms.  He was reticent to embrace civil rights.  He failed to advance almost any of his agenda.

It was LBJ who passed the Kennedy agenda, skillfully using the martyred Kennedy as a whip to get Congress into line.

Kennedy was handsome, but mostly he died young.  He is associated fuzzily with idealism and public service.  It would be interesting to see how many people could name a true Kennedy accomplishment - a concrete thing he did as president.

Meanwhile, LBJ and Obama actually achieved remarkable advances, but LBJ will be condemned for his Vietnam mistake and Obama will perhaps need time to rehabilitate him.

But mostly, this is a victory of high style over substance.

Don't get me wrong.  Kennedy is important.  But it's his death and the way LBJ used that death to pass a sweeping agenda that is important.  Not what JFK did himself.

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