Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Obama, is no JFK

Ted Widmor explains clearly how the comparison of Barack Obama to John F. Kennedy falls apart on the substance of the matter:

John F. Kennedy is not running for anything in 2008, but you’d never know it. A front-page photo in the New York Times recently showed his electability in Serbia, of all places, where local candidates are vying to establish their credentials as the latest citizens of the New Frontier. Back in the U.S., no candidate has captured the reflected glory of JFK more than Barack Obama, thanks to his youth, eloquence, and message of change. The Kennedy-Obama parallel has been played up by the press, and Obama’s campaign has not discouraged those comparisons—indeed, it has brought in Ted Sorensen, JFK’s talented speechwriter, to make speeches and render the judgment of history. But the comparison falls short when voters consider the key question for 2008: foreign policy experience. It’s true that Obama, like Kennedy, is a youngish senator (at 46, three years older than Kennedy when he ran for president), but the parallel falters after that. The more one looks into Kennedy’s lifelong preparation for the job, the more one realizes how misleading it was, then and now, to describe him as inexperienced. Everyone who has stressed Kennedy’s youth, from Dan Quayle in 1988 to Obama today, has bumped up against the uncomfortable fact that JFK was an extremely well-informed statesman in 1960. As Lloyd Bentsen reminded us in the zinger that pole-axed Quayle, the truth was a lot more complicated than the myth...

Like Kennedy, Obama did spend some time in his youth living in a foreign country. And because that country, Indonesia, is both Asian and majority Muslim, Obama can—and does—claim to have a unique perspective on a region and a religion that increasingly command Washington’s attention. But it’s worth noting the considerable differences between Obama’s and Kennedy’s overseas experiences. Kennedy lived in Europe, then the geo-strategic center of the world, as a footloose young man who had front-row seats at momentous diplomatic dramas, thanks to his ambassador father. Obama lived as a boy in Indonesia—a big, fascinating country, but not central to U.S. global strategy. If that childhood experience had a genuine impact beyond teaching him the obvious truth that the world is diverse, then he needs to make it clearer how he will translate that knowledge into sound policy.

I know its' difficult to argue against emotion but the Presidency is too important to let people discard their logic. Especially when the Republicans will be waiting to restore sanity in November.

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