As President Kennedy proved through the Cuban missile crisis, the standard by which all presidents should be measured when considering armed conflict is that the threat must be clear and present, but also quantifiable. Creativity in a commander in chief is as important as courage, something John Fitzgerald Kennedy had in abundance.
It will be a long way back from George W. Bush and what he has wrought around the world. No one believes us anymore. Few trust us. Few respect our government's judgment. We are weakened because of it. Last week's vote from Democrats only made the situation worse.
Interestingly, long before Kennedy became president he recognized the importance of the Middle East, as well as the natural nationalism of the people in the region. He made speeches about it.
What kind of peace do I mean? What kind of peace do we seek? Not a Pax Americana enforced on the world by American weapons of war. Not the peace of the grave or the security of the slave. I am talking about genuine peace - - the kind of peace that makes life on earth worth living -- the kind that enables man and nations to grow and to hope and to build a better life for their children - - not merely peace for Americans by peace for all men and women - - not merely peace in our time but peace for all time.
Kennedy would have been 90 years old today. It's astounding how young he was when he was elected. It brings back the grandeur and possibilities of what the 1960's promised, but also what was percolating on the other side of the aisle at the same time.
J.F.K. had his own right-wing to contend with in Ã¢â‚¬Ëœ63: 70 foundations, 113 corporations and 250 "identifiable individuals," not to mention 74% of their 150 congressional candidates, 15 minute radio programs on 300 stations heard 343 times a day, and 80,000 copies of "Human Events" magazine mailed out every week. Doesn't seem like much when you think of what the VRWC has put together since Kennedy's time. However, many often forget that Kennedy had very powerful forces pushing against him, including in the C.I.A. and the military industrial establishment.
J.F.K. also knew the meaning of sacrifice and service. He wasn't afraid to ask Americans to do their fair share, but it didn't stop there. Who today would stand up to U.S. steel or some other corporation as Kennedy did?
Today, if still alive, John F. Kennedy would finally see the implosion of the movement that began to rise up in the 1960s. No doubt he'd be smiling. But he'd also say stay alert. There is so much left still undone.
But there's no need to idealize (or idolize) John F. Kennedy, who was as practical, pragmatic and opportunistic as any politician to hold the office of presidency. However, no one can doubt the man's intelligence and vision, something we've lacked in the presidency for years now. We also now know you weren't perfect either, but most of our leaders since you died have been even less so. You could also learn and change, as Martin Luther King, Jr. taught you.
Happy Birthday, Jack. We remember you and mourn the loss of what you meant to America, the ideas you inspired, more today than ever.