Great Op-Ed, as usual, by Frank Rich:
Ask Not What J.F.K. Can Do for Obama
By FRANK RICH
Published: February 3, 2008
How did the fairy-tale prince from Camelot vanquish a field of heavyweights led by the longtime liberal warrior Hubert Humphrey? It wasn't ideas. It certainly wasn't experience. It wasn't even the charisma that Kennedy would show off in that fall's televised duels with Richard Nixon.
Looking back almost 30 years later, Mr. Goodwin summed it up this way: "He had to touch the secret fears and ambivalent longings of the American heart, divine and speak to the desires of a swiftly changing nation -- his message grounded on his own intuition of some vague and spreading desire for national renewal."
In other words, Kennedy needed two things. He needed poetry, and he needed a country with some desire, however vague, for change.
Mr. Goodwin and his fellow speechwriter Ted Sorensen helped with the poetry. Still, the placid America of 1960 was not obviously in the market for change. The outgoing president, Ike, was the most popular incumbent since F. D. R. The suburban boom was as glossy as it is now depicted in the television show "Mad Men." The Red Panic of the McCarthy years was in temporary remission.
But Kennedy's intuition was right. America's boundless self-confidence was being rattled by (as yet) low-grade fevers: the surprise Soviet technological triumph of Sputnik; anti-American riots in even friendly non-Communist countries; the arrest of Martin Luther King Jr. at an all-white restaurant in Atlanta; the inexorable national shift from manufacturing to white-collar jobs. Kennedy bet his campaign on, as he put it, "the single assumption that the American people are uneasy at the present drift in our national course" and "that they have the will and strength to start the United States moving again."
For all the Barack Obama-J. F. K. comparisons, whether legitimate or over-the-top, what has often been forgotten is that Mr. Obama's weaknesses resemble Kennedy's at least as much as his strengths. But to compensate for those shortcomings, he gets an extra benefit that J. F. K. lacked in 1960. There's nothing vague about the public's desire for national renewal in 2008, with a reviled incumbent in the White House and only 19 percent of the population finding the country on the right track, according to the last Wall Street Journal-NBC News poll. America is screaming for change. [read full article]