08 September 2008

You Sir, Are No John Kennedy

Throughout this election, there have been numerous comparisons between Senator Barack Obama and President John F. Kennedy. Everything from their young ages to how their wives dress themselves has been compared.

However, what is most important is experience when discussing the office of the president. We will very quickly see that there is nothing more than superficialities tying Obama and Kennedy together.

Both Barack Obama and John Kennedy were young when they began their respective careers. Both are “firsts”. John Kennedy was the first Catholic president. Barack Obama is the first black to be nominated by his party for the presidency. Both wives have good taste in clothing (which we all know is very important for the president to do his job properly).

Let’s get onto more important things… like experience. As executive experience goes - Barack Obama has a very thin resume. We know that he was a "community organizer" (whatever that means), and to top that off - not even a particularly good one either.

I'm getting ahead of myself. Reader's Digest (Sept. 2008) has interviews with both Obama and McCain. They introduce Obama with a comparison to John F. Kennedy.

Obama was never a governor, nor an executive. He did not serve in the armed forces or the House of Representatives. He worked in the private sector only briefly as a lawyer and was never a judge or a prosecutor. He wrote one highly acclaimed memoir, Dreams from My Father, and a bestseller, The Audacity of Hope, which is essentially a campaign book. He served for three years as a community organizer in Chicago, taught law school, served eight years in the Illinois state legislature, and ran for the Senate in 2004, winning against a fringe candidate from out of state.

That experience pales in comparison with John Kennedy's life before the presidency. JFK had written two books, as well, but was also a decorated naval officer in World War II, had served three terms in the House, and was in his second Senate term when he earned the 1960 nomination.

Obama has got nothing on JFK.

Instead of trying to strengthen his own presidential credentials legitimately, Obama made a trip around the world in an attempt to at least look presidential. He failed in this too.

Obama went to Berlin, Germany. His speech in Germany clarified his views on America. First of all, he should have given his speech in German since he is so embarrassed that Americans don't speak a second language. He was hoping to follow in the footsteps of President John Kennedy and President Ronald Reagan.

Since Obama knew that their shoes were too big to fill, he instead decided to introduce himself to the crowd there “not as a candidate for President, but as a citizen – a proud citizen of the United States, and a fellow citizen of the world.” He then finished his incoherent speech (following the sentence about the September 11th terrorists with another about the melting ice caps) with the wonderful American pride he is known to show.

I know my country has not perfected itself. At times, we’ve struggled to keep the promise of liberty and equality for all of our people. We’ve made our share of mistakes, and there are times when our actions around the world have not lived up to our best intentions.

He then goes on to try to explain that the United States tries hard and is an idealistic nation. [Nice try.]

This was a pitiful attempt by Candidate Obama to fill Presidential shoes. I heard a joke made at the time – “ordinary citizen” Barack Obama was walking by and happened to see a microphone so he decided to make a speech. Sure. That happens to me all the time, and I’m always followed around the world with anchors of the major television stations hanging on my every word.

What we also hear quite a bit about is Senator (143 days worth) Obama willingness to talk to our enemies, but he’s recently tried to wiggle his way out of his own words.

When asked by a reporter, Obama clarified his remarks made during a debate last summer that he would be willing to meet with the leaders of Iran, Syria, Venezuela, Cuba and North Korea "without precondition."

The Obama campaign has since added nuance to that position, particularly regarding meeting with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Obama said Wednesday that he would be willing to meet with any leader if he thought it would promote the national security interests of the United States, but he said there is a difference between "meeting without preconditions and meeting without preparations."

I like that the Obama campaign has added “nuance”. What he wasn’t clear enough the first time? What’s so hard to understand?

When asked (back in September 2007) about whether Columbia University should have allowed Ahmadinejad to speak he said that,

…he would have denied Ahmadinejad the opportunity to speak at Columbia because the Iranian president has "other forums" available to him in New York, including his speech at the United Nations. Still, Obama continued to insist that as president, he would be willing to meet one-on-one with Ahmadinejad.

"Nothing's changed with respect to my belief that strong countries and strong presidents talk to their enemies and talk to their adversaries," he said. “Listening to the views, even of those who we violently disagree with, that sends a signal to the world that we are going to turn the page on the failed diplomacy that the Bush administration has practiced for so long."

[This “failed diplomacy” has kept airplanes from slamming into buildings full of people who go to work every day, but never mind.]

Obama is obviously clueless about how foreign policy works. He has also been quoted saying the now famous line, "Diplomacy is not just talking with your friends, but talking to our enemies,"

Sounds like a good sound bite, but that’s all it is. Looking weak leads to disaster, and we have history to back that up. John Kennedy himself made an error with such thinking.

Kennedy first addressed the subject of a possible summit with the Soviet Union in the second Kennedy-Nixon debate. Unlike Obama, Kennedy expressly rejected a summit without preconditions.…Once in office, Kennedy more or less discarded his previously expressed conditions for a summit. In a letter written in February and secretly delivered to Khrushchev in March 1961, Kennedy expressed his willingness to meet Khrushchev "before too long" for an informal exchange of views. After the Bay of Pigs fiasco, Kennedy sensed that discussions without an agenda or prior agreement might be disadvantageous to the United States. He let the matter drop, but Khrushchev accepted the invitation on May 4. The meeting was to occur in Vienna late that spring.

Through a secret Washington encounter between Attorney General Robert Kennedy and Soviet intelligence agent Georgi Bolshakov the following week, the president sought to explore an acceptable compromise on nuclear testing in connection with ongoing negotiations in Geneva that might be finalized in Vienna. The compromise, however, would have to be depicted as originating from the Soviet side. In Jack Kennedy: Education of a Statesman movie-star biographer Barbara Leaming shows a finer sense of power politics than Barack Obama does. In his back-channel offer, she writes, Kennedy inadvertently conveyed to Khrushchev "that in the aftermath of Cuba he was nervous that Vienna be perceived as a success" and that "he was willing to deceive the American people, who, at his instigation, were to be told that the [compromise offer] had come from the Soviet negotiators rather than from him. In sum, he bared his vulnerabilities to an opponent well able to take advantage of them."

The parties reached no agreement on any set agenda or proposals prior to their meeting in Vienna on June 3 and 4. The meetings were therefore confined to the informal exchange of views referred to in Kennedy's February letter. By all accounts, including Kennedy's own, the meetings were a disaster. Khrushchev berated, belittled, and bullied Kennedy on subjects ranging from Communist ideology to the balance of power between the Soviet and Western blocs, to Laos, to "wars of national liberation," to nuclear testing. He threw down the gauntlet on Berlin in particular, all but threatening war.

"I never met a man like this," Kennedy subsequently commented to Time's Hugh Sidey. "[I] talked about how a nuclear exchange would kill 70 million people in ten minutes, and he just looked at me as if to say 'So what?'" In The Fifty-Year Wound, Cold War historian Derek Leebaert drily observes of Khrushchev in Vienna, "Having worked for Stalin had its uses."

Kennedy sought a brief final session with Khrushchev to clear the air regarding Berlin. In that final meeting at the Soviet embassy, however, Khrushchev bluntly told Kennedy, "It is up to the U.S. to decide whether there will be war or peace." Kennedy responded, "Then, Mr. Chairman, there will be war. It will be a cold winter." On this unhappy note the two leaders' only face-to-face meeting came to an end.

Immediately following the final session on June 4 Kennedy sat for a previously scheduled interview with New York Times columnist James Reston at the American embassy. Kennedy was reeling from his meetings with Khrushchev, famously describing the meetings as the "roughest thing in my life." Reston reported that Kennedy said just enough for Reston to conclude that Khrushchev "had studied the events of the Bay of Pigs" and that he had "decided that he was dealing with an inexperienced young leader who could be intimidated and blackmailed." Kennedy said to Reston that Khrushchev had "just beat [the] hell out of me" and that he had presented Kennedy with a terrible problem: "If he thinks I'm inexperienced and have no guts, until we remove those ideas we won't get anywhere with him….”

The next two years were a disaster for President Kennedy. Khrushchev saw Kennedy as weak and took advantage of this perceived weakness. The next year saw the Cuban missile crisis. The following year saw the infamous Berlin Wall built.

There is a lot to be learned here. Even being perceived as “weak”, whether true or not, can be dangerous. Things are never as simple as “diplomacy is not just talking with your friends.” Kennedy was shocked by the idea that Khrushchev didn’t care about 70 million people being wiped out in a matter of minutes.

Obama has yet to notice that Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has numerous times called for the destruction of the State of Israel as well as the United States of America. This past June Ahmadinejad reiterated his call.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was speaking at a gathering of foreign guests marking this week's 19th anniversary of the death of Iran's late revolutionary leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the official IRNA news agency said.

"You should know that the criminal and terrorist Zionist regime which has 60 years of plundering, aggression and crimes in its file has reached the end of its work and will soon disappear off the geographical scene," he said.

Turning to the United States, Ahmadinejad said the era of decline and destruction of its "satanic power" had begun….He added: "The Zionist regime is in a total dead end and, God willing, this desire will soon be realized and the epitome of perversion will disappear off the face of the world."

The crowd chanted "Death to Israel" and "Death to America."

These are not easy times we live in. I know that President John Kennedy was an honorable man who served his country fighting those who wished to destroy the United States and democracy along with it. The Nazis who systematically murdered millions of Jews with no mercy along with many more millions.

I know that he attempted to keep millions of more lives safe by going to speak with Khrushchev. Kennedy did not understand that there are foreign leaders who do not care or even consider important the lives of their citizens. Khrushchev was one of those.

Achmadinejad and Hezballah (the Iranian proxy) and the suicide bombers who he supports are all perfectly willing to give up their lives in order to murder others are more examples of those who don’t care about their own lives, never mind anyone else’s.

Americans (presidents included) believe that everyone is like us. Everyone wants to do good for others. Everyone believes that life is sacred. It is absolutely not true. Respect for life is not a universal belief. It is a Judeo-Christian concept. It does us no good to believe otherwise.

President Kennedy was a good man. He served this country honorably and had a service record to show for it. Kennedy also served in the Congress – both in the House of Representatives and in the Senate before running for President. And even with all this experience, until he met Khrushchev, he made the fundamental mistake of believing that others believe in the same sacred beliefs that Americans do.

Senator Obama is no doubt also a good man. I do not doubt that he cares about this country’s future. I do doubt that he has any experience to back up his ideas. I do doubt that he understands the seriousness of the situation that we as a country find ourselves in today. The words “Islamic terror” were not buzzwords at the Democratic convention. As a result of not understanding any of this and wanting to look “reasonable” by wanting to talk to our enemies, Obama comes off very weak and puts the United States in danger as well as our allies.

Obama does not have the experience that Kennedy had. Obama does not have the service record that Kennedy had. Obama does not have the political service record that Kennedy had. He has no real legislation from his time in the Illinois state legislature. Instead he points to his time as a community organizer. Obama has nothing on Kennedy.

In other words… You Sir, Are No John Kennedy.

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