Monday, July 30, 2007

Kennedy Comparisons

It is interesting to me how often they are invoking the Kennedy administration and legacy these days. First, it was the full TIME magazine spread--the Making of America edition--on what we can learn from JFK. And now, in the latest issue of The New Republic there's an article written by former Kennedy speech writer (also ghostwriter of Profiles in Courage) Theodore Sorensen making many comparisons, albeit shallow comparisons, between Kennedy and Barack Obama.

Aside from the obvious--Kennedy was a single-term senator with little experience, as is Obama--Sorensen made a few interesting points that I found intriguing. The first:

In the end, despite his ethnic handicap, Kennedy proved to be less divisive than his major opponent, fellow senator Hubert Humphrey. Obama may prove the same.
I personally haven't fallen head over hells for any of the Democratic candidates so given the Obama/Clinton matchup that I feel this portion of the article implies, I wouldn't feel more inclined to vote for Obama over Clinton or vice versa, but I do believe that the general public might look at the Obama/Clinton matchup and choose Obama over Clinton due to Clinton's background. Sorenson certainly has a point here.

Before I continue with the second statement made by Soresen, I want to add that I don't find Obama's race and Kennedy's religion at all comparable. Catholicism in the 60s and race in the 21st century are two very different things. And as much as I've studied Kennedy I continue to find the argument of his Catholicism being a handicap lacking in logic and strength.

The second point I was intrigued by:

Most of Kennedy's opponents, like Obama's, were fellow senators-Johnson, Humphrey, and Symington-who initially dismissed him as neither a powerhouse on
the Senate floor nor a member of their inner circle. That mattered not to the voters; nor does it today.

Very true. I would dare say maybe five percent of American voters pay any attention to the debates on the Senate floor. American voters don't generally know if the Senate is in session, let alone who is carrying the argument on the floor. And I'm not entirely sure Obama's opponents are dismissing him at this point--perhaps after the National Democratic Convention keynote address, but not now. Like Kennedy before him. To an extent, even like Frank Church as well.

Like I said, I am amazed by the comparisons being drawn between Kennedy and the candidates. As a co-worker of mine said on Friday, the Democrats want to be Kennedy and the Republicans are trying to bring Ronny back from the dead. As a Democrat, I just can't seem to figure out why Kennedy.

I wouldn't normally recommend picking up a copy of The New Republic, but in this case I do--if for nothing else but to introduce you to my all-time favorite writer and hero, Teddy Sorensen.

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