Comparing Obama and Kennedy

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kennedy khrushchev.jpg

Ted Widmer
— one of the most insightful historians of early American political history and Director of the John Carter Brown Library at Brown University as well as a Senior Research Fellow at the New America Foundation — has written a piece that whether one agrees or not with it provides much rich detail on key points of comparison between JFK and Barack Obama.
Widmer adds yet another voice in the experience vs. gut debate that Michael Schiffer parses below from a different political vantage point.
I particularly like this segment from his article “Ask Not!“:

In an editorial supporting Obama, the Boston Globe called attention to his “intuitive sense of the wider world.”
But “intuition” would have seemed a silly quality to JFK, a realist even among the realists of his day. He and the other veterans he had served with were tired of inflated promises and wanted a world that would live up to the sacrifice they had already made for it.
Like Kennedy, Obama certainly has a capacity to learn, and learn quickly. But there are qualities that cannot be gleaned from briefing books, even by the quickest study — independence of judgment, calm determination, and the deep knowledge of all possibilities that comes from years of experience in the trenches.
To his credit, Obama has not personally cited intuition as a reason to vote for him, but the campaign profited enormously from the Globe endorsement, and has tolerated a certain vagueness about his background and intentions that now needs to be clarified.
In fact, no modern politician has trafficked more in “intuition” than President Bush, who trumpeted his “instincts” to an incredulous Joe Biden as his justification for invading Iraq, and famously claimed to see into the soul of Vladimir Putin.
To run entirely on intuition and the negation of experience can work, and did in 2000. But to do so while wearing the deeply realist mantle of John F. Kennedy is to spin a garment of such fine cloth that it is completely invisible.

Senator Obama’s most fervent supporters will not strongly embrace Widmer’s article or perspective, but I think it’s important to read such treatments and assess them on their merits.
Along the lines of Widmer’s commentary, many forget that not only was JFK a tough-minded realist deep down (though I think he had a Wilsonian shell), he was part of the tradition of hawkish, pro-military Democrats. In his era and earlier, Republicans were mostly doves.
I’m pretty much past this debate now myself, despite the minor role TWN had in raising the issue of chaired subcommittee hearings — but I do think that Barack Obama’s team should deal with the experience question by offering solid, compelling proposals on how he would prioritize various national security concerns and get our foreign policy portfolio on an upward vector in a way that avoids silver bullet fantasies and the misplaced belief that America can just easily bounce back to its former self.
Tomorrow’s Iowa Caucuses will be fascinating to watch and absorb — though many keep emailing me expressing real surprise that I’m taking Iowa so seriously.
As much as I find myself pulled to Hillary Clinton because of her experience, depth, and intimidating level of knowledge on a wide swath of issues — I worry about incrementalism. As much as I am pulled to Obama by his notions of hope and a new era of principled American engagement in the world — I worry about serious missteps when he is the decider. And since I think the world works through gravity and interests, not hope and sentimentalism — which reflects a significant portion of Senator Obama’s schtick — my enthusiasm is tempered.
I am drawn to Edwards because he takes economics seriously — and it is the economic health of the nation and world which will play the largest role in determining the outer bounds of hope and the reality of cynically-fashioned limits. I’m drawn to Biden and Dodd — and I really wish they were in the forefront. I could live with Bill Richardson. McCain has my respect for fighting torture and bucking his party on immigration. The rest don’t make my list — at least not yet.
Wait — yes, Ron Paul and Dennis Kucinich. In an alternate universe, the world might be just very different if under the stewardship of these two men, either of them. I wish we could try it, but it’s not going to happen.
And then there was Hagel. Had he been running now, I think he’d be in the lead on the Republican side. Bummer!
More later. Thanks for the excellent blog comments from everyone.
– Steve Clemons

Comments

34 comments on “Comparing Obama and Kennedy

  1. Chris Brown says:

    If Kennedy were running today he would be Swift Boated for his lousy PT Boat driving for the fact his PT boat was run over by a much larger enemy ship.

    Reply

  2. Eli says:

    Widmer wants a job in Hillary Clinton’s cabinet. That alone can explain such an exercise in illogic as this article whose defects so many others have already eviscerated.

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  3. Juca says:

    First of all, if JFK were running this time, we wouldn’t be talking about Obama. None of our candidates has JFK’s particular mix of talents.
    The Ted Widmer piece you cite– if you read it to the end– is insulting. Even arrogant. It begins by stating that Obama is no JFK, and ends by comparing him to G.W. Bush.
    Widmer closes with:
    “In fact, no modern politician has trafficked more in “intuition” than President Bush, who trumpeted his “instincts” to an incredulous Joe Biden as his justification for invading Iraq, and famously claimed to see into the soul of Vladimir Putin. To run entirely on intuition and the negation of experience can work, and did in 2000. But to do so while wearing the deeply realist mantle of John F. Kennedy is to spin a garment of such fine cloth that it is completely invisible.”
    Pardon me, but what nonsense!
    Is Obama running “entirely on intuition”? Is he trying to run as a clone of JFK? Of course not, but I’d argue that Obama is far closer to JFK than to Bush. Widmer exaggerates the importance of any Kennedy comparisons in my view. How much is a JFK comparison going to resonate with Obama supporters, many of whom are too young to remember… or were not yet born?
    Widmer says himself, that Obama is compared to JFK based on his “youth, eloquence, and message of change”. I haven’t heard anyone make any claims beyond that, and he completely ignores today’s political realities: the more experience a candidate has in Washington, the less likely he/she is to be electable, the candidate has to be a “communicator” and has to present extremely well on T.V., among other things. Good luck finding another JFK.
    Also, Widmer dismisses Obama’s opposition to the Iraq war, as “more or less the standard line on the left”. Yet most of the candidates supported the war, on both sides. Historian though he may be, I can’t believe that Widmer has read Obama’s pre-war speech, which showed the kind of leadership on Iraq I have not seen in any of the other top-tier candidates.

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  4. Carroll says:

    Eight peace activist and 35 reporters were causing a distrubance?
    Gee, the politicos and the police state will really be upset when the revolution hits won’t they?
    As I sit here listening to someone say Iowa is all about democracy…well obviously not for everyone, just the parties.

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  5. Kathleen says:

    Thank you, Peace Activists….
    Peace Activists Occupy Huckabee’s Iowa Campaign Office – Protesters ask former Baptist minister, “Who Would Jesus Bomb?”
    Social Justice and Activism
    by Mike Ferner | January 1, 2008 – 11:34am
    With 40 percent of Iowa’s Republican caucus voters expected to come from the ranks of conservative Christians, peace activists occupied Mike Huckabee’s campaign headquarters in Iowa’s capital city today with signs asking the former Baptist minister, “Who Would Jesus Bomb?”
    Eight members of the Iowa Occupation Project and Voices for Creative Nonviolence arrived at Huckabee’s Locust St. campaign office early Monday afternoon, waiting for the former Arkansas governor’s reply to a letter delivered two months ago that sought his pledge to completely withdraw from Iraq within 100 days of assuming office; halt all military actions against Iraq and Iran; fund the rebuilding of Iraq as well as health, education and infrastructure needs in the U.S.; and “…the highest quality health care, education and jobs training benefits for veterans of our country’s Armed Services.”
    Brian Terrell, director of the Catholic Peace Ministry in Des Moines, said approximately 35 reporters, including a number of international journalists, were at Huckabee’s office during the protest.
    Terrell said in addition to the “Who Would Jesus Bomb?” banner, the eight protesters held signs that read, “End Iraq War” and “No War with Iran,” sang the refrain from “Auld Lang Syne,” chanted ÂŒWho Would Jesus Bomb?’ and then read names of Iraqis and U.S. soldiers killed in the war.
    Sgt. Vincent Valdez of the Des Moines Police Department said officers responded to an early afternoon complaint from the Huckabee Campaign office and arrested Robert Braam, Mona Shaw and Kathy Kelly, on charges of trespassing. He said the three were among a group “holding signs, singing and reading aloud, basically making a disturbance.” Valdez said the officers had no trouble making the arrests and the three were taken to the Polk County jail.
    In a news release issued earlier by the Des Moines Catholic Worker, Kelly, co-director of VCNV, was quoted as saying, “We’re very respectful of the Iowa caucus process and the long history behind it but we feel quite strongly that the issues of this war must be inserted into the process of narrowing down the candidates for the presidential election.”
    Huckabee spokesperson, Eric Woolson, could not be reached for comment after several attempts.
    About author
    Mike Ferner is a freelance writer from Ohio and author of “Inside the Red Zone: A Veteran For Peace Reports from Iraq”

    Reply

  6. Carroll says:

    I don’t think there is value in comparing or saying Obama is like Kennedy, the same with all the comparsions constantly claimed between Ronald, the gipper and every single repub politican.
    It’s a lazy way of analyzing and mostly worthless.

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  7. Carroll says:

    Interesting.
    WASHINGTON (JTA) — It’s still a Hillary vs. Rudy race for American Jews, but national polls suggest that their top challengers are rapidly gaining ground.
    This week the American Jewish Committee released a survey that showed U.S. Jews giving the highest favorable ratings to U.S. Font size:
    Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) and Rudy Giuliani, the former New York mayor.
    The AJC phone survey of 1,000 Jewish Americans found that Clinton was rated favorably by 53 percent of American Jews, with Giuliani finishing second at 41 percent.
    Among Jews who identify as Democrats, Clinton scored a 70 percent favorable rating, compared to 48 percent for former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards and 45 percent for Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.). Giuliani registered 75 percent among Jewish Republicans, followed by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) at 49 percent, and ex-Massachusetts Mitt..
    Who are the hispanics supporting,if anyone? I haven’t seen anything on that.
    Another interesting thing that I realized recently is that US Asians are never mentioned as a collective group supporting anyone…even though according to the US Census data, Asians as a ethnic group in the US have the highest median incomes of all ethnic groups in the nation.

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  8. John says:

    The Obama-Kennedy comparison is intriguing. For starters, I believe that Kennedy was the only serving Senator elected to the presidency. Both ran on hope. Those who were there remember that American was in a funk in 1960 after years of a competent but tired Eisenhower presidency. Kennedy brought youth, vigor, freshness–and hope.
    JFK took office at a time when America was hated. The book, “The Ugly American” had just appeared, exploring America’s arrogance and cluelessness. Nixon’s motorcade was attacked by angry Venezuelans in the streets of Caracas, and the images made a lasting impression.
    JFK responded with imagination, setting up the Peace Corps as one of his first acts to improve America’s image in the world.
    I can see Obama acting imaginatively to address our standing in the world. I cannot see the others doing anything but business as usual.

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  9. Carroll says:

    Intuition is a function of the pre-frontal lobe – insight rather than instinct. Our brains can process in background a vast array of seemingly unrelated data and when the dataset has been integrated we can have a flash of insight.
    Posted by razrmon at January 3, 2008 01:14 PM
    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
    Absolutely. I think we have all had those flashes of insight on occasion, some people more than others. I wouldn’t discount intuition at all as a desirable ability to process all the seemingly unrelated pixels and reach conclusions.

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  10. burst Flave says:

    We needs hope, oh Lordy, do wees need hope. Clap yo’ hands!
    We all have two real choices: Obama Obama Bo Bamma banana banna Fo Fama fee fie mo Mama, Obama! or, The Man from Hope, Arkansas, who shalt verily bring to this nation a new heartfelt way in the name of Christ, Our Lord and Savior.
    In all others there bees no hope, nope, no hope!

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  11. razrmon says:

    Intuition and instinct are not inter-changeable terms.
    Instinct is a belly center phenomena, as in gut instinct. It represents the reptilian brain that is oriented toward survival and reproduction, or in more common parlance, sex, power and money.
    Intuition is a function of the pre-frontal lobe – insight rather than instinct. Our brains can process in background a vast array of seemingly unrelated data and when the dataset has been integrated we can have a flash of insight.

    Reply

  12. Kathleen says:

    Dennis Kucinich and Ron Paul will be guests on Bill Moyers Journal this Friday night to discuss the elections and being excluded from the debates.

    Reply

  13. Carroll says:

    It is interesting to me that “all” the Dem candidates have become “change agents”.
    When they first started out the ony two talking about “change”,other than mainly just “changing Bush”, were Edwards on internal problems and Obama on Us attitude.
    I personally like Hillary but can’t get pass my distrust of what she might do when she has to choose between the right thing on certain policies and her own politican ambitions. I am afraid she will split the difference, trying to have it both ways and create more of the same half assed policies we have now that don’t work.
    In the front runners among the dems it has come down to Edwards for me so far.
    My own thinking is that we the people have two fights on our hands:
    1)the US economic health and the people’s economic health which involves the special interest Edwards talks about.
    2)And the fight over US Foreign policy.
    None of the candidates reflect my exact views on foreign policy and they aren’t all that different. So I have to go with the economic fight in judging the candidates.
    That means that since I won’t have a candidate like Hagle who has a common sense and astute Foreign policy position to fight the Foreign policy fight… than I have to choose Edwards for the other fight of rebuilding a US economy that is prosperous and fair for the majority of Americans because that is where the ultimate engines of US strength rest.

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  14. Kathleen says:

    As someone who wanted Russ Feingold to run for president, I prefer all the 2nd tier csndidates. Biden, Dodd, Richardson, Kucinich, to any of the so-called top tier. The so-clalled 2nd tier are all more experienced and more courageous and imaginative than any front runner.
    Kucinich was right all the way around on Iraq, Iran, Patriot Act, Military Commissions Act. Lt. Watada, Leonard Peltier.
    Dodd filibustered FISA, Biden said he’d call for impeachment if Dopey used force againt Iran without consent from Congress and called for an Independent Counsel on the CIA Torture Tapes. This is what I call leadership. Richardson has executive experience as well as foreign policy experience as US Ambassador to the UN…. that is big in my book, too.
    I’m glad I don’t live in Iowa…I think if Dodd or Biden called for impeachment hearings, they’d soar in the polls.

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  15. Frank says:

    Steve, we have been living in that alternative universe you talk about for seven years. This makes Kucinich and Paul the most qualified to get us out of the swamp we are in. Either one will drain that smelly swamp that floats the boats of all the rest of the candidates if elected.

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  16. Chunche says:

    I love this site, but I can’t for the life of me understand why Steve believes that HRC has significantly more relevant experience than Obama. It is a fair question, but should be asked of both candidates. There is little to suggest that Clinton has vast experience, other than the repeated assertion that it is true. Moreover, I don’t understand why Steve keeps framing the issue as whether Obama’s intuition is enough, which is not something that Obama has ever argued.
    I personally think that (i) experience should be treated as an initial gateway issue only, i.e., the question should be whether the candidate has enough relevant experience (which can vary in type and may partly be judged by how the candidates performs in the grueling nominaiton process) and nothing more, and (ii) that both Clinton and Obama clear that hurdle. After that, the candidates specific policy proposals, overall direction, electability and leadership and decision-making characteristics are decisive.
    On that score, Clinton’s and Obama’s policy proposals and general approaches are very similar (given anything said in a campaign will go through the legislative process before being enacted into law), Clinton’s negatives among independents and Republicans scare the heck out of me, and Obama’s decision-making approach and leadership skills far more impress me.
    That said, I have been favorably impressed with Clinton as well and would enthusiastically support her were she the nominee. As a moderate Democract who thought Bush I was a very successful president (at least in foreign policy terms), the last 8 years have been a nightmare. I don’t see a Repubican President as being able or willing to address the myriad of issues we face both domestically and internationally.

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  17. susan says:

    Perhaps Kennedy and Obama share the ability to give people hope.

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  18. Chris Brown says:

    “…wearing the deeply realist mantle of John F. Kennedy is to spin a garment of such fine cloth that it is completely invisible.”
    The mantle, to the extent it exists, has been woven by pundits. I don’t recall Obama claiming such a mantle.
    It’s easy to set up a straw man and then knock it down.
    If experience is of such prime importance then we surely will want the likes of Cheney, Rumsfeld, and the rest of the psychopaths who have spent the last 40 years making the world more dangerous.
    Chief Justice Warren had no judicial experience before his appointment, but is widely considered to have been a great Chief Justice.
    My point is not to promote Obama, as I think any of the democratic candidates would make a good president. My point is that these comparisons are useless and proffered by a media largely lacking imagination and industry, to the point of relying largely on cliche.
    Clinton was a better president that Bush, I think, primarily because he had the good judgment to appoint competent folks to his administration, while Bush has appointed political cronies and operatives.

    Reply

  19. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Barack Obama………
    …you reserve impeachment for “grave and intentional breeches of the President’s authority”
    Ok, Barack, you dissembling jackass, I’ll bite. WHAT, exactly, are “grave and intentional breeches of the President’s authority”, if this criminal piece of shit in the White House has not comnmitted them?

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  20. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Any candidate that wants to pull people over to their side should immediately drop all rhetoric about health care, the economy, energy, etc, and become very loud and confrontational about the past criminal actions of this administration, and the unfolding scandal taking place in regards to the CIA tapes, Mukassey’s appointment of a “special investigator”,and the 9/11 Commission’s claim that both the White House and the CIA feloniously impeded and obstructed the Copngressional investigation into 9/11.
    I talk to people daily that still defend our presence in Iraq. I talk to people on both sides of the immigration issue. I talk to people who are doing well economically, and people that aren’t. I talk to people that thibnk “socialized” medicine” will be a disaster, and I talk to people that think the government should provide health care insurance to ev ery American.
    But if there is ONE issue that I find complete and total agreement about, it is that our government is out of control, that it no longer provides representation on the scale for which we are taxed for it, and that our so-called “representatives” are no longer held to the same standards of the law that we are.
    This is the elephant in the room, and the one platform that ALL the candidates, except Ron Paul, refuse to stand on. If Ron Paul is smart, he will amp up his rhetoric about the anti-constitutional criminality practiced by the players on BOTH sides of the aisle, and he will demand that Mukassey pursue the facts that the Bush Administration and the CIA were attempting to conceal by their obstruction of the 9/11 Commission’s investigation.
    There is a universally shared disillusionment and anger felt right now by the vast majority of American citizens, waiting to be tapped. Neither side of the aisle feels represented, and righfully so. If a candidate can tap that diusillusionment and anger, he will ride it all the way to the White House.

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  21. Nobcentral says:

    Yeah, because that Bill Clinton guy was so vastly experienced in international policy when he took the White House in 92.
    Steve – Seriously – cool your jets on the anti-Obama shtick. It’s seriously turning me off to your site. If you want to return to the land of neutrality that you normally inhabit, why don’t you ask this of the Clinton campaign as well?
    “I do think that Barack Obama’s team should deal with the experience question by offering solid, compelling proposals on how he would prioritize various national security concerns and get our foreign policy portfolio on an upward vector in a way that avoids silver bullet fantasies and the misplaced belief that America can just easily bounce back to its former self.”
    None of the major candidates have even come close to answering that question and yet you only skewer Obama on it?

    Reply

  22. Nobcentral says:

    Yeah, because that Bill Clinton guy was so vastly experienced in international policy when he took the White House in 92.
    Steve – Seriously – cool your jets on the anti-Obama shtick. It’s seriously turning me off to your site. If you want to return to the land of neutrality that you normally inhabit, why don’t you ask this of the Clinton campaign as well?
    “I do think that Barack Obama’s team should deal with the experience question by offering solid, compelling proposals on how he would prioritize various national security concerns and get our foreign policy portfolio on an upward vector in a way that avoids silver bullet fantasies and the misplaced belief that America can just easily bounce back to its former self.”
    None of the major candidates have even come close to answering that question and yet you only skewer Obama on it?

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  23. bmc says:

    Yes, Obama’s got a nice family. And, Obama knows how to charm, clearly. He’s all about the show, and he’s good at the show. But Obama didn’t hold any sub-committee hearings as Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations sub-committee on Europe (including NATO). That speaks to his characteristic devotion to style over substance.
    Obama told Slate’s Weisberg, during a profile interview, that a friend once told him, “you always think everything’s about you.” It was anecdotal evidence, from Obama himself, perhaps inadvertently conveyed, of his characteristic narcissism, and impatience to be the great man he perceives himself to be, without ever having earned it by doing the ground work necessary to get there. It’s a disturbing trait, given the past 8 years.

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  24. Bonethug Iranian says:

    The preceding campaign “ad” was brought to you by the ‘McPain 4 Illegitimate Dear Leader Campaign of Trolling Squids 2008′. Thank you for your support and remember, America is better off using “illegal detention and torture” to bully our way around the world.

    Reply

  25. McCain '08 says:

    I respect McCain because he chose to raise in his own family the black child his wife gave birth to who was conceived in one of her lost weekends. It made Mr. McCain crazy for awhile, but he raised the child as if she was his own. This revelation destroyed him in the South Carolina primary in 2000, but as a true come back kid he has put it all behind him and is well on his way to achieve the thing he most preciously covets, the Presidency. After all the service his forefathers put in making this country great, with that alone, he deserves his most longed for desire.
    Thank you Senator McCain for your service to the county, and your compassion and understanding within your family circle which serves as a noble example to all real Americans.

    Reply

  26. whskyjack says:

    The problem with Edwards is he is stuck in the 20th century,sounding like a 50′s liberal. It didn’t work then why should it work now? It is only working in Iowa because the caucus system gives the advantage to party activists(abunch of boomers yearning for the good old days of liberalism)
    This is the 21st century there is no division between economic policy and foreign policy. They are all intertwined. As the Clinton administration discovered early on, You have to promote and protect your economic interests in the world as well as your strategic interest.
    I don’t see Edwards understanding this. His trade policy seem to edge toward isolationism and protectionist. That is 19th century thought when we, as a nation, owned unlimited natural resources. We are now in a position of seeing our vital resouces being cornered and controlled by others.(look at China’s foreign policy)
    No one seems to have a plan or even an understanding on how to proceed from here. We can’t returned to an imagined yesterday, it doesn’t exist ,it never did.
    Jack

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  27. Pernicious Pavlovian says:

    Steve? Haven’t we been living in an “alternative universe” since 9/11/01? I mean after that tragedy, the world rallied to America’s aid and for one single historic moment, these United States could have effected REAL change. America had the world on our side and the Bush gang of war criminals pissed the opportunity away. Now after seven long years of Bush stupidity and wars of naked aggression, America couldn’t rally enough support to cross the street. Yeah, we’re living in an alternative universe and wouldn’t some sanity in government be a refreshing change of pace? Nuts, where are the saner heads like Chuck Hagel when America is in some “dire straits?”

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  28. john o. says:

    Hillary’s team should deal with the experience question by acknowledging that the fact that she was married to a president is meaningless, and that her effective legislative experience is roughly the same as Obama’s.

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  29. erichwwk says:

    “I am drawn to Edwards because he takes economics seriously — and it is the economic health of the nation and world which will play the largest role in determining the outer bounds of hope and the reality of cynically-fashioned limits.”
    Well said! It again is the ECONOMY. Michael Moore also says it well:
    ” “I absolutely believe to my soul that this corporate greed and corporate power has an ironclad hold on our democracy?”-[John Edwards]
    … the candidate who understands that, and who sees it as the root of all evil — including the root of global warming — is the President who may lead us to a place of sanity, justice and peace.
    One more note: There is a major paradigm shift fomenting among economists and the way cost-benefit analysis is done – the problem illustrated by the way Brzezinski practices it. His way views the goal of man is to maximize consumption over one’s life cycle, rather than to optimize the STATE of the world left as the result of one’s action over that same cycle. This has profound effects over the discount rate, and explains the low value usually placed on blowback from covert policies. It is intrinsically tied to corporate greed and our negative savings rate. Fix THAT, and most things fall into place. Don’t fix the economy, and as Steve notes, all things crumble. And was the mantra of John Galbraith, Sr.
    “Sometimes a new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.” — Max Planck
    “Change occurs because there is a gap between what is and what should be.” – Craig McCaw
    “Do not forget that every people deserve the regime they are willing to endure. Nothing is so unworthy of a civilized nation as allowing itself to be governed without opposition by an irresponsible clique that has yielded to base instinct.” – From pamphlets written by the White Rose student resistance group at the University of Munich, 1942.
    ‘We have had the bomb on our minds since 1945. It was first our weaponry and then our diplomacy, and now it’s our economy. How can we suppose that something so monstrously powerful would not, after years, compose our identity?” — E.L. Doctorow
    “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” — Gospel of St. Mark, 8:36

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  30. liz says:

    One thing for sure, Americans are sick to death of Bush Clinton Bush Clinton…. remember there is Jeb then Chelsea, so that could go on a while….
    NO TO HILLARY

    Reply

  31. Chris says:

    I’ve always thought Kennedy’s ability to learn from his mistakes with the Bay of Pigs–during which he was overwhelmed by the extant national security apparatus–provided a core trait of leadership that I wish other presidents would follow. I don’t care so much if a candidate isn’t entirely versed on an issue: As President, he or she can’t be expected to be an expert on everything. But what matters is an ability to, for lack of a better phrase, learn on the job. It’s a somewhat discomfiting thought–that our
    President might need to learn his or her job while on the clock–but what in the world can prepare someone to be president?
    Kennedy showed, I think, that we’d rather have a president who can look at the broader picture and make the right decision. On the most significant national security choice in the past decade, Obama made the right choice and, unlike his opponents, didn’t succumb to the drumbeat for war.
    It’s out of our hands now, but I think you’re right to take Iowa seriously.

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  32. Robert Morrow says:

    Unless the Republicans come to their senses and nominate Ron Paul, I think our next president of the USA will be Barack Obama. At least he won’t break your kneecap to get to the White House, so I consider that to be a qualification. Obama is a likeable, decent fellow with a good family and that may be his most important trait.
    I don’t think we need to have the Addams Family, the Munsters, the Jerry Springers, the Simpsons or the Al Bundys back in the White House. Don’t tell me someone’s flaming conflagration of personal dysfunction does not affect policy because it does!!
    The Clintons sure did underestimate Obama – at their peril. Actually, what the Clintons underestimated is how many people they have pissed off over 36 years and how many people hate theirs guts, corruption, non-fair play and breathtaking dysfunctional Jerry Springer lifestyle.
    The Republicans will also be making a very big mistake if they underestimate Mr. Obama. He definitely “has game.” I think only Ron Paul could beat Obama head to head in a general election. Romney might make it a bit close; the others would be mincement chopped finely. One candidate would even be Huckacide. Fred Thompson is a corpse, a la “Weekend at Bernies” with his wife propping him up as she runs for President. John McCain is an illegal alien, so we can’t vote for him. Julie Annie is crossdressing fool with an unpopular ultra-neocon agenda. Duncan Hunter is a great American, who unfortunately has no appeal outside of the Republican base.
    So we are left with Ron Paul. And if there is no Ron Paul as the nominee, then that should mean Barack Obama in the White House.
    If it is not a Clinton, Guiliani or a McCain – all 3 with personality and anger problems, not to mention character problems, then I can live with that.
    Robert Morrow Austin, TX 512-306-1510

    Reply

  33. sean says:

    Regarding a Paul/Kucinich presidency: I’m not sure I would actually want to try it, but I would love to see them debate each other. The intra-party so-called “debates” so far have been nearly unwatchable, and the general election debates will just be barrages of talking points between well-constructed machines. But neither Paul nor Kucinich is afraid to offend people or say things that should not be said, and both translate strong convictions into policy positions. A debate between them would be an entertaining and educational treat.

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  34. meb says:

    Shorter Ted Widmer : Obama never made any particular claim to some magical “intuitive” sense of the world, but I will proceed to take him to task for just that.
    Insightful. Important. Ted Widmer. Important Very Serious Person.

    Reply

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