The Kennedy Analogy

Supporters of Barack Obama, who acknowledge Obama’s deception of naivte on crucial issues, nonetheless defend him because he is part of a “new generation.” Obama is like Kennedy, we are told, and so will learn on the job, leading to a fundamentally better American policy.

Now, Kennedy was preceded by Eisenhower (who continued the Cold War), and was followed by Johnson (who continued the Cold War), so I am not entirely sure what these people are talking about. Still, it’s enlightening to see other leaders who have been hopefully compared to Kennedy.

Hu [Jintao, 胡锦涛] is at the forefront of a new generation of Chinese leaders. There is almost a determination among China’s well-wishers to find in him the sort of freshness and dynamism still associated with the coming of John F. Kennedy to the American presidency in 1961. The analogy is not completely fanciful. With Hu, as with Kennedy, teh torch is has been passed from an older generation to a younger one. Born in 1942, Hu grew up after the communists came to power. He is the first Chinese leader of whom this can be said. He was already being groomed for the top job when in his forties, and came to the Chinese presidency with a reputation as someone, somewhat like Kennedy, who was highly articulate, able to listen to advice, and keen to gather intelligent people around him.

(Thanks to Lexington Green of Chicago Boyz for sending me the book this quote is from, page 174 of Thunder from the Silent Zone.)

A bit later, the book compares Hu Jintao instead to Peter Stolypin, who shared Hu’s basic political beliefs and existed in a similar politico-economics environment. Unsurprisingly, the comparison to Stolypin holds up better.

So instead of comparigon Obama to Kennedy because both are young, who is it better to compare Obama too? Who shares his basic politico-economic beliefs, and lived in a similar politico-economic environment?

4 thoughts on “The Kennedy Analogy”

  1. I definitely don’t see the Kennedy analogy as a viable one — plus it’s a far too easy (and therefore suspect) rhetorical move to make in terms of highlighting someone’s capability for changing the country. I’m still pulling for Hillary, though unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like many of my fellow Democrats are.

  2. The Kennedy analogy can only hold up in negative ways. JFK came in as a naive and inexperienced man. The Soviets had him pegged as a drug-addled playboy, a glamourous lightweight. Krushchev chose to take very aggressive steps because, in mobster fashion, after he screamed at Kennedy in Vienna and saw him flinch, he thought Kennedy was spineless. Kennedy also went along with the Bay of Pigs, meddling enough only to further guarantee failure.

    I can see Obama being perceived by our enemies in similar fashion, and making irresponsible early decisions pertaining to military affairs due to inexperience.

  3. I suspect Kennedy’s “new generation” remembrance has as much to do with his relative youth, early and violent death as it does with any lasting policies he brought to the table.

    Kennedy certainly didn’t come into office rejecting the current national struggle (as Obama has done in regards to Iraq) quite the contrary, his most infamous speech was very nationalistic and encouraged the very principles that Obama’s politics defy.

    As for a more likely comparison, I think charisma and Sarkozy comes to mind, but his level of experience defies this comparison.

    Maybe an articulate GW Bush? A guy many will vote for based purely on emotion?

    Tough question.

  4. I think a better analogy is Governor Michael Dukakis [1]. Admittedly, the Governor has more political & executive experience than Obama, but both seem to be the sort of liberal politicians that could create very comfortable homes for themselves in liberal enclaves, but are out-of-touch with ordinary Americans.

    Compare this to Hillary, who can down a shot without looking absurd [2].


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