Obama should steer clear of JFK `legend'

THE dawn of the Obama era is resurrecting nostalgia for the Camelot White House of John F. Kennedy, whose victory in 1960 also heralded dreams of a fresh start for the United States.

Graham Dines

THE dawn of the Obama era is resurrecting nostalgia for the Camelot White House of John F. Kennedy, whose victory in 1960 also heralded dreams of a fresh start for the United States.

Barack Obama would be well advised to squash such speculation.

Let's get one thing out of the way. Despite his handling of the Cuban missile crisis, Kennedy was not a great president. The adulation that surrounds him is only because he was cut down in his prime.

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Kennedy sanctioned the ill-fated CIA-organised Bay of Pigs invasion against Fidel Castro, which still sours US-Cuba relations 47 years later.

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Kennedy ordered the first troops into South Vietnam, launching a disastrous 10 year war of attrition which left the United States humiliated and its reputation in tatters.

He went to Berlin and bemused Germans by announcing “Ich bin ein Berliner” - not “I am a Berlin citizen” as he meant to say in defiance of Soviet aggrandisement but “I am a jelly doughnut,” a Berliner being a German pastry.

Kennedy was a serial womaniser, bedding any number of women.

And Kennedy was at least complicit in the murder of Marilyn Monroe.

So any talk of Kennedy being great is well wide of the mark. His brother Robert, assassinated while seeking the 1968 Democrat nomination, was a figure of far greater stature and ability, but even he has been mired in the Monroe conspiracy theory.

Barack Obama does not deserve to be lumbered with the “second Kennedy tag.” He is far more gifted than that.

The Obama story is the American dream personified. Yet is he president-elect only because of his colour? If he had been just another white male, would he have been elected? Would he have even made it through the primaries?

Probably not. Hillary Clinton would almost certainly have been the Democrat Party nominee. Black America would not have registered to vote in unprecedented numbers as they did to support Obama and if she had won the presidency, it would have been by a far less convincing margin than Obama achieved.

The entire liberal elite in the media - most of whom are white, well educated, middle class males with just a smattering of females - has gone overboard for Obama. Politicians in the UK are fawning at the very mention of his name, but very few translate their simpering jubilation into giving up their lucrative careers in parliament to make way for minority ethnic candidates.

If Obama can rise above this tokenism and translate his campaign words into social justice at home and a less bullish policy abroad, then he could be up there with the greatest.

As for John McCain, he made two mistakes. The first was selecting Sarah Palin as his running mate - not because she was a woman with homespun, old fashioned and respected values but because of her red neck outlook on life - and it undoubtedly led to many moderate Republicans backing the Democrats, most noticeably in Virginia and the states bordering the Great Lakes.

His second mistake was being persuaded by his advisers to become Mr Nasty when his natural instinct was to play to his strengths of tolerance, moderation, and statesmanship.

If any Republican could have persuaded the nation to forgive the party for George W. Bush, it was McCain. But it was an uphill struggle from the off, especially when Obama became the darling of the media.

In conceding defeat with dignity and such good grace, the Arizona senator showed what sort of president he would have been. If only he could have snatched the Republican nomination from Bush in 2000, the history of the past eight years would have been so, so different.

Incidentally if we are looking at great presidents as a guide by which to measure Barack Obama's presidency, here's my choice: George Washington (president party), Thomas Jefferson (Democratic-Republican), Abraham Lincoln (Republican), Theodore Roosevelt (Republican), Woodrow Wilson (Democrat), Franklin D. Roosevelt (Democrat), and Ronald Reagan (Republican). Reagan makes the list because under his benevolent personality, his administration oversaw the downfall of the Soviet empire.

Pushed to choose a top three, they would by Washington, Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt.

If you disagree, send me your list.


Amid all the internet rejoicing about Obama on the LabourHome website - the forum for Labour Party bloggers - Floating Voter writes: “Just remember that the Democrats are left only by US standards. They are somewhere to the right of Maggie Thatcher.”


THE best news President-elect Obama received yesterday was that Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin is being encouraged to run for president in four years.

Returning to her home state Alaska, the crowd chanted “2012! 2012!” as Palin disembarked her airplane at Anchorage airport. Asked by reporters if she might run for president, Palin said, “We'll see what happens.”


SURPRISE, surprise, Home Secretary Jacqui Smith popped up in Basildon this week to launch a citizens' charter which spells out what the public can expect from the police.

But why Basildon? Is it any more lawless or intolerant of the police than Colchester, Clacton, Halstead, Southend or Thurrock. And if it is, Ms Smith's photo opportunity was merely drawing attention to it.

The answer, of course, is that Basildon is a highly marginal Labour held seat and the Home Secretary is just one of a long line of Labour ministers who will be paying particular attention to the constituency to try to save the political skin of Angela Smith, who is Gordon Brown's private parliamentary secretary.

Essex's chief constable Roger Baker is the first chief constable in England and Wales to sign the policing pledge. That's good, but dragooning him into the photograph in what looks suspiciously like a party political visit is just not on.


INTERNATIONALLY renowned novelist Frederick Forsyth will be meeting the winners of an essay competition organised by East of England Tory Euro MP Geoffrey Van Orden today.

In March this year, sixth formers from across the region entered the competition, in which the MEP asked them the question: “What sort of relationship with Europe would be best for Britain in the first half of the 21st century?”

The essays were judged by Mr Forsyth and a senior Cambridge lecturer, and the winners chosen were Rhodri Oliver and Charles Read (joint first prize) and Samantha Lewis and Dan Tookey (joint second prize). They will all join Mr Van Orden and Mr Forsyth for lunch as part of their prize, which also includes £100 of books.

Says Mr Van Orden: “We received many high quality entries, but these four young people showed exceptional knowledge and understanding of Britain's relationship with the EU and how it should best develop.

“The two first prize-winners, Rhodri and Charles, will also be spending an all expenses paid week with me in the European Parliament in Brussels. Here, they will get a first-hand insight into how the European Parliament works and see the decision-making process up close, as they accompany me in meetings, debates and discussions. “

Mr Forsyth, who wrote The Day of the Jackal, is also a political commentator, and has long been critical of the extent of Britain's involvement with the EU.

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