Monday, November 25, 2013

Ross Douthat in the New York Times Writes a Sordid Commentary on John F. Kennedy – And Exposes Himself, Not the Late President

Is There No Limit on Conservative Bile?  - Apparently Not

The New York Times, in its quest to represent different views on its editorial pages, a quest not even remotely seen on the pages of conservative publications, has employed people like David Brooks and Ross Douthat.  The great failings of their writings is more a testament to the lack of intellectual content and grace of the conservative movement than it is a testament to the failure of  publications like the Times to find decent, provocative and intellectually sound conservative writers.  Such people may just not exist.

In the Sunday edition the Times published, one hope reluctantly, the ravings of Ross Douthat waxing forth on President Kennedy.  Kennedy’s grace and charm and intellect and commitment to using government as a positive force stands as a monument in opposition to modern conservative thinking and thinkers, who have none of that.  And so that monument must be torn down.  Here is Mr. Douthat doing the conservative duty.

Which brings us back to that notorious sinner John F. Kennedy. What exhausts skeptics of the Kennedy cult, both its elegiac and paranoid forms, is the way it makes a saint out of a reckless adulterer, a Camelot out of a sordid political operation, a world-historical figure out of a president whose fate was tragic but whose record was not terribly impressive.

Really, a "notorious sinner”.  Yes Mr. Kennedy cheated on his wife, and that is a terrible personal failing.  But if Mr. Douthat is looking for “notorious sinners” in politics shouldn’t he focus on people like Richard Nixon, Kennedy’s opponent in 1960.  Or if he wants to write about modern “notorious sinners” there is the U. S. Senator from Louisiana who preaches family values while engaging with prostitutes, a Representative from Florida is admitted to using cocaine and will not resign from Congress, and the hundreds of other politicians who committed far greater sins than Mr. Kennedy but who get a free ride because they are conservatives.

And then there is the “sordid political operation”.  Really, what exactly was that.  Kennedy did spend a lot of money, his father had a lot of money, but compared to the modern Republicanism of Lee Atwater, Karl Rove and the hundreds of millions from billionaires polluting the campaigns today, Kennedy’s spending was nothing.  And no there was none of the spin and distortion of a modern conservative political campaign.  Also, there is not even the hint of impropriety, of any illegal activity, of any “workaround” of the regulations of the political system.

Kennedy won a crucial primary in West Virginia, a heavily Protestant state that at that time was not expected to vote for a Catholic.  He did so by retail campaigning, by convincing the citizens of that impoverished state that he cared about them and that his programs could help them.  He didn’t win by generating hatred, he won by generating hope.

And finally, the charge that his record was not terribly impressive is kind of true, but conveniently omits that fact that he was killed three years into his Presidency.  Kennedy set the stage for the  civil rights movement, probably the greatest single political and social accomplishment of the last half of the 20th century.  He set Keynesian economic in place, and removed the threat of a Great Depression from the U. S. for decades until conservatives decided that de-regulation was the way to go and created the Great Recession.  He brought grace and humor to politics.  The Peace Corps remains in place, he united Europe as allies of the U. S. and one can only imagine how great a President he would have been in his second term after obliterating Barry Goldwater if he had lived.

Mr. Douthat carelessly uses the term sordid, but at least he is qualified to do so.  His column reeks of that characteristic, he obviously is familiar with the concept, and must surely know how it applies to himself rather than John Kennedy.  Or maybe not, cluelessness is the hallmark of conservatives.

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