30 October 2011

MINDING THE TORCH

UPDATE 06/22/2015 : We are in the final chapters of the Obama Age.. and that torch is once again getting ready for a hand-off...


ORIGINAL POST BEGINS BELOW:
As we approach the same point in the Obama Administration at which the Kennedy Administration came to its sudden and tragic end, I thought this would be a good opportunity to take stock...
First, in the process of honoring President Kennedy, it is hard to overlook how the rest of that decade unfolded - for America and for the world. It is hard not to think also about the assassinations of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr and Senator Robert F. Kennedy, just five years after Dallas. The three men were leaders of movements that challenged the status quo. And their work is not finished. Their work inspires generations to know that the power to direct the nation towards peace, justice and equality lies within each of us. Yes, we can. And their legacy lives on symbolically as a torch passed recently to the Obama generation.

So, as we take stock, let us acknowledge the unprecedented nature of the obstacles faced by President Obama in his attempt to deliver true and lasting change. In the face of legislative resistance, the few victories have been sweet. No matter what he does, however, he can't seem to convince Congress to allow votes on much of his agenda. Republicans, congressional ones in particular, are squarely in irrational opposition to the president (and popular opinion) on just about every issue. The GOP are admittedly entrenched in their goal of turning him into a one term president. (More on that here: SABOTAGE.)

Believe it or not, there was a time when our public servants could find compromise, not just fake outrage.

I've been listening to and reading Mrs. Kennedy's oral history of her late husband's presidency. In the tapes, she makes a number of political references that shed light on how the game was played - in a different era. Without going into too much detail (thank goodness for the footnotes), Mrs. Kennedy hints at something she refers to as "a jealousy of generations," which was a term an acquaintance of hers used to describe the passion with which some of his rivals detested her husband. It was a term she considered unique to her husband's political career.
"So he incited so many bitter jealousies, and they were the ones who'd say mean things about him."
In those days, Kennedy-phobia manifested itself in people saying "mean things" about the president. The terms "birth certificate" and "death panel" were not yet part of the discussion back then, thankfully.

President Kennedy with Republican Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara during the Cuban Missile Crisis. PHOTO: Cecil Stoughton-AP
The recordings are fascinating as historical artifact, especially with Mrs. Kennedy's memories as fresh as they were at the time. This glimpse into 1960s Washington DC - knowing now the tumultuous years that followed - may just give us renewed passion to ensure that the torch continues its journey today.
"I was so happy for Jack - especially now that it was only three years together that he could be proud of me then. Because it made him so happy - It made me so happy. So those were our happiest years."
Now, about this torch.

For our government to succeed under the Constitution, true and honest debate and an informed electorate are essential. The fight our president currently faces is the battle that will determine the course for America in this next century. That sounds dramatic, but it's also true for Republicans, as they currently are in a battle to determine what kind of party they will become.

Unfortunately, 2012 is not just a battle of ideologies. There is an abundance of smoke and mirrors out there that needs to be exposed. Keep a close eye on lobbying and corporate cash. Connect the dots. Seek truth. Seek truthfulness. Ask questions. Question those who don't. Question those who refuse to debate. Question those who deny media access. Question motives. Discover the consequences of conflicts-of-interest... because your own interests are usually the ones sacrificed. Question those who demonize, accuse and blame in order to change the subject. Let the press do their job.

Let's achieve a level playing field when it comes to truth and facts. Then let the chips fall where they may - at the ballot box - when it comes to questions of ideology. President Kennedy didn't get his second term. Someone saw to that. Smoke and mirrors aside, it is clear that this president needs to.
Mrs. Kennedy: "Oh there were so many things he was going to do. I was just thinking. He was going to get rid of J.Edgar Hoover, who's just been signed up again." 
Arthur Schlesinger: "Oh was he?" 
Mrs. Kennedy: "The next tape we do, I'll have a list, because I wrote them down the other night, of about five or six things he was going to do this time... and you know, they've all been done the wrong way."
Quotes are excerpted from transcripts of Mrs. Kennedy's interviews with Arthur Schlesinger in 1964. Kennedy Inauguration photograph (TOP), Jacques Lowe/woodfin camp.