Ed Driscoll

JFK ENVY

Excellent post by H.D. Miller on his Travelling Shoes Weblog about the dangers of presidential candidates emulating JFK.

I think that compared with the liberals who followed him, Johnson, Nixon(!), Carter and Clinton, Kennedy was an OK guy, and a reasonably conservative Democrat (despite what Bill Clinton and Oliver Stone would like you to believe) whose rep has gotten knocked into the stratosphere because of his assignation. (I once bought a 1960 Mort Sahl comedy album in a used bookstore, and it was interesting to compare how similar he thought Nixon and Kennedy were, and how exceedingly average he thought both were, long before one was shot and the other embroiled in Watergate).

It is interesting how desirable a pre-fab image is to a presidential-wannabe in the era of television. And of course, Kennedy, his handlers, his follicular genetics, and barber essentially created the concept of “the television-friendly politician”. (Marshall McLuhan spent thousands of words on this topic–amazing how out of everything he wrote in the 1960s, his ideas on television-friendly politicians are one of only a handful of his concepts that live on–often unknowingly by those who embrace them–to this day.)

And yet, Americans will embrace a maverick, quirky personality, if they feel that that man embraces their interest. As Miller notes, Nixon, Carter, Reagan, and the Bushes all have unique styles, and all were successful at presidential politics.

One comment though. Miller writes:

While there have been scores of politicians who’ve done a good job of JFK mimicry, there are no politicians who’ve managed to successfully evoke the memory of Reagan. It’s apparently not possible to do.

It’s not. And this is not something we want to encourage. Al Gore looked absolutely ridiculous made up in Reagan-style ruddy colors during the first presidential debate. And while I’m glad if it contributed to his defeat, the amount of therapy required by voters on both sides of the isle was considerable, and is still being calculated.

(Link found via the Brothers Judd Blog.)