Sunday, November 22, 2009

JFK and America's talking asses

In the 46 years since President John F. Kennedy's murder on this date, revisionist history has taken to besmirching his memory and debunking his accomplishments. They call him an inveterate Cold Warrior, fixated on the evils of Communism. Well, that is precisely what made him great. He wasn't wearing blinders or rose colored glasses. Communism was the primary source of evil in the world during his presidency, and he acted accordingly. He stood up to the Soviets in West Berlin, Cuba and all over the world. Even when he botched badly, as in the Bay of Pigs, he "failed while daring greatly," to borrow a phrase from my other Presidential hero, Teddy Roosevelt. Think of the kind of world we would be living in if he had allowed the Communists to have their way.

I watched a 60 Minutes episode several years ago about a historian whose name I forgot dredging up dirt about the President that had been concealed from the public when he was in office. Behind the facade of a youthful and vigorous leader was a man gravely ill with Addison's Disease (adrenal insuffiency) and in constant pain from a bad back. We knew about the bad back when he was President. We did not know that he constantly took amphetamines to mask the pain that dogged him constantly. When I heard all that I wanted to slug the television and shout, "Bil'am Ha-Rasha!" Bil'am came to curse the Jews and in spite of himself ended up blessing them. This talking ass came to debunk the legend of President Kennedy and instead magnified it. We always thought that the President acquired a bad back as a result of his heroic exploits on the PT109 in World War II, where he towed a badly wounded comrade to safety after their boat was rammed and sunk by a Japanese destroyer. Now we know that John F. Kennedy did what he did on the PT109 with a bad back that he had since childhood. If he wanted to, he could have sat out the war with a desk job, or perhaps even dodged service entirely with a 4-F medical exemption, but that is not what Kennedys do. He did full duty, and even returned to active duty after aggravating his back on the PT109. The pills he was addicted to were standard treatment for his condition at the time, and helped conceal the gravity of his illness from potential enemies. True, he would probably not have been able to conceal his illness from the public with today's media coverage, but that says more about the media than about the President. In the early '60s the media for the most part still put country first, before sensationalism and journalistic coups. That the nature of the President's illness was successfully kept from the Soviets was certainly worth its being kept from us.

Then there is the matter of President Kennedy's widely publicized extramarital affairs, also wisely kept from the public during his presidency. If I had a dollar for every man who had extramarital affairs, I would be a very wealthy man. And if sainthood were a requirement for public office, nobody that we should want in office would qualify. We don't want a Mother Teresa in the White House; we need someone willing to get down and dirty with unsavory characters who seek our harm. There is reason to believe that powerful men are genetically programmed to seek multiple sexual partners and thereby spread their genes; see Our Inner Ape, by Frans De Waal. The wonder is that, sick as he was, he was capable of sexual activity altogether. When I think of the courage and steadfastness with which he guided the ship of state, I am more than willing to forgive him his sexual peccadillos.

The talking asses will continue digging up dirt and throwing it at better men than they. That is all they are good for. I thank God every day that we had John F. Kennedy in the White House for the thousand days we had him, and I wish we had a leader like him as we confront another implacable enemy hell-bent on destroying us and our way of life.

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