Tuesday, November 29, 2005

What W could Learn From JFK

Back in NY, when I was teaching at Molloy College, I had a poster hanging over my desk from the 1960 presidential campaign of John Fitzgerald Kennedy. It said "Leadership for the 60s." I remember thinking back then, "that's just the kind of leadership we need in the 21st century," and that thought seems more true every day.
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From Ireland's Examiner comes an essay on JFK and personal responsibility that our current president should read--or have Harriet Miers read to him. It looks at Kennedy's handling of the "Bay of Pigs" fiasco and points out, implicitly, how things have changed in America in the 42 years since JFK's death.
Kennedy was barely three months in office at the time, so he could have blamed the CIA or his predecessor, Dwight Eisenhower, whose administration was primarily responsible for the planning of the Bay of Pigs operation, but he did not try to put the blame on anyone else. Kennedy accepted full responsibility for the disaster.
The CIA had handed the President bad intelligence about the state of public opinion in Cuba, saying the people would enthusiastically support an invasion to overthrow Fidel Castro. He told his Vice President, Lyndon Baines Johnson,
“Lyndon, you’ve got to remember we’re all in this and that, when I accepted responsibility for this operation, I took the entire responsibility on myself, and I think we should have no sort of passing of the buck or backbiting, however justified.”
If there is no moral lesson in this for Mr. Bush, perhaps he could find a political one:
His acceptance of responsibility for the Bay of Pigs seemed to increase his charm. The next Gallup Poll showed that his administration had a then unprecedented 82% support. Kennedy tossed his advance copy of the poll aside. “It’s just like Eisenhower,” he said. “The worse I do, the more popular I get.” He had been badly advised and quietly moved to get rid of those who had been so wrong about the Bay of Pigs, but he never blamed anybody publicly.

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