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As if I didn’t get enough JFK last week, I’m reading a new book about how Kennedy, in his last months, was growing into and getting better at the roles of President, politician and persuader-in-chief.
If only President Obama could summon some of that mojo now on Obamacare.
The book (“JFK’s Last Hundred Days: The Transformation of a Man and the Emergence of a Great President,” by Thurston Clark) shows how Kennedy used the presidential pulpit in late 1963 to rally public support on three big issues: civil rights, a tax cut and a nuclear test ban treaty.
Kennedy was pushing on all three fronts, all while grieving the death of his infant son, coping with his wife’s grief, dealing with riots and violence in the South, sorting through conflicting advice on Vietnam and plotting a reelection campaign.
But he was able, sometimes off the cuff, to come up with lines like this one from his address to the nation on civil rights: "We are confronted primarily with a moral issue....It is as old as the scriptures and is as clear as the American Constitution.”
In the history of American politics, that stands as one of the most powerful statements a President ever made.
Clark describes a political trip out West in September, much like the trip Kennedy was to make to Texas two months later. His staff had laid out a schedule and a set of speeches that focused on conservation, national parks and natural resources.
The urbane Kennedy was about as much an outdoorsman as President Obama. And it showed. His speeches were flat, the crowds were flat, and the trip looked like a flop. Then, at one stop, Kennedy ad-libbed a few remarks about the test ban treaty – and the importance of avoiding nuclear war. The crowd came alive. Kennedy took note. He started tossing aside his prepared texts and talking about the treaty at every stop. The crowds grew, and so did their applause. The trip turned into a triumph. Kennedy concluded that peace could be a winning issue against Barry Goldwater in 1964.
Kennedy had developed the gift of reading his audiences, feeding off their reactions and turning what he learned into a tool for leadership.
Contrast all this with President Obama today. For all his speechmaking skills, the President seems unable or unwilling to make a public case for his one signature issue, the Affordable Care Act.
It’s telling when the best argument comes from a Republican Governor, John Kasich of Ohio: “It saves lives.”
Where is Obama’s speech? Where is the argument that Obamacare saves lives and saves money? Where are the mystical chords, part reason and part emotion, that Kennedy learned to touch?
So far, President Obama’s main contribution to the dialogue has been, “It’s on me.” He talks about websites and tech glitches, not human beings and transcending issues. So Democrats like Senator Kay Hagan are running scared and some fear that 2014 could be another 2010.
Presidents can’t make websites work. But they can make moral and political arguments. This President needs to get on it.
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# Choo
Tuesday, November 26, 2013 9:30 PM
He is going to have a hard time making a moral argument that socialism is morally better than capitalism. History is not on his side. There are nations filled with starvation and poverty who adapted the socialist agenda. There is also a nation, America, where even those in poverty have more creature comforts than anywhere else in the world. He best stay on the telepromptor. His speech writers know only one thing and that is that everything socialist is better than anything anyone makes a profit on. However thanks to those who make a profit, for they are able to produce consumer goods and hire workers to share in these wonderful consumer goods. Obama care is redistribution of healthcare. It will die from the ghost in the system that none of the left understand. Adam Smith called it the invisible hand. Such a shame that Democrats believe only in socialism.
# dap916
Wednesday, November 27, 2013 11:14 AM
What you're trying to do here, Gary, is to make a case for Obamacare that it's somehow "moral" and "just". Well...I can make a case that killing 10 innocent Israeli to save one Iranian that has done good for his country. That's easy if I can get the rhetoric and spin right. You're trying (desperately, I might add) to make Obamacare (I refuse to call it the Affordable Care Act, because it's NOT affordable) a good thing for the "whole" even though it hurts some individuals. Sad argument...sad post...sad that you would post that. Obama can't make any kind of legitimate "moral and political arguments" with regard to Obamacare. It's a failed policy/law and if you care to check it, the VAST majority of the country knows it. Democrats show polling results that show how what they believe is favored by the majority in our country to make their point but NEVER show polling results that show how much the majority disagrees with what they believe or their policies. Just check some of your favorite polling agencies, my'll see what America thinks of Obamacare..and about Obama as well. It's wrong for America and I am hoping it is going to end up being Obama's legacy...ala "failed". Use Kennedy all you want and think people will somehow compare Obama to Kennedy all you want. Obama is no Kennedy. Not even close. And, what's troublesome here on TAP is that you know that to be true yet you post your ridiculous comparisons and weak arguments for this abomination of a president anyway.

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