William Rees-Mogg: Is Barack Obama the next JFK?

Posted by Kendall Harmon

If the surge towards Senator Obama continues he will probably win the presidency. At present the only Republican who is ahead of Mrs Clinton and Mr Obama is John McCain. He might have my vote, since I am of an age to regard him as a promising young senator, and he might beat Mrs Clinton because she is a less charismatic candidate, but he would not beat Senator Obama, if Mr Obama won the nomination.

This is not yet certain, but at this stage in 1960 Kennedy was still only a possible candidate. He had to beat Adlai Stevenson for the nomination and then Richard Nixon for the presidency. The first task proved relatively easy, though Stevenson was popular in the Democratic Party. The presidential election against Nixon was a near-run thing. But Kennedy won. Charisma is an indefinable grace, given to few politicians. Obama has it - Bill Clinton had it - but Hillary does not.

If the Obama surge continues, we shall feel the effect of it in British politics. JFK changed British politics as well as American. I remember discussing this impact with Harold Macmillan. Kennedy had created a cult of youth. Experience, which had been an asset to a leader, became synonymous with being an old fuddy-duddy. During the Profumo scandal Macmillan said that he did not move in the youthful circles in which the scandal occurred. That was taken as the proof that he was out of touch, as though a Prime Minister in his sixties had a duty to mix with the younger set in louche nightclubs.

Youth, idealism, style are powerful political weapons. On February 5, we shall see whether they have captivated America. If they do, we shall find that they have captivated Britain as well. Barack Obama could have a message for us all.

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Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsUS Presidential Election 2008

5 Comments
Posted January 28, 2008 at 5:13 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]



1. libraryjim wrote:

The Democrats are looking for the next JFK.
The Republicans are looking for the next Ronald Reagan.

Nobody is going to be happy trying to shoe-horn this current crop of candidates into either mold, as no one on either side fits!

January 28, 2:04 pm | [comment link]
2. harold wrote:

The current political climate resembles the one that preceded the election of Jimmy Carter.  High distrust of insiders, Washington, unpopular GOP president, Will Obamma be another Jimmy Carter?

January 28, 9:24 pm | [comment link]
3. libraryjim wrote:

Harold,
If he is elected, I think that is a strong possibility, especially given his huge lack of experience.

January 29, 11:36 am | [comment link]
4. Andrew717 wrote:

Be nice guys.  At least Carter had been a governor.

January 29, 3:03 pm | [comment link]
5. Alta Californian wrote:

All I know is Obama has been compared to JFK, RFK, MLK, and Abraham Lincoln.  If I were the Secret Service, I’d double his detail.

January 29, 6:31 pm | [comment link]
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