I see your Kennedy and raise you a Reagan

by lestro

There is no bigger indication of the failure of the Bush Administration than the fact that not a single candidate is trying to claim the Bush mantle and legacy. He’s a pariah right now with approval numbers hovering at 30 percent.

And rightfully so.

But that is not stopping the candidates from trying to assume the legacies and mantles of presidents past.

As I struggle with watching the Republican candidates genuflect at the temple of Reagan, I recognize the necessity.

From the start, the big name in this race was Clinton. It wasn’t the same Clinton, but then again it was. Hillary does not even really have to claim the legacy of her husband as much as remind us she is part of it.

It’s the connotation that comes with the name, the memories associated with it: the soft feel of flannel, the relative peace and optimism of a post-cold war world, balanced budgets, designer coffee and the amazing possibilities of the internet (and the rising economic boom that came with it).

Good times.

Because of all that, as well as his personal political gifts, Bill Clinton remains an exceptionally popular president. In a 2007 poll, he came in fourth, with 13 percent of people saying he was the best ever.

But for all the good, the Clinton legacy is also one of bitter, partisan politics, gridlock in Washington and a polarization of America. Because of that, the same poll actually has Clinton near the bottom as well.

It’s a tough legacy to carry. Ask Al Gore.

And what of President George W. Bush? Let’s just say his ribbon doesn’t even say “honorable mention;” It says “participant.”

For Republicans, that leaves only one option: Assume the Reagan Legacy. In the same poll, Ronald Reagan comes in second with 16 percent, within statistical striking distance Abraham Lincoln at 18 percent.

That’s pretty impressive. I mean, Lincoln saved the Union. Reagan made ketchup a vegetable.

But what’s a Democratic candidate to do to battle with the real, live Clinton legacy?

Simple: Kennedy.

John F. Kennedy is the only Democratic President more popular than Clinton, coming in just ahead (though, admittedly, statistically tied) at 14 percent.

Even more than the 90s, and probably in part because of the romance of history, the Camelot Era in American history seems to shine bright. Just the name Kennedy evokes that wondrous, time in America, a time of hope and vision that was cut short.

Even Bill Clinton idolized John F. Kennedy, making sure we all saw that photo of a young Bubba shaking JFK’s hand.

But this past week, the Kennedys themselves endorsed Barack Obama, awarding him the mantle and heir apparent to the Kennedy Mystique and promise of “a new generation of leadership” as Kennedy himself said in his Convention Speech :

“All over the world, particularly in the newer nations, young men are coming to power–men who are not bound by the traditions of the past–men who are not blinded by the old fears and hates and rivalries–young men who can cast off the old slogans and delusions and suspicions.

He also said, acknowledging the great work of those who came before, but recognizing that every fresh idea and perspective eventually becomes the old guard that needs to be replaced:

“Here at home, the changing face of the future is equally revolutionary. The New Deal and the Fair Deal were bold measures for their generations–but this is a new generation.”

Or, as it says in the Book of Farkus, Chap. 1: “Baby boomers, your time is coming to an end.”

In 1984, George Orwell wrote, “He who controls the past controls the future. He who controls the present controls the past.”

I suppose that in the present, that means we should all choose the past we most want the future to look like: Reagan’s, Clinton’s or Kennedy’s.

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3 Responses to I see your Kennedy and raise you a Reagan

  1. k@th says:

    I had no idea the popularity percentages were so low for all of these presidents. Now I’m curious to look up more on that…

    Meanwhile, I was just saying to a friend, “Where have all the Lincolns gone?”

    …and he who controls the future is called “the tax man.”

  2. Paul says:

    “Where have all the Lincolns gone?”

    Check the logs.

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