The Corner

Kennedy’s Oratory — and Obama’s

The rediscovery of John F. Kennedy’s oratory on the fiftieth anniversary of his inauguration will only deepen the consensus that President Obama’s rhetorical skills, wildly exaggerated in 2008, are a trifle lackluster. The disillusioned liberal has little choice but to go back to his old romance with Camelot. True, there were some unfortunate lines in Kennedy’s inaugural address, viz. “If a beachhead of cooperation may push back the jungle of suspicion, let both sides join in creating a new endeavor.” But Kennedy and Reagan were certainly the best presidential speakers of the second half of the twentieth century; and in his sixty-plus press conferences Kennedy proved himself the unrivaled master of extemporaneous presidential speaking (as YouTube bears witness).

President Obama cannot at this point change his speaking style — when Kennedy sought to improve his own oratory by studying Churchill’s, he was a congressman in his early thirties. But the president could do more to emulate some of Kennedy’s economic policies. When “Wall Street tumbled in May 1962 after the Steel Crisis on the perception that the President was anti-business,” Walter Isaacson and Evan Thomas wrote in The Wise Men, “Kennedy called [Robert] Lovett and asked him how to repair the damage. Lovett took the opportunity to advise Kennedy to lower taxes to encourage capital accumulation. Kennedy listened.” Against the “strong opposition of liberals such as Galbraith,” he pushed for lower tax rates and more liberal depreciation allowances. That’s a side of Camelot liberals prefer to forget.

Most Popular

Politics & Policy

John Brennan’s Bad Behavior

My Bloomberg View colleague Eli Lake is right about this: "[W]hen Brennan uses his authority as a former CIA director to launch flimsy attacks on the president's legitimacy, he validates Trump's claim that the intelligence agencies are biased against him." Over the last two years the president's critics have ... Read More
White House

Bill Clinton Redux

Stormy Daniels could have stepped right out of the 1990s. She would have been a natural in a Bill Clinton scandal, and, in fact, all the same means would have been used against her. Donald Trump’s tactics in these cases are almost indistinguishable from the Clintons’. The effort to shut down the ... Read More
Politics & Policy

California’s Pro-Nuclear Renegade

If California’s upcoming gubernatorial race gets decided solely by money, Michael Shellenberger doesn’t have a chance. The latest campaign filings show that Shellenberger, an environmentalist from Berkeley, has about $37,000 in cash on hand. The frontrunner in the June 5 California primary, Lieutenant ... Read More

Encouraging Signs in Iraq

Last year, relations between the Iraqi central government and the Kurds reached what was possibly an all-time low when the Kurds held an independence referendum in which 93 percent of voters opted to secede. The timing was no coincidence: Iraqi forces had retreated from Kurdish territory in 2014 as the Islamic ... Read More
Politics & Policy

Do Not Congratulate

Do you want some good news out of the gargantuan budget bill now making its way through Congress? Buried among the mountains of pork and assorted unmentionables, there is one random provision I really like. It requires the Congressional Research Service -- which does a huge amount of very valuable policy research ... Read More
Film & TV

Superannuated ‘Idol’

In the pilot episode of Fox’s American Idol, Simon Cowell defined the show’s thesis: “We are going to tell people who cannot sing and have no talent that they have no talent. And that never makes you popular.” The show’s producers and its three judges -- Cowell, Paula Abdul, and Randy Jackson -- kept ... Read More