Despite the change & youth hype, the endorsement of Ted Kennedy, the Kennedy family patriarch, and the obvious similarity (first credible African American candidate vs first credible Catholic candidate), there are striking differences between Senator Barack Obama and Senator John F. Kennedy at this stage in their careers. These are worth looking into.
While it is hard to make Joe Kennedy Sr a truly appealing figure, even negative biographers would concede he was really “into” his children. He toiled ceaselessly to accumulate the fortune that would smooth their path in the world. He took an active part in their upbringing, always pushing them to make something of themsleves. Having felt the instense sting of anti-Catholic prejudice himself, he was determined to have them blaze paths where few Catholics had dared to venture. JFK didn’t have to have dreams of his father: Joe was an ever-present reality, his protector, reliable confidant and part time pain-in-the-ass. (The elder Kennedy’s isolationism, McCarthyite connections and economic conservatism were a problem for his aspiring son given the increasing liberal dominance in the Democratic party.)
Obama’s father, as we know, was an absent one. Obama grew up in comfortable circumstances most of his life. He grew to manhood two decades after the Civil Rights revolution peaked, and benefited all the way from the revolutionary change in circumstances for African-Americans. Obama was never connected to his black heritage the way JFK was connected to his Catholic one. There is a dreamy character to his public utterances, the kind of thing that is possible only when one can invent one’s own reality. For JFK, reality was an unmovable reality independent of himself. That’s what fathers do if they do their job right- they connect their kids to reality out o duty, honor and hopefully love.
To be continued…