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April 17, 2014 / 17 Nisan, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Bill Clinton’

Lieberman Scaled Political Heights, But Wants Shabbat To Be His Legacy

Wednesday, August 10th, 2011

WASHINGTON – Call Joe Lieberman the unlikely evangelist. The Independent senator from Connecticut – and the best-known Orthodox Jew in American politics – is probably more cognizant than most of his Jewish congressional colleagues about rabbinical interdictions against encouraging non-Jews to mimic Jewish ritual.

Yet here he is, about to release a book advising Christians and others not to drive to church, to welcome their Sabbath in the evening, to cut off the wired world and to enjoy your significant other.

Meeting with Lieberman in his Senate offices last week, before the Aug. 16 release date of his new book, The Gift of Rest: Rediscovering the Beauty of the Sabbath, he laughed at the term evangelical. But he also embraced it.

“In a way it is” evangelical, he said.

Not that he wanted to convert anyone, Lieberman emphasized. 

“This gift, I wanted not only to share with Jews who are not experiencing it, who haven’t accepted it, but also in some measure to appeal to Christians to come back to their observance of their Sabbath on Sundays,” he said.

Lieberman does so in a surprisingly engaging read – surprisingly because books by politicians fronted by photos where they pose in studied, open-collared casualness are usually a recipe for a surfeit of encomiums packed with feel-goodness but bereft of intellectual nourishment.

Instead, melding an unlikely array of tales ranging from 16th-century Safed to tension-soaked Republican and Democratic back rooms, Lieberman makes the case for a structured day of rest that offers freedom within iron walls. 

The book also provides a glimpse into how religion shaped this most adamant of congressional centrists, whose stubborn hewing to his beliefs brought him within shouting distance of the vice presidency before propelling him toward the end of his political career (Lieberman will not seek reelection in 2012).

One potent example of Lieberman’s championing of freedom through restrictions is how the dictates of the holy day liberate him from his BlackBerry.

“Six days a week, I’m never without this little piece of plastic, chips and wires that miraculously connect me to the rest of the world and that I hope makes me more efficient, but clearly consumes a lot of my time and attention,” he writes. “If there were no Sabbath law to keep me from sending and receiving email all day as I normally do, do you think I would be able to resist the temptation on the Sabbath? Not a chance. Laws have this way of setting us free.”

As it turns out, this has been a book Lieberman has been considering for a while. He says the seeds of it reach as far back as his first run for state senator in 1970, when his Sabbath observance first created logistical problems for his campaign staff.

It emerged full force when Al Gore named him as his running mate in 2000. In Lacrosse, Wis., on a Saturday after the announcement, he found people coming out of their homes to greet him and wish him well as he walked to the local synagogue.

Conversations with Christians and their curiosity about his observance crystallized the idea for the book, he said.

“This is something I thought about doing for a long time,” Lieberman said, “because the Sabbath has meant so much for me. It’s really been a foundation for my life.”

The book is published by Simon & Schuster’s Howard imprint in conjunction with OU Press. Lieberman co-wrote it with David Klinghoffer, a politically conservative (and Orthodox Jewish) columnist and author, in consultation with Rabbi Menachem Genack, who runs the Orthodox Union’s kashrut division and with whom Lieberman takes a weekly telephone class.

Renewed Question Of Obama’s Gut Feelings Toward Jews, Israel

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2011


WASHINGTON – Does President Obama need a “Shalom Chaver” moment a la Bill Clinton?


Renewed questioning of what the president feels in his gut toward Israel and the Jewish people was prompted by the Obama administration’s late and qualified response to last week’s naming of a square for Dalal Mughrabi, a terrorist who helped mastermind a 1978 bus attack that killed 37 Israeli civilians and an American photographer.


The hurt feelings were sharpened by the massacre over the previous weekend of an Israeli couple and three of their children in their home in the Itamar settlement in the West Bank.


Malcolm Hoenlein, the executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, noted the Mughrabi square naming at a Manhattan memorial service for the murdered Fogel family members from Itamar.


“If governments, even our own, do not stand out and shriek and condemn and take action when they see this kind of action by the Palestinian Authority and their representatives” – and the incitement continues despite repeated promises – then “we must make sure that our voices are heard,” Hoenlein said. “We have to demand accountability and that there will be consequences.”


Morton Klein, the president of the Zionist Organization of America, asked what the president feels “in his soul” – a reference to disputed reports that in a meeting with Jewish leaders last month, Obama asked them to “search their souls” regarding their desire for peace.


“In light of what President Obama said to us at the White House and in light of this present episode, the ZOA asks a simple question: What does President Obama’s shocking, unbelievable and frightening refusal to condemn the honoring and glorifying of a major Jew-killer by [President Mahmoud] Abbas’s PA, a day after an anti-Israel massacre, tell us about Obama’s true feelings about Jews and Israel?” Klein asked. “Mr. Obama, we respectfully ask you, sir, to ‘search your soul’ to evaluate your feelings and actions and policies toward the Jewish state of Israel.”


President Clinton set the high mark for connecting with Israelis and Jews in his 1995 eulogy at Yitzhak Rabin’s funeral when he encapsulated worldwide Jewish grief in a simple Hebrew phrase: “Shalom chaver” – “Farewell friend.”


President George W. Bush also made clear his affection for the Jewish state, both supporters and detractors agree.


Speaking on the record, most Jewish community leaders dismiss talk about Obama’s “kishkes factor” – what he feels in his gut – as overly focused on the ephemera of emotions and beside the point: The lines of communication with the White House are open, they say, and the president and his staff are responsive to their overtures.


“I would say we have a good line of communication with them,” said Alan Solow, the Presidents Conference chairman and a fundraiser for Obama in 2008. “Our access is both appropriate and excellent. There’s not a problem of communication issue between the Jewish leadership and the White House.”


Solow would not address the kishkes factor, saying it was inappropriate for him to comment.


Speaking on background, however, a number of Jewish community figures – among them those who generally sympathize with the administration’s outlook on Israel – say Obama just doesn’t get it.


“His J-Dar is off,” said one dovish figure who recalled Obama’s first meeting with Jewish leaders in the summer of 2009, when he told them that previous administrations’ policy of not being public about policy disputes with Israel was unproductive.


“It may have been true, but it was not the right thing to say” to Jewish leaders, the official said. “What it implies is that you’re trying to drive a wedge between them and the government of Israel – but you should know that rarely, rarely works because the organized Jewish community supports Israeli governments. He doesn’t get the emotional issue, and maybe even the structural issue.”


Obama’s missed opportunity was not visiting Israel after his June 2009 address to the Muslim world in Cairo, a number of officials have said.


A conservative who has tried to make the case for this White House among like-minded friends and colleagues says Obama’s aloof personality is a problem.


“With Clinton, when he talked to you, it was like you were the most important person in the world,” the official said. “With Obama, it’s like he’s the most important person in the world.”


White House officials tend to audibly sigh when the question arises. They especially chafe at the notion, raised by a number of Israeli and pro-Israeli officials, that there is no immediate “hotline” official in the White House – someone like Elliott Abrams, the Bush administration’s top Middle East staffer, who could be reached at a moment’s notice.


That person in this White House has been Dan Shapiro, who has Abrams’s job, and he has been responsive, according to friends of the White House.


One sympathetic pro-Israel official said that expecting microscopic attention to square namings by West Bank Palestinians was demanding too much of Shapiro.


“He’s just been dealing with that small problem of Libya,” the official commented dryly.


Obama announced recently that Shapiro would be his nominee to be the next U.S. ambassador to Israel.


White House officials say they have tried to be responsive and have engaged with Jewish leaders, and they say it’s a no-win situation: When they do not respond to a given event, like the Mughrabi square naming, they get into trouble, but when they do respond, the response is picked apart for inadequacies.


That damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t-prickliness characterized Jewish reaction to Obama’s speech to the Muslim world in 2009, when he went out of his way to condemn Holocaust denial among Arabs – and was slammed by some Jewish groups for seeming to draw moral equivalence with Palestinian suffering and for neglecting to mention the Jewish people’s biblical roots case for Israel.


The more recent episode, over the Mughrabi square, showed how an administration could stumble. The first response, days after the naming, came from relatively low-level officials and in response to a JTA inquiry, and said the administration was seeking “clarification” on an event that had been widely reported. The Palestinian Authority did not officially sponsor the event, nor did its officials attend it, but officials of Abbas’s Fatah Party were in attendance and Abbas did not reprimand them.


A day later, the State Department’s top official, Mark Toner, explicitly condemned the naming and said the United States “urged” Abbas to address it.


Ori Nir, the spokesman for Americans for Peace Now, suggested such reactions were overwrought.


“Obama does not seem to have internalized yet, or does not seem cognizant yet of the fact that most American Jewish voters are progressive – they support his general agenda,” Nir said. “They typically don’t vote first and foremost on Israel and will probably overwhelmingly vote for him again.”


(JTA)

Whatever Happened To Our First Black President?

Wednesday, March 2nd, 2011

            If Toni Morrison, the Nobel-prize winning African-American novelist, could refer to Bill Clinton, a white man, as America’s first black president, then surely we can take a reverse tack: Is it possible that Barack Obama is not the first real black president after all?
 
It’s a contentious statement, so let me explain.
 
            Whiteness and blackness are ultimately immaterial concepts that refer to naught but skin pigmentation but were elevated to earth-shattering proportions by racists and those who wished to suppress blacks for their own advantage. But the principal positive consequence of the barbaric oppression of blacks due to the color of their skin is that in modern America “blackness” has come to represent, more than anything else, a people’s capacity to endure suffering and humiliation yet agitate for their freedom and human rights.
 
            That agitation reached its apogee in the person of Martin Luther King, Jr., who restored America to its founding principles. Prior to Dr. King, America was a great but deeply contradictory nation whose brave soldiers liberated Jews from Hitler while back home cowardly lynchings continued, and whose troops bravely fought the Communist menace in Vietnam while black children were denied the right to drink from water fountains on hot summer days in Selma, Alabama.
 
Dr. King ended all that. His reward was a bullet to the neck. But ever since then his memory and the black marchers who followed him and desegregated America has become synonymous with the willingness of a people to bear immense burdens to promote justice and freedom.
 
It was because of that extraordinary legacy that many of us looked forward to the elevation of the first black man, or woman, as president of the United States and leader of the free world. Surely that person would usher in a new era, utilizing American influence to promote freedom and the rights of man worldwide. And whoever it would be would have a tough act follow after the actions taken by President Bush to promote democracy and human rights in Iraq and other parts of the Middle East.
 
Indeed, America has an almost shameful record when it comes to stopping genocide, as Samantha Power chronicled so adeptly in her 2002 Pulitzer-prize winning book A Problem from Hell. The United States responded very inadequately to the genocide of the Armenians in World War I and the Cambodians in 1975-1978. President Roosevelt famously refused repeated entreaties to bomb the railroad tracks to Auschwitz during the Holocaust.
 
Morrison may have felt Clinton was the first black president but Clinton did not so much as even meet with his senior advisers to discuss Rwanda during the three months of the genocide there in 1994 when 800,000 died through the low-tech slaughter of being mangled by machete. Clinton likewise did little to stop the killings in Bosnia and Srebrenica, waking up only, and finally, to intervene in Kosovo.
 
   Fast forward to President Obama, whose actions with regard to dictators and wholesale human slaughter taking place on his watch – the Libyan massacres in particular – have been utterly baffling. I have already written of my grave disappointment in Obama’s warmly greeting dictators like Hugo Chavez or rolling out the red carpet, literally, for President Hu of China while Obama’s fellow Nobel Peace recipient, Lu Xiaobo, rots in jail and his wife is held hostage though she has never even been accused of a crime. There is the further issue of Obama’s gross disrespect of the Dalai Lama – sending him out of the back entrance of the White House last year past huge piles of garbage in order not to offend the bullies in China.
 
   But Obama’s abrogation of leadership and failure to champion human rights in Libya defies all comprehension and shows just how much the president has strayed from the legacy of Dr. King. First there was Obama’s utter silence for days as Khaddafi opened fire on his own people with jets, helicopter gunships, large caliber weapons and RPG’s. Then, almost a week into the killing, Obama issued his famous denunciation of Khaddafi’s mass murder as “outrageous and unacceptable,” words perhaps more relevant to the threat of a baseball strike than mass human slaughter.
 
   The president further threatened Khaddafi with the possibility of economic sanctions, a subject, one would think, not exactly on the mind of a brutal dictator fighting for his very life. Finally, on February 26, Obama, in a telephone call to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, said Khaddafi had “lost the legitimacy to rule and needs to do what is right for his country by leaving now.”
 
   Come again? Was our president suggesting that a dictator who had slaughtered and tortured his political opponents for four decades, funded international terrorism, and blew up discotheques and airliners somehow had legitimacy in the first place? And what is the meaning of the statement being made in private to the German chancellor? Is Obama too timid to call a press conference and announce in bold, unequivocal terms that Khaddafi is a tyrant who, if he survives, will be tried for crimes against humanity?
 

   And so we continue to wait for America’s first black president – someone who will step into Martin Luther King’s shoes and use the most powerful office on earth to make freedom ring, not just from Stone Mountain, Georgia and Lookout Mountain, Tennessee, but from Tripoli to Riyadh and Damascus to Beirut.

 

 

 

   Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, founder of This World: The Values Network, is the best-selling author of 25 books and has recently published “Renewal: A Guide to the Values-Filled Life.” Follow him on Twitter@RabbiShmuley.

Everyone Has a Story

Wednesday, February 10th, 2010

          When I was invited a few months ago to lecture at a European retreat in Davos, Switzerland, that was hosted in the same luxury venue where the world economic leaders (including former president Bill Clinton) had met for their own economic summit a few years ago, I knew there was no way I’d refuse. The resort weekend was organized by Rabbi Sholom Liberow, director of the European Jewish Study Network (EJSN) and his wonderful wife, Leah.

 

 Aside from their sterling care and exceptional attention to details–both material and spiritual–the setting on the postcard picturesque Swiss Alps couldn’t have been more awesome.

 

But truly, for me, there was an additional incentive to attend.

 

My father was born in Switzerland where, for many years, my grandfather served as chief rabbi in the city of Basil. Switzerland became a haven of refuge for my father’s family during the perilous Holocaust years and one of the very few islands of normalcy in a sea raging with anti-Semitic hatred, persecution and death for European Jewry.

 

For me, in a tiny way, being a part of this program was almost a way of somehow paying back a debt of gratitude to my father’s homeland.

 

A retreat weekend is always interesting, full of meaningful programs, and saturated with learning and spiritual growth. But for me, the most inspirational part of these weekends is meeting so many different people, from all over the world-in this case, from places as diverse as London, California, Tel Aviv, Italy, Amsterdam, Ranana, and Brussels.

 

Somehow the anonymity of a diverse group of strangers, old and young coming together from far and near, opens the channels of communication, awakens sleeping hearts and forges new bonds. Personal life stories begin flowing freely just as the choice wines at each meal.

 

Somehow, it’s easier to open up to and share with someone who lives in another country, who in all likelihood you won’t be meeting up with again sometime soon. And so, in hushed private conversations in corners of sumptuous rooms, or in open gregarious table talk over a Shabbat luncheon, you learn incredible stories about people’s lives.

 

What never fails to impress me from these conversations is how extraordinarily special our people is. If you seek, you will discover that everyone has a story.

 

             A story of heroism and bravery. A story of courage and faith. A story of inconceivable kindness. Or a story of return. But always a story with a rich and vibrant history.

 

Whether the story occurred to a parent, a bubby orzaidy, or a great-grandparent, our people’s history is rich and replete with meaning.

 

History and present life choices intersect seamlessly as a beloved parent, bubby, orzaidy becomes instrumental in forging us into who we have become.

 

Here’s a little story of how I was reminded of my own grandfather right on the Swiss Alps, in his homeland–in Davos, Switzerland.

 

One of my lectures over the weekend was on “relationships.” I was more than a little taken aback when I noticed that one of the participants was a very elderly, married gentleman who could probably have lectured me on relationships! (There was another concurrent, more relevant workshop but he chose instead to attend mine).

 

The puzzle was solved, however, when he approached me gratefully after my talk.

 

“I knew your grandfather very well,” he said, delighted. “Your grandfather was my rabbi and my teacher.” He paused. “I still remember him well. It gives me great pleasure to hear his granddaughter lecturing.”

 

I have often met people who knew or learned from my grandparents. But to meet someone there, in Switzerland, who knew them from so long ago, at a period in their lives when they were just beginning to build their family and when my own father was just a young boy, seemed particularly special. I wanted to ask him so much about my father’s family, but in his typically reserved Swiss manner, he wasn’t very forthcoming.

 

He shared only one bit of wisdom before the weekend was over. “Do not be so modest,” he admonished me during one of the meals. “Remember who you come from. Walk upright, with great pride.”

 

I think of his words. And I think it is a message that must reverberate within each of us. We each hold the treasured keys to a rich history. We each have a bubby orzaidy-or a bubby andzaidy’s bubby orzaidy-in whom we can, and must, take pride.

 

Search deeply and you will uncover your own personal saga of courage and heroism. Cherish the stories and lessons from your past. Take pride in your personal stories and allow them to forge you into the person you wish to become.

 

And, at all times, remember from where you have come.

Everyone Has a Story

Wednesday, February 10th, 2010

          When I was invited a few months ago to lecture at a European retreat in Davos, Switzerland, that was hosted in the same luxury venue where the world economic leaders (including former president Bill Clinton) had met for their own economic summit a few years ago, I knew there was no way I’d refuse. The resort weekend was organized by Rabbi Sholom Liberow, director of the European Jewish Study Network (EJSN) and his wonderful wife, Leah.

 

 Aside from their sterling care and exceptional attention to details–both material and spiritual–the setting on the postcard picturesque Swiss Alps couldn’t have been more awesome.

 

But truly, for me, there was an additional incentive to attend.

 

My father was born in Switzerland where, for many years, my grandfather served as chief rabbi in the city of Basil. Switzerland became a haven of refuge for my father’s family during the perilous Holocaust years and one of the very few islands of normalcy in a sea raging with anti-Semitic hatred, persecution and death for European Jewry.

 

For me, in a tiny way, being a part of this program was almost a way of somehow paying back a debt of gratitude to my father’s homeland.

 

A retreat weekend is always interesting, full of meaningful programs, and saturated with learning and spiritual growth. But for me, the most inspirational part of these weekends is meeting so many different people, from all over the world-in this case, from places as diverse as London, California, Tel Aviv, Italy, Amsterdam, Ranana, and Brussels.

 

Somehow the anonymity of a diverse group of strangers, old and young coming together from far and near, opens the channels of communication, awakens sleeping hearts and forges new bonds. Personal life stories begin flowing freely just as the choice wines at each meal.

 

Somehow, it’s easier to open up to and share with someone who lives in another country, who in all likelihood you won’t be meeting up with again sometime soon. And so, in hushed private conversations in corners of sumptuous rooms, or in open gregarious table talk over a Shabbat luncheon, you learn incredible stories about people’s lives.

 

What never fails to impress me from these conversations is how extraordinarily special our people is. If you seek, you will discover that everyone has a story.

 

             A story of heroism and bravery. A story of courage and faith. A story of inconceivable kindness. Or a story of return. But always a story with a rich and vibrant history.

 

Whether the story occurred to a parent, a bubby orzaidy, or a great-grandparent, our people’s history is rich and replete with meaning.

 

History and present life choices intersect seamlessly as a beloved parent, bubby, orzaidy becomes instrumental in forging us into who we have become.

 

Here’s a little story of how I was reminded of my own grandfather right on the Swiss Alps, in his homeland–in Davos, Switzerland.

 

One of my lectures over the weekend was on “relationships.” I was more than a little taken aback when I noticed that one of the participants was a very elderly, married gentleman who could probably have lectured me on relationships! (There was another concurrent, more relevant workshop but he chose instead to attend mine).

 

The puzzle was solved, however, when he approached me gratefully after my talk.

 

“I knew your grandfather very well,” he said, delighted. “Your grandfather was my rabbi and my teacher.” He paused. “I still remember him well. It gives me great pleasure to hear his granddaughter lecturing.”

 

I have often met people who knew or learned from my grandparents. But to meet someone there, in Switzerland, who knew them from so long ago, at a period in their lives when they were just beginning to build their family and when my own father was just a young boy, seemed particularly special. I wanted to ask him so much about my father’s family, but in his typically reserved Swiss manner, he wasn’t very forthcoming.

 

He shared only one bit of wisdom before the weekend was over. “Do not be so modest,” he admonished me during one of the meals. “Remember who you come from. Walk upright, with great pride.”

 

I think of his words. And I think it is a message that must reverberate within each of us. We each hold the treasured keys to a rich history. We each have a bubby orzaidy-or a bubby andzaidy’s bubby orzaidy-in whom we can, and must, take pride.

 

Search deeply and you will uncover your own personal saga of courage and heroism. Cherish the stories and lessons from your past. Take pride in your personal stories and allow them to forge you into the person you wish to become.

 

And, at all times, remember from where you have come.

‘The Highest Office’

Wednesday, November 12th, 2008

     The recent presidential election has caused terrible angst for some voters and incredible joy for others. However, American history has shown that no matter who is elected to the oval office, the fundamental principles of the country are sound, and life carries on. 

     Power in the United States regularly bounces from Republican to Democrat like a lively ping-pong game. Many new presidents are, in fact, elected as a protest vote against the previous regime. In a country that is governed by checks and balances, the volley of parties does not do permanent harm. 

    The United States staggered under the shock of Richard Nixon’s Watergate scandal and consequently elected Jimmy Carter. It was humiliated by Carter’s inept handling of the hostages in Iran and elected Ronald Reagan. It was scandalized by the shenanigans of Bill Clinton’s high-risk, inappropriate romances and elected George W. Bush. Yet, through it all, the nation remained strong.

    The people of America reeled under the attack of 9/11 and its aftermath. Perhaps everything that followed was not handled to perfection. It is very easy to be a Monday- morning quarterback. However, despite the mistakes of the president or officials in charge, our country has pulled through a terrible trauma. We are intact.   

   There seems to be a pattern to life, which belies the idea that we, alone, decide our destiny. Perhaps the answer is that we are not the sole arbitrator of what happens, despite our greatest efforts. Of course, we are mandated to do our best to put things in place.  However, it seems that man can never really hold the “highest office.”

    So hang in there. There are lessons to be learned. There are experiences to be had.  There is a lot to process.  Gam zu l’tovah, everything is for the best! 

Ateret Avot Adult Living Facility, Brooklyn

Wednesday, February 27th, 2008

Question: Which 20th century leader did you admire most?

 

 

 

Bill Clinton. He was a president who had mass public appeal because he was a genuine people person. He always tried to work hard and serve the public.


 – Sandy Cohen


 

 


Golda Meir, the first — and so far the only — female prime minister of Israel. I admire her because she led the country during some very turbulent times. She always held her composure and didn’t back down from pressure.


 – Edith Goldstein


 

 

 

Menachem Begin. He was very active in the establishment of Israel and served the state politically throughout his life.


 – Lilian Bergstein  


 


 

 


To be honest with you, nobody. I’ve been around long enough to realize that politicians only know how to talk and not to deliver. They make promises, but once they
get into office they follow their own agenda.


 – Leon Skolnic

The Media Myth Of Camelot

Wednesday, January 30th, 2008

With Caroline Kennedy’s New York Times op-ed article endorsing the presidential candidacy of Barack Obama because, in her words, she wants a president like her father; a president who, among other things, “holds himself, and those around him, to the highest ethical standards,” it seemed only appropriate to give an encore airing, with some revisions, to the following Media Monitor column that originally ran in 2003:

“Jack Kennedy was the mythological front man for a particularly juicy slice of our history. He talked a slick line and wore a world-class haircut. He was Bill Clinton minus pervasive media scrutiny and a few rolls of flab. Jack got whacked at the optimum moment to assure his sainthood. Lies continue to swirl around his eternal flame….”
– James Ellroy, American Tabloid

Assassination does wonders for a public figure’s place in history. John F. Kennedy was a president of questionable character and meager accomplishment, but his untimely and violent death, followed by decades of unceasing image control by the Kennedy family and their media apologists, has helped sustain one of the great myths of American history – a myth that there once existed in Washington a magical kingdom called Camelot, ruled by a dashing prince whose wisdom and bravery were matched only by his unshakeable devotion to his beautiful princess.

So powerful is the Camelot legend that the many seamy discoveries of recent years have managed only to tarnish, but hardly to destroy, the reputation of a man who almost certainly would have been impeached or forced to resign the presidency had even a fraction of what we now know been made public while he was still alive and in office.

Even the very term that has come to symbolize the Kennedy era – Camelot – is an invention after the fact. The notion of the Kennedy White House as Camelot has always been, as even Kennedy press secretary and longtime loyalist Pierre Salinger admitted, a “fraud” – the word was never once used to describe the Kennedy administration while Kennedy was alive.

The Camelot-Kennedy connection was nothing more than a widow’s successful attempt to glamorize her husband’s legacy. Not long after Kennedy’s murder, Jacqueline Kennedy, quoting the lyrics of the title song from a popular Broadway show, implored the writer Theodore White: “Don’t let it be forgot/That once there was a spot/For one brief shining moment/That was known as Camelot.”

White dutifully recorded her words in an article for Life magazine, and instantly and forevermore the Kennedy years became Camelot in retrospect. It is necessary to keep all this in mind when reflecting on any aspect of the Kennedy administration. Nothing was as it seemed, and the truth about those years began to seep out only after Kennedy had been dead for a decade.

In fact, the mythmaking about JFK was under way well before he was elected president – being born to a politically ambitious, fabulously wealthy and well-connected father has its benefits.

“Kennedy,” the liberal journalist Lawrence Wright observed, “had spent thirteen years in the House and Senate without passing a single important piece of legislation. And yet before his election to the presidency, people were comparing him with Franklin Roosevelt, with the young Churchill, with various movie stars, with Lindbergh.”

Kennedy’s best-selling books, Why England Slept and Profiles in Courage, which helped sell the notion that he was some sort of intellectual? Both were largely ghostwritten.

The World War II incident that bestowed on Kennedy an aura of heroism?

“It was true Kennedy had saved the life of one of his men on PT-109, on a mission in which Kennedy was supposed to torpedo a Japanese destroyer,” writes Wright. “Instead, the lumbering destroyer managed to slice the PT boat in half, killing two crewmen. Apparently, Kennedy had failed to notice the ship until it was bearing down on top of him. ‘Our reaction to the 109 thing had always been that we were kind of ashamed of our performance,’ admitted one of the crew, Barney Ross. ‘I had always thought it was a disaster.’”

Wright continues: “Was this heroism? Or just luck – that Kennedy was still alive and not brought before a court-martial? The Navy rejected his application for a Silver Star, and it wasn’t until a friend of the Kennedy family, James Forrestal, became secretary of the Navy, that Kennedy received a life-saving award.”

Among close acquaintances Kennedy was candid about his heroics. In his 1991 book A Question of Character, historian Thomas Reeves quotes the son of a Kennedy intimate as saying, “He told her it was a question of whether they were going to give him a medal or throw him out.” And in 1946, according to Reeves, Kennedy told a friend, “My story about the collision is getting better all the time. Now I’ve got a Jew and a nigger in the story and with me being a Catholic, that’s great.”

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/media-monitor/the-media-myth-of-camelot/2008/01/30/

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