President Obama has turned out to be more Kennedyesque than some of his fans expected. One does not have to be an opponent of Obama, or of the once-young Boston-accented politician of the past, to mean "Kennedyesque" in the realpolitik and less than idealistic sense.
I was once told that when the beloved Cardinal Joseph Bernardin was shown where, as archbishop of Chicago, he would be buried, he learned that his spot was to the left of his predecessor, John Cody, who died just before the feds could indict him of misusing church funds.
"I was always a bit to his left," Bernardin is said to have quipped.
John F. Kennedy, since the 1964 Democratic Convention the icon of liberals, stood in many respects to the liberals' right. Barack Obama, in trying to reverse course on the Bush Administration's campaign of state-sponsored terror, has revealed himself more pragmatic about Guantánamo and torture evidence than his supporters from, say, Code Pink or Move On would like.
If Obama can compromise on Nuremberg-scale inhumanity, some worry, what will he give away to get something through in health, consumer protections and workers' rights to collective bargaining? To my mind, that's the wrong question.
Obama doesn't want to say the right things for eight years, as Bill Clinton did, so some Republican can come, like Bush did, and turn peace in Ireland and Yugoslavia into unending war throughout the entire Arab world. He doesn't want to tidy up the books, turning Republican deficits into surpluses as far as the eye can see, just so some crass successor can undo it with a sea of red ink and the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.
That would not be good for the country, any more than it would burnish Obama's legacy. As a man of extraordinary intelligence, Obama knows this. The man knows what he is doing.