Not a dumb question

During my blogging hiatus, the family and I took a trip to Massachusetts to see some friends and to breathe the air in a state where the Better Half and I could get married. (A lovely bouquet of lily of the valley and nutmeg, minus the smell of moose.) While we were there, the Paterfamilias suggested that we visit the Kennedy Library and Museum. So, on a very, very windy day we bundled up the Critter, programmed the (marginally effectual) GPS and visited our nation's shrine to all things Kennedy.

I realize that I am going to lose my "Liberal in Good Standing" card by typing this, but I totally fail to understand all the Kennedy worship. (Maybe they'll give me a probationary period if I give more money to NPR.) I've wondered for a while what JFK did to earn all the plaudits, other than being killed tragically and keeping the country from being blown to smithereens during the Cuban missile crisis. Fair enough on that last point, I suppose, but what else ya' got? The Library illuminated this not at all. (There was hardly a whiff of the Bay of Pigs, to boot.) Can someone enlighten me? What did Kennedy do that his legacy is constantly being invoked?

Anyhoodle, that's all a meandering preamble to a more pressing concern. Megan McArdle (about whom my opinion is mixed) poses the question:

Could Massachussetts Elect a Republican to Kennedy's Seat?

For those of you who don't obsessively follow politics, in a couple of weeks the good people of Massachusetts will vote on who will replace Teddy in the Senate (the Republic somehow having survived the lack of a Kennedy in that august body). Rasmussen gives the race between Martha Coakley (D) and Scott Brown (R) a 9-point spread, which is pretty narrow considering that Oh, my GOD it's KENNEDY'S SEAT!!

I was prepared to pooh-pooh those results, given that Rasmussen tends to tilt right-ward. But poll guru Nate Silver isn't so quick to dismiss them:
... Rasmussen's theory on this election, basically, is that the people in the middle won't bother to show up; there are many fewer independents and many fewer moderates in their sample than you usually get in Massachusetts. Instead, it will be a race between the bases. That could be a good theory, or it could be an artifact of their sample design -- one thing that generally seems true of Rasmussen and some of the IVR pollsters is that they capture a hyper-informed and hyper-partisan electorate. (To wit: Rasmussen shows Coakley getting just 21 percent of the "other" vote -- but 24 percent of the Republican vote.)

By the way, that's not necessarily meant to imply that Rasmussen is lowballing Coakley's number. It could be that they're low on Brown instead. Or that they have two wrongs which more or less make a right. Or that they have the race completely nailed. Or that they've completely flubbed it up.

Not exactly a rousing endorsement, but not a total repudiation either.

For what it's worth (which is to say, zilch), I don't have much concern that MA will go red, special election notwithstanding. But the Democrats had better not take this race for granted. If they lose Kennedy's seat (Oh, my GOD!!!), they're in for a rough, rough year.


  1. Dan, There is about as much chance an "R" will take Kennedy's seat as GJ will become a screaming liberal and campaign for an Obama second term.

  2. JFK kept us from being fried nuclear style in the Cuban Missle Crisis? Ye gods and little fishes, JFK was the proximate CAUSE of the Cuban Missle Crisis. Srsly, check out any non-haigiographic account, and the view is that Kennedy's disasterous meetup with Khrushchev, coupled with the bay of Pigs fiasco, left the Soviets with the impression that Mr. Kennedy was, and I quote, "too young, intellectual, not prepared well for decision making in a crisis situation" and that he was "too intelligent and too weak." Hummmm, that sounds vaguely familiar, like someone today, doesn't it?

    I can go on, but any decent book on the history of nuclear weapons will make it clear just how close the world came to seeing Russia and the US East Coast nuked until they glowed.

    Back on the MA Senate race... I'm pulling hard for Mr. Brown to kick Democratic ass. That would be 41 Rs, and the end of InsaneCare.

  3. Dan, you have to be old enough, as I am, to have lived during the Kennedy era. He had a mystique, a charisma, and a glamour that is impossible to describe. Granted, I was ten when he was elected and thirteen when he was assassinated, so I didn't follow his politics much, but Camelot was . . . well, Camelot. This explains a lot of it.


  4. Wow, mystique, charisma, and glamour? That too seems to remind me of some more recent political character. I'd advise Pres. Sca, er, Obama to avoid parades in Dallas. I hope he can avoid miring us in a land war in Asia... wait, never mind, scratch that... and avoid bringing the world to the brink of nuclear disaster by a feckless foreign policy.

  5. Um... John? You were what, asleep for the past decade? Obama, whatever his faults, isn't responsible for miring us in any wars in Asia. That would be his predecessor.

  6. I don't hold Iraq against him; Iraq is Bush's conflict without question.

    Afghanistan, OTOH, is an equestrian animal of an entirely different hue. Pres. Obama owns that war now -- and really, what exactly are our goals there? -- and anything he starts up in Pakistan and Yemen. The US is now flying drones in Pakistan and Yemen, blowing up stuff and killing civilians in the process. And what, exactly, are our goals in doing that?

  7. Dan, I don't get the Kennedy thing, either. But as Barbara points out, I never felt the magic. The youth, going to the moon, newfound peacetime prosperity stuff.
    I was alive for Clinton, though, and I don't get his mystique either. I'm pretty far left, and that guy gives me the fantods. Ten orders of magnitude more benign than the Reagan and Bush political fantods, of course, but still.

  8. We actually had a portrait of JFK and Bobby in our house hanging up. My dad, in college at the time, volunteered on his campaign. My parents clearly felt it, and it seemed to be what Barbara suggests, more of a charisma and excitement than anything else. Change, youth, glamour, with a soupcon of civil rights progress.

    For the record, I too am toward the left, and have no warmth for the Kennedys or the Clintons.

  9. Well, this *is* encouraging. Perhaps only the geezer demographic will have fond memories of Camelot in the MA election, and those are the people getting the fantods (what an interesting word! I laughed out loud reading it) over ObamaCare and the serial lies necessary to "pass" the bill. MA has elected Rs to office, so perhaps the probability of a Brown victory, while still a longshot, are higher than I would otherwise have thought.

  10. A bit of an aside, but the word "fantods" was beloved of the late, lamented David Foster Wallace. (Naptime and I are both dedicated fans.)

  11. I see that gadfly is back to his trolling ways, history as written by Sarah Palin. For one, Kennedy was not the cause of the missile crisis, the notion that the Russians would have found Richard Nixon, a man that Eisenhower publicly dissed (give me a week and I will think of something nice to say), intimidating is laughable. The Bay of Pigs under Nixon would have been an even bigger disaster since there was no way in hell the Cubans wanted Batista back, and American air cover would simply have killed a lot more people, and after that the Soviets would have done the same thing, installed the missiles, only under Nixon will all would have died.

    Kennedy did a great deal domestically and internationally. He cut the tax rates, bringing in unprecedented prosperity (until Johnson blew it) stood firm in Berlin, won the missile crisis, etc. and was well on his way to crushing Goldwater. He also didn't stand in the way of Civil rights (yes, he could have done more, but Nixon would have been a disaster, preventing MLK from even speaking at the mall)

    Kennedy had a rough first year, but was well on the way of becoming a great President.

    And I refuse to respond to such idiocies as Afghanistan is Obama's war. It is America's war in response to 9/11, to pawn it off on Obama is cowardice and borderline treason. Shame on gadfly for that. I never once said Afghanistan was Bush's war, though at least Obama is finally acting on it instead of putting it on the back burner as Bush did. GF, honestly, that is disgraceful.


  12. Let's see... Kennedy wasn't the cause of the CMC, but apparently some hypotehtical President could have prevented it if only he were intimidating enough. I agree with the second, and fail to see how it lets Pres. K off the hook. I do give him props for eventually standing up to the Rooskies, however, putting the world in danger of nuclear war while learning on the job isn't my idea of a wise President. YMMV.

    Pres. K cut tax rates and the nation grew prosperous? Be careful, you are treading close to heresy and losing your Blue State card.

    Perhaps you isunderstand what I mean by "Bush's war" and "Obama's war." Both Iraq and Afghanistan are indeed American wars. Mr. Bush, as CiC during the major fighting, mistakes, surge, and SOFA agreements, bears great responsibility for the prosecution and outcome of that war. Mr. Obama, having inherited the Afghan mess, has placed his stamp as CiC by his decisions, and therefore bears great responsibility for the prosecution and outcome of *that* war. Not full responsibility, but IMVHO he now has the lion's share. Should Afghanistan go pear-shaped, Mr. Obama will bear the responsibility. Should Afghanistan become a signal success, Mr. Obama will justly reap the credit as CiC.

  13. Hell, gj, the notion that Obama, or Bush for that matter, is singlehandedly responsible for the outcome of a war is ridiculous. Bush was in Afghanistan for 7 and a half years, we won WW2 in half that time, so shall we say Bush failed to "win" that war? Of course not, since there is no winning this war until the Afghanis themselves get their head out of their medievil asses and modernize. The two major faults of Bush were in Tora Bora (really Rummy's fault) and going to Iraq (when that money and effort could have been put to better use in Afghanistan, ie. helping, for example, Kabul modernize so as to present an alternative to goat eating and sodomizing the Taliban is so known for.

    And I find it hard to believe you are against Obama prosecuting the war to greater effect than Bush. If Afghanistan goes in the tank, it will doubtless be to events utterly beyond our control (unless you favor just nuking the whole region) such as Pakistan going belly up, or even just deteriorating further.

    Likewise if Afghanistan begins to improve, credit has to go as much to the dedicated soldiers and aid workers there as Obama.

    To be honest, I believe if McCain had won there would not have been a hairs difference between he and Obama (except rhetorically)

    Finally, there is a huge difference between lowering the top rate down from 90%, and lowering it further later on. Somewhere is the golden mean for taxes. 90% sure as hell ain't it. Acknowledging that doesn't make me less of a Democrat, it just means I pay attention to reality (unlike Republicans who simply believe tax cut, tax cut, tax cut all the way to zero I suppose)