It took a lot of chutzpah for Paul Ryan to conflate his policies with those of John F. Kennedy at last night’s Vice Presidential debate. I half expected Joe Biden to steal Lloyd Bentsen’s line and proclaim to the bratty congressman, “I knew Jack Kennedy, and you, sir, are no Jack Kennedy.” But then I realized that Biden was only 21 years old when Kennedy was assassinated. It would be eight more years before Biden went to Washington as a U.S. Senator.
Kennedy’s approach to governing was the antithesis of that of the Ryan/Romney ticket. JFK’s greatest accomplishment during his tragically short tenure was the commitment to send Americans to the moon. In today’s dollars, President Kennedy committed $165 billion to a program that promoted science, infrastructure, and technology and which had tremendous payoff in the emergence of semiconductor technology, computers, and life science. The Apollo program boosted education at all levels. It galvanized a nation toward meeting a difficult goal and arguably helped end the Cold War. Ryan, by contrast, would commit large sums of national treasure to tax breaks for the rich, subsidies for the oil companies, privatization (i.e. profitization) of essential government services, and bail outs of his Wall Street friends. Infrastructure investments like high-speed rail and clean energy should be this generation’s Apollo program, but they are not priorities on the Ryan/Romney agenda.
So, Mr. Ryan, if you are going to use a doppelganger to promote your campaign, you should not mention JFK, whose policies you abhor. Instead, invoke the former president you really emulate – George W. Bush – the guy who brought this nation’s economy to the brink of Great Depression II before the Obama/Biden team rescued it.