JFK Remembered: What Kennedy Would Approve of and Be Disappointed By in the Time of Obama


sorensen kennedy.jpg
This is a guest note by Ted Sorensen, whose most recent book is Counseler: A Life at the Edge of History. Sorensen, former special counsel and adviser to President John F. Kennedy, is a widely published author on the presidency and foreign affairs.
JFK Remembered
22 November 2009 — 46 years ago today, President John F. Kennedy was killed at the age of 46. Were he alive today, he would find much to gratify and disappoint him.
He would be gratified that once again the torch had been passed to a new generation of Americans, that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream had been fulfilled when last year the descendents of the hands that picked cotton picked the next President of the United States, that it took fewer than 50 years for another non-WASP to reach the White House.
But he would be disappointed that the extraordinary progress this country has made in race relations since his path-breaking speech and comprehensive civil rights legislation of June 1963 – resulting in record numbers of African-American mayors, south and north, as well as members of congress and successful professional and business leaders – have still fallen short by failing to achieve true desegregation of schools, neighborhoods and the top ranks of business.
He would be disappointed that the new President was still listening to – even though not yet convinced by – the old Cold War mindset insisting that more American combat forces could solve what are essentially political problems (e.g. regime change) in foreign lands long unwilling to permit Western forces ever again to occupy or dominate their respective countries, a mindset that Kennedy refused to heed regarding Vietnam.
He would be gratified that U.S. leadership in the exploration of outer-space (made possible by his bold pledge to reach the moon) had prevented the military occupation of space by hostile forces and had also enabled a host of benefits in American science, communications, health and commerce in ways we now take for granted.
He would be disappointed that his unprecedented efforts to renew the constitutional separation of church and state – in a country, as he said, in which “no Catholic prelate” would tell an elected official how to decide what was in the best interest of all Americans – had still not dissuaded the current Roman Catholic hierarchy from trying to punish a good Catholic congressman like JFK’s nephew Patrick for voting his conscience on the question of free reproductive choice for American women.
He would be gratified that the current administration has recognized his repeated emphasis on “man’s survival being a race between population and resources” by restoring American participation in the U.N. World Population Fund.
He would be gratified that the little daughter whom he adored had grown into a brilliant author, mother, and keeper of his flame; but disappointed that the Democratic Party, which he led and cherished, had become virtually as dependent as its opponents upon what Eisenhower called the “military-industrial complex” for campaign contributions, and the lobbying pressures that accompany them.
He would be disappointed, even astounded, that, despite his assassination and the crushing blows that followed – the assassinations of his brother Robert and his friend Dr. King, as well as the attempted assassination of President Ronald Reagan – this country is still awash in handguns easily available to terrorists, the criminally inclined, and the mentally impaired.
The President who strove to keep the federal budget below 100 billion dollars and the annual deficit below 10 billion dollars would be not merely disappointed but staggered by the debt burden in the trillions that his successors in both parties have passed along to his grandchildren and mine.
He would be disappointed that both political parties in Washington today seem to have forgotten his inaugural reminder that “civility is not a sign of weakness” but gratified that, once again, public service at both the national and local level has become “a proud and lively career” for our best and brightest students.
But he would be disappointed that his pride and joy, the Peace Corps, his noblest effort to show the poorest citizens of the poorest countries the true face of the United States – conveying a spirit of good works and good will, not merely greed and guns – has this year failed to achieve in Congress the financing necessary to assure sufficient volunteers to many of the world’s neediest and most deserving nations.
— Ted Sorensen


17 comments on “JFK Remembered: What Kennedy Would Approve of and Be Disappointed By in the Time of Obama

  1. Mr.Murder says:

    Bay of Pigs was a continuation on contigencies Ike’s people wanted. He was smart enough to not go forwared with those plans. See also Viet Nam escalation.
    Obama has actually been more like Ike(as was Clinton). A fiscal interventionist.
    RFK had his own issues as a hot shot type, the Patriot Act would see the AG elevated in new ways, others have the same level of authority now.
    Certainly this would have caused major issues at any time with those who have any sense standing within the means of law’s rule. This extraconstitutional era ushered in by extrajudicial interpretations of electoral ballots was entirely unforseen.


  2. pauline says:

    Certainly JFK would’ve been totally incensed knowing that $20 federal reserve note in his back pocket ain’t worth the paper it’s printed on.
    “On June 4, 1963, a virtually unknown Presidential decree, Executive Order 11110, was signed with the authority to basically strip the Federal Reserve Bank of its power to loan money to the United States Federal Government at interest. With the stroke of a pen, President Kennedy declared that the privately owned Federal Reserve Bank would soon be out of business. The Christian Law Fellowship has exhaustively researched this matter through the Federal Register and Library of Congress. We can now safely conclude that this Executive Order has never been repealed, amended, or superceded by any subsequent Executive Order. In simple terms, it is still valid.
    When President John Fitzgerald Kennedy – the author of Profiles in Courage -signed this Order, it returned to the federal government, specifically the Treasury Department, the Constitutional power to create and issue currency -money – without going through the privately owned Federal Reserve Bank. President Kennedy’s Executive Order 11110 [the full text is displayed further below] gave the Treasury Department the explicit authority: “to issue silver certificates against any silver bullion, silver, or standard silver dollars in the Treasury.” This means that for every ounce of silver in the U.S. Treasury’s vault, the government could introduce new money into circulation based on the silver bullion physically held there. As a result, more than $4 billion in United States Notes were brought into circulation in $2 and $5 denominations. $10 and $20 United States Notes were never circulated but were being printed by the Treasury Department when Kennedy was assassinated. It appears obvious that President Kennedy knew the Federal Reserve Notes being used as the purported legal currency were contrary to the Constitution of the United States of America.
    “United States Notes” were issued as an interest-free and debt-free currency backed by silver reserves in the U.S. Treasury. We compared a “Federal Reserve Note” issued from the private central bank of the United States (the Federal Reserve Bank a/k/a Federal Reserve System), with a “United States Note” from the U.S. Treasury issued by President Kennedy’s Executive Order. They almost look alike, except one says “Federal Reserve Note” on the top while the other says “United States Note”. Also, the Federal Reserve Note has a green seal and serial number while the United States Note has a red seal and serial number.
    President Kennedy was assassinated on November 22, 1963 and the United States Notes he had issued were immediately taken out of circulation. Federal Reserve Notes continued to serve as the legal currency of the nation. According to the United States Secret Service, 99% of all U.S. paper “currency” circulating in 1999 are Federal Reserve Notes.
    Kennedy knew that if the silver-backed United States Notes were widely circulated, they would have eliminated the demand for Federal Reserve Notes. This is a very simple matter of economics. The USN was backed by silver and the FRN was not backed by anything of intrinsic value. Executive Order 11110 should have prevented the national debt from reaching its current level (virtually all of the nearly $9 trillion in federal debt has been created since 1963) if LBJ or any subsequent President were to enforce it. It would have almost immediately given the U.S. Government the ability to repay its debt without going to the private Federal Reserve Banks and being charged interest to create new “money”. Executive Order 11110 gave the U.S.A. the ability to, once again, create its own money backed by silver and realm value worth something.”


  3. DonS says:

    I think it’s pretty hard to predict how those from another era would feel about specific issues today, given the evolution of individuals as well as the evolution, or retrograde devolution of politics over time.
    Take Robert McNamara for instance. Who would have thought he would have had a change of heart and fessed up for all the misguided policy under his watch, actually lies and fabrications?
    Probably a lot more than we’ll ever get out of a Rumsfeld. Cheney is well beyond the pale, even though he should feeling the grim reaper’s footsteps closer than many.
    Gun control aside, my own interest is in how JFK, and RFK for that matter would react to the Bush-Obama creation of an anti-civil liberties surveillance state as a knee jerk reaction to 911 . . . and escalating today.


  4. Mr.Murder says:

    Keep in mind the Air Force Base in Alabama that helped stage the Bay of Pigs trainees had the First Mailsorter avoid ‘Nam service there….


  5. PissedOffAmerican says:

    And by extension of the above, how would JFK react to the shameless hypocricy exhibited at the highests levels of our government in its treatment of the Iranian nuclear ambitions, while ignoring the Symington Amendment which makes it ILLEGAL to send the Israelis ANY money due to its covert nuclear arsenal.
    But hey, lets get in a snipe at American gun owners while ignoring the GLARING issues that has John F Kennedy rolling over in his grave.
    And I wonder how King would feel about torture and rendition, eh?


  6. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Sorenson forgot to mention how bummed out JFK would be to see how powerful, and corrosive, the Israeli lobbies have become. Something tells me Kennedy would be far more concerned about Israel’s covert infiltration of the highest levels of our government than he would be about me possessing a handgun.
    At What Cost the Israel Lobby?
    October 12, 2009 by Jeff Gates
    More than 46 years ago, President John F. Kennedy sought to preclude a nuclear arms race in the Middle East. In June 1963, he wrote the last in a series of insistent letters to Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion. Those letters sought what Israel now demands of Iran: international inspections of its nuclear facilities. The key difference: Kennedy knew for certain that Israel, while portraying itself a friend and ally, repeatedly lied to Kennedy about its nuclear weapons development at the Dimona reactor in the Negev Desert.
    Best estimates point to sometime between 1962 and 1964 when Israel produced its first weapon in what is now a vast nuclear arsenal estimated at 200-400 warheads. Kennedy’s letter to Ben-Gurion was anything but friendly. The words he chose were drawn not from diplomacy but from the instructions that a judge gives a jury on criminal culpability. In that brusque letter, the U.S. commander-in-chief insisted that this purported ally prove “beyond a reasonable doubt” that the Zionist enclave was not developing nuclear weapons.
    One day after that June 15th letter was cabled to Tel Aviv for delivery by the U.S. ambassador, Ben-Gurion abruptly resigned citing undisclosed personal reasons. As his resignation was announced before the letter could be physically delivered, Jewish authors routinely claim that Kennedy’s message failed to reach Ben-Gurion. Nonsense. That interpretative gloss ignores what we now know about Israeli operations inside serial U.S. presidencies—and about Tel Aviv’s routine intercept of White House communications.
    Deprived of an Israeli government with which to negotiate, Kennedy was denied a national security victory that may well have spared the world a problem he foresaw almost a half-century ago. In retrospect, that Israeli conduct raises topical questions about the ability of the U.S.—or any nation—to hold Zionist extremists accountable.
    The Khazars vs. the Kennedys
    During this same 1962-63 period, Senator William J. Fulbright of Arkansas, chairman of the Committee on Foreign Relations, convened hearings on the legal status of the American Zionist Council. The AZC received funds from the Jewish Agency, a predecessor to the state of Israel. As a recipient of U.S. taxpayer funds, the Jewish Agency used those funds to lobby for more funds. Under U.S. law, that conduct required the AZC to register as a foreign agent.
    Attorney General Robert Kennedy joined Fulbright in that quest. That effort was thwarted by the Israel lobby and then by the death of President Kennedy. Thereafter, concerns about the impact of Zionist influence on U.S. policy making continued to grow. By 1973, Fulbright could announce with confidence: “Israel controls the U.S. Senate.” In 1974, he lost his Senate seat.
    Also see;
    “How the Israel Lobby Took Control of U.S. Foreign Policy.”


  7. Lurker says:

    Steve, this is a moving and appropriate tribute by one of America’s
    great thinkers, Ted Sorensen, to another of America’s great
    leaders. Thanks so much for sharing this with us.


  8. pauline says:

    watch it every Nov 22nd and weep for this country.


  9. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Bringing up handguns, implying that somehow they contribute to the assasination of high political figures, is just plain fuckin’ ignorant, if not purposely disingenuous. Rare indeed is the common man wackjob that can get close enough and plan intelligently enough to take out a high placed politician. More often than not, the assassin that appears as such is actually a patsy. To imply that political assassinations are somehow facilitated by private gun ownership robs Sorenson’s essay of any import or credibility. To see his anti-gun BS sold on the grave of a great statesman tells me all I need to know about Sorenson. One wonders if his books are salted with the same kind of shameless sales pitches for distorted reasoning. I won’t be spending my dime to find out.


  10. Outraged American says:

    This is a stirring tribute and thanks much for the remembrances.
    I wonder if Mr. Sorenson would comment on allegations that Joe
    Kennedy bought the 1960 Kennedy/ Nixon election for JFK?
    I too didn’t get the whole thing about handguns in this
    otherwise very interesting piece. People who live out in rural
    areas of this country do need guns to protect themselves.
    When I was car-jacked and nearly killed in LOS ANGELES, so not
    some ranch out in Idaho, it took the cops 45 + minutes to
    We have a right to bear arms for many reasons, but I think that
    this whole gun control issue has become so “liberified” — a
    word I just made up — that suburbanites who wouldn’t know a
    bull if he or she trampled on its sh*t and count on urban law
    enforcement, are just pissing off people out in the country who
    have to be their own police force.
    And so, because of the gun issue, sane people who would
    otherwise go along with many of the things that Kennedy
    espoused, but who have the real, physical need to protect
    themselves, become alienated from progressive ideas that they
    would otherwise be fine with, if not endorse. And the gun issue
    is then allowed to be used as a talking point for the truly crazy
    right wing nuts when it shouldn’t.
    “Liberals” are honestly their own worst enemies. They need to
    get some sense into them about issues like gun control. An old
    saying in Arizona, and all one has to do is go down to South
    Central LA to see it in action is, “If guns are outlawed only
    outlaws would have guns.”
    And then there’s that whole thing about how we need to have
    guns to protect us from the government, which includes Dick
    Cheney, who is such a crack shot he could probably mow us all
    down with a handgun even if he missed our faces.


  11. pauline says:

    He would have been grossly dissapointed in the Warren Commission had it been his VP as the victim.


  12. Mr.Murder says:

    Once I worked with a man who was on the Dallas detail as subcontract to secret service. He says Kennedy was shot “in a crossfire” and it was odd that he was never asked of his viewpoint by the Warren Commission(he was rounding the Plaza curve behind the President).
    In fact, he worked for SCI until the mid 90’s.
    SCI is the largest North American funeral services provider, headquartered in Dallas.
    The entire secret service detail of extra hires worked for SCI in Dallas. The man who put JFK’s head back together on the plane flight to Bethesda was his coworker.
    The company was dubya’s number four career contributor until Enron’s fallout found new ways of channeling money. That is certainly just coincidence.
    Wonder why Sen. Spector never thought to ask questions directly of the entire Secret Service detail? Wouldn’t an eyewitness have testimony important to the event.
    “The reason you see everybody scatter is because the shots were coming from everywhere…”


  13. Karen Ocamb says:

    Thank you for this succinct reminder of how far we’ve come and
    how far we have yet to go.
    Knowing how JFK felt about space, I imagine he might have
    rubbed his hands in glee – Walter Cronkite-like – about the
    possibility of water on Mars:
    And for those who may not know why it was so powerful, here is
    the link to JFK’s famous speech on civil rights –


  14. nadine says:

    Both political parties have shifted ground considerably since JFK’s day. If Kennedy came back today, which party would he belong to?


  15. Saadia C. says:

    Or I should say the trends at certain time periods suggest that debates are more tolerated in society.


  16. Saadia C. says:

    I think a good debate is still needed on these issues of race and what face the U.S. is presenting to the world through its volunteerism overseas. Perhaps I’m opinionated in making my cases, which the trend suggests is well-tolerated, although I understand the other side as well.


  17. PissedOffAmerican says:

    What the hell do handguns have to do with JFK’s or King’s assasination?? Nothing. Not a damned thing.
    If a “cause” has to be advanced or defended by casting BS, its probably not worth advancing or defending. Keep your mitts off my guns.
    Its truly a shame seeing a great statesman’s death being capitalized on so you can spout your anti-gun BS. Worse, its despicable insinuatinmg that JFK would approve of your disingenuous manner of presenting your case.


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