Is That Fair? John Kennedy vs. Mamie Eisenhower??


Zbigniew Brzezinski just engaged in a high-sizzle, must watch exchange on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” this morning with Joe Scarborough, Tucker Carlson and his daughter — Mika Brzezinski.
He offers unadulterated praise for Barack Obama — but as usual and beyond the issue of his endorsement, Brzezinski’s incisive intellect, analysis and wit penetrate to the core many fundamental realities that DC pundits and news commentators and analysts rarely get to.
But before the serious, there was a shockingly humorous metaphor Brzezinski offered.

mamie eisenhower twn.gifBrzezinski provocatively compared Hillary Clinton to Mamie Eisenhower in his commentary and suggested that despite Clinton traveling to more than 80 countries during her First Lady tenure (Brzezinski said his travel agent has been to 150), he said that it’s basically like John F. Kennedy being faced by a challenge from Mamie Eisenhower.
Tucker Carlson said that he would have loved to have had a Clinton surrogate on the show to see the person’s facial shade — which he speculated would be “crimson.”
I am a devoted Brzezinski fan — and his critique of Hillary Clinton’s Iraq War positions are similar to my own — but I differ from him on the Mamie Eisenhower front. Hillary Clinton is a policy junky. Although Ike’s First Lady was a well respected hostess for what was then an unprecedented number of global leaders calling on one of the great American generals turned president of the era, no one would have found Mamie Eisenhower drilling down deep into public policy complexities like Hillary Clinton is known to do.
Brzezinski also fails to note that Hillary Clinton is not only a US Senator (Liddy Dole is too after all) — Clinton is considered by Republicans and Democrats to be one of the few who actually excel in their Senate responsibilities and Senate-craft.
Also and lastly, the role of the First Lady has been changing. Ronald Reagan’s wife, Nancy, clearly had a policy impact. Hillary Clinton was given a formal role by her husband on health care policy. In a similar way, the Office of the Vice President has been changing and has statutorily acquired more power and importance because of the way in which Cheney’s team — particularly his success chiefs of staff Scooter Libby and David Addington — have modified the explicit powers of the VP’s office. No Vice President in the future will be directly comparable to the VP’s of the past.
But on other fronts, Zbigniew Brzezinski frames some of the challenges that Americans need to hear and consider. The entire 8-minute clip should be watched.

But on the Iraq War, Brzezinski stated that America is bogged down in Iraq and now “part of the problem in Iraq.” He said that we need to “disengage intelligently” and “create a political framework in the region that can mitigate the consequences of American withdrawal.”
Brzezinski continued — saying that “McCain will continue the war until there is some kind of victory — the definition of which keeps changing.”
On the economy, Brzezinski stated:

The economy is not only stumbling but the economy reflects fundamental economic injustices in America.
The rich have gotten richer. The poor have gotten poorer. The gaps have widened and the system is unresponsive. . .

On the Middle East and specifically on Israel-Palestine, Brzezinski said:

. . .The region to change has to evolve on its own and its own culture has to adapt.
You don’t change a region by injecting a foreign army and pulverizing a state and then saying that you are in fact nurturing democracy.
I think we have to be helpful but we have to avoid actions that inflame the region. This is why it is very important to try to bring the war in Iraq to an end.
It is equally important to try to help the Israelis and the Palestinans reach peace because their conflict not only inflames the region but is devastating for the Israelis and for the Palestinians — and in different ways, there is suffering on both sides.
And if we can step in and in some fashion broker a compromise between the Israelis and the Palestinians, for which incidentally the public opinions on both sides in Israel and among the Palestinians is far more ready than many people in this country realize, we can really contribute to a much more stable Middle East.

I have learned recently that Zbigniew Brzezinski’s primer on the presidential decision-making approaches on national security taken by George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush — Second Chance: Three Presidents and the Crisis of American Superpower — will be out this next month in paperback with a new foreward.
Regardless of whether people agree with Brzezinski on his comparisons of Hillary Clinton to Mamie Eisenhower, his deeper analysis of the way in which presidents approach national security crises and make decisions is important.
— Steve Clemons


26 comments on “Is That Fair? John Kennedy vs. Mamie Eisenhower??

  1. jd says:

    “Will add that HRC would make a good Supreme Court justice.”
    Hillary? Supreme Justice? I think she’d prefer running around
    under “sniper fire”. and do we have any First Lady + Supreme
    Justice case? no? there probably, is a very good reason for it, let’s
    ask Clemons.


  2. Dan O'Donnell says:

    Agree with Kovie. Will add that HRC would make a good Supreme Court justice.


  3. Mr.Murder says:

    Brzezinski got a little Napoleonic with that stretch of reasoning.
    Just before WW2 JFK was basically an apprentice to his father’s ambassador work in London.
    He also served in the House and Senate, longer than Obama, if I’m not mistaken.
    He toured Europe after WW2 extensively as well. Much with pretty solid diplomatic transparency and detailed note.
    Notes, things Obama admits he doesn’t take well, or at least he’s said as much while gambling at cards and chain smoking. It’s not a roll of the dice to vote for him, but it isn’t far from that equivalent.
    Oh, JFK also served in the Navy during WW2 and was decorated for valor, about the age range Barack was experimenting with the real thing.
    One should ask Brzez if he has a horse in the race, with his pandering to one’s profile. Of course we know that already.
    Dice, cards, gambling, horse racing, too bad HST isn’t around to join Obama for some chain smoking. Maybe he’d give him the mask he once gave Muhammad Ali, understanding of his ability to elevate personality. Barack could use it to scare people concerned with Rev.Wright’s antics back to his side in some way, perhaps.


  4. Tintin says:

    Excellent point, Kovie.


  5. John Leiffer says:

    “Hillary Clinton is a policy junky.”
    The word “junkie” indicates one who is physically or psychologically
    addicted to a point where the focus of the addiction is sought to
    the detriment of other needs. I would LOVE to see a policy junkie
    as an advisor to a leader who has ability to take the information
    and inspire those around him or her into action. I keep trying, but I
    have yet to be convinced that Hillary has the ability to inspire
    others to act, except through negativity.
    Junkies and wonks are great for research and advising, but don’t
    expect generation of the passion and determination required to get
    anything done.


  6. Steve Clemons says:

    Kovie — your comparison of Clinton to Eleanor Roosevelt makes a great deal of sense. Roosevelt is someone I could have imagined running for a Senate seat, serving as Secretary General of the UN, or running for the presidency — in different times.
    best, steve clemons


  7. kovie says:

    I’m hardly what you’d call a Clinton fan these days but, while I initially laughed when I read this, I quickly realized that it was really unfair–to both Clinton and Eisenhower (about whom I know very little, but to imply that she was not a serious person is, well, mean and unwarranted). I think that a far more apt comparison would have been Eleanor Roosevelt. And, as you wrote, she wasn’t a senator, unlike Clinton. And Obama hasn’t yet reached JFK-like levels of experience on the national level.
    To imply that Clinton has little meaningful political experience is about as silly as Clinton claiming that her experience vastly outmatches Obama’s. The reality is somewhere between these two extremes. And I say this as an Obama supporter. I’m just not into this whole oversimplification stuff.
    Except when it comes to BushCo. Yeah, they make Harding and Buchanan look good.


  8. Carroll says:

    I don’t see Hillary as like Mamie at all.
    I do like another poster’s idea that if Hillary wants to stay in US government she should be appointed to the Supreme Court, although she would need to brush up on her law.
    There she could “delve” and “craft” to her hearts content and she would be removed from any opportunities to pander for political gain.
    It’s the perfect spot for her.


  9. JamesL says:

    Hillary! Hillary!!
    Hillary!!!! We need her!!!! To take over Condi’s job.


  10. ken melvin says:

    Leaving beside the experience factor (or lack thereof), if Obama were to undergo a sex change, he’d have the greater claim; but, as it is, US women have been longer denied in greater numbers.
    In the grand scheme, neither matter. The party matters. Else, we’ve a 7 to 2 court for another generation or more and right wing judges everywhere. Neat this strategy of winning red southern states because of being black, hard to counter, but come November it’ll not be those that decide. It’ll be Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida, … that decide the election and (sadly) Obama can’t carry them.
    The press, including Josh Marshall, have let us down. When history is writ, the story was the southern strategy of the Obama camp, the caucus states, the rethugs who voted for Obama because they thought/knew they could defeat him in November, …
    So, another debacle, one akin McGovern, Dukakis, …, is a hand. I Know – I walked precincts for McGovern – you have to have the working class dems behind you. McGovern was head and shoulders above tricky dick – but he didn’t get the base behind him. They will not vote for Obama either.
    I am not impressed with the ‘progressive’ blogosphere. They are as bad as the wingnut right, e.g., they don’t deal well with reality, would gladly pull the house down around them, would be the first to blame the ignorant stupid masses for the loss, …
    Ah but you say, anyone can beat McCain. In Missouri, Ohio, …. It won’t matter how senile, stupid, corrupt, … McCain is. They’ll vote for him because is a white man. Truth be, the whole of the south including the border states will not vote for a black man or a white woman.
    Finally, it is time and time we had a female president. Hillary has worked hard, is deserving, and is most qualified. Time and time the nation males kicked off the scot-irish (and other) misogynistic shackles.


  11. Tahoe Editor says:

    Forget gender, his obnoxious & foolish comment is obnoxious & foolish on its face — as is Michelle’s “I’d have to examine her tone” before I support her over the GOP nominee.
    These folks have been believing their own press for way too long …


  12. leo says:

    “I’m confident I will get her voters if I’m the nominee,” Obama said Friday. “It’s not clear that she would get the voters I got if she were the nominee.”
    This is the quote via the Globe and the context was turnout – not the female vote, that’s your little addition TE.
    So, in the absence of the false “female boycott” context it doesn’t seem quite so “obnoxious & foolish.”
    Particularly as he’s lead in the popular vote, states, and delegates, from day one and looks to finish the primaries as the leader and candidate.


  13. Tahoe Editor says:

    Hear, hear, wasa2.
    “I’m confident that I will get her votes if I’m the nominee; it’s not clear that she would get the votes I got if she were the nominee” will go down in history among BO’s more obnoxious & foolish comments.


  14. David N says:

    What if Kennedy ran against Ethel Roosevelt? She played an active and major role in the negotiation of the U.N. Statement on Human Rights, after all. Not small potatoes, as it turns out.
    The point is, just being something, just being somewhere, demonstrates nothing. It’s what you did when you were there that counts.


  15. wasa2 says:

    I say everyone should keep up the denigrating of Clinton. Then you can scratch your heads and look really suprised with the women’s vote come November.


  16. susan says:

    Hillary tells a whopper. (Check out the photo of her courageously dodging deadly sniper fire.)
    “I remember landing under sniper fire. There was supposed to be some kind of a greeting ceremony at the airport, but instead we just ran with our heads down to get into the vehicles to get to our base.”
    –Hillary Clinton, speech at George Washington University, March 17, 2008.
    From the Washington Post
    Hillary Clinton has been regaling supporters on the campaign trail with hair-raising tales of a trip she made to Bosnia in March 1996. In her retelling, she was sent to places that her husband, President Clinton, could not go because they were “too dangerous.” When her account was challenged by one of her traveling companions, the comedian Sinbad, she upped the ante and injected even more drama into the story. In a speech earlier this week, she talked about “landing under sniper fire” and running for safety with “our heads down.”
    There are numerous problems with Clinton’s version of events.
    The Facts
    As a reporter who visited Bosnia soon after the December 1995 Dayton Peace agreement, I can attest that the physical risks were minimal during this period, particularly at a heavily fortified U.S. Air Force base, such as Tuzla. Contrary to the claims of Hillary Clinton and former Army secretary Togo West, Bosnia was not “too dangerous” a place for President Clinton to visit in early 1996. In fact, the first Clinton to visit the Tuzla Air Force base was not Hillary, but Bill, on January 13, 1996.
    Had Hillary Clinton’s plane come “under sniper fire” in March 1996, we would certainly have heard about it long before now. Numerous reporters, including the Washington Post’s John Pomfret, covered her trip. A review of nearly 100 news accounts of her visit shows that not a single newspaper or television station reported any security threat to the First Lady. “As a former AP wire service hack, I can safely say that it would have been in my lead had anything like that happened,” said Pomfret.
    According to Pomfret, the Tuzla airport was “one of the safest places in Bosnia” in March 1996, and “firmly under the control” of the 1st Armored Division.
    Far from running to an airport building with their heads down, Clinton and her party were greeted on the tarmac by smiling U.S. and Bosnian officials. An eight-year-old Moslem girl, Emina Bicakcic, read a poem in English. An Associated Press photograph of the greeting ceremony, above, shows a smiling Clinton bending down to receive a kiss.
    “There is peace now,” Emina told Clinton, according to Pomfret’s report in the Washington Post the following day, “because Mr. Clinton signed it. All this peace. I love it.”
    The First Lady’s schedule, released on Wednesday and available here, confirms that she arrived in Tuzla at 8.45 a.m. and was greeted by various dignitaries, including Emina Bicakcic, (whose name has mysteriously been redacted from the document.)
    You can see CBS News footage of the arrival ceremony here. The footage shows Clinton walking calmly out of the back of the C-17 military transport plane that brought her from Ramstein Air Force Base in Germany.
    Among the U.S. officials on hand to greet Clinton at the airport was Maj. Gen. William Nash, the commander of U.S. troops in Bosnia. Nash told me that he was unaware of any security threat to Clinton during her eight-hour stay in Tuzla. He said, however, that Clinton had a “busy schedule” and may have got the impression that she was being hurried on her way.
    According to Sinbad, who provided entertainment on the trip along with the singer Sheryl Crow, the “scariest” part was deciding where to eat. As he told Mary Ann Akers of The Post, “I think the only ‘red-phone’ moment was: ‘Do we eat here or at the next place.'” Sinbad questioned the premise behind the Clinton version of events. “What kind of president would say ‘Hey man, I can’t go ’cause I might get shot so I’m going to send my wife. Oh, and take a guitar player and a comedian with you.”
    Replying to Sinbad earlier this week, Clinton dismissed him as “a comedian.” Her campaign referred me to Togo West, who was also on the trip and is a staunch Hillary supporter. West could not remember “sniper fire” himself, but said there was no reason to doubt the First Lady’s version of events. “Everybody’s perceptions are different,” he told me.
    Clinton made no mention of “sniper fire” in her autobiography “Living History,” published in 2003, although she did say there were “reports of snipers” in the hills around the airport.
    The Pinocchio Test
    Clinton’s tale of landing at Tuzla airport “under sniper fire” and then running for cover is simply not credible. Photographs and video of the arrival ceremony, combined with contemporaneous news reports, tell a very different story. Four Pinocchios.


  17. Cee says:

    Quite fair and a great way to start my morning yesterday!
    I was off to good start today too after seeing photos of Bill and HILLARY with Rev. Wright.
    They didn’t think that their kitchen sink would be landing on them.


  18. JohnH says:

    “Clinton is considered by Republicans and Democrats to be one of the few who actually excel in their Senate responsibilities.” But can anyone cite anything exceptional that she has done–a notable hearing, and important bill, a courageous speech? Anything at all besides surviving Monica, failing at her healthcare initiative, and being on the Board at Walmart?
    Funny how supporters cite her experience and their esteem for her, but offer nothing to back their opinions.


  19. tobie says:

    I have no reason to doubt that Hillary Clinton played a more important role in the foreign policy of her husband than any other first lady. The question is what was the extent of this involvement and does it really prepare her to be President. The article in today’s Washington Post showing how she has embellished, if not fabricated, her narrative about her trip to Bosnia is pretty damning. It makes it hard to trust any of her assertions about her experience.


  20. Game_Over says:

    you dear friend Josh Marshall has this to say regarding the state of the race: “The obstacles in the way of Hillary Clinton are virtually insurmountable. And her now-sizable deficit among pledged voters is only one of them. Everyone in the press, probably including us, should be much more candid about that.”
    Somehow I think you disagree with him.


  21. 007 says:

    Perhaps Zbig would like to comment on his daughter’s role as Joe’s office wife and comic relief.


  22. Tahoe Editor says:

    Obama’s Shallow Credentials on National Security Are Dangerous for the Country
    by Joe Wilson


  23. ploeg says:

    Hillary Clinton was given a formal role by her husband on health care policy.
    Indeed. That would be domestic policy experience, not foreign experience. And there’s not a lot of evidence that she’s learned from that experience.
    The whole experience thing is a red herring. JFK said that there was no school for presidents, and he was right. JFK made his share of mistakes, but he showed the willingness to hear other points of view and learn when he made mistakes. Bush came in without experience, and went downhill from there.


  24. ken melvin says:

    Brzezinski’s usually wrong. Brilliantly so, but still wrong.


  25. MarkL says:

    And how does Obama’s experience compare with any President’s for the last 70 years? Of course Bush wasn’t prepared, and he has been a disaster.
    Obama is smart, accomplished, educated—but he is no more ready to be President than Paul Krugman or Laurence Tribe—or Ed Witten, for that matter.
    In terms of relevant experience, he’s very short.
    In additions, his signature achievements in the IL legislature were part of a package that was dumped in his lap during his last year, to pump up his resume for the Senate run. Now in the Senate 3 years, he hardly takes his job seriously.


  26. leo says:

    After living through the past few dirty weeks of Clinton’s kitchen sink defense, I say “Yes”… quite fair in my book, a happy ray of sunshine in the right place from an adult.


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