The Death of Camelot

Fifty years ago, American government -- even American society -- entered into a wonderland of youth, prettiness, chic, and charisma. John Kennedy had defeated Richard Nixon in the presidential debates (or at least JFK defeated Nixon in the eyes of the millions of Americans who watched the debates -- those who heard them on the radio felt that Nixon had won). The election of 1960 was incredibly close and could have torn the country apart, except that mean-spirited Nixon (unlike Nobel Prize winner Gore) chose to concede and spare the nation a political civil war.

A glorious age was about to begin! The sophisticates and academicians -- the aristocrats of the republic -- would now guide us to a new Golden Age. John Kennedy was handsome, young, and married to a wife with movie star looks. Television was endemic in American life, and color television on large screens would very soon replace the small black-and-white television in the living room. Kennedy inspired us (or at least we were told that he inspired us over and over again), but it was hard to put one's finger on exactly what Kennedy actually did.

He quickly fumbled his meeting in quasi-summit in Vienna with Khrushchev, showing just how much less our young president knew about the world than Eisenhower, the balding older man who guided a coalition of democracies in a crusade against Hitler and then presided for eight years over a peaceful, respected America. Kennedy horribly mishandled the Bay of Pigs Invasion, leaving freedom-fighters to face Castro's Gulag so JFK would not have to face too many questions. It is ironic that the "highpoint" of Kennedy in the White House was that he brought the world to the brink of nuclear war and then "won" (which meant that we gained nothing but looked as if we did). When Oswald killed Kennedy, he also killed for decades any serious critique of the calamity which was Camelot. 

We now know that Kennedy consorted with the molls of mafia dons, that his adulteries -- lying to his wife and to his family -- were almost endless, and that his personal life was well-hidden by the press. We know that he used the IRS to hound his political enemies with a vengeance that made Nixon's "enemies list" seem tame by comparison. John Kennedy had a magnificent public image but nothing at all of substance as president. Democrats since then have been trying to remake themselves into JFK and bring back a "Camelot," which was a low period in American government and politics, spiced up as something grand and special. Bobby Kennedy, another self-indulgent, adulterous, spoiled son of a rich, crooked anti-Semite, is forever lionized, like JFK, for the nobility of being gunned down by a fanatic. Teddy is the clearest example of the full life of one of these Camelot Kids, and there is nothing pretty at all about this debauch riding on his family's name and Senate seniority. (Is anyone these days claiming that he voted for health care in remembrance of Teddy? That was, recall, part of the original game plan in Teddy's Grand Political Funeral.)

John Kerry did his best to wrap the soiled robe of JFK around his neck, but Americans were not impressed. John Edwards was once hailed as being like John Kennedy, but aside from hideous adulteries and lies -- and the same surname -- the two former senators had little else in common. Surely the newest pretender to the throne in Camelot is Barack Obama. There can be little doubt that his mother must have worshiped JFK and that the lie he told about JFK bringing his father over from Kenya was influenced by that hero-worship.

Obama, if asked to compare himself to any other president, would doubtless choose -- without wasting a second -- JFK. Why? Because Obama, much more than wanting to actually do anything, wanted to be seen as doing something. Obamacare, for example, is doubtless his grand attempt at grimy socialism, but does anyone really believe that Obama is disciplined or bright enough to actually understand the law? Perception -- Camelot -- is everything to Obama. That is why Obama has a photo-op every day, why he offers opinions on everything, why he wants to be in your living room as much as he can -- and why this man-child cannot govern anything at all.

But Camelot is dead. We are no longer awed by glitz. We grasp that a teleprompter-in-chief needs only to read in order to sound clever. We see, moreover, the debris of Hollywood, the sickness of so much celebrity, and the grotesque invention of importance in reality television. Looking pretty in front of the camera may once have wowed us, but now it bores us instead. Talking in soundbites and catchphrases once may have seemed smart, but today, it just sounds small-minded. We see, in retrospect, that Camelot was pure spun sugar. No one, however, has told Obama yet. (Don't worry: someone will soon.)

Bruce Walker is the author of a new book: Poor Lenin's Almanac: Perverse Leftists Proverbs for Modern Life.
Fifty years ago, American government -- even American society -- entered into a wonderland of youth, prettiness, chic, and charisma. John Kennedy had defeated Richard Nixon in the presidential debates (or at least JFK defeated Nixon in the eyes of the millions of Americans who watched the debates -- those who heard them on the radio felt that Nixon had won). The election of 1960 was incredibly close and could have torn the country apart, except that mean-spirited Nixon (unlike Nobel Prize winner Gore) chose to concede and spare the nation a political civil war.

A glorious age was about to begin! The sophisticates and academicians -- the aristocrats of the republic -- would now guide us to a new Golden Age. John Kennedy was handsome, young, and married to a wife with movie star looks. Television was endemic in American life, and color television on large screens would very soon replace the small black-and-white television in the living room. Kennedy inspired us (or at least we were told that he inspired us over and over again), but it was hard to put one's finger on exactly what Kennedy actually did.

He quickly fumbled his meeting in quasi-summit in Vienna with Khrushchev, showing just how much less our young president knew about the world than Eisenhower, the balding older man who guided a coalition of democracies in a crusade against Hitler and then presided for eight years over a peaceful, respected America. Kennedy horribly mishandled the Bay of Pigs Invasion, leaving freedom-fighters to face Castro's Gulag so JFK would not have to face too many questions. It is ironic that the "highpoint" of Kennedy in the White House was that he brought the world to the brink of nuclear war and then "won" (which meant that we gained nothing but looked as if we did). When Oswald killed Kennedy, he also killed for decades any serious critique of the calamity which was Camelot. 

We now know that Kennedy consorted with the molls of mafia dons, that his adulteries -- lying to his wife and to his family -- were almost endless, and that his personal life was well-hidden by the press. We know that he used the IRS to hound his political enemies with a vengeance that made Nixon's "enemies list" seem tame by comparison. John Kennedy had a magnificent public image but nothing at all of substance as president. Democrats since then have been trying to remake themselves into JFK and bring back a "Camelot," which was a low period in American government and politics, spiced up as something grand and special. Bobby Kennedy, another self-indulgent, adulterous, spoiled son of a rich, crooked anti-Semite, is forever lionized, like JFK, for the nobility of being gunned down by a fanatic. Teddy is the clearest example of the full life of one of these Camelot Kids, and there is nothing pretty at all about this debauch riding on his family's name and Senate seniority. (Is anyone these days claiming that he voted for health care in remembrance of Teddy? That was, recall, part of the original game plan in Teddy's Grand Political Funeral.)

John Kerry did his best to wrap the soiled robe of JFK around his neck, but Americans were not impressed. John Edwards was once hailed as being like John Kennedy, but aside from hideous adulteries and lies -- and the same surname -- the two former senators had little else in common. Surely the newest pretender to the throne in Camelot is Barack Obama. There can be little doubt that his mother must have worshiped JFK and that the lie he told about JFK bringing his father over from Kenya was influenced by that hero-worship.

Obama, if asked to compare himself to any other president, would doubtless choose -- without wasting a second -- JFK. Why? Because Obama, much more than wanting to actually do anything, wanted to be seen as doing something. Obamacare, for example, is doubtless his grand attempt at grimy socialism, but does anyone really believe that Obama is disciplined or bright enough to actually understand the law? Perception -- Camelot -- is everything to Obama. That is why Obama has a photo-op every day, why he offers opinions on everything, why he wants to be in your living room as much as he can -- and why this man-child cannot govern anything at all.

But Camelot is dead. We are no longer awed by glitz. We grasp that a teleprompter-in-chief needs only to read in order to sound clever. We see, moreover, the debris of Hollywood, the sickness of so much celebrity, and the grotesque invention of importance in reality television. Looking pretty in front of the camera may once have wowed us, but now it bores us instead. Talking in soundbites and catchphrases once may have seemed smart, but today, it just sounds small-minded. We see, in retrospect, that Camelot was pure spun sugar. No one, however, has told Obama yet. (Don't worry: someone will soon.)

Bruce Walker is the author of a new book: Poor Lenin's Almanac: Perverse Leftists Proverbs for Modern Life.