In claiming he will "Make America Great Again," Donald Trump is evoking some pre-Vietnam era of prosperity where the world drove American cars and “we won wars”. Maybe he is evoking the storied days of Camelot when President Kennedy led the nation back from a recession to have the best GDP growth rate of any modern President.
From his first minutes as President, when he announced that "the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans," Kennedy boldly pressed the nation to seize the future. "We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard."
He pledged to defend human rights and liberty at home and abroad. He challenged the nation to fulfill its promise and end racial segregation. When the Soviet Union built a hideous wall in Berlin, he came to the beleaguered city’s defense and declared
All free men, wherever they may live, are citizens of Berlin, and, therefore, as a free man, I take pride in the words ‘Ich bin ein Berliner!’
As a veteran who lost a brother in the war and scholar who wrote about the events that led to World War II, Kennedy appreciated the dangerous times he lived in. His resolve and composure forced the Soviets to back down in the Cuban Missile Crisis and avoided a potential nuclear war, while his foresight led him to begin the era of arms control with the Nuclear Test Ban.
As we celebrate his centennial, Kennedy remains the country's most popular modern President and he almost predicted this in the last year of his life when he said
A man may die, nations may rise and fall, but an idea lives on. Ideas have endurance without death.
President Trump is Camelot's negative image - "Tolemac" you might say. President Kennedy propelled us into the space age, while Trump seeks the comfort of an age that has long since past.
President Kennedy said we would "pay any price, bear any burden . . . oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty" at home or abroad, while President Trump has surrounded himself with white supremacist, embraced bigotry and praised brutal dictators in Egypt, Turkey, the Philippines and Russia.
When the Soviet Union threatened Berlin, President Kennedy stood shoulder-to-shoulder with them. As our NATO allies grow alarmed by Russia's recent annexation of Crimea and more aggressive posture, Trump instead has scolded them and offered no reassurance should Russia strike into Europe. This led German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the new leader of the free world, to declare that Europe can no longer count on its longtime friend and must fend for itself.
Kennedy embraced science to lead us into space which was a major contributor to the growth of Silicon Valley and the technology revolution we see today. Rather than do the same and became a global leader in renewable energy, President Trump is suppressing the release of scientific information on climate change and embracing the leading energy source of the 19th century - coal.
Kennedy also honored the best in America by bringing artists like Pablo Casals, Igor Stravinsky and Marian Anderson along with Nobel Prize winners to the White House. President Trump has brought Ted Nugent, Kid Rock and Sarah Palin.
Because Kennedy so eloquently stood for and communicated American ideals, he remains loved today and there are children, streets and memorials to him across the globe. In contrast, Donald Trump stands only for his own enrichment and, to date, the only thing someone else has named in his honor is toilet paper in Mexico.
It goes without saying that Donald Trump is "no Jack Kennedy," sadly he is not even a George W. Bush.
As we rightfully celebrate President Kennedy's centennial it is also evident that Trump is neither Kennedy nor a Reaganesque Great Communicator but rather is the Great Pretender. After only five months, it is evident that his Presidency is and will be a failure that will only diminish American greatness. The only question now is how and when this ignoble disaster comes to an end.