I’m in a Boomer kind of mood right now. It’s JFK’s 50th anniversary of his inauguration and I remember it like it was yesterday. It was the beginning of the second semester of my senior year in high school, and I was pissed that I wasn’t 18 and I couldn’t vote for Kennedy. I was in Catholic school so JFK was like a God to us all. First Catholic president ever! Hooray, for the Catholics around the world. Hooray, for the Pope (Pope John XXIII)! Hooray for all of us Catholics who endured those Holy Name nuns and ugly school uniforms.
It was a high flyin’ Democratic world in those years. We just got rid of Ike, old Ike and World War II was a memory. We had hope and prosperity ahead and a good looking president and first lady. We didn’t know a whole heck a lot about JFK except he came from a family of nine kids and had a father that was the Ambassador to England and before that Joe Kennedy bootlegged scotch into America from Ireland. He couldn’t be all that bad. John Kennedy had a mysterious and beautiful wife who spoke like she had half of her throat closed up, but she knew a heck of a lot about art and she had decorating skills. They were both rich and endowed with smarts. And JFK knew all the best and the brightest in the Eastern establishment and that was when intellect counted as an attribute in those days. No one honored citizens who carried guns and spouted Second Amendment rights.
It’s all nostalgic now and all “once upon a time in Camelot” fairy tale remembrances, but the real truth came out later and the picture got more complicated and more scary. I was listening to NRP this morning and heard a political science professor speaking about when presidents or heads of state lie to one another (think Wiki Leaks) or worse, when presidents and heads of state lie to their people. He just wrote a book about this subject with a very long title. Is it right or is it wrong? Is it necessary sometimes or is it not necessary at all? Lying. Mendacity as Big Daddy says in “Cat On A Hot Tin Roof.” JFK lied to us. He never told us how dangerous it was during the Cuban Missile Crisis. We found out later in books and reports that we were hours from a nuclear disaster. Our president didn’t want to worry us, and that was thoughtful and probably for the best because the true story as it materialized in later years was truly frightening. So the professor said that it was okay that JFK lied to us, but that ordinarily it was better to lie to heads of other states and nations than to the people. (see Wiki Leaks) Looking back on those 11 days of terror that we didn’t know about, it seems to me the voting public could have come together in support and made it a moment of brilliance together. But what do I know of human nature.
So last night before Bill Maher, I was watching this new Piers Morgan interview show and noting that George Clooney is beautiful and sexy but not so fascinating as others think he is, and this fluff piece was dying on the vine as the real news about Keith Olbermann’s leaving MSNBC woke everyone up. Days after Viacom bought the NBC, Keith O decided to bail from his truth perch probably because to stay on with his unique (part Billy the Kid/part Elmer Gantry) signature show would be an uphill battle with Viacom. It didn’t matter that he built the NBC offshoot and made it into a success with Rachel Maddow and Larry O’Donnell following close behind. I think Keith O deciding to leave is about the truth, truth-seeking and truth processing in news today. We’ve got a lot of lying talking heads around town and the truth gets distorted and lost and the guys that do that are bullies. There has to be someone on the other side who dissects the failed logic.
On that point: last night on Maher’s show, this conservative political writer for The Wall Street Journal had so many statistics and facts incorrect that Rachel Maddow had to stand up and cut through this guy’s babbling nonsense to re-establish the truth. Gee, I hope Rachel and Larry aren’t canned any time soon because we will have to search high and low to recruit the truth- tellers. You have to go a long way to find a Keith O- truth-teller.
Should leaders tell their constituents the truth? Damn right! We don’t get enough of the truth. The truth should get us prepared for facing our issues head on with logic and planning and executing . The truth should be brave and unequivocal and a lightening rod for sound reasoning. We vote and we are owed the truth because when the lie comes out, it isn’t flattering or reputable and we pay a price somewhere down the line.
I think us boomers can relate to that.