All entries for January 2009

January 20, 2009

Mis–marketing Obama

I’m intrigued by the way that Barack Obama is being heralded as the new John F Kennedy and I wonder if the JFK star is not the one that anyone really would want to be hitched to.

Kennedy won the 1960 election by being better looking and a better orator than his opponent, Richard Nixon. But once in office, it seems that he achieved… well, not a huge amount really. True, he gave some great speeches: the inaugural “ask not what your country…”, “ich bin ein Berliner” and “we go to the moon” but perhaps we should be slapping his speechwriter, Ted Sorensen, on the back instead.

Kennedy wasn’t a great one for domestic legislation. Look at what his successor, Lyndon B Johnson achieved in his term in building his Great Society.

Nor was he a great one for foreign policy achievements. The Bay of Pigs was quietly swept under the carpet and the Cuban crisis could be said to have been resolved by his going public with the information. Kruschev’s fait accompli wasn’t and a quick bit of horse trading over some obsolete missiles in Turkey and the crisis was resolved to everyone’s satisfaction. Both superpowers could claim victory and get on with life as before: it wasn’t about nuclear brinkmanship, but managing expectations. And Nixon possibly achieved more in his time as President in terms of foreign policy than Kennedy did.

Maybe JFK’s greatest achievement was in getting America to the moon. Whatever the merits of the manned space program it was a very tangible achievement.

So Kennedy was a great orator and so is Obama. But I, for one, have higher hopes of him achieving more in his time than Kennedy did! Of course, Obama’s party controls both houses of Congress so I imagine it will be easy for him to get busy in the first couple of years, at least!

So, why pick out the name of Ted Sorensen? Well, there is a story that six months after JFK’s inauguration following the incredibly close 1960 election, Richard Nixon ran into Sorensen and the two men got talking. Nixon said, ‘There were things in that speech I wish I’d said.’ Sorensen said, ‘You mean, “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country?” ’ And Nixon said, ‘No, I was thinking more of, “I hereby solemnly swear. . . ’ ”


January 14, 2009

Should a man assist a woman on her own?

Which man would be willing to give a woman on her own a lift in a rain storm?

A little while back a train service I was using stopped short of its destination and a bus was laid on to get us to its final station. A pregnant woman complained to the coach at large that she had missed her bus connection and so was stranded, not being able to afford a taxi. Now the weather turned nasty and, as I went to pull out of the car park, I saw this woman on her own at the (unsheltered) bus stop looking completely miserable so I asked if she wanted a lift home.

She got in the car and I took her home – well, nearly, she didn’t actually tell me where she lived, just gave me directions, left, right and so on, until suddenly she asked me to pull over and she ran off down a passageway between some houses.

Now, I thought I had behaved correctly, making small talk, following her directions to the letter… you know, just being a fully paid up human. She looked like she thought it was just a matter of time until I jumped on her and raped or killed her. To be honest I was glad to get her out of the car as she was making me feel very uncomfortable. And afterwards, on reflection I wondered if I really shouldn’t have bothered.

Women are always advised these days by caring friends and parents to never get into a car with a man they don’t know. And what good advice that is, too. But how human are we – forget about such niceties as to what constitutes gentlemanly behaviour, these are enlightened times… How human are we if we just abandon people who are in need of assistance that we are able to give because we are afraid of the potential threat our charity carries.

What would you do in such a situation?


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