Not to besmirch JFK on the 50th anniversary of his inauguration, but Robert Dallek points out in Salon that Kennedy didn't accomplish all that much in his 1,000-day presidency. None of his major initiatives made it through Congress, and his foreign policy record isn't enough to explain the "great mystery" of the public's adoration, either. The assassination, you say? Then why don't we similarly revere William McKinley?
Nope, "Kennedy’s magic has largely to do with public desire for a heroic, inspiring leader," writes Dallek. "Of all the recent presidents, only Kennedy and Reagan satisfy that yearning." They made us feel better about ourselves, Kennedy with his "ask-not" New Frontier and Reagan with his "morning in America." The two of them, "to borrow a phrase from the historian Richard Hofstadter, were and remain the master psychologists of the middle classes." Read the full column here.