Top Ten Differences Between Rick Santorum and JFK

Rick Santorum said Monday that when he first heard John F. Kennedy’s speech on religion and politics, it made him want to puke. Santorum misrepresented what Kennedy said, of course. Kennedy welcomed the participation of religious people in American public life. Santorum is a secret dominionist, desiring a takeover of the US by rightwing religion, which is why he really objects to Kennedy’s statement. (Santorum is deeply under the influence of the scary Opus Dei cult.) But Santorum’s attack on President Kennedy started me thinking about the differences between these two Americans who put themselves forward as leaders of this country.

    10. John F. Kennedy was a war hero who fought in the Pacific theater after America was the victim of a war of aggression.

    JFK PT 109

Santorum is a chickenhawk who voted to send US soldiers into Iraq on false pretenses.

Santorum wants to repeal the Health Care Reform that provides for every American to have health insurance

    8. John F. Kennedy was a liberal who cared about people:

    “If by a “Liberal” they mean someone who looks ahead and not behind, someone who welcomes new ideas without rigid reactions, someone who cares about the welfare of the people — their health, their housing, their schools, their jobs, their civil rights, and their civil liberties — someone who believes we can break through the stalemate and suspicions that grip us in our policies abroad, if that is what they mean by a “Liberal,” then I’m proud to say I’m a “Liberal.” — Acceptance of the New York Liberal Party nomination (14 September 1960)

Rick Santorum is a rightist radical who wants to abolish the Federal safety net for those who need it and who plays politics with race resentments.

“I don’t want to make black people’s lives better by giving them somebody else’s money; I want to give them the opportunity to go out and earn the money.”

    7. John F. Kennedy was committed to protecting the environment:

    “I look forward to an America which will not be afraid of grace and beauty, which will protect the beauty of our natural environment, which will preserve the great old American houses and squares and parks of our national past, and which will build handsome and balanced cities for our future.”

Rick Santorum argues for human “dominion” over the earth, more oil and gas use, and dismisses the threat of global climate change.

    6. John F. Kennedy launched a US government project to land an American on the moon within a decade, saying “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, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills…”

Santorum, no visionary, views space exploration as a “wasteful” “government program” and wants to hang competition with the Chinese in space on the US private sector (as if there is money to be made in the black vacuum of outer space)

    5. John F. Kennedy praised science and scientists, saying, , “Science contributes to our culture in many ways, as a creative intellectual activity in its own right, as the light which has served to illuminate man’s place in the universe, and as the source of understanding of man’s own nature.”

Rick Santorum believes that most scientists are immoral.

    4. John F. Kennedy supported peaceful revolutions:

    “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.” – Address to Latin American diplomats at the White House (13 March 1962)

Rick Santorum supported the dictator Hosni Mubarak and opposed the Arab Spring.

    3. John F. Kennedy opposed government secrecy and censorship on national security grounds:

    “The very word “secrecy” is repugnant in a free and open society; and we are as a people inherently and historically opposed to secret societies, to secret oaths and to secret proceedings. We decided long ago that the dangers of excessive and unwarranted concealment of pertinent facts far outweighed the dangers which are cited to justify it. Even today, there is little value in opposing the threat of a closed society by imitating its arbitrary restrictions. Even today, there is little value in insuring the survival of our nation if our traditions do not survive with it. And there is very grave danger that an announced need for increased security will be seized upon by those anxious to expand its meaning to the very limits of official censorship and concealment. That I do not intend to permit to the extent that it is in my control.”

Rick Santorum called Julian Assange of wikileaks “a terrorist” for publishing classified documents.

    2. John F. Kennedy opposed wars of aggression, saying, “The United States, as the world knows, will never start a war. We do not want a war. We do not now expect a war. This generation of Americans has already had enough — more than enough — of war and hate and oppression.”

Rick Santorum wants to launch an illegal and unilateral attack on Iran

    1. John F. Kennedy was a hunk.

    JFK

    Rick Santorum wears sweater vests.

santorum in sweater vest

56 Responses

  1. The only positive thing I could say about the Santorum candidacy (not him, but the run) is it makes clear the choices between Obama and the former Senator from Pa.

    The evil of Bush, the Lesser, was made possible by the spin doctors who convinced many people that there would be little difference between Gore and W.

    • As what’s his name told Bill Clinton, and to Rick Santorum I say, “YOU SIR ARE NO JOHN KENNEDY!!!!!

      • Sharon, Wasn’t it Lloyd Bentson who said to Dan Quayle, “You, son, are no Jack Kennedy.” I will have to google it.

  2. “2. John F. Kennedy opposed wars of aggression, saying, “The United States, as the world knows, will never start a war.”

    John F. Kennedy had authorized 12,000 U.S. “advisors” in South Vietnam by the time of his death on November 22, 1963. In doing so, Kennedy had laid the groundwork for the U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War that followed. Moreover, Kennedy had authorized the coup d’etat against President Diem in November 1963. That led to Diem’s assasination, thereby enmeshing the U.S. in the politics of determining the fate of South Vietnamese leaders. You should not confuse Kennedy’s Cold War liberalism with liberals today. He was quite willing to use U.S. power when he perceived it benefited U.S. interests.

      • “he had decided to get out shortly before he was killed”

        Please cite your evidence for the above-cited statement, Professor. There has been speculation, particularly among his advisors (McGeorge Bundy and others) whether or not Kennedy would have gotten us in as deeply as did Johnson.

        But there has been no evidence that he would have withdrawn from Vietnam. In fact, many historians argue that Kennedy’s humiliation by Khruschev in Vienna (1961) and the Bay of Pigs fiasco compelled him to draw the line on communism and hang tough in Vietnam, lest he be seen as weak.

      • This is doubted by academic historians in the United States, most of who are neo-conservatives or neo-liberals, who protect establishment notions. I didn’t believe it myself until I read reviews (in French) of the memoirs of Charles De Gaulle’s private secretary, who attests that “le Grand Charles” went to his grave believing that, by sharing French state secrets dating back to Dien Bien Phu with the young American President, he had persuaded Kennedy that the Viet Cong were more a nationalist, patriotic movement than a Communist one, and that United States should not pursue what was obviously an unwinnable war. Just as he refused to go the last mile with the Cuban Rightists seeking to overthrow the popular dictator there, Kennedy probably would have begun withdrawal from Vietnam after his re-election in 1964, following the advice of the European stateseman he respected the most.

        • We will never know for sure, Mr. Lewis. Nevertheless, there is a large body of scholarship that suggests Kennedy may well have doubled down in Vietnam lest he be seen as weak and “soft on communism, after his humiliation by Khruschev in Vienna and the Bay of Pigs failure.

          I am skeptical of the idea that Kennedy would have withdrawn on the advice of De Gaulle. Everyone, including Kennedy, knew that De Gaulle had ulterior motives for wanting the U.S. out of Vietnam. The French, having lost it, did not want to consider the possiblity of the Americans succeeding where they (the French) had failed.

      • JFK may or may not have kept advisors in Vietnam, but your quotes marks implies there was not a difference between advisors and ground troops. LBJ won as the peace candidate in 1964 exactly because the difference was vast. Very few American military died before April 1965 when Johnson, unwisely, committed ground troops. Kennedy wavered between complete withdrawal and advisors but there is zip to indicate that JFK would have made LBJ’s foolish decision to commit ground troops. It is an old canard with no basis. Kennedy time and again rejected those urging him to commit troops in Vietnam and elsewhere.

        • The “advisors” were not sitting behind desks, Sean. They were in the field with the South Vietnamese troops, and it is their deployment that began the slippery slope that led to full American involvement in the war.

        • JFK may or may not have kept advisors in Vietnam, but your quotes marks implies there was not a difference between advisors and ground troops.

          You will frequently see this pseudo-sophisticated conflation on the internet. Because LBJ dishonestly described certain combat troops as “advisors,” it has become an article of faith among certain segments of anti-interventionists that the term “military advisors” can only ever be, and has only ever been, used as a misrepresentation of the mission of combat troops.

    • As I look around the planet, the word “chimera” comes to mind. It sure seems like there are no such creatures as the “liberals” that “conservatives” imagine to exist, and enshrine in their political pantheons. Iraq? Notagainistan? 7,000 Marines in Costa Rica? How many “bases” and “installations?”

      Which Not-Cold-War-“liberals” can be identified by name, and how many divisions have they Not deployed across the world?

    • Whatever you think about the American effort to prevent North Vietnam from taking over the South – personally, I think it was a bad idea from the beginning – it is not a war of aggression to defend an ally that has been attacked by its neighbor.

      Also, Kennedy did not authorize the coup. His administration seems to have been asleep at the switch, and confronted with a fait accompli.

      • You are correct to point out that Kennedy did not “authorize” the coup, Joe from Lowell. Poor choice of words on my part. Kennedy and his advisors did know about it beforehand, though, and were quite willing to let it occur, as Diem was perceived as an obstacle by the U.S. In any case, Kennedy did not intend for Diem to be assassinated, although that was the result.

      • Lots of different versions, revisions and recollections of what that whole Vietnam “thing” was all about, how it went down (down, down) and who shot Diem.

        Other than that huge book, “Vietnam,” here’s what seems to me a fairly good, short recitation. link to gwu.edu Lots of views on Kennedy’s and other elements of the hierarchy’s information and involvement, maybe not uniformity on the then Administration’s (including Kennedy’s) active participation in the coup.

        I like the part that begins:

        By 1963, about mid-way through America’s involvement in the wars of Vietnam, the policymakers of the Kennedy administration felt trapped between the horns of a dilemma. South Vietnam, the part of the former state of Vietnam which the United States supported, remained in the throes of a civil war between the anti-communist government the U.S. favored and communist guerrillas backed by North Vietnam. Government forces could not seem to get a handle on how to cope with the National Liberation Front of South Vietnam, as the communist movement was known. American military and intelligence agencies disputed progress in the war. While denying journalists’ observations that the United States was slipping into a quagmire in Vietnam, the Kennedy administration was privately well aware of the problems in the war and tried measures of all kinds to energize the South Vietnamese effort.

        One big problem was in Saigon, the capital of South Vietnam, with the South Vietnamese government itself. Plagued by corruption, political intrigues, and constant internal squabbling, the South Vietnamese were often at loggerheads. With the Americans, whose interest lay in combating the National Liberation Front guerrillas, the South Vietnamese promised cooperation but often delivered very little. There were other difficulties rooted in the way the South Vietnamese government had been created originally, and the way the U.S. had helped organize the South Vietnamese army in the 1950s, but these factors would not be directly relevant to the events of 1963…

        And there’s this bit:

        The first period of intense activity occurred in August 1963, when South Vietnamese military officers initially planned to secure American support for their coup against Ngo Dinh Diem. This period included an incident that became very well-known in U.S. government circles, in which State Department official Roger Hilsman originated a cable giving the South Vietnamese generals the green light for a coup against Diem (Document 2). Much of the succeeding U.S. activity revolved upon making it seem that policy had been rescinded without in fact changing it. The second high point came in October 1963, when final preparations were made for the coup that was carried out.

        And of course the text goes on, and so, sadly, do the Great Game behaviors, hither and yon. See, e.g., the heavily obscured motions of April Glaspie, assuring (on orders) one Saddam Hussein that ‘the US takes no position in your intra-Arab squabbles,” as in Saddam’s pending invasion of Kuwait. link to thirdworldtraveler.com

        Too bad “we” keep repeating history, no?

      • While I don’t totally disagree with you on your points, it’s important to recall when we look downthread at the stuff about how bad Diem was, that the Republic of Vietnam was manufactured by the CIA for the purpose of being ruled by Diem. He was shacked up in a monastery in California when the CIA talked him into the gig. He and his supporters were mostly northerners, so the CIA had to evacuate them to the South to create a Southern ruling elite, and once there these bastards drove Southerners off their land to create their own (absentee) estates. South Vietnam was not a real nation that chose freely to ally with us, it was theft backed by our refusal to accept the Geneva Accords. If Diem was illegitmate, thus justifying our support for the coup, how could the country be legitimate?

        • Interesting recollection. I wonder how many of the “patriots” who were all exercised about “somebody” “losing China” noted or had the tiniest frisson of shame about the parallels to the US-abetted gentle activities of the Kuomintang in invading and taking over Formosa, reducing the Formosans to dispossessed third-class occupants of their own country. link to taiwandc.org

          Oh, well, all’s well that ends well, Right? Right?

          I’m sure that punctilious scholastics here have a more satisfactory spin to that story…

      • And that old Jefferson guy, who spent some time in Europe watching the practices of imperial courts (so similar to our own Modern Beltway Imbroglio), offered this pithy nugget that is anathema to the Experienced Players all busy getting off on their latest jerk-on-it stratagems: “Peace, commerce and honest friendship with all nations; entangling alliances with none.” – Thomas Jefferson

        I understand G. Washington seconded the notion, but that of course the perverseness of “bidness interests” has got us all snarled up in a Gordian knot that no one knows how to cut without severing one of their own limbs. And nobody WANTS to cut it, because they live off the proximity and conflict.

        That’s how (remember the nativity of WW I?) “defending an ally that has been attacked by its neighbor” (with all the ugly, greedy, stupid, venal detail that’s obscured by the phony Big Picture BS) is really a war of aggression. And another act of futility. And how many times will the US working stiff have to be run through this particular gauntlet before it’s apparent that War, American Style is nothing but a losing proposition? Except for a few of the Senior Warriors, and the people who profit from stuff like replacing, with a “new, improved model,” the Battle Dress Uniform, every six months or a year at a cost of a pittance $200 or $300 million or so, on the ground that “our trooooops deserve the best equipment possible”(that we can sucker the people in the street to pay for.) Yeah, those troooops who are getting their numbers chopped and their pay and benefits cut so General Atomic can peddle more freakin’ drones, and “we” can keep buying “really good aeroplanes” like the F-22 and F-35.

        None of this “war” idiocy produces ‘security’ or ‘stability’ or any of the markers of what Hope tells us ought to be the indicia of Advancing Civilization. Just the freakin’ opposite.

    • Please go back and read your Vietnam timeline. Those advisors were sent in by Truman. In 1955 under Eisenhour military responsibility was transferred to those advisors in an agreement with the French. Kennedy added money to their coffers and is perhaps responsible for Diem’s assassination(in that he knew about it) but he did not initiate the military presence.

      link to en.wikipedia.org

      • I did not state that Kennedy “initiated” the deployment of the advisors, Susan. As you correctly point out, the initial deployment of advisors occured long before Kennedy assumed office. I stated that Kennedy had authorized 12,000 advisors to be in South Vietnam by the time of his death in November 1963. Kennedy certainly authorized an increase in the number of advisors deployed to South Vietnam.

  3. Prof. Cole and his college students are all snobs! Just kidding.

    This is so rare I want to share it with this website. At 1:51 into this interview David Stockman advises Pres.Obama on how to bring down oil prices. Teaser…It’s a rare smack down of the neocons. Our nation would be better served if we heard more of this kind of reasoning.

    link to videocafe.crooksandliars.com

    • Thanks for the Stockman/Reich link, DSmith! Looks like Stockman will be “going to the woodshed” again.

  4. In point #3, you have it backwards. The quote you excerpted was the preliminary to what JFK’s speech was actually about. Right after that excerpt, there is a huge “but…”, after which he requests that the newspaper people he is addressing to cooperate with the government and don’t publish too much of what the government doesn’t want published. i.e.

    It was in the context of the Cold War, and it arguably makes sense for him to say that, but my point is that this speech appears all over the Internet, edited so that it’s meaning is totally changed.

  5. Santorum promotes inequality with a smile. Driving at speed into the future using a tiny rear view mirror as an occasional reference guide is the height of stupidity.

  6. Imagine what the right-wing media machine would do to a Democratic candidate who wore sweater vests!

    How is it that Republicans always get a free pass on being “tough”?

    • Imagine what the right-wing media machine would do to a Democratic candidate who wore sweater vests!

      Publicize the French term for them, no doubt.

    • Jimmie Carter wore cardigans during his attempts to emulate FDR’s fireside chats, and most historians (correctly) consider Carter’s a failed presidency. Perhaps the lesson is no president (or presidential candidate) should wear sweaters of any type.

  7. Fantastic article, Professor. I posted some of it and the link on the Huffington Post. JFK was a visionary, the GOPTea are, to a one, Regressionists.

    Every single GOPTea candidate for POTUS is against women’s rights. Every single one. The GOPTea are attacking women’s rights, our bodies, health care and doctors with a vehemence not seen since 1692, in Salem, MA.

    The GOPTea are neanderthals as your article so beautifully points out.

    “Republicans are men of narrow vision, who are afraid of the future.”
    ~ Jimmy Carter

  8. “And God said unto Adam: By the sweat of thy brow shalt thou earn thy bread; and don’t even think of asking me if thou still hast dominion.!”

  9. AP: “WASHINGTON (AP) — Israeli officials say they won’t warn the U.S. if they decide to launch a pre-emptive strike against Iranian nuclear facilities. The pronouncement, delivered in a series of private, top-level conversations with U.S. officials, sets a tense tone ahead of meetings in the coming days at the White House and on Capitol Hill.”

    I guess that puts an end to any notion that Israel is an ally of the US. To pull this back OT, I wonder how JFK would react to a loose cannon ally stating that it would endanger the security of the US and the large majority of American allies without any warning. I think Ike answered that one.

    • It can be a pain, but reference points like this deserve a link citing the source.

      It is, in fact, common knowledge the Israel Defense minister is now in DC doing groundwork for 3/5 mtg between Obama and Netanyahu, and this is clearly going to be a red letter day.

      Anything else “said,” formally or informally, will stand to be parsed very carefully from originally sources, given such statements will (guaranteed) be carefully spun, and designed for dissimulation (statements could be precisely the opposite of their intent).

      • You are correct, it is a pain, but necessary, though actual sources are often unknown. AP??? This is just a little half-step in the dance about ‘Will or won’t Israel inform the US’. The larger question is why, given the gravity of the potential, it should even be a question.
        link to hosted.ap.org

  10. You were doing really well, right up until #1. A comment about his appearance and wardrobe? An ad hominem attack based on fashion is your number reason the two men are different?

    Seriously? What is wrong with you?

    • Why not? I had to spend all of 2000 hearing about Al Gore’s “earth tones”.

      If he were a Democrat Fox News and talk radio would spend hours each day calling him a “wimp”.

  11. “At 1:51 into this interview David Stockman advises Pres.Obama on how to bring down oil prices.”

    Lends credence to the notion that all the huffing & puffing over Iran is basically a speculative gimmick.

    • As if ANYTHING the government gets involved in isn’t a “speculative gimmick”… ;-)

  12. I’d take some issue with secrecy. Among other things, the CIA tried three times to knock off Castro in secret assassination attempts and worked closely with Belgium, one of the most brutal of colonial regimes, to capture and assassinate Patrice Lumumba in 1961. People all over Africa mourn together on the anniversary of his death.

    One of the more enlightening books about Vietnam beginning in 1960 is “Dereliction of Duty” by General H.R. MacMaster. He may not shed as much light on Kennedy but reveals the depth of corruption of McNamara and Bundy, which they took inside the Johnson Administration.

  13. Come November, the list will be expanded to read:

    “JFK was elected president. Santorum wasn’t!”

  14. JFK, incomplete and flawed a man as he may be by perfectionist standards, is still so far above Dominionist Rushdoony Loonie Rick Santorum that Santorum is not fit to lick the man’s boots.

    • “I knew John Kennedy, and you’re no John Kennedy!”

      What was true of Dan Quayle has been true of all extremist darlings who came after him. Yet the extremists keep trying to create worse ones.

  15. Juan Cole,
    After 10 years of my country attacking and killing Muslims all over the world and crushing civil liberties at home, I find it ridiculous that I’m supposed to be afraid of Opus Dei.

    Santorum is just a politician pushing the buttons for whatever audience he’s talking to. We actually have no idea what he’d do in office. I’m not a fan but took note that Ron Paul claims Santorum is all talk and when he was in the Senate, he went along.

  16. Romney is Mormon for much the same reason that Santorum is Catholic–because they were born into their respective faiths, raised to believe them, and were never the critical types. The difference is that Romney’s interest in Mormonism is about average, while Santorum is pretty gung-ho–and in a direction that is unusual for Catholics, but (rather conveniently) more typical of Protestant evangelicals). I’m skeptical of the idea that his conservatism is coming from Opus Dei; more likely he gravitated to them on the basis of beliefs and positions which he had already adopted.

    Oh, one more difference: Years after the fact, the name of “Kennedy” has become a byword for presidential philandering. Years from now, the name “Santorum” may become a byword for…well, you know.

  17. 4. John F. Kennedy supported peaceful revolutions

    I’m sorry but your post comes off sounding like an encomium to Kennedy. He also supported undermining democratically elected governments in the Third World – like that of Lumumba in the Congo – under the pre-text of anti-communism.

  18. Winning an online debate/argument is being valedictorian of summer school.

  19. The only thing I want to respond to in the thread above is Bill’s aspersions against De Gaulle’s motives in trying to talk Kennedy into withdrawal from Vietnam: De Gaulle was a European Christian Democratic statesman who would never have wished for the undermining of America’s military standing in the world. While it is true that he resented certain aspects of American foreign policy–particularly its bungling, arrogant interventionism and wastefulness of political assets–he appreciated America’s importance as a bulwark against Communism. He never would have sought to dupe Kennedy, and to imply he would is a cheap shot, typical of American Francophobia.

    • My response was no “cheap shot,” Bruce, and I certainly do not engage in Francophobic behavior. What you apparently fail to understand is the depth of resentment De Gaulle had for the U.S. involvement in South Vietnam. The French in general, and De Gaulle in particular, considered Indochina “their turf.” Having failed there themselves, they did not want to see the U.S. succeed.

      As a side note, I would observe that American foreign policy was no more “bungling, arrogant, and interventionist” than French foreign policy, then and later, in French Indochina and in Africa, particularly Algeria.

      • Re your last paragraph: What a resounding defense of “our” behavior in foreign lands. Just as bad as the colonial French. Heck of a recommendation. But accurate, at least. Or to use your formulation, (correctly.) Ours, of course, is on a much larger scale — does that count for anything?

  20. Like so many of his American critics, Bill, you fail to understand that De Gaulle was, first and foremost, a world-class statesman who cared, more than anything else, for Western Christian civilization, which he, like any other European Christian Democrat, perceived to be menaced by radical, atheistic socialism. He knew very well that America’s military was the most powerful bulwark against the spread of Bolshevism, and he would not have wished to see the Americans waste their energies and influence on such a lost cause. Moreover, he liked and admired Kennedy; there was no spite whatsoeve at play in his absolutely disinterested advice to him regarding Vietnam–with other Frenchmen, maybe, but not De Gaulle, who was a greater man than all of the other leaders of his epoch.

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