Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Failing Toward Success


(President and Mrs. Kennedy greet members of the 2506 Cuban Invasion Brigade, 29 December 1962. Picture and caption courtesy of the JFK Presidential Library.)

Sometimes failure is almost synonymous with success. By that, I don't mean a William Kristol/Dick Cheney/Donald Rumsfeld failing upwards kind of way. I'm speaking of failure as a legitimate learning tool for success. In short, learning from one's mistakes.

The incoming Obama administration will be looked at in two ways, depending upon your political stripe.

Liberals and progressives, used to fetishistic secrecy, snarling hostility and neverending incompetence will view any dilution of failure as a great success by conspicuous relief. Until recently, people were wondering where to fit Bill Clinton's face on Mt. Rushmore mainly on the strength of the Bush bookends on either side of his presidency.

Conservatives will view any action that deviates from Bush's greatest failures both foreign and domestic as a betrayal of their pet causes. Obama, of course, is not Alan Keyes and they should already know that.

But there's a third school of thought, those of us who are hypervigilant to anything that smells like Bush. We're already piling on (and yes, I'm also guilty as charged) the future president just for tapping for a ceremonial honor of delivering the inaugural invocation a homophobic pastor in the interests of "diversity."

And as troubling as it is for Obama to tap Rick Warren to give the invocation on January 20th, passing off Warren's intolerance toward an oppressed minority as a legitimate competing viewpoint, it's still an ultimately ceremonial function and a controversy that will blow over by January 21st. The incoming president will have far more challenging decisions to make that will surely age him as the strain of the presidency ages all who have held the office.

But Obama will surely fail, as surely as Kennedy had failed his first months in office. And we will need to be patient and to continue supporting him as he takes over a nation that is infinitely more troubled than the United States that Kennedy had inherited in 1960. After all, if we could support George W. Bush after 9/11, then Obama certainly deserves at least as much (as a point of historical fact, when Kennedy took the blame for the Bay of Pigs, his approval rating actually shot up to 83%, a lesson obviously lost on the current resident of the West Wing).

The Bay of Pigs was cold water thrown on a presidency that was untroubled by Vietnam and East Berlin, before US Steel went on strike, before missile bases were discovered by U2 spy planes over Cuba and was blithely ignorant of the emerging civil right unrest.

Unfairly stigmatized by the Bay of Pigs, which was an Eisenhower/Nixon production, Kennedy was presented with the proposed invasion by the Joint Chiefs and the new president was already feeling political pressure to overthrow Castro and to re-establish American influence in the Caribbean. To not do so would be to look weak against Communism.

On April 17th, CIA-armed and trained Cuban exiles launched an attack on the south shore of the island. It was, to quote one CIA official, "a perfectly-planned failure." Things had gone so far south that Kennedy was forced to deny air support to the Cuban exiles that he'd already promised them. Afterwards, Kennedy wondered how he and the "best and brightest" minds could've been so stupid.

A year and a half later, Kennedy was faced with another Communist crisis when Russian missile bases were discovered on Cuba. Secretary General Nikita Khrushchev took a dangerous gamble and Kennedy was under greater pressure than with the Bay of Pigs to oppose the Soviet threat. The Joint Chiefs that had once had their way with Kennedy in the spring of 1961 were now putting enormous pressure on the freshman president to invade Cuba for the second time. Kennedy settled for a blockade.

No doubt, when reasonable and pragmatic proposals were given to him by four star generals and admirals eager to overthrow Castro and humiliate Khrushchev, Kennedy must have thought, "Well, I've already invaded Cuba once before and look how well that worked out."

Without the 1961 Bay of Pigs, perhaps Kennedy would've invaded Cuba in 1962, which almost surely would've brought us to thermonuclear war with the USSR. Kennedy's prior failure could very well be thought of almost as a safety valve or a fail safe mechanism for what would come a year and a half later, an object lesson of how to not invade a nation occupied by a nuclear superpower.

The same could happen with Obama. Obama could make a blunder that could prove to be a valuable lesson later in his presidency. It could involve Iraq or Iran or Pakistan. And while Obama's record on gay civil rights is lukewarm at best, let's not forget that Jack Kennedy, a white child of privilege from Cape Cod, seemed completely oblivious to the Civil Rights movement until it could no longer be ignored. Kennedy was also reluctant to embrace civil rights because his agendas depended largely on southern Senators even more reluctant to right wrongs to blacks.

By the time of the Cuban missile crisis, John F. Kennedy had finally become the president that Americans had deluded themselves into thinking he already was. He became the rare example of a president who actually grew into the expectations of a nation.

Barack Obama will inherit an infinitely more troubled nation than the one inherited by Kennedy in 1961. There will be many opportunities for failure, such as making rash tactical decisions so as not to look weak against terrorism. So before we begin criticizing him for every perceived misstep, let's wait and see how well he learns from those inevitable mistakes and whether he embraces controversial issues before political expediency. Let's also remember how instructional constant failure over eight years was for his predecessor.

3 Comments:

At December 31, 2008 at 2:04 AM, Blogger The Minstrel Boy said...

yeah, kennedy wasn't afraid to fail. one thing about him i always liked was the way he would remind folks who hung the hero star on him for what he did with his surviving crew from pt 109 (which he never fully recovered from physically) that he was at the helm when the jap destroyer cut it in half.

adams was another president who made mistakes, sucked it up and moved on. lincoln too, his learning curve during the civil war was huge.

of course mistakes will be made. i hope obama has the wisdom not to pretend that they aren't.

 
At December 31, 2008 at 3:45 AM, Blogger CupOJoe said...

Well said. I've been saying the same thing on my blog only not so diplomatically. It's an unfortunate fact that some liberals are just as ideologically demanding as some right-wingers are.

I think it's important that we stand solidly behind this President, and if we are going to criticize him, we should do so in a constructive way. Bitching and moaning that he isn't Dennis Kucinich doesn't accomplish anything.

There's so much to do, so many years of conservative ideological disasters to fix, that focusing on petty, symbolic issues like the Warren prayer will hurt our chances to do what needs to be done.

 
At January 3, 2009 at 11:22 AM, Blogger JeanDodge said...

JFK _AND_ the joint chiefs of staff did the right thing in some respects when they allowed the Anti-Castro Cuban exiles to go ahead with their CIA planned, foolishly doomed invasion, in that they removed a cell of dangerous fanatics from Florida and let them expend their rage on the shores of Cuba, thereby blunting their eventual US political power. The failure was mostly the CIA's fault for lacking vision and executing so poorly the general idea of a secretly-supported coup attempt like they had been able to pull off in Guatemala. By the time JFK heard about the plan, it was more trouble for him domestically to scuttle it than it was for him to let it go ahead. The problem was handled on several tiers - domestic, international, MSM and also on a level of where the ones who were wise could see what the truth was. Yes, it was a giant embarrassment and a true debacle but he spun out of it as well as could be expected. (It is entirely possible however that he paid for this misstep with his life - his assassin(s) may have been connected to the Bay Of Pigs fallout. )

Obama is letting this goon say a prayer at his party. There are worse ways to suck up to the religious right... and he just might need the slight edge this empty symbolic gesture will afford him when he begins to press congress to fast track some radical ideas. Not that Obama is all about radical ideas - it's just that the times call for them, and he is now at the helm. Bushco has WRECKED the economy and lost two wars we can't pay for.

Think about FDR's first 100 days instead of JFKs and we might be more in the ballpark for apt comparisons. Like MInstrel Boy pointed out, JFK had the lessons of PT 109 to temper his ambition -but Obama has yet to experience a catastrophic failure in his career. FDR had a huge sense of entitlement and a great deal of energy and public will to act boldly. We'll see soon enough though.

 

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home

All Time Classics

  • Our Worse Half: The 25 Most Embarrassing States.
  • The Missing Security Tapes From the World Trade Center.
  • It's a Blunderful Life.
  • The Civil War II
  • Sweet Jesus, I Hate America
  • Top Ten Conservative Books
  • I Am Mr. Ed
  • Glenn Beck: Racist, Hate Monger, Comedian
  • The Ten Worst Music Videos of all Time
  • Assclowns of the Week

  • Links to the first 33 Assclowns of the Week.
  • Links to Assclowns of the Week 38-63.
  • #99: Dr. Strangehate edition
  • #98: Get Bentghazi edition
  • #97: SNAPping Your Fingers at the Poor edition
  • #96: Treat or Treat, Kiss My Ass edition
  • #95: Monumental Stupidity double-sized edition
  • #94: House of 'Tards edition
  • #93: You Da Bomb! edition.
  • #92: Akin to a Fool edition.
  • #91: Aurora Moronealis edition.
  • #90: Keep Your Gubmint Hands Off My High Pre'mums and Deductibles! edition.
  • #89: Occupy the Catbird Seat/Thanksgiving edition.
  • #88: Heil Hitler edition.
  • #87: Let Sleeping Elephants Lie edition.
  • #86: the Maniacs edition.
  • #85: The Top 50 Assclowns of 2010 edition.
  • #(19)84: Midterm Madness edition.
  • #83: Spill, Baby, Spill! edition.
  • #82: Leave Corporations Alone, They’re People! edition.
  • #81: Hatin' on Haiti edition.
  • #80: Don't Get Your Panties in a Twist edition.
  • #79: Top 50 Assclowns of 2009 edition.
  • #78: Nattering Nabobs of Negativism edition.
  • #77: ...And Justice For Once edition.
  • #76: Reading Tea Leaves/Labor Day edition.
  • #75: Diamond Jubilee/Inaugural Edition
  • #74: Dropping the Crystal Ball Edition
  • #73: The Twelve Assclowns of Christmas Edition
  • #72: Trick or Treat Election Day Edition
  • #71: Grand Theft Autocrats Edition
  • #70: Soulless Corporations and the Politicians Who Love Them Edition
  • Top 10 LA Radio Shows That Are Rated Higher Than Rush Limbaugh's
  • Top 10 Reasons Operation American Spring Went Flat
  • Top Ten Facts of the MH370 Air Disaster
  • Top 10 Tips for GOP Congressmen Running Against Women
  • Top 10 Signs Walmart's Mistreating its Workers
  • Top 10 Diversions John McCain Found During Syria Hearing
  • Top 10 George Zimmerman Excuses for Speeding.
  • Top 10 Reasons Paula Deen Got Fired by the Food Network
  • Top Ten Ways Pope Francis is Deviating From Convention
  • Top 10 Reasons For the Pope's Resignation
  • Top 10 Emails Hacked From the Bush Family's Email Accounts
  • Top 10 Lies Told by Mitt Romney at the 2nd Debate.
  • Top 10 Examples of How Hard the Campaign Trail is on Ann D. Romney.
  • Top 10 Ways to Tell The Boston Red Sox Are Finished.
  • Top 10 Things Mitt May be Hiding in His Tax Returns.
  • Top 10 Events at the Romney Olympics.
  • Mitt Romney's Top 10 Wild & Crazy Moments.
  • Top Ten Reasons Why Dick Cheney Got a Heart Transplant.
  • Top 10 Facts About Tonight's New England/Denver Game.
  • My Top 10 Resolutions.
  • Top 10 Rejected Slogans of the Romney Campaign.
  • Top 10 Reasons Herman Cain Suspended His Campaign.
  • Top 10 Trending Topics on Twitter During #OWS Eviction.
  • Top 10 Herman Cain Pickup Lines.
  • Top 10 Changes Since Anthony Weiner Decided to Resign.
  • Top 10 Inaccuracies re bin Laden's Death.
  • Top 10 Ways to Prevent a TSA Patdown.
  • Top Ten Things Not to Say When You're Pulled Over.
  • Top 10 Reasons Why Donald Trump Bowed Out of the Presidential Race.
  • Top 10 Ways Evangelicals Will Prepare for the Rapture II.
  • Top 10 Revelations in Today's Parliament Inquiry into News Corp.
  • Top 10 Reasons Why There Was No Vote on the Debt Ceiling Last Night.
  • Top 10 Revelations in Dick Cheney's Upcoming Memoir.
  • Top Ten Ways Americans Will Observe the 10th Anniversary of 9/11.
  • Top Ten Advances in Women's Rights in Saudi Arabia.
  • Top Ten Inaccuracies in Bill O'Reilly's Book About Lincoln.
  • Top Ten Suggestions From the Cat Food Commission.
  • Top Ten Worst Moments in George W. Bush's Presidency.
  • Top Ten Facts in George W. Bush's Memoir.
  • Top Ten Reasons Terry Jones Postponed His Koran Burning
  • Top 10 Causes for Dick Cheney's Congestive Heart Failure
  • Top Ten Ways That Jan Brewer Will Celebrate Cinco de Mayo
  • Top Ten Demands in Sarah Palin's Contract
  • Top Ten Whoppers in Karl Rove's New Book
  • Top 10 Items Left Behind in Rush Limbaugh's Apartment
  • Top Ten Things Barack Obama said to Rush Limbaugh in the Hospital
  • Top Ten Bizarre Promos Offered by the New Jersey Nets
  • Top 10 Bush Executive Orders Labor Wants President Obama to Repeal
  • George W. Bush's Top Ten Lesser Achievements
  • Boolean Bozoism

  • #19
  • #18
  • #17
  • #16
  • #15
  • #14
  • #13
  • #11
  • #10
  • Kindle in the Wind, my dedicated site for my novels.
  • Christwire.org: Conservative Values for an Unsaved World.
  • Esquire's Charles Pierce.
  • Brilliant @ Breakfast.
  • The Burning Platform.
  • The Rant.
  • Mock, Paper, Scissors.
  • James Petras.
  • Towle Road.
  • Matt Taibbi's blog.
  • Avedon's Sideshow (the new site).
  • At Largely, Larisa Alexandrovna's place.
  • The Daily Howler.
  • The DCist.
  • Greg Palast.
  • Jon Swift. RIP, Al.
  • God is For Suckers.
  • Think Progress.
  • Hullabaloo, Digby's place.
  • The General.
  • The Rude Pundit.
  • Driftglass.
  • Bildung Blog, some of the funniest and sharpest captions in the b'sphere.
  • The Carpetbagger Report.
  • Newshounds.
  • Sadly, No!
  • William Grigg, a great find.
  • Oliver Willis, "Like Kryptonite to Stupid."
  • Brad Blog.
  • Fark.
  • Down With Tyranny!, Howie Klein's blog.
  • Wayne's World. Party time! Excellent!
  • Busted Knuckles, aka Ornery Bastard.
  • Mills River Progressive.
  • Right Wing Watch.
  • Earthbond Misfit.
  • Anosognosia.
  • Utah Savage.
  • Echidne of the Snakes.
  • They Gave Us a Republic.
  • The Gawker.
  • Outtake Online, Emmy-winner Charlotte Robinson's site.
  • The artist formerly known as Politits. The politics are still liberal.
  • Skippy, the Bush Kangaroo
  • No More Mr. Nice Blog.
  • Head On Radio Network, Bob Kincaid.
  • Spocko's Brain.
  • Pandagon.
  • Slackivist.
  • The Randi Rhodes Show.
  • WTF Is It Now?
  • No Blood For Hubris.
  • Politickybitch (Nunya).
  • Lydia Cornell, a very smart and accomplished lady.
  • Roger Ailes (the good one.)
  • Michael's Moore's official website.
  • BlondeSense.
  • The Smirking Chimp.
  • Hammer of the Blogs.
  • Blue Gal's Blog.
  • Vast Left Wing Conspiracy.
  • Argville.
  • Existentialist Cowboy.
  • The Progressive.
  • The Nation.
  • Mother Jones.
  • Vanity Fair.
  • Salon.com.
  • Raw Story.
  • Watching America.
  • Citizens For Legitimate Government.
  • News Finder.
  • Newsy.com, comparative, nonpartisan analysis of the media.
  • Indy Media Center.
  • Urban Dictionary.
  • Lexis News.
  • Military Religious Freedom. What Mikey Weinstein has found will make your head explode.
  • McClatchy Newspapers.
  • The New Yorker.
  • Bloggingheads TV, political vlogging.
  • The Pensito Review.
  • Find Articles.com, the next-best thing to Nexis.
  • Altweeklies, for the news you won't get just anywhere.
  • The Smirking Chimp
  • Don Emmerich's Peace Blog
  • The Talented Cafe, a resource for writers and artists.
  • Wikileaks.
  • The Peoples' Voice.
  • Dictionary.com.
  • CIA World Fact Book.
  • IP address locator.
  • Tom Tomorrow's hilarious strip.
  • Babelfish, an instant, online translator. I love to translate Ann Coulter's site into German.
  • Newsmeat: Find out who's donating to whom.
  • Wikipedia, an invaluable research tool.
  • Uncyclopedia.
  • anysoldier.com
  • Icasualties
  • Free Press
  • YouTube
  • The Bone Bridge.
  • Powered by Blogger

    http://DeeperLeft.com