Incredibly, it was fifty years ago that another young senator was elected as president, and nearly fifty years ago that his life was cut short that fateful day in Dallas. His life, yes, but not his legacy.
For the past week or so, I haven't been able to stop thinking about John F. Kennedy, and what he might say were he to be here now.
So, in memory, and with deference, if he could reach across time to another young president, Barack Obama, here is some of what I think he might say:
. Exit is an action, not a strategy, Mr. President. Begin phased withdrawal from Afghanistan now.
. Lead by example, not by drone.
. Restore the rule of law. Waterboarding is torture, and it is illegal. It is no less illegal when the president's counsel says it is. Prosecute those who defy the rule of law whether they be Army privates, or presidents.
. Close Gitmo, Bagram, and end extraordinary rendition.
. Let tax cuts for the rich expire, and reinstate the ban on assault weapons.
. Now that the radical right has again taken hold of Congress, don't let them roll back affirmative action. Part of their agenda will be to continue to chip away at Roe v. Wade until a woman's right to choose is turned over to the states. Choice is affirmative action. Choice is not about abortion, or reproductive rights, but a woman's right to equal opportunity by virtue of control over her body.
Democrats, in Congress, must quickly identify those tea party (John Birch Society) members who are among their ranks, the usual suspects who were around in the 1960's, too, and make sure that the electorate knows that when they vote for Dick Armey, Rand Paul, and others, they might as well be voting for Koch Industries, a company that was founded by a Texan, Fred Koch, who was also a founding member of the John Birch Society. His message, back in 1958, is virtually indistinguishable from that of the tea party today.
. Protect social security. Those who call for eliminating social security, and Medicare, are the same congressional members who are working to eradicate unemployment. They are also the same members of Congress who want to approve more funding for drones, and instruments of war. Do not stand by and allow Franklin Roosevelt's social programs infrastructure to be systematically dismantled. Cut Defense, not social security
. National security means a free press. Encourage Congress to stop stalling, and pass a federal shield law.
. START is just that, a start, and not the end. The goal is not reduction of nuclear weapons, but annihilation of nuclear weapons, "complete and total disarmament." Make Israel come clean about its nuclear programs the same as Iran. Nuclear non-proliferation must include all nations including India. A serious, and non-compromising approach is needed, not lip service and photo ops.
. It is not acceptable for this country's biggest export to be arms. The U.S. must not lead in the arms race, but in the brains race.
. The U.S. needs to join the global economy, not fight it.
. End the trade embargo against Cuba, and allow for open and free trade with that country.
. Initiate a new public works program that encourages energy independence by designing and implementing solar and wind power in lieu of electricity in federal office buildings for starters, and work for electric-powered trucks, buses, and airplanes.
. Censure China for its continuing human rights abuses, but look closer to home, and stop Immigration and Customs Enforcement from depriving undocumented immigrants, and legal residents of due process, arresting them, placing them in federal detention centers, and deporting them.
(JFK was a Massachusetts senator when, in 1954, the Supreme Court ruled on Brown v. the Board of Education. The court held that state laws establishing separate public schools for black and white students were unconstitutional.)
Any attempt to deprive children of undocumented immigrants of public school education is likewise unconstitutional as would be any effort to deny citizen status to anyone born in the United States. This is an egregious violation of the Fourteenth Amendment.
. Do not cut social programs to the indigent while incentivizing big business, Wall Street, and the banks. As JFK said, back in 1962, "If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich."
. There needs to be separation between elected officials and special interests. How is it that we allowed elected officials to become special interests?
. The path of multiple wars on multiple battlefields is not the path to peace. Freedom must not be paid for on the installment plan. War is not only unconscionable, it is also unconscionably costly in terms of loss of life. One life lost in battle is one too many.
. A government that chooses to stand alone by not joining the majority of the international community in signing treaties that call for the banning of cluster bombs, as well as abolishing capital punishment, but instead tries to legitimize war crimes is one that will forever live in infamy.
. There's a lot of money to be made in the business of terror, and until we take the profit out of terror, we will continue to be at war. As long as we put profit before people, the human race will join the endangered species list.