THE BLOG
02/04/2008 05:53 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Want a Real Fairy Tale for Super Tuesday? Try Camelot!

I like Hillary. And I like Obama. If they don't drive each other's supporters into angry corners of resentment and fatally divide the Party, either one will have a pretty good chance to prevail in the fall. But that requires that voters remember the election is neither about Bill Clinton nor about John Kennedy. Hillary has a husband, but love him or hate him, he already was the President. It's Hillary who is trying to win office. Think of it not as a try for the second Clinton Presidency but for the first Rodham presidency. And stop judging her by Bill.

And how about getting a grip on the Kennedy hysteria afflicting pundits looking for an angle on Obama's campaign of youthful change? Ted and Caroline Kennedy endorsements do not make Obama JFK. Any more than Kathleen Kennedy Townsend's endorsement of Hillary make her Bobby.

Besides, why are fans of the candidate of the future who disparage the candidate of the nineties reaching back to the sixties for comfort? Do they know that, unlike Obama's genuine anti-war position, the fabled story of Camelot was truly a fairy tale? A sentimental Broadway show Jackie Kennedy used to memorialize her late husband's presidency after his assassination?

John Kennedy may have inspired young America and in beating Richard Nixon brought the complacent gray flannel suit nation into the colorful Sixties. But the tie-dyed counter-cultural decade celebrated by oblivious fashionistas today was a decade of urban riots, racial violence, political assassinations, combative foreign policy and escalating war, a decade that ended in profound distrust of all government authority, and just a few years later in the resignation of a President after Watergate.

Kennedy himself launched the disastrous Bay of Pigs invasion and escalated President Eisenhower's nominal military commitment to South Vietnam. And though he deserves credit for defusing it at the last moment, he brought the world to the edge of nuclear war in the Cuban Missile crisis. Worse still - where is this reflected in the myth of Camelot? - he ordered Bobby, then his attorney general, to wiretap Martin Luther King.

If this all comes as news to our myth-prone electorate today, perhaps that's because in Arthur Schlesinger and Ted Sorenson and Jackie herself, JFK had some of the most talented spinners of all time. But Camelot was a fairy tale, and Kennedy was murdered before he could either realize or bury the dreams he had inspired.

Same for Bobby, who went from being his brother's tough-minded enforcer to becoming an inspiring progressive candidate in the '68 campaign. But he too fell to an assassin, in this case before he could contest the election let alone make a Presidential mark. Teddy inherited the mantle, but squandered it early in a tragic sexual encounter at Chappaquiddick that makes the Monica Lewinsky foolishness seem benign. Teddy's subsequent Senatorial career has been admirable, but Chappaquiddick has become part of a history not recalled.

So perhaps on Super Tuesday voters can put away the mythologies associated with the Kennedy Sixties and the Clinton Nineties, and take a hard look at the candidates and the issues that define this intimidating new Millennium. That way they will be voting realistically for one or the other of two good candidates and not indulging in the spurious myths that have been spun by would-be idealists around their candidacies.