I’ll forgive Obama a couple of his hot-air speeches just for wiping out the Clintons in South Carolina, though I guess we really have Bill and the black voters to thank for that. I’m sure the pleasure will be short-lived, since realistic assessment of the campaign suggests that Hillary Clinton will be facing John McCain in the fall, about as favorable a conjunction as she could ever have dreamed of.
But in the meantime we are being wafted on a brief detour, back to the New Frontier, as Ted and Caroline Kennedy anoint Obama as JFK’s heir. It won’t be long before Ted Sorensen is writing his speeches. Substitute Bush for Eisenhower, a mountain bike for a golf cart, Iraq for Vietnam, leave Castro in place to give a sense of continuity and voilà! It’s the 1960 campaign all over again. Oliver Stone should junk his movie about Bush and start hammering out the script for JFK: The Sequel, in which the CIA knocks off Obama for trying to pull the United States out of Iraq.
Change may be the mantra, but continuity is the undertow. In rhetorical invitation, though not in concrete matters such as prison sentencing, Americans believe in the possibility of turning to a new script and throwing the old one away. But of course the ball and chain of history is clamped to every ankle. A notorious scandal of the Kennedy years was Defense Secretary Robert McNamara’s overruling all expert review and procurement recommendations and insisting that General Dynamics rather than Boeing make the disastrous F-111, at that time one of the largest procurement contracts in the Pentagon’s history. As I wrote here in 2004, the suspicion was that Henry Crown of Chicago was calling in some chits for his role in fixing the 1960 JFK vote in Cook County, Illinois, to the impotent fury of the teenage Hillary Clinton, who volunteered to check voter lists for Nixon. Crown, of Chicago Sand and Gravel, had $300 million of the mob’s money in General Dynamics debentures, and after the disaster of the Convair, General Dynamics needed the F-111 to avoid going belly up, taking the mob’s $300 million with it.
Henry Crown has passed on to the great pork barrel in the sky, but his descendants are devoted contributors to Obama, giving him tens of thousands of dollars, as a glance at the website of the Center for Responsive Politics swiftly attests. The Crown family is still deeply involved in the affairs of General Dynamics. Lester and James Crown have both had seats on the company’s board in recent years. General Dynamics has ties to Israeli military contractors. A 2003 General Dynamics corporate handout cited by Chicago Indymedia proclaimed “a strategic alliance with Aeronautics Defense Systems, Ltd.,” an Israeli firm based in Yavne. According to Indymedia, Aeronautics Defense Systems is the firm that developed the Unmanned Multi-Application System, an aerial surveillance tool the Israeli military uses to “provide a real-time ‘bird’s eye view’ of the surveillance area to combatant commanders and airborne command posts.” The Indymedia story quoted then-Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Ehud Olmert as saying the agreement between General Dynamics and Aeronautics Defense Systems to bring together “both companies’ state-of-the-art technologies in defense and homeland security” was “additional proof of the technological and commercial benefits that alliances between industries from the U.S. and Israel can produce.” An eye in the sky over Gaza ends up as a dollar in Obama’s war chest.