SF Chronicle Political Writer Enthuses Over Cosmetic JFK/Obama Parallels

July 13th, 2008 9:09 AM

Did you know that John F. Kennedy had a whole bunch of pets and now Barack Obama is planning on getting a pet dog too? JFK gave a speech in Berlin and now Obama is preparing to do the same. JFK also spoke at a stadium during the 1960 Democrat convention and guess what? Obama is also going to give a speech during the Democrat convention this August at Mile High Stadium in Denver. The parallels between Obama and JFK are unmistakable.

Okay, by now you are probably laughing out loud at the enormous stretch needed to draw the similarities between the two but the political writer for the San Francisco Chronicle, Carla Marinucci, makes this case in all seriousness in "Obama, JFK parallels - real or media hype?" As you can see in her article, Marinucci comes down firmly on the side of real, not hype:

He's fired up youth with eloquent oratory and a message of change. He has the pearl-wearing wife and two adorable little kids. He's making plans for a huge speech in Berlin.

So ask - or ask not: Is Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama channeling John F. Kennedy?

Republicans practically roll their eyes at the Camelot question - and Obama's not even the official nominee yet.

Or perhaps the Republicans, and many others, are bursting out laughing at Marinucci's utterly cosmetic comparisons between Obama and JFK. Here she is with more unintentional humor making the Obama/JFK case:

For starters, there was the announcement that Obama will aim to deliver an address in Berlin, a campaign event that has had German politicians battling over its propriety. But no one can escape the rich symbolism of a young Democrat speaking to the world from the same city where Kennedy delivered his famed "Ich bin ein Berliner (I am a Berliner)" speech in the midst of the Cold War.

Then there's the planned Aug. 28 nomination acceptance speech at a public rally before 75,000 people in a stadium - not a convention hall - in Denver.

That prompted House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco, speaking to The Chronicle last week, to draw the JFK parallel. She recalled how she was present with her parents in 1960 when the Democratic nominee did the same at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. That JFK appearance was a "thrilling" event that gave her what she called the political memory of a lifetime.

At least we should thank Marinucci for reminding us of how desperately Barack Obama is trying to emulate JFK since I wasn't aware of that Coliseum speech by Kennedy. Marinucci summons JFK speech writer, Ted Sorenson, to reenforce her case until it hits us over the head like a two by four:

But when it comes to the current race - and the Camelot connection - former JFK speechwriter Ted Sorenson has argued the case for what he said are some uncanny parallels between the wealthy Bostonian and the former Chicago community organizer.

Both Harvard-educated men wrote inspirational books, struggled with a perceived lack of experience, and a heritage (Catholic for Kennedy, African American for Obama) viewed as groundbreaking.

Their oratorical skills have been an obvious connection. "Kennedy's speeches in early 1960 and even earlier, like Obama's in early 2007 ... focused on several common themes: hope, a determination to succeed despite the odds, dissatisfaction with the status quo, and confidence in the judgment of the American people," Sorensen has written. "In sprinkling their remarks with allusions to history and poetry, neither talked down to the American people."

And don't forget that both Obama and JFK also breathed air and ate vegetables. The parallels are striking as Marunicci continues to demonstrate:

Last week's heralded TV interview with Obama, his wife, Michelle, and two spirited young daughters nearly summoned the spirit of Hyannis Port - especially when the girls were asked what it would be like to live in the White House. (The answer: "Cool.")

They're getting a dog - not exactly the Caroline Kennedy pony named Macaroni. But the Kennedys had an army of dogs at Hyannis Port - a Welsh terrier named Charlie, an Irish spaniel named Shannon, and a German shepherd named Clipper, as well as Pushinka, a present from Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev...

...When it comes to scoring on style matters, Michelle Obama has shown plenty of instinct: The Jackie-esque thing has been especially potent with her elegant jewel-colored dresses and fabulous sheaths, as well as the flip hairdo and signature pearls that positively channel the revered first lady.

Obama himself hasn't done too badly on that front. Like JFK, he has won kudos from the A-list of the fashion world, including designers Donatella Versace and Tom Ford, for his classic, metrosexual, sleeves-rolled-up urban cool.

Marunicci does put in an obligatory disclaimer that the whole Obama Camelot thing could just be hype:

Still, some political observers say the whole Camelot thing is just the creation of a headline-hungry, celebrity-soaked media culture.

"I don't think Kennedy was trying to create Camelot, and I don't think Obama is trying to present himself as if he were Kennedy," said Democratic strategist Phil Trounstine, an Obama backer. "Come on, it's a People magazine worldview. And Michelle Obama is who she is," he said. Besides, "Jackie Kennedy's pearls were real."

"So there's plenty to say about Obama," he said with a laugh. "But the idea that he is channeling John Kennedy is a cheesy, cheap shot - something you guys are good at."

Well, that really "convinced" me. Jackie's pearls were real and the assumption made is that Michelle Obama wears fakes so maybe it really is hype to compare Obama with JFK. However, if you have any doubt as to where Carla Marinucci falls on the real vs hype debate on the parallels between Obama and JFK, she concludes her article with this handy checklist:

Democratic nomination acceptance speech

Obama: Aug. 28, 2008. Invesco Field at Mile High Stadium, Denver

JFK: July 15, 1960. Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum

Inspirational books

Obama: "Dreams of My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance," "The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream."

JFK: "Profiles in Courage"

First major-party candidate to be

Obama: African American

JFK: Roman Catholic


Obama: Sheath-wearing, (fake) pearl-wearing, flip-haired Michelle

JFK: Sheath-wearing, pearl-wearing, flip-haired Jackie


Obama: Two adorable daughters, Malia and Sasha

JFK: One adorable daughter, Caroline, and one adorable son, John

Family pets

Obama: Coming soon: dog

JFK: pony, dogs, parakeet, rabbit

And now we need to start analyzing whether Obama will wear narrow ties while patting his suit jacket where he keeps his cigars, oops, I mean cigarettes, hidden in the inside pocket.