The Beeb showed this JFK documentary today on BBC World (satellite TV). For the most part it revisits the events of that day which many of us vividly remember. [For the record: I was in Miss Pruitt’s third grade class in Cooperative Elementary School, Spartanburg, SC, USA when the school PA system broke in with a frantic radio announcer delivering the tragic news.]
I found most of this programme informative if predictable. To its credit, mention is made of Kennedy’s weak civil rights record–yes, the Kennedys were a pretty segregated, class-concious bunch. Did it surprise me to have the final segment become a Bush-bashing exercise? Not really. (It’s the last segment called “How Is JFK Remembered?”) These students having learned of JFK (this legend of Camelot) at the knee of their baby-boomer parents have been force-fed the same formula the Beeb has been passing on to us. It was just too tempting for the Beeb producers to not let this wonderful backhanded comparison of Bush and JFK fly. What a gift. Unfortunately, one of the students did not realise how close Bush and JFK were in the tax-cutting department. (Do BBC producers know that Kennedy cut taxes and that Reagan and Bush have followed a similar policy?) Americans, a simple majority at least, are ever grateful that Bush has not said “now hand me your wallets.” What wisdom our student discussion group displays. What rich historical perspective they bring. If only the producer could have found a few favorable Bush-JFK comparisons, a little balance would have lent it credibility. Unfortunately, it is steeply slanted. Interviews of key players like McNamara, Sorenson (gratuitous anti-Bush comments aside) and Cronkite are a dime a dozen, so great is interest in all things Kennedy. After watching “Kennedy: Legend and Leader”, you might wish to read up on some of those less than legendary bits of the JFK story the Beeb left out. Here’s one by Christopher Hitchens. Maybe Hitchens is too harsh, but it’s ok to take in more than one perspective, even when one is dealing in legend, some of which are of greater importance than others.