Fifty years ago today in Dallas, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated before he could deliver a speech whose message echoes across the decades, and today stands as a prophetic admonition against Tea Party politics.
In the words of the speech he never gave that day, Kennedy rebuked those who “confuse rhetoric with reality,” who demonize America’s civil servants, and who “see the debt as the single greatest threat to our security.” The speech is a full-throated celebration of rationality and learning as the linchpin of American leadership, and a surprisingly modern rebuke of the Ted Cruz wing of Republican politics.
Just read it:
In a world of complex and continuing problems, in a world full of frustrations and irritations, America’s leadership must be guided by the lights of learning and reason – or else those who confuse rhetoric with reality and the plausible with the possible will gain the popular ascendancy with their seemingly swift and simple solutions to every world problem.
There will always be dissident voices heard in the land, expressing opposition without alternative, finding fault but never favor, perceiving gloom on every side and seeking influence without responsibility. Those voices are inevitable.
But today other voices are heard in the land – voices preaching doctrines wholly unrelated to reality . . . At a time when the national debt is steadily being reduced in terms of its burden on our economy, they see that debt as the single greatest threat to our security. At a time when we are steadily reducing the number of Federal employees serving every thousand citizens, they fear those supposed hordes of civil servants far more than the actual hordes of opposing armies.
We cannot expect that everyone, to use the phrase of a decade ago, will “talk sense to the American people.” But we can hope that fewer people will listen to nonsense. And the notion that this Nation is headed for defeat through deficit, or that strength is but a matter of slogans, is nothing but just plain nonsense.