Obama's "Cancer" Fight; Christie's Achilles' Heel? JFK's U.N. Exhortation

Obama's "Cancer" Fight; Christie's Achilles' Heel? JFK's U.N. Exhortation

By Carl M. Cannon - September 25, 2014

Good morning, it’s Thursday, September 25, 2014, a year in which the international news seems to veer between tragedy and farce. Under the latter heading was this week’s news that Venezuela is in line for a seat on the U.N. Security Council.

“To New York, I will take the voice of Venezuela,” proclaimed that nation’s president, Nicolás Maduro. “The voice of Chávez!”

Maduro is certainly a fitting successor to Hugo Chávez. Last year he expelled three U.S. Embassy staffers from Venezuela for no known reason other than his tacky taunt: “Yankees, go home!” This week, he dismissed criticism of Venezuela’s human rights record as “racist.”

But truly emulating “the voice of Chávez” at the United Nations would entail a level of goofiness that even Maduro may not have in him. You may recall the now-deceased leader calling George W. Bush “the devil” during a 2006 speech at the U.N., the day after Bush spoke, adding that the lectern still smelled of sulfur.

At such moments, even internationalist-minded Americans wonder if the whole idea of the United Nations is worth the trouble. Then there are times, like yesterday, when President Obama used his speech at the U.N. to call for “a new compact among civilized people” to unite against ideologies promoting global hatred.

Another such moment came on September 25, 1961 -- 53 years ago today -- when John F. Kennedy spoke at the U.N. to remind the world of the organization’s great promise, and essentialness.

I’ll have more on JFK’s speech, and his legacy, in a moment. First, I’d direct you to RealClearPolitics’ front page, which aggregates stories and columns from across the political spectrum, and to a complement of original material from RCP’s reporters and contributors.

* * * 

Obama: World Must Reject “Cancer of Violent Extremism.” Alexis Simendinger reports on the president’s U.N. speech on Wednesday.

As Christie Gears Up, Rival ’16 Strategists Lick Their Chops. The New Jersey governor seems poised to put Bridgegate behind him, but his state’s economic woes may be more difficult to shake. Scott Conroy has the story.

Senate Races: What September Polling Trends Tell Us. Sean Trende examines how the “fundamentals” (data on incumbency and the president’s job approval in a particular state) stack up again polling in predicting the outcome in key contests. 

America’s Dubious Threat Assessments. In her weekly column, Heather Wilhelm scratches her head over environmentalist hyperbole on display last weekend. 

Why Common Core Goes “Way, Way Too Far.” RealClearEducation sat down with New York high school principal Carol Burris for a Q&A about why she changed her opinion of the reform model.

Gut Bacteria May Be Telling You What to Eat. Ross Pomeroy has the details in RealClearScience.

A Papal Adviser’s Thoughts on John Paul II and Francis. RealClearReligion editor Nicholas Hahn interviews Italian philosopher and politician Rocco Buttiglione.

Nine Reasons to Remain a Sports Fan. Amid all the scandals, Sheldon Hirsch reminds us why we keep cheering.

 * * *

President Kennedy had been in office only eight months when U.N. General Secretary Dag Hammarskjold perished in a plane crash. It was fitting that the great Swedish diplomat died while seeking a cease-fire in Africa: promoting peace was his main business in life.

He believed the United Nations was the best forum for pursuing that mission, although he had no illusions about the organization’s problems, or how it was perceived in many quarters of the world. Still, he loved it.

“Everything will be all right -- you know when?” he once explained. “When people, just people, stop thinking of the United Nations as a weird Picasso abstraction and see it as a drawing they made themselves.”

On this date in 1961, world leaders paid homage to him, and the cause he championed.

“We meet in an hour of grief and challenge,” Kennedy began. “Dag Hammarskjold is dead. But the United Nations lives. His tragedy is deep in our hearts, but the task for which he died is at the top of our agenda. A noble servant of peace is gone. But the quest for peace lies before us.”

The young president, whose speech can be read and watched online, courtesy of the Kennedy Library, continued:
“The problem is not the death of one man -- the problem is the life of this organization. It will either grow to meet the challenges of our age, or it will be gone with the wind, without influence, without force, without respect. Were we to let it die, to enfeeble its vigor, to cripple its powers, we would condemn our future.”

John F. Kennedy had only two more autumns to live himself. But his vision for the future is carried on, in part, by the Institute of Politics, which was formed in his memory and is housed at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government.

This weekend, the I.O.P. is convening a conference on ways America’s political partisans can work together to tackle policy issues in their communities. Forty-eight students from 24 colleges around the country are attending the conclave, which is titled “Bipartisan Advocacy: Finding Common Ground.” It is also being live-streamed.

I believe John F. Kennedy would have approved. Dag Hammarskjold, too.


Carl M. Cannon
Washington Bureau Chief
Twitter: @CarlCannon

Carl M. Cannon is the Washington Bureau Chief for RealClearPolitics. Reach him on Twitter @CarlCannon.

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