Fisking JFK

Political blogging is, by its nature, slave to the zeitgeist. If it happened more than two hours ago, it’s old news. And if it happened more than 24 hours ago, you’d better have some sage reflections to make the waiting worth the while.

Heedless of this, Brian Moore is getting around to fisking the speeches of John Kennedy. For those not familiar with Kennedy, he was president for roughly a thousand days before his term was tragically cut short by an assassin’s bullet two years before I was born. And I’m not a young man.

Anywho, here’s the speech, as redacted for a commercial:

It’s about the decision to launch the space program and land on the moon.  We’ll celebrate the 40th anniversary of the accomplishment of that goal next Monday.

Moore’s considered reaction:

What the hell does “we choose to do this thing, not because they are easy, but because they are hard” mean?  It’s just flatly moronic.  People choose to do things based on the benefit they estimate to receive minus the cost of doing so.  There are tons of hard things we could choose to do — some even harder than going to moon.  How about not nearly provoking a nuclear holocaust with Russia?  How about not sleeping around with East German spies?  How about not becoming addicted to drugs?  If only we could’ve achieved these “hard” goals as well!


Don’t even get me started on “ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.”  Good thing I can rely on superior historical Americans to retort with: “government of the people, by the people, for the people.”  Does anyone even listen to what these people are saying?  Or do the billowing flags and resonant marches just summon up that deep lizard part of our brain to blindly prostrate ourselves before Important Men saying Important Things?

More at the link. Suffice it to say, were Kennedy still alive and running for a second term, he would not get Moore’s vote.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Brian Moore says:

    Next week I’ll be complaining about some bad stuff Cicero said.

  2. Ben says:

    Don’t even get me started on Plato

  3. Furhead says:

    Cult of personality.

    But, regarding the first phrase: humans like challenges that are fun. Going to the moon is fun. All of the counter-examples, like not sleeping with spies, are not fun.

    Anyway, if you replace “country” with “fellow man”, the second phrase could be considered quite acceptable, though banal.

  4. I agree the speech is silly. But even sillier is this:

    People choose to do things based on the benefit they estimate to receive minus the cost of doing so.

    Mr. Moore cannot have seen much of life if he imagines this is how humans make decisions.

  5. ZZMike says:

    Mr Moore seems to have been off his tranquil meds this time.

    My problem is with the use of that clip as an ad. Omega has been making a circuis out of the event. Locally (Southern California), they put on a “40th Anniversary” event, with Carpenter, Stafford, and Cernan. You could even get into a VIP cocktail party with the astronauts – you only needed to buy an Omega watch (at about $5500) first.

    That’s crass commercializing.

    A few days before, Buzz Aldrin was at a book signing in a nearby Borders bookstore. He was promoting his new book, and you only haad to plunk down about $20 for a book he’d sign. And there was a good Q&A session besides. And he drove to and from, with his daughter, in his own car.

  6. Drew says:

    “Mr. Moore cannot have seen much of life if he imagines this is how humans make decisions.”

    You must live in an alternative universe, Michael. Further, there is a rich academic literature devoted to this very proposition.

  7. Drew:

    there is a rich academic literature devoted to this very proposition.

    Let me guess: in economics. Not in anthropology, psychology, physiology or philosophy.

    People are not rational actors. Which is why attempts to model systems involving humans don’t work. Why we can’t really predict future economic events and can barely describe past economic events.

    People act from passion, prejudice, impulse, love, delusion, desire, altruism, fear and sheer stupidity. An academic can come along after the fact and attempt to fit a rational frame over those actions, but it’s false.

    If people acted rationally, weighing pluses and minuses we’d be able to predict economics, politics, fashion and so on with accuracy. In fact we can’t accurately predict the economy six weeks from now. Because we don’t know whether millions of humans will feel optimistic or afraid, encouraged and daring or withdrawn and cautious.