Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Jefferson, Kennedy, and Obama

Welcoming forty-nine Nobel Prize winners to the White House in 1962, President John F. Kennedy said, "I think this is the most extraordinary collection of talent and of human knowledge that has ever been gathered together at the White House – with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone."

It took time and experience for Jefferson to achieve and deserve the accolades heaped upon his narrow shoulders. Though a masterful thinker and accomplished politician, and despite the wondrous words on the Declaration of Independence, he was often remarkably naive about human behavior favoring the idea that men, specially those of noble breeding, were good, decent, and honorable.

In a new book, "Flight From Monticello, Thomas Jefferson at War," reviewed in the Wall Street Journal, Michael Kranish writes of the high minded Jefferson during the Revolutionary War in Virginia.
The war must have seemed very far away from Monticello on those evenings in 1779 when Thomas Jefferson joined a Hessian prisoner of war in a violin duet, with Martha Jefferson accompanying them on the pianoforte, while Baroness Riedesel, the regal wife of the captive Hessian commander, led the party in dances. Jefferson that January had welcomed the arrival in the Charlottesville, Va., area of nearly 4,000 British and Hessian prisoners taken in the Battle of Saratoga, believing they would provide a boost to the local economy.

He also believed that the prisoners should be treated humanely and, at least in the case of the officers, more than humanely. "It is for the benefit of mankind to mitigate the horrors of war as much as possible," he argued. He saw to it that British and Hessian officers were ensconced in mansions, arranging for Brig. Gen. William Phillips, the leader of the British prisoners, to rent an estate called Blenheim, complete with black slaves to attend to his needs.

"The great cause which divides our countries is not to be decided by individual animosities," Jefferson told the general, who soon invited him to dine at Blenheim. Two years later, in 1781, having been released in a prisoner exchange and with his knowledge of Virginia much improved, Jefferson's new British friend "would command an invasion that targeted Virginia and Jefferson himself."
[Jefferson] raced away from Monticello in June 1781 just minutes before British soldiers showed up. As governor, he had fled Richmond the preceding January in the face of an invasion led by the traitorous Brig. Gen. Benedict Arnold. Receiving word early on New Year's Day of a fleet approaching the Virginia coast, Jefferson had been unsure whether it was British invaders or French reinforcements. Instead of assuming the worst and calling up the militia, he decided to wait for more definite intelligence. The resulting two-day delay made it impossible to prevent Arnold from capturing Richmond.

Jefferson—who later pointed out that he had no military skill or experience—never accepted any blame for that outcome...
The current US executive, having far less experience and intellect than Jefferson, seems intent on committing all his novice mistakes at the expense of America. From Jefferson, one could learn distrust of an enemies entreaties to personal friendship, especially during war; prisoners of war housed on home territory is not good for the local economy, should be segregated, and guarded 24 hours a day; right or wrong, make the crucial decisions and give needed orders before they're necessary and be always ready to cancel or amend the actions dependent on current events; and always take responsibilty both personal and for those under command.

This is what Obama could learn. Don't hold your breath; I'm not.

The life of Indigo Red is full of adventure. Tune in next time for the Further Adventures of Indigo Red.


Mike's America said...

Obama isn't likely to learn anything. He's so convinced of his own P.R. that he truly does believe he can do no wrong.

The Mayor of Las Vegas feels differently and said "he's a slow learner."

I agree.

Obama will never be a great man like Jefferson or even Kennedy. His oversized ego gets in the way.

Anonymous said...

I agree Mike. His defiant Mussolini chin thrust when he is talking down to people tells you everything you need to know. Don