The Kennedy Cabinet

OK, so we interrupt our usual rants for an interesting historical question that is also an SEO experiment for my history website  US History – the main website for the travel and history blog

The Kennedy Cabinet was arguably one of the smartest in history, composed of many academics and intellectuals – something of a departure from earlier cabinets which I understand were often political allies, party hacks, etc.   I think most in cabinet positions througout history have been distinguished in their fields, but not to the degree – at least intellectually – that we saw in The Kennedy Cabinet.

So the question at hand is how does the Obama Cabinet stack up to the Kennedy Cabinet?

(no answer needed, though I would be interested in hearing from folks on this).  UPDATE:  What a great discussion below about  The Kennedy Cabinet !   Thanks Horatiox and Fools Gold for, as usual, a lot of very insightful comments.

Thanks, and we now return you to our regularly scheduled rational-but-uninspired ranting…


10 thoughts on “The Kennedy Cabinet

  1. Cabinet full of intellectuals?

    May I refer you to that great bastion of scholarship, Hollywood? Consider the script of a somewhat lousy movie entitled Dave. It involved a look alike small-town businessman brought to the White House as an impersonator so as to give the President one night of privacy. Unfortunately, during the night’s activities the young lady’s charms and skills were such that the President suffered a severely disabling stroke thus necessitating that the impersonation continue. The impersonator brought his small town CPA with him and attacked the federal budget from a sensible vantage point.

    The point of all this? Sometimes you do not want intellectuals, you want real world skills.

    The Pentagon “Whiz Kids” were from Harvard Business School and ran the Vietnam war poorly.

    During World War Two, Kaiser was assigned to build Liberty Ships to get war material to the UK. He had not built ships before, he was a right or left type guy, not a port and starboard type guy, he knew nothing about naval architecture. If he saw a beautifully curved line, he said why can’t it be made straight? If he saw something being fabricated at the ship yard he asked why it can’t be made offsite and trucked in? If it took a day to launch a ship stern first he asked why it can’t be launched sideways in one hour? He was not an intellectual at all. He knew nothing of the sea. He got the job done though!

    We need cabinets with fewer intellectuals.

    • We need cabinets with fewer intellectuals

      I think this is one of the most interesting question in politics. Clinton vs GW Bush is the best recent example, where we had a “best and brightest” vs more of an old boys network. Plenty of examples of trouble from both types. Kennedy got us into Vietnam War, Clinton and Rwanda Genocide, GW Bush got us into Iraq and arguably out and back into Afghanistan in poorly timed fashion.

      Maybe I’m just a elitist but I sure feel more comfortable when the cabinet people are the smartest in the room.

  2. Just happened to visit that History site and there was a short blurb on the Quartering Act.
    Would you be able to add a short statement that the necessity for the troops in the first place was due to the Colonists constantly intruding into the unsettled areas and provoking skirmishes with the French-backed Indians? Would you also calculate costs and numbers of such billet soldiers and crown agents and compare it to today’s ratios?

  3. Yes, JFK’s cabinet were intellectuals but may have lacked a bit in street smarts. Then, so did JFK and RFK –their tragic ends most likely had somethin’ to do with ratting out their pop’s old paysanos in…….. La Cosa Nostra, and hanging with the likes of J-Edgar Hoover (left off the list…he was RFK’s chief assistant though). You didn’t want to cross Sam Giancana back in those days. Or the reds for that matter.

    • Thanks for the Kennedy conspiracy angle Horatiox – now maybe I can get some decent traffic to this post!

      HEY, was that you up on on the grassy knoll with a camera, some duct tape, and a cuban cigar?

      • You can never be too paranoid as the freaks used to say. Anyway with the right words– mafia, Kennedy, Fidel, communists, Marilyn Monroe nude, J Edgar Hoover, grassy knoll
        the SEO goblins would be dancing.

        Way before my time. That said Im pretty convinced there was a conspiracy, and Oswald did not act alone (tho may have fired the…lethal shot)–though my view on the JFK-Con. may be rather unsavory for your PG rated site. The Dallas PD was most likely involved, along with mob (and possibly reds as well–)–possibly LBJ. Many people hated JFK, especially in the south.

  4. Politicians develop habits and priorities. Those who surround politicians seem to have the same habits and priorities but know that they are expendable. The focus for politicians is always Do No Wrong even if that means Do Nothing. Serve up Inspirational Pablum. Be Politically Correct. Don’t Offend Anyone Who Votes.
    So at the cabinet level you get clever connivers with the facade of political correctness who are the best and brightest but don’t get the job done because they know better than to try to get it done or you can have bumbling amateurs who might or might know the right job but can’t last long enough to get it done.

    Eisenhower got led into French Indo China, but he got led into there far too willingly. McNamara was great at calculating the cost of bombing a bridge but wasn’t so great at realizing that three days after having spent seventeen million dollars to bomb it, it was fully repaired. Whiz kids were great with those slide rules that calculated the cost of playing the game, but never smart enough to calculate the cost of losing it.

    • I think you’re making a good case for limited government, which is the right answer to many current national and international problems. The founders recognized several of the factors you are talking about, which was why they wanted to limit federal power and bureaucracy. For those SAME feared reasons the bureaucracy has expanded very dramatically, especially in the last few decades. Ironically I think the success of the early American economic vision was so spectacular it allowed the bureaucracy to grow – probably more commensally than parastically – and consolidate power directly in the shadow of this massively prosperous economy.

      Now that the economic juggernaut has stalled we can no longer afford a bureaucracy that offers us so little for so much. Higher taxes on lower earnings can’t feed this beast any longer, though I agree there’s probably room for higher taxes on capital gains and many of the exclusive provinces of the super wealthy. But taxing the golden gooses even more will mean fewer eggs. The question is .. how many fewer?

    • McNamara was a hawk. As was JFK, really. Many Demos–and GOPers as well–who wax nostalgic about the Kennedys overlook the actual historical record (including JFK’s macho act during the Bay of Pigs, a quite perilous situation). The world has not changed that much.

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