Listen to the breath,
the unbroken message that creates itself from the silence,
it rushes towards you now, from those youthfully dead.
- Rainer Maria Rilke, "Duino Elegies"
Presidents are the products of the times at least as much they are the shapers of them. They ride into office on great waves of half-understood historical forces, waves that can make them transformative leaders or capsize them without warning.
It's tempting to search for our own reflection in the presidencies of the past, in "what if?" exercises,in projecting more idealism and vision onto them than they actually possessed.
None of these exercises seem more misguided then the recent spate of right-wing commentary suggesting that President Kennedy was really a conservative. Kennedy was many things, but "conservative" was not one of them. That idea calls upon the person of conscience to, in Rilke's words, "gently remove the semblance of injustice that ... hinders spirits from a pure moving-on."