Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.
Sunday, April 30, 2017

Reprinted with permission from Creators.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,

But I have promises to keep,

And miles to go before I sleep…

WASHINGTON — John F. Kennedy spoke this passage of Robert Frost’s New England poetry often in speeches, capturing a snowy evening on horseback. The point was not to dwell on his state of Massachusetts.

It was a sure way of saying to people that he’d keep his promises. One made in his first White House spring: to land a man on the moon “before this decade is out,” the 1960s. Kennedy would not live to see his vision happen on a summer’s day in 1969. Yet the promise was kept, poetically. His 100th birthday comes in May. Could the time chord be any more bittersweet?

Thoughts of Kennedy hang heavy, given a president who publicly promises an “armada” steaming one way, when in fact our aircraft carrier and other ships were headed the other direction. Who knows what the world must think of us.

President Trump’s churlish ways were clear from the campaign — remember his vulgar words about women? “Carnage” was not a nice word in an inaugural address, especially compared with “Ask not what your country can do for you…” The broken promise to release his tax returns stings like a jellyfish in April. And he said NATO is obsolete — then again, it’s not.

Less than a lifetime ago, it was a pleasure to hear a president speak. (Barack Obama’s prose could soar, too.) Now Trump has murdered presidential truth and promises with less than 100 days in office. The American circus is on its final farewell tour, but who needs Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey when we have the meanest clown in town and country?

In Boston, Kennedy looms large as the city prepares for the centennial celebration. Here, the Kennedy Center is already alive with anticipation; the postage stamp is out.

Born the second son in 1917 to Rose and Joseph Kennedy, the boy’s grandfather was mayor of Boston. He grew to have a sharp intellect, a Pulitzer Prize, and a cool temperament that might have rather taught as a history professor. But the first son, Joe, died in the sky on a World War II mission. In the ferociously competitive clan, Jack was elected president, first in his father’s eyes.

It does make you wonder how we survived a thousand days of the Kennedy presidency with no tweets trumpeted in the darkness before the dawn. Our president also offers running commentary on popular culture, like this gem: “I don’t think Bill (O’Reilly) did anything wrong.” Wrong again.

Enormously popular with Trump voters, the cable show host was just fired by Fox News for mounting millions of dollars in lawsuits by several women who presented evidence of sexual harassment.

Trump spoke as if he’s an expert on harassment — maybe so.

The pictures were too perfect, the day O’Reilly was fired, of the sneering, brash 67-year-old standing in St. Peter’s Square, hanging with Pope Francis. The pope’s stardust provided the ideal time and place to confess.

For me, O’Reilly’s firing was second only to the Women’s March as a bright spot during the dreary winter of Trump’s days. I speak for many in saying this is vindication for the women who told truths, forming a pattern.

His public shaming will act as a serious deterrent, becoming a larger victory for all women in the workplace. The advertisers who fled the show touched the stone heart of the company. But the owners, the Murdoch father and two sons, did the right thing. O’Reilly’s poison has left the well, and the sneer has left the foxhole.

(I know, I know. Tucker Carlson, tapped to replace O’Reilly, wears a first-class sneer.)

A word of advice to gruff billy goat Trump, 70, and pal Bill. Go back to graceful Jack Kennedy, who charted courses for the country, but never combed gray hair. Self-deprecating wit is the secret sauce to disarming people. Try it sometime. Though it might be easier for these men to land on the moon.

Yet it works wonders. Asked how he became a war hero, Kennedy said with brio, “It’s easy. They sank my boat.”

To find out more about Jamie Stiehm and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit creators.com.