Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Clinton's Kennedyesque Image

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Clinton's Kennedyesque Image

Article excerpt

BILL CLINTON is no Jimmy Carter; but he might become a John Kennedy. We're talking about voter perceptions, nothing more.

Governor Clinton is, like Mr. Carter, a Southerner with strong appeal to Southern voters, blacks as well as whites. But, unlike Carter, Clinton's candidacy is marred by charges that question his character and his integrity.

Carter's appeal was more like that of Paul Tsongas than Clinton. Maybe that's why the former senator from Massachusetts and the former president seem to hit it off so well together. Carter did have that winning smile. But what the voters mainly liked were his expressions of compassion and his commitment to a better America. It was his intelligence, not his personality, that brought people to Jimmy Carter's side.

Clinton is running like a John Kennedy. Watch that right arm as it goes up and down. JFK used a similar gesture. Then there's that little grin. Maybe it's nothing more than part of what might be called "the real Clinton."

But so often when he flashes that grin I remember how President Kennedy would let that little smile play across his face. I may be a little cynical on this subject. But I think that Clinton, when on the political stage, is always playing Kennedy.

Clinton is probably as bright as Kennedy. And as a presidential candidate he probably - to judge from his record - shows more promise than Robert Kennedy did when he was seeking the presidency in 1968. He's a Rhodes Scholar whose performance as Arkansas governor during six terms has won rave reviews from many of his fellow state chief executives. John Kennedy as a congressman and a senator - often away from Washington, sometimes because of a physical ailment - had been less than impressive.

I covered that 1960 Kennedy-Nixon campaign as a newsman, first going out with one candidate and then the other. The widespread expectation - in the public, in the press, and among politicians - was that Kennedy simply didn't have a chance against Vice President Richard Nixon.

It was not until that fall debate, when Kennedy stood up to Mr. Nixon and, in the eyes of most viewers, faced him down, that the young senator from Massachusetts began to be viewed as someone who could give Nixon a run for his money. …

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