John F. Kennedy and George W. Bush Jr Term Paper

Pages: 5 (2235 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 10  ·  File: .docx  ·  Topic: American History

JFK and President Bush

Matter of Perception

John F. Kennedy stands as one of the nation's great orators of all time. In contrast, President Bush is known for his bumbling speeches, uttering phrases such as mixing up perseverance and preservation, subliminate when he means subliminal, or his famous, "I know how hard it is for you to put food on your family." Bush's speeches cannot compare with JFK's famous words, "Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country."

Both JFK and Bush won their Presidencies by a thin margin. Their public image was that of being inexperienced with no record from which to judge them. Both were products of upper class privilege and Ivy League Schools. Despite all of these similarities, they were judged differently by the American public. This essay will explore the reasons that underlie public perception of these two similar Presidents.

Official Challenges

Both JFK and President faced similar challenges while in office. They were both faced with the challenge of uniting the country against a dangerous enemy. They both were challenged by the dilemma of convincing the American public to back unpopular military decisions. For JFK, it was the Soviet Union and his standoff with Khruschchev over the nuclear threat. Bush's arch enemy is Saddam Hussein and the global war on terrorism.

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Manipulation of the press were key points of contention with both Presidents. Kennedy stated, "This nation's foes have openly boasted of acquiring through our newspapers information they would otherwise hire agents to acquire through theft, bribery or espionage." They have been criticized of acting on inaccurate intelligence. However, how they handled these accusations were quite different. Kennedy decided to reform the intelligence network. Bush has taken a stance of denial of the problem on all accounts.

TOPIC: Term Paper on John F. Kennedy and George W. Bush Jr. Assignment

When one examines two addresses by Kennedy in the aftermath of the Bay of Pigs invasion, one can see the precursor to Bush's reasoning for a preemptive strike against Iraq. In a speech given on April 20, 1961, Kennedy stated,

Any unilateral American intervention, in the absence of an external attack upon us or an ally, would have been contrary to our traditions and to our international obligations. But let the record show that our restraint is not inexhaustible. Should it ever appear that the inter-American doctrine of non-interference merely conceals or excuses a policy of nonaction...."

This same logic was seen in Bush's speech to convince the American public that the only logical response to the World Trade Tower Bombings was to attack, before they had a chance to launch another attack. According to many press reports, the American public simply did not buy it. They felt that this would involve too many innocent bystanders and that it was a form of Muslim repression. Unlike Kennedy, Bush was unable to gain the backing of the American public.

Differences in Perception

Upon examining the surface issues and challenges that they faced in office, it would appear that both Presidents were very similar. JFK was accused of drug use, alcoholism, affairs, and DUIs. Bush has been accused of alcoholism, with his apparent speech difficulties used as evidence. However, Bush fervently denies in a video that alcoholism has anything to do with his occasional inability to articulate. Yet, the public has scrutinized Bush more heavily than JFK, who had a publicly recognized problem. The answer to that question may lie in cultural differences between the early 1960s and today. Those that are not Bush supporters use this fact to add fuel to the fire regarding his abilities as a President.

President Bush has Degrees from both Yale and Harvard Business School. He is an intelligent man, but the public perception is that he is less so than some of his more trustworthy predecessors. Richard Stoyek, feels that President Bush is simply the victim of poor advisors and inaccurate information.

In a blog comment Bush was described as an "arrogant, egotistical individual, who is also as dumb as a stone." One would have never heard such comments about Kennedy. JFK's saving grace was his charisma. After the Soviet Missile Crisis and the Bay of Pigs incident, JFK's ability as a leader became the focus, rather than his enigmatic personality. It became clear to the public that he would risk global incineration just to get one up on Khruschchev. Bush has been criticized for having a personal agenda in the War on Terrorism, and particularly against Saddam Hussein.

Kennedy's delivery of speeches was clear and confident. Bush often stumbles and stammers, tripping over words and inserting the wrong word at the wrong place. Bush's speech making ability is behind a debate regarding the supposition that Bush has some form of speech impediment, such as dyslexia, according to William Stixrud, a clinical neuropsychologist. (Crock). Others disagree and point to the fact that he can read a teleprompter, a nearly impossible task for a dyslexic. Weinberg Postulates that with practice, even someone with a disorder could read a speech and be able to deliver it adequately.

Bush claims that he does not have dyslexia. However, his brother Neil does have dyslexia, according to Gail Sheehy. Some experts argue that the President has classic signs of dyslexia, while others feel that it may be some other brain dysfunction. Despite his difficulty in keeping his words straight, while speaking, Bush is judged and criticized for his disability. Regardless of his ability to convey speeches properly, the President still continues to carry out the duties of his office like a college grad.

Bush's inability to deliver speeches are at the heart of public debate and criticism. The public tends to place more emphasis on his inability to deliver speeches, than his policies. His inability to deliver speeches has been used to support those who feel that his policies are incorrect. Society tends to forget that a President does not act alone. They only see the image as an icon of the government that he represents. The public remembers the speech itself and are not cognizant of the fact that the President did not write it, but rather one of his speech writing staff. They forget that he has many advisors and sources of information that influence his decisions. They only see the product, and the product is judged by how well the President can deliver speeches.

President Bush's delivery style is not as eloquent as Kennedy's. Unfortunately, society still holds many stereotypes about people with speech difficulties and other obvious maladies. Those that cannot speak clearly are often viewed as less intelligent than those that are eloquent. Speech difficulties have nothing to do with intelligence and there are many famous people that have speech impediments who are not limited mentally.

It is clear that President Bush and JFK had different strengths and weaknesses. They both had difficulties with public image and policies that were unpopular. However, Kennedy may have been less harshly than Bush due to the culture of the time and stereotypes regarding Bush's inability to deliver oratory properly. The ability to deliver speeches will appears to be a major contributing factor that influences public perceptions of the President's ability to do his job.

There are no reliable sources that President Bush is once again hitting the bottle, but the stories in the press are leading. One expert even concluded that President Bush demonstrated signs of presinile dementia. The press has treated President Bush harshly, in regards of his ability to carry out his office. The most important lesson that can be gained from JFK's Presidency is that the power of the press can dictate public opinion of the President and can have a significant influence on how he is recorded in history. Although none of the claims that Bush is physically incompetent to hold office can be proven, when the press puts them in print, they have the same affect on public perception as if they were verifiable.

The policies of JFK and Bush have been equally criticized by experts and analysts. Both of these Presidents were involved in unpopular decisions during their term. However, in retrospect, JFK is viewed in a positive light, despite his misgivings. Critics look for every opportunity to criticize Bush and to support their claims of incompetence with "evidence." Thus far, no substantial evidence can be found that proves Bush is unable to carry out the job required of his office, but the press has had a heavy influence on supporting those that do not agree with his policies. The case JFK and President Bush demonstrates that the perception of the Presidency has a more lasting affect than actual policy decisions. A President's track record hinges on his ability to deliver speeches, rather than his ability as a President.


Associated Press. Bush denies magazine's suggestion of dyslexia. September 12, 2000. Web posted at: 10:12 AM EDT (1412 GMT). CNN.COM. Accessed June 11, 2008; available at

Crock, S. "Analyzating" Bush's Grey Matter. MARCH 12,

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