Barack Obama: A Profile In… Courage?

REUTERS/Kamil Krzaczynski

Peter Parisi Freelance Writer
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The envelope, please. And the 2017 John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award goes to … <drumroll>

… Barack Obama. Seriously.

The John F. Kennedy Library Foundation announced March 2 that it had selected the former president for the annual award for “elevating the standard of political courage in a new century.”

It will present the award to Mr. Obama on Sunday, May 7.

The foundation said that Mr. Obama’s presidency “consistently reflected in so many ways, big and small, the definition of courage” articulated by Kennedy in his 1957 book “Profiles in Courage.”

The JFK prize panel cited Obamacare (never mind that it’s collapsing under its own bureaucratic and regulatory weight), Mr. Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran (which included returning to the mullahs in Tehran $150 billion in frozen assets) and his rapprochement with Cuba (for which the Castro brothers made no concessions, not even the repatriation of criminal fugitives such as convicted cop killer Assata Shakur, nee Joanne Chesimard).

By selecting Mr. Obama, the Profile in Courage award has lost whatever remaining cachet and credibility it might have had. It’s now little more than a trophy to progressive values and policies, and awarded to liberals by liberals.

In that regard, the JFK Profile in Courage Award follows the dubious trail blazed by the Nobel Peace Prize. Few take the Peace Prize seriously anymore after Mr. Obama won it in October 2009 — less than 10 months after taking office.

The Nobel committee dressed up its justification for that by citing what it called Mr. Obama’s “extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples.” Truth to tell, however, he hadn’t really done much at that point in his administration to deserve the encomium — other than to be not George W. Bush, aka “the Cowboy.”

Other recent recipients underscore the point that the JFK award committee views “courage” only through a prism of progressivism. The 2016 prize went to Connecticut Gov. Dan Malloy, a Democrat, for “courageously” defending the U.S. resettlement of Syrian refugees. “As half of U.S. governors … and countless others across the country voice support for a ban on Syrian refugees from entering the United States, [Malloy] took a stand against the hateful, xenophobic rhetoric,” said JFK’s grandson, Jack Schlossberg. “In doing so, he put principles above politics.”

It’s the JFK Library Foundation’s award, and obviously they can present it to whomever they wish, but it’s also clear it has become little more than a Democratic self-congratulatory back-patting party.

Yes, former President George H.W. Bush, a Republican, was chosen in 2014, but that was only “in recognition of the political courage he demonstrated… when he agreed to a 1990 budget compromise which reversed his 1988 campaign pledge not to raise taxes.” Liberals liked that because (A) it involved raising taxes; and (B) recanting his “Read my lips: no new taxes” pledge led to him losing his 1992 re-election bid to Democrat Bill Clinton.

This year’s selection of Mr. Obama could be seen as a case of one political hand washing the other, though that shouldn’t come as a complete surprise, either.

In January 2008, Caroline Kennedy announced her endorsement of then-Sen. Barack Obama’s candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination in a cringe-worthy New York Times op-ed column, “A President Like My Father.”

“I have never had a president who inspired me the way people tell me that my father inspired them,” she wrote. “But for the first time, I believe I have found the man who could be that president — not just for me, but for a new generation of Americans.”

Speak for yourself, Caroline.

Remember, too, that that was written at a time when Mr. Obama was a first-term backbencher in the U.S. Senate, and his prior service in the Illinois Senate was distinguished primarily by his votes of “present” on issues he didn’t want to take a stand on.

Mr. Obama voted “present” 129 times as an Illinois lawmaker, including 36 times when he was the only one of the 60 senators to do so. Hillary Clinton even sought to make a campaign issue of it in the 2008 Democratic presidential primaries, accusing him of “taking a pass” on tough issues.

“Some of his ‘present’ votes came on contentious issues — abortion, juvenile justice and guns laws among them,” PolitiFact reported in a “fact check” in February 2010, “and critics have suggested that Obama’s decision to avoid a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ vote in those cases stemmed from political expediency.”

Hardly a profile in courage there.

Mr. Obama returned the favor for the fawning op-ed endorsement by appointing Mrs. Kennedy to be ambassador to Japan in 2012. Now, it will be her turn again when she presents him with the award May 7 at the JFK Library, located next to Harvard, in Boston.

With any luck, as with the Oscars, we’ll learn there was a mix-up and that Mr. Obama wasn’t the real winner after all. Harvard is, after all, something of a “La La Land” East.

Peter Parisi is a freelance writer-editor who previously wrote and edited for 17 years for The Washington Times.