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Published: Saturday, 3/17/2001

Inappropriate link to JFK

Restraint appears to be an unknown quality to President Bush. Embarked on selling a half-baked tax-cut plan that increasingly makes economic competents like former Federal Reserve Bank Chairman Paul Volcker shudder, he will even borrow and misapply the words of a dead Democrat to assure its passage.

Now he's invoking former President John F. Kennedy, via soundbites of remarks the martyred president made nearly 40 years ago. In 1962 Mr. Kennedy spoke of the drag of the World War II tax system on the nation's growth. Today, Mr. Bush calls the current tax system a drag, but not necessarily for the same reason.

The spot ads, running in Louisiana and headed for Georgia and South Dakota, have been condemned by Mr. Kennedy's brother, Massachusetts Sen. Ted Kennedy, and his daughter, Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg.

They have rightfully called on the Republican consultants who assembled them to stop the ads, writing “It is intellectually dishonest and politically irresponsible to suggest that President Kennedy would have supported [the Bush] tax cut.” In fact, President Kennedy would vigorously oppose it, they said in their letter.

Mr. Bush has considerable work to do if he isn't to be viewed as intractable in the face of reasonable dissent, as he has been with his tax thing. He has work to do if he is to heal the rift created by attaining the presidency with a half million or so votes short of a majority. Bravado won't cut it.

Twisting for his own ends the words of a predecessor will not advance his cause. Mr. Bush is no Jack Kennedy. He's without the Kennedy style, the Kennedy panache, the Kennedy grace, or the Kennedy verbal skills.

He should quit invoking Mr. Kennedy and borrowing from him words meant for other purposes in other times. He should call off the ads and the consultants who put them together.

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