Jonah Goldberg comments on yesterday's Fred Siegel piece (whose basic problem Chait has already identified): 

First, it's worth noting (as I pointed out here), that JFK was no down-the-line partisan liberal Democrat. Indeed, if a Democrat ran like JFK today — to the right of his Republican opponent, for example — there's no way that Teddy would swoon over him. Ironically, it was  this sort of campaigning (and governing) from Bill and Hillary Clinton that earned Teddy's ire (One small example: JFK ran to Nixon's right on the "missile gap," Bill ran to Poppa Bush's right on the "Butcher's [sic] of Beijing.").

First of all, while there's no doubt that both JFK and Clinton ran and governed as centrist Democrats, I'm not sure Kennedy's "missile gap" rhetoric and Clinton's post-Tiananmen haranguing really count as "running to the right," as opposed to being basically run-of-the-mill opportunistic shots at incumbent Republican administrations. Clinton never got tough on China (nor did anyone seriously expect him to), and defense spending went from being 9.3 percent of GDP in 1960 to...a whopping 9.4 percent in 1961 (before resuming its downward trajectory).

More to the point, Obama's doing the same thing--most notably, with regard to Pakistan. Whatever one thinks of his harsh anti-Musharraf stance and his threat to send American troops in pursuit of terrorists in northwest Pakistan, one can't accuse him of taking a standard dovish posture. That seems like the most apt parallel for the "missile gap" in 1960 and the "butchers of Beijing" in 1992. Obama may not be radically at odds with the prevailing Democratic foreign-policy wisdom of his time, but neither were JFK or Clinton.

--Josh Patashnik