As for the war against "Islamofascism," it pales beside the war against the real fascists of the 20th century: the Japanese Empire and Hitler's Reich, which, in two years, conquered Europe from the Atlantic to the Urals. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, hosting David Duke at a Holocaust Conference, doesn't quite cut it.
For Democrats the problem seems most acute.
After all, JFK has been dead 44 years. No one under 50 has any memory of his presidency. While his daughter has grown up to be a lovely woman, how many young people even know who Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg is?
And other than his assassination that terrible day in Dallas and the Cuban missile crisis, which they learned about in school, what do the people of America under 50 even know about JFK?
There was the Bay of Pigs, the space program, and Jackie and her glamour. The film clips of JFK standing before the Berlin Wall declaring "Ich bin ein Berliner" are often shown, but few commentators mention that the wall went up on JFK's watch and he did zip about it. And since JFK, we have had LBJ, the Great Society, Vietnam, Nixon and China, Watergate, the Ford-Carter interlude, the Reagan era and two decades of Bush-Clinton-Bush.
Alone among the candidates, Barack seems to want to become a leader in the JFK-Reagan mold. His problem: He has no great cause like the Cold War or civil rights revolution and no great adversary as a foil.
Universal health care may be important. It is also a crashing bore, as that wonkish Democratic debate last week demonstrated. And didn't LBJ already do the heavy lifting on Medicare, Medicaid and civil rights?
The Democrats' problem is that it is the party of government, when, after Katrina, no one really believes in government anymore, except perhaps the military.
John McCain, now identifying himself as a "foot solider in the Reagan revolution," is casting himself in a heroic posture as a Churchill who will "never surrender" and lead us to victory in the war against Islamofascism.
But the American people now believe the war in Iraq was a mistake and want out, if only we can avoid a defeat or a bloody debacle.
Perhaps the candidates are hearkening back to yesterday because they know the American people are unhappy with today, and Barack's followers aside, are not looking forward to tomorrow with any anticipation of great days ahead under either party.