Obama Gets Kennedy History Wrong — Ask Sammy Davis

"President Kennedy didn't have the luxury of choosing between civil rights and sending us to the moon," President Obama lectured us during his education speech yesterday.

Unfortunately, the president has his history wrong. It was LBJ, not JFK, who signed the Voting Rights Act.

JFK's civil rights legacy is better defined by two incidents involving Sammy Davis Jr., who campaigned for Kennedy in 1960: Kennedy's disinviting Davis to the Inauguration and, as noted in Wil Haygood's In Black and White, telling an aide at a White House reception with prominent black leaders, "What's he doing here? Get them out of here!" while having Davis and his wife escorted out. You see, Davis was married at the time to actress May Britt, a white woman, and Kennedy didn't want to risk alienating Southern Democrats by being photographed with an interracial couple.

"Sammy Davis wrote a book called Yes, I Can. I sent him a wire and said, 'No, you can't,' " Frank Sinatra would joke on stage, but JFK's shabby treatment of Davis was no joke — and no profile in courage for civil rights.

Given Obama's appropriation of Sammy's book title (and his song), one would think he knows that.