In an increasingly flat, dispersed, networked world in which power, information, knowledge, purchasing power, and more was rapidly decentralizing, Kennedy was all for sitting at the top of a pyramid and directing activity. In this way, he was of his time and place, a post-war America that figured that all the kinks of everyday life had been mastered by a few experts in government, business, and culture.
Those sentences easily could fit under Unchecked and Unbalanced Watch. That forthcoming book makes exactly this point about the contrast between the decentralizing of our information structure and the centralization of political power.
However, the health care debate is between a party that wants to centralize more power and a party that, as Miron points out, is fighting back by demagogically defending centralized power. My guess is that Gillespie, Miron, and I are way more out of touch with the overall political temper of the times than was Ted Kennedy.
One of the themes of The Best and the Brightest is that the (President) Kennedy foreign policy team was attached to a rigid anti-Communism from another era. Halberstam's point is that the public was more ready to "lose" South Vietnam than the politicians realized. The country's leaders did not realize how quickly sentiment had shifted from concern with the horrors of Communism to concern with the horrors of war.
Consider the possible parallel with pubilc sentiment about deficit spending. Historically, worry about the budget deficit was a loser issue politically. It was always politically more advantageous to cut taxes or increase spending than go for fiscal responsibility. It was always politically more advantageous to defend entitlements than to put them on a sustainable path. Both parties are acting as if the old political rules still apply. I wonder if (a) public sentiment is really changing and (b) if it is, whether either party will be able to adapt.