It’s time for the Republican Party to nominate a JFK-style conservative for president
Ira Stoll writes; The most influential figure in the Republican presidential contest just may be a Democrat who died more than 50 years ago, John F. Kennedy.
When Fox News commentator Charles Krauthammer recently predicted Marco Rubio as the eventual 2016 winner, Krauthammer praised the senator from Florida with a label encapsulating political vigor, pro-growth ideas, and a robust foreign policy of peace through strength: “Kennedyesque.”
The former governor of Florida, Jeb Bush, another Republican with eyes on the White House, is, as Kennedy was, a Catholic from a wealthy and politically active family with bases in both New England and Florida. Jeb Bush even wrote a book, Profiles in Character, with a title that is a conscious imitation of JFK’s Profiles in Courage. Bush and Kennedy also both wrote books extolling immigration; Bush’s was Immigration Wars, Kennedy’s was A Nation of Immigrants.
And don’t forget Ted Cruz, the senator from Texas. Cruz’s Senate Web site hosts a video featuring Fox News’s Neil Cavuto and a historic clip from Kennedy under the headline “The Success of President John F. Kennedy’s Tax Cut.” On the 50th anniversary of Kennedy’s assassination, Cruz published a remarkable piece in National Review Online crediting Kennedy with laying the foundation for Ronald Reagan’s tax cuts and Cold War victory.
At a forum last month with Jonathan Karl of ABC News that was sponsored by the Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce, Senator Cruz placed Kennedy with Reagan and Calvin Coolidge in the pantheon of conservative tax-cutters: “Every single time in our history that we have simplified taxes, reduced the burden, reduced the compliance cost, simplified regulation …. We’ve seen an economic boom, we’ve seen people climb out of poverty into prosperity. That was true in the 1920s, it was true in the 1960s, it was true in the 1980s.”
When another Republican presidential candidate, retired neurosurgeon Benjamin Carson, spoke to me about his opposition to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, he said he would have responded instead to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, with “a Kennedy-esque moment,” launching a “national project” to become petroleum independent. Read the rest of this entry »
Lisa “Kennedy” Montgomery will be the host of “Kennedy,” which will launch January 26 at 10 p.m., after the conclusion of an episode of the network’s new” Strange Inheritance” reality series that night. “Kennedy” will feature an opening monologue from the host, followed by interviews and discussion segments. Fox Business is billing the program as focused on “big water-cooler discussion topics.”…(read more)
13 December 1961 President and Mrs. Kennedy with the 1961 White House Christmas Tree. White House, Blue Room. Photograph by Robert Knudsen, Office of the Naval Aide to the President, in the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston.
Pierre Salinger, Autumn 1992: Cigars have been a part of my life. My smoking habit began in my youth, helped me write my own adult history, and now, cigars are in my dreams. Even though the world is rising against smoking, and particularly against cigars, I still feel they are part of my daily world and I have no incentive to stop smoking them.
My cigar smoking started when I was young. I entered the United States Navy in the early days of World War II and when I reached the age of 19 I became commanding officer of a submarine chaser in the Pacific Ocean. But to run a ship that had 25 sailors and two other officers, all older than me, posed a deep psychological problem . How could I convince them that I was a man of authority? Even if the quality of those big cigars was mediocre, they accomplished their purpose–they made a 19-year-old boy really look like the commander of the ship.
When I returned to San Francisco after the war, I went back to a job at a daily newspaper where I had briefly worked before entering the Navy. I kept on smoking my cigars while I wrote articles. But the cigars were still bad cigars, and they obviously smelled bad. There was a wonderful woman journalist working for the newspaper who hated the smell. She decided to take up a collection among my fellow workers. She handed me $19.32 and told me it was her contribution for a better quality of cigars. Better cigars, better smell.
Despite the self-interested largess of my colleagues, I still did not advance to the cream of available cigars in those days, the imports from Cuba. Actually, I would have to wait until I was almost 35 years old before I started to work for a rising young American politician named John Kennedy, who liked to smoke Petit Upmann Cuban cigars. Working around him, I felt I had no choice but to upgrade my smoke of choice to a Cuban. I’ve smoked them ever since.
Shortly after I entered the White House in 1961, a series of dramatic events occurred. In April, 1961, the United States went through the disastrous error of the Bay of Pigs, where Cuban exiles with the help of the United States government tried to overthrow the government of Fidel Castro. Several months later, the President called me into his office in the early evening.
“Pierre, I need some help,” he said solemnly.
“I’ll be glad to do anything I can Mr. President,” I replied.
“I need a lot of cigars.”
“How many, Mr. President?”
“About 1,000 Petit Upmanns.”
I shuddered a bit, although I kept my reaction to myself. “And, when do you need them, Mr. President?”
I walked out of the office wondering if I would succeed. But since I was now a solid Cuban cigar smoker, I knew a lot of stores, and I worked on the problem into the evening.
The next morning, I walked into my White House office at about 8 a.m., and the direct line from the President’s office was already ringing. He asked me to come in immediately.
“How did you do Pierre?” he asked, as I walked through the door.
“Very well,” I answered. In fact, I’d gotten 1,200 cigars. Kennedy smiled, and opened up his desk. He took out a long paper which he immediately signed. It was the decree banning all Cuban products from the United States. Cuban cigars were now illegal in our country.
The embargo complicated my life. The only time I could get a few Cuban cigars was when I traveled abroad with the President to countries like France, Austria and Great Britain. But then, in late May 1962, I went alone to Moscow for the first time. I met for two days with Nikita Khrushchev, talking face to face with the Soviet leader. As our meeting came to end, Khrushchev turned to me. Read the rest of this entry »
In a dramatic televised address to the American public, President John F. Kennedy announces that the Soviet Union has placed nuclear weapons in Cuba and, in response, the United States will establish a blockade around the island to prevent any other offensive weapons from entering Castro’s state. Kennedy also warned the Soviets that any nuclear attack from Cuba would be construed as an act of war, and that the United States would retaliate in kind.
Kennedy charged the Soviet Union with subterfuge and outright deception in what he referred to as a “clandestine, reckless, and provocative threat to world peace.” He dismissed Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko‘s claim that the weapons in Cuba were of a purely defensive nature as “false.” Harking back to efforts to contain German, Italian, and Japanese aggression in the 1930s, Kennedy argued that war-like behavior, “if allowed to grow unchecked and unchallenged, ultimately leads to war. Read the rest of this entry »
On September 26, 1960, John F. Kennedy and Richard M. Nixon held the first televised debate in presidential campaign history. The program originated in Chicago and was carried by all of the major radio and TV networks.
Oswald and Sirhan were troubled men of radical politics who wanted to murder their ideological enemies, Oswald on behalf of Castro and Sirhan on behalf of the Palestinian cause
Over at The Volokh Conspiracy, David Bernstein writes: While fifty years later, much of the MSM still refuses to acknowledge that JFK’s assassin was a Communist loser, somehow it’s also apparently not cricket to point out that his brother RFK was murdered by a Palestinian terrorist.
So let’s review. Sirhan Sirhan was a Palestinian refugee with Jordanian citizenship. He murdered Kennedy because the latter promised to send advanced fighter planes to Israel. The PLO terrorist group Black September demanded his release in exchange for hostages in 1973, recognizing that he was “one of theirs.”
Yet of 5755 hits for “Sirhan Sirhan” in the ALLNEWS database on Westlaw, only four of them refer to him as a “Palestinian terrorist” or “Palestinian extremist;” three of these sources are the Jerusalem Post, and one is the New York Jewish Week. In mainstream publications, you actually get phrases like this, “Black September terrorists who kidnapped the Western diplomats in a failed plot to free Palestinian terrorists in European jails and Sirhan Sirhan, the killer of Robert F. Kennedy,” as if Sirhan Sirhan, a terrorist and a Palestinian, on the same “trade of for hostages list” as other Palestinian terrorists, was somehow not a “Palestinian terrorist.” An even better one, from the Huffington Post: “[RFK] was gunned down in a hotel kitchen by a 24-year-old Palestinian whose motives have never been determined.” (Ironically, sources from the Arab world (e.g.,) seem more likely to acknowledge the real dynamic, though with the message that the U.S. and assumedly RFK got what was coming to it and him for supporting Israel).
I meant to wrap up our multi-volume series on Kennedy yesterday, but a this one caught my eye. It fits in with the contrarian view–a reality check on Kennedy myth–to counter the Kennedy inflation that characterized much of the coverage of the 50th anniversary of the JFK assassination this month. If you’re a Kennedy skeptic, this is for you. If you’re a Kennedy admirer, the Washington Posts’s WonkBlog‘s Dylan Matthews is here to rain on your parade.
Dylan Matthews writes: Fifty years ago Friday, Lee Harvey Oswald assassinated President John F. Kennedy. The assassination was a tragedy — and it turned the target into something of a secular political saint. There are few modern presidents about whom The Post’s own George Will and E.J. Dionne can agree, but JFK appears to be one.
“It tells us a great deal about the meaning of John F. Kennedy in our history that liberals and conservatives alike are eager to pronounce him as one of their own,” Dionne notes. A Gallup poll last week found that Americans rate him more highly than any of the other 11 presidents since Eisenhower. A 2011 Gallup poll found that he came in fourth when Americans were asked to name the greatest president of all time, behind Ronald Reagan, Abraham Lincoln, and Bill Clinton, but ahead of George Washington, Franklin Roosevelt, and Thomas Jefferson.
Some of that reputation is hard to argue with. Kennedy was a brilliant rhetorician who inspired a generation of young Americans, and his death left a lingering scar on the American psyche. But it’s important that his presidency be evaluated on its actual merits. And on the merits, John F. Kennedy was not a good president. Here are six reasons why.
1. The Cuban Missile Crisis was his fault
Historians disagree on what exactly lead to the October 1962 crisis that almost ended in a nuclear exchange. But basically every interpretation suggests that, had the Eastern Seaboard been wiped out that month, it would have been the result of Kennedy’s fecklessness.
1. Camelot. The brief Kennedy years represent for many in the media their own golden moment. JFK was their royalty, their idol, their ideal, their handsome and rich young war hero. Jackie Kennedy was their queen. And then it was all cut short, like a Shakespearean tragedy or fairy tale. The mythic Camelot fell to lust. The American Camelot fell to an assassin. For those of us who grew up after JFK, it’s all so much history. I grew up around Dallas and heard about the assassination any time I visited anywhere else as a child, and later on I visited the Sixth Floor Museum. It’s haunting but it’s history. For many in that generation, which was mostly born after World War II and then ended up losing Vietnam, JFK provides a meaningful anchor point, or at least a point that they have infused with meaning. Don’t bring up his womanizing or how the Kennedy patriarch behaved toward the Nazis. None of that has any place in the myth.
2. It provides them a chance to bash handy villains they already hate: Dallas, Texas, and the South. Not a JFK anniversary goes by without the New York Times publishing at least one piece blaming the assassination on Dallas, and more broadly on Texas and the South. The fact is, while Dallas had its share of mainstream Kennedy-haters, none of them fired a shot. Texas went narrowlyfor Kennedy in 1960. Dallas citizens actually turned out on November 22, 1963, to greet the Kennedys warmly. Even the horrible Zapruder film shows happy, cheering crowds lining the streets in Dealey Plaza just to get a glimpse of the First Couple.
One lone nut can change all that, and did, which is unsettling to the point of horror. But Dallas was not and is not to blame, any more than Ford’s Theater is to blame for Abraham Lincoln’s killing. Texas is not to blame. The South is not to blame. But many on the left would rather blame their preferred villains than look at the truth.
3. The truth is more horrible than the fiction. The truth is, the assassination of John F. Kennedy is the killing of one of life’s genetic lottery winners by a small-time loser. If JFK was larger than life, his killer was much smaller than life. The JFK assassination could have been a conspiracy, but it probably wasn’t. The evidence points directly at one man whose ideology, coupled with his combination of grandiosity and mediocrity, led him to kill the president in order to elevate himself.
Useful suggestions from Althouse. On reflection, I have violated least half of these rules–did I mention that I was in Dallas in 1963? While true, perhaps Althouse is right and it’s become a cliche–and will probably violate a few more by the time November is over. But since it’s Friday Nov. 22, and I’ve included a lot of coverage of Kennedy this month, Althouse’s list of 10 rules is a welcome addition.
Althouse writes: It’s coming up next Friday, and I’d like to help with that op-ed or blog post you might have in the works.
1. Don’t repeat the cliché that everyone who was around at the time remembers where he was and what he was doing when he heard the news.
2. Don’t tell us — especially don’t tell us as if it were not a big cliché — what youhappened to have been doing and how you’ve always remembered that. After 50 years, can you not finally see that it doesn’t matter?
3. Don’t even attempt to say that the assassination had a profound effect on people. There is no new way to say that. We know!
4. Don’t make up alternate histories of what would have happened if Kennedy had not been killed. Everything would have been different; we would all have been different. If you’re American and under 50, you can assume that you would never have been born.
5. Don’t recount the conspiracy theories. Here‘s Wikipedia’s article on the subject. If you’re into that sort of thing, enjoy it some day in your spare time, but don’t lard your 50th anniversary writings with that. It’s tawdry and undignified, and we’ve heard it all a thousand times. And by “all,” I don’t really mean all. What’s the one about the Federal Reserve? I just mean, if that’s what you’ve found to talk about, just shut up.
6. Don’t connect the story of JFK to Obama. I know it seems as though everything is about Obama, but resist. It’s cheap and inappropriate.
7. Don’t tell us about other Kennedys. Don’t drag in the recent news that Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg’s son Jack appears to have reached adulthood in nonugly form and has grown a large head of hair and is therefore presumptive presidential material. That’s annoying and off-topic.
8. Don’t commemorate murder. A man managed to kill the President. He’s already gotten far too much press. He doesn’t deserve our endless attention. I’m sick of “celebrating” a death day. We don’t make anything of Lincoln’s death day. We celebrate his birthday, like Washington’s, because he was such a great President. We don’t celebrate JFK’s birthday — I don’t even know what it is — because he was not great enough. We celebrate Martin Luther King’s birthday, not the day he was assassinated. Why? Because of his greatness, and because we don’t want to direct our attention toward his murder. So why do we focus on Kennedy’s death day? It must be because he was not great enough, and because of points #1, #2, and #3, above. It’s about ourselves. A man died and we morbidly relive it annually, for some reason that must make little sense to those under 50.
9. Do write to end the annual ritual of death commemoration. Nail down the coffin lid and give the dead President some peace. Inspire us to move on to modest acknowledgements of the date at 10 or 25 year intervals up until 2063, when we — those of us who survive — can go big for the centennial.
10. Do make it — if not original — short.
Christopher Harper writes: The media coverage of the 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s assassination has overwhelmed the American public, with books, documentaries, made-for-television dramas and journalistic memorials.
“Many of these specials, and there are dozens, are as preoccupied with the images and bereavement of baby boomers as they are with the slain president,” Alessandra Stanley of The New York Times wrote recently.
I couldn’t agree more. We baby boomers like to revel in our story. Nearly all of us remember precisely where we were when we got the news. But more and more Americans — those born after 1963, which is generally considered the last birth year of the baby boomer generation — have little interest in the Kennedy legacy. Most of this exhaustive media coverage failed to note Kennedy was a mediocre president. His record of less than three years provides little support for his place in many polls as one of the best presidents in history. A recent survey ranked Kennedy as the most popular president in the past 50 years.
Within a month after Kennedy’s assassination, his widow, Jacqueline, started to sculpt the myth in cooperation with author Theodore White, who wrote a glowing article in Life magazine comparing the Kennedy administration with the Camelot of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table.
Two lives change forever after a brush with Lee Harvey Oswald
Quin Hillyer writes: One of the few men who ever interviewed Lee Harvey Oswald ended up renting my old room for about four years. Another man, one of the few innocents who lost their jobs due to the Kennedy assassination, wrote feature stories for me when I was managing editor of the New Orleans weekly Gambit. The reverberations from that assassination a half century ago altered not only the course of a nation but also the course of numerous private lives, in ways poignant and deep.
For the two men I knew, Ed Butler and Jesse Core, August 16, 1963, was a fateful day. It was then that Lee Harvey Oswald was passing out leaflets for the Fair Play for Cuba Committee, outside the International Trade Mart in New Orleans. Core was the Trade Mart’s publicist; as Oswald started causing a commotion, Core tried to shoo him away to avoid bad publicity for the Trade Mart. Core promptly reported the incident to the FBI. Five days later, Butler, as the head of an anti-Communist outfit called the Information Council of the Americas (INCA), joined a Cuban exile and two local reporters on WDSU radio to interview, or debate, Oswald.
Hauntingly, it is one of only two readily available recordings of Oswald before the assassination. It was Butler who helped goad Oswald into proclaiming that he was a Marxist — an admission that the late U.S. representative Hale Boggs, who served on the Warren Commission and who greatly admired INCA, thought was highly important in establishing Oswald’s motives. Read the rest of this entry »
Check out their slideshow of just a handful of Kennedy’s consorts
While the nation was still grieving JFK’s assassination, she used an influential magazine profile to rewrite her husband’s legacy and spawn Camelot
Few events in the postwar era have cast such a long shadow over our national life as the assassination of President John F. Kennedy fifty years ago this month. The murder of a handsome and vigorous president shocked the nation to its core and shook the faith of many Americans in their institutions and way of life.
Those who were living at the time would never forget the moving scenes associated with President Kennedy’s death: the Zapruder film depicting the assassination in a frame-by-frame sequence; the courageous widow arriving with the coffin at Andrews Air Force Base still wearing her bloodstained dress; the throng of mourners lined up for blocks outside the Capitol to pay respects to the fallen president; the accused assassin gunned down two days later while in police custody and in full view of a national television audience; the little boy saluting the coffin of his slain father; the somber march to Arlington National Cemetery; the eternal flame affixed to the gravesite. These scenes were repeated endlessly on television at the time and then reproduced in popular magazines and, still later, in documentary films. They came to be viewed as defining events of the era.
More Americans believe that a shadowy conspiracy was behind a president’s death 50 years ago than know who Joe Biden is
This is a guest post by University of Miami political scientists Joseph Uscinskiand Joseph Parent. This article is based on portions of their forthcoming book “American Conspiracy Theories” (Oxford University Press, 2014).
Conspiracy theories are conquering the country, leading us into a dark age of cynicism. Americans are bombarded by a growing barrage of outlandish tales, aided and abetted by a polarizing media, and amplified by the echo chamber of theInternet. While all sides indulge in conspiracy theories, Republicans andconservatives are particularly prone to them. Such inflamed rhetoric divides nations and destroys deliberative democracy.
Actually, there is not much truth in any of the above. Journalists have been quick to proclaim a “new age of conspiracy theories.” The only problem is that “new age” is typically just a synonym for “now.” For example, see 2011, 2010, 2004, 1994,1991 and 1964. Fortunately, we have a much better sense of where conspiracy theories come from and why so many people believe them.
Jesse Walker writes: Last week I mentioned that a majority of Americans thinks it likely that a conspiracy killed John F. Kennedy. One member of that majority turns out to be Secretary of State John Kerry. Politico reports:
Pressed in an interview aired Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press” to explain his beliefs that JFK’s death was part of a bigger plot, Kerry said: “I just have a point of view. And I’m not going to get into that. It’s not something that I think needs to be commented on, and certainly not at this time.”
“I’m not going to go into it. It’s just inappropriate, and I’m not going to do more than say that it’s a point of view that I have. But it’s not right, or worthy, or appropriate for me to comment further,” Kerry told host David Gregory.
Kerry said in a recent interview with NBC, as the 50th anniversary of the assassination approaches, he doubts the official story.
“To this day, I have serious doubts that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone,” Kerry said about the suspect arrested in the 1963 assassination.
Hat tip: Bryan Alexander. As for me, I think the most persuasive account of Kennedy’s death and life is this one:
For a half-century, John F. Kennedy has mesmerized Democrats.
Robert Costa writes: It’s a black-and-white picture we’ve all seen before: an earnest, 16-year-old Bill Clinton shaking hands with President John F. Kennedy. It was snapped in July 1963 in the Rose Garden, soon after Kennedy addressed a group of Boys Nation delegates. Ever since, and most notably during his 1992 presidential campaign, Clinton has recalled the moment. For him, it was more than a brief encounter; it was an experience, and one so powerful that Clinton once said it caused him to have “arthritis of the face.”
Clinton’s deeply felt connection to Kennedy is hardly unique. Memories of Kennedy’s presidency, from his inaugural address to the horror of Dallas, live on in the American imagination. But they linger particularly with Democrats, and for the past 50 years, generations of them have venerated JFK as their party’s tragic hero. Democrats may have long ago abandoned the Kennedy program, but JFK’s flame flickers elusively in their hearts.
On September 12, 1962, President Kennedy proclaimed “we choose to go to the Moon in this decade,” setting in motion the race to land humans on the Moon. But no one has gone back in 4 decades.