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Dutch
11-27-2011, 09:12 PM
I found this interesting

Always thought JFK overrated

From the NYT by ross douthat

...........

THE cult of John F. Kennedy has the resilience of a horror-movie villain. No matter how many times the myths of Camelot are seemingly interred by history, they always come shambling back to life — in another television special, another Vanity Fair cover story, another hardcover hagiography. It’s fitting, then, that the latest exhumation comes courtesy of Stephen King himself. King serves a dual role in our popular culture: He’s at once the master of horror and the bard of the baby boom, writing his way through the twilit borderlands where the experiences of the post-World War II generation are stalked by nightmares and shadowed by metaphysical dread.
In this landscape, the death of J.F.K. looms up like the Overlook Hotel. The gauzy fantasy of the Kennedy White House endures precisely because the reality of the assassination still feels like a primal catastrophe — an irruption of inexplicable evil as horrifying as any supernatural bogeyman.
At its best, King’s new Kennedy assassination novel, “11/22/63” (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/13/books/review/11-22-63-by-stephen-king-book-review.html?_r=1) — which sends its protagonist back in time to change that November day’s events — offers an implicit critique of this generational obsession. (I am not giving much away when I reveal that the time-traveling hero does not succeed in freeing ’60s America from the cruel snares of history.) But its narrative power still depends on accepting the false premises of the Kennedy cult — premises that will no doubt endure so long as the 1960s generation does, but still deserve to be challenged at every opportunity.
The first premise is that Kennedy was a very good president, and might have been a great one if he’d lived. Few serious historians take this view: It belongs to Camelot’s surviving court stenographers, and to popularizers like Chris Matthews, whose new best seller “Jack Kennedy: Elusive Hero” (http://books.simonandschuster.com/Jack-Kennedy/Chris-Matthews/9781451635089) works hard to gloss over the thinness of the 35th president’s actual accomplishments. Yet there is no escaping the myth’s hold on the popular imagination. In Gallup’s “greatest president” polling, (http://www.gallup.com/poll/146183/americans-say-reagan-greatest-president.aspx) J.F.K. still regularly jostles with Lincoln and Reagan for the top spot.
In reality, the kindest interpretation of Kennedy’s presidency is that he was a mediocrity whose death left his final grade as “incomplete.” The harsher view (http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2006/09/feckless-youth/5095/1/) would deem him a near disaster — ineffective in domestic policy, evasive on civil rights and a serial blunderer in foreign policy, who barely avoided a nuclear war that his own brinksmanship had pushed us toward. (And the latter judgment doesn’t even take account of the medical problems that arguably made him unfit for the presidency, or the adulteries that eclipsed Bill Clinton’s for sheer recklessness.)
The second false premise is that Kennedy would have kept us out of Vietnam. Or as a character puts it in “11/22/63,” making the case for killing Lee Harvey Oswald: “Get rid of one wretched waif, buddy, and you could save millions of lives.”
Actually, it would be more accurate to describe the Vietnam War as Kennedy’s darkest legacy. His Churchillian rhetoric (“pay any price, bear any burden ...”) (http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/index.php?pid=8032#axzz1eky5xjWq) provided the war’s rhetorical frame as surely as George W. Bush’s post-9/11 speeches did for our intervention in Iraq. His slow-motion military escalation established the strategic template that Lyndon Johnson followed so disastrously. And the war’s architects were all Kennedy people: It was the Whiz Kids’ mix of messianism and technocratic confidence, not Oswald’s fatal bullet, that sent so many Americans to die in Indochina.
The third myth is that Kennedy was a martyr to right-wing unreason. Writing on J.F.K. (http://nymag.com/news/frank-rich/jfk-2011-11/) in the latest issue of New York magazine, Frank Rich half-acknowledges the mediocrity of Kennedy’s presidency. But he cannot resist joining a generation of liberals in drawing a connection between the right-wing “atmosphere of hate” in early-1960s Dallas and the assassination itself — and then linking both to today’s anti-Obama zeal. Neither can King, whose “11/22/63” explicitly compares right-wing Dallas to his own fictional territory of Derry, Me. — home of the murderous Pennywise the Clown from “It,” among other demons.
This connection is the purest fantasy, made particularly ridiculous by the fact that both Rich and King acknowledge that Oswald was a leftist — a pro-Castro agitator whose other assassination target was the far-right segregationist Edwin Walker. The idea that an atmosphere of right-wing hate somehow inspired a Marxist radical to murder a famously hawkish cold war president is even more implausible than the widespread suggestion that the schizophrenic Jared Lee Loughner shot his congresswoman because Sarah Palin put some targets on an online political map.
This last example suggests why the J.F.K. cult matters — because its myths still shape how we interpret politics today. We confuse charisma with competence, rhetoric with results, celebrity with genuine achievement. We find convenient scapegoats for national tragedies, and let our personal icons escape the blame. And we imagine that the worst evils can be blamed exclusively on subterranean demons, rather than on the follies that often flow from fine words and high ideals.

Gerarddm
11-27-2011, 09:16 PM
I lived through the Cuban Missle Crisis, etc and while there has undoubtedly been considerable gauzing of the JFK years, I am not so cynical as Douthat about them.

Kennedy saved the world that October. Period.

And he gave us the moon.

Enough glory for any man, all by themselves.

Mrleft8
11-27-2011, 09:23 PM
Give it 50 years, and maybe Dan Quayle will be remembered in the same manner....

Durnik
11-27-2011, 09:49 PM
Kennedy saved the world that October. Period.

Umm.. I presume you refer to the Cuban Missile Chris? The U.S. actually set up the confrontation by installing missiles in, IIRC, Turkey.. While Castro did ask Khrushchev to install Missiles in Cuba to protect them against the U.S., it was a fairly valid request as the U.S. _was_ actively threatening them (see Bay of Pigs, etc). On the other hand, the U.S. _was_ threatening the U.S.S.R. with the ICBM's it had already installed in Turkey - and, since the U.S. had approached Turkey about installing the missiles.. not the other-way-round, it was clearly offensive in nature.. So, we kinda owned that one..

But he did give us the Moon! ;-)

other than that, I see the Cult of Kennedy as little different than the Cult of Reagan.. or the Cult of Lincoln.. each are more fantasy than reality.

enjoy
bobby

Dutch
11-27-2011, 10:00 PM
wrong gear- kennedy brought the world to the brink of nuclear war

Adlai Stevenson stopped it from happening

Cuyahoga Chuck
11-27-2011, 10:24 PM
I know a guy who was drafted during the building of the Berlin Wall. He thought Kennedy did marvelous work keeping that from becoming a major confrontation. The following year this guy was walking guard duty near a very important NASA facility that might have been one of the targets of those Cuban missles. Again Kennedy got things sorted out and there was no further saber-rattling incidents during the remainder of his hitch. This guy was more than happy Kennedy was so adept at getting good outcomes from such dangerous incidents. And in between times Kennedy was busy staring down Gov. Ross Barnet of Mississippi and George Wallace of Alabama as they tried to reinforce segregationist policies. Not a bad three years for the Oval Office.

Ian McColgin
11-27-2011, 10:49 PM
Well, an ardent evangelical conservative Roman Catholic inventing his own history is amusing. Unfortunatly, he's not even trying to do history. He's trying to transform the present. He's too illiterate to manage the job.

Cuyahoga Chuck
11-27-2011, 11:14 PM
Umm.. I presume you refer to the Cuban Missile Chris? The U.S. actually set up the confrontation by installing missiles in, IIRC, Turkey.. While Castro did ask Khrushchev to install Missiles in Cuba to protect them against the U.S., it was a fairly valid request as the U.S. _was_ actively threatening them (see Bay of Pigs, etc). On the other hand, the U.S. _was_ threatening the U.S.S.R. with the ICBM's it had already installed in Turkey - and, since the U.S. had approached Turkey about installing the missiles.. not the other-way-round, it was clearly offensive in nature.. So, we kinda owned that one..

But he did give us the Moon! ;-)

other than that, I see the Cult of Kennedy as little different than the Cult of Reagan.. or the Cult of Lincoln.. each are more fantasy than reality.

enjoy
bobby

And Kruchev had nothing to do with it? Not even a little? Not even when falling out of favor with the Politburo could cause Kruchev his life?

Meli
11-27-2011, 11:22 PM
I'm too young to remember. Funny, I remember Churchill's funeral on TV but nothing at the time about Kennedy.
Well I wuz only 4 :D

Durnik
11-27-2011, 11:32 PM
And Kruchev had nothing to do with it? Not even a little? Not even when falling out of favor with the Politburo could cause Kruchev his life?

interesting comment in a thread about Kennedy losing his life, as some claim, due to 'falling out of favor'..

Of course Khrushchev had something to do with it.. as did many other players. That in no way excuses the actions they were responding to. If Kennedy hadn't put missiles in Turkey & hadn't been threatening Cuba, the whole scenario might have likely not happened. He messed up. Bad Boy. He fixed it. Whew, Good Boy. But still, he messed up (http://www.americanforeignrelations.com/A-D/Containment-Later-applications-of-containment-eisenhower-to-reagan.html).


In October 1962 in the Cuban missile crisis, a shoot-out at sea was avoided, the Soviets began to back down, and a Kennedy-Khrushchev deal was arranged to have the Soviets withdraw their missiles from Cuba partly in return for a secret American promise to withdraw similar missiles from Turkey, where Kennedy had only recently installed them. Only twenty-five years later was that secret deal—long denied by Kennedy stalwarts—fully acknowledged.


Originally Posted by Cuyahoga Chuck
And in between times Kennedy was busy staring down Gov. Ross Barnet of Mississippi and George Wallace of Alabama as they tried to reinforce segregationist policies. Not a bad three years for the Oval Office

Yes, Kennedy's memory does have that which it, & we, can be proud of.

enjoy
bobby

Phillip Allen
11-27-2011, 11:44 PM
what I choose to remember is that the Kennedys came to POWER through criminal activity... and that is history

elf
11-27-2011, 11:48 PM
I find the whole thing embarassing. But then I find religion embarassing and the Kennedy thing is just an extension of that.

He was unable, politically, to rise above being a creature of his time.

Sadly for many of his personal intimates, he was also unable to rise above his liabilities as well.

As for Ross, I'm with Ian on that one. A fundie is a fundie, whatever his "religious" calling and in every case the fundie suffers from being unable to see anything but black and white.

Waddie
11-28-2011, 04:13 AM
Well, an ardent evangelical conservative Roman Catholic inventing his own history is amusing. Unfortunatly, he's not even trying to do history. He's trying to transform the present. He's too illiterate to manage the job.

Ian, your post isn't so much of a critique as it is a reaction. I'm always interested in history, and historiography. This article seems like a piece of revisionist history, and while the author does portray Kennedy in an unflattering light, he seems to stick to the facts of the period. Much of interpretation is which facts an author selects and what spin he puts on them. Very few historical articles, or political ones in general, are anywhere near objective works. That's why it's necessary to know your author and to read a variety of perspectives. And most articles are written with a "present" audience in mind.

Why do you consider the author, Thomas Schelling, an "ardent evangelical conservative Roman Catholic"? And illiterate? (He does have a distinguished career and Nobel Prize.)

Why don't you consider this article legitimate history?

regards,
Waddie

Ian McColgin
11-28-2011, 07:53 AM
My critique applies to the author of the OP's C&P, Ross Douthat. Shelling, who is quoted in Dutch's tag line is quite another matter.

Yes, my remarks are a reaction. Douthat was not really attempting historical revisionism. There is nothing to revise as the problems with Kennedy are well understood and recorded in history and the hagiography long since disposed of. Douthat is simply indulging in rhetorical flourishes to justify his current stands. Given his adulation of Reagan, he's a fine one to write,
"We confuse charisma with competence, rhetoric with results, celebrity with genuine achievement. We find convenient scapegoats for national tragedies, and let our personal icons escape the blame."

I don't personally go with any particular conspiracy theory because there were too many seperate plots, semi-plots and vague aspirational fantacies from so many who wanted JFK dead for so many different reasons. But it is obvious that Douthat never bothered to learn much about Dallas at the time. There was an amazing atmosphere of hate for Kennedy that, after the assassination got tangled up with typical Texas chauvinism into many right wing Kennedy haters down there believing rather proudly that LBJ caused it. Ahistorical rationalization knows no boundries, especially not in that environment where no matter what could have happened, at least a dozen different looneytoons were plotting it.

Dutch
11-28-2011, 08:32 AM
Originally Posted by Cuyahoga Chuck
And in between times Kennedy was busy staring down Gov. Ross Barnet of Mississippi and George Wallace of Alabama as they tried to reinforce segregationist policies. Not a bad three years for the Oval Office

really?

"At least since the 1954 Brown decision, and certainly since Eisenhower’s show of force at Little Rock, it had become clear that the continued existence of the American South as a postbellum plantation was impossible as well as undesirable. But after 1960 the president and his fraternal attorney general, both of them charged to take care that the laws be faithfully executed, did not find it convenient to face the facts. As Nick Bryant shows in his admirable book, they saw themselves as highly dependent on Dixiecrat votes, in the country and in Congress, for reelection. And they regarded, not the insufferable status quo, but the “agitators” among black Americans, as the problem. The squalor and risk of their personal lives had also put them under the fell influence of J. Edgar Hoover, who knew how they were behaving and who regarded the civil-rights movement as a political enemy and Dr. Martin Luther King as a personal one. Given the hagiography that has enveloped the Kennedys ever since, it would come as a shock to many people to read that, faced with the historic March on Washington, in 1963, the Kennedys expended most of their effort in trying to get it called off.
That this should be the case, so shamefully late in the day, would be clear to anyone reading Bryant’s especially fine chapter on the desegregation of the University of Mississippi. Confronted by a Democratic governor who not only declined to enforce the law but actually employed force to defy it and break it, the Kennedy White House treated the man as if he were a full-dress foreign potentate who needed to be, well, appeased. Brave enough when commissioning the covert murder of Diem in Vietnam or Castro in Havana, the Knights of the Round Table became shifty and fawning when it was their job to guarantee equality before the law. The university treated James Meredith as a nuisance when he tried to register, and several times turned him away while constitutionally mandated forces stood awkwardly by. Consistently—Bryant is good on this too—the Kennedy administration was publicly outflanked on the issue by none other than Nelson Rockefeller. Perhaps, then, there are times when noblesse oblige is a better principle than mere populism and compromise. But let’s have no more servile babble about “American royalty” in the face of this record. - "

above from the Atlantic- by Christopher Hitchens

Cuyahoga Chuck
11-28-2011, 08:51 AM
interesting comment in a thread about Kennedy losing his life, as some claim, due to 'falling out of favor'..

Of course Khrushchev had something to do with it.. as did many other players. That in no way excuses the actions they were responding to. If Kennedy hadn't put missiles in Turkey & hadn't been threatening Cuba, the whole scenario might have likely not happened. He messed up. Bad Boy. He fixed it. Whew, Good Boy. But still, he messed up (http://www.americanforeignrelations.com/A-D/Containment-Later-applications-of-containment-eisenhower-to-reagan.html).





Yes, Kennedy's memory does have that which it, & we, can be proud of.

enjoy
bobby

It is said that Friedrich the Great of Prussia deserves his title because in losing battles early on he was quick to learn and never made the same mistake twice.

David W Pratt
11-28-2011, 01:49 PM
He got us into Nam, that's 58,000 US dead, who knows how many wounded inside or out.
Not a legacy I would want.

Boater14
11-28-2011, 03:03 PM
I found that piece embarrassing then I googled Ross and saw he was born in 1979. I play a guitar 15 years older than him. It sounded like a kid who just saw an Oliver stone movie.

Cuyahoga Chuck
11-28-2011, 03:28 PM
He got us into Nam, that's 58,000 US dead, who knows how many wounded inside or out.
Not a legacy I would want.

Not true. During his tenure we had advisors there who were relatively few in number and all were there voluntarily many for the purpose of enhancing their military careers. We brought Vietnamese NCOs and officers here for training. I saw them at several Army posts. We were showing them how an efficient army works.
Nothing exists that prooves Kennedy would have followed the same agressive path that Johnson did. They were two different men. Kennedy had been thru' the Bay of Pigs and had gotten burned by the CIA. He had gotten thru' the Berlin Crises, and the Cuban Missle Crises without coming to blows. He seemed to know how far he had to go to keep things on an even keel.
Johnson was a "take no prisoners Texas politician". He was good at stuffing ballot boxes and at conjolling people to see things his way. He has been described as believing he coud politic his way around any problem. He tried to do that in Vietnam but failed because he had been sold a bill of goods by his advisors.

Y Bar Ranch
11-28-2011, 04:02 PM
Not true. During his tenure we had advisors there who were relatively few in number and all were there voluntarily many for the purpose of enhancing their military careers.
At the end of Kennedy's tenure we had over 15,000 (!?!) military embedded with them, and had aided and abetted a coup against the country's leader which resulted in the leader getting killed, so we were in pretty deep.

Cuyahoga Chuck
11-28-2011, 04:59 PM
At the end of Kennedy's tenure we had over 15,000 (!?!) military embedded with them, and had aided and abetted a coup against the country's leader which resulted in the leader getting killed, so we were in pretty deep.

I am not certain of the total army roster of that era but I seem to recall it was at or close to 1,000,000 men. The month I was drafted the Army was in the process of taking in 65,000 new recruits. The idea seemed to be convincing Kruchev we meant business.
15,000 was chump change in 1964. When Johnson decided to go whole hog he was importing 40,000-50,000 at a crack. He coud take comfort in the fact that Kennedy had cooled Kruchev somewhat so there was less of a chance we would be duking it out with the Ruskies in the Fulda Gap.

Cuyahoga Chuck
11-28-2011, 05:28 PM
really?

"That this should be the case, so shamefully late in the day, would be clear to anyone reading Bryant’s especially fine chapter on the desegregation of the University of Mississippi. Confronted by a Democratic governor who not only declined to enforce the law but actually employed force to defy it and break it, the Kennedy White House treated the man as if he were a full-dress foreign potentate who needed to be, well, appeased. Brave enough when commissioning the covert murder of Diem in Vietnam or Castro in Havana, the Knights of the Round Table became shifty and fawning when it was their job to guarantee equality before the law. The university treated James Meredith as a nuisance when he tried to register, and several times turned him away while constitutionally mandated forces stood awkwardly by. Consistently—Bryant is good on this too—the Kennedy administration was publicly outflanked on the issue by none other than Nelson Rockefeller. Perhaps, then, there are times when noblesse oblige is a better principle than mere populism and compromise. But let’s have no more servile babble about “American royalty” in the face of this record. - "

above from the Atlantic- by Christopher Hitchens

This is a little hard to follow. Whose speaking? Hitchens or Bryant?
Whoever it is he seems to be attacking the percieved glamour of the Kennedy's. John Kennedy's legacy rests on his personal accomplishments not how he was percieved by the masses.
Kennedy had a tough time both internationally and internally. For my money he he got thru' all his problems with good marks. Being a soldier I had a personal stake in it all.
For instance the Hitchen's piece seems to stop with the quandry John and his brother faced over Merideth. I can assure you the Kennedys stepped in and took the political heat for it.
It was on a Saturday or Sunday. I was in the company parking lot working on my car. A whole string of deuce-and-a-halfs rolled up to our mess hall and soldiers with weapons got out and went in to eat. When they left I found out they were infantrymen from Fort Benning and they were going to Oxford Miss. to make certain Merideth got in. Even if the Kennedys were guilty of backing and filling early on they did the right thing in the end. That's good enough for me.

Boater14
11-28-2011, 05:51 PM
Jack escalating VN has always puzzled me. I served there. General James Gavin, wartime commander of the 82d, and jacks ambassador to France, once answered a fan letter from me and said that Kennedy was ready to deploy marines from Taiwan in a combat role, not advisory. The general and others prevailed upon the president not to do it. The rest is history. So I can't say the oswalds bullets caused viet nam.

Gerarddm
11-28-2011, 11:33 PM
Khruschev, in his memoir, recounts that Mao advised him to do a nuke war with the US and get it over with then. He said it would cost China 300 million people, but that there were plenty more. ( ! )

Curtis LeMay etc were more than happy to go hot. JFK and RFK chilled it out baby: cooler than Emir Faisal in Constantinople in 1918 ( thank you, Gnossos Pappadupoulos).

Dutch
11-28-2011, 11:37 PM
Khruschev, in his memoir, recounts that Mao advised him to do a nuke war with the US

thank goodness then that Kruschev had more sense than both Mao and JFK! :)

leikec
11-29-2011, 02:39 AM
He got us into Nam, that's 58,000 US dead, who knows how many wounded inside or out.
Not a legacy I would want.


I'm not sure, but I think 84 US personnel had been killed at the time of JFK's death, so the 58,000 number is largely the result of his successors. I'm with Walter Cronkite on this--it is difficult to imagine Kennedy escalating the war to the degree that President Johnson did.

Jeff C