Tuesday, November 8

1961 VERSUS 2005: A COMPARATIVE OF KENNEDY VS. BUSH

I read the New York Times' (registration required) blistering editorial today on President Bush and his so-called "disastrous visit to Latin America" and realized anew just how patently unfair and biased the liberal mainstream media is and particularly the editorial board of the Gray Lady.

After President Bush's disastrous visit to Latin America, it's unnerving to realize that his presidency still has more than three years to run. An administration with no agenda and no competence would be hard enough to live with on the domestic front. But the rest of the world simply can't afford an American government this bad for that long.


The Anchoress had this reaction -- thoroughly appropriate and on point.

But I thought back to President Kennedy and his first year in office -- 1961. In April, there was the CIA-backed, Kennedy-sanctioned, Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba, in which Castro's troops prevailed and for lack of air cover the invading rebel force was ravaged on the beach before it could even move inland. It was an unadulterated fiasco and full-fledged foreign policy debacle. In early June, President Kennedy traveled to Vienna for his first summit meeting with the Soviet Union's Premier, Nikita Khrushchev, and got his head handed to him on a plate -- a failed summit between the leaders of the two super-powers. And, only two months later, and predicated on Krushchev's incorrect perception in Vienna that the new president was weak-kneed, the Berlin Wall went up in August, heightening Cold War tensions.

This from Kenneth W. Thompson, writing in "The Virginia Quarterly Review":

Starting from these five core ideas, Reeves goes on to introduce sub-plots in the Kennedy drama. He discovers a chain of events in the early months of the presidency in which one crisis and difficulty led on to the next. For example, the failure of the Bay of Pigs invasion in the spring of 1961 led to the president's despair before and after his Vienna meeting later that year with Khrushchev and to the decision to build up American power in Vietnam."We have to confront them (them being the Communists)," he said after the Summit. And he added: "the only place we can do that is in Vietnam." After the Bay of Pigs and Vienna, Kennedy recognized the need for a display of national and personal strength. He believed that a third setback would undermine his presidency for good. The fact that Democrats had been blamed for the loss of China was a specter hanging over the president as he sought to deal with Laos and Berlin.

Following Vienna, Khrushchev told his assistants that Kennedy was intelligent and sensitive, but he wondered whether anyone who had abandoned the Cuban invading forces on the beaches would have the will to launch a nuclear attack. As the president of Westinghouse prepared to leave a meeting with Khrushchev, the Soviet premier asked: "How can I deal with a man who is younger than my son?" When New York Times columnist James Reston asked Kennedy following the Vienna summit, "How was it?", Kennedy responded "Worst thing in my life. He savaged me," and he added, "I think I know why he treated me like this. He thinks because of the Bay of Pigs... I had no guts."

After Vienna, the president flew on to London to consult with Prime Minister Harold Macmillan who later wrote in a note to Queen Elizabeth: "The President was completely overwhelmed by the ruthlessness and barbarity of the Russian chairman. It reminded me in a way of Lord Halifax or Neville Chamberlain trying to hold a conversation with Herr Hitler.... For the first time in his life Kennedy met a man who was impervious to his charm." Later, Macmillan wrote in his diary: "I "feel in my bones" that President Kennedy is going to fail to produce any real leadership." In fairness, Macmillan later modified his harsh judgment of Kennedy.


Did the New York Times excoriate JFK and lament that there were three more years in his term for the nation to suffer through? What do you think?


SOURCES:

History Central
"Scotty" by John F. Sacks
"The Virginia Quarterly Review"