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John F. Kennedy and the Cold War
Transcript of John F. Kennedy and the Cold War
The Election of 1960
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JFK's very narrow victory created power problems. He had captured the imagination of the people. He inspired people to change the nation. However, he knew too much change would make half the country angry since he barely won. So, Kennedy developed a two-piece strategy for re-election. 1. Be a tough cold warrior enforcing containment to impress the tough Republican population so he could get re-elected. 2. Do NOTHING on the home front until the 2nd term. For instance, no major civil rights changes were planned. He could count on African-Americans and liberals voting for him anyway, so hold them off until the 2nd term (which is why the world believes he would have solved all problems if not shot before his re-election).
The Kennedy family grew in size and wealth from Joe's relentless drive to prove his immigrant Irish family was just as good as the Boston "blue bloods." He was determined that a Kennedy would be president. He taught his children to be competitive in all areas of life. He also taught them to not play if you're not going to win. Morals were not important, only winning. He also made his family multi-millionaires in the Roaring Twenties. He was a master the twenties stock market and had the foresight to pull his money before the Great Crash of 1929. He then used his millions to insure that Franklin D. Roosevelt was elected. Roosevelt was building a new Democratic party of immigrants, minorities and the working class across America instead of just representing the South (this is when the Republicans were painted as the party of the rich and big business instead of the slave-freeing party of Lincoln). In return, Joe Kennedy expected a reward from FDR. FDR needed to reform the stock market in his New Market program to make sure cheating and poor business did not ever cause another Great Crash. Therefore, FDR made Joe Kennedy (a stock expert) the first chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission which regulates the stock market. Thus, Joe Kennedy was moving up the political ladder and still earning the millions it would take to make a son president.
Meanwhile, Joe was having lots of kids: Joseph Patrick Kennedy, Jr., John Fitzgerald Kennedy, Rose Marie Kennedy, Kathleen Kennedy, Eunice Marie Kennedy, Patricia Helen Kennedy, Robert Francis Kennedy, Jean Ann Kennedy, and Edward Moore Kennedy. Rose Marie is an example of the ruthless Kennedy nature. She was born mentally disabled. Joe had her lobotomized and institutionalized for life so that the family would not be embarrassed by a "retarded" member. Later, the Kennedy children would create the Special Olympics to make amends. Joe Jr. was the golden boy. Second son John lived in his shadow. Joe was smarter and more athletic. He was more successful in the classroom and athletic field. John often did not even try in school because he lived in Joe Jr's shadow. When WWII broke out, Joe Sr stood firmly as an isolationist because he feared the deaths of his beloved sons. However, service in the war would be required of any future President. Joe was athletic and smart enough to qualify for flight training. He served as a combat pilot. He then volunteered for a dangerous mission to guide in a bomb loaded plane that was supposed to be remote control guided into crashing into a German missile launch pad after the pilot parachuted to safety. The plane exploded by accident before Joe could bail. The family was devastated. The weight of presidential expectations now fell upon 2nd son John.
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The Election of 1960 is truly the closest in American History. JFK seized the opportunity to call for change. The communist Russians had pulled ahead in space and expanded to Cuba. It was easy for JFK to charge that Eisenhower had become old with poor health (two heart attacks and a stroke in office), lethargic (played golf all the time), and was weak on communism. The U-2 incident ended Ike's presidency in shame. However, Ike knew lots of secrets he could not tell. Like the US actually had more nukes and was economically pulling way ahead of the Russians. He knew pushing the Russians would only make them push back. It was better to stay calm and let Russia die from its internal rot. Richard Nixon had served as Ike's VP for 8 years. He observed and learned from the old man. Nixon had visited every South American country to represent America and speak against communism. He had toured almost every African and Asian country doing the same. Ultimately, he was sent to Moscow. While behind the Iron Curtain he attended an exposition comparing American and Russian homes. Nikita Khrushchev refused to believe US homes had washers, dryers and dishwashers. Just the rich surely had such luxury. Nixon stood his ground and refused to back down in a "kitchen debate" on live TV. H e saw firsthand how behind the Russians were. Nixon had proved he understood the world, was tough on communism, and felt he deserved the presidency after serving so well. Kennedy seemed to be a young, upstart just using words like "change" to get attention and spreading false information about how far behind America was. However, as VP, Nixon could also not use the facts of our nuclear arsenal to defend his record as VP since they were top secret. The Election became heated and every little detail counted. For example, Nixon promised to visit all 50 states, which required travel by car. JFK used his private jet to make multiple trips to only the states that had enough electoral votes to make him president. JFK chose Lyndon Johnson, a poor Texas teacher educated at Southwest State Teachers College who rose through FDR's New Deal to become the most powerful Senator, to balance the ticket of rich, Harvard educated playboy. Both candidates worried helping Martin Luther King get released from jail would hurt them, but ultimately JFK called and gained black votes. Nixon worried about losing white votes and won in the South, but not in the higher electoral states in the North The race was neck and neck when the first televised presidential debates were broadcast. Kennedy understood TV and its power. He wore a dark suit to contrast with the background, tanned himself to look healthy in black and white, and memorized answers/facts for quick/sharp response. Nixon wore a gray suit that blended, was pasty and gaunt from recent hospital stay, and relied on his 8 years of VP experience to think about answers. The silent pauses put into thoughtful answers made Nixon appear slow and dumb compared to Kennedy. Kennedy won the election by 1/10th of 1% in the popular vote. A 6,000 vote difference in Illinois OR Texas (both states JFK cheated within...union votes were bought by JFK's father through mafia connections in Illinois and Johnson was an old hand at Texas political cheating) would have made Nixon president!!
Kennedy's Cold War Crises
John attended Harvard and graduated despite the Addison's Disease which greatly impacted his physical health. The treatment was even worse for his bone structure, but that was unknown in pre-WWII America. John, of course, realized that service in WWII would be required for success in his future political career. John volunteered for the navy, but was rejected for his poor health. Joe Kennedy used his money and political power, though, to get John inducted. More influence would be used to get John a combat command. He was made the commander of PT-109, a small torpedo speedboat. The boat was cut in half by a Japanese destroyer in a night attack on a Japanese convoy. John suffered several broken vertebrae and members of his ten man crew were killed and injured. He literally swam an injured sailor to the nearest island a couple miles away by towing him with a life jacket strap in his mouth. Then JFK returned to the scene, organized survivors, and towed another too injured to swim. JFK surveyed the situation the next morning and concluded the island was uninhabited and could not sustain them. He swam to other islands on the horizon until he found one inhabited by friendly natives. He left a note on a coconut shell, swam his crew to the island and waited for the US Navy to rescue him. JFK was legitimate war hero and would be propelled into the House and then Senate. He would marry the beautiful, and rich, Jacqueline Bouvier for political power reasons and to ditch the playboy reputation he developed in the House and Senate. The rich, charming couple would enchant America in 1960 with their fairly tale lives in his run for the Presidency.
Lives In: Boston, Massachusetts
The story of John Fitzgerald Kennedy begins in Boston like most of American History. However, since the Pilgrims, Boston became divided. On one level, were "blue blood" Bostonians who's ancestors were the original Pilgrim and Puritans that established the colony. The second, and lower level, were the Irish immigrants who flocked into the city throughout the massive immigration waves of the 1800's. Boston was still a bustling port city and required mass amounts of blue collar labor to work the docks and shipping industry. This harsh, manual labor life went hand in hand with alcohol consumption (check out Rhodes at 3:15). Kennedy's great-grandparents immigrated and grandparents entered the tavern business. They were quite successful. Plus, alcohol and politics go hand in hand. Free drinks gain lots of votes. As the Irish gained population majority in Boston, they gained political power but were still treated poorly by the blue bloods. Their son Joseph P. Kennedy was an ambitious young man who recognized the connections between business, money and politics. He married the daughter of Honey Fitzgerald, the first Irishman elected mayor of Boston. Joe Kennedy used the marriage, business and politics to make himself as rich as possible, as powerful as possible, and to launch a large family with the goal of a son being the the first Irish President of the United States.
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John F. Kennedy and the Cold War
JFK ASSASSINATED IN DALLAS, TX NOVEMBER 22, 1963
JFK knew communism in Cuba was a dangerous weakness of Containment strategy. The CIA immediately hit him with a plan they said Eisenhower had planned on implementing (probably not, but JFK could not demonstrate weakness by calling the old President, after all JFK had just ran for office on the premise Ike had done a bad job. So, Kennedy unleashed the plan. The CIA had been training Cubans who had fled to Florida when Fidel Castro took over Cuba. The idea was that American invasion of Cuba could cause a war with communist Russia, but Cubans invading their own homeland is legit. The CIA promised the Cubans air and navy support. JFK withdrew that support for fear it would implicate America in the invasion (which is a joke, because who else would really plan a Cuban invasion).
The invasion was a disaster. JFK is immediately embarrassed as president and appears incompetent and inexperienced in major league politics. Keep in mind, the only command job he ever held was captain of a ten man boat...that got sunk.
Bay of Pigs
JFK's next plan after the Bay of Pigs failure is to fly off to Vienna to meet face to face with Nikita Khrushchev. JFK's good looks and charm had never failed him. He believed a meeting would enchant the bull dog Russian dictator. JFK and Jackie were treated like celebrities in Paris, but his chronic back pain flared up. JFK was put on heavy doses of morphine before the meeting. Instead of appearing tough on communism, JFK appeared weak to the Russian dictator. Khrushchev concludes the youngest elected president is truly weak and inexperienced, so he orders the immediate building of a wall around West Berlin to stop the constant flow of East Europeans from fleeing communism.
Another strike against JFK, who is already worrying about re-election weakness.
The over night building of the Berlin Wall made JFK look even weaker against communism. His re-election strategy completely depends upon being tough on communism in the first term and helping civil rights and poverty in the 2nd term when he need not worry about re-election.
So, JFK flies to Berlin to make a speech behind the Berlin Wall. His intention is to show that he will not abandon free West Berlin to communism. The US will keep its commitment to the Truman Doctrine and Americans and Berliners are brothers.
He blunders, though, and call himself a jelly doughnut. Berlin knew what he meant and appreciated his support. However, JFK is NOT building a tough reputation against communism.
While failing at the Bay of Pigs, Vienna and looking silly in Berlin, JFK was also more deeply committing the US to a war in Vietnam to "contain" communism. Let us not detail the war here. But for those that say the Vietnam War would not have happened if JFK would have lived, please look at the facts. He doubled our troop strength there each year he was president from 4,000 to 8,000 to 16,000 by the end of his presidency. JFK was a Cold Warrior committed to containment first so he could get re-elected.
JFK knew, just two years into his presidency, that he was running into political re-election trouble with each failure. He knew he had to go big or go home in the next crisis. He was devastated when he learned from U-2 spy plane photographs that the Russians were building missile launch sites in Cuba. Cuba was dangerously close to America and could allow the Russians to destroy US missiles before we could launch. The Russians could possibly win a nuclear war and in those days we truly believed the Russians were trying conquer the world with communism.
JFK realizes failure in this crisis dooms his re-election and possibly America. So he blockades Cuba with Navy ships before the nuclear warheads arrive and threatens nuclear war if the sites are not dismantled. For 13 days JFK and Khrushchev were in a Cold War nuclear staring contest. At the very last of moments, Khrushchev backs down. JFK secretly agrees to remove some US missiles from Turkey, but Khrushchev takes the public beating in this crisis. He will be thrown from office and all future Russian dictators will be weak as they age from the 1917 Revolution and the rot of communism in Russia
The victory finally makes JFK appear competent and growing into the Presidency. He begins focusing on re-election. Thus, he makes the fateful journey to Dallas in November 1963.
The Cuban Missile Crisis