Tuesday, July 18, 2017

DJT or JFK, Part Two

Two days ago I posted a screen capture of an excerpt from a Niall Ferguson column comparing John Kennedy with Donald Trump. Today I will happily provide some further excerpts from the column, reprinted in the Boston Globe.

Ferguson did not merely argue that the two presidents can easily be compared, with JFK looking the worst. But, he is amazed that the American people consider the blundering fool named JFK to be one of the great American presidents.

Assessing the Kennedy record, Ferguson writes:

As is now well known, Kennedy had numerous extramarital affairs. One was with Judith Campbell, whose other lovers included the Chicago organized crime boss Sam Giancana and his sidekick Johnny Roselli.

His compulsive infidelity to his wife was only one of Kennedy’s many deceptions. Throughout his political career, he concealed the severity of his medical problems (he suffered from acute back pain, hypothyroidism, and Addison’s disease).

His campaign may have called on Mafia assistance to defeat Richard Nixon in 1960. He appointed his brother Robert as attorney general. Bobby Kennedy authorized the wiretapping of Martin Luther King, Jr.

In foreign policy, Kennedy combined callousness with recklessness. His questionable interventions ranged from an abortive invasion of Cuba to a bloody coup d’├ętat in South Vietnam. On his watch, the Central Intelligence Agency sought to assassinate Fidel Castro using Mafia hit-men. On his watch, the Berlin Wall was built, the ugliest symbol of the Cold War division of the world. And on his watch, the world came closer than at any other time to nuclear Armageddon, during the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis. How was catastrophe averted? By using a back channel to the Kremlin to cut a secret deal.

And yet, like Canada’s Prime Minister, the deplorable disgraceful Justin Trudeau, JFK is fondly remembered for his good looks. We are all deep thinkers, so we know what really matters in life:

He continues to be remembered fondly, for his good looks as much as the idealistic rhetoric of his speeches.

Ferguson continues to quote an assessment of the Kennedy administration, offered by one Henry Kissinger:

Yet here is one contemporary verdict on the Kennedy administration, written before the president’s death. It had “demoralized the bureaucracy and much of the military.” It had engaged in “government by improvisation and manipulation.” It relied on “public relations gimmicks.” It had “no respect for personal dignity and . . . treat[ed] people as tools.” It had “brutalized our allies within NATO.” It was undermining the US reputation for reliability — “the most important asset any nation has.” The State Department was “a shambles, demoralized by the weakness of the secretary of state and the interference of the White House.” Its foreign policy was “essentially a house of cards.”

In conclusion, Ferguson writes, Kennedy had the good fortune to have been a Democrat. Had he been a Republican, he would have been crucified:

Perhaps, if Kennedy had been a Republican, he would have been treated with the same ferocious animosity that DJT is treated today, for acts much less heinous than those of JFK.


trigger warning said...

My personal favorite JFK memoir was penned by Mimi Alford. But John was much classier in his treatment of intern sex toys than some; she was never used as an auto-humidifying humidor.

Ares Olympus said...

Certainly a good way to avoid looking at a humiliating president is to imagine persecution by the modern media as the source of your woes. A standard 4-year defense for bad behavior is surely deflection - "But mom, Jonny was bad first."

I wasn't around back in 1960 when Kennedy was elected, but I see it was a squeaker in the popular vote, by less than 100k votes. I recall it said that television helped Kennedy get elected. And actually the states won were somewhat similar. Kennedy won the most of the south although a third party, the Southern Democrats won Mississippi.

It would be entertaining of we had recordings of Kennedy in his private moments, saying things like “Just kiss. I don't even wait. And when you're a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.” “Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything.”

So sure, Kennedy and Trump might have a lot in common. Both lived in Mad Men world of "alpha" male entitlement. It's just Trump was born 30 years too late.

On the good side, we've so far avoided the chaos of assassinations from the 1960s. Still you wonder about karma when a presidential candidate can joke about being so above the law he can shoot someone in public and not lose any votes.

Something bad is clearly still brewing, and making fun of a buffoonish president is only good sport before someone loses an eye.