Skip to comments.A Beautiful Mediocrity: JFK was a so-so president, a deeply flawed man.
Posted on 11/20/2013 10:00:27 AM PST by SeekAndFind
By almost any measure, John F. Kennedy was a middling president at best, and an occasionally disastrous one. The Bay of Pigs fiasco, the Cuban missile crisis, setting the nation on the wrong course in Vietnam, his nepotism, the spying on political rivals all must weigh heavily in our judgment of his presidency. And while Kennedy the president was a middle-of-the-range performer at best, Kennedy the man has been relentlessly diminished by the eventual revealing of the facts of his day-to-day life.
Conservatives who see in Kennedy a committed combatant in the Cold War and a supply-side tax-cutter must keep in mind his bungling at home and abroad. Liberals who see in Kennedy a receptacle for all they hold holy must keep in mind his calculating cynicism for example, his opposition to civil-rights legislation when he believed its passage would strengthen the Republican president proposing it. Kennedys virtues his vocal anti-Communism, his assertive sense of the American national interest, his tax-cutting would hardly make him a welcome figure among those who today claim his mantle. His vices, on the other hand, are timeless.
The Cuban missile crisis is generally presented as the great episode of Kennedys hanging tough in the face of Communist aggression, but, like so much about Kennedys life, that story represents a triumph of public relations over substance. Kennedy gave up much more than he let on to resolve the crisis, agreeing to remove U.S. missiles from Turkey on the condition that the concession remain secret, so as not to undermine his political career or his brothers. And the Cuban missile crisis was brought on in no small part by Kennedys inviting displays of weakness: His performance at the 1961 Vienna summit made little impression on Nikita Khrushchev, and within a few months the Berlin Wall was under construction. After the Bay of Pigs, the Soviets had little reason to suppose that Cuba was anything but a safe port for them.
But Kennedy had a gift for spinning gold out of goof-ups.
John Kennedy looms large in the American imagination, but not for anything he accomplished in office. He was a handsome and vivacious man whose ascendancy coincided with that of television, a politician who was one part royal, one part movie star. That Americans found his celebrity and his pretensions to aristocracy appealing is beyond argument; however, it does not speak well of our political culture. But as created personas go, JFK was a doozy: He won the Pulitzer Prize for a book largely written by somebody else; his reputation as an intellectual was largely the creation of Arthur Schlesinger; and his family was figuratively and perhaps literally in bed with Joe McCarthy (who dated two of the Kennedy women), but the stigma of McCarthyism has never attached itself to his name. His pathological sexual appetites gave him the reputation of a charming rogue, when the truth is that he was closer to a mid-century Anthony Weiner. He was a veteran with an admirable military record, an unexceptional and difference-splitting senator with an Irish name: But for his celebrity, he would have been John McCain or John Kerry.
Kennedy did not transform the country, but he did transform the presidency largely for the worse. Combining grandiose rhetoric with shallow policy, he established the modern template of president as media hero, beginning the conversion of the office of the presidency from that of chief administrator of the federal government to the modern grotesquery it has become. The main effects of his time in the White House were to make his immediate predecessor look like Cincinnatus by comparison and to unleash the ugliness of Johnson and Johnsonism on the republic after his martyrdom at the hands of a deranged Communist. That Lyndon Johnson, a man he detested, was Kennedys political heir is a testament to the fact that there was hardly any devil he was unwilling to get in bed with if it brought him political power.
And what did he do with that power? Among the heaviest burdens facing the American public in 2013 are the direct expenses and unfunded liabilities associated with Medicare and Medicaid, two ill-shaped programs conceived of by the Kennedy administration but executed under Johnson which is to say, well be paying the price for Kennedys grand dreams for a long time to come.
He looked great in a suit, and he could deliver an applause line with the best of them. We may grieve the murder of a president, but our grief should not blind us to what kind of president, or man, he was.
Maybe on TV. In person he looked like a fragile painted porcelain doll.
I thought the young Mitt Romney was better looking, but oh well... to each his own.
he was the only PT boat skipper to get run over by an enemy ship.
The JFK mythology is a high tribute to the national press and the democrat machine who deftly put lipstick on a pig and gave it near-deification in the public view.
JFK was crap, accomplished little other than what he believed would politically help him, stole the election and never wrote a single line of his famous books, was so weak and foolish that he almost took us into a nuclear war. In short, the perfect democrat.
This author will probably be stoned to death in public.
One thing you should NEVER do is speak the truth.
Probably. Can’t say because I’ve never seen Romney up close.
There are similarities between JFK and Joseph Smith. They both loved the ladies. Their sudden death rescued them from discovery and ultimate shameful repudiation that they would have experienced had they lived on. Their followers were able to craft a narrative that lives on for generations.
Bay of Pigs wiped out the armed Cuban opposition to Castro.
He abandoned the Eisenhower’s Tibetans to be wiped out to the last man, refusing to take the calls as they were surrounded and out of ammunition.
He got the South Vietnamese president killed (oh, did I do that?). Fired the team which had previously beaten the communists in the Philippines, and turned the counter-insurgency over to his Harvard pals.
The guy was a wrecking ball.
You don’t want to sound heartless, but, Kennedy has this image only because of his assassination. He was made into a mythical figure, and the myth of Camelot arose, only because of his tragic death.
Sponsoring FReepers are contributing
$10 Each time a New Monthly Donor signs up!
Get more bang for your FR buck!
Click Here To Sign Up Now!
The assassination was the best thing that ever happened to the Democratic Party.
A despicable man from a disgusting family
Yeah but you have to figure after he was knocked off the commies took over the ‘rat party then eventually the Republican party then the entire government where today we’re practically living in a commie country with a commie POTUS. That’s why I think Oswald wasn’t the only one involved.
Libs hate to be reminded that 'Tail-Gunner' Joe McCarthy was a frequent guest at Hyannis Port, as well as a Godfather to one of RFK's children.
I cracked up the first time I saw that pic in an ad in Vintage Guitar Magazine!
Exactly. His greatest accomplishment was to be assassinated. Americans were reluctant to speak ill of the dead. His chickens couldn't come home to roost. And most importantly, liberals were able to create their myth of Camelot.
For those who scoff, remember; liberals tried to do the same (and failed) for Ted Kennedy.
Okay, but he was far superior to anything the Democrats have come up with lately.
RE: There are similarities between JFK and Joseph Smith
I thought Joseph Smith was KNOWN for his polygamy even when he was alive... he actually PREACHED IT.
JFK on the other hand, tried to hide his pecadillos.
As P.J. O’Rourke wrote (primarily referring to the Kennedys),
It’s Always Tempting To Impute
Unlikely Virtues To The Cute.
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.