Posts Tagged ‘JFK’

In my months-long deep dive into biographical treatises on U.S. presidents, I found several—Grover Cleveland, Calvin Coolidge, and Dwight Eisenhower—had not gotten their historical due.

I also found several—Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt, and John Kennedy—whose overrated administrations failed more often than they succeeded. 

Overall, these three presidents greatly expanded the power of the presidency, which until Teddy’s White House had often been subservient to the Congress. Moreover, the trio made citizens far more dependent on the government for their livelihood—an issue that still creates myriad problems today. 

Although Teddy’s reputation has fallen lately because of his racist views, his legacy has other significant failings.

Gary Gerstle, a professor of history at the University of Cambridge, said that Teddy’s economic legacy was a forebearer to the strategies of Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.

“If we brought him back, that’s exactly where he would fit on the political spectrum,” he said in 2019 on the 100th anniversary of Teddy’s death.

His presidency gave credibility to the progressive movement, lending the prestige of the White House to welfare legislation and government regulation. His creation of the Bull Moose Party in 1912 undermined the Republican Party, leading to the election of one of the worst presidents in history, Woodrow Wilson.

His cousin Franklin gets high marks for his efforts during World War II, albeit with some caveats. But FDR’s domestic policies created so much dependence on the federal government that his programs hamper many people even now.  

Sidney Milkis, a professor of politics at the University of Virginia, summed up the downside of FDR’s reign. 

“Critics have questioned not only his policies and positions but also charged him with centralizing power in his own hands by controlling both the government and the Democratic Party. Many denounced his breaking the no-third-term tradition in 1940. Long after Roosevelt’s death, new lines of attack opened to criticize his policies regarding helping the Jews of Europe, incarcerating Japanese Americans on the West Coast, and opposing anti-lynching legislation,” Milkis wrote. Moreover, FDR’s capitulation at the Yalta Conference in 1945 led to the Soviet Union’s control of Eastern Europe for the next four decades. 

Many FDR supporters argue that he brought the country out of the Depression. But later analyses of his massive spending programs demonstrate that World War II finally created a sound economic footing for the country. 

William E. Leuchtenburg, professor emeritus of the University of North Carolina, wrote that little had changed from 1932 when FDR was first elected to deal with economic issues.

“[I]n the fall of 1937, industrial production fell by 33 percent, national income dropped by 12 percent, and industrial stock prices plummeted by 50 percent. Nearly 4 million people lost their jobs, and the total number of unemployed increased to 11.5 million. 

“World War II, not the New Deal, brought an end to the Great Depression. The war sparked the kind of job creation and massive public and private spending that finally lifted the United States out of its economic doldrums.”

The positive assessment of JFK’s presidency has puzzled me for some time. Simply put, he didn’t do much during his less than three years in office. In his book, Berlin 1961: Kennedy, Khrushchev, and the Most Dangerous Place on Earth, my former colleague Fred Kempe excoriated Kennedy’s actions during the Bay of Pigs, his inept Vienna summit with Russian leader Nikita Khrushchev, and his dreadful response to the construction of the Berlin Wall. All these errors, Kempe argued, led Khrushchev to see the United States as weak and encouraged him to try to plant missiles on Cuban soil. Fortunately, JFK handled that showdown relatively well. See https://www.fredkempe.com/berlin-1961

JFK’s sexual antics went unreported by the media until long after his death—as did his many physical ailments and subsequent drug abuse hindered his judgment at times.

I think his legacy has been propped up by my generation’s seminal shared moment of remembering where we were on November 22, 1963. 

Image courtesy of the JFK Presidential Library

By John Ruberry

In 1960, shortly before I was born, my father briefly worked for the Quaker Oats Company. Sixty years ago many large companies and corporations had ethnic identities. For instance the first episode of Mad Men, coincidentally set in 1960, contains a plotline centered around the decision of a Jewish business owner to change advertising agencies and hire one that wasn’t “Jewish.” 

Big firms also had politial identities.

Quaker Oats was a Republican company. R. Douglas Stuart was the longtime CEO of the company when my dad worked there. In Stuart’s Wikipedia entry, and that of his son, it’s stated that they were “active in the Republican Party.” The younger Stuart also served as CEO of Quaker Oats.

My dad was hired by the Chicago-based company as a junior executive, an in-house farm club concept from that era.

It was a great time to be an Irish Catholic Democrat in 1960 and my dad was able to proudly check all three boxes. John F. Kennedy, who potrayed himself as a devout Catholic, was the presidential nominee of the Democratic Party. Unlike the doomed Al Smith, the first Catholic nominee for president of a major party, Kennedy’s chances for moving into the White House looked promising. But JFK’s Republican opponent, Richard M. Nixon, was the slight favorite early in the campaign. Kennedy, people like my father reasoned, needed every bit of assistance to nudge him over the goal line. So my dad placed a Kennedy poster in the front window of our Chicago bungalow and he wore a Kennedy campaign button everywhere he went.

Including at Quaker Oats. 

But my dad was a probationary hire–there was a three month period before a final decision was made on whether he would stay on. He didn’t make it–he was told at the end of those three months that he “wasn’t a fit for the Quaker Oats culture.”

Years later, after my father’s passing, I met a woman who worked closely with my father at Quaker Oats there and she confimed this story as it had exactly been told to me. She added that my dad was “a real blast” and a “breath of fresh air at that stuffy place.”

Later in the 1960s attitudes changed. Major corporations became less ethnic. One large company after another stopped being WASP, Jewish, or Catholic. The hiring doors for all positions were opened to minorities. And of course those were all good things. Politics was de-emphasized in the business world too.

But politics didn’t vanish from corporate America. Another legacy from the 1960s is that big corporations began envisioning themselves as being responsible for more than providing products and services and making money, explaining in annual reports and countless press releases that they had a “responsibility to the community” and the like. And over time, colleges and universities, even their business schools, drifted even further to the left. So did the political leanings of their graduates. A decade or so ago poltics made a roaring comeback in the boardroom and elsewhere in corporate America.

When there is a political controversy–such as the hasty anger about the new Georgia voting laws–which most people who hate them only do so because they saw Twitter comments or headlines on their smart phones that claim that Georgia has returned to the Jim Crow era–CEOs naturally, such as Delta Airlines’ CEO Ed Bastian, fall in line and echo the opinion of the left. Oh, the fear of a left-wing boycott is part of their rationale too. Coca-Cola, aka Woka-Cola, which went full-woke earlier this year, has also declared its opposition to the Georgia election law. And not just them.

Corporate politicking needs to end because it is an accessory to the dangerous dividing of America. The last time I bought airline tickets I needed to get someplace–and get flown home. That’s it. I don’t need the airline’s politics, I have my own already, thank you. The same goes if I need a beverage or anything else. Ed Bastian and Coca-Cola’s CEO James Quincey need to shut up and stick to keeping flights somewhat on time and ensuring beverages are tasty and safe. They need to avoid subjects they know little about.

The majority of Americans, when they learn more about the Georgia bill, will likely see these reforms as reasonable. For instance already most states have voter ID laws, including Biden’s home state of Delaware. And signature verification as the sole tool to determine if a ballot mailed in was completed by that voter, isn’t a strong enough security measure, at least I think so.

Elections need to be free and fair. 

Did Quincey and Bastian cave to the left on Georgia only because they read an MSNBC or Daily Beast headline? 

I am also compelled to address the bad decision by Major League Baseball to move the 2021 All-Star Game, and the MLB Draft, out of Atlanta. Two days prior, while being interviewed by woke ESPN, President Joe Biden said he supported taking away that game from the Braves. MLB needs to stay out of politics too. Had MLB done a bit of research on the subject it would have learned that the woke Washington Post rated a key Biden claim about the law with Four Pinocchios

Instead of a leftist boycott now Delta, Coke, and MLB face boycotts from the right–and the loudest call comes from former President Donald Trump. Remember him? He received the votes of 75 million Americans five months ago.

My message to corporate America: Keep out of politics and stick to your products and services. It’s good for your business and best for America. And it’s great for your employees.

Oh, my dad learned his lesson. He never wore a political campaign button again. He enjoyed a happy and properous career at other places. After Chappaquidick my father was done with the Kennedy family. After Jimmy Carter’s election he was done with the Democrats.

Quaker Oats was acquired by Pepsico, Coca-Cola’s rival, in 2001.

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

Let’s get real about JFK

Posted: November 24, 2020 by chrisharper in politics, Uncategorized
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By Christopher Harper

In a yearly ritual on November 22, baby boomers recall when and where they heard about the assassination of John F. Kennedy.

Unfortunately, few of us reflect on how Kennedy, while tragically struck down as a young man, was a lousy president and an even worse man.

Many consider JFK one of the best presidents in the history of the United States.

But even a cursory view of his life and times demonstrates how his legacy became hugely inflated after his death in 1963.

For example, many consider Kennedy responsible for civil rights laws when his successor, Lyndon Johnson, was the man who made that happen.

Moreover, as a senator, JFK voted against President Eisenhower’s civil rights legislation to appease racist Democrats in the South. In collusion with FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, Kennedy ordered wiretaps on Martin Luther King Jr.

In international affairs, he approved the assassination of the leader of the Dominican Republic, Rafael Trujillo, as long as the United States had “plausible deniability.” In Cuba, he launched an attack to overthrow Fidel Castro, known as the Bag of Pigs invasion, which failed because JFK failed to approve air cover. In Vietnam, he expanded the U.S. presence and endorsed a coup that ultimately resulted in the assassination of the president, Ngo Dinh Diem.

During his presidency, JFK engaged in various extramarital affairs, including Marilyn Monroe and Judith Campbell, who also dated Mafia boss Sam Giancana and posed an incredible security risk because of her ties to the Mob.

Sure, JFK did some things right. He stared down the Russians during the Cuban missile crisis. He rejiggered the tax code—changes that would rankle his fellow Democrats because it actually made it easier on the wealthy. I’ll even give him credit for encouraging American scientists to launch probes into space.

A longtime friend who covered JFK admitted to me that the reporters knew about the affairs and the political shenanigans. But the media saw JFK as the Great White Hope to bring the United States into a new era.

I don’t want to speak ill of the dead. But I think Americans, particularly baby boomers, should analyze JFK’s legacy in a much more rational way.