Re: political elites 2

Juan Jewell (
Sat, 23 Nov 1996 23:00:12 -0500

On Fri, 22 Nov 1996, JAR2 wrote:

> It is not a matter of JFK worship or deification to say that once in
> office he displayed a rather (to me at least) remarkable sophistication and
> wisdom in the handling of political matters. The Berlin Wall, integration,
> the Cuban Missile Crisis were really handled in superb fashion politically
> for that time. Simply imagine how Nixon, Reagan, Carter or Bush would have
> acted, not to mention Clinton.
I'm not sure about his handling of the Berlin Wall; there it seems that he
acquiesced in a fait accompli. His committment to integration was rather
slow, in my opinion. It wasn't until 1963 that he was talking about
integration in public as a moral issue rather than a political one.
Didn't want to alienate the solidly Democratic South, after all. And his
willingness to risk nuclear war over the presence of intermediate range
missles in Cuba is, in retrospect, mind-boggling. Ever since the Soviet
Union developed a capability to launch nuclear armed missiles from
submarines (sometime in the early 70's, I believe) US Presidents lived
with a far more serious threat without feeling the need to threaten war.

JFK showed intelligence and a willingness to adapt and change. He also,
however, was very much a product of his age. In considering what he might
have done in Vietnam, the key is trying to determine how quickly the
realities there would have caused him to reexamine his assumptions. He
may well have cut his losses sooner, but his willingness to go along with
the assassination of Diem suggests to me that he was still looking for
some sort of democratic option in S. Vietnam that would have enabled them
to resist the Viet Cong. And I suspect he would have thrown in a couple
of hundred thousand men before coming to the conclusion that it wasn't
going to work.

Juan Jewell Sidwell Friends School Washington, DC

"It is the dark secret of new computer technology of most any kind: It doesn't
always bring immediate benefit and, if it does, it demands that people first
change the way they work."

Elizabeth Corcoran and Caroline E. Mayer
The Washington Post, Saturday, September 14 1996