Popular history has reduced Presidents Kennedy and Nixon to simple caricatures. Kennedy equals good; Nixon equals bad. But Kennedy’s final frontier space race recklessly raised the temperature of the Cold War, whereas Nixon thawed it. But history mainly remembers Nixon for his paranoia, as much as his peace-making.
The two Presidents ends are both captured on television and, yet the most remarkable record of these two doesn’t come from TV but from secret audio recordings, now publicly available. Kennedy covertly recorded the closest mankind has come to Armageddon and Nixon secretly recorded the lowest an American President had then ever acted.
KENNEDY: A CONSERVATIVE IN LIBERAL CLOTHING?
Conspiracy theorists believe that it wasn’t just lone gunman, Lee Harvey Oswald, who assassinated President Kennedy in 1963. Film-maker, Oliver Stone, amongst others, implies conservative America conspired to terminate Kennedy, the dangerous free radical. But John Fitzgerald Kennedy (b.29 May 1917) was very much part of the establishment.
Born into a politically powerful, socially connected, and extremely wealthy family, (his father made his money in banking and bootlegging) JFK enjoys an elite education. (Physically, he suffers from severe back pain, later treated with amphetamine injections.) He’s decorated during the Second World War. But his elder, more politically minded, brother is not so lucky and it’s his death that pushes Kennedy to run for office.
“In 1957...in an effort to stop the ‘airwaves of this country’ from being ‘flooded with inferior music’... senators... vigorously supported a bill that would have radically curtailed the ability of radio stations to ‘artificially stimulate’ demand for rock-or as one witness in hearings for the bill put it, the ‘forced feeding of rock ‘n’ roll music to the public.”
(Thaddeus Russell: A Renegade History of the United States)
One of those senators is Kennedy. He also fails to speak out against the McCarthy communist witch-hunts. On working conditions, housing, and social security, however, he is a true liberal. And he changes his image during his presidential campaign, focusing on his youth to contrast with the elderly, existing, President Eisenhower.
Elected with an almost invisible majority of 118,574 in 1960, he’s the youngest ever President (and the first to be Catholic, and the first Irish-American), but his policies still suggest a man mindful of the status quo. With his first budget, he broke his promise to bar black discrimination in Government-insured housing and he’s generally reluctant to use political capital on the colour issue. Under his presidency, the breaking of Native American treaties continues; a dam is built and protected land is flooded. In Vietnam, Kennedy escalates American involvement in support of a disastrous puppet leader, Ngo Dinh Diem. Diem will be assassinated three weeks before Kennedy, and before the mistake can be rectified.