An interesting story in the Washington Post about JFK’s race against Richard Nixon:

It began in the fall of 1960, when the Kennedy campaign spread word that Vice President Nixon had secretly pocketed money from billionaire Howard Hughes, whose far-flung business empire was heavily dependent on government contracts and connections. Reporters for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and Time magazine corroborated the allegations, but their editors feared publishing such explosive information in the last days of the tightly fought campaign.
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So the Kennedys turned to two crusading liberal columnists, Drew Pearson and Jack Anderson, who had been attacking Nixon for the past decade. It was “a journalistic atrocity” to conspire with “the Kennedy hawkshaws to help us get the goods on their opponent,” Anderson admitted, but scoring a scoop to destroy Nixon was simply too tempting to pass up.

I took a US History class that covered from 1946 to 1960, ending (of course) with JFK’s election. I had planned to take the next course, covering 1961-1976, but was turned off by the professor (of both courses). Even though JFK (and Nixon, somewhat) played a relatively bit role, it was obvious that the professor held Kennedy in the highest esteem. I have a number of biased professors (a couple conservative, actually), but there was something about this professor’s particular sanctimony that I found extremely off-putting. The end result of it all was that the contrarian in me prevailed and I came out of it with a distaste for JFK and Kennedyism in general.

One of the cool parts of the class, though, was that we poured over the opinion media at the time. Even in the height of the Clinton years, it punched a pretty big hole in the notion that in the wonderful days of yore people had respect for the presidency if not its occupant. Criticisms of Eisenhower at the time actually closely matched later criticisms of George W Bush: an unintelligent, unenlightened hick who never had any business being president. And, of course, the obvious Kennedy/Clinton parallels.


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5 Responses to Tricky Jack

  1. web says:

    As long as we’re being fair, the Carter/Obama parallels in opinion media are striking as well.

  2. Maria says:

    Eisenhower did come off as something as a boob. There’s that famous film clip of him being asked if Nixon did anything significant while he served as Ike’s VP. Ike just stared blankly into the camera and then said, somewhat apologetically: “Give me a few days to think about it and I’ll get back to you.”

    Maybe he just had problems expressing himself on camera. I can’t imagine you can run the entire D-Day Invasion successfully and be a boob.

    The deification of the Kennedys is sad, considering all the information that has come out about what scumbags they were with their predatory womanizing, mob connections, and willingness to pull political strings to get them out of manslaughter charges and whatnot. Being attractive, mouthing empty platitudes about the “less fortunate” and having a killer smile–those three things pretty much qualify you for sainthood in some political quarters.

  3. Mike Hunt says:

    the obvious Kennedy/Clinton parallels

    I would say they meet at a 5 degree angle, since JFK got Marilyn Monroe and married a debutante. Clinton married a woman for her intelligence, and his side piece was the chubby intern.

    One of the greatest pictures ever taken was Clinton and JFK meeting at Boys Nation. The greatest picture ever was the meeting of Ruby and Oswald.

    the contrarian in me prevailed

    Being contrarian for its own sake (i.e. rebel without a cause) is a sign of gross immaturity. It is good that you have grown out of that (I hope).

    two crusading liberal columnists

    I don’t think people necessarily expect columnists to be unbiased. Drew Pearson made up for it by helping the Cowboys win Super Bowl 12.

  4. trumwill says:

    Being contrarian for its own sake (i.e. rebel without a cause) is a sign of gross immaturity. It is good that you have grown out of that (I hope).

    It had its uses. In this case, it encouraged me to look more into the Kennedys and see what there was to be found. Not as good as evaluating everything with a completely independent eye, but better than simply accepting what they are saying at face value. Even if I was too likely to lend credence to what I found on my own, at least I got both sides.

    It was an earlier, cruder form of my intellectual curiosity, and desire to see two sides of the story. That itself has some pitfalls because it makes me wishy-washy at times, but it also helps me better understand people and how they think.

  5. SFG says:

    “Maybe he just had problems expressing himself on camera. I can’t imagine you can run the entire D-Day Invasion successfully and be a boob.”

    Some people don’t think well on their feet, but I doubt they’d get to be generals in the Army. I suspect Ike just didn’t like Nixon very much.

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