Thursday, July 9, 2015
tear down that wall, and gimme a pen
When you read this passage from historian Dallek's 2013 book, you may find yourself sort of "tripping over" a couple of these references, or truisms, where -- today -- we go, "Huh?!" But at the time (in the mid-1950s) it was that way.
----------------------- [excerpt from Camelot's Court, by Robert Dallek] --------------- It was accepted wisdom that [Lyndon] Johnson, the Senate majority leader, was running for president, and that he had a better chance than Adlai Stevenson, who had lost to Ike [Pres. Eisenhower] in 1952, to win the White House. Joe [Kennedy] told Johnson that if he would publicly announce his candidacy and privately commit to taking Jack [JFK] as his running mate, Joe would finance his campaign.
But Johnson was reluctant to make a commitment before he was certain that Ike was not running. In addition, he believed it a mistake to get out front and become the object of a stop-Lyndon campaign.
No southerner had won the presidency since before the Civil War
and Johnson's identification as a Texas segregationist (Huh?!)
would make it difficult enough for him to get his party's nomination and win the White House without the additional burden of having the first Catholic running mate. Memories of Catholic governor Al Smith's losing 1928 campaign suggested that any Catholic on the ticket could be toxic. (Huh?!)
--------------------- [excerpt from JFK's Last Hundred Days, by Thurston Clarke] ------------------- The  article was encouraging. The historians had picked Lincoln, Washington, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Wilson, and Jefferson as the five great presidents, in that order. Arthur Schlesinger, Sr., summarized the eight crucial qualities of a great president this way:
(1) "Each held stage at a critical moment in American history and by timely action attained timeless results."
(2) "Each took the side of liberalism and the general welfare against the status quo."
(3) "[Each] acted masterfully and farsightedly in foreign affairs. All cared profoundly about keeping the country out of war."
(4) They were "not only constructive statesmen but realistic politicians."
(5) [Each] "left the Executive Branch stronger and more influential than he found it."
(6) They "offended vested economic interests and long-standing popular prejudices."
(7) They "were more deeply loved than they were hated. The rank and file of Americans re-elected every one of them to a second term."
(8) They "possessed a profound sense of history. . . . Essential as it was to win approval at the polls, they looked as well to the regard of posterity."
Kennedy possessed all eight qualities....Judged by these criteria, he needed only to win reelection and attain "timeless results" by ending the cold war and passing his civil rights bill. ---------------------- [end excerpt]
----------------- When it says "ending the cold war" it makes me think of the film Charlie Wilson's War:
-- Are you patronizing me?
-- What do you want me to do, Joanne?
-- This is what I want you to do. I want you to save Afghanistan for the Afghans. I want you to deliver such a crushing defeat to the Soviets that Communism crumbles, and in so doing, end the Cold War.
Charlie -- I'll tell ya, I'd do it, too, but I got this Dairy Queen problem in Nacogdoches...
She turns her head sharply: "Don't underestimate me, Charlie..."
Ending the Cold War was a goal in 1962. That goal could happen -- but -- 28 years later -- "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall."
Signing of the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act was a goal in the mid-1950s. That goal could happen -- but 10 years later, signed by a president formerly known as a "Texas segregationist."