Just as Dwight Eisenhower is, in my opinion, the greatest man of all time (outside deities), Joseph Stalin may be the worst man of the century and of history. It is not that Eisenhower is simply "greater" than all great men who came before him. Rather it is because he is the product of a tumultuous century that very likely will be considered the "turning point" in human history, even 500 years from now. There are many men, some living today, and many that have lived throughout the ages, who were as evil as Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin. If Genghis Khan had trains, gas chambers, and enough Zyklon-B, he happily would have gassed his enemies as Hitler did the Jews. In judging Stalin to be "worse" than Hitler, this is not some attempt to compare the darkness of their hearts. Rather, it is a practical matter.
Communism is "worse" than Nazism for two main reasons. First, it has had a longer time to commit atrocities, but mostly because it hides itself from its true reality. The Nazis were very easy to judge and hate. Hitler's "Mein Kampf" spelled it out clearly. It was just that nobody really thought it would happen, or was even possible. But the Nazi game plan was straightforward. They waged aggressive war in an effort to conquer the world, rounded up enemies (most, but by no means not all, Jews), and killed them. It is estimated that 12 million died in the camps. Half of those were Jews of German, Polish and other European ancestry. The other six million were Russians, Slavs, homosexuals, thieves, retards, gypsies, Communists, Catholics, dwarfs, dissidents, political opponents, etc., etc.
Stalin killed millions, too. In the end, he killed more than Hitler did. He just did not do it in as short a period of time, or in as efficient a manner. He did not kill as many as Chairman Mao. But Mao was doing Stalin's work. Without Stalin, there is no Mao. One can make the argument that while Hitler killed people he hated and considered enemies, Stalin was worse because he killed Russian heroes and military officers who served their country faithfully. They died because he viewed them as threats and potential threats. He killed millions of Jews, but he did not have the same hatred for them that Hitler did. This does not make the Russian Jews any less dead than the German and Eastern European Jews.
Nazism eventually opposed religion in Germany, but Catholic and Lutheran churches continued to operate despite Hitler's pronouncement that he, not God, was the only valid symbol of worship in Germany. Despite this, German Christianity maintained a toehold in the country despite its terrors. In post-war West Germany it was this rock that gave the country the moorings it needed to re-build.
Communism hated religion, officially and without apology. It was expelled and disallowed. Atheism dominated all aspects of Communist ideology. It was said to be the "opiate of the masses," invented by man as a crutch.
Stalin and Communism also have a "benign" face. The Nazis, embodied by the mustachioed Hitler, with their hideous symbols and shrill propaganda, were obvious threats and easy to despise. But Communism and its utopian "hammer and sickle" promise had the vague sense of justice that drew so many of the Left into its clutches. They did the work of this ideology, yet many remained dumbly unwitting. Many liberals hate religion, too, because religion requires judgment. It has the temerity to identify right and wrong, which is anathema to many of them. Liberal assertions for the separation of church stem from the atheistic prescriptions of Communism. Stalin, with his furry moustache as opposed to Hitler's little pencil shavings, was called "Uncle Joe" by the duped, who thought he looked like a big, friendly bear. A grizzly bear.
As ruler of the U.S.S.R. from 1924 to 1953, Stalin was in charge of Soviet policies during the early phase of the Cold War. Born Iosif Vissarionovich Dzhugashvili on December 21, 1879, he adopted the name Stalin, which means "Man of Steel," while still a young revolutionary. What bullshit!
Stalin first rose to power in 1922 as Secretary General of the Communist Party. Using administrative skills and ruthless maneuvering, Stalin rid himself of all potential rivals in the party, first by having many of them condemned as "deviationists," and later by ordering them executed.
To ensure his position and to push forward "socialism in one country," he put the Soviet Union on a course of crash collectivization and industrialization. An estimated 25 million farmers were forced onto state farms. Collectivization alone killed as many as 14.5 million people. Soviet agricultural output was reduced by 25 percent, according to some estimates.
In the 1930s, Stalin launched his Great Purge, ridding the Communist Party of all the people who had brought him to power. Soviet nuclear physicist and academician Andrei Sakharov estimated that more than 1.2 million Party members - more than half the Party - were arrested between 1936 and 1939, of which 600,000 died by torture, execution or perished in the Gulag.
Stalin also purged the military leadership, executing a large percentage of the officer corps and leaving the U.S.S.R. unprepared when World War II broke out. In an effort to avoid war with Germany, Stalin agreed to a non-aggression pact with Hitler in August, 1939.
When Hitler invaded the U.S.S.R. on June 22, 1941, The "man of steel" became the "man of stealth." He was not seen or heard from for two weeks. After finally addressing the nation, Stalin took command of his troops.
With the Soviet Union initially carrying the burden of the fighting, Stalin met with British Prime Minister Churchill and President Roosevelt at Tehran (1943) and Yalta (1945), and with Churchill and Roosevelt's successor, President Truman, in Potsdam (1945), dividing the post-war world into "spheres of influence."
The U.S.S.R. joined the war against Japan in August of 1945, but Stalin insisted on expanding Soviet influence into Asia, namely the Kurile Islands, the southern half of Sakhalin Island and the northern section of Korea. Stalin wanted to secure a territorial buffer zone that had ideologically friendly regimes along the U.S.S.R.'s western borders.
In the wake of the German defeat, the U.S.S.R. occupied most of the countries in Eastern Europe and eventually ensured the installation of Stalinist regimes.
"Whoever occupies a territory also imposes his own social system," Stalin told Milovan Djilas, a leading Yugoslav Communist. He believed the Americans and the British would clash and eventually "socialism" would fill the void.
After initially approving the participation by Eastern European countries in the U.S.-sponsored Marshall Plan (1947), Stalin dropped out of it. He tried to influence Germany, and without access to the western German occupation zones, he agreed to the establishment of the German Democratic Republic (GDR) in October, 1949.
Encouraged by Communist victory in the Chinese Civil War and the establishment of the People's Republic of China in October, 1949, Stalin gave the green light to North Korean leader Kim Il Sung to attack South Korea in June, 1950.
His confrontational foreign policy and his domestic terror regime (the "Stalinist system") had an impact on Soviet society and politics well beyond the dictator's death of natural causes at age 73 on March 5, 1953.
Kennedy and Vietnam
In his "History of the Peloponnesian War", Thucydides said people go to war over "honor, fear and self-interest."
"He might also have considered accident, political fog and deceit," wrote Francis G. McGuire in "How The First Helicopter War Began", which details the 10-year war in Southeast Asia that really started at the end of World War II. It was a "continuation" of Korea, picked up where the French dropped out, fulfilled (or so many thought) the Truman Doctrine and the Domino Theory, and was a continuation of a disturbing trend: White Americans fighting to the death against Orientals.
After saving the world, a technological and economic powerhouse, led for eight years by the most popular man of the century, at the peak of world power, goodwill and prestige, found itself squaring off against a primitive force from a place few Americans had ever heard of.
The United States did not lose the Vietnam War, but they did not win it, either. This begs one of the most perplexing questions in our history. How could it have happened?
The "all men are created equal" theory was put to the test in Vietnam. America did not fair well in this test. The men who ran the war, politicians and soldiers alike, did not believe the Vietnamese were their equals. Not the ones from the north, the south, the Communist regulars, the Viet Cong, the ARVN, the politicians or the peasants, Catholic aristocrats or Buddhist monks. 100 years earlier, Chinese coolies built the railroad that turned the U.S. into a continent and were then told they were unwelcome anywhere. The U.S. tried to convince itself that they were operating out of pure benevolence for Orientals who had barely advanced in a century from the Chinese immigrants of the Old West.
This kind nation, fractured by its own guilt - enslaved blacks, conquered Indians, Mexicans turned into foreigners on their homeland - had dealt with all of these prejudices. By the 1950s, they had kicked in the doors of the camps. Many of our fractures were slowly healing. In going to war, first in Korea and then in Southeast Asia, to help Asians achieve freedom, America thought they had overcome their own faultlines. But they still did not think the Vietnamese were their equals. This applied especially to the North Vietnamese. While this does not entirely answer the question - How did this happen? - one part of that answer is that the North Vietnamese, for reasons that today are still not fathomable, were in some ways the equal to the Americans. They were just as committed and just as brave as the Americans were. This says more than can be imagined.
The Vietnamese call it The American War, just as the Soviets called World War II the Great Patriotic War, and the South still give lip service to the War Between the States. Some, humorously considering they started the thing, call it the War of Northern Aggression.
Some historians are now fairly sure that senior U.S. military officials consistently lied to President Kennedy because of his reluctance in sending ground troops to Vietnam. Lyndon Johnson wanted the war.
Vietnam ushered in the era of technology, airpower, the helicopter and new Special Forces. Jaunty green beret-wearing airborne soldiers embodied the new CIA/secret agent mystique of American status. They were employed in Southeast Asia and had a significant effect on political decisions and developments in Saigon, Hanoi, Washington, Beijing and Moscow.
"One raid each week" should do it, Defense Secretary Robert McNamara assessed. McNamara was in his 30s, a man with no military experience who for reasons that escape me rose to great heights at the Ford Motor Company despite the fact that he was the "father" of the Edsel, the worst auto disaster in the history of the American car industry. He was called a "whiz kid," the new breed of MBA-types who came to Washington with the Kennedy Administration. He brought with him a corporate mindset that seemed to think a war could be run like a company, a new line of automobiles, an advertising campaign. Everything came down to crunching the numbers and arriving at a pre-determined answer. "Gaming" all the plans was based on this "outcome." The question with these people was never the outcome, but what it would take to arrive at that outcome. Thus, when their estimates proved wrong, there was no real fallback position.
When Lyndon Johnson became President, he met with all these "best and the brightest." They were Ivy League, West Point, Madison Avenue, Wall Street and corporation superstars. They had all the polish and arrogance that these American pedigrees produce. They were in charge of the awesome might of the U.S. political, governmental, military and intelligence institutions. There was a sense that after the graft and patronage of Roosevelt, the Pendergast-sponsored Truman, and the grandfatherly Eisenhower, one of their own, the Harvard-educated Kennedy, was finally in. Now, these ultimate elitists were going to remake the world in their image. They were "smarter" than everybody, "qualified" to make decisions for everybody else. They had the morality, the vision and the idealism, and if they did not, they had the accounting skills, the technology and the power to make up the difference.
They dazzled Johnson, who had grown up poor in the Texas hill country, gone to a college nobody ever heard of, and started out as a teacher at a mostly Mexican-American school. Johnson told his pal, Speaker Sam Rayburn, just how impressive they all were with they slicked-back hair, the rows of medals on their chests, and their Ph.D.s.
"I'd feel a whole lot better about 'em," Rayburn told LBJ, "if just one of 'em had run for county sheriff."
Air power was the new mantra of this group. Nobody put more stock on it than McNamara, whose classic approach was efficiency of numbers. He explained to journalists the status of U.S. military aircraft inventory, capabilities with production numbers, time between sorties, budget dollars, payload fractions and other quantifiers.
Policy was set aside in favor of improved numbers, the new god of war. All discussions of policy rationale always came back to numbers. McNamara has been described as an "undeniable genius," which may be true, but the lesson of Vietnam and elitist politics is that genius does not make for great government.
Richard Nixon was one of the smartest men ever to occupy the White House. There are probably not more than three other Presidents who came to the job with better qualifications. George Herbert Walker Bush is one of them. Bill Clinton is a genius, a man with one of the most impressive minds of any President. He has a "steel trap mind" and retains all the information he reads. All three of these men had unsuccessful Presidencies.
George W. Bush is a simple Christian, a C+ student prone to verbal scofflaws. As of this writing, he is well on his way to one of the top Presidential legacies in American history.
Kennedy's mind was in the Clinton class. He had mastered speedreading and voraciously absorbed everything. His three short years in office were tragically cut short before his legacy can be judged in its entirety. But there is evidence in his handling of the South Vietnamese government he "inherited" and the coup d'etat he allowed to bring it down, that like Clinton he may have been too smart for his own good.
Johnson did not follow Rayburn's country wisdom. He was an able but not intellectual man. Had he followed Rayburn's instincts instead of letting himself be used by all the brass, his Presidency and the United States would have been spared much agony.
Intangibles were not factored into the McNamara plan. During the Cuban Missile Crisis, Kennedy advised his staff to read Barbara Tuchman's "The Guns of August" so they would know how Europe had blundered into war.
"I don't ever want to be in that position," Kennedy said. "We are not going to bungle into war."
American involvement in what was then called Indochina did not begin in 1960, nor even 1945. It began on June 18, 1919, when a young nationalist named Ho Chi Minh (using a pseudonym) wrote to U.S. Secretary of State Robert Lansing to seek help in freeing his people from French colonial domination after the First World War.
"We count on your great kindness to honor our appeal by your support whenever the opportunity arises," wrote Ho.
It was not realistic of Ho Chi Minh to expect the United States to oppose France after fighting side by side with them in World War I. Ho's use of language gleaned from our own history of independence did not dissuade us.
On October 17, 1945, Ho Chi Minh cabled President Truman, seeking American support for Vietnam "to take part in the Advisory Commission for the Far East." Ho's appeal was again ill timed, coming on the heels of another war in and on behalf of our French allies. However, Roosevelt had urged an end to colonialism, at least the 19th Century kind. He pressured Churchill to get out of England's possessive territories. This had a major effect on India eventually breaking from the British yoke.
Seven months earlier, President Roosevelt told a senior State Department advisor he was "much concerned about the brown people in the East," noting that "there are 1,100,000,000 brown people. In many Eastern countries they are ruled by a handful of whites and they resent it. Our goal must be to help them achieve independence - 1,100,000,000 potential enemies are dangerous."
Roosevelt added that "Indochina and New Caledonia should be taken from France and put under a trusteeship."
FDR told friends that France had ruled Indochina for 50 years and conditions for them had never improved. However, the State Department took no official action because the bureaucracy favored French colonial continuation. Then Roosevelt died. The State and Defense Departments were also concerned that the U.S. had its own colonial possessions in the Pacific and Caribbean.
President Truman was unprepared by training, ideology or immediate circumstance to pay any real attention to Vietnam. Instead, by 1950 it was decided to finance the French military. Eisenhower had the tools to deal effectively with the situation, but Korea changed the dynamic. If he appeared "weak" regarding Asian nationalism, which was code for Communism, then the repercussions could be devastating. The French were exhausted and lacked the will to see the issue through one way or another. The last thing they were ready to do was to take a leadership role in moral diplomacy.
Advisors and money replaced diplomacy. Ho Chi Minh was a nationalist until rebuffed by the Americans in 1919, after which he went to Moscow and joined the newly founded Third International Conference of the Communist Party, also known as the Comintern. Until then, Ho had not even read any of Lenin's works. Judging him is less black-and-white than judgment of other Communists, like Lenin, Stalin and Mao.
Stalin and Mao, in particular, were devils in human skin. Ho is not so easily painted. First, he became a Communist after being rebuffed in his efforts to get U.S. support. There is evidence that he admired American ideals of freedom.
Eventually, he employed the worst kind of tactics in support of his cause. He allowed torture and pure evil to be done in his name. For this history must cast dark aspersions upon him. But it can also be said that he is a victim of Communism. While Stalin, Mao and Fidel Castro or men who would have taken the low road no matter what their circumstances, because that is the nature of their personalities, Ho could have been something else.
Eisenhower did not share FDR's fear of "brown people." Instead, he advised the French on how to suppress Vietnamese armed rebellion in 1946. He resisted direct military support to the French, however. Communism was a problem in Korea and Europe, in his view. In this regard, he did not advocate the Domino Theory.
The French had appealed to Roosevelt regarding Indochina. Charles DeGaulle proposed a "with us or against us" philosophy, saying that to not help colonialists would help the Communists. DeGaulle's argument managed to get Eisenhower's attention. General LeClerc and his top political advisor, Paul Mus, sent urgent messages to Paris that half a million men could not hold Indochina for France. Their prescient request fell barely short of the largest number of Americans ever in Vietnam - 543,000 - in 1969.
For some reason, career intelligence experts in Washington and Paris did not hold sway with their respective governments. There was an element of sympathy in the U.S. towards the Viet Minh as early as 1946. Opposition to them was a matter of loyalty to France more than disagreement with them prior to their becoming full-fledged Communist clients. Despite Ho's membership in the Communist party, he still had appealed to the U.S. for support that indicates he was not a "hard liner." He was fighting to get foreigners out of his land, a notion that appealed to Americans. This differed from Castro, a Cuban trying to overcome other Cubans for selfish reasons draped around false independence.
The Battle of Dien Bien-phu in May of 1954 was a disaster for the French. Their forces were overrun in that northern Vietnam fortress after a 55-day siege. U.S. General Matthew Ridgway had convinced Eisenhower to stay out of Indochina, which at various times flared in Vietnam, Cambodia or Laos...or all three. There were reports that Vice-President Nixon urged consideration of "tactical" atomic weapons in his advice to Eisenhower. Eisenhower had clearly frightened the Chinese during Korea by not discounting the possibility that they would be used. There is no evidence that such a consideration was ever given serious credibility beyond using them as deterrence in creating a fear factor.
General Ridgway calculated what it would take to enter and win in the region.
It convinced Eisenhower to stay out of Indochina. Policy became subsequently muddled in Washington. Prior to his inauguration, Kennedy said he would not send military aid to Laos, where activity was heavy in 1960-61.
"Extrication would not be easy," he told White House aide Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.
Two weeks before his inauguration, however, Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev made a speech supporting "wars of national liberation," naming Vietnam as an example. Eisenhower told Kennedy one day before the inauguration that military intervention in Laos might be unavoidable. This had not penetrated JFK's consciousness before, but combined with Kruschev's speech it created a whole new dynamic.
Ike was "offering his support from his farm in Gettysburg," wrote David Halberstam, the Pulitzer Prize-winning Vietnam war correspondent and author of "The Best and the Brightest". "But go to war over Laos? This from Eisenhower, that fumbling, placid man [with] lack of will and lack of national purpose ... "
Ridgway and Kennedy met. JFK then named General Maxwell Taylor as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs. Taylor did an about-face from Ridgeway, recommending that the U.S. commit 8,000 ground combat troops to Vietnam. General Taylor later denied this figure, but declassified documents show that he did. Taylor called them a "flood relief task force."
JFK refused, preferring a "show of force" instead. Marine Corps helicopters were moved to Laos in a CIA-directed operation code-named "White Star" for employment by U.S. Army Special Forces advisory operations. Some of these aircraft were manned by Marines, the rest by Army and Navy personnel. 300 Marines were assigned to Udorn, Thailand, for maintenance.
Instead of being cowed, the Communists went on the offensive. The White House, State Department and the Joint Chiefs found themselves dealing with a situation that had consistently not played out according to their prognostications. The recommendations of military men like Ridgway had been swept aside by the New Men of the Kennedy Administration, as if somebody like Ridgway was "old school." Regardless of any lack of coherent plan, these "whiz kids" felt they could "game out" a "computer simulation" that would achieve the desired effect.
To be fair, Vietnam built up under the radar because big things were happening elsewhere: World War II post-war reconstruction, Korea, Latin America, Cuba, and then the Berlin Crisis. The President still had to deal with the economy, civil rights, labor strife, agriculture and nuclear proliferation.
The State Department's Chester Bowles said the policy seemed to be "trying to turn Laotians into Turks." He fought intervention plans for Indochina. On May 10, 1961, the JCS went on record favoring the use of U.S. combat troops in Vietnam. Two years of policy planning ensued. According to declassified documents via the Freedom of Information Act, JCS Chairman General Taylor and the Commander of U.S. Military Advisory Command in Vietnam, General Paul D. Harkins, tried to falsify reports about U.S. success (and potential for success) in Vietnam. It appears that President Kennedy was duped on this issue. Still, JFK's inauguration speech, in which he had promised to "pay any price" and "oppose any foe" in the cause of liberty indicates that, unless these words were just great rhetoric from speechwriter Theodore Sorenson, he was prepared to take bold action. Vietnam required bold action. The debate of history is whether that bold action should have been military or diplomatic. In 1961, the revisionists would assert, diplomacy was still an option. However, Dien Bien-phu seems to be a Rubicon the Communists crossed. Once that happened the wheels were set in motion for violent further conflict.
JFK was like his father in that he was a pragmatist. The "liberalism" associated with his name is more the result of martyred sainthood and his brother Robert's 1968 Presidential campaign. Like Ike, he desired consensus, but this seemingly good characteristic can also lead to indecision. Eisenhower's desire for consensus worked in the relatively narrow framework of committed, all-out war. D-Day, for instance, was going to happen. Ike could get all the opinions within a timetable laid out in advance, and then heap all the responsibility upon his shoulders. In going to war in "pieces," as the U.S. did, Kennedy's insistence on popular support was something of an albatross. In the early 1960s, the public supported the war. Americans hated Communism, knew what it was, and wanted no part of it. But the administration was unwilling to jingoistically build support for this line. The charismatic war hero Kennedy, with the wind in his sails and history on his side, could have created the alliance, domestically and internationally, to take on Communism in Southeast Asia. Had he done so, he would have created a commitment of friends who would not have given life to the war's opposition, or been in position to be naysayers when the rubber hit the road.
America failed miserably at the Bay of Pigs. Khrushchev in Vienna schooled Kennedy like he was a schoolboy caught cheating at Groton. Some have called this the "the education of John Kennedy." The Presidency, and Democracy in general, require an amazing leap of faith. Kennedy had indeed been in Congress since 1946, and in the Senate since 1954. But he was a relative youth with virtually no record of legislative accomplishment. The point is not Kennedy, however. Anybody can be elected President. We have heretofore elected these people from the ranks of the Congress, the Governors or the military. In actuality a movie star (Reagan, for instance, although he was California's Governor for eight years), a singer, an athlete, a corporate executive, a religious leader, a leading literary figure, or a very rich guy who does a deal with Satan could, in theory, be elected.
The President and elected officials, oddly, go through no real vetting process that can overcome overwhelming popularity at the polls. The media is given this inconsistent assignment. The Secret Service and the FBI check out prospective judges, Cabinet members, aides, and people who get the plum jobs of patronage. Rising through the ranks of the State Department, the Pentagon or the CIA require years of painstaking accomplishment and expertise. Obtaining security clearance to classified documents is tedious and time-consuming, subject to numerous checks and balances.
Then we put it all in the hands of somebody who might be elected because he is handsome, popular, has a pretty wife, or is extremely wealthy. The fact that these factors all describe John Kennedy is not an attempt to smear him as unprepared for the job. He was an able man, highly intelligent, and he chose a staff of advisors considered unparalleled in American history. The point is about the nature of the office, not Kennedy's time in it. It is a matter of faith, then, that this country has enough safeguards to "save" it even if a nincompoop ascends to the White House.
But JFK, who was no nincompoop, did have to learn on the job. His first year was a brutal classroom. By December of 1961, he had absorbed the lessons of Vienna, the Bay of Pigs, and the forcefeedings of an aggressive military class led by Taylor and Air Force General Curtis LeMay. It was in that month that two helicopter companies arrived in Vietnam, followed by more. It was all done as secretly as a Notre Dame football rally.
Deaths followed, and with each incident it seeped into the public consciousness that stakes were getting higher. The government reassured the public in 1962, but today we view that as the last year of innocence. Two main problems had emerged by mid-1962. First, the North Vietnamese had demonstrated that they were an invasion force. Had they simply chosen Communism and let it be, the situation might have been stabilized. This might be wishful thinking. The U.S., being the way it is, probably would have felt the need to do something about that eventually. A country, no matter how small or rural that it is, that chooses an ideology responsible for 100 million dead people cannot expect to just be left alone. If a nation one day comes out and says that they are starting up again under National Socialism using the Hitler model, its neighbors will fret and the U.S. will get called in. Maybe because they knew this, mostly because their Soviet and Chinese sponsors backed them, the North Vietnamese attempted to subjugate South Vietnam into one Communist Vietnam. Cambodia and Laos were all part of the same goal. The road to Pol Pot, Hun Sen and the "killing fields" was being paved. The Kennedy Administration sensed it. The second problem is that the South Vietnamese were not good fighters.
"This is a new kind of war, new in its intensity, ancient in its origin...war by guerrillas, subversives, insurgents, assassins; war by ambush instead of combat, by infiltration instead of aggression, seeking victory by exhausting the enemy instead of engaging him," said Kennedy.
"One guerrilla can pin down 12 conventional soldiers and we have nothing to counter that," Kennedy told Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee (one of his best friends) and several others during a dinner party. This "new math" varied from one-to-eight to one-to-twelve, depending upon the source. This was the genesis of Kennedy's brainchild, the Special Forces, developed as a countermeasure and skilled in jungle fighting
By the Summer of 1963, President Kennedy was in a commanding position. He had handled the Cuban Missile Crisis brilliantly, and the 1962 midterms had gone relatively well. He had advocated tax cuts that had the economy rolling. His popularity was secure except for the Deep South. A new class of weapons was now available. Tests were conducted at New Mexico's White Sands Missile Range, California's China Lake Naval Ordnance Test Station and in the Pacific Ocean.
"No man is happy without a delusion of some kind," wrote Christian Nestell Bovee, a 19th century American author. "Delusions are as necessary to our happiness as realities." Francis McGuire used that quote to describe what he called the "fatal delusion" of Vietnam, applying the phrase to Lyndon Johnson.
"I have a great deal of love for the Army; not its bureaucracy," McGuire quoted former AH-1 Cobra helicopter pilot Jerome Boyle after his tour in Southeast Asia.
673,000 people were rescued by helicopters in Southeast Asia during the war, former Sikorsky president Gerald Tobias told the American Helicopter Society Forum in Washington, D.C. This nation entered the conflict with the bravest, most skilled fighters, with the best equipment in the world.
Oliver Stone's "JFK" (1991) posited the notion that had Kennedy not been assassinated, he would have withdrawn U.S. troops. This is a nice memory of the fallen President by many of his loving supporters, most of whom are converted doves.
"I think it is highly probable that, had President Kennedy lived, he would have pulled us out of Vietnam ..." wrote former Defense Secretary McNamara "In Retrospect". "I think he would have come to that conclusion even if he reasoned...that South Vietnam and, ultimately, Southeast Asia would then be lost to Communism...Kennedy would have agreed that withdrawal would cause a fall of the 'dominoes' but that staying in would ultimately lead to the same result, while exacting a terrible price in blood."
According to McNamara, at a "very important" National Security Council meeting on October 2, 1963, President Kennedy made three decisions: (1) to completely withdraw all U.S. forces from Vietnam by December 31, 1965; (2) to withdraw 1,000 U.S. troops by the end of 1963 to begin the process; and (3) to make a public announcement of this decision.
Kennedy told McNamara to prepare the orders for withdrawal and make a public announcement of the decision. "... and tell them that means all of the helicopter pilots, too."
McGuire is not the only historian to question McNamara's account. McNamara was an absolute advocacy of the war and its ever-growing build-up. It seems incongruous that JFK just called a meeting and made an announcement that everything they had built up was to be torn down. That all the policies advocated by his staff and the military were now obsolete. That his inauguration speech suddenly counted for nothing. That all of it was to be announced at a press conference, and oh, by the way, the helicopter pilots (and presumably his pet Special Forces) were just to be withdrawn.
As Shakespeare wrote, "There are more things on Heaven and Earth, Horatio, than can be dreamt of in your philosophy." Now, it is possible that Kennedy had an "epiphany," that he "saw the light," and that the "better angels of his nature" spoke to him. It is possible these "spirits" convinced him that the world was not endangered enough by the spread of Communism to justify the greatest military on Earth, entrusted by the world with protecting it from just that, to just pack it up and go home. Using the Shakespeare quote, and considering acts of God and miracles, McNamara's assertion is actually possible. It is just that, within the framework of the practical world, this is so far from being possible that it is, for all intents and purposes, impossible.
The available evidence is conflicted, which gives the "withdrawal theorists" the wriggle room they conveniently use. On October 4, 1963, a memo was written to the uniformed leaders of the four military services. The U.S. had 16,300 advisers in South Vietnam at that point.
"All planning will be directed towards preparing RVN (Republic of Vietnam) forces for the withdrawal of all U.S. special assistance units and personnel by the end of calendar year 1965," said the memo.
The memo also ordered the service chiefs to "withdraw 1,000 U.S. military personnel by the end of 1963."
It was signed by General Taylor, and was declassified in 1998. The reality is that instead of carrying out the "order," units were re-assigned, re-designating personnel, other measures took its place, and Kennedy's order was rendered meaningless. No change occurred.
Now why did this happen? The same President had stood up to LeMay and the military hawks during the missile crisis. He was riding a crest of popularity and had found his stride. Now a memo, advocating his desire and putting it in order form, to withdraw forces from Vietnam, had for all practical purposes been ignored.
Consider a few things. This is the same man who had written "While England Slept" advocating American involvement in Europe while his ambassador father insisted on isolationism. This same father had been one of Joseph McCarthy's biggest financial supporters. His son Bobby worked for McCarthy. Yet, we would no longer "oppose any foe" or "pay any price" to oppose the Communist menace that obsessed this country a few years earlier? This President's brother had made his career out of going after the mob, yet the President himself palled with Mafia types, shared girlfriends and hookers with them, and did deals with them.
The point of all this? Just as Vito Corleone told Michael Corleone to "keep your friends close and your enemies closer," Joe Kennedy had many such talks with his children, giving them sage advice based on his years of successful insider trading, illegal booze smuggling, nefarious business transactions and manipulations of Hollywood. Is it possible he told his son to write "While England Slept" to "cover our ass" so no matter how World War II turned out, the family would be "protected"? There is schizophrenia in the Presidential-friend-of-the-mob with the crusading-against-the-mob-brother. There is more evidence of it when a Democrat gives money, makes friends with, arranges a job for his son with, the most conservative Republican in the country. But there is a method to the Kennedy method.
The "memo," the "order," the big piece of evidence that the Left has tried to attribute to the Kennedy's all these years could be a sham. Perhaps it was designed to give them a way out, a piece of evidence to use in case things went horribly wrong in Vietnam. The big wink, the knowing look.
Don't worry, it's handled.
Generals do not re-shuffle, re-assign, cover up and ignore Presidential orders. To suggest that Taylor and a few of his cohorts just kept the brilliant John Kennedy in the dark is ludicrous. It plays for the conspiracy theorists, but does not pass the smell test. What does rate as possible is that Kennedy just followed the lessons of his old man, and was doing the old "C.Y.A."
On November 1, 1963, the President of Vietnam and his brother were assassinated during a coup. David Halberstam and others uncovered the now-acknowledged fact that Kennedy had encouraged the coup. Sloppy, ambiguous secret cables were sent over a weekend coordinating the assassination. Kennedy reportedly sat in his office getting a play-by-play of the assassination as it was happening, like a baseball fan listening to the World Series.
This activity, and the "sloppy" cables that did not directly link the President to the act, vis a vis a "smoking gun," simply reek of the cover-up, play-both-sides-of-the-fence mentality that the Kennedy's had learned from their father. The act and its aftermath do not coincide with any plan that Kennedy actually had to withdraw troops. It certainly had the opposite effect.
Some historians contend that Kennedy's intention was to simply remove a very difficult President Ngo Dinh Diem, and that it got out of hand. Ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge had a birds-eye view of the whole event. Even if it had not been intended to kill Diem, once it was obvious that the President's life was in danger neither Lodge nor our military did a thing to prevent it. This was certainly not based on a decision by Lodge. He was in constant communication with Kennedy and operating under his instructions.
It has been written that Diem was "blackmailing" the U.S. into not withdrawing. What kind of blackmail was he using? Reminding Kennedy of the speech Sorenson wrote in January, 1961?
The assassination immediately empowered the Vietnamese military who took over the country. Their first act was to create a closer military alliance between South Vietnam and the U.S. This certainly does not seem to be the "Vietnamization" of the conflict that is inferred by the memos. These generals would have been consulted during the planning stages of the coup, if not by diplomatic means certainly through intelligence and probably military channels. If they were to be part and parcel of a plan to strengthen their own military while the U.S. decelerated, then it does not to stand to reason that the exact opposite is what actually happened.
Kennedy aide Kenneth O'Donnell, an old Boston friend who no doubt knew every trick in the Joe Kennedy playbook, said that he asked how Kennedy planned to pull out of Vietnam.
"Easy," Kennedy is supposed to have said, "we'll install a government in Saigon which will ask us to leave."
If this were true, Kennedy would have installed a Buddhist government in Saigon. A Buddhist monk had immolated himself in protest of the war. The Buddhist majority in Vietnam did not like the aristocratic, Catholic, French-influenced government that was kicked out. If O'Donnell's assertion that Kennedy had the "easy" answer is to be believed, which it is not, then JFK would have "installed" somebody other than the South Vietnamese generals. These people were not very Buddhist. Many had attended advanced training at American war colleges. They shared an esprit d'corp with their West Point colleagues, and were the last people in Vietnam to "ask us to leave." That is precisely the opposite of what they did ask us to do.
By November, 1963, John F. Kennedy knew darn well that if the U.S. pulled out of the south, the Communists, backed by China and the U.S.S.R., would rush right in. He knew the South Vietnamese did not have the military means to prevent it, and that it would be a holocaust. He may not have had nightmares that resembled the Cambodian killing fields, but he knew it would be something like that. He did not want that to be his legacy. The odd thing is that the revisionists of the Left somehow want that to be his legacy. If they are honest with themselves and think realistically about it, then the natural line of events lead to that. If the U.S. pulled out of Vietnam during the period 1963-65, then is there some reason to believe the events of 1975-78 would not simply have occurred 10 years earlier than they did? Those events, of course, are the toppling of Saigon, civil war in Laos, holocaust in Cambodia, and total chaos in the region. Had this happened in the 1960s instead of the 1970s, it would have combined with the utter loss of American prestige, acknowledgement that America does not keep its commitment, and in this historian's personal opinion, a possible Soviet attack that leads to World War III.
Many of the historical revisionists who want to promote the notion JFK would have kept the U.S. out of a major Vietnam "quagmire" did not arrive at that conclusion until 1968 at the earliest, when his brother advocated a unilateral withdrawal. His advisors certainly were silent on the subject during his Presidency. What is possible is that "passing remarks" in the hallway have been interpreted as "wishful" official propositions. Bobby himself tried to get appointed as Ambassador to South Vietnam in 1964, which certainly would have attached a Kennedy-Johnson approval to the war. Kennedy's approval of Ngo Dinh Diem's assassination because he may have sought an alternative peace with Ho Chi Minh behind America's back goes against the "withdrawal" theory. If Kennedy wanted out, what better way than for South Vietnam to do it for them? There is no logic behind the idea that Kennedy would support the Ngo coup, then abandon the successors to political and military instability. The coup was a fait acompli regarding the war, which John Kennedy signed on to.
Kennedy pulling out goes against all we know about his political character. He was a middle-of-the-road strategist. He was a Cold Warrior who did not back off confrontation, but took it on with moderation. His middle way approach failed at the Bay of Pigs but succeeded during the missile crisis. He also liked to buy time, such as in Laos, who he allowed to be neutralized. At the Berlin Wall he lined up troops to simply observe the Russians build the structure.
Kennedy likely would have rejected a Reserve call-up and heavy bombing in favor of limited bombing of the north with limited build-up in the south. There is little to suggest the Kennedy approach would have been much different from the Johnson
approach. Kennedy, however, might have made better use of the Marines and the Green Berets, and relied less on the "Vietnamization" policy of Johnson. He might have succeeded where Johnson failed.
So, I say to those who live in this Vietnam fantasy land, that if you are going to buy the "JFK was gong to pull us out of Southeast Asia" scenario, then you had better buy the disastrous results this scenario would have caused.
The fact is, Kennedy might have wanted to pull out of Vietnam, which is much different and more likely than truly planning to do it. The revisionists say that Kennedy
"planned" the withdrawal for after the 1964 election, so the Republicans could not attack him for being soft on Communism.
"I can do it after I'm re-elected," he is supposed to have said, "So we had better make damned sure I AM re-elected."
This creates another intriguing concept. Just for the sake of argument, if JFK was planning to get the U.S. out of Vietnam following the 1964 campaign, it still leaves events between November, 1963 and November, 1964 to deal with. The Communists continued to build their forces, and were creating a situation that every day made it more difficult to extricate American forces. It is not fair to Kennedy to say that he would have orchestrated the Gulf of Tonkin incident, which Johnson did in August, 1964. But it is fair to say that the same forces that drove the Tonkin incident would have driven JFK if he was still President. It is not fair to say that Oliver Stone's premise that it was all part of a vast right wing/conservative/military/Republican/Military Industrial Complex/ CIA/ Cuban/"black ops"/Mafia/Communist plot. Stone's vision is, and quite simply, garbage.
On November 22, 1963, in Dallas, Texas, John F. Kennedy was assassinated.
The preparation of a document called National Security Action Memorandum 273 was then in progress. It spelled out the U.S. intention to gradually withdraw from the war. When President Lyndon Johnson got the draft, he reversed the direction of NSAM 273, which was issued a few days later.
This document is further evidence, some say, that the U.S. was going to pull out of Vietnam. It is possible that such documents are the natural result of an eventual desire to get troops out of that country. It is difficult to believe such a thing was contemplated before that country was deemed secure. The escalation of Communist and Viet Cong insurgency that was occurring every day during this period simply makes it contrary to American tradition that this nation would have abandoned the Saigon government to the tender mercies of Ho Chi Minh's evil forces.
While this may sound simplistic, a possible "alternative" to the escalation vs. de-escalation debate is a "Korea option." Perhaps if Eisenhower had been President, or even Nixon, his protégé and a man who the Communists feared, a deal could have been worked out like the one Ike negotiated in 1953. The United States could have promised not to attack the Communists. They could have put a "police force" in Saigon to create and protect a "demilitarized zone" like the 38th parallel in Korea. We already were protecting Berlin, which was surrounded on all sides by the Soviets. This might not have been a perfect solution, and it certainly would have required more, not less, troops, but it theoretically could have worked and not produced the body bags, the "body counts," the tragedy and heartache that followed.
The Kennedys: American Royalty
"Joe Kennedy is one of the biggest crooks who ever lived."
- Sam Giancana
"I helped Joe Kennedy get rich."
- Frank Costello
"Joe always found great favor in Hitler. He would have loved to see him succeed."
- Morton Downey, Jr.
John Fitzgerald Kennedy is generally considered one of the greatest Presidents in American history. He consistently ranks with Ronald Reagan and Franklin D. Roosevelt in polling. His international standing is extremely high, too, especially in France and Germany. He is nothing less than an icon of the Democrat party. While it is understandable that average Americans are not familiar enough with Theodore Roosevelt, or consider Abraham Lincoln and George Washington to be "ancient history," it is nevertheless impressive that Kennedy ranks as highly as he does. Depending on the poll or who you ask, he is likely to compare with Truman and Eisenhower, who are relatively recent Presidents and heroes to many.
However, it is difficult if not impossible to judge Kennedy without judging his family. This applies to every member of the most famous clan in American history. All of them are inextricably linked to each other. Being a Kennedy has special responsibilities that come with enormous privileges. To be a member of this family and even the extended family of in-laws, inside friends and advisors, is to be privy to wealth, prestige, political influence and notoriety on a scale that no other family approaches. Some have used this privilege wisely. Others have abused it brutally. Many people have benefited from the Kennedy family. Many of have had their lives ruined. They are nothing if not scandal-ridden fodder for the tabloids, yet they have done much noble work.
There other dynasties in American history. There were the Adams's, the Roosevelts, and now the Bush family shows the potential to supplant the Kennedys in the 21st Century. But none ever has nor ever will capture the imagination - for good or ill - of the glamorous Kennedy family.
The Kennedy family does not start with Joseph P. Kennedy, but everything before flowed to him. Everything since emanates from him. The further a Kennedy can distance him or herself from Joe Kennedy, the better off they are. Joe Kennedy is very possibly the single worst American of the 20th Century. Bill Clinton gets some votes, but he was duly elected and has the imprimatur of the Presidency. The question of "worst American" is a subjective one, counting only people of prominence who were in a position of power, influence and were supposed to make use of their position in a legal manner beneficial to society.
Therefore, mob figures and serial killers are not eligible. But corporate tycoons, military men, religious figures, entertainers and politicians are eligible. Kennedy was a corporate tycoon, a politician, an entertainment executive who had de facto religious influence, and was also intricately involved in military affairs. He advocated keeping America military out of World War II. Two of his sons were military heroes. He orchestrated a public relations campaign that blew John's Naval experience so far out of proportion that it propelled him to the White House. Finally, unbelievably, a Navy destroyer was named after him. In addition, Kennedy was for all practical purposes a mob figure for decades, although his participation in Mafia activities was more carefully chosen than the Sicilian families who chose to do their business less publicly than Kennedy. When American boys were dying in World War I, Joe was enriching himself through deceptive business practices. He never served a day in the military. Americans lost everything in the Great Depression, while Joe enriched himself further through deceptive business practices that directly "benefited" from the losses of others.
The Kennedy's have experienced tremendous tragedy, some intensely personal, some part of the national experience. Many have labeled this the "Kennedy curse." If there is such a thing as a "curse," or "bad Karma," it can be attributed first to Joe Kennedy. In the end he was rendered helpless by stroke and forced to watch two of his sons felled by assassin's bullets. It is not my place to judge a human being, but I will consider that God may have rendered Earthly judgment for public consumption upon evil men. Joe Kennedy was an evil man. While many historians might be accused of rendering judgement on Joe Kennedy, I submit that the simple truthful description of his life is to describe evil acts, which is different from judgment. What is speculative is the considered possibility that the 20th Century "success" of the Kennedy's resulted from Joe Kennedy calling forth Satan and making a deal with the devil. This is entirely unproven, and in my opinion within all possibility. The following are excerpts from "The Sins of the Father" by Ronald Kessler and "The Kennedy Men: Three Generations of Sex, Scandal, and Secrets" by Nellie Bly:
"Joe's father, P.J. Kennedy, was a saloon owner who used his bar as a launching pad for his political career.
"In 1885, P.J. was elected to the Massachusetts House of Representatives, due in large part to the strong backing he received from the liquor lobby which was worried about the temperance movement.
"P.J. would serve five terms as a state representative before being elected to the Massachusetts Senate. P.J. skillfully used his political power to enrich himself and advance the career of his son Joseph P. Kennedy.
"When Joe Kennedy was fresh out of college in 1912, his father got him a job as a state bank examiner. Here, Joe had access to useful information about the confidential affairs of companies and individuals who had credit lines with major Boston banks. He found out which companies were in trouble and which had extra cash, who was planning new products or acquisitions and who was about to be liquidated.
"A former Harvard classmate, Ralph Lowell, said, `That bank examiner's job took him all over the state and laid bare the condition of every bank he visited. He acquired information of value to himself and others.'
"Joe's strategy was to obtain inside information about troubled companies from banks, then drive their stock down so he could buy them more cheaply. While still on the state payroll as a bank examiner, Joe made an acquisition that was aided by inside information. He bought a Boston investment company called Old Colony Realty Associates, Inc. Joe turned the company from an old-line investment firm into one that made money on the misery of others.
"Under Joe's direction, the company specialized in taking over defaulted home mortgages. He would then paint the houses, and resell them at far higher prices. By the time the company was dissolved, Joe's $1,000 investment had grown to $75,000. <This sounds like Hillary Clinton's `cattle futures' deal.>
"Joe began cultivating strong alliances with members of the press, including William Randolph Hearst, who would print glowing stories about Kennedy's successes. In January 1914, when Joe was elected president of Columbia Trust, Hearst ran a series praising Joe as the youngest bank president in the country. The stories neglected to mention that Columbia Trust was owned by Joe's father and his friends.
"Joe eventually assumed control of Columbia Trust by borrowing money from other family members who were never repaid. Kerry McCarthy, Joe's grandniece who interviewed some of those people for a research paper, said, "I found money was loaned to him by family members and not repaid. Since it was family, he didn't feel there was a need to.
"In June of 1914, Joe married Rose Fitzgerald, daughter of Boston mayor John Fitzgerald. Joe would use this new connection for all it was worth. In 1917, with World War I already in progress, the United States government announced that young men would be drafted into military service, and that draft resisters would be executed. Although most of Joe's friends from Harvard had already volunteered to serve, Joe had no intention of fighting.
"Joe had already been placed in Class 1 and was subject to immediate call-up, when his father-in-law, Mayor Fitzgerald, acquired a job for him at the Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corporation in Quincy, Massachusetts. Although Joe knew nothing about shipbuilding, he was made general manager, a job which effectively kept him out of the war. Daniel Strohmeier, vice president of Bethlehem Steel, said, `Joe was accommodated to skip the draft during World War I because of a lot of pressure from his father-in-law.'
Seven months after the armistice was signed to end World War I, Joe left the shipyard. Having avoided the draft, he had no more need to work there.
"Joe was given a job with the venerable Boston stock brokerage firm Hayden, Stone and Company, after Mayor Fitzgerald promised to swing business to the firm if they hired his son-in-law.
"Galen Stone, a friend of Joe's father-in-law, taught his protégé how to make huge sums of money off unsuspecting investors by trading on inside information. While the practice of using inside information was not then illegal, it was unethical. Stone breached his fiduciary duty to his stockholders, while Joe made money because of his privileged position at Hayden, Stone. Joe told one Harvard friend, `It's so easy to make money in the market we'd better get in before they pass a law against it.' It was easy, as long as one was willing to breach trust.
"Besides using inside information improperly, Joe made fabulous sums through what were known as stock pools. This was a way of manipulating the market by forming a syndicate and arranging for the members to trade stock back and forth. By bidding the price of the stock higher, the pool members created the appearance that the public was bidding up the price. In fact, the syndicate members retained the profits, and when the trading public bit by joining the action, the syndicate members sold out, leaving the public with losses. Joe called the practice `advertising' the stock.
"On January 29, 1919, the 18th Amendment was ratified. It prohibited the manufacture, sale, transportation, or importation of `intoxicating liquors' for `beverage purposes.' For Joe, the law represented an opportunity to make huge profits.
"He formed alliances with crime bosses in major markets, among them Boston, New York, Chicago, and New Orleans. These would come in handy years later when his son was running for national office. Among his mob associates was Frank Costello, former boss of the Luciano crime family, who bragged, `I helped Joe Kennedy get rich.' Sam Giancana, who would later figure prominently in Jack's presidency, called Joe `one of the biggest crooks who ever lived.'
"Joe bought liquor from overseas distillers and supplied it to organized crime syndicates that picked up the liquor on the shore. Frank Costello would later confirm that Joe had approached him for help in smuggling liquor. Joe would have the liquor dumped at a so-called Rum Row - a trans-shipment point where police were paid to look the other way - and Costello and other mobsters would then take over. They distributed the liquor, fixed the prices, established quotas, and paid off law enforcement and politicians. They enforced their own law with machine guns, usually calling on experts who did bloody hits on contract.
"Columnist John Miller wrote, `The way Costello talked about Joe, you had the sense that they were very close during Prohibition.'
"By the mid-1920s, Fortune estimated Joe's wealth at $2 million. Yet since Joe had left Hayden, Stone in 1922, he had had no visible job. While he made hundreds of thousands of dollars manipulating the market, only bootlegging on a sizable scale would account for such sudden and fabulous wealth.
"Joe used the profits from his bootlegging operations to fuel his continued stock market speculating, and finance his efforts in the film industry.
"By 1930 Joe had plenty to smile about. He had seen the Depression coming, and as Black Tuesday approached, Joe liquidated his longer-term investments while continuing to make money on the declining market by selling short.
"Selling Short - Usually an investor purchases stock and later sells it, earning a profit if the stock has gone up. Selling short reverses the process. The investor who believes the price of a stock will go down borrows stock - say at $10 a share - from a broker for a fee. If the price falls to $8, he buys new shares at the lower price of $8 and gives them back to the broker to replace the shares he borrowed at $10. He then gets to keep the $2 difference as his profit.
"By selling short, Joe made sums estimated at more than $1 million and contributed to the eventual market crash by forcing prices down.
"The fact that the market was unregulated was largely responsible for the crash. Salesmen had made wild claims to a gullible public. Stock pools such as those perfected by Joe Kennedy had defrauded legitimate investors. Reporters and columnists had acted as shills for companies peddling stocks in return for payoffs.
"The crash set off a worldwide financial panic and Depression that would last for years. By 1932, 12 million Americans were jobless. Governments responded with strict tariff restrictions that dried up world trade. In Germany, where 5.6 million people were out of work, the depression contributed to the rise of Adolf Hitler.
"Considerably richer because of his short selling, Joe Kennedy gleefully told friends that he had sold off his Wall Street holdings before the bottom dropped out of the stock market. He said he was now waiting to pick up the pieces left by `dumb people.'
"Joe Kennedy's wealth was now estimated at over $100 million. By 1933, Joe was again manipulating the stock market to his advantage, even as Federal investigators were swarming over Wall Street trying to expose the conditions that had led to the crash.
"The stock market crash and resulting panic would eventually lead to the creation of the Securities and Exchange Commission, to which Joe was named head <by the Democrat Franklin Roosevelt, which would have been like putting John Gotti in charge of a task force on organized crime>.
"By 1933 the states had also begun repealing Prohibition, and with his usual foresight, Joe could see it was only a matter of time before the 18th Amendment was repealed and liquor flowed freely again.
"Kennedy used his connections in Washington to obtain permits to import ridiculously large quantities of Haig & Haig and Dewar's as 'medicine.' He stockpiled the liquor in warehouses so that when Prohibition ended, he would have more high-quality liquor in stock than anybody else.
"Joe also took steps to make sure he had cornered the market in Scotch. In September, Joe invited the President's son, James Roosevelt, to join him on a trip to England. Joe used young Roosevelt to get access to those who controlled Scotland's distilleries. Returning with distribution rights to brands such as Haig & Haig, Dewar's scotch, and Gordon's gin, Joe proceeded to build Somerset Importers into a force in the liquor business. On December 5, prohibition was repealed and Kennedy was ready.
"Joe took steps to protect his fortune and the future of his children. He moved to establish a series of trust funds that would eventually make all his children financially independent. These trust funds would eventually guarantee each of his children, and their mother, over twenty million dollars apiece."
The following are excerpts from "The Sins of the Father" by Ronald Kessler:
"After making his fortune on and off Wall Street, Joe was one of the first Eastern businessmen to grasp the potential of the movie business. By the mid-1920s, the American film industry was turning out 800 films a year and employed as many people as the auto industry. This was `a gold mine,' Joe told several friends. After buying a chain of 31 small movie houses, Joe realized that the way to make real money was on the production side. Moreover, he was attracted to the glamour of Hollywood. Not only could he influence the way films were made, he could meet dazzling young women."
"While his wife Rose was in Boston, pregnant with their eighth child, Joe was in Hollywood engaged in his notorious liaison with the superstar Gloria Swanson.
"Swanson was by no means Joe's first extramarital adventure, but she was his first real affair. She was the perfect trophy to symbolize the great worldly success he had achieved.
"In 1926, Joe convinced a patron of his brokerage firm, named Guy Currier, to finance his plans to enter the movie business. Using insider information he received as a broker at Hayden, Stone, Joe bought the Film Booking Offices of America (FBO), sight unseen, from its British owners; and then received a commission of $75,000 from the trading company for the deal. Joe quickly changed the studio's focus to making cheap Westerns and dog pictures that could be turned out in a week for $30,000 to $50,000 each. Although they lacked artistic merit, the pictures sold, and FBO profits ballooned.
"The following year, Joe Kennedy used the profits from FBO to purchase the Radio Corporation of America (RCA) who had a new system for making motion pictures with sound. Now that Joe headed a studio, he wanted to buy a theater chain to distribute his pictures. This desire would eventually lead to the infamous 'Pantages Scandal.'
Kennedy purchased KAO (Keith-Albee-Orpheum Theaters Corp), a chain with 700 movie theaters in the U.S. and Canada, and more than 2 million patrons daily. Edward Albee, the founder of KAO, had initially refused to sell out, but when Joe promised that he would remain in control of the chain, Albee agreed to Kennedy's offer. But once the papers were signed and Joe was chairman, Joe said bluntly, `Didn't you know, Ed? You're washed up. Through.'
"In 1928, Joe was asked to serve as a special advisor on the board of Pathe Exchange Inc., a production company who produced a weekly newsreel. Joe soon became chairman of Pathe and began implementing his own ideas, beginning by slashing the salaries of the employees. The cost cutting applied to others, however, and not to himself - he was drawing a salary of $100,000 from Pathe.
"Later that year, Joe merged FBO with his chain of theaters (KAO) to form the famous RKO. Joe then had RCA trade its FBO stock for stock in the new company, a deal which brought him $2 million.
"Joe Kennedy had become so entranced by Gloria Swanson and Hollywood that when his father P.J. Kennedy died in May of 1929, Joe would not leave California to attend the funeral. Joe's cousin Joseph Kane later confronted him saying, `You son of a bitch, you didn't even go to your father's funeral. You were too busy on the West Coast chasing Gloria Swanson around."
"Joe replied, `I couldn't leave. If I left for two days, the Jews would rob me blind.'
"A friend, Kane Simonian, observed, 'Joe Kennedy didn't attend his father's funeral....When someone doesn't go to his father's funeral, you can believe he would do anything.'
"Indeed, nothing so much illuminates Joe's character as his decision to remain in California while the rest of the family and many of Boston's most notable citizens paid their last respects to the man who had been responsible for so many of Joe's early successes. From Joe's entry into Harvard, to his job as bank examiner and designation as president of Columbia Trust, P.J. had always been there to help his son. Now that his father could do nothing more to help him, Joe was too busy in Hollywood to say good-bye.
"In 1931, Joe Kennedy plundered Pathe Exchange. He arranged for RKO to pay Pathe insiders like himself $80 a share. The rest of the stockholders would receive just $1.50 a share. Favoring insiders to such a degree was nothing more than robbery. Since Joe had acquired the stock for $30 a share, he more than doubled his investment in fewer than two years. Stockholders filed suit, but nothing came of it.
"Since Joe was in a position to dictate the terms of the deal, he was able to craft the transaction to enrich himself. Moreover, he took advantage of privileged information from the files of major stockholders in the movie companies who were clients of Guy Currier, his partner at RKO. While Currier was on vacation in Italy, Kennedy pillaged his files for inside information such as the size of holdings of other stockholders and their financial condition. He then used the information to further his own interests. When Currier returned, he discovered that RKO's value had plummeted, and he and his fellow investors had been betrayed. Joe Kennedy `did not behave in an honorable way,' said Anne Anable, Currier's granddaughter. `Unfortunately, my grandfather didn't realize how corrupt Kennedy was,' she said.
"Years later, Wisconsin Congressman John Schafer took to the floor of the House to denounce Joe Kennedy as the `chief racketeer in the RKO swindle.' Another Congressman, William Sirovich of New York, said the `inside group at RKO had committed fraud by unloading their stock, making millions.' He called for an investigation of the movie industry, but by then Joe had become close to key Congressional leaders as well as to President Roosevelt, and the probe was mysteriously halted.
"In Joe's papers, Doris Kearns Goodwin found letters from anguished stockholders of Pathe. Anne Lawler of Jamaica Plain in Boston said she lost her life savings. `This seems hardly Christian-like, fair or just for a man of your character,' she wrote. `I wish you would think of the poor working woman who had so much faith in you as to give all their money to your Pathe.'
"Joe Kennedy had been chairman of FBO for two years and nine months, chairman of Keith-Albee-Orpheum for five months, special adviser to First National Pictures for six weeks, special adviser to RCA for two and a half months, and adviser to Paramount Pictures for 74 days. In all, Joe had made an estimated $5 million in the movie business."
The following are excerpts from "The Kennedy Men: Three Generations of Sex, Scandal, and Secrets" by Nellie Bly:
"Joe's oldest daughter, Rosemary, was considered shy and mentally limited - symptoms of what many suspect was dyslexia. For years the family had dealt with the problem by sending her away to various special schools and convents. By age 21 she had deteriorated greatly, giving way to tantrums, rages and violent behavior. Rosemary was beginning to understand that she would never measure up to her closest siblings, and the resulting frustration led to physical fights and, worse, long absences at night when she would be wandering the streets.
"Increasingly, Rosemary was seen as a liability to the family's political ambitions, and in 1942, Joe moved to deal with the problem. Without telling anyone, not ever her mother, he arranged for his oldest daughter to have a prefrontal lobotomy at St. Elizabeth's Hospital in Washington, D.C. The experimental operation was believed to work wonders with people who had emotional problems. In Rosemary's case it was a disaster and left her permanently disabled, paralyzed on one side, incontinent and unable to speak coherently. She was never allowed to return home, but instead was spirited away to St. Coletta's School in Wisconsin.
"Rosemary's fate and how it was handled was the ultimate Kennedy deception. As late as 1958 the family was maintaining the fiction that Rosemary had become a quasi nun in Wisconsin, content to renounce the glamorous world of her siblings to teach less fortunate children. Today the official family version is that she was born retarded, and that only her mother's Herculean efforts had made it possible for her to appear normal."
The following are excerpts from "The Sins of the Father" by Ronald Kessler and
"The Kennedy Men: Three Generations of Sex, Scandal, and Secrets" by Nellie Bly:
"How Joe Kennedy framed an innocent man
"In February 1929, Joe Kennedy made an offer to buy the Pantages theater chain, the second biggest in California, from its owner Alexander Pantages, a Greek immigrant who had built the chain from scratch into a multi-million dollar business.
"Joe's innate arrogance was now rampant, and when Pantages rebuffed his offers, Kennedy threatened him by boasting of his influence in the banking and movie businesses. Soon, Pantages found his theaters were being denied first-run blockbuster features from major studios, but that was only the beginning.
"On August 9, 1929 in Pantages's flagship theater, the Beaux Arts in downtown Los Angeles, an hysterical lady in red emerged from the janitor's broom closet on the mezzanine screaming: `There he is, the Beast! Don't let him get at me!' She pointed to the silver-haired Alexander Pantages in the office next to the broom closet.
"The girl, Eunice Pringle of Garden Grove, California, told police that she had come to Pantages looking for work as a dancer. Instead of offering her a job, he had pushed her into the broom closet, wrenched her underwear loose and raped her. Pantages insisted that he was being framed, and that the young woman had torn and ripped her own clothing.
"Poor Pantages was convicted and sentenced to 50 years, but the verdict was overturned on appeal, on the basis that it was prejudicial to Pantages to exclude testimony about the morals of the plaintiff. The court found her testimony `so improbable as to challenge credulity.'
"At the new trial, Pantages' lawyers reenacted the alleged rape and showed that it could not have occurred in the small broom closet the way Pringle had described it. The jury was also shown how athletic Pringle was, casting doubt on her claim that she could not fight off advances by the slightly built Pantages.
"The second jury acquitted Pantages, but because of the notoriety, his business had plummeted. A few months after Kennedy's final offer of $8 million, Pantages was forced to sell out to Joe's RKO for $3.5 million.
"Two years after the acquittal, Pringle told her lawyer she wanted to come clean. Stories began circulating that she was about to blow the lid off the rape case and name names. Suddenly, she died of unknown causes. The night she died, she was violently ill and red in color, a sign of cyanide poisoning.
"On her deathbed, Pringle confessed to her mother and a friend that Joe Kennedy had set up Pantages. In exchange for their perjured testimony, Kennedy had paid $10,000 to Pringle and her agent and lover Nicolas Dunaev. Joe had also promised he would make her a star. Pringle, however, never became a star, and Dunaev never gave her her share of the money.
Anti-Semitism, Hitler, and Joe McCarthy
The following are excerpts from "The Sins of the Father" by Ronald Kessler:
"One of Joe Kennedy's closest friends was Morton Downey, a night-club singer who later became a radio idol in the 1930s and 40s. As one friend put it, 'Mort did him favors in the department Joe liked best - girls, he knew chorus girls.' Furthermore, since most of the clubs where Downey sang were owned by the mob, Joe gained access to mobsters like Frank Costello who were critical to his bootlegging business.
"Besides their love of young women, Downey and Kennedy shared a hatred of Jews. As successful Irishmen, they needed another minority to ridicule. When Joe later went to Hollywood, he told friends he expected to wipe out the Jewish `pants pressers' who ruled Hollywood.
"`Joe Kennedy's feeling toward Jews was that the only way he could be a success was that every day when he got up, he would focus on one deal involving a Jew, and he would win the deal. That was his whole driving spirit,' said Morton Downey, Jr., quoting what his father had told him about Joe.
"Shortly after he became Chancellor of Germany in 1933, Adolf Hitler began his campaign against the Jews. Hitler used Germany's severe economic problems to win support from extremists who had fomented violence. He claimed Germany had been `stabbed in the back' by the acquiescence of German leaders to the Treaty of Versailles. As scapegoats, he singled out Jews and Communists. They were responsible for Germany's economic plight.
"As the Nazi Party grew, Hitler destroyed the constitutional government. Squads of brown-shirted stormtroopers carted off critics and tortured or shot them. Over 4,000 people in public life were thrown in jail.
"On April 1, 1933, persecution of the Jews in Germany became official policy, beginning with a Nazi initiated boycott of Jewish businesses and shops. Nazi students and professors burned hundreds of thousands of books, including many written by Jews, as part of a `purification' of German culture.
"As Ambassador to England, Joe would later make clear that he thought the Jews had `brought on themselves' whatever Hitler did to them. During a 1938 meeting at the German Embassy in London, Kennedy assured the German ambassador that America only wanted friendly relations with Hitler. Joe said that Hitler's government had done `great things' for the country, and that the Germans were `satisfied' and enjoyed `good living conditions.' Joe told the ambassador that a recent report which said the limited food in Germany was being reserved for the army could not be true. After all, Joe said, the professor who had made the report `was a Jew.'
"Kennedy urged his friend William Randolph Hearst to help Hitler improve his image in the United States. Hearst agreed, and under his own byline he told his readers that Hitler had `restored character and courage. Hitler gave hope and confidence. He established order and unity of purpose.'
"Based on what his father had told him, Morton Downey, Jr. said, `I think if Joe had his way, Hitler would have succeeded in his annihilation of the Jews...He always found great favor in Hitler. He would have loved to see him succeed.'
"Joe Kennedy often professed admiration for the works of Brooks Adams, whose views on racial purity paralleled Hitler's. Joe accepted Adams as his intellectual guru, ratifying, as he did, the prejudices that Joe already had.
"An historian, Adams articulated a `survival of the fittest' theory much like Hitler's. Eventually, he wrote, the `energy' of a `race' is exhausted, and it must be replaced by the infusion of `barbarian blood.'
"In `The Theory of Social Revolutions' as well as other works, Adams maintained that American Democracy had inherent defects. Without near-dictatorial powers, Presidents cannot govern effectively. Ultimately, these defects would bring disaster to the country. Adams predicted England would fare even worse because the country was in a state of `decay' brought on by `high living, wasteful habits, and intellectual torpor.' In contrast, Germany had a strong military and a vigorous population that was better educated.
"Joe Kennedy, as a capitalist, liked Adams' theories because he saw himself as their beneficiary and they appealed to his prejudices. According to Adams, the `greedy' economic man or capitalist becomes dominant in society. Morality and ethics are of no value. Instead, `Men do not differ from the other animals, but survive, according to their aptitudes, by adapting themselves to exterior conditions which prevail at the moment of their birth.'
"Joe Kennedy's oldest son, Joe, Jr., absorbed his father's virulent anti-Semitism. During a break from school in 1934, Joe, Jr. traveled to Germany. By then, public eating facilities, theaters, and shops in Germany displayed signs saying `Jews Not Welcome.' Jewish mothers could not buy milk for their infants. Jews who were sick could not obtain prescriptions.
"Joe, Jr. wrote to his father that Hitler had taken advantage of a widespread dislike of the Jews, a dislike which was `well-founded.' He told his father that Hitler was `building a spirit in his men that could be envied in any country.' The brutality, bloodshed, and marching were necessary, he said, and the sterilization law was a `good thing.' `I don't know how the Church feels about it but it will do away with many of the disgusting specimens of men who inhabit this earth,' Joe, Jr. wrote."
(Author's note: Forgive me while I go throw up…this is America's "royal family?")
"To be sure, anti-Semitism in the United States at the time, particularly in Boston, was not uncommon. But while many were passively anti-Semitic, Joe Kennedy was rabidly so. Repeatedly and aggressively, he attacked the Jews, even suggesting to his son Jack that he incorporate a campaign against the Jews as part of his political platform.
"Joe Kennedy - Supporter of McCarthyism
"Like Kennedy, Joseph R. McCarthy was a bully, adept at creating suspicion and circulating rumors to smear people as Communists. Kennedy had contributed to the Wisconsin Republican's Senate campaigns, and invited him a number of times to Hyannis Port. McCarthy attended the wedding of Joe's daughter Eunice Kennedy, and was Joe's guest at numerous other affairs, where Kennedy introduced him as his `valued friend.'
"Although McCarthy was at first an undistinguished legislator, he captured national attention in February 1950 by arguing that the State Department was riddled with card-carrying members of the Communist Party. Shrewd at public relations and media manipulation, McCarthy intimidated his opponents and evaded demands for tangible proof as he developed a large and loyal following.
"McCarthy's activities gave rise to the term `McCarthyism,' referring to the use of sensational and highly publicized personal attacks, usually based on unsubstantiated charges, as a means of discrediting people thought to be subversive.
"In November 1950, Joe Kennedy spoke at the Harvard Graduate School of Public Administration, where he said that not enough had been done to get Communists out of the United States government. He professed his respect for Joe McCarthy, who was just beginning his witch hunt for Communists, and Joe said he `knew McCarthy pretty well, and he may have something.'
"Late in 1952, Senator Joseph McCarthy became chairman of the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations of the Senate Government Operations Committee. Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. referred to McCarthy's anti-Communist activities as his 'jihad,' but Joe Kennedy admired his friend's stand. To Kennedy, Communism, not Nazism, posed the greatest threat. He was an old hand at spreading rumors himself.
"In December 1952, Joe Kennedy called McCarthy and asked him to give his son Bobby a job on the committee. In January 1953, McCarthy named Bobby Kennedy assistant counsel.
"Bobby appeared to be blind to McCarthy's demagoguery. `Joe McCarthy's methods may be a little rough,' he told reporters, `but, after all, his goal is to expose Communists in government, and that's a worthy goal. So why are you reporters so critical of his methods?'
"McCarthy's failure to substantiate his claims of Communist penetration of the Army in the nationally televised Army-McCarthy hearings finally discredited him. On December 2, 1954, the Senate voted to condemn him, 67 to 22. Jack Kennedy, Senator from Massachusetts, was the only Democrat who did not vote against McCarthy. Jack's failure to condemn Joe McCarthy would cost him the Vice-Presidential nomination in 1956.
"The family allegiance to McCarthy was demonstrated again when Bobby Kennedy attended McCarthy's funeral in May 1957.
The following are excerpts from "The Sins of the Father" by Ronald Kessler:
"Having made his mark on Hollywood and Wall Street, Joe came to realize that Washington was where the real power was. Joe had never been interested in the arduous way his father had achieved political power - through meetings in smoke-filled rooms and holding constituents' hands. Rather, now that he was one of the richest men in the country, Joe would simply buy his way into power.
"Joe Kennedy's entry into politics began when a mutual friend arranged a meeting between Kennedy and then-Governor of New York Franklin Roosevelt. Having just won re-election as Governor, Roosevelt was already being described as a contender for President. A pragmatist willing to obtain support from almost any quarter, he saw Joe Kennedy as both a potential source of major campaign contributions and someone who could swing Wall Street and conservative Democrats his way.
"At their meeting, Kennedy and Roosevelt forged a political alliance. Joe would contribute to his campaign and open doors to him on Wall Street; Roosevelt would bring Joe into his inner circle of advisers, and include him in his Cabinet.
"Once the campaign got under way, Joe not only contributed large sums of money directly to Roosevelt, but he also became Roosevelt's `money collector' or bag man, collecting cash from those who wanted to hide their identities.
"Joe was of further value to Roosevelt because of his close relationships with many newspaper publishers who could be critically important to an election. Not only could they support candidates in their papers, they often used their political clout to choose candidates in the first place. Chief among these media power brokers was Kennedy's friend William Randolph Hearst.
"Hearst owned 33 newspapers with a circulation of 11 million. He also controlled 86 delegates to the Democratic nominating convention, nearly all from the critical states of California and Texas. In a last minute move, Kennedy persuaded Hearst to back Roosevelt. Hearst not only provided a large campaign contribution, but he also swung his delegates to Roosevelt. Joe would later claim, justifiably, that he had won the nomination for Roosevelt.
"More than a year after Roosevelt was elected President, Kennedy was still without his promised Cabinet post.
"In June 1934, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) was created, and Roosevelt appointed Joe Kennedy chairman. The appointment drew strong criticism from those who felt that Joe Kennedy symbolized everything the SEC had been set up to eradicate. Roosevelt, however, stood firm, telling one advisor that it `took a thief to catch a thief.' Roosevelt also knew that Joe's financial backing had been critical to his election, and he hoped that giving Kennedy the SEC chairmanship would secure his financial support for the next election as well.
"The SEC, under Joe's direction, went on to outlaw most of the practices that had made Kennedy rich, including a ban on short selling, one of Joe's favorite ways of making money.
"For nearly two years, a parade of Wall Street titans would march to the witness stand and describe their roles in the seamy dealings. But while records of Joe's unethical transactions were presented during the hearings, Joe was never called to appear. Joe would later pretend that he was innocent of any wrongdoing.
"In his book `I'm for Roosevelt', Joe wrote, `For month after month the country was treated to a series of amazing revelations which involved practically all the important names in the financial community in practices which, to say the least, were highly unethical.'
"Kennedy's condemnation of his former business associates came as little surprise to anyone. Joe was known both for discarding friends when they had served their purpose and for knifing in the back those who had helped him. As one Wall Street colleague said, `I don't know why Joe Kennedy turned on me - I never did anything to help him.'
"If one of Joe's failings was his lack of loyalty to those who had helped him, he now turned that trait to his advantage. He did not care if his former cohorts hated him because of his enforcement efforts. Joe had ambitions for himself and his sons that transcended the SEC. This would be a way for him to make a name for himself and for his family.
"Joe would later describe his work at the SEC as `forcing their mouths open and going in with a pair of pincers and just taking all the gold out of their teeth.'
"Joe Kennedy resigned from the SEC in September 1935.
"In 1937, Kennedy began hinting to Roosevelt that he still `deserved a reward' for his role in the election. Roosevelt, who had become mistrustful of Kennedy, chose not to give him a Cabinet post and instead appointed him ambassador to England.
"Kennedy's Ambassadorship coincided with the beginning of World War II in Europe; and throughout his three-year tenure, Kennedy argued against American and British involvement in the war. Even as the Nazis rolled into France, Joe expressed his support for Hitler and maintained a position of appeasement toward Germany.
"In May 1940, Winston Churchill was elected British Prime Minister. The rise of Churchill brought an end to appeasement, and hastened Joe's decline. When Kennedy publicly proclaimed that `Democracy is finished in England,' Roosevelt called for his resignation.
"Harvey Klemmer, who had been Kennedy's speech writer in London, would later complain that Joe had often given him assignments that were completely unrelated to his job. Besides spending inordinate amounts of government time securing precious cargo space for Joe's whisky shipments, he had also been expected to provide Joe with young women. One was a former French model known as `Foxy'."
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Joe Kennedy was a monster. Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy was not an angel, but she seems to have been a good woman. It is because of her that the family retains a decent name, which is no small feat. It is doubtful her sons could have ascended to political heights without her to offset the enmity her husband created. She was very disciplined, a devoutly Catholic woman who bore nine children; four boys and five girls. John Fitzgerald Kennedy was named in honor of Rose’s father, John Francis Fitzgerald, the popular Boston Mayor who everybody knew as "Honey Fitz". Jack was an unhealthy baby who suffered from whooping cough, measles, and chicken pox. When Jack was not yet three, he came down with scarlet fever. His father went to the hospital every day to be by his son’s side. If he made any deals with God to keep his son alive, his subsequent activities suggest he probably did not hold his end of the bargain. Maybe he evoked other powers. About a month later Jack took a turn for the better and recovered. Jack's health was always an issue. The family joke was that if a mosquito bit him, the mosquito would die.
The family settled in Brookline, just outside of Boston. Joe became obsessed with making money and achieving power. As a student at Harvard, his Irish Catholicism had kept him out of the best fraternities and social circles. He determined to overcome prejudice by buying his way into a world he otherwise would have been excluded from, and using his paid-for prestige to open the doors for his children. It was always Joe's intention for his children to enter national politics, which he saw as the ultimate way to break down any remaining barriers.
His goal was to become a millionaire by age 35. He succeeded beyond his wildest dreams. In this regard he must be considered an American success story. His family had escaped the Irish potato famine on the 19th Century, settled in Boston and made a better life for each succeeding generation. But Joe's success was "amazing."
Aside from the Massachusetts abode, the family owned property in the exclusive enclave of West Palm Beach, Florida. The kids - Jack had an older brother, Joe; four sisters, Rosemary, Kathleen, Eunice, and Patricia; and a younger brother, Robert (Jean and Teddy had not been born yet) - were a bundle of energy. Nannies and housekeepers helped Rose run the household.
Summers were spent in Hyannis Port on Cape Cod where they swam, sailed, and played touch football. They played hard, and competed for everything. Joseph, Sr. encouraged this, almost pitting the kids against each other in Darwinian match-ups designed to toughen them up. It is true that while the children had everything, they were not spoiled by the easy life. The boys, especially, faced very high expectations in sports, school and all that they tried.
"When the going gets tough, the tough get going," Joe would tell them. The competition could be cutthroat. Joe, Jr. suggested that he and Jack race on their bicycles. They collided head-on. Joe emerged unscathed while Jack had to have 28 stitches. Joe, Jr. routinely beat up Jack, the only sibling who posed any threat to him. For whatever reason, the Kennedy men got all the looks. They were handsome beyond words, like matinee idol movie darlings. The girls all suffered from "map of Ireland" faces with thin lips and straight-up-and-down figures. The boys were the apple of every girl's eye in Boston and West Palm.
Jack attended Choate, a tony boarding school in Connecticut. He played tennis, basketball, football, and golf and read voraciously in those pre-TV days. He subscribed to the New York Times, unusual for a teenage kid. The head master recalled that he had a "clever, individualist mind." He was not the best student, but he took it seriously, especially in history and English, which were his favorites.
"Now Jack," his father wrote in a letter, "I don’t want to give the impression that I am a nagger, for goodness knows I think that is the worse thing any parent can be, and I also feel that you know if I didn’t really feel you had the goods I would be most charitable in my attitude toward your failings. After long experience in sizing up people I definitely know you have the goods and you can go a long way…It is very difficult to make up fundamentals that you have neglected when you were very young, and that is why I am urging you to do the best you can. I am not expecting too much, and I will not be disappointed if you don’t turn out to be a real genius, but I think you can be a really worthwhile citizen with good judgment and understanding."
Jack graduated from Choate and entered Harvard, where Joe was ahead of him. Like Joe, Jack played football. He was not a great athlete but he persevered until he ruptured a disk in his spine. His back bothered him the rest of his life.
Joe, Jr. announced as a young boy that he would be the first Catholic President. In the Kennedy world no one doubted him. Jack had the ambition of a second son, but was by no means a slouch. He was active in student groups and sports, excelled in history and government classes, but maintained only decent grades.
Late in 1937, Mr. Kennedy was appointed United States Ambassador to England. He moved there with his whole family, with the exception of Joe and Jack, who were at Harvard. Jack followed European politics and world affairs. He made a Summer visit to England and other countries in Europe, and reached some startling conclusions about Nazi Germany. At Harvard he tackled history, government and current events with renewed vigor.
The Ambassador sent letters with news regarding the possibility of full-scale war with Hitler's Germany, which was aligned with Mussolini and Italy. On September 1, 1939 Germany invaded Poland and World War II began. Jack was a senior at Harvard and wrote his thesis on Great Britain's lack of preparedness. It was a good book called "Why England Slept", which was worthy of publication. His father made sure of it, arranging through contacts with a publisher. In June, 1940 Jack graduated from Harvard. His father sent him a cablegram from London:
"TWO THINGS I ALWAYS KNEW ABOUT YOU ONE THAT YOU ARE SMART TWO THAT YOU ARE A SWELL GUY LOVE DAD."
John Kennedy then headed to California, where he entered Stanford Business School. He drove a convertible, had reportedly been given $1 million by his father, and according to legend ran a swath through the female population of the West Coast from San Francisco to Hollywood. Handsome and adorably promiscuous, he tanned himself in the hot sun, partied heavily and lived it up. Then the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor.
It is to the great credit of Joe, Jr. and John Kennedy that they both joined the military after America entered the war. Neither had to do it. Joe had enough pull to keep his sons out. Jack, in particular, had enough physical ailments to get out of service, but he insisted on going in. They still could have been given non-hazardous duty, common for the sons of VIPs. Neither went that route.
Joe was a flyer, sent to Europe. Jack was made lieutenant and assigned to the South Pacific as commander of a patrol torpedo boat, the PT-109. The crew of 12 was tasked with stopping Japanese ships from delivering supplies to the islands they held. On August 2, 1943, the PT-109 was patrolling the waters when they saw a Japanese destroyer traveling at full speed straight at them. Lieutenant Kennedy tried to swerve out of the way, but the warship rammed the PT-109, splitting it in half and killing men. Everybody jumped off the flaming boat. Kennedy injured his weak back. Others had terrible burns. Some were ready to give up. In the darkness, Kennedy managed to find Patrick McMahon, who otherwise would have died. He hauled him back to where the other survivors were clinging to a piece of the boat that was still afloat. At sunrise, Kennedy led his men toward a small island several miles away. Despite his own injuries, he towed McMahon ashore, a strap from McMahon’s life jacket clenched between his teeth. Six days later two native islanders found them and went for help, delivering a message Jack had written on a piece of coconut shell. The next day, the PT-109 crew was rescued.
In later years, some have analyzed the PT-109 and determined that it was not all that it seemed to be. Lieutenant Kennedy was very inexperienced and perhaps should not have been given command of a PT boat. He apparently failed to adhere to established Navy procedures and training in his failure to steer away from and be hit by the destroyer. Many felt that only negligence could explain being put in such a position. When he returned home, Jack was awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Medal for his leadership and courage. Joe, Sr. assigned publicists to embellish the story and it was a huge part of the Kennedy mystique, prodding his career from the Congress to the Senate to the White House. In 1962, Kennedy's friends in Hollywood made a movie about it. JFK himself handpicked Cliff Robertson to play him. The film, while entertaining and co-starring a number of excellent young stars, was basically a campaign commercial. Kennedy himself never tried to make more of it than it was. He joked that he had won the Navy Cross for getting his boat run over. He readily admitted that he could have avoided the accident, and was lucky that it turned out the way that it did. Regardless of his inexperience, any mistakes he might have made, or how his father and Hollywood embellished the story, John Kennedy showed enormous bravery and courage under the most trying of circumstances. He saved the lives of his men, who all idolized him after initially thinking him a "rich kid." None of them ever disputed his bravery and clear thinking. All things considered, JFK earned his medals and any kudos he received.
Jack’s brother Joe was not lucky. A year later, he volunteered for a dangerous mission involving transport of materials associated with the Manhattan Project, the super-secret operation to develop the atomic bomb. The mission went awry and his plane blew up in the skies over Europe.
Jack came home a war hero and considered teaching or writing. He actually covered the 1946 opening of the United Nations in San Francisco as a reporter. But Joe’s tragic death elevated Jack. He was now made the "hope" of the family for the White House. The path to the Presidency began in the 1946 campaign for Massachusetts' 11th Congressional district. Joe, Sr. spent enormous sums of money to assure victory for his youthful, inexperienced son. Jack, while not totally comfortable campaigning, demonstrated intelligence, an easy rapport. The women voters were crazy about him. He won easily.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
"Politics is like war. It takes three things to win.....The first is money and the second is money and the third is money."
- Joe Kane (Kennedy's friend)
How Joe Made his Son President
The following is excerpted from "The Sins of the Father" by Ronald Kessler and
"The Kennedy Men: Three Generations of Sex, Scandal, and Secrets" by Nellie Bly:
"JFK's First Campaign
"Having tried and failed, Joe Kennedy knew he could never become President, but his sons could. He quenched his thirst for power through them.
"Joe had hoped that his eldest son, Joe, Jr. would fulfill his dream. That dream ended in August 1944 when Joe, Jr., a Navy pilot, was killed after volunteering for a dangerous secret bombing mission. Columnist and family friend Arthur Krock was convinced that the reason Joe, Jr. had volunteered for such a dangerous mission was to compensate for his father's reputation as a coward.
"In Palm Beach during Christmas of 1944, Joe gave his son Jack the orders: He was to take Joe, Jr.'s place and enter politics. In 1957, Jack described the event, telling a reporter: 'It was like being drafted. My father wanted his eldest son in politics. 'Wanted' isn't the right word. He demanded it.'
"Joe would later brag that 'I got Jack into politics. I told him that Joe, Jr .was deceased and that it was therefore his responsibility to run for Congress.'
"In 1946, Joe Kennedy decided that the 11th Congressional district of Massachusetts, with its high concentration of Catholic voters, would be the perfect launching pad for his son Jack's political career. There was only one problem: James Michael Curley, the former Mayor of Boston and Governor of Massachusetts, occupied the seat. Curley, however, was in danger of being indicted for mail fraud, and Joe decided that what the man needed most was some money.
"'Curley knew he was in trouble with the Feds over the mail fraud rap,' recalled Kennedy's friend Joe Kane. `The Ambassador paid him to get out of his Congressional seat…Curley figured that he might need the money.'
"Joe paid Curley $12,000 through his bag man Joe Timilty. He promised additional campaign help if Curley chose to run again for Mayor of Boston in the 1946 election, which Curley did. After being elected, Curley was sent to prison for mail fraud. He continued to serve from prison.
"To Joe, this was standard operating procedure, recalled Kane. `Everything he got, he bought and paid for. And politics is like war. It takes three things to win. The first is money and the second is money and the third is money.'
"On April 25, 1946, Jack Kennedy announced his candidacy for the Democratic nomination to Congress. The next month, Joe founded the Joseph P Kennedy Jr. Foundation which began furiously pumping money into Catholic institutions in Jack's adopted district. The timing was not a coincidence, and led one Massachusetts Congressman to describe the gifts as `political currency.'
"Joe's main job now became running his son's campaign. In effect, he was the candidate, devising campaign strategy and making every financial and policy decision. To conceal his own role and the extent of Jack's financing, Joe paid for everything clandestinely and in cash.
"David Powers, who ran Jack's Charlestown headquarters described how Joe's aide would meet him `at the campaign's central headquarters, and then lead me into the men's room, where, putting a dime into the slot, he would take me into a closed toilet stall. Then, with no one able to watch us, he would hand me the cash, saying, 'You can never be too careful in politics about handing over money.'
"Joe also arranged for Jack to receive a salary from the Maine and New Hampshire Theaters Company, which he owned. Joe could then deduct it as a business expense. In addition, two of Joe's theater employees took care of all the campaign expenses. For example, if Jack needed a rental car, he simply charged it to Joe's theater company.
"Jack's opponent in the primary election was a legitimate politician named Joe Russo. To insure that Jack won the primary campaign, Joe Kennedy paid Joseph Russo, a janitor, to also enter the race. This effectively confused the voters, and split the votes for Joe Russo.
"Russo the janitor recalled how Joe's friend Joseph Timilty and another man had visited him one day and asked him to run. In return, Russo said, 'They offered me favors. Whatever I wanted.' In fact, he said later, he wound up getting very little - occasional payments of $50 in cash.
"'Even the aunt of the real candidate voted for the janitor,' recalled Joseph A Russo, the real candidate's son. 'They didn't leave anything unturned,' he said. His father claimed that Kennedy's people had also arranged for other bogus candidates to 'run in other areas to break up the Irish vote, or some other vote. They played for keeps.'
"After Jack won the Democratic primary, Joe sold Somerset Importers Inc., freeing $8 million to help Jack in his campaign and insuring that his liquor holdings would not become an issue.
"Just as he had done with the rent for Jack's campaign offices, Joe paid cash for Jack's advertising. John T. Galvin, who was in charge of the advertising, recalled that `It was handled so that very few people knew...There was a campaign law that limited campaign contributions. It didn't affect us very much.'
"Joe also received crucial support from his friends in the media. For example, William Randolph Hearst, who owned the Boston American newspaper, had one of his reporters check in at Jack's headquarters every day. No other candidate got such special attention. Joe also got Hearst to ignore Jack's opponent Michael Neville, the Mayor of Cambridge, and the paper would not accept his advertising.
"Joe spent $300,000 on Jack's first campaign, according to House Speaker `Tip' O'Neill, equivalent to $2.2 million today. O'Neill said that the sum was six times what he himself spent in the same district during a tough race six years later. In O'Neill's view, Joe was the `real force' behind the Kennedys.
`Joe Kennedy was an ongoing factor in Massachusetts politics,' O'Neill said. `Every time a Democrat ran for Governor, he would go down to see Joe, who would always send him home with a briefcase full of cash.'
"On November 5, 1946, Jack Kennedy was elected to Congress. Seven days later, he filed a report with the Massachusetts secretary of state certifying that no money had been collected for, or had been spent on his campaign.
"JFK's First Senate Campaign
"Having been elected to Congress three terms, Jack Kennedy began a race for the Senate in April 1952, seeking the seat held by Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr.
"The race was still a toss-up when Joe Kennedy learned that John Fox, owner of the powerful Boston Post, was in desperate need of money. The Boston Post, which had a circulation of over 300,000, had been credited with helping defeat Michael Curley in his last campaign in 1949, and with being responsible for getting Maurice Tobin elected Governor of Massachusetts. Under Fox, the Boston Post favored Republicans. The newspaper had endorsed Eisenhower for President, and was expected to endorse Lodge. Indeed, those close to Fox confirmed that he `hated JFK.'
"Fox had bought the Boston Post in 1952 for about $4 million. As a down payment, Fox had paid $2 million for the newspaper, but the IRS immediately took it for back payment of his own taxes. The publisher soon found himself unable to pay his bills.
"It was generally assumed that the Boston Post would endorse Lodge, but Fox was desperate for funds, and Joe Kennedy was only too happy to help out. Two days before the election, following a private meeting with Joe Kennedy, Fox gave a front-page endorsement for JFK.
"Former Massachusetts state Senator Robert L Lee said the Post endorsement of JFK was the `turning point' in the campaign. Lee believed that if Lodge had received the paper's endorsement, it `would have been sufficient to put him back in the Senate.'
"During a House subcommittee hearing in 1958, Fox admitted that Joe Kennedy had given him a $500,000 loan late in 1952. He insisted that he `repaid it with interest,' and that it had nothing to do with his paper's endorsement of Jack. Joe issued a statement saying that the loan - the equivalent of $2.7 million today - was 1purely a commercial transaction for 60 days only with full collateral, at full interest, and was fully repaid on time...'
"Raymond Faxon, Fox's friend and vice-president of the publisher's investment business, revealed the truth about the transaction for the first time years later.
"Faxon revealed that two days before the election, John Griffin, the editor-in-chief of the Boston Post, informed Joe that the paper was about to endorse Lodge. He also told him that Fox was desperately in need of cash, having been turned down for a loan by local banks. Joe called Fox and asked him to meet at a local club which Fox owned. In return for an endorsement of Jack, Joe offered Fox a loan that, contrary to what both men later said, carried no interest and was not fully collateralized. `Fox needed the money, and he got it from Joe,' Faxon said. It was $500,000. The whole thing was a payoff.'
Based on Faxon's recollection that a bank would have charged interest of about five percent at the time, the interest waived amounted to about $10,000, the equivalent of $54,000 today. Aside from that, making any loan to such a shaky financial operation without full collateral represented a bribe. `No bank would have made the loan,' Faxon said. The word 'payoff' was exactly what it was.'
"Riding the Boston Post endorsement, Jack won the Senate race, beating Lodge by less than six percent of the vote.
"Jack reported expenses for the campaign of $349,646. That amount would not have covered even the cost of the billboard advertisements alone. It was widely assumed that the true cost of the campaign was several million dollars.
"Now that Joe had gotten Jack elected to the Senate, he told his son to find a wife. In May 1952, Jack Kennedy had been introduced to Jacqueline Lee Bouvier. When Jack brought Jackie to Hyannis Port in the Spring following the election, Joe decided she would be Jack's wife.
"Jackie had 'all the social ingredients that Joe Kennedy thought would help Jack achieve the Presidency,' wrote C. David Heymann in 'A Woman Named Jackie'. As usual, Jack did what his father told him to do, and on June 24, 1953 the couple announced their engagement.
"Jack's friend Lem Billings said, `Joe Kennedy not only condoned the marriage,
he ordained it.'"
"JFK's Presidential Campaign
"Jack, if you don't want the job, you don't have to take it. They're still counting votes up in Cook County."
- Joe Kennedy
"If Joe Kennedy had one area of expertise, it was manipulating the media. Long before spin doctors and political gurus talked of `packaging' Presidential candidates, Joe shaped Jack's image more effectively than any Madison Avenue executive. 'We're going to sell Jack like soap flakes,' Joe said.
"In fact, Joe routinely paid off publishers as well as public officials to get what he wanted. Thomas Winship, the editor of the Boston Globe, recalled that Joe routinely `gave cases of Haig & Haig Pinch Bottle Scotch to press people - to people at the Globe, to political writers, and to a lot of people in Washington.'
"Joe sent expensive jewelry to female columnists, a confidant said, and gave cash to others. `He distributed a substantial amount to journalists,' the confidant said. In addition, `Reporters took consulting assignments. Some of these guys were pretty amenable to consulting fees and gifts.' Columnists, especially, were `for sale' - not to mention politicians. For such purposes, Joe always kept large stashes of cash.
"Joe's friend and confidant Frank Morrissey recalled that Joe had once called him to Hyannis Port to help him move $1 million in cash from the basement of his home. `A big northeast storm was coming up, and the old man was afraid a lot of the cash would get wet,' Morrissey said.
"Already, Joe had persuaded a top television executive in New England to give Jack lessons in going before a camera. `He was consumed by the fact that TV would make the difference in the Presidential election,' the executive said. As one aide put it, `The old politicians relied on their experience, but Joe and his boys left nothing to chance.' Joe, it seemed, had `learned a lot of tricks from the movies' during his Hollywood days.
"Henry Luce, a long time friend and ally of Joe Kennedy, was editor-in-chief and principal stockholder in Time Inc. The founder of Time and Life, Luce was arguably the most powerful publisher in America, and Joe had cultivated their relationship since his Roosevelt days. For years, Luce had given Joe frequent and complimentary press coverage in the magazines he controlled, and Luce's equally favorable coverage of Joe's son had been critical to JFK's early campaigns.
"In 1956, Luce was vacationing with Joe on the Riviera when he cabled his editors and suggested they devote more space to Jack Kennedy, who `was emerging as a national figure.'
"In November 1957, Fortune magazine listed Joe Kennedy as one of the 16 wealthiest people in the country, with a net worth of $200 to $400 million.
"On December 2, 1957, Jack's smiling face appeared for the first time on the cover of Time magazine. As ordained by Joe, he had just begun his bid for the Presidency.
"George Smathers, a family friend and Senator from Florida, claimed that 'Joe had a good deal to do with getting Luce to put Jack on the cover of Time. Jack had not made any great record as a Congressman or Senator. It was nothing outstanding in terms of what others were doing. Lots of Congressmen had more legislative accomplishments than Jack.' Giving such prominence to a fledgling candidate was unusual, and the cover story which called Jack the `Democratic Whiz of 1957' gave him a tremendous boost.
"Just weeks before Jack appeared on the cover of Time, Joe had bragged to his friend Cardinal Spellman, `I just bought a horse for $75,000, and for another $75,000, I put Jack on the cover of Time.' Spellman recalled that Joe was `very proud of the fact that he had spent $75,000, and now he would not have to spend as much on advertising.' The sum was equivalent to $385,000 today. `He did not say whether he paid it directly to Luce,' Spellman added.
"Several months later when Jack learned that Life magazine was going to run a story saying that evangelist Billy Graham was coming out for Nixon, Jack called Luce to complain that the story would be unfair. When Joe called and put the pressure on, Luce ordered the story killed.
"During an interview on ABC-TV in December 1958, Eleanor Roosevelt said that `Senator Kennedy's father has been spending oodles of money all over the country, and probably has a paid representative in every state by now.' She said she had been told that Joe would spend `any money' to make his son the first Catholic president. Many people told her of money spent by Joe on Jack's behalf. `Building an organization is permissible,' she said, `but giving too lavishly may seem to indicate a desire to influence through money." <author's note: Do ya think?>
"Joe solicited author William Bradford Huie to distribute cash to politicians who would help Jack, according to what Huie later told a Time reporter. Huie said he routinely made payoffs of $1,000 (equivalent to $4,800 today), and promised he would reveal more details, but died before he could.
"Meanwhile, Joe cranked up the media campaign. In October 1959, Look began running a series of articles about Jack. Prepared with the family's cooperation, they may as well have been written by Joe himself.
"One article declared that Jack was in excellent health, when in fact he had been diagnosed in 1947 as having Addison's disease, a failure of the adrenal glands. When a Boston reporter suggested that Jack should disclose his health history, a Kennedy aide replied, `No, old Joe doesn't want that to be done. We can't do it now.'
"Another article tried to downplay Joe's role in the campaign, fictitiously reporting that Joe had little influence over his son and had no interest in spending money on political campaigns. `In political circles,' the article claimed, `the Kennedy's are not regarded as big spenders.'
"On January 2, 1960, Jack Kennedy formally announced his Presidential candidacy, and declared that the White House must be `the center of moral leadership.'
"Two months later, Jack began his affair with a former actress named Judith Exner. While seeing Jack, Exner was also seeing Sam Giancana, who was the head of the Chicago Mafia and a former partner in Joe's bootlegging business. Giancana, who was credited with at least 200 killings, was considered one of the most powerful men in organized crime. He controlled betting, prostitution, loan sharking, and owned interests in three Las Vagas hotels.
"Jack and Bobby identified the West Virginia Primary as key to winning the nomination. The state's nomination was 95 percent Protestant and a win there would convince convention delegates that Jack's Catholicism would not be an issue in the Presidential election.
"Jack's opponent in the Democratic primary was Hubert Humphrey, the Senator from Minnesota, who was beloved by West Virginia coal miners for his longtime union support and folksy, old-fashioned campaign style. But Humphrey's small-town ways were no match for the Kennedy bandwagon's deep pockets and high technology. There is no doubt that Jack's huge TV budget also helped.
"The Kennedy men were not content to rely on statesmanship alone. At Jack's request, Exner arranged a meeting for him with Sam Giancana, who agreed to use his influence with West Virginia officials to ensure victory there.
"Giancana sent his lieutenant, Paul 'Skinny' D'Amato, into West Virginia to get out the vote. D'Amato met with sheriffs who controlled the state's political machine. He forgave debts many of them had run up at his 500 Club in Atlantic City and handed cash payments to others.
"FBI wiretaps reveal that Frank Sinatra also distributed large mob donations to pay off election officials.
"Years later, in a People magazine story, Exner described how she had introduced Sam Giancana to Jack, who asked for the mob's help in financing the campaign. While it is not documented, it is clear Giancana gave money to the campaign. After the election, an FBI wiretap picked up Giancana talking with Johnny Roselli, a mob associate. He said his donation had been `accepted,' yet complained that Bobby Kennedy, whom Jack had appointed Attorney General, was cracking down on organized crime. He said he expected that `one of these days, the guy will do me a favor...'
"Giancana apparently had believed that in helping Kennedy's campaign, he was gaining a friend in the White House and protection from future prosecution by the government.
"Meanwhile, Joe was funneling money to politicians to swing the West Virginia primary.
"Tip O'Neill recalled that Eddie Ford, a Boston real-estate man, `went out there with a pocket full of money.' O'Neill said Ford would `see the sheriff, and he'd say to the sheriff, 'Sheriff, I'm from Chicago. I'm on my way south. I love this young Kennedy boy. He can help this nation, by God. He'll do things for West Virginians. I'll tell you what. Here's $5,000. You carry your village for him or your county for him, and I'll give you a little reward when I'm on my way back.'
"O'Neill said, `They passed money around like it was never seen.'
"One of the most important contributions Joe Kennedy made to his son's campaign was to create the Ken-Air Corporation, purchase for it a $385,000 Corvair twin-engine turboprop airplane, and then lease it to the candidate for the ridiculous sum of $1.75 a mile. Joe got a large tax deduction, while the plane gave Jack a tremendous advantage over Hubert Humphrey in the Democratic primary.
"While Humphrey either wasted time waiting around airports for commercial flights or lumbered about in his campaign bus, Jack Kennedy sped here and there in his private plane, covering more territory in less time and at less expense.
"In providing the cash for Jack's campaign, Joe Kennedy used the Catholic Church and, in particular, Cardinal Cushing. One of the couriers told author Peter Maas how it worked:
"`For example, if Boston area churches had collected $950,000 on a particular Sunday from collections, Joe would write a check for $1 million to the diocese, deduct it as a charitable contribution, and receive the $950,000 in cash. Thus, in this example, the church got a contribution of $50,000, Joe could deduct the entire amount on his income tax, and he could use the money to pay off politicians without fear that it would be traced.'
"'The cash is untraceable,' Maas said. 'Part of the money goes to the diocese. He gets a contribution from Joe Kennedy for more than what the cash is. It's brilliant. Nobody can trace the money.'
"In 1966, Cushing admitted that he had played a role in making payoffs to ministers. He told Hubert Humphrey, 'I'll tell you who elected Jack Kennedy. It was his father, Joe, and me, right here in this room.' Cushing explained that he and Joe decided which Protestant ministers should receive `contributions' of $100 to $500. As Cushing described the tactic, 'It's good for the church, it's good for the preacher, and it's good for the candidate.'
"Maas also recalled that as a writer for the Saturday Evening Post he interviewed a political operative in one dirt-poor town in West Virginia who told him his county was for Humphrey. `A few weeks later, I interviewed him again, and he said the county was for Jack. I asked what had changed, and he said with a smile, 'My workers each got $20, and I got $150. We're for Kennedy.'
"When Jack Kennedy narrowly defeated Hubert Humphrey in the West Virginia Primary, Humphrey withdrew from the Presidential race. It was the most important victory of Jack's campaign.
"On July 11 the Democratic National Convention nominated John F. Kennedy for President. Some party leaders were leery of Jack, however. Truman opposed him, telling reporters, 'I'm not against the Pope, I'm against the Pop.' Eleanor Roosevelt regarded Jack as one of `the new managerial elite that has neither principles nor character.'
"Meanwhile, Jackie had learned about Jack's philandering and developed a visceral dislike of politics. `She was ready to divorce Jack, and Joe offered her $1 million to stay until Jack entered the White House,' said Igor Cassini. 'He paid $1 million for her to stay with Jack until he was elected. He didn't tell me, but my brother and I learned about it.'
"On November 8, 1960, John F. Kennedy was elected President, defeating Republican Richard Nixon. Jack received 34,226,731 votes to 34,108,157 for Nixon. The popular vote margin, 118,574, was the equivalent of a win by one vote in every precinct in America.
"Kennedy's Electoral College majority was 303 to 219. The winning margin was provided by the state of Illinois, where in the 11th hour, the votes that came in from Cook County's mob-dominated West Side put Jack over the top.
"`Actually, and this goes without saying, the Presidency was really stolen in Chicago, without a question, by the Democratic machine,' recalled mobster Mickey Cohen. 'I know that certain people in the Chicago organization knew that they had to get John Kennedy in.'
"In the weeks before his inauguration, Jack began interviewing candidates for more than 70 key posts in the new administration. At one point he complained to his father, 'Jesus Christ, this one wants that, that one wants this. Goddamn it, you can't satisfy any of these people. I don't know what I'm going to do about it all.' Joe Kennedy replied, 'Jack, if you don't want the job, you don't have to take it. They're still counting votes up in Cook County.'"
Excerpt from "The Dark Side of Camelot" by Seymour Hersh (description from The Reader's Catalog):
"Investigative journalist Seymour M. Hersh shows us a John F. Kennedy we have never seen before, a man insulated from the normal consequences of behavior long before he entered the White House. His father, Joe, set the pattern with an arrogance and cunning that have never been fully appreciated: Kennedys could do exactly what they wanted, and could evade any charge brought against them. Kennedys wrote their own moral code. And Kennedys trusted only Kennedys. Jack appointed his brother Bobby keeper of the secrets - the family debt to organized crime, the real state of Jack's health, the sources of his election victories, the plots to murder foreign leaders, and the President's intentions in Vietnam. The brothers prided themselves on another trait inherited from their father - a voracious appetite for women - and indulged it with a daily abandon deeply disturbing to the Secret Service agents who witnessed it. These men speak for the first time about their amazement at what they saw and the powerlessness they felt to protect the leader of their country.
Causes Steven Travers Supports
Conservative, Christian, USC, American patriotism