Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Does the President demean his aides with “You’re fired!” ?

Not that President; t’other one.
The time is August, 1963.  JFK was annoyed and disgusted with his aide.

After the meeting, Forrestal approached Kennedy  and offered to resign.
You’re not worth firing,” the President said.  “You owe me something, so stick around.”
-- Richard Reeves, President Kennedy:  Profile of Power (1993), p. 568

Monday, June 19, 2017

Does the President harbor a petty animus against the Press?

American Media and the Kennedy Administration worked hand-in-glove to create the Society-of-the-Spectable image of glamorous Camelot.   Further, even moreso than in the case of the crippled FDR, the media scrupulously hid JFK’s health-problems from the public -- much worse, as he took office, than FDR had at the beginning of his first term:  Had the public been aware of the many physical liabilities they were electing (cf. historian Robert Dallek’s 2002 book, re just how severe these were), that squeaky-close 1960 election might well have broken the other way.
Equally indulgent and gingerly was the media approach to Kennedy’s many flagrant affairs while occupying the Oval Office.   Yet for all that,  they didn’t get a pass from POTUS:

Kennedy … was angry again … He picked up the phone and got Newton Minow, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission.  “Did you see that goddamn thing on Huntley-Brinkley?  I thought they were supposed to be our friends.  I want you to do something about that.  You do something about that.”
-- Richard Reeves, President Kennedy:  Profile of Power (1993), p. 300

(That final implied threat, and its prose style, incidentally recalls that of Mafia dons.)

“The fucking Herald Tribune is at it again,” Kennedy said that morning in an angry telephone call to his press secretary.  Then he canceled the twenty-two Trib subscriptions  that came to the White House each morning.
-- Richard Reeves, President Kennedy:  Profile of Power (1993), p. 300

(One suspects, incidentally, that that last fit of pique, meant only that some hapless aide would have to drag himself early out of bed each morning, and drive off to a newsstand, to purchase 22 copies.)

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Does the President welsh on his debts?

(We continue with our march down memory lane;  as for current events, just flip on the teevee.)

While President, Kennedy attended Sunday Mass, accompanied by an aide.  When the collection plate came round, he would turn to the aide  and touch him for a tenner,  then put it in the plate.  And never pay it back.

And not in church only.  According to Richard Reeves (President Kennedy:  Profile of Power (1993)), JFK wore trim tailored suits, and didn’t want to spoil the lines with the vulgar bulge of a wallet  (a certain other bulge, he did indulge in).  So spontaneous minor purchases in the field  always fell to his minions, who simply had to swallow the expense.


To the student of psychology, the odd thing is, that these penny-ante infractions  were in no way motivated by avarice.  Remarkably (again according to Reeves), Kennedy had been donating his public-service salary to charities, ever since he was a Senator, and into his Presidency.  And this, not by way of political virtue-signaling, but sub rosa, as the Bible recommends.   Not even his wife was in on the secret.
Until, one day, Jackie learned of what was going on, and blew her top:  there were plenty of extra luxuries she could think of that she would like very much, thank-you-very-much.

Le cœur a ses raisons, que la raison ne connaît pas….

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Does the President lie through his teeth?

(Again, not this one; that one.)

January 1962 -- the silent escalation.

“Mr President, are American troops now in combat in Vietnam?”
That was not true.  Vietnamese pilots sat next to the Americans so than any U.S. casualties could be announced as accidents on training missions.
-- Richard Reeves, President Kennedy:  Profile of Power (1993), p. 280

A thin entering wedge.  The rest is history.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Does POTUS despise those he courted during the campaign?

No no, not the current guy -- the one campaigning in 1960:

Happy farmers were not a principal Kennedy goal.  … After his agricultural speech … at the South Dakota State Fair, he had remarked to Richard Goodwin:
“Well, that’s over.  Fuck the farmers after November.”
-- Richard Reeves, President Kennedy:  Profile of Power (1993), p. 277

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Do those who prepare the PDBs, labor in vain, to penetrate the Presidential bubble?

Some Presidents (like Obama) have been very open to detailed factual analysis from the diplomatic corps and the  IC, whereas others (like Clinton) pretty much blew them off.

As to the current situation -- I have nothing to say.  But again, a niblet of history.  The time is October, 1961:

[The US ambassador to Vietnam] concluded that Kennedy relied much more on news reports  and the impressions of intimates, than he did on the yards of cables he sent from the embassy  each day.
-- Richard Reeves, President Kennedy:  Profile of Power (1993), p. 240

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Does the President go slithering through Russian “back channels”?

Once more, no, no reference to current events.   Just a bit of history here.

Dark doings in October of 1961, a time of crisis:

Folded inside the day’s New York Times, Bolshakov carried a twenty-six-page letter from Khrushchev to Kennedy -- a personal letter … Khrushchev proposed that the two leaders deal one-on-one,  using private letters to bypass old bureaucracies …
Khrushchev had written that Kennedy could ignore the letter  and that would be the end of it,  no one would ever know it happened.  But Kennedy answered with ten pages of his own ….
-- Richard Reeves, President Kennedy:  Profile of Power (1993), p. 238-9

And, after the crisis had been resolved:

There the negotiating stopped,  but the secret personal correspondence  between the leaders  continued,  often in pretty chummy terms.
-- Richard Reeves, President Kennedy:  Profile of Power (1993), p. 456

(In diplomatic history, “back channels” are a traditional and appropriate way of doing business, as are back rooms.)