Vale John Fitzgerald Kennedy
It’s 50 years since John F. Kennedy’s election as President of the United States, 47 since his assassination.
His greatness? His legacy?
I thought about both as, a year ago, Helena and I wandered around Dealey Plaza in Dallas and visited the Sixth Floor Museum, thinking about his murder.
See my Spectator column (27 January, 2010. See it in full under the “America” tag above)
We are indebted to John F. Kennedy for two reasons.
First, he and his brother Robert pulled America back from the brink in the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis. Remember former Defence Secretary Robert McNamara’s vivid description in the documentary The Fog of War when he held up a thumb and forefinger and said “We came that close” – that is, that close to a nuclear exchange. Remember there were voices among the Joint Chiefs arguing for a military response to the Russians. It was the Kennedy boys who pulled back. That legacy alone justifies his presidency, indeed his whole career, his very existence.
Second, John and Robert Kennedy made a commitment – yes, not as decisive and not as quick as it might have been – to support the civil rights movement. That phone call to Mrs. King in the middle of the 1960 presidential campaign was the first step. Two years later Robert Kennedy sent 400 US Marshals to support James Meredith enrolling at the University of Mississippi, with President Kennedy backing them up with 3 000 troops after the intervention devolved into violent riots.
On both counts – peace and civil rights – the right side of the argument.
Pause for a few seconds to remember John and Robert… and Martin.
In Dealey Plaza, Dallas, last year.