Monday, July 18, 2011

T.E. Ricks joins Salamander on JFK

I am very open with ya'll about my biases. I am aware that, as with all life-long biases, often times you may not see things as clear as you should, and biases once set are hard to change.

As some of you know, I have had a life-long bias against JFK specifically, and the Kennedy clan in general. It isn't a "hate" bias - just innate dislike of their policies, methods, and as a small "r" republican, their quasi-monarchical habits and sense of entitlement. Iconography makes me a tad itchy too.


The only thing good I have to say about Kennedy's policies are concerning his economic and tax policy (something it took me into my late 30s to grudgingly give him the credit he deserved for it) and his advocacy for Special Forces. As for everything else - just put me down as having a Cuban-exile-familyesque view of Kennedy and leave it at that.

Thomas E. Ricks put together in a short post about 85% of the Executive Summary why when it comes to JFK, people should take the gauze off their lens and think, not feel.
As I studied the Vietnam war over the last 14 months, I began to think that John F. Kennedy probably was the worst American president of the previous century.

In retrospect, he spent his 35 months in the White House stumbling from crisis to fiasco. He came into office and okayed the Bay of Pigs invasion ... Vienna summit conference and got his clock cleaned by Khrushchev ... the Cuban missile crisis and a whiff of nuclear apocalypse ... American descent into Vietnam. The assassination of Vietnam's President Diem ... decision to wage a war of attrition ... another coup that JFK supported earlier in 1963: the Baathist one in Iraq ... Anyway, I think his track record kind of makes even old Herbert Hoover look good.
Ummmm, yea. That is a good start.

No President is perfect - but on the foreign policy plane, few started more worse plays in such a short time than Kennedy.

One thing that makes Ricks's comments worth a nod is that he too has some cultural context to work around,
Tom Ricks, was born in Massachusetts and is the grandson and great-grandson of Democratic politicians there.
Good. I think in the second decade of the 21st Century we can, at last, talk about JFK as adults.

47 comments:

Kristen said...

Has there ever been a more overrated, worthless, degenerate family?  As far as I know, no Kennedys are in elected office anywhere right now.  America is a better country because of that.

Byron said...

Glad to see someone added up the scoreboard and came up with the same numbers as I did. Only good thing he did was get behind Special Forces.

UltimaRatioRegis said...

<span>"...he spent his 35 months in the White House stumbling from crisis to fiasco. He came into office and okayed the Bay of Pigs invasion ... Vienna summit conference and got his clock cleaned by Khrushchev ... the Cuban missile crisis and a whiff of nuclear apocalypse ..."</span>

Precisely what the current occupant pointed to as proof positive that being horribly inexperienced and ill-informed will not have any negative ramifications.  Ahh, history.

HR McMaster's Dereliction of Duty is a must-read to get a sense of JFK's modus operandi WRT the Joint Chiefs and Southeast Asia.  Not terribly flattering.

SouthernAP said...

Don't forget that he doubled the defense budget vs what Ike had it at and compared to Reagan he multiplied the defense budget by 10.

DeltaBravo said...

Damn that Lee Harvey Oswald.  Because of him, no one has been able to have a reasonable discussion of that presidency.  A silly guilt-ridden nation has ignored the elephant in the room and the fact that a lot of the "tragedies" in that family were brought about by its self-imposed notion that their sons were destined for the presidency. 

Squidly said...

Had the pleasure of working for HR when he was a light colonel - now a brigadier - fast mover and brilliant thinker.  And a real leader.  Did great things on the IZ-SY border.

Squidly said...

Hate to say it, but his alleged dalliances and skirt chasing makes the Blue Dress incident seem inconsequential.  It's no wonder why we had so many fiascos on his watch.

Squidly said...

One of these days, Mary Jo Kopeckne ought to get the Congressional Medal of Freedom (posthumously), for giving her life to ensure Teddy never sat in the Oval Office.

Salty Gator said...

though politically they were much aligned, Johnson's presidency was considerably different from Kennedy's.  They both sucked--don't get me wrong--but at least with Johnson you had the feeling that an adult was in the Oval Office.  With Kennedy all you had was Joe's little boy.  Johnson conducted himself as a man...a man full of bad ideas, but a man nonetheless.  He was tough, strong, and a hard negotiator domestically and internationally.

Salty Gator said...

"...damn that Lee Harvey Oswald..." [and his two accomplises and or spotter]. 

I hate to sound like Salty Gator Paranoid Delusional Schizophrenic Conspiracy Theorist to the Stars, but you can't possibly think that was a one man show.  It is hard enough to make the first shot let alone work the bolt of the rifle in world record time to get off the second and third shots (which let's be honest would have to be miracle bullets to achieve the geometry that they did between Governor Connelly and Kennedy).

Alright, I said my piece.  Batteries release on SG.

Grumpy Old Ham said...

<span> I think in the second decade of the 21st Century we can, at last, talk about JFK as adults.</span>

One would hope, but I doubt it, as there are still too many Camelot true believers around to allow it to happen.  With regard to:

<span>"Tom Ricks, was born in Massachusetts and is the grandson and great-grandson of Democratic politicians there."</span>

The true believers will simply write off his writings as sour grapes coming from someone who wasn't part of the Cool Kids' club.

As for me, it's taken me about 30 years to overcome the publick skool inspired pedestal placement of JFK, RFK, and even Lincoln...

Grumpy Old Ham said...

OTOH, Oswald did send us to the moon...or maybe not...

Discuss. ;)  

Casey Tompkins said...

Didn't he push the Army to add airmobile divisions using the UH-1?

walker 77 said...

as an undergrad I took a '20th Cent. American History' class and I brought up a few "bad points" about JFK/Vietnam after reading 'Dereliction of Duty' on my own...

Damn near got thrown out of the class by the Prof. for saying "bad things" (re: facts) about JFK :-P

Adirondack Patriot said...

I would add the Peace Corps and the pre-Apollo I NASA as Kennedy failures.  The Peace Corps was -- and continues to be -- a tremendous waste of money that contributes little or nothing to our international relations.  From NASA was a costly and abject failure that bounded past technological challenges on sheer luck alone.  The astronauts were shot into space like their primate cousins before them with little or no scientific gain or purpose other than to match the Soviets.

prschoef said...

No moonshot credit?

JKK's aura derives from his articulate, clver responses at press conferences.

Spade said...

"<span>purpose other than to match the Soviets."</span>

Well, duh.

habap said...

I have to admit, though, that I always laugh at RFK's speech on his first day as Attorney General, as he spoke of hard work being rewarded....

"I started in the Department of Justice as a young lawyer in 1951. The salary was about $4,000 a year. But I worked hard. I was ambitious. I studied. I applied myself. And then my brother was elected president of the United States."

Jay said...

Wow, Kristen! On second thought, never mind, par for the course for you...

Sal - a reasoned rebuttal on Tom's website today, from Fred Kaplan.

Byron said...

Jay, pretty chicken-sh!t to pick on Kristen, even for you. Other than that, I got nothing for you. I'd rather mud-wrestle a pig than argue with you.

UltimaRatioRegis said...

<span>From Kaplan's prose:  "...there's some evidence he wouldn't have plunged across the line so avidly..."  
 
I doubt that in the extreme.  The team of "Best and Brightest" that Kennedy assembled because of their academic rather than practical knowledge is the one LBJ inherited.  McNamara, Taylor, the Bundy brothers, George Ball, and SecState Rusk, all were principles on LBJ's team that were instrumental in setting US policy in Southeast Asia.   
 
To think Kennedy would not have listened to them, after hand-picking them, while LBJ listened after inheriting them, is wishful thinking at best, and likely some significant speculative revisionism.  And to affirm that speculation on the words of Clark Clifford, whose limitations on the use of force in 1968-69 had so seriously impeded the ability of US forces to engage the enemy on our terms, is hardly cementing the argument.  
 
Of course, this is Jay finding something "reasoned", so tread carefully, dear readers.</span>

The Usual Suspect said...

Johnson was magnitudes worse when it came to Vietnam.  His actions were purely political and criminal.  McMaster nailed it.  The book makes you want to tear out your hair.  It is filled with FAIL.

UltimaRatioRegis said...

TUS,

Not so sure you are right, nor that you are wrong.  Kennedy set the stage for LBJ's antics, and was well capable of them on his own.  Both were political animals.  (Old Joe hated LBJ, and the feeling was mutual.)

Kennedy gets an incomplete on Vietnam.  But I am not willing to dismiss the possibility of failure on the scale of Johnson's, because as I mention in comments above, it was JFK's team that LBJ was using.

DeltaBravo said...

*coming here to see if hopefully Jay picked on me too.  Leaving disappointed.*

:'(

Sniffle.  It would have been so fun to kick back.

Maybe Jay carries a torch for the Kennedy men and wishes he could have had an affair with one of them too.  Seems when it came to Kennedys there was enough luv for everyone.

Mike M. said...

No man who would put MacNamara in the Pentagon and LBJ a heartbeat away from the Oval Office can be considered anything but a disaster.

Salty Gator said...

Oh Jai, Jai Jai..
Kennedy would have half assed committed until it blew up in his face, and then he would have been at a fork in the road:  repeat the bay of pigs, or commit to more troops.  He would have committed.  And knowing his family, he would have insisted on running the war out of the white house even more than Johnson did, and we all know the goat f--- that that turned out to be.

CDR Salamander said...

Jay,
Be a man, answer the girl's question .... unless you're drawing a blank. Sleep on it; we'll wait.

LT Rusty said...

Nah, still Yellow & Tight.

I'll just throw this out here: magic bullet geometry is only magic when you assume that Connoly's and Kennedy's seats were directly aligned fore-and-aft.  If, however, one seat is slightly above and outboard of the other, the geometry is a remarkably straight line instead.  

Also, I can't really understand why people bag on the Carcano rifles so much.  The Italians continued using those in the NATO rifle team tournaments for decades after they adopted the Garand (or the BM-59) as their service rifle.  The Carcano is no worse a weapon than any other military bolt action of the era.

Kristen said...

Jay, there are a lot of people on this porch whose opinions I respect.  If any of them told me that I had gone too far in a comment, I'd take it to heart.  You are not one of those people.

Byron and CDR, thanks.  Much appreciated.

DB, no one who is a regular reader here is going to pick on you.  :)

The Usual Suspect said...

<span><span>LBJ as President had the power to dismiss Kennedy's Ivy League minions.  That is one of the puzzling things about LBJ - he hated Kennedy and his team of pencil necks.  His goal was to pass the Great Society legislation as his "legacy" and give just enough to the JCS to keep them and the right off his ass.  It was an evil balancing act that eventually cost over 58,000 lives.  His, McNamara's, Clifford's souls and all the rest of those who allowed this to happen should continue to burn in hell.  JFK's mysitque was created by Joe's money, Hollywood, and an adoring press.  We are currently experieincing JFK ight, but it is even more damaging than the original.  At least Kennedy new that raising taxes reduced demand for legitimate goods in the open market.  I'll give him that and his taste in women.</span></span>

Adirondack Patriot said...

Playing copy-cat is not leadership.  If it were, playing "Simon Says" would be an Olympic Sport.

Byron said...

"Be a man, answer the girl's question "

Sir: she is a lady, not a girl.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, Sal - been busy.  I find it hard to believe (no wait...I used to find it hard to believe) that you could slam a family who lost three sons killed while in service to their country.   If you don't like their politics, or their fortune, well fine.  But your pals show (nahhh...just reinforce) their pettiness easily with their comments here.  

Jay said...

Damn...Guest above is me.  I'd also expect more of fellow Veterans.  I dont' know about Kristen's status.  Had Byron figured out a long time ago.  Shame on you all...

Anonymous said...

Jay,

Just because your family is well connected or even well bred doesn't mean you are well bred either. I have met plenty of fortunate sons, whom are not as great sticks as thier fathers, as great leaders as their parents, or law-abiding citizens since their family came from a long line law givers. Ditto for being a veteran, just because you served doesn't mean your a person whom can walk on water and exploit your veteran status to dodge a critical eye of your public persona. There are plenty of cases out there in the real world right now where a veteran has commit a crime of some sort, when you get a chance skim the news reports from around the nation using Google news or some other news crawler. It is a shame, but being in the military doesn't make you an upstanding member of society anymore then being a member of the law enforcement branch either.

I use to have a copy of an American Hertiage issue from years ago that talked about how the biggest reason the Kennedys were the most overblown family in modern America from a number of reasons that this larger then life blimp kept people from finding and talking about the faults. Such as how JFK wrote a piece praising what both Hitler and Il Duce were doing in nationalizing their economies to turn them around in the Depression, the questions of how the Kennedys made their money during the depression, that except for Joe Jr with whom took to military service as a way to prove himself as not Joe Sr's son the rest of them may have exploited thier family connections to the Government to get into good positions, the well known womazing amongst JFK/RFK/WFK, then there is the cronyism/nepotism which was JFK's White House. However all of that was overblown by the fact that Joe Jr, JFK, RFK where killed. One in war, the other two by an assissan's bullet; so for a large number of folks the question of "what-if" plays in their minds constantly with the Kennedys.

CDR Salamander said...

<p><span>Jay - yawn.</span>
</p><p><span> </span>
</p><p><span>"Service" for a family?  Take a number.  That may work with some crowds, but not this one.  Most of us have been there done that.  No one even made that an issues.</span>
</p><p><span> </span>
</p><p><span>If you don't mind, please try to focus on the issue at hand and stop pointing and yelling "squirrel!" </span>
</p>

CDR Salamander said...

She doesn't mind.  I used that for a reason.  Ponder.

SouthernAP said...

D'OH! >:o >:o >:o  Stupid Non-Mission Capable Internet!!! That was me.

DeltaBravo said...

Jay, jay jay.....

Having 3 sons die in the service of the country doesn't confer immunity on an entire family in toto and in perpetuity for all future generations for being grasping, traitorous presumptive, self-entitled, self-congratulatory spoiled redistributors of other people's hard-earned wealth, immune to the laws and mores that bind all of us ordinary slobs. That wealth they throw about... they have no clue how hard it is to earn because they all inherited the proceeds from Grandpa Joe's rum running and other petty misdemeanors.  

A case can be made that 2 of those deaths would not have occurred if the individuals hadn't been following this notion put in their heads from Rum Runner Joe that they had an obligation to be president to fulfill some family destiny or pass some eternal flame along to people whose only "virtue" is they share Kennedy DNA and the ability to win Chicago's cemetery vote every election.  It's nice to see Teddy inherited daddy's penchant for extra-curricular negotiations with the enemy.

Cut the Camelot crap.  Some of us were born after that ended and so our view of history may seem petty to you, but it's just some of us are not biased by all the bulls---  And as a Catholic I am especially incensed by the interminable public scandals that just about every member of that family has caused and the blight they have inflicted on the name of Catholicism, by their own marriage and dating and extramarital behaviors, their horrific and evil voting records and their complete hypocrisy.

As for veterans' status conferring the right to have an opinion here, or you'd expect "more" of the fellow veterans..... no, this is not a veteran's only club.  Sal has left it open to those of us who care about the military because we have generations of our family who have served, or we have been spouses of, and served in an unpaid capacity in our own rights or in civilian sector jobs. 

I'd trust Kristen and give her a patriot's label any day over Bradley Manning... who by your standards would have an "expect more status" because he is a veteran.

Take your faulty logic elsewhere.  (And p.s.... I'm sure you figured me out long ago too.   I'm not a complicated puzzle.  And I'm utterly shameless.  )

You prove Sal wrong in one thing.. maybe it's still too early to have an adult conversation about the Kennedys.  Maybe in another 40 years....

Shame on US?  It's the Kennedy family that could use a good dose of shame!

Casey Tompkins said...

Nope. The main reason we followed through with Apollo is that JFK was dead; it was his "legacy."

Casey Tompkins said...

...Mainly because she'd kick their arse... :-P

Casey Tompkins said...

I think that covers it pretty well, DB.

Byron said...

And when she got tired, the rest of us would take care of what was left...if any :)

Byron said...

Jay, if you lived another hundred years, you'd never have me figured out. Now, go away little man that takes cheap shots at ladies.

Salty Gator said...

Since we're talking family legacies, I'll jump in, because I'm certain--no offense--that I have you all beat.  By far.  My family has been in the military business since before the Crusades.  And in this country's history, we've fought in every single conflict since the war of Independence.  I have it documented, I can prove it.  But you know what, Jay?  It doesn't matter a hill of beans.  It wouldn't excuse my conduct if I did something reprehensible, nor would it excuse my future children.  Jokin' Joe the Rum Runner was a real sonofabitch.  He bankrolled Hitler, and he sent his sons into the military not to fight and die for their country, but to win points in elections.  He wanted his sons in politics to insulate the family from the US Attorney Generals office.  Guess what?  It worked.
If you cheapen your service to this nation by using it to score lame points against the likes of Delta Bravo and Byron, then it obviously means as little to you as it probably does the nation.  We don't serve the nation to facilitate lame pickup lines in bars or to troll blogs.  We serve to support and defend.  Period.  

By your comments, I am not your fellow veteran.  You Sir, are an Army/Navy of one.

Salty Gator said...

LT, great analysis.  Very thought provoking.

UltimaRatioRegis said...

"<span>We don't serve the nation to facilitate lame pickup lines in bars..."</span>

No, that just happens to be a fairly handy byproduct, and damned useful to those of us who would be considered "rogueishly handsome".