A reckless man and the promiscuous use of power 5

Today being the 50th anniversary of President Kennedy’s assassination, there will be many a paean of praise for him ringing through the land.

Though we deplore his assassination – most probably by the Communist arrested for the crime – we have found little to admire about JFK.

Which is why we were quite pleased to find this unenthusiastic review of his presidency and unflattering estimation of his character by Derek Hunter, who writes (in part) at Townhall:

President Kennedy remains popular with journalists and historians, but was not a popular president with the American people at the time. His re-election in 1964 was not certain. It was, in fact, a long shot at the time of his murder.

His presidency was, for the most part, a non-event. The Bay of Pigs was a fiasco, the Cuban Missile Crisis brought us to the brink of nuclear war, cost us missiles in Turkey and doomed Cuba to the underside of the Fidel Castro’s boot to this day.

On civil rights, something for which President Kennedy receives much credit and praise, he did little more than pay lip service to the concept. My friend and a host of the C4 Show … Clarence Mitchell IV, whose grandfather was Clarence Mitchell Jr., the chief lobbyist for the NAACP during the Kennedy years, tells me, “My grandfather always said President Kennedy, at the insistence of his brother Bobby, was not a champion of civil rights, that he was actually an obstacle. He kept things slow because he wanted the support of southern Democrats. It wasn’t about right and wrong with them, it was about what would get them the most votes.”

President Kennedy is given credit for the Civil Rights Act of 1964, but he had little to do with it aside from having spoken on the subject a few times. In fact, C4 tells me that in August of 1963 there was a “big meeting” of civil rights leaders at the White House with the Kennedy brothers because there was talk that they might not endorse JFK’s reelection. They were promised what politicians always promise voting blocs they’re stringing along – action after the election. Tragedy intervened, so we’ll never know what he might have done, but we do know what he did do and that wasn’t much at all.

In fact, it seems nearly every positive development of that era is somehow credited to JFK – even those he had little to nothing to do with. It’s just been credited to him, or imposed on him, as part of the myth-making surrounding “Camelot.”

President Kennedy was a great orator and a master at public relations. He also had a press corps that adored him, thus insulating him from reality in the annals of history. (Sounds vaguely familiar, doesn’t it?)

The “Camelot” legend was myth, constructed to obscure the reality of a despicable man elected through fraud and an unholy alliance with the mafia in Chicago.

The real John F. Kennedy was a womanizing misogynist, a spoiled brat who ran for the U.S. Senate for lack of anything else to do and to feed his controlling [pro-Nazi] father’s ego. Just eight years and very few accomplishments later, he sought the presidency for much the same reason.

He was a reckless man, sleeping with interns, girlfriends of mafia bosses, Russian spies and seemingly anyone else willing. He took his job seriously enough, but in perhaps the most blatant act of corruption since Teapot Dome, appointed his own brother Attorney General of the United States. Kennedys are loyal to Kennedys first; there is no second. The idea that Robert Kennedy could be trusted to, if called for, investigate possible corrupt actions of President Kennedy is laughable.

After his tragic assassination, the Kennedy myth-making started and hasn’t stopped. It started with the coaching of 3-year-old John F. Kennedy Jr. to salute his father’s coffin for the cameras as the procession passed, and it continues to this day. Even his gravesite is a testament to that myth.

President Kennedy is buried at Arlington National Cemetery, and rightfully so. He did serve our country with honor in World War II. But real estate at Arlington is at a premium, with our heroes buried in close proximity to each other to accommodate all who deserve it. Yet the JFK gravesite sits alone in a large otherwise-vacant plot. I don’t begrudge him the eternal flame – though that seems a bit much. But his wife is buried next to him in spite of remarrying, and his brother, Robert, is buried there too, even though he did not serve in the military.

This “devout Catholic” family exemplifies hypocrisy on every level – from their bootlegging beginnings to their philandering lifestyle, there is very little about their legend that stands up to even the most cursory of scrutiny. Despite this fact, hours of television time, gallons of ink and gigabytes of web-space will be dedicated to how extraordinary JFK was, how they all were.

It’s simply not true.

We have little argument with all that. (But if they were not actually devout Catholics – and who can know? – it would be one thing in their favor in our eyes.)

For the rest, we would only comment that JFK and his brother Bobby were extraordinary of course as men of power. They are historical figures. But neither of them had an extraordinary mind, and neither left any great gifts to the world.

*

Steve Chapman writes (also at Townhall) that Kennedy …

… led people to imagine that their government had the boundless capacity to improve the world, and on the day he died, they could still believe that.

His administration and that of his vice president and successor Lyndon B. Johnson are significant in the same way: They represent the pinnacle of ambitious, visionary government. What each president lacked was a sober sense of the limits of what it could do, at home or abroad. …

Kennedy came into office having roused unrealistic expectations. …

His inaugural address did nothing to dampen the mood. It cast the United States not just as the defender of its own security and freedom, but as guarantor for the entire planet. Kennedy declared that “we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty (emphasis added).”

In case that promise did not seem sufficiently grandiose, he added, “The energy, the faith, the devotion which we bring to this endeavor will light our country and all who serve it — and the glow from that fire can truly light the world.”

Kennedy gave the highest priority to the foreign arena. But Johnson’s domestic program grew out of initiatives begun by JFK. And LBJ was no more inclined to restrain his rhetoric.

He extolled his social welfare plan as though he were describing paradise: “The Great Society is a place where every child can find knowledge to enrich his mind and to enlarge his talents. … It is a place where the city of man serves not only the needs of the body and the demands of commerce but the desire for beauty and the hunger for community … beckoning us toward a destiny where the meaning of our lives matches the marvelous products of our labor.”

Neither president paused to consider whether and how the clumsy tools of government could actually fulfill these dreams. Kennedy took the first steps into a war in Vietnam – which proved that supporting friends did not assure the success of liberty and that there were some burdens Americans would not bear.

When Johnson signed the Economic Opportunity Act, he proclaimed that it represented nothing less than “a commitment to eradicate poverty. …  Like many Great Society programs, it did not live up to its billing. …

JFK and LBJ set out to prove how much the U.S. government could accomplish at home and abroad, a mission that endeared them to those who believe in the promiscuous use of power.

They ended up proving how much it could not accomplish, and how little extravagance can buy.

They may have proved it, but new generations of believers in the promiscuous use of power have arisen and take no heed of the lesson. Obama is proving it all over again, disastrously. But will the believers in the state as an ever-flowing fountain of money, and the president as an all-wise all-good father, ever learn it?

A date which should live in infamy 0

Forty nine years ago, in mid April 1961, a small CIA-trained force of Cuban exiles invaded southern Cuba in a valiant attempt to overthrow the Castro regime. President Kennedy betrayed them.

Humbert Fortova’s vivid and maddening story about what happened in those few days is a must-read. Here’s a taste of it:

Fifteen hundred men crowded before San Roman at their Central American training camps that day. The next day they’d embark for a port in Nicaragua, the following day for a landing site in Cuba named Bahia De Cochinos (Bay of Pigs). Their outfit was known as Brigada 2506 …

“They fought like Tigers,” wrote a CIA officer who helped train these Cuban freedom-fighters. “But their fight was doomed before the first man hit the beach.”

That CIA man, Grayston Lynch, knew something about fighting — and about long odds. He carried scars from Omaha Beach, The Battle of the Bulge and Korea’s Heartbreak Ridge. But in those battles, Lynch and his band of brothers could count on the support of their own chief executive.

At the Bay of Pigs, Lynch and his band of Cuban brothers learned — first in speechless shock and finally in burning rage — that their most powerful enemies were not Castro’s Soviet-armed and led soldiers massing in Santa Clara, Cuba, but the Ivy League’s Best and Brightest dithering in Washington. …

When the smoke cleared and their ammo had been expended to the very last bullet, when a hundred of them lay dead and hundreds more wounded, after their very mortars and machine gun barrel had almost melted from their furious rates of fire, after three days of relentless battle, barely 1,400 of them — without air support (from the U.S. Carriers just offshore) and without a single supporting shot by naval artillery (from U.S. cruisers and destroyers poised just offshore) — had squared off against 41,000 Castro troops, his entire air force and squadrons of Soviet tanks. The Cuban freedom-fighters inflicted casualties of 30 to 1 against their Soviet-armed and led enemies…

No amount of heroism and pluck can offset those odds, however — not without air cover. And tragically, 80 percent of the pre-invasion sorties by the freedom-fighter planes from Nicaragua — the essential component of the plan to knock out Castro’s air force on the ground as originally devised under the Eisenhower administration — had been canceled at the last moment by JFK on the advice of his Best and Brightest. This was a Republican plan, after all, that had landed in their lap. And the New Frontiersmen suffered a guilty conscience about such “Yankee bullying.”

“The liberal cannot strike wholeheartedly against the Communist,” wrote early National Review columnist James Burnham, “for fear of wounding himself in the process.” ..

The canceled airstrikes made the Brigade’s lumbering B-26s easy prey for Castro’s jets and fast Sea-Furies — and the troops and supplies below them were even easier prey. It was a turkey shoot for the Castroites.

But the unequal battle raged furiously on the tiny beachhead. CIA man Grayston Lynch, just offshore one of the landing ships, finally learned about the canceled air strikes and figured the freedom-fighters he’d trained and befriended were doomed. “If things get rough,” he radioed Commander San Roman “we can come in and evacuate you.”

“We will not be evacuated!” Pepe roared back to Lynch. “We came here to fight! We don’t want evacuation! We want more ammo! We want PLANES! This ends here!” Repeated requests from the beachhead for air cover were transmitted to Washington — to no avail.

“See, Latin American ‘street?’” Camelot was saying with wide eyes and a smug little grin, like Eddie Haskell in front of June Cleaver. “See, U.N.? As you can plainly see, we’re not involved in this thing. We’re not the imperialist bullies Castro claims.”

This infantile and criminal idiocy had Adm. Arleigh Burke of the Joints Chief of Staff, who was transmitting the battlefield pleas, teetering on mutiny…

The fighting admiral was livid. They say his face was beet red and his facial veins popping as he faced down his commander-in-chief that fateful night of April 18, 1961.

“Mr. President, TWO planes from the Essex! (the U.S. Carrier just offshore from the beachhead)” that’s all those boys need, Mr. President. Let me …!”

JFK was in white tails and a bow tie that evening, having just emerged from an elegant social gathering. “Burke,” he replied. “We can’t get involved in this.”

“WE put those boys there, Mr. President!!” The fighting admiral exploded. “By God, we ARE involved!”

While the Knights of Camelot mulled over their image problems, the men on the beachhead had problems of their own…

“MAYDAY! MAYDAY! Have Castro jet on my tail! Request … I repeat! — Request …!”

“Sorry,” replied the Essex. “Our orders are …” The Cuban freedom-fighter pilot didn’t hear the rest of his death sentence. An explosion and his radio went dead. These messages went on and on, hour after hour, from different pilots — to no avail. By the second day, nearly half of these almost suicidal brave Cuban exile pilots had met a fiery death from Castro’s jets.

This was too much for their enraged and heartsick American trainers at the base in Nicaragua. Four of them suited up, gunned the engines and joined the fight. These weren’t pampered Ivy Leaguers. They were Alabama Air Guard officers, men with archaic notions of loyalty and honor. They were watching the decimation. They knew the odds. They went anyway.

All four died on that first mission…

Finally JFK relented and allowed some Skyhawk jets to take-off from the Essex. One of these pilots quickly spotted a long column of Castro tanks and infantry making for the Brigade. The Soviet tanks and trucks were sitting ducks. “AHA!” he thought. “Now we’ll turn this thing around!” The pilot started his dive…

“Permission to engage denied,” came the answer from his commander…

“This is crazy!” he bellowed back. “Those guys are getting the hell shot out of them down there! I can SEE it!!” Turned out, JFK had allowed them to fly and look — but not to shoot!

Some of these Navy pilots admit to sobbing openly in their cockpits…

“I wanted to resign from the Navy,” said Capt. Robert Crutchfield, the decorated naval officer who commanded the destroyer fleet off the beachhead. He’d had to relay Washington’s replies to those pilots.

A close-up glimpse of the heroism on that beachhead might have sent those Essex pilots right over the edge. As JFK adjusted his bow tie in the mirror and Jackie picked lint off his tux, the men of Brigada 2506 faced a few adjustments of their own. To quote Haynes Johnson [Pulitzer Prize winning  journalist and TV pundit], “It was a battle when heroes were made.”

Read what happened next, how they fought to the death and were defeated.

Ending on a note of justified bitterness and irony, Fortova recalls the promise Kennedy had made when he was inaugurated just three months earlier:

“We shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty!”