Wednesday, January 5, 2011

John F. Kennedy

Term: 1961-1963

Party: Democrat

Nickname: JFK, Jack.

Short Bio:
Kennedy has the distinction of being the youngest elected president in history. Theodore Roosevelt is technically the youngest to be president, as he took the office after McKinley was shot. Kennedy was a young, debonair, and exciting politician, which is probably what helped him become president. He was seen as a dark horse going into the 1960 election under the perception that he was too young, with too little experience, and was a Catholic to boot. Nixon, his competition, was vice-president under the popular Eisenhower, and seemed to be set to become the next president. Luckily for Kennedy, the television was invented. In the first ever televised debates, Kennedy looked cool and confident. Nixon, suffering from sickness, looked a mess and appeared flustered. Though people listening over the radio said Nixon won the debates, people who watched the debates swore that Kennedy did. This botched appearance in the debates probably cost Nixon the election. The election went to Kennedy, but not by much. Kennedy had only beat Nixon in popular votes by 115,000.

Kennedy's presidency is well known for a few reasons. One of those will be covered at the end. Only a few months into his presidency, Kennedy approves the Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba to get rid of Castro. With the cancellation of air reinforcements and the failure of expected local support, the American forces were defeated by Castro's troops. Castro releases 1,173 prisoners for $55.5 million worth of food and medicine. Kennedy took full blame for the operation and tried to redeem himself with beefing up the U.S. military. Kennedy made small strides for the Civil Rights movement, something that his successor Johnson will do the most for, but did little else for domestic issues. Kennedy was strictly a international president. He cared more for protecting the U.S. and getting rid of any possible problems.

Though Eisenhower had sent military advisers and others to Vietnam, it was Kennedy that sent the first batch of official U.S. support. Thus began the unofficial start to America's involvement in the Vietnam War. The unpopular war would go on until Ford's presidency.

Communism and the Soviets became a bigger problem for the U.S. The Berlin Wall was being built, the Soviets were testing warheads, and there was considerable evidence that they had weapons pointed at us. The Cold War almost became a real war. It all came to a fever pitch during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Finding out that the Soviets had built missile bases in Cuba, Kennedy ordered a naval blockade of the Communist nation. Luckily, Kennedy was able to reach an agreement with Premier Khrushchev and all the missile bases were to be deconstructed as long as the U.S. promised not to invade Cuba. Kennedy, after hearing that all the weapons were taken out, lifted the blockade, and got rid of the missile bases we had pointing at the U.S.S.R. in Turkey. Kennedy basically averted WWIII. Most baby-boomers will tell you about how scary the times were and all the bomb drills they had to do, which had the children hide under their desks. With that, Kennedy brought the U.S. into a period of peace, as the U.S. had little to no near disasters with the U.S.S.R. after this time. Shortly before Kennedy's unfortunate end to his presidency, he was able to get an agreement involving the U.S., Britain, and the Soviet Union to limit nuclear tests. The treaty halted all nuclear tests but those done underground.

On November 22, 1963, Kennedy was shot twice while riding in his presidential convoy in Dallas. The shooter, Lee Harvey Oswald, was later shot in police custody by a local bar owner, Jack Ruby on the 24th. Kennedy has the distinction of being the last president slain during his presidency, though not the last to be shot at. There are a bunch of conspiracy theories about his death, but they won't be entertained here.

Grade: B-
Kennedy is probably one of the most over-hyped president, partially due to his assassination. Kennedy did have one of the best approval ratings in the modern era, so I can't say that he wasn't beloved before his death. Yes, he was a very charismatic leader and a great speaker, but he was by no means perfect. He redeemed himself for the Bay of Pigs disaster with averting a war during the Cuban Missile Crisis, and beefing up our military. Kennedy lacked a good record on domestic issues and got us involved in the Vietnam War, which became probably the most unpopular war we've been a part of.

Fun Fact!
Kennedy is on the rarely seen half dollar coin! Who was on the half dollar before him? The famous patriot, Benjamin Franklin.

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