As to the second, and the ultimate history-shaping event, a question: Did the Cuban Missile Crisis even have to happen?
Matthews details Kennedy’s calm, deft handling of the crisis — with no interest in whether Kennedy’s own recklessness led to it. During the 2008 presidential campaign, then-Sen. Barack Obama promised negotiations with America’s enemies “without preconditions.” Why not, asked Obama. Kennedy did it with Khrushchev. Bad analogy. Indeed, the young president did meet with Khrushchev in Vienna — over the objections of his secretary of state, Dean Rusk, among others. As Rusk feared, it was a disaster. Khrushchev lectured Kennedy and refused to budge on anything. “Kennedy Talked, Khrushchev Triumphed,” an op-ed in The New York Times said:
“Only a few minutes after parting with Khrushchev, Kennedy (said) the summit meeting had been the ‘roughest thing in my life. … He just beat the hell out of me. I’ve got a terrible problem if he thinks I’m inexperienced and have no guts. …’
“A little more than two months later, Khrushchev gave the go-ahead to begin erecting what would become the Berlin Wall. … And while there were many factors that led to the missile crisis, it is no exaggeration to say that the impression Khrushchev formed at Vienna — of Kennedy as ineffective — was among them.”
On Kennedy’s signal economic achievement — making the case for the deep tax cuts passed after his death — Matthews spends less than a page in a 400-page book.
This brings us to the question of why lefties like Matthews fawn over Kennedy — as to policy. He was, after all, a religious man and a cold warrior who deepened our involvement in Vietnam. He believed in peace through strength: The bigger and badder the military, the less likely it will be used in war. He advocated deep tax cuts — and argued that tax cuts mean eventually more tax revenue.
Kind of like … Ronald Reagan. Odd. Very odd.
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