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Caro and RFK


The Passage of Power is a terrific book — perhaps not as essential as The Master of the Senate because the material is more familiar, but very, very good.

One thing that leaves me with a slightly sour taste in my mouth, however, is that Caro seems to be setting up a Means of Ascent II for the final volume, with RFK donning Coke Stevenson’s white hat.* Now, of course, that would not be nearly as disastrous the second time around. While LBJ’s refusal to unilaterally disarm in the 1948 Democratic primary is a minor transgression that just doesn’t merit the hundreds of pages of frequently tendentious vituperation leveled at Johnson, Vietnam was another story. (And, of course, the rage in Means of Ascent was pretty clearly indirectly about Vietnam.) And making a hero out of a moderate liberal like Bobby Kennedy would not be remotely like making a hero out a reprehensible segregationist like Stevenson. Still, when it comes to the belief (frequently held by liberals of that generation) that RFK was the liberal alternative to LBJ and Humphrey in 1968…well, I would say you had to be there except that many liberals of my generation seem to believe this not very persuasive argument too.

Which brings us to Fred Kaplan’s excellent column about the portrayal of the Cuban Missle Crisis. Caro’s account of LBJ’s casually sociopath haswkishness isn’t wrong, and nor is his portrayal of JFK admirably rejecting the advice. The problem, as Kaplan says, is that LBJ’s views were essentially identical to those expressed by all of the other advisers, including Saint Bobby. JFK, by that time, was becoming genuinely skeptical of his past stances, but RFK was still a generic liberal cold warrior (and his well-reciprocated hatred of Johnson was personality, not policy, driven.) I’m far from convinced that Robert Kennedy deserves to be seen as the more liberal alternative in the 1968 primaries. Sure, unburdened by being part of the administration he ran to LBJ and Humprhey’s left on the war, but then so did Nixon and we know how that turned out. And certainly it’s hard to see how RFK could have a domestic policy edge over the most progressive domestic policy president of the 20th century or his longtime liberal sidekick/torture object.

Incidentally, I’m not sure that I agree with Kaplan’s implications that Jack Kennedy would have had a substantially better policy on Vietnam than Johnson. It’s possible; certainly, his instincts were better than Johnson or any of his major adviser’s (including his brother). But note a key element of the story: JFK was only willing to make the rational trade of missiles with Turkey if it wasn’t public. Kennedy was extremely risk-averse, and while this is sensible to some degree — picking fights that can’t be won undermines presidential power — he took it to extremes. I can believe that that Kennedy would not have escalated in Vietnam to the same degree as Johnson (who cared relatively little about foreign policy and more about domestic policy), but it’s hard for me to see JFK taking the risks inherent in being seen as “losing” Vietnam.

*I should say, however, that to his credit while setting up RFK as a hero he does include this passage:

Some of the remarks [Bobby Kennedy] made about [Lyndon Johnson] showed a fundamental misunderstanding of his background.   “What does he know about people who’ve got no jobs?” he asked Goodwin not long after the assassination.  “Or the uneducated.   He’s got no feelng for people who are hungry.  It’s up to us.”

Even leaving aside LBJ’s vastly greater policy achievements with respect to poverty, this is pretty rich coming from Joe Kennedy’s son as directed at the son of a bankrupt Texas Hill Country rancher who was educated at that well-known gateway to the American elite, Southwest Texas State Teachers’ College.


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  • kth

    That’s actually Fred Kaplan, aka The Sane Kaplan (as opposed to Robert and Lawrence, who aren’t).

    • Scott Lemieux

      Whoops, corrected — didn’t mean to smear the good Kaplan!

  • howard

    here’s the thing about bobby kennedy: he started out as a thug, and he ended up being one of the very few white politicians who could connect with black, urban communities in the wake of martin luther king’s assassination.

    in short, past performance is no guarantee of future results, and in the case of robert kennedy, looking at his career mean political position is probably not a good guide to the kind of president he would have been had he: a.) not been assassinated himself; b.) wrested the nomination from humphrey’s iron grip; c.) stemmed just enough wallace democrat defections in urban catholic neighborhoods to have beaten nixon – for example, by winning illinois, new jersey, and ohio.

    the broader question of how vietnam split the democratic party in ways that have never been fully healed and whether kennedy was uniquely situated to ease that transition we’ll save for another time.

    p.s. btw, for the record, i was not an rfk supporter as a teenager in ’68 and although a baby boomer, i have no special kennedy nostalgia in general (just in case anyone wants to apply either of those generalizations to me!).

    • Scott Lemieux

      To be clear, I’m not saying that RFK circa 1968 wouldn’t have been a good or reasonably progressive president. I think he would have been. It’s just that his evolution meant that he ended up…where LBJ and Humphrey already were. I don’t think there’s any real unrealized potential in a Robert Kennedy administration that couldn’t have been accomplished by electing Humphrey, and it;s the unfair treatment of the latter that I mean to push back against.

      • howard

        well, i’m going to slip slightly into the fissure of the party due to vietnam, because that’s right, quibbling as such over whether an rfk administration or a humphrey administration would have accomplished more from a liberal/progressive standpoint is pointless. both would have pursued broadly similar domestic policies.

        or, to put it another way, as you know, in my parallel universe, humphrey resigns in late ’67 and a humphrey-rfk ticket wins readily, such a combination being easy enough to imagine on domestic policy grounds.

        the key difference was on vietnam, of course, but since there was an interplay between vietnam and every other issue on the public agenda, and because the liberal position on vietnam was that it was a terrible waste from which we should reapply the spendings to a peace dividend to support progressive programs at home, and because humphrey was on the wrong side of that debate, how the governance would in fact have played out is very open in my mind.

        • efgoldman

          the key difference was on vietnam, of course, but since there was an interplay between vietnam and every other issue on the public agenda, and because the liberal position on vietnam was that it was a terrible waste from which we should reapply the spendings to a peace dividend to support progressive programs at home, and because humphrey was on the wrong side of that debate, how the governance would in fact have played out is very open in my mind.

          This, exactly.
          Because he was LBJ’s VP and did what he was expected to do (shut up and go along), HHH got unjustifiably slammed and in history.
          Speculation: If RFK had lived, and assuming he collected a bunch of delegates so he was presumed or at least credible as a nominee by the convention, the horror show outside the hall never would have happened. The Kennedys and Daleys were close, after all. As someone in my early 20s at the time (’68 was my first presidential election), liberal, against the war, but not any kind of radical, I can see most of the anti-war folks, the hippies and yuppies and whatever, accepting RFK. I don’t think you can exaggerate the importance of Chicago ’68, coupled with the two assassinations, had on the Dem’s traditional white support.

      • Richard

        “I don’t think there’s any real unrealized potential in a Robert Kennedy administration that couldn’t have been accomplished by electing Humphrey, and it;s the unfair treatment of the latter that I mean to push back against.”

        We’ll never know but I think there was unrealized potential with Kennedy that could not have been accomplished with Humphrey, not so much in what their professed goals were but in their style and their spirit. Humphrey has been indelibly tarnished by his association with LBJ and his support of the war. Was that unfair? Probably so but I think it was so great that there was no way he could get away from it and gain back the support of the students and the left (other than the old line labor unions). Would he have been better than Nixon? Of course but I don’t think he would have been a good and effective president whereas Bobby had the potential of uniting students, labor, blacks, etc. Humphrey, especially after the Chicago convention, was damaged goods.

        • howard

          the key political question in my mind in parallel universe land is who does a better job of keeping the northern wallace voters from becoming reagan democrats.

          • Richard

            Thats a good question. My gut tells me that the answer to that is Bobby and not Hubert.

            • Incontinentia Buttocks

              A number of Bobby supporters actually voted for Wallace in ’68.

          • Pseudonym

            Evil Spock?

    • Heron

      What you think RFK would have been given how he campaigned for president, and what he actually would have been in office, are two markedly different things. Consider President Obama.

      With LBJ, you more or less knew what you were getting if you cared to look, given his long history fighting for the progressive cause, but Bobby’s appeal lay mostly in the fact that he was a young, sophisticated (in its original sense of “a person very good at speaking to convince”), ivy league cipher who people could project their beliefs on to. And as you yourself admit, whenever push came to shove, he turned to force and intimidation.

      • John

        Consider Obama? Obama has been more or less exactly what any person with a reasonable grasp on American politics should have expected he would be.

        • DocAmazing

          But not the candidate he campaigned as, which is the point. All that borrowed “si se puede” went up in smoke.

  • dan

    Haven’t read the book, so maybe I’m not in a position to comment, but…,

    It is written in this post: “I’m far from convinced that Robert Kennedy deserves to be seen as the more liberal alternative in the 1968 primaries.” I don’t see the evidence for that. Maybe Bobby would have been a less effective liberal leader, but I see no evidence that, at the time, he was substantively in a different place from LBJ on domestic issues. It’s not like there wasn’t room for a candidate to run to the right on civil rights and other domestic issues in the Dem primary, but to the best of my knowledge Bobby never did so. If 1968 was anything like the present, I’m sure there would have been plenty of acclaim had he done so….

    • howard

      ok, just to make sure we have the basic story arc:

      initially we have lbj running unopposed (fall of ’67).

      then we have antiwar leaders, spurned by rfk, convincing eugene mccarthy to run (december of ’67)

      then we have mccarthy, dismissed by the very serious people of the day, end up with north of 40% of the vote in the new hampshire primary (march ’68), rfk entering the race (something like the next day or two), and then lbj withdrawing (in a nationally televised speech i remember watching on march 31, 1968 that thrilled this 15-year-old with the recognition that the logic of ending the war in vietnam was finally being taken seirously) before getting clobbered by mccarthy in wisconsin.

      then humphrey enters the race (late april ’68) and concentrates entirely on non-primary states while kennedy and mccarthy are battling back and forth (thru june, the victory in california, and the assassination).

      so, in order, we have a race consisting of first, johnson v. mccarthy, then johnson v. mcarthy v. kennedy, then mcarthy v. kennedy, then mcarthy v kennedy v. humphrey.

      in all of that context, and in the context of the entire political spectrum of 1968, yes, rfk was the liberal.

      in terms of the specifics of domestic policy, rfk, humphrey, and johnson were all more liberal than mccarthy.

      in terms of the issue of vietnam in particular, with the most liberal position being cut and run, mccarthy was fractionally more liberal than kennedy and humphrey and johnson were indistinguishable until late in the race.

      • Richard

        All true but from the perspective of someone who was there (admittedly as a 21 year old college student), Humphrey was the tired, old candidate of the establishment, a domestic liberal but a Cold War warrior without the balls to run in any primary while the McCarthy v. Kennedy decision was based on no perception of ideological differences but whether you wanted to reward the guy who had the guys to run against LBJ on the issue of Vietnam (McCarthy) or whether you wanted to support a guy who could beat Nixon in November (Bobby).

        • Richard

          Meant to say “had the guts” to run against LBJ

        • Furious Jorge


          the perspective of someone who was there

          is not always the most reliable perspective, especially 44 years after the fact.

          Not saying you’re wrong – just that having been there doesn’t necessarily mean much, given the way the human mind works.

          • Richard

            I agree. I can only tell you what I remember feeling but my memories of that June day, first voting in my first election, then learning that Booby had won and then getting the news he had been shot are pretty vivid

  • Sly

    I’m far from convinced that Robert Kennedy deserves to be seen as the more liberal alternative in the 1968 primaries.

    He was to the left of LBJ on Vietnam, and Vietnam so dominated the leftist discourse in 1968 that all other issues were sidelined. This is the same phenomenon that made Howard Dean, a fiscal conservative from Vermont, the “liberal alternative” to “compromised establishment” figures like John Kerry in 2004, when Kerry had a much stronger liberal record. But Kerry committed what was, at least in the mid-2000s, the cardinal sin in voting for the AUMF.

    The people who supported RFK largely wrote the liberal histories of that era. Those who backed Humphrey (unions) contributed to the construction of the left’s historical memory less and less in the ensuing decades, mostly because organized labor has itself been in decline since that period.

    • Incontinentia Buttocks

      The AFL-CIO also effectively endorsed Nixon in ’72.

      See Jefferson Cowie’s excellent Stayin’ Alive for more on the fortunes of labor in American politics over the course of the decade after ’68.

      • Richard

        But not in 1968 when they were very pro-Humphrey and were an essential part of getting him the nomination. The failures of ’72 stem in large part from the aftermath of the Chicago convention in ’68 and from the nomination of McGovern who, in addition to having no charisma whatsoever, ran the most disastorous presidential campaign of my lifetime(not that another Democrat would have been able to beat Nixon).

        • Incontinentia Buttocks

          Absolutely, Richard. In fact, organized labor was the only major Democratic constituency that was 100% behind Humphrey (other group’s wariness of Humphrey meant that organized labor really dominated his campaign, as Cowie himself discusses in his book).

          The other big factor in organized labor’s stance in ’72 is that Nixon, very unusually for a GOP President, actively courted labor during his first term. He correctly saw that the VN hawkishness of the AFL leadership was, in effect, the thin edge of a political wedge.

    • Scott Lemieux

      This is the same phenomenon that made Howard Dean, a fiscal conservative from Vermont, the “liberal alternative” to “compromised establishment” figures like John Kerry in 2004, when Kerry had a much stronger liberal record.


      • Incontinentia Buttocks

        McCarthy was even more the Howard Dean of ’68 by this measure, of course.

        As Rick Perlstein discusses at length in Nixonland, RFK at the end of his life became fascinated by a quasi-post-partisan vision of a “new politics,” which was in many was the progenitor of the future direction of Democratic presidential politics under Carter and Clinton, both of whom were of course substantially to the right of LBJ (and HHH and RFK v. 1968).

        (Dean, it should be said, also benefitted in liberal eyes from his healthcare and domestic partnership stands, though the latter had been effectively forced on him by his state supreme court.)

        • AR

          I think the great untold (at least to my non-academic eyes and ears) of modern American political history is the story of how the New Left became New Democrats. There is a lot out there of how conservative Democrats became Republicans and how moderate and liberal Republicans became Democrats, but the story usually leaves out what happened to the New Left and the old left. The old left ether past away, or, and this is the usually awkward fact, became fairly conservative Republicans. The New Left though, became the establishment DLC/New Democratic base of the current Democratic Party. You can even see that in the history of a lot of the founders of the whole DLC/ND movement, for example, Clinton and Gary Hart working on the McGovern campaign. Basically the Republicans became the New Right allied with the with old left and Southern Conservatives and the Democrats became the New Left allied with Rockefeller-establishment types.

          • Incontinentia Buttocks

            Pat Caddell is a kind of interesting figure in this progression. He began his career (like Clinton and Hart) on the McGovern campaign. Was kind of a boy genius on the Carter campaign and wound up being largely responsible for the Crisis of Confidence / “Malaise” Speech in 1979. Then he masterminded the ’84 Hart campaign, before essentially leaving the Democratic Party in the late ’80s and becoming a ridiculous provider of soundbites about the Democrats for Fox News for the last couple decades.

  • James E Powell

    Although Viet Nam was the dominant issue in the 1968 campaign, the question of whether RFK or a somehow liberated from LBJ Humphrey would have done in the general election comes down to whether either, or both on the same ticket, would have neutralized Wallace’s appeal. I have my doubts.

    • Scott Lemieux

      YEah, I definitely don’t think RFK would have won either, and if he did I don’t think there’s any real reason to believe his Vietnam policy would have been significantly different from Humphrey’s. (Again, Nixon ran to LBJ’s left too, and RFK’s history was at least as hawkish as Nixon’s.)

      • Incontinentia Buttocks

        Come on, Scott! Nixon’s “peace with honor” stance in ’68 is usually seen as simply cynical politics. RFK’s dovishness is seen as an honest change in his political views.

        The reason their (apparent) evolutions have been understood differently is that these were two very different men. Nixon was the ultimate political game player. RFK was the consummate political moralist (if often a self-important and arrogant one, as political moralists are wont to be).

        Unless you think that RFK’s dovishness was purely cynical or that Nixon’s war policy was entirely forced on him by events, concluding that the two of them would have pursued the war identically seems crazy to me.

        • Richard

          And I agree with you IB. RFK and Nixon would have pursued very different Vietnam approaches especially since RFK would have run a general campaign based on getting out. And I definitely think Bobby would have won the general election (although I have no facts to buttress that belief other than the elation I felt casting my first vote for Bobby in the California primary).

          • Richard

            And RFK would have had a different Vietnam strategy than Humphrey. Humphrey’ 68 campaign strategy on Vietnam was just plain incoherent. Pledging not to lose the war but then stating he would reevaluate the LBJ strategy . It reinforced the perception that he was a hack who would say anything to get elected

            • James E Powell

              Having a different strategy and having different goals would not have made the difficulties of ending the Viet Nam War disappear. There was still a substantial amount of support for the war. Although this was for some twisted, mythical idea of ‘victory,’ it was still quite potent. Nixon’s ‘peace with honor’ was a straddle that got a piece of the anti-war vote while holding onto the ‘victory’ vote.

              • Richard

                No disagreement there. It was going to be very difficult for a Democrat, even Bobby, to get out of Vietnam without being tagged with a “he lost Asia” label. But I think he would have run on that very promise and would have done it while Humphrey didn’t commit himself to anything

              • Incontinentia Buttocks

                Nixon quite actively used the War as a wedge issue during his first term (that’s what the Great Silent Majority speech in November ’69 was all about). Far from seeing the rifts over the war as a problem, Nixon saw them as a political opportunity and exploited them to the hilt.

                I agree that RFK (or HHH) would have faced a very difficult situation when dealing with Vietnam. But both would have seen divisions over the war as a bug, not a feature, and would have done what they could to try to overcome them.

              • Pseudonym

                But didn’t Nixon have a secret plan to end the war?

                • It was so secret even he didn’t know what it was.

                • e julius drivingstorm

                  Nixon’s secret must have been to stop sabotaging the Paris Peace talks as per Perlstein, Aitkean, Chennault.

        • Davis X. Machina

          Well, there are a lot of people — present company excluded, of course — who maintain that both Gore and Bush would have invaded Iraq in the wake of 9/11, especially after the wildly popular Iraq Liberation Act of ’98 and they’re not laughed out of polite society.

          So entertaining something similar vis-a-vis LBJ and RFK is not an intrinsically silly proposition….

          • Richard

            I disagree. I don’t think Gore would have been great in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 but I don’t think invading Iraq would ever have been on the table. But on RFK, he was already campaigning on an express promise to get us out of the war which Humphrey, even after he got the nomination, never did

            • James E Powell

              Why would Gore not be great in the immediate aftermath of 9/11? If a complete moron can be elevated to Our Young Churchill status, what more would we expect from some one who actually knows what he is doing?

              • Davis X. Machina

                Why would Gore not be great in the immediate aftermath of 9/11?

                He’s great if the press tells us he’s great — and after the 2000 campaign, I can’t see that happening. This is a man, we were assured, who was so feminized he was practically lactating. Not a steely-eyed rocket man, not at all.

                We live in a created world.

                • e julius drivingstorm


                  While Bush was criticized failing to grasp the intelligence of the al Qaeda threat prior to 9-11, the right would have blamed Gore for causing the disaster and would have tried to impeach him.

              • Richard

                Because you have to act the part and I don’t think Gore would have done that. But thats all speculation. He wouldn’t have got us into Iraq which is a lot more important that acting the part of the steely warrior in the immediate aftermath of the event.

            • Edward Furey

              Of course, the assumption is that 9/11 would have happened if Gore was president. Bush and his people showed complete indifference to al Qaeda (“OK, you’ve covered your ass…”) in the months leading up to 9/11. Gore would inherited the Clinton attitude, and almost certainly have ridden herd on the threat, especially when the FBI caught and was tipped by French intelligence that Moussaoui was a real bad actor weeks before the attack. One FBI agent had figured the whole thing out (This guy could fly a 747 into the World Trade Center). An alert administration might have gone on some kind of alert to precisely the attack was being planned and might have stopped it.

      • John

        Is it right to say that Nixon ran to Johnson’s left on Vietnam? Wouldn’t it be more accurate to say that he ran both to Johnson’s left and to his right on Vietnam? His “secret plan” was vague enough that hawks could see it as a secret plan for victory while doves saw it as a secret plan to get out.

    • John

      But Humphrey almost won. Kennedy, unlike McCarthy (or McGovern) was careful not to alienate party elites, so it’s hard for me to see what Humphrey voters would have refused to vote for Kennedy. But Kennedy would have also gotten much higher turnout from anti-war voters, and, based on the evidence from the primaries, arguably had some pull with northern Wallace voters. He also would have just been a much more charismatic candidate, which might have won him votes from some marginal Nixon voters (as would his lack of association with the failed Johnson presidency).

      Given how close the actual election was to a Humphrey victory, I think Kennedy very well might have won.

  • Nathan Willard

    One thing I found interesting the Ted Kennedy autobiography was his contention that JFK woud have been better about Vietnam specifically because he’d been burned so badly by Cuba. While I don’t generally run in international relations circles, that was a novel point to me that, I think, probably also played a part in Bobby’s progression. But, alas, we’ll never know.

  • partisan

    I don’t think the Dean analogy is that valid. Kennedy did have a little brother who was a comparatively liberal senator after all. Nor do I think that Kennedy’s stand on Vietnam can be compared to Nixon’s. After all in the same Nixonland he criticized South Vietnam’s undemocratic government and Nixon castigated him for aiding the enemy. As for LBJ being more progressive, that was hardly obvious on November 22, 1963. And surely LBJ hardly helped his loyal vice-president, so that he has to lose some points there.

  • Ben Hosen

    Not to blow smoke or anything, but I’ve enjoyed the posts and comments here on Caro’s LBJ work almost(?) more than I’ve enjoyed Caro’s work in the first place. Some of his blind spots were obvious even to me, but kudos Sir.

    Not to get all autobiographical, but my folks are both center-left (in their early 70s, I myself am 40). When I discovered the New Bobby in college I was a little dismayed that the ‘rents remembered no great love for him even in ’68. Of course, then I got to know the Old Bobby, Joe McCarthy’s hatchet man. The professional Hater.

    I think RFK changed, and I think by 1968 he was one of the good guys. But damn, Hubert Humphrey got a raw deal. Punchline is that I see Nixon winning by a razor’s edge in 1968 as the biggest and worst fork in the road in recent American history. Maybe I read too much Perlstein, but I think that is exactly where this last best hope for humanity started turning to instant shit.

    • James E Powell

      Maybe I read too much Perlstein, but I think that is exactly where this last best hope for humanity started turning to instant shit.

      I think many would agree. So much of what came later was set in motion during that year. And it wasn’t just Nixon being elected. His downfall obscured the trends that produced Reagan just a few years after what many regarded as a great liberal triumph.

      Just for laughs you ought to discuss these events with people your own age and see if any of them even know they occurred. I’m 57 and experienced these events in the late-teens, early adult, formative years. (I have never voted for a Republican, almost certainly because of Nixon.) I’d say less than 5% of my contemporaries have any recollection.

      • Davis X. Machina

        IIRC from Nixonland, Reagan was at least thinking of running already in ’68, and some of Nixon’s campaigning in ’67 was specifically designed to forestall a Reagan run.

        So it might just be a case of exactly when, and not whether, everything turns to shit.

        • Incontinentia Buttocks

          That’s right. After his speech for Goldwater late in the ’64 campaign (that is BEFORE he became Governor of California), Reagan began to be seen as future presidential material. One of the reasons he ran vs. Ford in ’76 is that Reagan had started preparing a presidential run much, much earlier, expecting a (post-Nixon) open GOP nomination battle in ’76.

          • James E Powell

            Reagan and the hard-core right wing money, the NAM types, were planning that campaign.

      • Ben Hosen

        Not to disrespect my contemporaries, but among even the good ones maybe 25% have any awareness of RMN or Rehnquist or what any of that meant. Lucky to find a 35-40 year old who remembers the Reagan years; younger than that it is all down the memory hole (“Democrats suck, I remember Jimmy Carter and gas lines” is about as good as that gets.)

        I don’t mean Iran-Contra— Surely you jest? No one cares about that except for Ollie North’s AM audience, and those listeners think he’s a Hero. Everyone else couldn’t be bothered to have an idea about it in 1987 much less 25 years later.

    • Andrew

      Maybe I read too much Perlstein, but I think that is exactly where this last best hope for humanity started turning to instant shit.

      And yet domestic policy under Nixon was considerably more liberal than under Carter. Only in the mid-1970s did the business community and conservative movement start its transformation into the terrifyingly effective force it is today. Hacker and Pierson say 1978 is the “turning point” for policy, if there is one.

      • Ben Hosen

        Nixon’s politics were far more extreme, hateful and divisive than his policies— his rather nonchalant take on bombing brown people for no good reason notwihstanding. I get that, but I think his politics left a far deeper scar than his policies.

        Also, juicing the economy balls-out in 1971-72 was not Keynesian so much as it was venal and self interested. Perhaps even sociopathic, shocked as I am to use that word in respect to a man buried as a Hero.

        As for Jimmy Carter? Perhaps he could have been a great peanut farmer, sadly he went into politics instead. Carter was quite the conservative president, eager to treat minorities, labor, feminists etc. as toilets whenever convenient. (Afghanistan, too. That worked out well.) His relations with a Democratic Congress that still bothered to represent those people remain legendary. How he came to be the stand in for Liberalism is beyond me.

        While RMN’s economic policies were comparatively moderate, his talent at harnessing bitterness resentment and hatred left much more of a mark than his C+ foreign policy work. In terms of political appeal, the trickster was basically Sarah Palin with a few more brain cells. Heck, this guy Hates Just Like You Do, might as well vote for him.

        You are correct in seeing that the Carter admin was when going to war (for real) against the New Deal and Great Society got traction. Took many years and many millions, but I fear the billionare Bircher craks investment might not be in vain. Guess we’ll find out.

  • firefall
  • Edward Furey

    On keeping the trade of missiles in Turkey for those in Cuba a secret, it should be noted that it wasn’t much of a secret. The withdrawal of obsolete missiles in Turkey and Italy was puiblicly announced. It was reported on the front page on the New York Times early in 1963, a few months after the missile crisis. It’s almost impossible to believe that the cognescenti of Washington failed to make the connection.

    It’s also impossible to believe that the Soviets did not know they were asking for what the U.S. was prepared to give. The Americans had broached removing those missiles in the spring and summer of 1962, but backed off when the Italian and Turkish governments objected. Diplomats are paid to know these kinds of discussions are going on, even when it doesn’t make the papers. And the Soviets had particularly contacts in Italy, with its large Communist party.

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