JFK worst 20th Century POTUS ?

#1
A bit of heresy on FP Was John F. Kennedy the flat-out absolute worst U.S. president of the 20th century? By Thomas E. Ricks
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. Then he went to a Vienna summit conference and got his clock cleaned by Khrushchev. That led to, among other things, the Cuban missile crisis and a whiff of nuclear apocalypse.

Looming over it all is the American descent into Vietnam. The assassination of Vietnam's President Diem on Kennedy's watch may have been one of the two biggest mistakes of the war there. (The other was the decision to wage a war of attrition on the unexamined assumption that Hanoi would buckle under the pain.) I don't buy the theory promulgated by Robert McNamara and others that Kennedy would have kept U.S. troops out. Sure, Kennedy wanted out of Vietnam -- just like Lyndon Johnson wanted out a few years later: We'll scale down our presence after victory is secure. And much more than Johnson, Kennedy was influenced by General Maxwell Taylor, who I suspect had been looking for a "small war" mission for the Army for several years. Indochina looked like a peachy place for that -- warmer than Korea, and farther from Russia.

(As a side note, there's another coup that JFK supported earlier in 1963: the Baathist one in Iraq that chucked out a pro-Soviet general. Events in subsequent decades obviously are not Kennedy's fault, but it still is interesting to look at the documents. Here's a State Department sitrep from, of all dates, Nov. 21, 1963: "Initial appraisal cabinet named November 20 is that it contains some moderate Baathis. Of twenty-one ministers, seven are holdovers from previous cabinet, thirteen are civilians, four are from moderate Shabib-Jawad faction of Baath (Defense -- Tikriti; Communications -- Abd al-Latif; Education -- Jawari; Health -- Mustafa) and a number of technician-type civil servants." Did you notice the name of that defense minister? I think this might have been Saddam Hussein's uncle.)

Anyway, I think his track record kind of makes even old Herbert Hoover look good.
JFK on coming into office not only OK'd the Bay of Pigs but then pulled air support at the last minute changing Langley's folly into one of their more notable mass suicide missions for dumb exiles. Things did not improve thereafter.

Oddly JFK regularly tops POTUS popularity polls in the US. To be fair, like Barry, he spoke carefully crafted speeches well but I'd rate politicians on policy not spin. I can only put it down to him having much more important American qualities: a very rich daddy, good hair, a cute wife. It helps that Oswald arranged for him leave office before things really hit the fan leading to near canonization.

Actually I think JFK is a fair bet for worst POTUS of all time. Neither Grant nor that other reckless East Coast blueblood Bush the younger came near to getting the Eastern Seaboard toasted.
 
#2
Wait until they elect Palin........though she'll win the "best looking POTUS" award, so it's not all bad.
 
#3
Afraid Palin won't give us the pleasure. Teaper Texas governor Rick Perry is Godly and gorgeous in a completely un-gay sort or way:

I worry about were that finger has been though.
 

RP578

LE
Book Reviewer
#4
A bit of heresy on FP Was John F. Kennedy the flat-out absolute worst U.S. president of the 20th century? By Thomas E. RicksJFK on coming into office not only OK'd the Bay of Pigs but then pulled air support at the last minute changing Langley's folly into one of their more notable mass suicide missions for dumb exiles. Things did not improve thereafter.

Oddly JFK regularly tops POTUS popularity polls in the US. To be fair, like Barry, he spoke carefully crafted speeches well but I'd rate politicians on policy not spin. I can only put it down to him having much more important American qualities: a very rich daddy, good hair, a cute wife. It helps that Oswald arranged for him leave office before things really hit the fan leading to near canonization.

Actually I think JFK is a fair bet for worst POTUS of all time. Neither Grant nor that other reckless East Coast blueblood Bush the younger came near to getting the Eastern Seaboard toasted.
The Whitehouse tapes during the Cuban Missile Crisis portray him as a cool head in a crisis. He may not have been the best policy maker, but I think in that instance he personally may have helped avert WW3.
 
#5
I think the current incumbent may go down in history as the US equivalent of Tony Blair. But to do so he will need a second term in office. Lets wait and see.
 
#6
The Whitehouse tapes during the Cuban Missile Crisis portray him as a cool head in a crisis. He may not have been the best policy maker, but I think in that instance he personally may have helped avert WW3.
Having done his best to provoke it.

A constant theme of his during the election was the 'mizzle (missile) gap' - supposed Soviet missile superiority. Not only was it bollocks, Kennedy knew it to be bollocks. Eisenhower, greatly concerned by the possibility of an arms race - had shown him the evidence. But, ever the politician, Kennedy knew that the evidence, being secret, wasn't known to the public. So he went straight back out and started on about the mizzle gap again.

In power, he had to set about a mizzle building programme that provoked the Soviets into one of their own. The implacable 'anti-commonism' that he made his stock-in-trade as a politician set the US on its series of proxy wars, and established half-arsed, ideologically-driven meddling as an essential feature of American foreign policy.

Kennedy was a vile creature in every way, in my view one of the great monsters of the 20th Century, not of the stature of the 'big two' (he was mediocre even in his wickedest acts), but easily able to hold his own with such second-rankers as Mao Zedong and the like.
 
#7
I don't really know much about recent US history, but I recall that the much malgned Richard Nixon was instrumental in sorting out Vietnam, and talking to China. Events which have been overlooked after Watergate. But like Anwar Sadat's visit to Israel have had far reaching consequences.

I am inclined to agree that getting topped was a good career for the Kennedy clan, would Teddy have lasted as long as he did? Overall they did seem like a bunch of chancers who made the bigtime. Although their sister Rose? didn't do so well.

As a side note, when Veronica Hamel of Hill Street Blues fame bought Marilyn Monroe's last house, during renovation all sorts of eavesdropping wiring was found in the loft.
 
#8
The Whitehouse tapes during the Cuban Missile Crisis portray him as a cool head in a crisis. He may not have been the best policy maker, but I think in that instance he personally may have helped avert WW3.
I was under the impression that it was him that nearly escalated the situation brought the world to WW3, and the Russians agreeing to pull out their weapons from Cuba on condition that the Yanks pulled theirs out from Turkey and Italy....(but forgot to tell everyone that bit) that averted WW3.
 
#9
I was under the impression that it was him that nearly escalated the situation brought the world to WW3, and the Russians agreeing to pull out their weapons from Cuba on condition that the Yanks pulled theirs out from Turkey and Italy....(but forgot to tell everyone that bit) that averted WW3.
Kennedy looked good over the Cuban Missile crisis,because he had prior knowledge of how far the Politburo was prepared to go,courtesy of Col Oleg Penkovsky.

Sadly after a very public trial Oleg Penkovsky was executed in Lubyanka Prison in Moscow on May 16, 1963,there are two schools of thought on his capture by the KGB,one that he was betrayed by George Blake,the other that he was given up by a mole in US intelligence.
 
#10
I think the current incumbent may go down in history as the US equivalent of Tony Blair. But to do so he will need a second term in office. Lets wait and see.
Fat chance of that.:nod: We're doing our level best to deny Obumbler a second term.:threaten: He'll have to settle being compared to Jimmy Carter as one of the worst Presidents our nation has ever had.

Spending Stupid.jpg
 
#12
I was under the impression that it was him that nearly escalated the situation brought the world to WW3, and the Russians agreeing to pull out their weapons from Cuba on condition that the Yanks pulled theirs out from Turkey and Italy....(but forgot to tell everyone that bit) that averted WW3.
I read recently that JFK was so ill informed that when he heard the USSR was putting short range missiles in Cuba he said something to the affect of that being an outrageous stupid provocation, why it would be like putting the US doing the same in Turkey. After a pause a cold eyed Pentagon bod patiently informed the Boston aristocrat that's exactly what Ike had done a year previously.

That great spinner of pro-JFK tales Bob McNamara said the US's confident brinksmanship was based on there being no warheads on the missiles and nobody being mad enough to launch. Twenty years later a Cuban scared the shite out of him when he revealed they'd been wrong on both counts. Any hint of invasion Castro would have seized the missiles and launched.

As does happen in affairs of state empty headed cool got lucky.

People who babble confidently about deterrence working really should really examine the white knuckle rides of Cold War nuclear diplomacy more carefully. Resembles chess less than a drunken game of Russian roulette.
 
#13
"Jack got whacked" James Ellroy has a interesting take on the whole Camalot POV.

As for the worst President, there one who stayed in his bed until 11am daily?
 
#14
Fat chance of that.:nod: We're doing our level best to deny Obumbler a second term.:threaten: He'll have to settle being compared to Jimmy Carter as one of the worst Presidents our nation has ever had.
...
Bit of cultural awareness training needed here. Comparing Barry to Mr Tony is the Arse equivalent of declaring him the antichrist state side. There is no pit of Hell etc, etc.
 
#15
Bit of cultural awareness training needed here. Comparing Barry to Mr Tony is the Arse equivalent of declaring him the antichrist state side. There is no pit of Hell etc, etc.
I didn't think it was meant as a compliment, but thanks for the clarification. I've already seen enough of Mr. Barry Soetaro and it's time for him to shuffle off the world stage and go help Jimmy Carter build homes for the poor class which they both did so much when they were presidents to create.

White House Bad.jpg
 
#16
Sadly, Vietnam was something that Truman saddled us with. OSS operatives met with Ho during the war, promised him independence after their fight vs. the Japanese. After the war, the French demanded US recognition of their sovereignty over VN, and we gave that to them, double-crossing Ho. What a deal that was, we lose 50,000 Americans in a war 15 years later, and the French pull their "I'm taking my ball and going home" stunt anyway.
 
#17
Not his biggest fan. Always thought of LBJ as the visionary and the worker but don't be to hard on JFK he did have a thyroid problem and that does make you do a mussolini sometimes especially the type he had.
 
#18
Sadly, Vietnam was something that Truman saddled us with. OSS operatives met with Ho during the war, promised him independence after their fight vs. the Japanese. After the war, the French demanded US recognition of their sovereignty over VN, and we gave that to them, double-crossing Ho. What a deal that was, we lose 50,000 Americans in a war 15 years later, and the French pull their "I'm taking my ball and going home" stunt anyway.
You are not wrong.

However the French union did leave 75K dead behind in Vietnam, not all of them North African. Far more proportionally than the much trumpeted sacrificial US wastage. Despite the support of Congress the French under financed war only managed to kill about half a million natives, about a quarter of what was to come.

You'd hardly know it, it is the genocidal war over Algérie française which looms rather larger in the French imagination. Foreign wars that led to the fall of The Republic, multiple presidential assassination attempts, near coups and lasting terrorism by the nations much abused shock troops and are something the US has mercifully, so far, been spared.

US domestic trauma is rather slight in comparison, it mostly consisted angry draft shy hippies getting a face on followed by decades of inane culture warfare and awful weepy liberal reconciliation movies.
 
#19
Sadly, Vietnam was something that Truman saddled us with. OSS operatives met with Ho during the war, promised him independence after their fight vs. the Japanese. After the war, the French demanded US recognition of their sovereignty over VN, and we gave that to them, double-crossing Ho. What a deal that was, we lose 50,000 Americans in a war 15 years later, and the French pull their "I'm taking my ball and going home" stunt anyway.
It was all about shoring up continental Europe at a time when the prospect of a communist France and Italy was a distinct possibility. It was fairly easy to rig elections in the chaos of Italy, it was decided that France could be bought off by persuading the French they still mattered on the world stage. The easiest way to do that: give them back their empire.
 
#20
What about some of the earlier 20th Century Presidents such as Taft, Harding, Coolidge & Hoover? How do they measure up in comparison to JFK? They were all single term Presidents and Hoover was in office at the time of the original Wall St crash.
 

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