Sure, Caroline spoke at the Democrat convention last month, following her presidential appointment to the Kennedy Center board of trustees a few weeks before. But there have also been rumors of a measure of Camelot creep—growing disaffection with Mr. Obama and how he has handled the job.
Image and spin aside, while President Obama has clearly not followed President Kennedy’s fiscally conservative approach on things like budgets and taxes, he has actually mirrored the 35th president’s learning curve in the area of foreign policy—with one difference. After several missteps, Mr. Kennedy finally decided to draw what we would call today a “red line.”
And he meant it, even though it was somewhat a case of too little, too late.
Fast-forward five decades—another October, another rogue nation (Iran), and the potential for many more missiles. Also, there is a lot of huffing and puffing about red lines. Have we learned the real lesson of October 1962?
What is often overlooked these days as we look back at the Kennedy presidency is that the red line over missiles in Cuba never should have had to be drawn in the first place. In a very real sense, a pattern of weakness on the part of JFK helped to create an irresistible temptation for Nikita Khrushchev—one that convinced the Soviet strong man that he could deploy offensive nuclear weapons just 90 miles from the United States.
Despots—crazed or otherwise, tend only to take red lines seriously if they are drawn in blood. They assume all others to be erasable and ignorable.
Fifty years ago, the world came very close to blowing up. That epic nuclear standoff between the United States and the Soviet Union brought us “eyeball to eyeball” with the unthinkable. One historian wrote that we were “one minute to midnight.” It was east vs. west, communism vs. capitalism, collectivism vs. freedom, and most of all—John F. Kennedy vs. Nikita Khrushchev.
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