Last week in the New York Times JFK speechwriter and adviser Ted Sorensen commemorated the 50th anniversary of the Kennedy/Nixon debates. “When Kennedy Met Nixon: The Real Story,” reads the op-ed’s title.
Turns out, however, that the “real story” as “revealed” by Sorensen is identical to the one filtered through the MSM for the past fifty years: Kennedy, we’re given to understand, trounced Nixon—and not just in style—mainly in substance. Sorensen also laments what “now passes for political debate in our increasingly commercialized, sound-biteTwitter-fied culture, in which extremist rhetoric requires presidents to respond to outrageous claims.”
Nothing of the sort, we’re given to understand, marred those heady and substantive debates of yore. Take Kennedy’s claim that President Eisenhower had fallen asleep (or gone golfing) during his command and allowed a perilous “missile gap” to grow between the U.S. and the Soviets. In fact a huge gap had grown (roughly six thousand for us, three hundred for the Soviets)
Might this qualify as an “outrageous claim” by Kennedy? Not if your source is Ted Sorensen and the New York Times. In fact, prior to the debates, CIA director Allen Dulles had briefed Kennedy on the genuine missile numbers. But rather than respond to this genuinely outrageous claim, Nixon bit his tongue. Disclosing the real number (that JFK knew perfectly well) in public would alert the Soviets to how we got their number, and jeopardize U.S. national security. Which is to say, to blindside his Republican opponent Kennedy relied on that opponent's patriotism. Let's face it, Republicans are at a woeful disadvantage here.
"The Republicans have allowed a communist dictatorship to flourish eight jet minutes from our borders!” Kennedy charged during the second debate. “We must support anti-Castro fighters. So far these freedom fighters have received no help from our government." Here again JFK’s “extremist rhetoric,” was a pre-meditated lie. Unlike the John Lovitz character on "Saturday Night Live," JFK lied expertly, with a straight face.
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