Since 1963 Theodore C. Sorensen has been subsisting on his eight-year career as a ghostwriter for John F. Kennedy, and faithful readers of the New York Times have come to rely on his periodic contributions to the editorial pages during the past 47 years. Here Sorensen has repeated, with emphasis, his simple, three-part formula for understanding modern American history:
His latest essay—'When Kennedy Met Nixon: The Real Story' (Sept 26) about the 1960 presidential debates—follows Sorensen's usual pattern of retelling events as he would like them to be remembered, and as such things go, it is one of his less offensive pronouncements. While maintaining his standard posture that John F. Kennedy was a man of uncommon intelligence, charm, grace, wisdom, and magnetism, he is more contemptuous of Richard Nixon this time than abusive. Indeed, all goes relatively well until the last two sentences:
Though it seemed at the time to be a battle between two opposing worldviews, the truth is that the two candidates did not vastly differ in that first debate. And while Kennedy would probably find a home in today's Democratic Party, it is unlikely that Nixon would receive a warm welcome among the Tea Party.
Oh? The Richard Nixon of 1960 may or may not get a friendly reception from the Tea Party of 2010—however that is defined—but is Sorensen serious when he suggests that the John Kennedy of 1960 "would probably find a home" in the party of Eric Holder, DailyKos, Keith Olbermann, MoveOn.org, Barbara Boxer, and Alan Grayson?
Kennedy, who abstained from the Senate's 1954 vote of censure against Joseph McCarthy, ran against Nixon on a mythical "missile gap" between the United States and the Soviet Union, complained that the Eisenhower administration had "lost" Cuba to the communists and was inadequately defending Chiang Kai-shek's Formosa against Red China. As president he was decidedly lukewarm in his support of the civil rights movement—much to the consternation of most activists—and not only sponsored a bigger tax cut than the Eisenhower White House ever contemplated, but retained J. Edgar Hoover as director of the FBI, sent thousands of military "advisers" into South Vietnam and Laos, furnished material support for a premeditated invasion of Cuba, and appointed Gen. Curtis LeMay as Air Force chief of staff.
What Ted Sorensen's boss would have thought of gay marriage, cap-and-trade, racial quotas, Bill Ayers, and nationalizing General Motors, we can only speculate.