In John Kerry's statement on President Obama's Cuba policy changes, the secretary of state doesn't simply suggest the policies in place for five and a half decades are outdated. He seems to be suggesting they were a failure from the start. And in doing so, he apparently misstates his own age at the time President Kennedy made one of the most well known presidential addresses in our nation's history, and certainly the most notable regarding Cuba.
Kerry's remarks, released by the State Department on Wednesday, begin as follows:
I was a seventeen year old kid watching on a black and white television set when I first heard an American President talk of Cuba as an "imprisoned island.”
For five and a half decades since, our policy toward Cuba has remained virtually frozen, and done little to promote a prosperous, democratic and stable Cuba. Not only has this policy failed to advance America's goals, it has actually isolated the United States instead of isolating Cuba.
Originally, a limited embargo against Cuba was instituted toward the end of the Eisenhower administration. However, John F. Kennedy broke off diplomatic relations with the island nation in 1961; then he issued Proclamation 3447 in February 1962 (authorized by the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961), which extended the embargo to all trade with Cuba. However, with minor adjustments now and then, both Republican and Democratic presidents in the interim have kept the embargo in place and have declined to renew diplomatic relations.
Rather than paint Cuba policy and the embargo as having outlived their usefulness, however, Kerry says that the policy "has remained virtually frozen" for "five and a half decades" and has "failed to advance America's goals." He even goes so far as to say that the policy worked in reverse and "actually isolated the United States instead of isolating Cuba." Kerry's remarks closely mirror those of President Obama, who lays out his new approach by making the case that the last half century has witnessed a "Failed Approach," because "today, as in 1961, Cuba is governed by the Castros and the Communist party."
In recalling the early days of U.S. policy toward Castro's Cuba, however, Kerry seems to confuse the timing of events surrounding the formation of that policy. When Kerry says he "heard an American President talk of Cuba as an 'imprisoned island,'" he's referring to President Kennedy's speech on October 22, 1962 revealing what would come to be known as the Cuban Missile Crisis. In the televised address, Kennedy said [emphasis added]:
This Government, as promised, has maintained the closest surveillance of the Soviet military buildup on the island of Cuba. Within the past week, unmistakable evidence has established the fact that a series of offensive missile sites is now in preparation on that imprisoned island. The purpose of these bases can be none other than to provide a nuclear strike capability against the Western Hemisphere.
Kerry says he was a "seventeen year old kid watching on a black and white television set" as Kennedy addressed the nation. Kerry, however, was born on December 11, 1943, which would have made him eighteen, less than two months shy of his nineteenth birthday. The State Department did not respond to a request for clarification on Kerry's recollection, and as of this writing, the statement on the website remains unchanged.
This isn’t going to be a good week for me. Friday will mark the 50th anniversary of the death in Dallas of President John F. Kennedy, and between now and then I expect a complete media blitz—make that a blitzkrieg—of stories, films, docudramas, book reviews, and counterfactual explorations about the event and, by extension, about all that the nation lost with the death of the brilliant but ill-fated president. Dallas policemen, such media duffers as Bob Schieffer and Jim Lehrer, Lee Harvey Oswald’s dentist, Jack Ruby’s rabbi, everyone still alive who has any memory of or connection with the assassination will be called upon to cough up his driblet of information.
Reading this provocative and compelling analysis of John F. Kennedy’s political vision, I could not help but think of the reaction Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. had when his colleague John P. Diggins told him he was writing a book favorable to Ronald Reagan’s presidency. “Please,” Schlesinger said, “don’t make him look too good.” If Schlesinger were still alive and able to read Stoll’s new account, he would undoubtedly turn purple. One thing is certain: Ira Stoll’s Kennedy is not the same as Arthur Schlesinger’s.
The fiftieth anniversary of the assassination of President Kennedy is nearly upon us, so one would expect America's public intellectuals to be gearing up to present a series of sober and illuminating reflections about the tragedy's cultural and political legacy.
Of course, that's not going to happen. Any misty-eyed resonance that can be wrung out of JFK's death is already being exploited by our elite media gatekeepers to advance a political agenda.
During last night’s debate, Mitt Romney responded to Newt Gingrich’s proposal that America establish a lunar colony by the end of the decade by saying that if someone presented him with that proposal, “I’d say, ‘You’re fired.’” While one might think Romney justified in firing someone who pitched Gingrich’s specific proposal, Romney gave the distinct impression that he also might have fired John F. Kennedy back in 1962.
Writing in USA Today, Neil Armstrong, Gene Cernan, and Jim Lovell —the first and last men on the moon, and the commanders of Apollo 11, 17, and 13 — highlight another example of President Obama’s lack of faith in American exceptionalism. In a piece entitled, “Is Obama Grounding JFK’s Space Legacy?” the three astronauts (now 80, 77, and 83 years old) write:
For the now aging partisans of Camelot, November is a month of anniversaries. It was 50 years ago last week when John F. Kennedy was elected to the presidency as the sophisticated champion of the new liberalism. And it was 47 years ago next week that the dreams of Camelot were cruelly snuffed out on the streets of Dallas.
The Royal Navy’s blockade of Napoleon, most famously led by Lord Nelson, protected England from invasion and laid the groundwork for the liberation of Europe. Lincoln’s blockade of the South helped win the Civil War, preserve the Union, and end slavery. John Kennedy’s blockade of Cuba forced Khrushchev to withdraw nuclear weapons from that island and contributed to the eventual successful outcome of the Cold War.
The sunlit season of college commencement has been darkened this year with news of plagiarism. The school paper at Connecticut College, the College Voice, reported last month that one of the speakers at last year’s commencement, a graduating senior called Peter St. John, wowed his audience with a speech that had been lifted paragraph by paragraph from another commencement address given at Duke in 2008 by the writer Barbara Kingsolver.
It wasn't until mid-December that Scott Brown's campaign team knew for certain they had a chance. An internal poll showed intense interest in the race to fill Ted Kennedy's Senate seat. And the more interested a voter was, the more likely he was to support Scott Brown. The campaign then made the bold decision to cut this ad:
There was worry inside the Brown campaign that the public might react negatively to the outright comparison of Brown to Kennedy. That didn't happen. The ad was electric. It was the first in a series of bold moves and lucky accidents that culminated in Brown's incredible upset victory on January 19.