Viet Nam Part 4: John Kennedy, Playing in the Sandbox

Viet Nam
Part 4: John Kennedy, Playing in the Sandbox
by Robert L. Kocher
For many of us the Kennedy presidency came at the time when we were in the prime of youth. I will always look back upon that period with great fondness for I was in my 20s and would be invincible forever. Kennedy’s death happened to occur at a time when we were scheduled to make the transition out of our youth. There has been an unconscious tendency for many people to idealize the period, to blame Kennedy’s death as having been the cause of that transition to adulthood, and to suppose if Kennedy had remained president we somehow would not have had to leave our young world as it existed at that time. There was also an unconscious tendency to make Republican presidential candidate Goldwater, and to a lesser extent Lyndon Johnson, the target of unconscious resentment over loss of our youth. This muddled, and still muddles, the conception of the politics and events of that period.

But, when Bobby Kennedy was running for the presidency, his supporters began to make what was for them a horrifying observation. Bobby was beginning to develop gray hair and look older. It had to happen–to all of us.

For many of us the world would never be the same after John Kennedy died. What doesn’t seem to be understood and accepted is that the world would still never have been the same if he had lived. Time marches on. Several years ago, upon returning to the town where I spent my teenage years, I was saddened to find the old hamburger drive-in that had been the teen meeting place for many years, and had the memories of what had once been twenty thousand high school kids invested in it, was gone and replaced with a shopping center parking lot. It wasn’t gone because of Kennedy’s death or Viet Nam. It was gone because that’s the way life is. It’s part of the sadness of growing older.

It was the end of picnics on the beach and picking up dates at the girl’s dorm. It was the beginning of the time when some of us would make the personal mistakes that would mean the end of our dreams and innocence.

Kennedy’s death became a spiritual marker for many of us. It happened to accidentally coincide with the passage of a period we will forever look back upon with longing. However, it is a mistake to let one’s longing for the period be confused with a belief in the Kennedy Presidency. Many people confuse the two.

Many members of the Kennedy administration are still around and continue to write books idealizing Camelot. For many of them association with the Kennedy period will have been the only significant event in their life, and in magnifying Kennedy they magnify their own significance. The Kennedy public relations corps, living in its idealized memories, as well as its political commitment, continues to be active. It plays into a wishfulness and nostalgia.

For this, and other reasons, there are people who will continue to view Kennedy as a god until their final moments and nothing will change it. It has become a sacrilege to view Kennedy realistically. In the media and the bastions of liberalism, criticism of the Kennedys evokes postures of melodramatic horror which induces panic within the suggestible segment of the public.

The Reality of the Kennedy Presidency

Kids, we can survive the supposed horror and it is about time we did. It’s a necessity to understand the Viet Nam war–and a great many other things.

I an aware that the recent book by Seymour Hersh and several other books preceding have documented ugly aspects of Jack Kennedy’s personal life. Little in the way of concrete events will be added here. It is not my intent to cash in on what has been said by repeating it for reader titillation. My concern, here, is that reasonable interpretation of what is known points to a condition of the presidency that was far more serious than even these highly critical investigators are inclined to conclude. Their interest was one of investigating and cataloging, not inference. The interest here is the condition of the presidency and its impact on foreign policy, including the war.

To paraphrase a series of catchy lines started by Lloyd Bentsen in the 1988 presidential debates: I remember John Kennedy and believe me, John Kennedy was no John Kennedy. The idealization of John Kennedy has had a stranglehold on this country for more than thirty-five years.

My political involvement began during the Nixon-Kennedy debates. As might be imagined, I was much younger then. I was a college student. Until the Nixon-Kennedy debate, I had no interest in politics. My political conversion came as Kennedy was speaking. The other guy sitting watching Kennedy frowned, looked at me, and said, “Why he isn’t saying a damned thing!” There was no disagreement from me. It was a simultaneous observation. We were young, but we had our eyes open and were smart enough to see what was taking place. We could see Kennedy was attempting to deceive and use us and the American people. We knew what Kennedy was and exactly what was going on. Kennedy was transparent. We were insulted, disgusted, and angry. His debate performance was highly insulting.

I didn’t know who Joe Kennedy (John’s father) was in 1960. I didn’t know how Landslide Lyndon Johnson got into office. I didn’t know the history of the political manipulations of the previous 20 years. But, I knew what I was seeing. What I saw was a lack of integrity. I would have been too ashamed and embarrassed to have said what Kennedy said in front of people. He had neither shame nor respect for people in the country. Either that or he wasn’t very bright, or all of the above. One way or another, my evaluation of John Kennedy was that he was slick, shallow, devoid of integrity, and dangerous.

In cartoons we see people portrayed with eyes slanting downward toward the side for sadness, upward for happiness or exhilaration, etc. The evil witch has a hooked nose with warts. Those of us who by genetic accident are born with various physical shapes have characteristics attributed to us according to what those shapes typically are associated as expressing. I recently read a psychological study of physical appearance versus court criminal sentences. Women get five and one-half years less sentence than a man for the same crime. Ugly people are more apt to get convicted and serve more time. Attractive looking people were judged trustworthy in their denial of having committed crimes. If your outside looks a certain way, people will fanaticize you an inside that fits with it, regardless of what you really are inside.

Richard Nixon, with his jowls and unusual nose, would always be forgiven nothing.

Teflon Physiognomy

It is difficult to look at pictures of John Kennedy and believe what all objective evidence proves he was. John F. Kennedy was genetically conferred with a physical appearance, along with a veneer of charm, that for some people was as instantly addictive as heroin and produced blindness. Those who were susceptible, and there were many, would meet or take one look at Kennedy, and then, in a thirty-second period, be mesmerized or become willing slobbering lackeys for the rest of their lives without ever really knowing anything about him. People he barely knew, and who barely knew him, would compromise all law and ethics in his service. No lie became too big to believe or cover for. The most illegal of acts would be hidden and forgiven. The most egregious acts of incompetence would undergo contorted interpretations until they were made to appear triumphs. John Kennedy would be protected by the teflon of blind adoration. Marvelous capacities and characteristics were attributed to Kennedy by the addicted. Few of these capacities and characteristics existed.

It was said, for example, and is still maintained by his followers, that John Kennedy could read at the incredible rate of up to 10,000 words a minute. [1] Kennedy did not discourage that belief. However, in the real world, to read at that rate with comprehension would get a college freshman a doctorate in mathematics or physics within a week. I’ve associated with some very brilliant minds, but I don’t know of anybody who has ever come remotely close to doing that in two years. Yet, people would look at Kennedy and believe he had such capacity without qualification. They would be offended that anyone would challenge it.

Such charisma, as it came to be known, can be a magnetic force enabling moral leadership. When accompanied by immorality or incompetence, it can be the Pied Piper of corruption and destruction.

The Kennedy period was marked by superficial attractive style. The Kennedy period, in the event of restoration of sanity in this culture, will also eventually go down in history as a bizarre administration which introduced large scale pathology into the government and culture of this country. It was without any doubt the most corrupt and pathological presidency in American history. Some people were, and are, entranced by the style above all else. Others see the pathology and corruption.

Jack Kennedy became president after one of the closest elections in history, accumulating what was recorded as 49.7 percent of the popular vote. The entire presidential election outcome hinged on a few thousand votes in key places. There is very strong evidence to support the serious contention Kennedy was never elected, but that the election was stolen from Nixon by a coalition of Kennedy operations that falsified and overturned the presidential election.

The book, The Dark Side of Camelot, by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Seymour Hersh documents how organized crime figures, played a key role in Kennedy’s winning the 1960 election by rigging ballots in six critical states.

The Hersh book, published in November 1997, has been subjected to shrill accusations and denunciations by Kennedy supporters trying to institute damage control. There are attempts to discredit the book by quarreling with marginal issues about how much money went where. Such attempts at diversion are not the substance of the issue. During the storm raised by the book’s publication, several pieces appeared in the November 17, 1997 issue of Time. In the Richard Lacayo piece, “Smashing Camelot” the following appears:

And although historians like Arthur Schlesinger Jr., who was a member of Kennedy’s inner circle, insist that it is “an exercise in political fantasy,” Hersh helps elaborate stories that Chicago Mob leader Giancana helped deliver Illinois to the Democrats in 1960. He says the support came largely by getting out the vote among the rank-and-file in Mob-controlled unions and through “campaign contributions from the corrupt Teamsters Union pension fund.” G. Robert Blakey, a Mafia expert and former federal prosecutor, confirmed to Time what he told Hersh–that FBI bugs picked up Mob conversations about the deal. “The substance of it was that money went to the campaign through [Joe Kennedy],” says Blakey. “There was an expectation [by the mobsters] that life would be better because of it.”

Buying Votes and Sundries

The Time piece opens with a scene in which John Kennedy, at a private dinner party for three, not including his wife, is casually sending a bag containing somewhere in the order of $250,000 to Giancana through Kennedy’s girlfriend and courier, Judith Campbell, in April of 1960. Where the money went, how many times it happened, and who was bought, will never be fully known.

Quibbling about how much money went where does not dismiss intent and basic criminality. A prospective president has no business being involved with any of it. From the standpoint of morality and ethics, from the standpoint of intentional subversion of the American electoral and governmental process, if part of it is true, then it’s all true. It is hard to deny wiretapped evidence. Arguing over the fine points of exactly how much was got away with, and in what places, is thinly disguised continuing collusion and little more than obstruction of justice. It’s worth noting that a seriously criminal situation, or at least a very serious breach of ethics (which any honorable citizen should have reported in the national interest, and should have even avoided serious complicity in) has taken years to extract from people who were in public positions of power.

The Kennedys had an intense personal distaste for Lyndon Johnson, who they would treat with unconcealed contempt after the presidential election. Johnson and Jack Kennedy hated each other. Johnson, never at a loss for rustic use of words, referred to Kennedy as a piss-ant with the rickets in ridiculing Kennedy’s sickly physical stature and expressing his absolute disgust with Kennedy. However, the Kennedys also knew Lyndon Johnson could deliver endless numbers of ballots mysteriously written in alphabetical order with the same pens and handwriting. It is undisputed historical fact that Lyndon Johnson

was elected to congress through ill-concealed vote fraud, earning him the sarcastic title “Landslide Lyndon.” In the world of bawdy, corrupt Texas politics of the period, that was considered sharp maneuvering and earned him respect. Jack Kennedy needed that kind of respect to get elected. That required Lyndon Johnson be on the ticket. That united two of the most corrupt and psychopathic forces in American national politics.

Concurrently, Mayor Richard Daley of Chicago, the last of the old style Democratic political bosses, had massive, and that means massive, vote fraud at his command. In Cook county people could rise from the dead after twenty years to vote Democratic. Others could vote five or six times. In a close election, Mayor Daley could deliver the state of Illinois, and its electoral votes, in any direction he wished. Mayor Daley and the Cook County machine, by itself, could determine the presidency with what was then referred to as “a little help from some friends”. Along with help from the mob, Johnson and Daley together would be far more than enough to falsify and overturn the presidential election and install Kennedy into office. While there was, and is to this day, public denial that this happened, there was private chuckling and congratulation while a helpless Richard Nixon could only sputter and lapse into depression.

There are indications there may have been substantial manipulations in other states. The entire truth may never be known because too many of the people involved are dying or dead.

If people in this country had known anything about the real Jack Kennedy, he most certainly would not have been elected. A book some years back idolizing Kennedy was entitled Johnny, We Hardly Knew Ye . The title was correct. Most people hardly knew anything about Kennedy. If they had, they would have been in for a shock.

Public Charm, Private Ambition

Jack Kennedy was a man of public charm, but of private ambition combined with shallowness and emptiness. The Kennedys could be ruthless and indifferent to moral and ethical principle, and often were. Disregard for morality or principle is casual and without hesitation or introspection. Morality, depth, and intelligence simply do not run in the Kennedy family. Probably the only person with the last name Kennedy that was worth a damn was Ted’s wife, Joan Kennedy, who was known to be an intelligent, cultivated, and sensitive woman. The rest of that crowd drove her to alcoholism and almost killed her with their shallow trashiness. There was no hope or support for her anywhere in that family because each one of them was as shallow and trashy as the next one. As the only human being of quality in the family, she was isolated and so completely out of place that it nearly destroyed her.

Jack Kennedy had begun to position himself, or be positioned, for the presidency with the guidance and financial support of his father as early as 1939. He was being slickly packaged at that time.

Jack Kennedy’s eyes had been poor since the early 1930’s requiring him to use glasses. He would not be seen in public wearing glasses, nor would he allow pictures to be taken of him wearing glasses. Most of Jack Kennedy was a carefully managed superficial image.

The image of Jack Kennedy as a model of youthful strength playing football like a college sophomore was a public relations creation. Kennedy’s personal health was poor from birth. He was a frail man. As an adult, he weighed as little as an incredible 125 pounds. Kennedy was six feet tall. His weight was typically 140 to 150 pounds during much of his adulthood. Serious physical contact of any kind during an athletic competition would break Kennedy in half and send him to a hospital. Hard running for any distance would jar his body to pieces. During periods of his twenties and thirties it was painful for him even to drive an automobile. Chronic medication was required to bloat his weight up to the attractive levels later seen in public. His body and bone structure could not tolerate the weight and he wore corsets to support himself. This gave him a strait rigidity of stance noticeable in pictures. Occasional incorrect doses of the cortisone necessary to keep him going would produce bloating of the face and slight eye protuberance. The serious extent of Kennedy’s physical condition was kept hidden.

There is nothing morally wrong with physical illness. The point is the vast difference between the manufactured image people associate with Kennedy, and the reality.

Kennedy men show a persistent pattern of using women, but do not have interest or capability for developing relationships of depth or duration with women. They marry women, often very beautiful women, but continue active promiscuous single life styles with indifference to the affect it has on their wives or marriages. Jack Kennedy was no exception. The marriage between Jackie and Jack was a façade behind which there was great coldness and bitterness. Jack and Jackie posed cosmetically in public, but didn’t like each other very much in private–for very good reason.

Jack and Jackie

Jackie came from a background of social aristocracy, a world where people could trace their ancestors back ten or twenty generations. It was a necessity for many of them to trace their ancestry back a hundred or more years in order to find someone who had done anything. It is a world of guarded social order and social status. Preservation of artificial social status is all most inhabitants of that world have going for them. Snobbery, bloated social position, and talk about ancestry is all that stands between them and the single remaining naked distinction of being some of the most useless people on earth. Within that world, Jacqueline Bouvier, who was mostly Irish, would encourage the impression that she was French.

Jackie, an attractive looking and somewhat shallow woman of social elegance, had been involved with several men but discarded them because they weren’t spectacularly rich, and she considered money, enormous amounts of it, of primary importance as a qualification for someone to marry her. That’s not the best basis in the world on which to found a marriage. The Kennedys were one of the richest families in the country. The Kennedys wanted an aristocratic-looking showpiece to adorn their political ambitions. A marriage contract of mutual convenience was made between two photogenic people, neither of whom had much emotional depth.

As has been pointed out in recent books, there was mutual hostility from the start. Even during their first year of marriage, Jack was openly involved with numerous other women. When Jackie was eight months pregnant with a difficult pregnancy, after already having had one miscarriage, Jack was on a yacht in the Mediterranean with other women while Jackie nearly died during an emergency caesarean to deliver a stillborn baby. Jack was coaxed into returning home three days later. Public relations teams smoothed over the event by claiming it was impossible to reach Jack on the yacht. But what man would leave for a yacht on the Mediterranean knowing his wife was seriously ill in America? Jack Kennedy was a man without conscience and without concern about anything but personal ambition and passing amusement. Jackie Kennedy was a very bitter woman in her private life. The Camelot marriage never existed. Camelot never existed.

Kennedy was a shallow man of coarse taste and morality. He would jump two, three, or more women a day. One that he toyed with for some period was reputed Mafia boss Sam Giancana’s girlfriend. Sam helped organize the mob to work for Kennedy’s election.

“Mr. President, your hooker is here”

According to the Hersh book, and since confirmed elsewhere, Kennedy engaged in sex with call girls brought to the White House. It has since been openly confirmed by at least one FBI or Secret Service agent on national TV. The women were threatened with commitment to insane asylums if they spoke of what happened. The threat was probably unnecessary because the truth was so unbelievable that nobody would have believed it, and the women would have been considered certifiably delusional had they spoken it at the time.

This is the same John F. Kennedy that has worshippers naming schools, cultural centers, and everything else after him. This is very serious stuff. The problem with writing the truth about Jack Kennedy and the people surrounding him is that the reality is so unbelievable that speaking the truth makes one sound crazy.

Kennedy and the Kennedy administration have been protected by the unbelievability of their reality. The events of the period read like a bizarre movie plot written by a hallucinogenic mind. Behind the photogenic mask, Jack Kennedy, and some of those around him, had mentalities so pathological as to be inconceivable to normal healthy human beings.

If he were to walk into a psychiatrist’s office, John Kennedy was what would probably be diagnosed as a narcissistic or psychopathic personality. Such people don’t generally present themselves for treatment because they experience little amount of emotional pain that ordinarily motivates seeking help. In most cases their exploitation of others and flawless mask of charm sends other people to psychiatrist’s offices and a psychoanalyst will need to spend hours trying to explain to the unbelieving patient how the patient was involved with a psychopath–now revised in much of the diagnostic literature as a “sociopathic” personality.

To say psychopaths do not seek treatment is not completely correct. They do not seek treatment in the sense of being motivated by remorse or conscience. They may seek treatment or wind up in treatment when they get caught or get in trouble. John Kennedy probably would have wound up in serious trouble with the law and otherwise. The Kennedy millions and the charm which brought the willingness of others to cover for him or do the actual dirty work kept Kennedy’s tail out of the screen door.

For years, there had been suspicions that Kennedy had been married in 1947 and that operatives got Kennedy out of it by expunging it from Florida legal records. This was steadfastly denied for years. Investigation coordinate with the Time article found confirmation from Charles Spalding, a Kennedy operative in the cover-up, that the marriage did in fact occur. Apparently, Kennedy simply acted as if he had never become married and left after a brief period. Spalding referred to the marriage as a “childish scamp.” But Kennedy was approaching thirty years old and was what should have been a mature man at the time. His days of being a college sophomore and childish scamps should have long been over. This was one of a series of incidences in which Kennedy showed no judgement or ethics, but people covered his trail, or tail. In this case, his later marriage to Jackie was bigamy.

Each of these escapades contributed to the belief that he could get away with more. It came to the point where he felt omnipotent or invincible to outside morality or rules. There were absolutely no limits to his behavior. In practicality, this invincibility turned out to be true. He never experienced any serious consequences, and felt above the reach of law, ethics, or morality.

Fun and Games

The problem was, everything was a childish scamp to Kennedy, and always would be, including running for the presidency and the presidency itself. There was never the seriousness that a mature man of stature should have.

It is a family trait. Brother Ted was was caught cheating in college, was involved in the death of a young woman, and has been involved in scandal after scandal which would ordinarily have resulted in legal prosecution, loss of reputation, or imposition of other penalties. Bobby was involved in various liaisons and possible felonies. Among the younger generation, one was in trouble for involvement with a his kid’s teenage baby sitter, while another has had his marriage annulled (annulled?) after years of marriage and two children. And so forth on a rap sheet two feet long that makes the name Kennedy the country’s elite crime family. Yet, they all seem to exercise a hypnotic effect on the public, on legal authorities, on church authorities, on the media, and on those around them, such that they escape reasonable consequences and retain public and media adoration.

As a partial summation, and as something to think about in reading further, the Hersh book raised storms of protest, the Reeves essay, to be mentioned in a minute, raised storms of protest; and Reeves was a Kennedy supporter. Half of what has been said in these books is far too well documented and confirmed to dispute. Arguing the other half to be in possible error makes very little difference in refuting the overwhelming evidence of absolute absence of character in this group of people, and John Kennedy in particular. The question we should begin asking ourselves is, how is it possible to find minds confused or sick enough, and what kind of country have we become, that there is any attempt to defend these people, including John Kennedy, in any way whatsoever?

In front of me are several psychiatric texts on borderline/ psychopathic/narcissistic personality types. In them are descriptions of patients showing poor judgment, emotional shallowness, lack of enduring close interpersonal relationships of any depth. Some such personalities are quite successful in entertainment and the performing arts. (Isn’t politics a performing art?) Of particular interest is that a detailed examination of their work shows a lack of depth and content. John Kennedy could perform superficially, but showed no depth or content. He would be dismissed as completely superficial by the mature serious critical eye.

The Thomas C. Reeves book, A Question of Character, A Life of John F. Kennedy, may be the definitive work on Jack Kennedy, and should be required reading for any education in American history and politics. Reeves describes the writing of an undergraduate thesis, and its publication as Kennedy’s first book. After a whirlwind tour of Europe, Kennedy, a marginal and uncreative student, returned to Harvard and decided to write a paper on international politics. He did so with considerable help from other people. Faculty readers accepted it and awarded Kennedy Magna Cum Laude standing in spite of reservations about poor writing and faulty analysis. How someone receives Magna Cum Laude for poor writing and faulty analysis is an interesting exercise in application of high intellectual standards.

Two professional writers were found by Kennedy’s father to help young Kennedy turn the thing, which was a mess, (my term, not Reeves’s) into a book. Winston Churchill had just written While England Slept. In an attempt to play off Churchill, Kennedy’s book would be called Why England Slept. After its publication, according to Reeves:

The ambassador (Kennedy’s father) sent copies to Prime Minister Churchill and Harold Laski. Laski’s response was brutally frank:

“For while it is a book of a lad with brains, it is very immature, it has no structure, and dwells wholly on the surface of things. In a good university, half a hundred seniors do books like this as part of normal work in their final year. But they don’t publish them for the good reason that their importance lies solely in what they get out of doing them and not out of what they have to say. I don’t honestly think any publisher would have looked at that book of Jack’s if he had not been your son and you had not been Ambassador.”

Mrs. Laski thought that in twenty years Jack would be sorry he had written it. She was wrong, he would always be extremely proud of his youthful book, and his authorized biographers would echo that pride.

A lad with brains? Laski had no idea that what he was reading was substantially the work of other people brought in to rescue the project.

The Reeves account is well documented and should be read for particulars. It is well worth reading for a historical understanding of the Kennedy presidency and the Kennedy mind. The following comments and conclusions are mine, and should not be attributed to Reeves.

Back to School

The Reeves book borders on the hilarious, and yet is very serious. It could have been made into a movie.

There was a Rodney Dangerfield movie comedy called Back to School (1986). In it, Dangerfield plays a middle-aged millionaire who goes to college to get the education he missed. He doesn’t want to get involved with the classwork, so he hires people from the Rand Corporation and dozens of others to do his papers and classwork for him. In the end, Dangerfield gets caught at it, and is made to pass a tough oral examination before an academic panel of several deans or whatever to graduate, but passes after an intense period of study.

The Kennedy story is similar, except for the ending, but is real. A 23 year-old kid with a history of getting C grades in easy courses during his earlier years at Harvard writes, with considerable help, a paper which is judged to have serious deficiencies. Professionals are brought in to make the thing into a book. People are bought and sold with whatever money it takes. It still isn’t worth a damn. The kid’s father buys 35,000 copies the first week of publication to make it a best seller.

The kid is awarded Magna Cum Laude and graduates from Harvard. He never gets caught, and the kid’s father spreads enough money around to see that nobody looks too hard. Unlike Dangerfield in the movie, Kennedy slides by without the necessity of ever really passing on his own merit, then goes on to con his way into the presidency.

The entire project is an exercise in massive dishonesty and fraud by everybody—the kid, the kid’s father, university faculty, and anybody else that can be bought, cajoled, or pressured. Without a trace of embarrassment John Kennedy claimed the work to be entirely his own, and was warped and spoiled enough to have believed it.

At this point, John Kennedy, a kid from a political family that had eventual designs on the presidency had positioned himself as a political aspirant who was a graduate with high honors from a prestigious school, a certified intellectual, and a best-selling author.

Harvard degree with great praise, an author, an intellectual; it looked good on paper, but the reality is that there was no substance to any of it. It was entirely fraudulent. The truth is, the kid was not very bright and was barely literate. As reported in the Reeves book, his tutors at Harvard evaluated him as someone who would never show much originality.

Kennedy would always take pride in the intellectual content of his book. The basic reason he could do so is that he didn’t have the intellect to realize how poor it was.

There are four elements here that would become a pattern throughout Kennedy’s life, including his presidency.

First, no morality or ethics would ever be evidenced by Kennedy in his life. He could do anything, say anything, or lie about anything without a trace of concern.

Second, he exhibited a pattern of a basically deficient man who would buy (or attempt to buy) his way out of responsibility.

Third, is the point Harold Laski partially made to Kennedy’s father. Close examination of Kennedy would show superficiality and vacancies of mentality for the remainder of his life. There was an absence of content. Any person of intellectual stature would perceive it immediately, as did Laski, as did Eisenhower, as did Khrushchev two decades later. In ordinary interactions with men of stature, Kennedy would be dismissed as a slick kid trying to work a confidence game, even at the age of thirty or forty. He would never be taken seriously by men of depth and perception throughout his life. Kennedy’s performance in the presidential debates would require large doses of Dramamine to suppress the nausea felt by any intelligent listener.

Fourth, and importantly to the point, there comes a point when money and deception won’t work, and substance is required. It is possible to buy elections, to get through school by cheating, or to get into positions by deception and image manipulation. However, if the time comes when a person needs to actually function with intelligence, needs judgment, needs depth, and needs education, needs grit, and needs experience, then having faked it in the past won’t get that person through. That means trouble. The bigger the position of responsibility the person has manipulated and cheated himself into, the bigger the trouble, for everybody.

In Over His Head

Kennedy cheated and manipulated himself into the presidency while having faked the qualifications. He was in far over his head. Khrushchev would, in an indirect way, tell him that.

Shallowness and lack of content are not always a liability.

Part of Kennedy’s attraction was that he represented a comfortable way of life for those who didn’t look too deeply, who couldn’t look deeply, and who didn’t look for or couldn’t understand substance. For narcissists in the media and performing arts, and elsewhere, who identified with his superficiality and recognized him as one of their own, Kennedy was the god of deliverance from the evil requirement of substance and discipline.

John Kennedy was not particularly intelligent. He lacked the patience or capacity to think. He did not develop ideas of originality and depth. He could repeat the ideas of others or ideas floating around if they would attract attention or further his ambitions. Kennedy was born with sagging serious-looking eyes that made him look like he was thinking, even if he wasn’t thinking or was incapable of thinking. That was a purely cosmetic genetic accident. In the computer age a sequence of adjectives, nouns, and verbs can be analyzed much as voice patterns, DNA sequences, or fingerprints. Jack Kennedy’s books, including Profiles in Courage, for which he was awarded a Pulitzer, were ghost-written preparations, probably commissioned by his father, to which he affixed his name at the last minute to give himself a veneer of intellect. One of the real authors no longer denies it and has come close to admitting it.

Kennedy was apolitical in the sense of having any deeply developed political philosophy. He needed issues, attention, and promises to use in buying votes. Promises at the expense of the affluent would take him to the political left. On the political left he could generate dissatisfaction and then exploit it.

Kennedy was dependent upon others for mentality. Not having much intellectual capacity himself, he had no sound basis from which to choose those on which he was dependent. They were chosen on superficial impressiveness and credentials rather than on depth.

Kennedy was an unimpressive and unknown congressman and senator who arose out of nowhere to run for president. He showed no evidence of having taken anything seriously or having thought about anything with depth or seriousness in his life. Upon declaring his candidacy for president, he would be prepped by teams in cramming sessions to provide him with enough superficial answers to slide through the campaign. Kennedy’s campaign was largely empty dynamism with finger-pointing staccato delivery without content. His approach to political thought had about the same depth as a cosmetics ad in a woman’s magazine and it sold for the same reasons. It was strictly fluff and what those in the business call advertising copy.

The Brain Trust

As far as Kennedy was concerned, content was not a necessity. It had never been a requirement in the past. Personal substance wasn’t a necessity in order to win, or steal, an election. After the election Kennedy would put together a left-wing brain trust (modeled after FDR’s brain trust) who would do the thinking–and on which Kennedy was dependent. Kennedy gathered a brain trust of sixteen Phi Beta Kappas and four Rhodes showpieces in the top echelons of his administration. They were to be known as “the best and the brightest.”

This generated several serious problems.

Neither Jack Kennedy nor Lyndon Johnson were prepared for the presidency. They were well-prepared for American politics, but not prepared for the presidency. They were graduates of political show business. They could act when put on stage before a political gathering. They were knowledgeable about tilling crowds and about political maneuvering, but it is a quantum leap from the political life they had lived to the capacity to be president. Eisenhower, an experienced and shrewd judge of character, described Kennedy as having no idea of the complexity of the job of being president.

Some years ago there was a film entitled The Candidate (1972), starring Robert Redford. In it, Robert Redford plays a political candidate who is guided and created by public relations teams, handlers, pollsters, and whatever. At the end of the movie the managers tell him, hooray, we won. Redford looked into the camera and said, “What do I do now?” Movies are not the most valid evidence in the world, but they occasionally dramatize a point or process.

After John Kennedy took office, there was nobody at the White House able or at all qualified to be president, immediately, or in the near future. There was a vacuum of leadership. There had been money and organization enough to build a machine and create an illusion around an attractive-looking man who at best had the intellect and barely the maturity of a high school kid, and that is all John Kennedy ever was. But there was nobody with the ability to be president. What existed was a collection of sixteen Phi Beta Kappas and four Rhodes showpieces who, as we shall see, would turn out to be incompetent and divided among themselves as they tried to impress each other, with nobody in charge.

Sixteen Phi Beta Kappas and four Rhodes scholars.

While this looks good at first glance, it can carry serious dangers. Intellectuals are self-defined according to the entirely arbitrary standards developed within their subculture. The validity of those standards has not been thoroughly examined.

Personal maturity and absence of self-infatuation are not part of those standards. What occurred was an celebration by the intellectually self-infatuated who after years of resented waiting and being dismissed as vacuous, were now anointed to play at everything.

Intellectuals and Their Toys

Many so-called intellectuals are problem children who live in a toy world. Intellectuality bears a commonality with religion. There are people who go into religion because of sincere healthy belief. There are other people who seek religion as an escape or a defense or a substitute for a personality. There are people who are intellectuals because of innate curiosity and creativity. There are other people who seek the mushy artificial world and secure confines of intellectuality as an escape from, or defense against, reality. The latter outnumber the former by a ratio of about three to one. They may do quite well in school and can accumulate a highly gratifying record of escapist achievement in an artificial world which becomes a substitute for life. They continue to attempt to escape from reality. One of the problems with intellectuals is that they are often too good at rationalizing.

Within the subculture, rejection of reality with substitution of counter-reality has become more important than quality of thought. Intellectualized denial becomes a way of life. What has become lost is an understanding of the difference between denial and critical thought or creativity. That, and a generalized antagonism toward an outside world that may threaten the security of their escape, have tended to become characteristic of the subculture and the definition of intellectual. Adopting politically and socially left positions satisfies that antagonism. The turmoil they create in their antagonism gives them a feeling of importance.

Coupled with this is the feeling of power and superiority conferred by having a mind that can manipulate, confuse, intimidate, and belittle others in an atmosphere of physical safety. It’s an ideal medium for sublimation of hostility. The ultimate test of mental power is to have a mind so strong as to be able to argue successfully against basic reality. That has become the name of the game. time after time when dealing with intellectuals, you will find they argue against basic reality as an unconscious compulsion. The social reinforcement system for all this within the subculture can channelize elements within that subcul-ture toward a progressively pathological mental functioning. Intellectuals tend often to be narcissistic antagonistic children.

I find many intellectuals are subconsciously playing a sadistic chess game against the American people, and particularly against those other people who are competent and incisively intelligent, in which intellectuals both hide their inferiority and prove their superiority by checkmating other people, or the nation, into a state of helpless self-destruction. There is a type of negative attention-seeking and feeling of self-importance associated with this.

In their work and other habits, if there is a correct way to do something, they’ll often sabotage or do it in such a way that it doesn’t work it to prove they were brilliant enough to have found the flaw in what had been previously presumed reasonable. Some of it may be rewarded in graduate school as a sign of creativity, but it doesn’t work in life.

The Bay of Pigs

One of the very serious reservations I have had with intellectuals over the years is that they often don’t understand themselves and their own motivation. These motivations cause them to mess things up without understanding, or with denial of the motivations that cause the problem. They often have a deep-seated fear and hostility. They are able to misrepresent themselves to themselves to the point of losing track of who or what they are. This often further causes them to lose track of what they are doing, and why they are doing it. They are too unstable. I have found too many of them to be confused in motivation, undermining, destructive, and dangerous. This limits their utilization in critical situations except in a minority of cases. This is not an absolute, but is a statistical source of great concern.

Simply being super smart ain’t enough to get you accepted as being an intellectual. Constantly parading the quirks and twisted-up stuff is what counts.

Degrees and academic accolades are too often awarded on the basis of having a good memory and having accepted the word of authorities within the academic world uncritically.

Many intellectuals affect a perverse reality-opposition exhibitionism to show they are powerful enough and complex enough of mind to go beyond, and eventually deny, the most obvious truth. Put several of them in a room and what often quickly develops is a competitive system of absurd analysis made up from a recipe one part denial, cutely defended by one part word salad in a smug atmosphere of mutual congratulation for being able to participate in an assemblage of such cleverness and superiority. That may impress pseudo-intellectual fops, but it is no way to run a government. One result was the Bay of Pigs debacle, which by itself would probably have been enough to lose Kennedy the next election–especially if the people in this country found out what happened.

Fidel Castro, although temporarily a hero for leading the overthrow of the previous Cuban dictator, had then imposed his own communist dictatorship which wasn’t part of the original plan disclosed to the Cubans, and he had worn out his welcome with the Cuban people. He was further determined to make Cuba a centralized base of operations for exporting communist revolution everywhere. President Eisenhower was determined to prevent it. Eisenhower had been training a group of Cubans to depose Castro. Eisenhower, a former army general, and his military staff, expected an initial short period of resistance from Castro’s military after the Free Cubans landed. The Free Cubans would be vulnerable as they hit the beach and for a small distance inland. Several very critical support air strikes would buckle the resistance of Castro’s military units, who were not overly enthusiastic about Castro anyway. The rest of Cuba would be taken as those disliking Castro had secure opportunity to give support to the Free Cuban movement. Opposition would crumble.

The critical necessities were tactical support of the initial strike, and a secure enough belief in the seriousness and success of the operation so that indigenous opposition to Castro would have confidence that they wouldn’t be picked up by the secret police the next day if they showed support for deposing Castro.

Deliberate Betrayal

After 35 years, I can not be certain of the condition of the tapes in the university archives that would be necessary to defend against a law suit. Thus, I’ll delete the name of the person in question. But this was a high level Kennedy advisor and one of several authors of definitive authorized biographies of the Kennedy administration. In the middle 60s I attended a lecture given by this person before a university audience. He laughed as he called the Cubans Eisenhower had been training an “embarrassment”—presumably to the politics of the Kennedy administration and to the previously mentioned self-defined political sophistication of the time. (They hadn’t been an embarrassment to Eisenhower.) The Kennedy administration’s decision was to let them land at the Bay of Pigs and then to withhold promised tactical support, whereupon they would be mauled and captured so as to be rid of them. The Kennedy advisor and the audience of left-wing university intellectuals thought this was highly amusing. Those Cubans who had received assurances from the previous President of the United States were deliberately betrayed and the operation was sabotaged at top levels of the Kennedy administration—for some kind of distorted sophisticated intellectual amusement and satisfaction by kooks running the Kennedy administration.

There were a number of Latin American teachers who happened to be present that night who left shaking their heads in disbelief and disgust. The older Cuban community in Florida is still hot about it to this day and refer to the “pinkos” who betrayed them. The Bay of Pigs was nothing compared to what was later to happen, which will be discussed later.

That wasn’t what the American people were told they were voting for. It wasn’t what they were told was decided at the time. It was barely believable. It left any sane listener wondering what kind of left-wing kooks had crept in and were subverting the government from the inside. Listening to the reaction of the audience made one wonder what kind of people were cheering them on and how many of them existed.

There is an important difference between subversion and latitude of executive discretion. In executive discretion, the president runs on a broad framework or platform which is understood and accepted by the voters, and he is given broad power or authority to implement that platform in the most workable manner under changing circumstances. The exact details are not specified. This may include necessary elements of governmental or executive secrecy in areas of national security. But, he is expected to stay within rationally interpreted, generally understood boundaries of agreed-upon declared general direction. It may be looked upon as a contract between a president or other officials and the people within constitutional confines.

It is a far different matter to receive authority from the people for a declared direction, but then deliberately and surreptitiously redirect or subvert the country into areas clearly the opposite of that declared direction. This exceeds executive discretion and becomes subversion, and fraud.

This group of people deliberately overthrew the election and the government, as defined in terms of the intent of the people–including the legitimately mandated direction being executed by the previous president. This was an act of criminality against the people of the United States.

The presentation concerning the Bay of Pigs was given before a audience of about five hundred university faculty intellectuals who were correctly presumed to be sympathetic and it took on the aspects of a private celebration. There was no reporting by the media (who probably would have been equally sympathetic, anyway). If the advisor or Kennedy had declared that intent and given that presentation openly before the general public during the Cuban crisis, there would have been rioting in the streets and a demand for Kennedy’s impeachment.

The embittering aspect of this was, you could walk out of that presentation and tell somebody who hadn’t been there what you had heard, and you would be told it couldn’t be true and that you were some kind of paranoid right-wing nut. If one of the audience members who had cheered the revelation were standing near, he or she would smile and agree that you were a paranoid right-wing nut. Knowing and telling the truth would nearly get you committed to an institution.

At the time the Bay of Pigs disaster happened, it was obvious to many people that what the advisor later gloated over was exactly what had been pulled off. Those who voiced the observation were labeled right-wing extremists and nut cases. It was part of what became a long term pattern in which those people who realized and voiced the obvious observable truth were labeled crazy. It got to the point where knowing the truth was driving people crazy with exasperation.

Years later, in his autobiography [2], a characteristically overly kind President Reagan would write his puzzlement and disapproval:

I’ve always thought it was a tragic error for President Kennedy to abandon the Cuban freedom fighters during the 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion. If he hadn’t done so, perhaps history would have been much different in Central America. Training of the invasion force, all Cuban refugees, had started under President Eisenhower. The master plan he had approved called for covert American forces to provide air support for the refugees against Castro’s tanks, aircraft, and heavy weapons, and to bomb the airport where his military aircraft were based, while the refugees invaded Cuba. Everything was going according to schedule–the Cuban fighting force had landed and our carriers were waiting offshore with the support aircraft–when Adlai Stevenson, our UN representative, came storming down from New York and told President Kennedy; “I have promised the United Nations that we are not going to in any way interfere in Cuba…”

After the Cuban freedom fighters had already landed, an order went out to the carriers: Don’t send the planes. President Kennedy had been talked into stranding those courageous men on the beach. The least he could have done was to let the planes come in and rescue them.

Reagan had never heard the presentation that I heard nearly 20 years before. Stevenson wasn’t the only one who was doing the talking. If I can believe what I was told, and the correlative pattern and evidence, Stevenson’s move only gave support or rationalization for a destructive plan that was already in place.

Next Toy: Viet Nam

Kennedy converted the country into a playground for left-wing fops and pseudo-intellectuals. That was one of the worst legacies of the Kennedy presidency. Most of them more properly belonged in the fever swamps rather than in the directing levels of government to be cheered on by kooks of similar pathological mentality.

The story behind the Bay of Pigs is basically also close to the story behind the Viet Nam War, which cost more than 56,000 lives and tens of thousands more in wheelchairs. Tens of thousands of parents lost their sons. Thousands of wives lost husbands. Thousands of children lost fathers. Much of it was the result of having given childish self-infatuated pseudo-intellectual fops a playground to demonstrate how antagonistically brilliant and clever they were, to the cheers of the same crowd I heard that night, and, after all the years of being properly ignored and ridiculed, the chance to glory in showing their oppositional-defiant behinds.

The Bay of Pigs set the stage for Viet Nam and more to come. The Bay of Pigs established the fact that Americans were incompetent, politically-infiltrated weaklings who could be taken advantage of, and now was the time to do it—in Viet Nam or any place else. It also established the fact that any group attempting to free themselves from a communist dictator would be damned fools to trust the left-wing kooks and so-called brightest and best intellectuals in Washington. It would get you betrayed, stranded on the beach, and killed. President Diem, the president of South Viet Nam, an ally who was assassinated with Kennedy White House approval, also found that to be true. (The details of Diem’s betrayal will be examined later in this series.)

Working with Americans, or the American government, would get you betrayed and killed, whether you were an American soldier, a Cuban, or a South Vietnamese.

It began to appear that the American government had switched sides and was becoming anti-American, turning against its supporters. This is not as crazy as it first sounds. Anti-Americanism, called anti-chauvinism or willingness to accept self-criticism, was endemic among self-professed intellectuals and was argued to be instrumental to world peace. In an ultimate undifferentiated world where there was no emotional investment in separate cultures or governments, arguments would become bland instead of developing into wars. Any American resistance to communism was argued to be provocative and an impediment to world peace. Dissolution of America was part of the big picture. Destruction of America was interpreted as a small price in a step toward a peaceful world or in avoiding nuclear incineration. Self-destructive masochism in America would supposedly be recognized by the communists as certain evidence of the cooperative intent of America, thereby diffusing all suspicion. Any naive self-serving protests from American peasants incapable of understanding the long term greatness of this view would eventually be recorded as an insignificant footnote in the record of world history.

But what do you do when you’re being betrayed, killed, or enslaved for this cute bit of fatuous intellectual exhibitionism? It’s irritating to participate in a government operation and find out some college professors and intellectuals are trying to kill you off in the name of world peace, or their version of social justice, and are laughing about it. To be shipped off to an Asian war to be killed or to end up in a wheelchair, while crackpots are deliberately betraying you as evidence of their cleverness or intellectual delusions and creativity, makes you want to kill them—so as to enable them, as they say in California, to share the experience and make it a little more real. This rarefied intellectual position is hard on the supposed uncomprehending intellectual inferiors who are required to pay the price.

Freedom as Provocation

The overall position pushed by the left was in fact an intellectualized form of exquisite sadism. That sadism is part of a broad spectrum of serious psychopathology exhibited by the liberal/left mentality. That sadism was being felt and understood by many American people. It was infuriating.

In the leftist mind, resisting forced export and imposition of political systems that required electrified fences and guard towers around them to prevent people from escaping was interpreted as provocation. In a healthy mind it was not provocation, but survival. In college and elsewhere, I spent years in discussions

with, and study of, these people. Viewing freedom as provocation was a popular position, nearly a prerequisite to membership certification, in the intellectual community. Self defense or wanting to preserve your freedom became justifiable provocation. I recognized the thinking process in the Kennedy intellectuals.

It would require the election of Ronald Reagan nearly twenty years later to begin to confront these people and turn the situation around. Reagan implicitly understood that any political system which inevitably produced conditions so unendurable upon people living under it, and was so easily provoked, would view American weakness not as an offer of sincerity, but as a opportunity to kill. Within the system of analysis I employ, I begin with the premise that those leaders or systems who kill or imprison their own people should reasonably be expected to have no less reservation about killing or imprisoning me, or us.

Was Kennedy of the same politics or mentality as the people he had gathered around him? Analysis of Kennedy’s personality indicates he was a shallow man of personal attractiveness which allowed him to win elections, but who had little idea what was happening once he was in office. Lacking competency to make decisions himself, he relied on people around him that were incompetent or antagonistic to America and he thought he was in the big leagues by listening to them. The country was falling into chaos while a over-aged high school kid who could manipulate people by charm and glamor was in turn dependent upon incompetents, subversives, and left-wing kooks. Who decided what is anybody’s guess and would change from week to week.

In years to come, CIA director William Colby was to voice his serious doubts about Kennedy’s vacillation on serious issues. Kennedy had functional problems when he was with his advisors. Without them, he was lost. In direct discussions with someone like Khrushchev, Kennedy would get torn to pieces.

Kennedy Gives Krushchev the Keys to the Store

The Cuban missile crisis was set up because of the betrayal of the Cubans at the Bay of Pigs. The conventional belief is that Kennedy backed Khrushchev down in the Cuban missile crisis. In fact, Khrushchev was given the keys to the store. Khrushchev demanded dissolution of strategic military bases and obtained other assurances.

A September 28, 1997 Baltimore Sun book review by Craig Eisendrath of the book, The Kennedy Tapes: Inside the White House During the Cuban Missile Crisis, edited by Earnest May and Philip Zelikow, discussed apparently recently released secretly recorded tapes at the White House during the missile crisis. What is described as “a major revelation.” was that Kennedy secretly agreed to give up American missile bases in Turkey. “Secrecy was maintained to protect the credibility of the NATO alliance.” What is meant by “credibility”? It means there was serious enough loss of military strength and commitment, so as to cause substantial re-evaluation of American and NATO capability which had to be concealed. It means something took place which was destructive enough that it had to be hidden. If you are proud of something, and it’s to the country’s advantage, you don’t need to keep it secret to preserve credibility.

It is argued by apologists that the missiles were obsolete, anyway. If they were so ineffectual, Khrushchev wouldn’t have demanded they be removed.

Protect credibility with whom? Khrushchev knew about it because he arranged it. It was to fabricate a credibility for Kennedy as President. Kennedy had to be made to look good.

Khrushchev needed Kennedy as president and those around him as advisors. With a charismatic weakling high school kid who looked like a fashion model captivating people by reading speeches in the White House, surrounded by incompetents and left-wing hacks for advisors, Khrushchev, who had started with nothing, now had things going his way. He was free of Eisenhower’s threat to Castro. In addition to destroying a highly-motivated counterrevolutionary force, the Bay of Pigs had destroyed American policy credibility. The faith of the American people in their government, and whether it even was the elected government, was beginning to falter.

Khrushchev had dismantled important American military bases in secret and compromised the President of the United States’ truthfulness with allies and the American people in the process. He had weakened NATO. When the truth was eventually found, NATO allies could no longer trust the United States. A previously precariously positioned Castro was now firmly in charge and there would be no more threat of invasions. While temporarily on reserve, Cuba could be used at a future time and would continue to be a threatening presence that needed to be watched and countered. What had been done in Cuba could be done elsewhere.

Che Guevara could begin attempts to export revolution into Latin America with little opposition from a confused and cowed United States. Any intelligent potential ally had to re-think an alliance with the United States because it was established that an agreement with the United States could result in betrayal or assassination. An alliance with the Soviet Union could be considered smarter than an alliance with the United States, because the Soviets could protect you from the wrath of Soviets, at least temporarily, while the United States was beginning to look like an infiltrated diseased weakling and the eventual loser—and there was no protection in that. It wouldn’t be wise to align yourself with the United States at the expense of irritating the Soviets, then find yourself without support. Viet Nam would be conducted with the same incompetence as had been seen thus far in the Kennedy administration, and with a little luck the U.S. Army could be slowly demoralized and destroyed. That’s what Khrushchev wanted. It’s as if he had died and awakened to find himself in heaven.

For practical purposes Khrushchev patted Kennedy on the head and knew that in the future he had what he wanted. What difference did it make if Kennedy went to Germany and shouted “Ich bin ein Berliner!” [3], while the gullible and hysterically starstruck swooned. If it contributed to the delusion, it was useful, and probably amusing to Khrushchev. Germany would not be freed until decades later in the era of Gorbachev and Reagan.

Kennedy had been diddled. The American people had been diddled. NATO had been diddled. In protecting himself and his political ambitions, Kennedy, with the help of the media, was covering up and selling the entire thing for Khrushchev while Khrushchev pretended anger over the confrontation. But Khrushchev and the communists were in far better position than they were on the day Kennedy took office, while America was in a weaker defensive position. That is the name of the game. People who examined the situation seriously, and came to this obvious conclusion, were dismissed as right-wing kooks.

With three more such confrontations in which Khrushchev backed down, the Soviets could acquire rights to Alaska and Oregon.

The same Time issue referred to earlier contains a short essay by Hugh Sidney, “Busy in Bed, but also in Berlin.” The piece discusses the various aspects of the Kennedy presidency, the Hersh book, Kennedy’s extramarital affairs, and the morals of investigative writers. The piece ends with the sentence, “Women or not, Kennedy dealt pretty well with Khrushchev, and that may be the larger reason why Camelot will not fade away.” Right? Not quite.

It’s time to put this childishness away. Grow up. Let it go and accept the truth. Camelot never happened that way. Camelot was no Camelot.

The Russians are great chess players. During the Kennedy presidency, the pieces were becoming positioned for midgame. To the advanced player, it was clear Viet Nam would be lost. The Soviets had just won a rook. American policy had lost control of the board’s center, was four moves behind, and there were a loose opponent knight and bishop behind the American pawns.

In Viet Nam, hundreds of thousands of men would be deployed in senseless tactics dictated by fear of Soviet missile-thumping and by administrative incompetence. America would lose close to 60,000 men, Viet Nam and Cambodia would fall to the communists, America would be on the brink of an internal leftist revolution, and Latin America would be hit by communist insurgencies.

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Notes

[1] Here is a trivial example of this unexamined proposition: “To a reader like John F. Kennedy, one of his greatest problems was to turn pages fast enough to maintain his fantastic reading speed of 6,000 – 7,000 words per minute” (http://www.ci.west-valley.ut.us/mayor/wrighton/wo040497.html).

[2] Ronald Reagan, An American Life, Pocket Books, New York, 1992, p. 452.

[3] [Note added by Zola]: A “Berliner” in German refers to a jelly donut. So what Kennedy literally said was, “I am a jelly donut.” The German audience, however, chose to overlook the misuse of the language, and went on to cheer his intended meaning, which was that he was a citizen of Berlin.

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