Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Kennedy. Theodore C. Sorenson (23).

Special Counsel to the Late President. New York: Bantam Books. 1966.

Why read it? To understand Kennedy’s philosophy of the Presidency. His humor. His wisdom. He could think on his feet. His ability to own up to his mistakes and to learn from them. To appreciate the vast range of responsibilities faced by the President. His style. You won’t learn any of the details of his extra-marital affairs in this book. It focuses on John Kennedy, an American who was elected President by one of the narrowest margins in history. He instilled a spirit of confidence in the American people, and his assassination destroyed that spirit.

“…the contrast between his youthful vitality and the weary pessimism of most older leaders.” p. 653. ………. “Kennedy set out to change the stereotyped view of the United States….” p. 654. ………. “The role of the mediator is not a happy one; we are prepared to have everybody mad if it makes some progress.” p. 654. ………. JFK: “We are committed to no rigid formula…. We see no perfect solution.” p. 675. ………. JFK: “Our arms must be subject to ultimate civilian control and command at all times, in war as well as peace.” p. 628. ………. JFK: “Our foremost aim is the control of force, not the pursuit of force, in a world made safe for mankind.” p. 703. ………. “A limited Communist conventional action, in short, could best be deterred by a capacity to respond effectively in kind.” p. 706. ………. JFK: “We possess weapons of tremendous power…but they are least effective in combating the weapons most often used by freedom’s foes: subversion, infiltration, guerilla warfare, civil disorder.” p. 710.

“Finding little to go on in Army field manuals, he [Kennedy] read the classic texts on guerrilla warfare by Red China’s Mao Tse-Tung and Cuba’s Che Guevara, and requested appropriate military men to do the same.” p. 712. ………. “Military conflicts required more than military solutions…the Communists exploited genuine noncommunist grievances.” p. 715. ………. “A Lenin adage said Bohlen in one of our first meetings on the Cuban Missile Crisis compares national expansion to a bayonet drive: if you strike steel, pull back; if you strike mush, keep going.” p. 763. ………. “…the best performer [during the Cuban Missile Crisis] was the Attorney General [Robert Kennedy]..not because of any particular idea he advanced, not because he presided (no one did), but because of his constant prodding, questioning, eliciting arguments and alternatives and keeping the discussions concrete and moving ahead, a difficult task as different participants came in and out.” p. 765. ………. “Our response would have to offer the Soviets a way out….” pl 768.

To be continued.

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