Thursday, July 09, 2020
How'd we ever get this way?
What a fascinating time capsule this is! And how very relevant to today.
Listening to JFK field questions from Walter Cronkite about race, domestic politics, the economy and America's place on the world stage, it hits you that these subjects are on Donald J. Trump's plate today. Only he never responds with a modicum of the grace and dignity Kennedy unfailingly displays.
• George Wallace resisted the Kennedy DOJ's order to segregate Alabama schools. In discussing this very important issue, JFK never speaks Wallace's name. He talks about his immediate actions and next steps. Imagine that! He had an adversary that he could have engaged with in the media, but simply chose not to.
• When asked if his stand on civil rights would cost him Southern votes in 1964, Kennedy concedes it will. He also expressed hope that the GOP would join him in ensuring equal opportunities for all. He doesn't demonize those who would vote against him. He doesn't call them "unAmerican." Nor does he call the rioters in Louisiana "thugs." He just reiterates where he stands on civil rights and why.
• He refused to speak the names of those lining up to run against him in 1964, saying he would leave choosing a Republican candidate to the Republicans. I believe in early autumn 1963, the list included Gov. Nelson Rockefeller, Gov. George Romney and Sen. Barry Goldwater. Somehow he managed to refrain from dubbing them "Crooked Nelson," "Sleepy George" and "Lyin' Barry."
• Listen to how Kennedy responds when Cronkite asks him what he would say to the millions of unemployed Americans who have nothing to celebrate on Labor Day. He honestly says there's no "magic action" he can take. He discusses young people entering the job market without sufficient education, and those who have lost their coal/steel jobs and need to be retrained.
Now recall how Donald Trump responded to Peter Alexander's question about the corona virus. "What do you say to Americans who are scared?" "I say you're a very bad reporter," our President said. "I think it's a nasty question."
• Asked about his predecessor's criticism of his foreign policy, Kennedy said if the "treaty is not substantial enough to withstand discussion or debate, it's not a very good treaty." He didn't call for Eisenhower to be investigated by Congress. He doesn't question Eisenhower's motives or patriotism. Now think about any exchange you've heard Donald Trump have about Barack Obama. You know, the guy whose portrait he won't even allow to be unveiled.
• Walter Cronkite tosses one right across the plate, asking Kennedy how he feels about French President DeGaulle "sniping" at Kennedy's Vietnam policy. "Sniping" was Cronkite's word. Instead of taking a swing, the President keeps his cool, referring to DeGaulle as a man "of great stature," and "a candid friend" of the United States. Today our President Trump personally attacks allies who criticize his policies (Merkel, Trudeau), all the while cozying up to our enemies (Putin, Erdewan).
It breaks my heart, how Donald Trump has debased the office of the Presidency. It wasn't always this way. It doesn't have to be this way. Here's proof!
I hope that Joe Biden can restore a sense of civility and calm to the Presidency.