November 23, 1963OBITUARY: JOHN FITZGERALD KENNEDY: PART I OF V
Kennedy Concentrated on Domestic Issues After Showdown Over Cuba in '62
By THE NEW YORK TIMESThe Administration of John F. Kennedy was marked by a breathless series of major events-- the abortive Bay of Pigs invasion, the Berlin Wall, riots at the University of Mississippi and other places in the battle for civil rights, and the Cuban showdown.
But from the moment Premier Khrushchev announced the dismantling of the missile bases and withdrawal of the missiles from Cuba in October, 1962, a period of comparative relaxation in cold war tensions began, a tranquil time internationally that was only mildly disturbed by incidents such as the recent arrest and release of Prof. Frederick C. Barghoorn.
For 13 months the nation has been living without fear of imminent war. In this period the President was able to turn his main attention to domestic issues such as civil rights and the lagging economy, issues he had made part of his program from the beginning.
Tone Set at Inaugural Mr. Kennedy's inaugural address was only 1,355 words long--one of the shorter introductory messages of recent American Presidents.
"Now the trumpet summons us again," he declared, "not as a call to bear arms, though arms we need--not as a call to battle, though embattled we are--but a call to bear the burden of a long twilight struggle year in and year out, 'rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation'--a struggle against the common enemies of man: tyranny, poverty, disease and war itself."
And in what probably became his most celebrated passage, he implored:
"And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what America will do for you--ask what you can do for your country."
Polls showed that his popularity declined somewhat as a result of Administration support for militant civil-rights leaders. President Kennedy himself said he expected a close race in 1964.
Yet his Administration received a heartening vote of confidence in the Congressional elections of 1962.
Normally, the Congressional forces of the party in power are cut sharply in the mid-term elections. But in 1962 the Democrats broke the jinx, adding four Senate seats. They lost four seats in the House but this was only a fraction of the usual off-year loss. And among the new Democrats in the House were many liberals.
The President's handling of the Cuban crisis was a major factor in the upset victory. Republicans groaned: "We were Cubanized."
Races for Governor Lost But not all the news was good. A jarring disappointment was the defeat of Democratic candidates for Governor in four big states: New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Michigan. Nelson Rockefeller easily won re-election in New York; Representative William W. Scranton was elected Governor in Pennsylvania; George Romney won in Michigan and James A. Rhodes won in Ohio.
This lineup contained three prospects for the Republican Presidential nomination: Governors Rockefeller, Scranton and Romney. So far only Governor Rockefeller has declared his candidacy.
The President's popularity according to the Gallup poll, reached a crest in 1961, following the attempt to invade Cuba, when his approval rating was 83 per cent, and sank to 57 per cent in October of this year. Two weeks ago the poll indicated a slight rise: 59 per cent approved of the job Mr. Kennedy was doing as President.
The November poll showed that the President enjoyed his greatest popularity among Roman Catholics, Negroes and Jews and with younger adults. There was strong anti- Kennedy sentiment in the South.
The President's legislative program was having an exceptionally difficult time in Congress, and the lack of results on major items reduced his popular support.
He had begun the year with a sweeping and ambitious program. But at his last White House news conference, a week ago, he publicly accepted what had become a foregone conclusion: the legislative achievements of this session of Congress would be among the most meager ever.
Congress, bogged down on routine appropriation matters, had not yet taken up the civil rights bill. Other items on the President's program that were still languishing were education, mental health and health insurance for the aged under Social Security. The Administration's tax bill, promising lower taxes as a stimulus to economic recovery, passed the House Sept. 25 but stalled in the Senate Finance Committee.
There was little hope that controversial issues such as civil rights and taxes would come to a final test before next summer, on the eve of the national conventions, and their impact on the Presidential campaign was expected to be heavy.
The President was especially exasperated at the slashing of his foreign aid bill. At his news conference, the President described the Senate's treatment of the bill as "the worst attack on foreign aid. . .since the beginning of the Marshall Plan."
On Nov. 15, the Senate passed a $3.7 billion aid bill, an amount $800 million less than the President had requested.
House More Hostile The House was even more hostile, and cut the President's program by $1 billion. There seemed little possibility that a money bill for much more than $3 billion would emerge from conference.
Critics assailed the President, saying that more vigorous leadership was necessary to persuade Congress that the cuts would be catastrophic.
President Kennedy had promised to reinvigorate the domestic economy, to "get the country moving again." Today the nation is at a peak of affluence. Yet unemployment remains above 5.5 per cent. The President worried over regions that lagged behind the rest of the nation.
In April he appointed an Appalachian Regional Commission, which is now drawing up a massive program of Federal aid for a ten-state swath of chronic poverty running from the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania to northern Alabama.
His relations with the business community had improved considerably since the spring of 1962, when he raised hackles by forcing the steel companies to hold the price line. At that time he made a withering attack on United States Steel and other leading corporations, which had increased steel prices $6 a ton.
The President called the price rise "a wholly unjustifiable and irresponsible defiance of the public interest." Privately, he called the industry leaders "sons of bitches."
Big Steel backed down. Last spring, when business was good and profits at record levels, steel announced modest price increases on selected items. This time the industry drew White House praise for "restraint."
Crisis in Mississippi What was to be his last attempt to woo business was Monday in a speech to the Florida chamber of Commerce in Tampa. He sought support for the tax-cut by assuring business leaders he was not anti-business. He reminded businessmen that corporate profits were at an "all-time high," and denied that Democrats sought to "soak the rich."
The civil rights front became grimmer suddenly in the late months of 1962. In October, a Negro named James Meredith, grandson of a slave and a nine-year veteran of the Air Force, sought to register at the University of Mississippi.
The university town of Oxford was torn by rioting. A mob, harangued by former Maj. Gen. Edwin A. Walker, who had flown from Dallas, attacked United States marshals who were guarding Mr. Meredith.
Gov. Ross Barnett pleaded with the President by telephone: "Get Meredith off the campus. . .I can't protect him."
"Listen, Governor," the President shouted, "we're not moving anybody anywhere until order is restored. . . . You are not discharging your responsibility, Governor. . . . There is no sense in talking any more until you do your duty. . . . There are lives in jeopardy. . . . I'm not in a position to do anything, to make any deals, to discuss anything until law and order is restored and the lives of the people are protected. Good-by."
President Kennedy slammed down the phone. He ordered Federal troops into Oxford.
Governor Barnett was charged with contempt. But the White House feared that the arrest of Governor Barnett might trigger violence throughout the South. So the Governor was considered to have purged himself of contempt by allowing Mr. Meredith on the campus.
Bombings in Birmingham The victory for integration at Oxford cost one life, that of a reporter. Disorders in Birmingham followed.
Birmingham had been plagued by bombings, all with racial overtones, since World War II. On Sunday morning, Sept. 15, 1963, a dynamite explosion shook the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham's downtown Negro section. When the smoke cleared, rescuers found the bodies of four girls beneath a pile of debris. Their teacher had just dismissed them after a lesson on "The Love That Forgives."
President Kennedy called the affair a consequence of the "public disparagement of law and order." He appeared to mean Alabama's Governor, George C. Wallace, a segregationist who had tried to bloc integration at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa.
The President named a two man committee, Kenneth C. Royall, former Secretary of the Army, and Earl H. Blaik, a former West Point football coach, to try to reconcile the white and Negro communities of Birmingham.
The President had promised a broad civil rights program. But he was forced to appeal for a softening of a bill drafted by a bipartisan group of Northern liberals in the House. He felt the bill ranged so widely as to risk defeat.
This action irritated civil rights groups. But the watered-down bill, as drafted by the House Judiciary Committee in late October, was still considered the broadest civil rights program ever recommended to Congress.
OBITUARY: JOHN FITZGERALD KENNEDY: PART II OF V
Book on 'Courage' and '56 Convention Role Put Kennedy on Road to White HouseVolume Written During '55 Illness
Drive for Vice-Presidency a Year Later Failed but Brought Wide Publicity
They point out that he took over, in effect, the projected ambitions of his late brother, Joseph P. Kennedy Jr., whose intention to try for the President had been explicit as early as his college days at Harvard.
To some, the Kennedy ambition for the Presidency stemmed from a frustrated drive originally possessed by Joseph P. Kennedy Sr., and transmitted by him first to his son Joe and then to his son Jack.
Whatever the influence of these psychological factors may have been upon John Kennedy, it seems certain that his decision to make a bid for the highest American political honors stemmed from his own year of deep crisis, 1954 to 1955.
Surgery on Back He spent most of that period in and out of hospital beds. He underwent surgery several times at grave risk of his life to correct his chronic and painful back injury.
During almost the whole period he was away from Washington, he was out of the mainstream of political life, isolated from ordinary affairs and in a position to think deeply about himself and about questions of human and political philosophy.
John Kennedy did not spend his months of illness and recuperation in idleness. He turned his mind and his interest to a task that intimately linked his personal and political interests. This was the writing of the book that he published in 1956 under the title "Profiles in Courage."
Before he picked up the political mantle of his brother Joe, John Kennedy had been headed for a career as a writer. He had dabbled in journalism and had written many articles for periodicals. And on the eve of World War II he had turned his college political science thesis into a widely read book called "Why England Slept." This was an analysis of the Baldwin-Chamberlain era that led England down the Munich staircase into World War II.
Wrote Studies in Courage Then, just as the surgeons fused the injured discs of his spine, so he fused his literary and political aspirations and produced a study of notable examples of political courage in America. John Quincy Adams, Daniel Webster, Edmund Ross, George W. Norris, Sam Houston, Thomas Hart Benton, Robert A. Taft--these were some of the men whose lives Mr. Kennedy incorporated in his study.
Many vehicles have launched public men onto the stage of national politics. But seldom has the instrument been a bestselling collection of historical biographies. But such was the case with John Kennedy.
"Profiles in Courage" lifted him into a special category--a category of statesmanship and scholarship beyond the reach of most men in politics. It served a more subtle purpose as well. For in the process of writing about the great and brave men of American politics Mr. Kennedy acquired a stature and fiber of political philosophy that he had not had before.
His book won a Pulitzer Prize in biography in 1957. And this honor helped lift him, in public-opinion polls, into a leading position among Presidential possibilities.
There was one discordant note connected with the book. Rumors circulated that it had been ghost-written by his close friend and intimate political aide, Theodore C. Sorenson. Warnings by Senator Kennedy that he would sue for libel and slander finally halted the circulation of the rumors.
He returned to Washington on May 23, 1955, not completely recuperated from his operations. It was early 1956 before he moved into the clear as a national figure.
Looking 4 Years Ahead In view of his age and the general political situation--the renomination of Adlai E. Stevenson as the Democratic Presidential nominee was virtually certain--Senator Kennedy set his sights for the Vice-Presidential nomination.
Actually, this was merely a gambit toward a possible Presidential nomination four years hence. He wanted the advertising and political experience of a bid for a Vice-Presidential nomination. He would have liked the nomination but a brisk fight for it was almost as useful to his purposes.
In the end, after numerous ups and downs and a few moments of coming close, Senator Kennedy did not make it. He took the spotlight at the Democratic convention, placing Mr. Stevenson in nomination.
Mr. Stevenson then threw the race for the Vice Presidency open. There was a scramble between Senators Kennedy and Estes Kefauver of Tennessee. On the second ballot, Mr. Kennedy led 618 to 551�. But on the third ballot Mr. Kefauver swamped Mr. Kennedy.
Four years of intensive political activity and organization lay ahead of Senator Kennedy before his Presidential ambitions could be achieved.
Mr. Kennedy turned full time attention to Presidential politics. He stumped 26 states for Mr. Stevenson in 1956.
Then, in 1957, he began to build a national legislative record. He criticized the level of ambassadorial appointments of the Eisenhower Administration. He backed aid for Poland and for India. He called for the independence of Algeria. He published incisive critiques of United States foreign policy in the quarterly "Foreign Affairs." He warned of a missile gap.
Domestic Course Difficult In domestic policy he steered a difficult course. He compromised on features of civil rights legislation, drawing criticism from the left. He backed better budgeting and fiscal housekeeping. He fought for moderate labor reform.
And he tucked away an indispensable demonstration of his live political appeal. In 1958 he ran for a second term for the United States Senate. It was a rough, tough campaign in which Mr. Kennedy first had to clear away some minor roadblocks put in his path by dissident Democrats in Massachusetts.
The biggest winning margin ever to be piled up by a candidate in Massachusetts had been achieved by Leverett Saltonstall in 1944. He won his Senate race that year with a majority of 561,668 votes.
Mr. Kennedy's enthusiasts hoped that he might make as good a showing. He did--and a good deal better. His margin was 874,608, the biggest in history and the biggest margin any Senatorial candidate in the United States won by in 1958.
From that time forward Presidential politics seemed almost completely to preoccupy Senator Kennedy. He was constantly on the go, appearing in every part of the country.
Aided by Seasoned Staff Behind him he had a small but well organized and seasoned political staff. It was built around the Kennedy family. John was running for the Presidency. But it was still a clan operation.
Always there were some Kennedys traveling with him on the plane. His brother Robert was campaign manager. His principal aides were the old team--the group of close friends and associates he had gathered over the years, dating back to preparatory school days, plus a few acquired in his Washington years.
The key members of his organization were Lawrence F. O'Brien, experienced in Boston political battles; Kenneth P. O'Donnell, a Harvard football star and Boston political pro; Mr. Sorenson, who had become virtually a Kennedy alter ego in the years of his Senate service; Timothy J. Reardon Jr., who had roomed with Joseph Kennedy Jr., at Harvard; Torbert H. MacDonald, by now a United States Representative from Massachusetts; Francis X. Morrissey, another Boston pro, and others of this type.
A suite of offices was rented in the Esso Building in Washington, just under the brow of Capitol Hill--and the Kennedy campaign was moving fast.
The first task was to obtain the nomination. Senator Kennedy chose to go after that by competing in the primaries. This pitted him in two major contests with Senator Hubert H. Humphrey of Minnesota--first in Wisconsin in February and then in West Virginia in April.
Senators Kennedy and Humphrey campaigned in Wisconsin for a month, running up and down the state through bitter cold and winter snowstorms.
Mr. Kennedy won the state but Mr. Humphrey put up a good showing--good enough so that the coalescing opposition to Mr. Kennedy within the Democratic party could raise questions about his vote-getting ability in the Middle West.
Religious Issue Grew Senator Kennedy had picked the Wisconsin primary boldly. He wanted to demonstrate two things--his ability to run well in the agricultural Middle West and his ability to overcome the "Catholic issue."
Although Mr. Kennedy had been in political life for nearly fifteen years, the issue of his religion loomed larger than ever when he entered openly upon his Presidential course. For overhanging the prospects of a Roman Catholic candidate was the long memory of the religious turmoil raised by the candidacy of Alfred E. Smith, a Catholic Democrat, who ran a disastrous race against Herbert Hoover in 1928.
Senator Kennedy was determined to meet the religious issue head-on. Indeed, he seemed to seek opportunities to emphasize his belief in the traditional separation of church and state and of the right of a Catholic to political equality with a non-Catholic.
Victory Over Humphrey With the indecisiveness of the Wisconsin primary leaving these questions somewhat unsettled, Senators Kennedy and Humphrey were rematched in the West Virginia primary. Here for the first time Mr. Kennedy fought the religious issue out from one end of the state to another. And here he encountered voters who were hard-bitten in their opposition to any candidate of the Catholic faith.
There were many predictions that Mr. Kennedy might be defeated because of anti-Catholic prejudice among the voters or that he might just squeak through. But to the surprise of his own staff he won a big victory--a commanding success that drove Mr. Humphrey out of the Presidential competition and was hailed by the Kennedy supporters as conclusive evidence that the omen of the Al Smith defeat in 1928 no longer overhung his campaign chances.
From that time on the Kennedy bandwagon picked up overwhelming momentum.
By the time the Democratic National Convention opened in Los Angeles in July, experienced political observers were certain that Mr. Kennedy had put together a winning combination even though Senator Lyndon B. Johnson of Texas was still openly in the field against him and Mr. Stevenson still hoped for a third nomination.
But the hopes of Mr. Johnson and Mr. Stevenson were dependent upon holding the line with sufficient favorite-son candidates to prevent the Kennedy nomination on the first ballot. It was a hopeless task.
The big Democratic states had begun to line up behind Senator Kennedy. Gov. David L. Lawrence of Pennsylvania, Mayor Richard S. Daley of Chicago and most of the New York State delegation swung in behind Mr. Kennedy. He won easily on the first ballot. Senator Kennedy moved swiftly to heal the breaches in the party. He asked and got Mr. Johnson's acceptance as his running mate. Mr. Stevenson introduced Mr. Kennedy for the acceptance speech. The stage was set for the final drive for the Presidency.
Campaign Intensified From the moment that Vice President Richard M. Nixon was made the Republican candidate, it was apparent that he and Mr. Kennedy would wage vigorous campaigns. Each proposed to utilize all of the technological devices of the new age to present themselves to the electorate.
Each scheduled heavy programs of television time. Each utilized the jet airplane to carry out dazzling schedules, which whisked him from one end of the country to another. For the first time, with the admission of Hawaii and Alaska into the Union, the candidates had 50 rather than 48 states to campaign in.
The major innovation of the campaign, however, was not the jet airplane. It was the national television debate of the Presidential candidates.
During the West Virginia Presidential primary Mr. Kennedy and Mr. Humphrey met in a television debate and as early as the Wisconsin primary the Kennedy strategists had discussed the possibility of national television debates if the Senator won the nomination.
However, the initiative for the Presidential campaign debates came from the national television networks, which had long been interested in trying such a procedure. After considerable consultation by the broadcaster and representatives of each candidate, a series of four debates was agreed upon.
The first of the four debates, conducted on Sept. 26 in Chicago, proved, in retrospect, to be by far the most important. Indeed, when the election was over many observers felt that this encounter had been the turning point of the campaign.
It was not so much a clash of issues at the first debates as a contrast of personalities.
Kennedy partisans credited this debate with clearing away two major issues that had been raised against their candidate. The first was the issue of youth, inexperience and immaturity, which the Republicans had planned to make a cornerstone of their campaign.
But after the first and subsequent debates, the Republicans conceded, the issue lost most of its bite because Senator Kennedy presented himself to the national audience as an assured, mature figure with a wealth of specific information about government and policy at his finger tips.
The second handicap removed by the television debates was the fact that Mr. Kennedy was less widely known than Mr. Nixon.
Nixon Seemed Nervous The Vice President had been on the national stage continuously for eight years. Mr. Kennedy had been campaigning vigorously for four, but there was no doubt that he still lagged behind in the public awareness. After the debates, this disadvantage was eliminated.
There was a third factor of major consequence involved in the initial television appearance. In this debate, Mr. Nixon appeared thin, tired, nervous. He looked below par physically. In contrast, Mr. Kennedy was ebullient and self-confident and radiated health and energy.
The religious issue refused to be put down in the campaign. Mr. Kennedy was compelled to return to it again and again.
However, the climax of these efforts occurred early in the campaign when he appeared before a group of Protestant ministers in Houston, Tex.
The group was notably hostile to him and apparently convinced that a Catholic could not act with independence and freedom in the White House.
Confronts Accused Mr. Kennedy confronted his accusers in a dramatic hour-long session, which was televised nationally and rerun again and again in areas in which religious prejudices were known to be high.
The high point of his presentation was a declaration that he would resign the office of the Presidency if he ever thought that his religious beliefs would not permit him to make a decision in the national interest.
Mr. Kennedy relied upon virtually ceaseless physical activity. He campaigned all day long by airplane in long trips from one coast to another. Then he set up late night campaign meetings and tours that sometimes seemed to turn night into day--as in the case of a notable foray into Connecticut, which began at 12:30 A.M. and went on until nearly to 4 A.M. the following day.
By Nov. 8, Election Day, each candidate had traveled more thousands of miles than any of his predecessors in American political history. Each had spoken more times and to more millions of people than any candidate before.
Await the Returns Mr. Kennedy wound up his campaign on home territory. He spent the Monday before election in a whirlwind tour of New England, culminating in a rally in his old Boston territory. He was up early in the morning to vote in Boston and then went to his home in Hyannis Port, Mass. to wait for results.
In Hyannis Port the whole Kennedy family was gathered--Mr. Kennedy's wife, awaiting the birth of their second child (the youngster, John F. Kennedy Jr., was born Nov. 25), his parents, his brother Robert and all the rest of the brothers, sisters, in-laws and children.
As they awaited for the returns to come in, the family, in the old tradition, played touch football on the lawn and demonstrated that not all the Kennedy energy had been exhausted in the election campaign. That is, all played football, except for the Senator's wife, Jacqueline. She went for a long walk, alone, along the sandy beach.
Twenty-four hours later, on the morning of Nov. 9, Mr. Nixon conceded the election to Mr. Kennedy--after one of the closest votes in recent national history.