The Politic of Conflict and Hope
(1960 – 1969)
1. Kennedy and the Cold War
a. A Narrow Victory
i. Kennedy and Nixon had entered Congress in the same year – 1946.
ii. John F. Kennedy of Massachusetts was the son of a very wealthy businessman and ambassador.
iii. In contrast, Richard Nixon was always an outsider in the world of wealth and power.
iv. Both Candidates pledged to build up the nation’s military might and ensure continued prosperity.
v. Kennedy’s Catholicism posed one of the great questions about the campaign.
vi. On Election Day 69 million votes were cast.
b. Fighting the Cold War
i. The cold war and its many dangers – arms races, competitions in the Third Worlds – were on everyone’s mind as Kennedy took office.
ii. The greatest threat to freedom, in Kennedy’s view, was posed by the iron tyranny of communism.
iii. Part of the price was a large increase in defense spending.
iv. Creating an elite branch og the army called the Special Forces (or Green Berets).
v. Thanks to its nuclear superiority, the United States would also be able to fight an all-out nuclear war with the Soviet Union.
c. A Peaceful Revolution
i. Kennedy knew that communism fed on poverty and social injustice.
ii. The Peace Corps created in 1961, sent young men and women to do volunteer work in developing countries.
iii. Alliance for progress aimed to stop communism in Latin America by offering economic and technical aid to nations in the regions.
iv. The Alliance was mostly a failure.
d. The Invasion of Cuba
i. Kennedy faced one of his toughest foreign policy problems in Cuba. In 1959, Cubans overthrew the dictatorship of Gulgencio Batista. Though the United States had supported Batista.
ii. A bearded young lawyer named Fidel Castro led the uprising. American public opinion supported Castro at first.
iii. Before long, however, Castro was jailing and murdering his opponents.
iv. Over harsh American objections, Cuba signed a trade agreement with the Soviet Union.
v. Eisenhower also put the Central Intelligence Agency to work on a secret plan to overthrow Castro. The idea was to train and equip a group of anti-Castro Cuban exiles living in the United States.
vi. Thus, on the morning of April 17, 1961, the Cuban exile force went ashore at Bahia de Cochinos (the Bay of Pigs).
e. Crisis in Berlin
i. The chief subject of debate between the two leaders was Berlin.
ii. Berlin had been a focus of war tension since the 1940s.
iii. At Vienna, Khrushchev tried to push the West out of Berlin, but Kennedy would not budge.
iv. Rather than attack West Berlin, the Communists decided to wall it off.
v. The Berlin Wall became a frightening symbol of the cold war’s division of Europe
f. The Cuban Missile Crisis
i. The crisis began on October 16, 1962.
ii. For six days Kennedy huddled with close advisers in secret meetings while news of the missiles was kept from the public.
iii. On October 22, 1962, the President went on television to tell the public about the Soviet missiles in Cuba.
iv. Two days later, as the world held its breath, Soviet ships approached the blockade.
v. But the crisis was not over.
vi. In fact, the United States already planned to remove the outdated missiles in Turkey.
vii. The President’s brother, Robert Kennedy, then offered another idea. He suggested that the President privately assure the Soviets that the United States would remove its missiles from Turkey.
g. The Missile Crisis Analyzed
i. Defenders of Kennedy, on the other hand, argue that he achieved the best result possible.
ii. While the debate over the Cuban missile crisis continues, few can doubt that it marked the peak of the cold war.
iii. In 1963 the United States and the Soviet Union agreed to stop using testing nuclear weapons in the air and under water. The agreement was called the Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty.
2. A Thousand Days
a. The New Frontier
i. Kennedy’s New Frontier program suggested grand reforms, but provided few plans for achieving them.
ii. Kennedy chooses people, as one adviser put it, which was young and vigorous and tough.
iii. No matter how talented the executive branch, only Congress can pass laws.
iv. Kennedy did win an increase in the minimum wage form $1 to $1.25 an hour.
v. He also got Congress to approve $5 billion in urban renewal – programs to rebuild run-down areas of the nation’s cities.
vi. In the area of civil rights, Kennedy failed to press hard for new laws.
vii. In 1963 Kennedy finally made a strong plea for civil rights legislation.
b. Kennedy’s Economic Program
i. In his economic views, Kennedy was a moderate.
ii. The focus of this cooperation was on wages and prices.
iii. Kennedy wanted both sides to agree to guidelines in wages and prices.
iv. For the most part, however, Kennedy was not anti-business.
c. Fighting Poverty
i. Many Americans, like Kennedy, knew little about poverty in the United States.
ii. In 1963, JFK called for a national assault on the causes of poverty.
d. New Frontiers in Space
i. In 1961 the Soviet Union made history by sending a man into space – the cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin.
ii. Space flight was largely the outgrowth of the cold war.
iii. The space program fascinated the American people.
iv. The race to the moon continued through the 1960s.
v. Then, an July 16, 1969, three astronauts took off in a spacecraft named Apollo 11.
e. Tragedy in Dallas
i. Kennedy had gone to Texas to build support for his 1964 re-election campaign.
ii. It is difficult to describe the effect that John Kennedy’s death had on the American people.
iii. The suspected assassin was Lee Harvey Oswald.
iv. On the plane carrying the slain President’s body back to Washington, Vice President Lyndon Johnson was sworn in as the new President.
v. The Warren Commission concluded that Oswald had been the assassin and that he had acted on his own.
vi. President for just a thousand days, Kennedy met with many failures in office.