JFK: A Man Terrified of Castrotion

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Reality Check

Fidel Castro is the last of the Communists. He no longer is the power behind the throne in Cuba. His kid brother (age 82) runs the show. But the movement that Fidel launched in 1953 lives on in his aged body. The victory he achieved on New Year’s Day, 1959, still is politically intact. All the rest have come and gone. He is the last Commie doddering.

Castro was Eisenhower’s nemesis — also Kennedy’s, Johnson’s, Nixon’s, Ford’s, Carter’s, Reagan’s, Bush’s, Clinton’s, Bush’s, and now Obama’s. They all lived in the shadow of south Florida’s election returns, and they swallowed their pride. They all reacted to who he was and what he had done and still could do. He stayed. They came and went.

If there were no Fidel Castro, there would be no Marco Rubio.

If there were no Fidel Castro, you could legally buy a Cuban cigar.

When Kinky Friedman lit a Cuban cigar, and offered one to Bill Clinton, Clinton said: “Uh, you know, that’s illegal in this country. You can’t do that here.” Friedman responded: “We’re not supporting their economy. We’re burning their fields.”


John Fitzgerald Kennedy never got over the 1961 Bay of Pigs fiasco, which was designed by Allen Dulles, approved by Eisenhower, and inherited by Kennedy. He risked nuclear war during the Cuban missile crisis of October 1962 in order to avoid what the press would describe as “Kennedy gets Castroted again.”

In October 1962, the Soviets could have taken out large cities in the Eastern United States without the Cuban missiles. Beginning in July 1961, they had nuclear submarines with nuclear missiles off the coast, five minutes away from Washington, D.C. or New York City. Kennedy could do nothing about the subs. So, their existence was ignored publicly. Missiles in Cuba would be visible; the subs were not. It was all about perception — public relations. The Cuban missile crisis was mainly about defending Kennedy’s macho image, not defending the homeland.

New York’s Senator Kenneth Keating, a Republican, had been warning about the missiles in Cuba for two months. He gave 10 speeches and 14 public statements on this, August to October. The Kennedy administration brushed this off as nonsense. But when the Soviets were about to arm the missiles, Kennedy had a huge political problem. He would look like a fool. Keating had warned the voters, and Kennedy’s flacks had pooh-poohed this.

To understand his dilemma — a political dilemma — we need to consider one of the crucial speeches of his career. It is never discussed in the textbooks, but it established the Kennedy doctrine of the self-censored press.


On April 27, 1961, Kennedy gave a speech to a group of newspaper publishers: the American Newspaper Publishers Association. It was a speech on why the press should show self-restraint in publishing negative reports on the foreign policy failures of his administration.

Of course, he did not come out and say this. Instead, he raised the issue of national security. The title: “The President and the Press.”

If you want to understand this speech, think of Tom Sawyer and the fence. He was supposed to whitewash it. He was looking for volunteers.


He began with a brief history of the early years of Karl Marx. Marx was unemployable all his life. He was on the dole from his partner Engels, a capitalist Communist. He briefly was a columnist for a New York newspaper. That was in 1851. He wanted more money. The owner refused. The owner was a liberal reformer, Horace Greeley. Kennedy commented.

But when all his financial appeals were refused, Marx looked around for other means of livelihood and fame, eventually terminating his relationship with the Tribune and devoting his talents full time to the cause that would bequeath to the world the seeds of Leninism, Stalinism, revolution and the Cold War.If only this capitalistic New York newspaper had treated him more kindly; if only Marx had remained a foreign correspondent, history might have been different. And I hope all publishers will bear this lesson in mind the next time they receive a poverty-stricken appeal for a small increase in the expense account from an obscure newspaper.

It was an amusing vignette. But Marx was already a Communist in 1851. He and Engels wrote The Manifesto of the Communist Party anonymously in late 1847. They were on a deadline. They missed it. They predicted an imminent revolution in Europe. The book was in German. It was published in London on February 21, 1848. The 1848 revolution started in France on February 22Copies reached Germany in June. Marx was never good about deadlines. More money from Greeley would not have changed Marx’s commitment to Communism — or his hatred of deadlines. He kept writing articles until 1861. (Engels ghostwrote some of these articles when Marx missed his deadlines. You can tell which ones. They are the clear ones.)

So, the context of Kennedy’s speech was the newspaper guild. He was speaking at their national forum. In this context, he talked about the Soviet Union. But he did not mention the USSR by name. That would have been bad for diplomacy. The Berlin wall went up four months layer. His introduction on Marx made his frame of reference clear: international Communism.

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