Originally posted July 27, 2016.
David Bromwich, writing in The National Interest, tells readers that John Kennedy deceived Americans regarding Russia’s supposed “missile gap.”
In the 1960 campaign, John Kennedy ran to the right of Richard Nixon on nuclear policy toward the Soviet Union. He accused Nixon of having allowed a “missile gap.” Compared to Soviet Russia, so the story went, the United States was fielding an inferior force of ICBMs and was losing the Cold War. This turned out to be false. The Soviet Union under Khrushchev lagged well behind, and was never in hailing distance of catching up. Even so, the mistake was a factor in the events that led to the Cuban missile crisis of 1962; and that memory ought to give pause to anyone bent on a nobler aim than getting elected. We may deplore Donald Trump for his abridgment of the protocols of honest debate, his pandering to racial and religious prejudice, his contempt for plain facts and his lack of acquaintance with facts. But to picture Trump as an agent or enabler of Vladimir Putin—and to insinuate that anyone who seeks diplomatic arrangements with Moscow in preference to a new Cold War must be “soft”—does nothing to elevate the political discourse of the moment. It takes us out of the sewer and leads us into the cesspool.
September 7, 1960 – Senator John F. Kennedy’s Remarks at the Civic Auditorium, Portland, Oregon
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