On Air
0:00
0:00
Open In Popup
MPR News

3 views on JFK

Share story

President John F. Kennedy
President John F. Kennedy signs the order of naval blockade of Cuba on Oct. 24, 1962, at the White House during the Cuban missile crisis.
AFP/AFP/Getty Images

This week on The Daily Circuit, we're observing the 50th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy's assassination.

We begin with three authors and historians who bring different views to the president's politics, his accomplishments and the challenges he confronted while in office.

Robert Dallek, author of "An Unfinished Life: John F. Kennedy 1917 - 1963" and most recently "Camelot's Court: Inside the Kennedy White House."

'Camelot's Court' by Robert Dallek
'Camelot's Court' by Robert Dallek
Book cover courtesy of publisher

From the Washington Post review:

Kennedy was very worried about the political fallout from "losing Vietnam," and he could be as expedient (and craven) as any politician. Still, as Dallek shows, he struggled to be his own man and came to understand that brilliance does not always, or perhaps often, equal good judgment. Kennedy did learn to question his aides, even if he could not always master them. He might have made a good second-term president -- unless his egregious personal behavior caught up with him.

Dallek's account does not finally redeem or exalt JFK, but it does make you want to elect presidents who are not easily fooled by the so-called experts.


Thurston Clarke, historian and author of "JFK's Last Hundred Days: The Transformation of a Man & the Emergence of a Great President."

'JFK's Last Hundred Days' by Thurston Clarke
'JFK's Last Hundred Days' by Thurston Clarke
Book cover courtesy of publisher

From the New York Times review:

In Mr. Clarke's view, two speeches the president gave in June 1963 — one proposing negotiations with Moscow to draft a nuclear test ban treaty, the other declaring that "race has no place in American life or law" — represented a turning point in his life, when he went from sailing with the winds of political expediency to embracing principle, as he described some of his heroes doing in "Profiles in Courage."


Ira Stoll, journalist, editor of FutureOfCapitalism.com and author of "JFK: Conservative."

From the Forbes review:

'JFK: Conservative' by Ira Stoll
'JFK: Conservative' by Ira Stoll
Book cover courtesy of publisher

Stoll cracks the surface of progressive nostalgia and digs up facts that others have left covered over. He shines his miner's flashlight on material that challenges the progressive stereotype and brings to light nuggets of information and resources that no one else has retrieved.

In an early speech, "Why I Am a Democrat," Kennedy explained simply: "Because I was born one" — in other words, "an accident of birth." Given that accident, JFK opted for the most conservative and Jeffersonian definition of Democrat he could find, that which "stood firmly opposed to a strong centralized government. ... It championed states' rights, and strict constitutional interpretation."