What Democrats thought about JFK

I found this little leaflet in the church the other day. One of the kids must have been messing around in the church library, where it was probably stuffed in an old book. Anyway, I found some of the contents fascinating considering our current President and how his election in 2008 came to be.

The leaflet was published by the Republican National Committee in 1960, the year then Democratic Senator John F. Kennedy defeated then Republican Vice President Richard Nixon to become President of the United States.

Here are some of the quotations from Democrats regarding the man who would become President and, even in death, is an icon to this day of Democratic politics:

Harry Truman, former President (1945-1953), in the New York Herald Tribune on July 3, 1960,

Senator, are you certain that you are quite ready for the country or that the country is ready for you in the role of President in January, 1961? I am greatly concerned and trouble about the situation we are up against in the world now and in the immediate future. That is why I would hope that someone with the greatest possible maturity and experience would be available at this time.

Kennedy was, obviously, one of the youngest Presidents our country has ever had, and there were many questions about his experience.

Sen. Robert C. Byrd (D-WV), who just recently died, said in the Baltimore Sun on April 14, 1960,

Kennedy lacks the age and experience to be President in these perilous days. I find it difficult to be secure in the thought of his sitting down with the Adenauers, the DeGaulles, the MacMillans, and the Khrushchevs as our country wrestles with important problems in the field of international affairs.

Rep. Sam Rayburn (D-TX), who was the Speaker of the House of Representatives, said in the New York Times on July 14, 1960,

It’s easy for someone to say, ‘I can lead a great cause,’ but untested we cannot put faith and confidence and our perpetuity in hands like that.

I found that comment particularly appropriate.

Sen. Lyndon B. Johnson (D-TX), who would end up as Kennedy’s VP, and become President upon his death in 1963, said, shouting to a Washington State Democratic Convention and then recorded in the May 31, 1960, edition of the New York Times,

I am not prepared to apologize to Mr. Khrushchev–are you? I am not prepared to send regrets to Mr. Khrushschev–are you?

Remind anyone of a certain President’s foreign policy decisions? Yeah, me too.

Dean Acheson, who was Truman’s Secretary of State and later advised Kennedy on foreign affairs, said in the Washington Daily News on January 14, 1959, of Kennedy,

Too young . . . still a very young man and uninformed . . . He needs to ripen.

Sen. Hubert H. Humphrey (D-MN), who would be Johnson’s Vice President, told the AP on July 13, 1960, regarding the fact that he’d switched his convention vote from Kennedy to Adlai Stevenson,

This is anything else but a protest vote–it is concern for my country.

Finally, Adlai E. Stevenson, who was the Democrats’ nominee for President in 1952 and 1956, said on “This Week” on February 28, 1960,

Moreover, as I said when I was Governor of Illinois, in 1952, I don’t see how any office holder can participate in a nation-wide primary campaign without neglecting the job the people elected him to do.

If only the Democrats had been so vocal about another Illinois politician in 2008. I find these quotes fascinating as they relate to how Democrats viewed John F. Kennedy, who along with FDR are perhaps the most popular Democrats of the last 100 years, but I find them even more fascinating when we think about them in the context of our sitting President.

Author: Matt Privett

Christian. Husband. Father. Pastor.

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