As told today, the presidency of John F. Kennedy wasidyllic, and is often referred to as Camelot. In truth, John Kennedy was not a popular President. He had filled his administration withmore than 40 members of the very liberal Americansfor Democratic Action and had been unsuccessful in passing any significantlegislation, save his tax rate reduction bill, that proved effective instemming the tide of a mild recession.By late summer of 1962 it was evident that the Kennedy Administrationand the Democrats in general were in serious trouble. A generic poll showed that the Republicans were more popularthan the Democrats and were in a position to make more than normal gains in thefall elections, possibly taking control of the United States House of Representatives. And, as an aside, by the middle of 1963,a poll taken by Gallup or a similarly reputable polling firm showed that BarryGoldwater would beat President Kennedy in a head-to-head race for President in1964. The Kennedy presidency wastragically cut short by an assassin’s bullet fired by Lee Harvey Oswald of thefar left Fair Play for Cuba Committee. But I am getting ahead of my story.
In the summer of 1960 rumors from Miami's Cuban émigrécommunity of Soviet nuclear missile deployment on the island reached theKennedy Administration and important members of Congress, including New YorkSenator Kenneth Keating. On August10, 1962, CIA Director John McCone sent a memo to President Kennedy expressinghis belief that sites for Soviet medium-range ballistic missiles were underconstruction in Cuba. Still, many membersof the Kennedy Administration discounted the idea of nuclear missiles beingplaced in Cuba. Senator Keating,who was a close friend of Director of Central Intelligence John McCone, pursuedthe matter diligently. On August31, 1962, Senator Keating provided the United States Senate with photographicevidence that Soviet medium-range ballistic missiles were being installed inCuba. But still the Administrationdeclined to acknowledge the threat of Soviet missiles in Cuba.
Instead of dealing with the problem when it would not haverequired a military confrontation with the Soviet Union on the high seas, Ibelieve that President Kennedy, along with his brother, Attorney General RobertKennedy, saw the issue as a political opportunity. By showing resolve in the face of a crisis they believedthat they could rally the American people who were dismayed at the weakperformance of the young President at the June 1961 summit with Sovietdictator, Nikita Khrushchev, in Vienna, Austria. Earlier that year, in April of 1961, the Administration hadshown weakness and vacillation when a CIA planned and initiated invasion byCuban exiles at the Bay of Pigs failed after the United States withdrew itspromised air cover for the invasion.
The fall elections looked like a bloodbath for theDemocrats. There was only onesolution, a bold October Surprise that showed the resolve and courage of theyoung President who had thus far disappointed the American people. The Kennedys were tough politicians andthey were desperate to save their floundering presidency. Whether their actions were noble andprudent, or political and dangerous, the result was the same.
The Cuban Missile Crisis saved the Kennedys and theDemocrats in the 1962 election. Itrecreated the image of a decisive President with the backbone and courage tostand up to the Soviet Union. Thenet result was a dramatic turnaround in the election results that secured astrong Democratic majority in Congress.
I remember the lead up to the Cuban Missile Crisis well andI fear that the current Obama Administration will in desperation resort to asimilar strategy to rescue the Democrats from a drubbing this comingNovember. On Sunday, August 1, ourcurrent Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, told Meet the Press host David Gregory thatthe US military has a plan to attack Iran. He indicated that this would be a last resort action, but hecertainly put it on the table.
Admiral Mullen’s announcement eerily reminded me of August1962. Is the current administrationdesperate enough and cynical enough to utilize an international crisis toaffect the outcome of the 2010 elections?What do you think?
Perhaps there is no discussion in the Administration of anOctober Surprise. Perhaps theObama Administration is too noble to risk American lives in order to advancepolitically. But remember thatRahm Emanuel has repeatedly advised the President to never “waste acrisis.” Right now, today,conservatives need to start talking about a possible October Surprise in orderto dissuade the Administration of taking such a foolish action for politicalreasons. It needs to be shoutedfrom the house tops and broadcast over the airwaves.The November election is far, far too important to bederailed by an October Surprise.