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JACK KENNEDY, ELUSIVE HERO: SURVIVAL

February 2, 2012


JACK KENNEDY, ELUSIVE HERO: SURVIVAL

Knoxville, Tennessee (JFK+50) Today JFK+50 reports on Chapter 8 of Chris Matthews’ new book, Jack Kennedy, Elusive Hero, published by Simon & Schuster.


The title of Chapter 8 is SURVIVAL.

Chris tells us that in 1954, at the age of 37, Jack Kennedy had a decision to make about his bad back & that Jack chose “to bet his life on the operating room.”

But before going further into that subject, Chris writes that Senator Kennedy cast a vote that was very controversial in Boston & New England.

Jack voted for the creation of the St. Lawrence Seaway.  


               St. Lawrence Seaway
                   Eisenhower Locks
                 Massena, New York

By opening the Atlantic to the Great Lakes, the seaway could put the port of Boston out of business, but JFK saw the seaway as a good thing for the country.

Despite rumors that Jack’s vote was intended to enhance his father’s Merchandise Mart in Chicago, future Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill said that “Jack wanted to show…he had a national perspective.”

As far as foreign policy, Jack was “still a Cold Warrior (who) maintained his belief that the global struggle against Communism must remain his country’s prime concern.”

And too their was the Joe McCarthy problem. 

Chris tells us that Jack was in a “serious dilemma” because not only was the senator, who was about to be censured, a family friend, Bobby had been on McCarthy’s staff.

Ken O’Donnell concluded that Jack’s “only course….was to avoid the vote,” & that, despite the criticism, is what he would do.


Joe McCarthy & Attorney Roy Cohn
        Army-McCarthy Hearings
  Library of Congress Photo (1954)

Now Chris returns to the bad back.  

By August 1954, Jack had lost 40 pounds & decided on the risky surgery.  

Jack put it this way:  “This is the one that kills you or cures you.”

But Chris writes that Jack had decided he would rather die than live on crutches the rest of his life.

Jack went into surgery at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York on October 21, 1954.  

As we know, the 3+ hour surgery did not go well & Jack’s life was “in jeopardy.”

Everyone was worried that Jack was dying, even his old friend, Richard Nixon.

The Vice-President’s secret service agent later recalled that when Nixon got the news he said:

“That poor young man is going to die.  Oh, God, don’t let him die.”

When I read that, I thought “WOW!”

Jack, as we know, rallied during the night “against the odds” & would recover.


Ken O’Donnell said, however, at that point Jack was “physically, mentally & politically….at the bottom.”

Jack spent the next 6 months in recuperation.  


He went to Palm Beach where Red Fay joined him for a time & Jack soon began, with the “cooperation” of Ted Sorensen, to write “Profiles In Courage.”

              
                   Kennedy Library Image
                    Book available for $22

                JFK Library Museum Store

Jack had to write on a board suspended above him as he lay in bed.

But back in Hyannis in June, Jack gave a party for Democratic supporters & non-supporters alike & this time “there were no crutches.”

Ken O’Donnell said that Jack Kennedy had “reached the bottom,” but now “there was a solid foundation from which to build.”


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