February 13, 2012
JACK KENNEDY, ELUSIVE HERO: ZENITH I
Knoxville, Tennessee (JFK+50) Today JFK+50 reports on part one of Chapter 14 of Chris Matthews’ new book, Jack Kennedy, Elusive Hero, published by Simon & Schuster.
The title of Chapter 14 is ZENITH.
Despite President Kennedy’s hope for a ban on nuclear testing, in August 1961 the USSR announced it would resume testing in the atmosphere.
Chris tells us that JFK resisted the pressures for the U.S. to resume testing as well by instructing Secretary of Defense McNamara to begin testing underground.
The National Security Council advised the President that this would give the Soviets the advantage.
Chris writes that “nothing mattered more” to JFK than the negotiation of a mutual test ban treaty, but on March 2, 1962, he had to “explain to millions of worried Americans why he had agreed to resume testing.”
Chris now shifts gears to the success of America’s space program under JFK.
On February 20, 1962, John Glenn became the 1st American to orbit the earth.
“Conquering space offered an unprecedented thrill for the American public. Suddenly it seemed as if all things extraordinary were possible under (JFK’s) leadership.”
Then came “more trouble,” this time on the home front.
Chairman of United States Steel Corporation, Roger Blough, announced a steel price hike of 3.5%.
This announcement came on the heels of an agreement between JFK & the steel workers union to cut back their wage demands.
Also, JFK, under advisement from his economic advisers, believed such a price hike would hurt the U.S. economy by driving up prices on consumer goods.
The President, to put it mildly, felt he had been double-crossed.
Ken O’Donnell said JFK was “white with anger.”
At a press conference, President Kennedy said he found it “hard to accept a situation in which a tiny handful of steel executives (could) show such utter contempt for the interests of 185 million Americans.”
By the next night, Chris writes, 8 of the steel companies cancelled their announced price hikes.
Bobby Kennedy would later explain that the Justice Department had all the steel executives who had raised prices subpoenaed for their public records.
The Attorney General admitted it was a tough way to operate, but he said: “We couldn’t afford to lose.”