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April 27, 2012

“JOHNNY WE HARDLY KNEW YE”: Memories of John Fitzgerald Kennedy, The End of the Beginning II

Knoxville, Tennessee (JFK+50) Today we continue our report on Chapter 1 of the book by Kenneth P. O’Donnell & David F. Powers with Joe McCarthy.  It is published by Little, Brown & Company.

The title of Chapter 1 is “The End of the Beginning”.

One morning, Kenneth O’Donnell writes, President Kennedy was shaving when Press Secretary Pierre Salinger walked in with the news that the Republicans would nominate conservative Barry Goldwater of Arizona for President in 1964.

JFK said:

“Dave Powers could beat Goldwater.”

O’Donnell goes on to say that JFK believed the Republicans would ultimately choose a more moderate candidate like George Romney*.

Here is where Kenneth O’Donnell makes the case for JFK changing course in Vietnam during his second term.

Kenny writes:

“He told me privately before we went to Texas, he had made up his mind that after his reelection he would take the risk of unpopularity & make a complete withdrawal of American military forces from Vietnam.”

JFK believed, according to O’Donnell, that the war would grow larger & more costly but without changing the dynamic of communist expansion in Southeast Asia.

Kenny points out that JFK was advised by both General Douglas MacArthur & French president Charles de Gaulle that the United States would forever remain “outnumbered on every side.”

Then O’Donnell goes on to repeat the story of a National Security Council meeting where a Marine general & State Department officer had just returned on the same plane from Vietnam.

The general said the war was going great & the Diem government was strong while the State Department officer said the Diem government was near collapse.

JFK responded:

“Were you two gentlemen in the same country?”

*George Romney (1907-1995) was chairman of American Motors (1954-1962) & Governor of Michigan (1963-1969). He is the father of current Republican front-runner Mitt Romney.

George Romney & President Nixon, White House Cabinet Room,
June 23, 1969, Photo by Jack E. Kightlinger, NARA image.



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