Ronald Reagan and John F. Kennedy: A Question of Character

20 03 2010

With the passage of time, America’s greatest presidents prior to the 21st Century are apt to be viewed as Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan.  Gone from that list most certainly will be John F. Kennedy. Today, few young Americans even know who he was—or care about him—because less than a handful of his positive accomplishments had any lasting significance.

Reagan will be remembered, while Kennedy may be forgotten. This conclusion will surely offend those Kennedy disciples who are still pushing the myth of Camelot until its last gasp. Like William McKinley, the fact that an assassin cut short Kennedy’s life and presidency might be all that Americans recall about him 50 years from now.

It is striking how the death of Reagan . . . made one realize how great he was, and how small and inconsequential Kennedy’s accomplishments were. Aside from some flowery words—mostly written for him by Theodore Sorenson—and what remains of the once-vibrant Peace Corps, Kennedy’s legacy is almost nonexistent today.

Reagan was lucky and blessed to have survived an assassin’s bullet only 69 days after he took office on January 20, 1981, and America and the free world are fortunate that he did.  More than 40 years after Kennedy’s death, the full extent of his life-long medical problems is still being withheld from the American people and conservative scholars; and it is doubtful whether he would have lived to accomplish anything approaching what Reagan achieved.

Kennedy launched this nation into Vietnam; and his secretary of defense, Robert McNamara, was the architect of that lost war and the enormous suffering that it produced.  More than 50,000 brave Americans died, and it impaled this nation’s honor on the horns of a tragedy that still haunts policy makers and citizens alike.

Even before Vietnam, Kennedy was responsible for the failed Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba, where Fidel Castro humiliated him completely. This led to more than 40 years of enslavement for the Cuban people. The Cuban Missile Crisis, or Kennedy’s confrontation with the Soviet Union, might have given rise to a nuclear winter.

Reagan is remembered for having brought down that “Evil Empire,” as well as the Berlin Wall and the Iron Curtain, and for freeing the people of Eastern Europe. Today, America’s friends in “New Europe” are its partners in NATO and its allies in the EU—as free men, woman and children who are no longer enslaved by communism.

Reagan’s marriage to Nancy was special and they were blessed with love. There was no hiding of mistresses by the Secret Service, which took place during Kennedy’s presidency. His reckless affairs with women were only outdone by his irresponsible and dangerous relationships with mobsters such as Chicago crime boss Sam Giancana.

Reagan was a doer who had style. Kennedy had style; however, the bloom has even gone off that rose. His serial womanizing, relations with Mafioso figures like Giancana—through their sexual liaisons with Judith Campbell Exner, who was used as their go-between—and other serious character flaws marred it.

Reagan was elected and reelected by landslides, while it is doubtful whether Kennedy would have become president in 1960 if the Mob had not helped him in Illinois and West Virginia—and Giancana claimed credit for that. Kennedy was the son of a bootlegger, and the apple does not fall far from the tree.

The discrepancy between Camelot and the man himself has been laid bare; and there is a stark difference between the hype of Kennedy acolytes and the truth. Perhaps the debunking of his myth is similar to what happened to this country after Vietnam. Maybe Kennedy and America’s invincibility before that war both shared a similar fate, and this country’s naiveté somehow ended.

Kennedy was not someone to look up to, much less deify. Many of us came to that conclusion reluctantly, years ago, with a sense of sadness rather than anger. Like the potentate in Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale, “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” the myth about Kennedy and his feet of clay have become clear for all to see with the passage of time.

In a recent Discovery Channel poll, Reagan was chosen as the “Greatest American,” edging Lincoln by a small margin. When he left office, Reagan had fulfilled his 1980 campaign pledge to restore “the great, confident roar of American progress and growth and optimism.” Also, greatness is often achieved in times of war, and Kennedy never won the war with Cuba, much less the Vietnam War that he started, nor did he win the Cold War—which Reagan won, as he implemented the policy of “peace through strength.”

Reagan will be remembered as one of America’s greatest presidents and a man of character. Kennedy was a tragic Shakespearean figure who may be forgotten and consigned to the dustheap of history. Perhaps this contrast between Reagan and Kennedy—this question of character that Thomas C. Reeves described in his terrific book about Kennedy—is what separates the men and underscores their differences, and ultimately will define their respective places in history.

© 2010, Timothy D. Naegele


[1] Timothy D. Naegele was counsel to the U.S. Senate Banking Committee, and chief of staff to Presidential Medal of Freedom and Congressional Gold Medal recipient and former U.S. Senator Edward W. Brooke (R-Mass), the first black senator since Reconstruction after the U.S. Civil War.  He practices law in Washington, D.C. and Los Angeles with his firm, Timothy D. Naegele & Associates (www.naegele.com).  He has an undergraduate degree in economics from UCLA, as well as two law degrees from the School of Law (Boalt Hall), University of California, Berkeley, and from Georgetown University.  He is a member of the District of Columbia and California bars.  He served as a Captain in the U.S. Army, assigned to the Defense Intelligence Agency at the Pentagon, where he received the Joint Service Commendation Medal.  Mr. Naegele is an Independent politically; and he is listed in Who’s Who in America, Who’s Who in American Law, and Who’s Who in Finance and Business. He has written extensively over the years.  See, e.g.www.naegele.com/whats_new.html#articles

[2] This article was published first at MensNewsDaily.com on August 1, 2005.  See http://www.naegele.com/documents/ReaganJFK.pdf


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20 03 2010
naegeleblog

Two Excellent Books About John F. Kennedy

They are:

1. Thomas C. Reeves’ “A Question of Character: A Life of John F. Kennedy” (see http://www.amazon.com/Question-Character-Life-John-Kennedy/dp/076151287X and http://www.amazon.com/review/R2SDUMI20EEA8Z/ref=cm_cr_rdp_perm

2. Seymour M. Hersh’s “The Dark Side of Camelot” (see http://www.amazon.com/Dark-Side-Camelot-Seymour-Hersh/dp/0316359556 and http://www.amazon.com/review/R3Q8NBIYKP5W01/ref=cm_cr_rdp_perm

Both are brilliantly researched and written.

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20 03 2010
Frankie Pintado

As a Cuban-American, I have long been surrounded by people who don’t have too many good things to say about JFK. I personally knew a man who’s father died as a result of our government abandoning the freedom fighters in Cuba. The man was wounded, and stranded on a raft with other freedom fighters. He was then cannibalized.

The only detail I don’t really agree with here is that his father was much more than a bootlegger. I have no proof of this, so call it a rumor: It is a well known fact (rumor), in Miami, that the Kennedy family was involved heavily in cocaine trafficking. My father, who was a Defense Attorney, had come across their trail many times, including briefly owning a specially outfitted smuggling boat that was supposedly built for the Kennedy’s little business. The boat was (disguised as) an open fishing boat, 40 feet long, with four 300hp outboards. It was capable of about 100MPH, and no fishing-rod holders. What it did have were secret compartments.

That being said, I really don’t believe in prohibition at all. It creates a situation where mafiosos rise to extreme wealth and power outside the law. Then they must protect their wealth with an unregulated mafia police force (but highly paid). Great.

I still don’t like dishonest people, greasing their way through presidential terms. You’re right, let’s forget this guy, or use his life as an example of what it really means to have a “cool”, “hip”, or “trendy” president.

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26 05 2010
naegeleblog

What Would Reagan Do?

The Wall Street Journal has a fine article by David Malpass entitled, “The Panic, Round Two: What Would Reagan Do?” that is worth reading.

See http://www.naegele.com/documents/DavidMalpass-ThePanicRoundTwo-WhatWouldReaganDo.pdf

Yes, the panics are upon us—and there will be many of them globally—as America and the world sink deeper into what economic historians will describe 20-40 years from now as the “Great Depression II,” or by some similar label.

See, e.g., https://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2009/12/16/the-great-depression-ii

David Malpass is right in asking what would Reagan do, because the former president—certainly at the top of his game—might have figured out a way of getting us out of this mess, or of somehow making it less onerous than it will be. After all, he was a creature of the “Great Depression I,” and he learned its lessons well.

Unemployment peaked at 10.8 percent in December 1982, two years after his election—which was higher than any time since the first Great Depression—then dropped during the rest of Reagan’s presidency. But facts and figures do not tell the whole story of the Reagan presidency by any means: his personality and leadership qualities, and his ability to instill hope and optimism.

See, e.g., http://www.usnews.com/money/business-economy/articles/2009/08/27/is-unemployment-the-worst-since-the-great-depression.html

One must remember too that Paul Volcker was Chairman of the Fed, and he contributed mightily to keeping the economy on an even keel, and preventing runaway inflation. He was followed by Alan Greenspan, who never saw the Housing Crisis coming, and he testified to that before a House committee. Or, as Giulio Tremonti, Italy’s Minister of Economy and Finance, put it: “Greenspan was considered a master. Now we must ask ourselves whether he is not, after [Osama] bin Laden, the man who hurt America the most.” That speaks volumes, in terms of the human suffering domestically and globally, which Greenspan launched.

See http://www.americanbanker.com/issues/173_212/-365185-1.html; see also http://www.philstockworld.com/2009/10/11/greenspan’s-legacy-more-suffering-to-come/

Implicit in Malpass’ fine article is the fact that Congress does not know what it is doing. Most politicians have zero training in economics, and do not understand it, and have no appreciation for economic history. They are simply interested in getting elected and reelected, and wielding power while they have it.

Malpass adds correctly:

As Reagan understood, true leadership requires stating goals and taking decisive action, in this case reducing government spending substantially enough to convince the private sector to invest again.

However, Ronald Reagan’s leadership was broader and more important than that. He instilled confidence and optimism when there had been little or none, across the board (e.g., national security, economics).

See also https://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/03/20/ronald-reagan-and-john-f-kennedy-a-question-of-character/

Sadly, Reagan’s leadership and vision are lacking now, as wrong-headed politicians lead us father down the path toward financial ruin, dashing the hopes and dreams of Americans and their counterparts worldwide. However, the days of reckoning are upon us. America and other nations are in uncharted waters; and their politicians may face backlashes from disillusioned and angry constituents that are unprecedented in modern times. We are beginning to see that now.

Also, Barack Obama has zero experience with respect to economic and a plethora of other issues. Americans should read (or reread) his “Dreams from My Father,” and realize that he is one of the most “uneducated” presidents in American history, in terms of real-world issues. This is not said by way of condemnation, but as a fact.

See, e.g., https://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2009/12/05/is-barack-obama-a-racist/

At best he is an academic. Perhaps more importantly, he and his advisers are “a bunch of academics” and ideologues, who have pre-set ideas about how the world should function, which do not square with reality. In many ways, they are the most ill-equipped individuals to confront and understand the “Great Depression II,” much get us through it.

I cannot think of another group that is so ill-equipped to deal with critical issues facing America and the world (e.g., two wars, the risk of any EMP or other devastating attack, North Korea, China, Russia, Iran, the Great Depression II). Fortunately, no calamities hit the Clinton years. We are not and will not be so lucky this time around.

Lastly, Ronald Reagan was blessed—yes, blessed by God. He had innate wisdom and a reservoir of faith, confidence, optimism and good will, and collective life experiences that allowed him to do just the right thing at the right time. Clearly, the fall of the “Evil Empire” was a shining achievement, but there were many many others too.

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29 09 2010
naegeleblog

USA TODAY SHOULD BE BOYCOTTED!

See http://specials.usatoday.com/jfk/

The once-fine and seemingly objective USA Today has reached new lows by publishing a series of articles extolling the virtues of John F. Kennedy and his family that are shameful, and constitute the gross distortion of history. Indeed, they appear to represent yet another attempt by America’s discredited Left to exalt the virtues of its politicians, regardless of how corrupt and immoral they may be.

See https://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/10/04/john-f-kennedy-the-most-despicable-president-in-american-history/; see also https://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/03/20/ronald-reagan-and-john-f-kennedy-a-question-of-character/

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14 01 2011
Timothy D. Naegele

Reagan Son Claims Dad Had Alzheimer’s as President

U.S. News & World Report is reporting:

2011 is a big year for Ronald Reagan fans, being the centennial of his February 6 birth in Tampico, Ill. But youngest son Ron Reagan is spoiling the good cheer with a new book that suggests the Gipper suffered from Alzheimer’s disease while in the White House, a claim dismissed by Reagan’s doctors and outside experts. “Had the diagnosis been made in, say, 1987, would he have stepped down?” Ron asks, regarding the disease confirmed in 1994. “I believe he would have,” he writes in My Father At 100: A Memoir, due in bookstores Tuesday.

In addition to challenging the former president’s doctors, Ron also reports for the first time that Reagan, right after falling off a horse six months out of the White House, underwent brain surgery, denied by Reagan associates.

. . .

There were no reports of Reagan with a shaved head or skull stitches later that month when he served as a guest TV announcer at the July 11 baseball All-Star Game in Anaheim, Calif., or when he was inducted into the Cowboy Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City on July 21.

In September, he went to the Mayo Clinic, where a small burr hole was drilled to relieve a fluid buildup due to the fall.

See http://www.usnews.com/news/blogs/washington-whispers/2011/01/14/reagan-son-claims-dad-had-alzheimers-as-president (emphasis in original); see also http://www.thedailybeast.com/blogs-and-stories/2011-01-20/ron-reagan-interview-his-new-book-my-father-at-100-feud-with-michael/full/ (brother Michael Reagan, pundit George Will, Barbara Walters and others contend Ron Reagan is mistaken)

I know one of Reagan’s very loyal, tight-lipped, and principal speechwriters; and I queried him about why there seemed to be a “letdown” during the former president’s second term in office, and he ducked the questions. One must never forget that the assassination attempt on Reagan’s life undoubtedly took its toll, as well as the natural aging process; and he was hard of hearing, according to Reagan aide Ed Rollins.

Nonetheless, Reagan is still a giant for having restored the faith of Americans in themselves and their country, after the Vietnam War years and the presidency of Jimmy Carter; and for having played a pivotal role in bringing down the “Evil Empire” of the Soviet Union.

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24 01 2011
Timothy D. Naegele

Finally, Reagan Is Honored—Belatedly And In A Second-Class Fashion

Reagan-USA Today series

After running an entire “special” series of articles for many months now, distorting history with respect to John F. Kennedy and his dysfunctional family—which is still being published online to this day—USA Today has belatedly honored Ronald Reagan as his 100th birthday approaches on February 6, 2011.

Compare http://content.usatoday.com/topics/topic/People/Historical+Figures/Ronald+Reagan with http://specials.usatoday.com/jfk/

As I concluded in my article about the two American presidents:

Reagan will be remembered as one of America’s greatest presidents and a man of character. Kennedy was a tragic Shakespearean figure who may be forgotten and consigned to the dustheap of history. Perhaps this contrast between Reagan and Kennedy—this question of character that Thomas C. Reeves described in his terrific book about Kennedy—is what separates the men and underscores their differences, and ultimately will define their respective places in history.

See https://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/03/20/ronald-reagan-and-john-f-kennedy-a-question-of-character/

. . .

The boycott of USA Today and other Gannett businesses must continue!

See, e.g., https://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/10/04/john-f-kennedy-the-most-despicable-president-in-american-history/#comment-836 and https://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/10/04/john-f-kennedy-the-most-despicable-president-in-american-history/#comment-855 and https://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/10/04/john-f-kennedy-the-most-despicable-president-in-american-history/#comment-952

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4 02 2011
Timothy D. Naegele

Ronald Reagan’s 100th Birthday Celebration

The Los Angeles Times has described the birthday celebrations for the former president at his presidential library in Simi Valley, California, which are worth noting. They can be watched online.

See http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-0204-reagan-centennial-20110204,0,4799011.story and http://www.reagancentennial.com/#/Home; see also http://www.life.com/image/first/in-gallery/54841/ronald-reagan-at-100#index/0 (LIFE’s “Ronald Reagan at 100”)

Lastly, Reagan will be the subject of a video salute before the 2011 Super Bowl football game in Dallas. Thankfully, there will be none with respect to Kennedy.

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17 02 2011
Timothy D. Naegele

OBAMA IS A FOOL!

Obama in cowboy hat

He has compared himself with Ronald Reagan, by referring to himself as “The Gipper”—which is the moral equivalent of comparing Adolf Hitler favorably with Mother Teresa.

See http://www.realclearpolitics.com/video/2011/02/11/obama_refers_to_himself_as_the_gipper_in_farewell_to_gibbs.html

Another fool—who fancied being the president too—was Mike Dukakis who ran against George H.W. Bush in 1988, and was “destroyed” by him electorally. Hopefully the same thing happens to Obama between now and the 2012 elections.

Dukakis in tank

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12 05 2016
Timothy D. Naegele

Michael Reagan: “Lessons My Father Taught Me”

Michael and Ronald Reagan

The former president’s eldest son is the best of the Reagans living today; and he has conducted himself with intelligence, dignity and honor. He is the carrier of his father’s torch.

He has written a new book entitled, “Lessons My Father Taught Me,” which is receiving rave reviews already. It should be read by everyone who cares about the former president and his living legacy.

See http://www.naegele.com/documents/MikeReagan-LessonsMyFatherTaughtMe.pdf (Newsmax announcement of Michael Reagan’s new book, with glowing review by Newt Gingrich); see also https://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/03/20/ronald-reagan-and-john-f-kennedy-a-question-of-character/ (“Ronald Reagan and John F. Kennedy: A Question of Character“)

Bald Eagle and American Flag

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