Tilting at Windmills

January/February 2012 The best thing JFK ever did

By Charles Peters

I really enjoyed reading Chris Matthews’s Jack Kennedy, Elusive Hero. Chris’s understanding, unique among the commentariat, of working-class voters, especially the Irish Catholic subset, helps explain the ardent and crucial support they gave Kennedy in the 1960 election.

Matthews is also at his best in showing how Kennedy came through in the clutch during the Cuban missile crisis at “the time of our greatest peril,” not by being truculent but by putting himself in Kruschev’s shoes. He understood that we had to give Kruschev something in return for pulling his missiles out of Cuba, so he had Bobby make a secret commitment to Soviet Ambassador Dobrynin that we would remove our missiles from Turkey, the closest we had to the USSR, and thus comparable to theirs in Cuba.

Charles Peters is the founding editor of the Washington Monthly and the author of a new book on Lyndon B. Johnson published by Times Books.