The eight years of the Eisenhower administration had been an era of prosperity, stability, and, for the most part; of success in foreign affairs. This was ended by the election of John Fitzgerald Kennedy to the presidency in 1960. About to depart from office, President Eisenhower said to Senator Curtis, ‘Stay tough, Curtis, stay tough.’ That Curtis found necessary to do. Assisted by Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., and other speechwriters, Kennedy had been persuasive on television, the first presidential candidate to make really effective use of that medium of communication. His television debates with VicePresident Nixon, indeed, had given Kennedy his tiny margin of victory in November. But television could not give him victories abroad or in the Congress.
His first television address as President was a blunder: in it he warned the people of the peril of Communist domination of remote Laos, the beginning of that American involvement in southeastern Asia which was to end with American defeat after a decade of exhausting war. There would occur promptly the disaster of the Bay of Pigs in Cuba, botched more by United States civilian officials of the Kennedy administration than by the military or the CIA. It was Kennedy's initial major failure in office, and his reputation never wholly recovered from that defeated landing. Later, President Kennedy would boast of having browbeaten Khrushchev out of establishing missile bases in Cuba, in their confrontation of October 28, 1962; but in reality the victory was Khrushchev's, for the Soviets never agreed to an acceptable verification system to prove that indeed they had removed their missiles from Cuba, while Kennedy gave an implicit pledge that American forces would not invade Cuba. That menacing island remained a Soviet satellite. Similarly, Kennedy was pusillanimous with respect to Germany: The Berlin Wall was built despite American protests. Here Kennedy behaved after a very different fashion from what presumably would have been Franklin Roosevelt's or Harry Truman’s in such circumstances.
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