January 20, 2011

Half a century ago, the inauguration of JFK.



Ian Crouch comments:
It was a bright and blustery day in Washington fifty years ago today for the inauguration of John F. Kennedy. An old newsreel reporting the day’s events notes that the city was recovering from a blizzard and that “battalions of snow fighters kept Pennsylvania Avenue clear for the swearing-in ceremony.” That earnest footage also communicates the enthusiasm that accompanied the event for many in the country. It was “the smoothest transition of power in history” from Eisenhower to Kennedy, the newsreader informs us. Nixon, recently defeated, even manages to smile brightly. Yet it was a new day, a new age: Kennedy was, at forty-three, then the youngest President and the first born in the twentieth century....

58 comments:

Revenant said...

I can see commemorating his assassination -- it was a major event in American history -- but who cares about his inauguration?

We didn't commemorate Eisenhower's 50th anniversary in 2003, and I doubt we'll note Johnson's in 2015.

Calypso Facto said...

Ha! Funny that when I first entered this post it showed the "Best fake orgasm ever" video embedded. Also very appropriate, given the cult-of-personality fawning over JFK.

AJ Lynch said...

I enjoyed Pat Buchanan's description of the day. He said it represented the passing of the torch from the generation that managed and led us in WWII {Ike & Truman etc] to the generation that fought in it {JFK etc].

AJ Lynch said...

Rev - they will commemorate's Slick Willie's in 2042 I bet.

Lucien said...

While this is remembered as a famous speech, it is interesting that the best known lines from it today ("Ask not ...", " . . . pay any price, bear anny burden . . .", etc.)are not included in the newsreel selections.

Christy said...

The Google banner commemorates JFK's inauguration with words from his speech forming the letters of Google. Myself, not a fan. My favorite assasination theory is the Red Dwarfversion.

Hoosier Daddy said...

It was “the smoothest transition of power in history” from Eisenhower to Kennedy, the newsreader informs us.

Huh? My history might be rusty but I didn't the previous 34 transitions of power go fairly smoothly? I mean in comparisons to say the President of the week in [insert South American or African nation]

Hoosier Daddy said...

....but who cares about his inauguration?

Well it is JFK who has reached an almost mythical status. I had a pretty liberal friend who just adored him but when I asked why she adored a President who initiated the buildup of combat forces in Vietnam, nearly took us to the brink of nuclear war with the Soviets, passed a huge marginal tax rate cut all I got was a deer in the headlights look.

Most liberals love JFK but he'd never make it in today's Democratic Party. If Liberman is an outcast, JFK is Reganesque.

chickelit said...

The poem which Robert Frost wrote for the occasion and meant to read but never did: Dedication

Bob Ellison said...

I'll step in for all who are trying to avoid pointing out that Theodore Roosevelt was younger than JFK when he (TR) took office. Crouch and his magazine should try harder.

lemondog said...

We didn't commemorate Eisenhower's 50th anniversary in 2003, and I doubt we'll note Johnson's in 2015.

Isn't the ceremony just a Massachusetts event?

...but I didn't the previous 34 transitions of power go fairly smoothly?

I was thinking the same thing.

Lee Merrick said...

Remember the day very well....huge snowstorm in Pittsburgh so no school...watched the whole thing on black & white TV with Walter Cronkite as anchor. It was wonderful and made quite an impression on a 12 year old.
I am older and wiser now....

MadisonMan said...

I was 3 months old, sleeping in a dresser drawer.

edutcher said...

At the time, I recall many of my classmates weighing in on this (and we're talking 12 year olds), but the one that stayed with me was, "After the first three or four wars he gets us into, somebody will just shoot him".

Which is pretty much what happened.

Out of the mouths of Walter Lippmann-reading adolescents...

MadisonMan said...

Best-managed transition of power on record is what the Newsreader says -- not smoothest transition in history. Since they mention the weather-related snafus that delayed things, best-managed is something of a misnomer.

David said...

My father was very annoyed that JFK did not thank Eisenhower for his service. I did not understand that reaction at the time, but I think I do now. Something to do with humility.

Tyrone Slothrop said...

I can't ever think about JFK without feeling that he betrayed my mother. She was an ardent Democrat, a sincere practicing Catholic, and a strong believer in family and in marital fidelity. The "Kennedy" we were led to believe in, that is, the PR-image Kennedy, was a paragon of all those things. That image was supported by a duplicitous media.

Of course, I remember the assassination much more clearly than the inauguration. The Maryknoll nun (for the life of me I can't remember her name) who announced Kennedy's death to my fifth-grade class was crying hard.

I use the past tense referring to my mother, but she is still alive. I think she either doesn't want to believe, or doesn't care about, the facts of JFK's history. Her lasting faith is an artifact of a past age. Did he betray my mother? She doesn't think so, but I do.

For my part, the shameless lies a willing media participated in have a lot to do with my becoming a conservative.

David said...

"We didn't commemorate Eisenhower's 50th anniversary in 2003 . . . "

Ike gets his claps on D-Day. Hope we will never forget that. But who commemorates Gettysburg anymore?

David said...

Gettysburg the battle, not the speech, though the speech commemorates the battle, so maybe I'm wrong about the while thing.

Quaestor said...

AJ Lynch wrote: it represent[s] the passing of the torch from the generation that managed and led us in WWII to the generation that fought it.

And Obama's inauguration marks the passing of the torch to the generation that forgot it.

Crimso said...

"My history might be rusty but I didn't the previous 34 transitions of power go fairly smoothly?"

There was one that occurred in 1861 that was rather turbulent. And while it may have been the call for volunteers to suppress the rebellion that essentially pushed us past the point of any negotiated settlement (and pushed some additional states over the secession line), the mere election of Lincoln was enough to cause some states to declare secession.

Donald Douglas said...

Linked: 'This Day in History: Inauguration of President Ronald Reagan'.

Crimso said...

"But who commemorates Gettysburg anymore?"

I've not been to the battlefield during an anniversary, but I believe the number of visitors susbtantially increases. I personally tend to at least think of it on those dates, as I also tend to note the anniversaries of Stone's River and Chickamauga. Not like I throw parties or have parades or anything, but I remember because we shouldn't forget (whether you're a Yankee or a Reb, or even if your ancestors weren't even here then). Oh, and I also tend to recall the anniversary of Franklin.

To try to make my point and mindset a little clearer, I'll note that JFK was (along with my grandparents) part of "The Greatest Generation." They're celebrated and honored and even revered, and I think they should be. But they weren't the greatest generation this country produced. I save that distinction for the one that lived through the Civil War. Shelby Foote called it "this enormous catastrophe of the 19th century." I think that was an understatement.

Moose said...

I seriously don't care about JFK anymore. He almost got us all blown to dust, and other than that, got us involved in Viet Nam. He was about as special as Palin. And that's not saying much...

Bart Hall (Kansas, USA) said...

Hoosier is absolutely correct that JFK would not stand a chance of nomination in today's Democrat party.

Nor would Johnson, Truman, the 1932 FDR, or Cleveland. Only Wilson could be nominated by post-1968 Democrats.

How far has the part gone of course? Consider a "founder" of the party, Andrew Jackson.

Jackson wrote his farewell address in 1837, the first year of what was unarguably the worst depression in America’s history. Jackson had his flaws, and rather serious ones at that, but he saw clearly.

It is well known that there have always been those amongst us who wish to enlarge the powers of the General Government, and experience would seem to indicate that there is a tendency on the part of this Government to overstep the boundaries marked out for it by the Constitution. Every attempt to exercise power beyond these limits should be promptly and firmly opposed.

Which political party claims this guy as one of their founders, again?

There is, perhaps, not one of the powers conferred on the Federal Government so liable to abuse as the taxing power. [snip] Congress has no right under the Constitution to take money from the people unless it is required to execute some one of the specific powers intrusted to the Government.

Does this sound at all like today’s Democrats?

Plain as these principles appear to be, you will yet find there is a constant effort to induce the General Government to go beyond the limits of its taxing power and to impose unnecessary burdens upon the people. Many powerful interests are continually at work to swell the revenue beyond the real necessities of the public service, and the country has already felt the injurious effects of their combined influence.

After warning that Congress had passed a very high tax, Jackson—like Kennedy a century and a quarter later—warned of the dangers. Apart from some linguistic differences, It could have been written yesterday.

Designing politicians will support it to conciliate their favor and to obtain the means of profuse expenditure for the purpose of purchasing influence in other quarters; [snip] efforts will be made to seduce and mislead the citizens of the several States by holding out to them the deceitful prospect of benefits to be derived; and if, encouraged by these fallacious hopes, the States should disregard the principles of economy which ought to characterize every republican government, and should indulge in lavish expenditures exceeding their resources, they will before long find themselves oppressed with debts which they are unable to pay, and the temptation will become irresistible to support [high taxes]. [snip]It is, moreover, a system of injustice, and if persisted in will inevitably lead to corruption, and must end in ruin. The revenue will be drawn from the pockets of the people—from the farmer, the mechanic, and the laboring classes of society; but who will receive it when distributed, where it is to be disposed of by leading politicians, who have friends to favor and political partisans to gratify ?

There is but one safe rule, and that is to confine the General Government rigidly within the sphere of its appropriate duties.

Lucien said...

@Bob Ellis

TR took office as a result of assassination. JFK was youngest elected POTUS.

J said...

JFK's inaugural speech provides another example of mostly empty eloquence, typical of US politicians. Now, compared to say BushCo II's stammering--about like some drunken Rotarian at the Houston---JFK's oratory may seem quite majestic (though politically, he was rather conservative). Yet the abstractions..."Ask not what you can do"... are on examination, as Penn Jillette might put it...bull-sheet.

A country, ie State, doesn't do anything. People do. People don't do things for the ...abstraction "Country" either. They do, or don't do things for people in power. Ask not what people in power can do for you, but what you can do for them doesn't quite have a ring to it.

Hypostasis, as it is known, however remains a typical orator's trick--ie personifying an abstraction such as Country or State as if it were a living entity. Teabaggers and conservative flagwavers of all types are as fond of it as JFK was.

Sixty Grit said...

I remember that snowstorm - my brothers and I had to shovel our driveway 35 miles away from Pennsylvania avenue. It was cold and sunny that day, in the middle of what was a brutal winter, kind of like the one we are having this year. Then, it was called a mini-ice age. Now it is global warming. I don't what they call it, but if I have to shovel it, I call it bullshit.

And, despite appearances, we had color in those days.

Bushman of the Kohlrabi said...

I was 1 month old. The quality of this video makes me feel like I was born in the stone age.

Quaestor said...

The real significance of the Kennedy inaugural is that it marks the decline of American journalism into mere propaganda.

Most people misunderstand propaganda. They to equate propaganda with overt lies and falsehoods, which is not entirely true, or more specifically not inclusive enough. Cheap propaganda is composed of lies because unsophisticated and ignorant people can be easily deceived. However, well-schooled, as opposed to well-educated, persons are also vulnerable to propaganda, but it must be of a more subtle kind, specifically the propaganda of silence.

Historically journalists have been partisans, however about 100 years ago when journalism became a profession with academic underpinnings the ethic focused on the story. Unbridled curiosity was the hallmark virtue of the news hound, a breed now sadly extinct. But beginning with the rise of the Kennedy dynasty the tiny guild of "professional journalists" (aka the MSM) abandoned curiosity, muzzled the nose for news, and became a bodyguard of secrets

Michael said...

Robert Frost used a poem he had memorized because the wind was blowing the papers on which he had written the new poem. Lyndon Johnson tried to help him but he just couldn't see the words. He is one of my favorite poets and I wonder what he would think of the Democratic Party of today. His house's indoor plumbing consists of a two holer that is over a part of the stable.

Johnson brought about the end of the Democratic Party that was 150 years old.

MadisonMan said...

It was cold and sunny that day, in the middle of what was a brutal winter, kind of like the one we are having this year.

National Airport has had less than 4" of snow this year. December was colder than normal, January is just about normal.

You have an weak threshold for brutal.

Peano said...

I'll save my commemorative energies for Reagan's 100th birthday, February 6.

AJ Lynch said...

I was 8 & 1/2 years old and have no idea if I noticed the ceremony or if it snowed in Philly that day.

I do remember the election of OUR first Catholic prez was pretty big stuff.

Sixty Grit said...

MadMan, I don't live at National airport.

And just because you think it is normal to live on the tundra doesn't mean the rest of us are that fucking stupid.

Ken said...

The inaugural address was a good speech. It marked the high point of the presidency of the most overrated politician in our history.

Phil 3:14 said...

This narrative is impervious to change.

David said...

"Only Wilson could be nominated by post-1968 Democrats."

Wilson? The most racist President since the Civil War, and the man who purged the federal government of black office holders? In that sense, at least, he was a perfect representative of the Democratic party, which has pulled off the not inconsiderable trick of holding power by being race baiters from both sides of the racial divide (thereby perpetuating the divide, which in one form or another has been used in their interest for over 150 years.)

Bushman of the Kohlrabi said...

...the most overrated politician in our history

Surely you jest.

David said...

Prophetically, JFK wore a beaver hat to his inauguration.

From the archive of the JFK Library:

Beaver fur top hat with black felt band and grosgrain silk rim. Interior of hat reads, "Dobbs 5th Avenue NY / Lewis & Thos Saltz Washington"

J said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
J said...

Wilson may not have been too PC...and dragged his heels a bit on jim crow... but was not a racist per se. Wilson was probably the most competent US president of the 20th century

The typical republican frat boy/biz majors smear Wilson, because they don't care for all those nasty regulations on financiers that Wilson and his progressives ushered in, or the New Deal, which followed from many of Wilson's ideas (ie the Fed itself was a progressive plan against robber baron capitalists, at least initially.).

ricpic said...

Kennedy was a catastrophe for haberdashers.

Hoosier Daddy said...

I was surprised people still wore top hats in 1961.

BJM said...

It all seems so quaint and old-fashioned now.

@Quaestor

The real significance of the Kennedy inaugural is that it marks the decline of American journalism into mere propaganda.

Hardly, Edith Wilson successfully covered up her husband's stroke. She assumed full control of his agenda and calendar, not even VP Marshall was told his medical status or allowed to see Wilson.

In spite of the country emerging from a horrendous world war and Wilson's beloved League of Nations faltering; an incapacitated Wilson was successfully hidden from his administration and the public. That requires a complicit press.

I don't recall the media reporting that FDR couldn't walk unassisted during the 1932 convention or four successive election campaigns. It was not reported that he was terminally ill until after Potsdam, when it couldn't be hidden. Or that he and Eleanor didn't live together, he had a long time mistress and Eleanor swam in the lady pond.

Eisenhower had a mistress for years, and LBJ had a closet full of corruption and infidelity skeletons, both as Senate Majority Leader and President.

FLOTUS Betty Ford's alcoholism and prescription drug addiction went unreported until it outed itself on 60 Minutes.

The most infamous MSM cover up was J.Edgar Hoover.

Can you imagine any of the above not being reported now?

The MSM blames the internet on their decline, but it was cable TV's insatiable 24x7 maw that broke their grip on the news cycle that allowed the MSM to set the news agenda and disguise their bias.

PaulV said...

BJM, Gary Condit was bashed 24/7 for a killing someone else did. He was not a good man, but nothing else was happening summer of 2001

J said...

The most infamous MSM cover up was J.Edgar Hoover.

Demopublican, all the way: J-Edgar worked for Ike, JFK, LBJ, Nixon. Some say he may have even have been involved in the removal of....JFK.

Methadras said...

His greatest achievement was getting to fuck Marilyn Monroe.

victoria said...

I remember it like it was yesterday. There was a blizzard in New Providence, New Jersey and we were off of school for the day. We did something we were never allowed to do, watch TV during the day. We all watched and swooned over MR handsome President. I am half Irish and half Italian in the 3rd grade at a Catholic grammar school. You'd think the pope had been inaugurated, the nuns loved him. So did all of us girls and my mom. She wore the bubble cut, just like Jackie and clothes just like Jackie.

Ah, they're all gone, even my wonderful mom.


Vicki from Pasadena

David said...

Wilson not a racist?

Here's a quote from his 1915 History of the United States:

“The white men were roused by a mere instinct of self preservation… until at last there had sprung into existence a great Ku Klux Klan, a veritable empire of the South, to protect the Southern country.

He made it clear elsewhere, in writing, that he viewed blacks as inferior and that it was important to keep southern governmental power out of the hands of an "inferior race."

He was also racist in his foreign policies, but his principal disdain was for American black people.

Wilson was a terrible racist--and a typical member of the Democratic party of that era.

Big Mike said...

@David, you're absolutely correct about Wilson. As president of Princeton University he actively discouraged Blacks from applying. As president he segregated the federal civil service, including the postal service, and reduced the salaries of Black civil servants. He is quoted as telling Black leaders "segregation is not a humiliation but a benefit, and ought to be so regarded by you gentlemen."

Not a man for Democrats to be proud of.

Methadras said...

David said...

Wilson not a racist?

Here's a quote from his 1915 History of the United States:

“The white men were roused by a mere instinct of self preservation… until at last there had sprung into existence a great Ku Klux Klan, a veritable empire of the South, to protect the Southern country.

He made it clear elsewhere, in writing, that he viewed blacks as inferior and that it was important to keep southern governmental power out of the hands of an "inferior race."

He was also racist in his foreign policies, but his principal disdain was for American black people.

Wilson was a terrible racist--and a typical member of the Democratic party of that era.


That wasn't really considered racism back then. Context of the era matters.

JAL said...

@ Bob Ellison I'll step in for all who are trying to avoid pointing out that Theodore Roosevelt was younger than JFK when he (TR) took office. Crouch and his magazine should try harder.

Keneedy -- youngest *elected* president?

Funny -- they asked that the other night on a "Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?" show.

Can't remember how they phrased it.

Kennedy was the answer they were looking for (& got).

AJ Lynch said...

Hoosier:
I don't think I ever saw anyone wear a top hat- I was 8 in 1960.

Yeah maybe for some big big ceremony like a prez inaugaration but nowhere else did you see top hats.

David said...

"Context of the era matters."

Right, so in the 1840's, slavery wasn't actually racist, right?

William said...

The more I read about Wilson and his Presidency the less I like him. He was President during a fulcrum moment in world events, and he screwed it up. I think if TR won the election in 1912, the world would be a different and better place....Kennedy is like the James Dean of Presidents. He carried himself with grace, and he really did have style and wit. But mostly he died young and what you remember is the promise of his life.....Besides Marilyn Monroe, he bedded Gene Tierney and is said to have been with Audrey Hepburn and Sophia Loren. This part of his life did not go unfulfilled....His accomplishments are overrated, but his personal charm and magnetism are intact. Do you know anyone who actually dislikes him? Do you know anyone who actually likes LBJ or Nixon as men?

Methadras said...

David said...

Right, so in the 1840's, slavery wasn't actually racist, right?


The concept of racism in the 1840's isn't something that would have been discussed outside of the abolitionist movement and even within that movement it was viewed differently than you would portray it today. Again, the perception, you call racism wasn't perceived or even talked about in that way.

Methadras said...

William said...

His accomplishments are overrated, but his personal charm and magnetism are intact. Do you know anyone who actually dislikes him? Do you know anyone who actually likes LBJ or Nixon as men?


Sounds like President Erkle. Funny how the more things change, the more they stay the same.