Saturday, November 18, 2017

One of a Kind?

"There was a risk of thermonuclear war. The more I was able to go to a Cuban military camp, prowl around the exterior and look at ... their equipment and describe that and sketch that, the more the American intelligence community realized [Soviet Union leader Nikita] Khrushchev was keeping his word."
John W. Graham, Canadian diplomat to Cuba

"General Carter said that CIA would examine the possibilities of sabotaging airplane parts which are scheduled to be shipped from Canada to Cuba."
"[Carter had also asked National Security Advisor McGeorge Bundy] to increase security intelligence on Canada because of its] reporting funding of subversive elements in Ecuador and possibly elsewhere."
Recently declassified memo

"This would have constituted a violation of Canadian sovereignty, but that shouldn't surprise anyone."
"This is an agency [the Central Intelligence Agency] which has undermined numerous countries."
""It was unlikely the CIA would risk an operation on Canadian soil as] it's just so much easier to have a ship blown up at sea."
Arne Kislenko, university professor, history of espionage, Ryerson University

"[Kennedy] hated Canadian nationalism and thought Canada was the boonies."
"He had a tremendous imperial arrogance toward Canada."
John Kirk, professor of Latin American studies, Dalhousie University
A rare photo of John F. Kennedy and John Diefenbaker smiling during the U.S. president’s visit to Ottawa on May 16, 1961. University of Saskatchewan, University Archives & Special Collections, J.G.D. Diefenbaker

President John F. Kennedy was the American shining knight, the hope of the future, a courageous war veteran, a man who struggled through intolerable physical pain to show a brave face; steering the United States of America unerringly toward its rightful place in the world, he was the champion of all champions for human rights, lofty ideas of probity, responsibility, trustworthiness, audaciousness, empathy and pride. The world loved him almost as much as Americans did, the very exemplar of American steadfastness in the face of adversity.

There were those in the press corps in Washington who heard rumours, who conducted discreet interviews, and who knew otherwise than the popular fiction of a celebrated, worshipped public figure who could do no wrong. They also knew how to be discreet, mostly because who would believe what they might write, simply because no one would want to have their icon tumbled from his pedestal. People need their national heroes and he was a hero of unmatched quality and fame, stirring pride in the populace and envy abroad.

Oddly enough, a man  who has garnered a reputation so completely the reverse of JFK's  has given the U.S. National Archives permission to release over 25,000 sealed and secret files matching John F. Kennedy's presidential era. One memo dating from 1962 outlines Kennedy's hate affair with Canada. Which had its nerve to exert an independent nationalist spirit against the United States' decisions that didn't sit well with the Canadian administration of the era, mostly under John Diefenbaker, a Conservative leader; their ideologies and personalities clashed.

When Diefenbaker threatened to release a heavily compromising memorandum to the press that Kennedy had inadvertently left behind, on a visit to Canada, Kennedy was beyond irate, ranting in the White House that he would "cut his balls off", then reverting to naming Diefenbaker a "prick", a "f--ker", and a "son of a bitch". This, the man whom the U.S. press adulated, and wrote nothing but praise for, reporting on his every initiative as though it was an order direct from on high. Unlike the manner in which the press universally writes of the current President of the United States of America.

President Donald Trump is generally acknowledged by the global community as being less than statesmanlike, and Kennedy was eminently statesmanlike, diplomatic, careful to portray himself as he wished to be seen, rumours be damned. Like his father, Kennedy was a social aristocrat, like his father he was an unredeemed womanizer, like his father he was a bully and an imperialist. A foul-mouthed, entitled 'intellectual', a drug-dependent, mob-friendly playboy-president. Unlike his father who only made it to Ambassador to Great Britain during the Second World War, JFK became president.

He had his father's connections and wealth to thank for that, along with the family's dynastic name. The hands-off attitude of the press toward Kennedy has nothing in common with the feeding frenzy of the press reporting on the uncouth, sexist, uninformed boorishness of the current president. Where JFK had all the backing anyone could wish for from the public and the press to accentuate his qualities and quietly acquiesce to ignoring his faults, Donald Trump, with many of the same qualities and rife with similar faults trumpets his own fame.

Where Donald Trump has brought the United States and by extension the world at large close to a nuclear confrontation with the Peoples Republic of North Korea through his bluff handling of the swaggering little Kim playing his nuclear gamesmanship, his predecessor brought the same situation to a close head in a game of chicken with the Soviet Union over its stockpile of missiles in Cuba during the Cuban Missile Crisis in the 1960s.

Two unique individuals with strong personalities and more than their share of emotional and habitual character flaws so closely aligned in nature albeit not in reputation that they could be clones, but for the variance in their facades. Kennedy  tried to influence a Canadian general election, interfering by inviting and hosting the leader of the Canadian opposition to a soiree to which he failed to invite the Prime Minister of Canada. Currently, claims are rife that Russia interfered with the U.S. general election to aid Trump.

The more things change, the more they resemble what went before.

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