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Sunday, November 05, 2006

November 5, 1960: Kennedy's Cuba Stance a 'Whopper' But Nixon Has Short Memory on Guatemala

"Mr. Nixon's basic strategy has been to portray Mr. Kennedy as a brash young man aspiring to an office for which he is unqualified, in contrast to himself -- experienced, imperturbable, hardened in the fires of the kitchen debate with Khrushchev and countless missions as a Presidential surrogate," the Nation magazine writes in an editorial on this day in 1960.

"In the controversy over American policy in Cuba, Mr. Kennedy played right onto Mr. Nixon's hands. In Milwaukee, the Senator protested: 'I have never advocated and I do not advocate intervention in Cuba in violation of our treaty obligations.' But this is not the impression millions of TV viewers got when he made his original statement.

"In trying to show beyond a shadow of a doubt that he was not soft on Castro, the Senator made a mistake, and it was a whopper. In accordance with the mores of elections, he did not admit the mistake, but pleaded that he had been misunderstood. This was hardly calculated to gladden the hearts of the more discerning among his supporters, but the manner and method of Mr. Nixon's riposte were such as to confirm then in their conviction that they were in the right camp.

"The Vice President ... castigated Mr. Kennedy's stand and contrasted it with his own, which is that we could deal with the Castro government as the Eisenhower Administration dealt with the Arbenz regime in Guatemala. Mr. Nixon described this as a policy of 'quarantine' which encouraged the people of Guatemala to rise in their wrath and expel the Reds. ... The Vice President ... seems to think that not only the common man but all the political commentators suffer from political amnesia.

"In this instance, he was quickly disillusioned. Newspapers all over the country pointed out that the Guatemalan government was overthrown by an insurrection prepared and managed by the Government of the United States, which supplied the money, the weapons and the strong-arm diplomacy in the Security Council and the Organization of American States. And Vice President Richard M. Nixon was high in the councils of the Administration which engineered what he now depicts as a democratic revolution.

"The rocks and rotten tomatoes which greeted him on his most recent trip to South America should have warned him that memories are not as short as he thinks.

"The important thing now is not so much the effect on the election of the Kennedy-Nixon argument over Cuba, but what will happen after the election, or perhaps even before it. ... If the American election paves the way for an American Hungary in the Western Hemisphere, it will be an evil augury for the next administration, whether under Kennedy or Nixon."