James M. Lindsay

The Water's Edge

Lindsay analyzes the politics shaping U.S. foreign policy and the sustainability of American power.

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Showing posts for "TWE Remembers"

TWE Celebrates Presidents’ Day

by James M. Lindsay
President George W. Bush meets with former Presidents and President-elect Obama in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, January 2009. (Kevin Lamarque/courtesy Reuters) President George W. Bush meets with former presidents and President-elect Barack Obama in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, January 2009. (Kevin Lamarque/Courtesy Reuters)

Monday is Presidents’ Day. It is a TWE tradition to recognize the forty-three men—and they have all been men—who have been president on Presidents’ Day with the following essay. Enjoy the three-day weekend:

A few presidents have loved the job. Teddy Roosevelt said “No president has ever enjoyed himself as much as I have enjoyed myself.” Most other presidents, though, have found the job demanding, perhaps too demanding. James K. Polk pretty much worked himself to exhaustion. Zachary Taylor, the hero of the Mexican-American War, found being president harder than leading men into battle. Dwight Eisenhower had a heart attack from the stress of leading the Free World.Many presidents express relief once they can be called “former president.” This trend started early. John Adams told his wife Abigail that George Washington looked too happy watching him take the oath of office. “Me–thought I heard him say, ‘Ay, I am fairly out and you fairly in! See which of us will be happiest!” Read more »

The Best (and Worst) Inaugural Addresses

by James M. Lindsay
A convoy of vehicles stages a parade rehearsal for Monday's inauguration ceremonies to mark the start of President Barack Obama's second term (Jonathan Ernst/Courtesy Reuters). A convoy of vehicles stages a parade rehearsal for Monday's inauguration ceremonies to mark the start of President Barack Obama's second term (Jonathan Ernst/Courtesy Reuters).

On Monday Barack Obama gets to do what only sixteen presidents have done—give a second inaugural address. His first inaugural address was, like most inaugural addresses, unremarkable. Perhaps the problem was that expectations were too high given his well-earned reputation for being a great public speaker. His audience was expecting soaring oratory, and he delivered a solid tour of major issues facing the United States that even some of his supporters found to be a “hodgepodge.” Read more »

TWE Remembers: Secret Soviet Tactical Nuclear Weapons in Cuba (Cuban Missile Crisis, a Coda)

by James M. Lindsay
President John F. Kennedy speaks with Secretary of State Dean Rusk and Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara during an ExCom meeting. (Cecil Stoughton. White House Photographs. John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston) President John F. Kennedy speaks with Secretary of State Dean Rusk and Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara during an ExCom meeting. (Cecil Stoughton. White House Photographs. John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston)

Washington and the world breathed a sigh of relief on Monday, October 29, 1962.  The day before President John F. Kennedy and Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev had struck a deal to end the Cuban missile crisis. But the deal took several weeks to implement, and it came with a plot twist that the world wouldn’t learn about for thirty years. Read more »

TWE Remembers: Kennedy and Khrushchev Agree to a Deal (Cuban Missile Crisis, Day Thirteen)

by James M. Lindsay
Members of the ExCom outside the Oval Office during the Cuban Missile Crisis. From left to right: Special Assistant to the President for National Security McGeorge Bundy, President John F. Kennedy, Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs Paul Nitze, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Maxwell D. Taylor, and Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara. (Cecil Stoughton. White House Photographs. John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston). Members of the ExCom outside the Oval Office during the Cuban Missile Crisis. From left to right: Special Assistant to the President for National Security McGeorge Bundy, President John F. Kennedy, Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs Paul Nitze, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Maxwell D. Taylor, and Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara. (Cecil Stoughton. White House Photographs. John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston).

Sunday, October 28, 1962 was a beautiful fall day in Washington, DC. After a cold start, the mercury hit 71 degrees, six degrees above normal. The sun shone brightly, and the breeze was mild. The weather was in many ways a metaphor for the mood in the White House. After twelve stress-filled days, the thirteenth day of the Cuban missile crisis brought a deal between President John F. Kennedy and Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev. The world pulled back from the brink of nuclear war. Read more »

TWE Remembers: Black Saturday—Near Calamities Abound as JFK Offers Khrushchev a Deal (Cuban Missile Crisis, Day Twelve)

by James M. Lindsay
A U-2 plane used during the Cuban Missile Crisis (Dino A. Brugioni Collection, The National Security Archive, Washington, DC). A U-2 plane used during the Cuban Missile Crisis (Dino A. Brugioni Collection, The National Security Archive, Washington, DC).

Murphy’s Law holds that if anything can go wrong, it will. On Saturday October 27, 1962, the twelfth day of the Cuban missile crisis, President John F. Kennedy might have been thinking about that famous law’s corollary: Murphy was an optimist. JFK had gone to bed the night before thinking that a solution to the crisis was in sight. But he awoke on what later was dubbed “Black Saturday” to a series of events that he had not anticipated and that threatened to plunge the world into a nuclear abyss. Read more »

TWE Remembers: John Scali Has Lunch, Khrushchev Writes Kennedy, Castro Writes Khrushchev (Cuban Missile Crisis, Day Eleven)

by James M. Lindsay
The U.S. destroyer Joseph P. Kennedy stops, boards, and inspects the Marucla, a dry-cargo ship of Lebanese registry under Soviet charter to Cuba. (Dino A. Brugioni Collection, The National Security Archive, Washington, DC) The U.S. destroyer Joseph P. Kennedy stops, boards, and inspects the Marucla, a dry-cargo ship of Lebanese registry under Soviet charter to Cuba. (Dino A. Brugioni Collection, The National Security Archive, Washington, DC)

Journalists live for scoops. Being the first to break major news is the ticket to journalistic fame and fortune. But what if you are a journalist covering the biggest story of your lifetime and suddenly you become a participant? Do you tell the world what you have learned, or do you sit on it? ABC News diplomatic correspondent John Scali found himself in just such a predicament on Friday, October 26, 1962, the eleventh day of the Cuban missile crisis. Read more »

TWE Remembers: Adlai Stevenson Dresses Down the Soviet Ambassador to the UN (Cuban Missile Crisis, Day Ten)

by James M. Lindsay
U.S. ambassador to the UN Adlai Stevenson presents evidence of Soviet missiles in Cuba at the UN Security Council on October 25, 1962. (UN Photo/MH) U.S. ambassador to the UN Adlai Stevenson presents evidence of Soviet missiles in Cuba at the UN Security Council on October 25, 1962. (UN Photo/MH)

U.S. ambassador to the UN Adlai Stevenson had a reputation for preferring to concede than to confront. In the first days of the Cuban missile crisis, President John F. Kennedy worried that his man in New York didn’t have what it took to present the U.S. position on Cuba forcefully to the world body. On Thursday, October 25, the tenth day of the crisis, Stevenson showed that he was in fact made of sterner stuff than JFK thought. The former two-time presidential candidate dressed down Valerian Zorin, the Soviet ambassador, in a UN Security Council meeting as Americans watched on television. Read more »

TWE Remembers: Eyeball to Eyeball and the Other Fellow Just Blinked (Cuban Missile Crisis, Day Nine)

by James M. Lindsay
Acting UN secretary general U Thant and Soviet ambassador to the UN Valerian A. Zorin discuss a document through an interpreter at the UN Security Council on October 24, 1962. (UN Photo/Yutaka Nagata) Acting UN secretary general U Thant and Soviet ambassador to the UN Valerian A. Zorin discuss a document through an interpreter at the UN Security Council on October 24, 1962. (UN Photo/Yutaka Nagata)

President John F. Kennedy was beginning to feel the pressure on Wednesday, October 24, 1962, the ninth day of the Cuban missile crisis. The naval quarantine of Cuba had formally gone into effect early that morning. Now there was nothing to do but wait for the Soviets to respond. Kennedy didn’t know whether at the day’s end he would be breathing a sigh of relief or on the road to a nuclear war. Read more »

TWE Remembers: The OAS Endorses a Quarantine of Cuba (Cuban Missile Crisis, Day Eight)

by James M. Lindsay
President John F. Kennedy signs Proclamation 3504 authorizing the quarantine of Cuba on October 23, 1962. (Abbie Rowe. White House Photographs. John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston) President John F. Kennedy signs Proclamation 3504 authorizing the quarantine of Cuba on October 23, 1962. (Abbie Rowe. White House Photographs. John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston)

The first week of the Cuban missile crisis played out in secret. President John F. Kennedy and his advisers quietly evaluated the results of the U-2 overflights and formulated a response. But on Tuesday, October 23 the crisis began playing out in public. U.S. diplomats scrambled to secure international support for the impending quarantine of Cuba while the White House waited to see what Moscow’s next steps would be. Read more »

TWE Remembers: John F. Kennedy Tells the World that Soviet Missiles Are in Cuba (Cuban Missile Crisis, Day Seven)

by James M. Lindsay

John F. Kennedy was a superb public speaker. His inaugural address is one of the best known and most frequently quoted speeches in American history. His press conference performance immediately after the Bay of Pigs, when he famously said that “victory has one-hundred fathers and defeat is an orphan,” helped blunt the political fallout from one of the biggest foreign policy fiascoes in U.S. history. But nothing matched the importance of the address Kennedy gave to the nation on the evening of October 22, 1962, when he told Americans (and the world) that the United States had discovered that the Soviet Union was secretly installing nuclear-tipped missiles in Cuba.

Read more »