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Copyright © 2019. Michigan State University Press. All rights reserved. John F. Kennedy and the Liberal Persuasion, Michigan State University Press, 2019. ProQuest Ebook Central,

Copyright © 2019. Michigan State University Press. All rights reserved.

John F. Kennedy and the Liberal Persuasion

John F. Kennedy and the Liberal Persuasion, Michigan State University Press, 2019. ProQuest Ebook Central,

RHETORIC AND PUBLIC AFFAIRS SERIES • Rhetoric and Democracy: Pedagogical and Political Practices, Todd F. McDorman and David M. Timmerman, editors • The Nuclear Freeze Campaign: Rhetoric and Foreign Policy • Invoking the Invisible Hand: Social Security and the in the Telepolitical Age, J. Michael Hogan Privatization Debates, Robert Asen • Mansfield and Vietnam: A Study in Rhetorical Adaptation, • With Faith in the Works of Words: The Beginnings of Gregory A. Olson Reconciliation in South Africa, 1985–1995, Erik Doxtader • Truman and the Hiroshima Cult, Robert P. Newman

• Eisenhower’s War of Words: Rhetoric and Leadership, Martin J. Medhurst, editor

• Post-Realism: The Rhetorical Turn in International Relations, Francis A. Beer and Robert Hariman, editors • Rhetoric and Political Culture in Nineteenth-Century America, Thomas W. Benson, editor • Frederick Douglass: Freedom’s Voice, 1818–1845, Gregory P. Lampe • Angelina Grimké: Rhetoric, Identity, and the Radical Imagination, Stephen Howard Browne • Strategic Deception: Rhetoric, Science, and Politics in Missile Defense Advocacy, Gordon R. Mitchell • Rostow, Kennedy, and the Rhetoric of Foreign Aid, Kimber Charles Pearce • Visions of Poverty: Welfare Policy and Political Imagination, Robert Asen • General Eisenhower: Ideology and Discourse, Ira Chernus • The Reconstruction Desegregation Debate: The Politics of Equality and the Rhetoric of Place, 1870–1875, Kirt H. Wilson • Shared Land/Conflicting Identity: Trajectories of Israeli and Palestinian Symbol Use, Robert C. Rowland and David A. Frank

Copyright © 2019. Michigan State University Press. All rights reserved.

• Darwinism, Design, and Public Education, John Angus Campbell and Stephen C. Meyer, editors • Religious Expression and the American Constitution, Franklyn S. Haiman • Christianity and the Mass Media in America: Toward a Democratic Accommodation, Quentin J. Schultze • Bending Spines: The Propagandas of Nazi Germany and the German Democratic Republic, Randall L. Bytwerk • Malcolm X: Inventing Radical Judgment, Robert E. Terrill • Metaphorical World Politics, Francis A. Beer and Christ’l De Landtsheer, editors • The Lyceum and Public Culture in the NineteenthCentury United States, Angela G. Ray • The Political Style of Conspiracy: Chase, Sumner, and Lincoln, Michael William Pfau • The Character of Justice: Rhetoric, Law, and Politics in the Supreme Court Confirmation Process, Trevor Parry-Giles • Rhetorical Vectors of Memory in National and International Holocaust Trials, Marouf A. Hasian Jr.

• Public Address and Moral Judgment: Critical Studies in Ethical Tensions, Shawn J. Parry-Giles and Trevor Parry-Giles, editors • Executing Democracy: Capital Punishment and the Making of America, 1683–1807, Stephen John Hartnett • Enemyship: Democracy and Counter-Revolution in the Early Republic, Jeremy Engels • Spirits of the Cold War: Contesting Worldviews in the Classical Age of American Security Strategy, Ned O’Gorman • Making the Case: Advocacy and Judgment in Public Argument, Kathryn M. Olson, Michael William Pfau, Benjamin Ponder, and Kirt H. Wilson, editors • Executing Democracy: Capital Punishment and the Making of America, 1835–1843, Stephen John Hartnett • William James and the Art of Popular Statement, Paul Stob • On the Frontier of Science: An American Rhetoric of Exploration and Exploitation, Leah Ceccarelli • The Good Neighbor: Franklin D. Roosevelt and the Rhetoric of American Power, Mary E. Stuckey • Creating Conservatism: Postwar Words That Made an American Movement, Michael J. Lee • Intertextuality and the 24-Hour News Cycle: A Day in the Rhetorical Life of Colin Powell’s U.N. Address, John Oddo • Superchurch: The Rhetoric and Politics of American Fundamentalism, Jonathan J. Edwards • Rethinking Rhetorical Theory, Criticism, and Pedagogy: The Living Art of Michael C. Leff, Antonio de Velasco, John Angus Campbell, and David Henry, editors • Imagining China: Rhetorics of Nationalism in an Age of Globalization, Stephen J. Hartnett, Lisa B. Keränen, and Donovan Conley, editors • Political Vocabularies: FDR, the Clergy Letters, and the Elements of Political Argument, Mary E. Stuckey • To Become an American: Immigrants and Americanization Campaigns of the Early Twentieth Century, Leslie A. Hahner • The Rhetorical Invention of Diversity: Supreme Court Opinions, Public Argument, and Affirmative Action, M. Kelly Carr • Michael Osborn on Metaphor and Style, Michael Osborn

• Judging the Supreme Court: Constructions of Motives in Bush v. Gore, Clarke Rountree

• Debating Women: Gender, Education, and Spaces for Argument, 1835–1945, Carly S. Woods

• Everyday Subversion: From Joking to Revolting in the German Democratic Republic, Kerry Kathleen Riley

• Strains of Dissent: Popular Music and Everyday Resistance in WWII France, 1940–1945, Kelly Jakes

• In the Wake of Violence: Image and Social Reform, Cheryl R. Jorgensen-Earp

• John F. Kennedy and the Liberal Persuasion, John M. Murphy

John F. Kennedy and the Liberal Persuasion, Michigan State University Press, 2019. ProQuest Ebook Central,

John F. Kennedy and the Liberal Persuasion

Copyright © 2019. Michigan State University Press. All rights reserved.

John M. Murphy

Michigan State University Press • East Lansing

John F. Kennedy and the Liberal Persuasion, Michigan State University Press, 2019. ProQuest Ebook Central,

Copyright © 2019 by John M. Murphy

i The paper used in this publication meets the minimum requirements of ansi/niso z39.48-1992 (r 1997) (Permanence of Paper).

p

Michigan State University Press East Lansing, Michigan 48823-5245 Printed and bound in the United States of America. 27 26 25 24 23 22 21 20 19 18

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

series editor Martin J. Medhurst, Baylor University

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editorial board Denise M. Bostdorff, College of Wooster G. Thomas Goodnight, University of Southern California Robert Hariman, Northwestern University David Henry, University of Nevada, Las Vegas Robert L. Ivie, Indiana University John M. Murphy, University of Illinois Shawn J. Parry-Giles, University of Maryland Angela G. Ray, Northwestern University Paul Stob, Vanderbilt University Mary E. Stuckey, Penn State University Kirt H. Wilson, Penn State University David Zarefsky, Northwestern University library of congress cataloging-in-publication data Names: Murphy, John M., 1959– author. Title: John F. Kennedy and the liberal persuasion / by John M. Murphy. Description: East Lansing : Michigan State University Press, 2019. | Series: Rhetoric and public affairs series | Includes bibliographical references and index. Identifiers: LCCN 2018011223| ISBN 9781611863048 (pbk. : alk. paper) | ISBN 9781609175832 (pdf) | ISBN 9781628953480 (epub) | ISBN 9781628963489 (kindle) Subjects: LCSH: Kennedy, John F. (John Fitzgerald), 1917–1963—Political and social views. | United States—Politics and government—1961–1963. | Liberalism. Classification: LCC E842 .M87 2019 | DDC 973.922092—dc23 LC record available at https://lccn.loc.gov/2018011223 Book design by Charlie Sharp, Sharp Des!gns, East Lansing, MI Cover design by Erin Kirk New Posthumous official presidential portrait of U.S. President John F. Kennedy (1970) was painted by Aaron Shikler (1922–2015).

G

Michigan State University Press is a member of the Green Press Initiative and is committed to developing and encouraging ecologically responsible publishing practices. For more information about the Green Press Initiative and the use of recycled paper in book publishing, please visit www.greenpressinitiative.org. Visit Michigan State University Press at www.msupress.org

John F. Kennedy and the Liberal Persuasion, Michigan State University Press, 2019. ProQuest Ebook Central,

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First of all, if you can learn a simple trick, Scout, you’ll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view, until you climb into his skin and walk around in it. —Atticus Finch, To Kill a Mockingbird

A poem is best read in the light of all the other poems ever written. We read A the better to read B (we have to start somewhere; we may get very little out of A). We read B the better to read C, C the better to read D, D the better to go back and get something more out of A. Progress is not the aim, but circulation. The thing is to get among the poems where they hold each other apart in their places as the stars do. —Robert Frost, “The Prerequisites”

John F. Kennedy and the Liberal Persuasion, Michigan State University Press, 2019. ProQuest Ebook Central,

Copyright © 2019. Michigan State University Press. All rights reserved. John F. Kennedy and the Liberal Persuasion, Michigan State University Press, 2019. ProQuest Ebook Central,

Contents

•••

preface · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · ·ix

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acknowledgments · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · xxi chapter 1. The Liberal Presidency · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · 1 chapter 2. Let Us Begin · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · 39 chapter 3. The Discomfort of Thought · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · 71 chapter 4. Ashes in Our Mouth · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · ·117 chapter 5. We Are All Mortal · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · 153 chapter 6. A Full and Free Life · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · 207 chapter 7. Power and Poetry · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · 271 notes · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · 295 selected bibliography · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · 377 index · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · 395

John F. Kennedy and the Liberal Persuasion, Michigan State University Press, 2019. ProQuest Ebook Central,

Copyright © 2019. Michigan State University Press. All rights reserved. John F. Kennedy and the Liberal Persuasion, Michigan State University Press, 2019. ProQuest Ebook Central,

Preface

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•••

O

n June 9, 1963, President John F. Kennedy spoke to the nation’s mayors in Honolulu, Hawaii, seeking their help to secure civil rights for black Americans. On June 10, he asked all Americans to think anew about the Cold War in a commencement speech at American University in Washington, DC, and he signed the Equal Pay Act, prohibiting wage discrimination against women. The next day, June 11, he managed the enrollment of the University of Alabama’s first two black students. That night, he gave a nationally televised address that called civil rights a moral obligation and demanded legislation to end segregation. The next week, he sent that bill to Congress and activated the new hotline between the United States and the Soviet Union. By June 26, he stood in West Berlin, declaring that “all free men, wherever they may live, are citizens of Berlin.” From there, he went to Ireland and became the first American president to address the Irish Parliament.1 It is no wonder that his chief speech writer, Theodore Sorensen, wrote decades later of ix

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that long-ago June: “To paraphrase Wordsworth: Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive, but to be young, and in the service of that president, was very heaven!”2 Sorensen’s Romanticism invites revisionist disdain, but before dismissing his words as the nostalgic musings of a loyal retainer, one should note the rhetorical record. It is formidable. In one month, John Kennedy gave three of the best speeches of the last century: the American University address, the Civil Rights speech, and the Ich Bin ein Berliner address.3 He gave the first two on consecutive days and improvised parts of the second and third. Nor were they out of character for him. Evaluations of his presidency tend to focus on his robust language rather than his lean record. This appraisal’s consistency has been remarkable. Shortly after Kennedy’s death, aide, historian, and friend Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. wrote: “Lifting us beyond our capacities, he gave his country back to its best self. . . . He transformed the American spirit.”4 Robert Dallek ended the best biography of JFK by acknowledging the “missed opportunities and false steps,” but also invoked Abraham Lincoln’s words: “the Kennedy thousand days spoke to the country’s better angels, inspired visions of a less divisive nation and world, and demonstrated that America was still the last best hope of mankind.”5 James Giglio wrote that Kennedy created “a sense of hope and purpose that made a profound impression, particularly on the young and disadvantaged. . . . He stirred people the most through his moving speeches.”6 Alan Brinkley claimed: “To the many Americans who yearn for a new age of public activism and commitment, the image of a heroic John Fitzgerald Kennedy has endured as a bright and beckoning symbol of the world that many people believe they have lost. And that is why he remains, deserved or not, such an important figure in our national imagination.”7 Brinkley’s brief reservation—“deserved or not”—reveals the discomfort historians have long had with the contrast between President Kennedy’s rhetoric and record. Surveys of political scientists, presidential scholars, and the like rank JFK as an above-average president, often in the top ten.8 This ranking reflects his eloquence and accomplishments, particularly the successful resolution of the Cuban Missile Crisis, but also accounts for his meager legislative record and his use of force in Vietnam. The public nearly always places him in the top five, sometimes

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ahead of such icons as Franklin Roosevelt and George Washington. To mark the fiftieth anniversary of his assassination, political scientist Larry Sabato commissioned a public survey and a series of focus groups. Kennedy ranked first among postwar American presidents, with 79% of Democrats and even 52% of Republicans regarding him as one of the nation’s best presidents. Americans see him as charismatic, patriotic, and courageous. They respond well to his speeches, believe his wisdom should shape policy, and laud his accomplishments. Sabato concluded, “Considering the contempt in which we hold many modern politicians and even some past presidents, it is eye-popping to see and hear the terms of endearment lavished upon John Kennedy.”9 Nor have these feelings been swayed by salacious personal revelations, nor can they be explained only by his assassination. If that were the case, William McKinley would have been as beloved fifty years after his death. Moreover, President Kennedy’s approval rating in life never fell below 56%, an enviable performance.10 His popularity has flowed from and inspired an astounding array of histories, biographies, novels, movies, television specials, special editions of magazines, busts, paintings, photographs, not to mention perhaps the greatest collection of presidential kitsch short of Abraham Lincoln in American history. Every day, millions of Americans and citizens of other nations cross Kennedy bridges, wander Kennedy parks, drive Kennedy highways, attend Kennedy schools, convalesce in Kennedy hospitals, arrive at Kennedy airports, or run the JFK Fifty Miler.11 In the uncanny sense of public presence, he never truly died. His filmed performances continue to appear on screens of all sorts; his brothers echoed his accent, gestures, and ideals, as did subsequent generations of his family and unrelated politicians who envied his popularity; actors vie to play him, such that one can compare the backaches portrayed by Cliff Robertson, William Devane, Martin Sheen, Bruce Greenwood, Rob Lowe, Caspar Phillipson, and more. Since his death, Americans have cycled through hagiography, revisionism, sober assessment, and back again. John F. Kennedy’s place in the national imagination remains secure. This book will not change that, yet his language still merits serious thought. For the most part, the ink spilled about Kennedy seeks to search

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beneath his words, to bore through the facade of rhetoric and reveal the real man.12 By contrast, I want to explore his way of talking, his public address. Like James Boyd White, I think that our public “life is a life of language” and this book examines the life President Kennedy wished to craft for his country.13 His speeches sought to make sense of the nation’s problems and possibilities. I think carefully about those words, both to understand the political sensibility crafted by them and to consider their evident appeal for Americans, then and now. Of course, eloquence did not come to him or Theodore Sorensen in a shaft of light from the heavens. Like all orators, JFK inherited his words from the controversies of his time and from larger Anglo-American traditions stretching back to the Puritans and beyond. His political and rhetorical sensibility emerged from a postwar matrix, formed not only out of his own experience with public argument, but also out of the dynamics of his larger linguistic milieu. He invented from such materials a series of arresting speeches that provided a powerful and appealing account of American liberalism. That claim may seem odd, given that he sometimes disdained “liberals.” Yet the best way to make sense of his public address is to interpret it as an innovative articulation of the reigning liberal accord. He stayed within the ideological and political mainstream but he spoke in ways that others could not. He drew from the liberal tradition, its allies, and rivals to craft a useful and impressive body of discourse that facilitated a forceful transformation of the public vocabulary, shifting the emphasis to action, mobility, and change. Through his style and substance, JFK invigorated the core appeals of American liberalism: the claims that each person possesses an intrinsic worth, that people should respect the worth of others as equal to their own, and that all do so in a contingent world. These tenets enabled him to address persuasively the era’s key issues, from the economy to the Cold War to civil rights. Examination of his persuasion illuminates his rhetorical artistry, sketches the terms of a liberal persuasion, and offers the chance to explore languages that once defined and continue to influence this nation. His speeches live on and he lives in them. This book considers the reasons for that through rhetorical readings of those addresses. By that, I mean a particular way of learning from and reacting to these texts, a habit of study that investigates the invention of public thought.

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Rhetorical Readings Thomas Farrell suggests that rhetoric is “the art, the fine and useful art, of making things matter.” Developing this “cryptic observation,” he locates rhetoric’s art in its capacity “to engage us with the world, to make its appearances near and dear to us, to help us care.”14 Definitions cut in specific ways, and Farrell’s focuses on attention and attachment: Amid life’s hullabaloo, how do people come to care about a sluggish economy, a Cuban dictator, or racial equality and care enough to act on them? To define the term more formally, rhetoric seeks to identify, evaluate, and justify useful courses of action in uncertain situations and secure the audience’s adherence to those plans.15 In this view, speeches are efforts to think aloud with each other as people make a community and address the problems that matter to them. We do so amid fleeting circumstance and limited knowledge. In such predicaments, there are no clear laws to provide certainty; rather, deliberation tries to deal as reliably as possible with contingent matters, those claims that might—or might not—be true at any given moment.16 Such claims and the appeals that make them persuasive flow from what the Greeks termed doxa, that is, opinion, or what Farrell calls “social knowledge.”17 Biblical scholars often translate doxa not only as opinion, but also as glory, as in John: “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory (doxa), glory as of the only begotten from the father, full of grace and truth” (1:14). As flesh, glory (doxa) is mortal and fleeting, but, Thomas Gardner notes, it also gives out “an intensification of light, the ‘true light’ shining in the world’s darkness.”18 A word made flesh lives in and of that mortal moment, and yet shines a light on continuing public life. Rhetoric assumes the light of language cannot be reduced to the empirical truth of the scientist or to the rational certainty of the philosopher. When faced with problems, people turn to the light, to their popular, particular languages, as a reliable way to manage contingency. As that pragmatic art, rhetoric traffics in the popular, the quotidian, the common sense of the people. But common sense does not mean consensus. Rhetoric acknowledges conflict, but it relies on “for the sake of argument” agreements, a willingness to accept common beginnings for public controversies. Such social knowledge tends to take shape as

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scripts, genres, or traditions, such as an ironic quip, an inaugural address, or modern liberalism. Whether we call them fields, topics, or the like, they make sense of human experience. Speakers use them because no one can invent an entirely new language for public debate. White claims, “The ways we have of claiming, establishing, and modifying meaning are furnished to us by our culture, and we cannot simply remake to suit ourselves the sets of significance that constitute that world.”19 Of course, no one entirely owns such resources. A word, Mikhail Bakhtin writes, “enters a dialogically agitated and tension-filled environment of alien words, value judgments, and accents, weaves in and out of complex interrelationships, merges with some, recoils from others, intersects with yet a third group: and all this may crucially shape discourse, may leave a trace in all its semantic layers, may complicate its expression and influence its entire stylistic profile.”20 Rhetorical creativity is the capacity to shape out of that stew new modes of interpretation and action. In doing so, rhetoric faces the scandal of doxa. How can the “new” emerge from the old, the given languages of politics? How does change occur? As Karlyn Kohrs Campbell puts it, “We know that discourse arises out of prior discourse, that rhetoric emerges out of prior rhetoric. The same resources through which change can be effected are simultaneously the dead hand of the past. Constraints are resources; resources are constraints.”21 She notes that rhetorical theorists have traditionally finessed this difficulty with the “concept of invention, a Latin term meaning ‘to come upon’ or ‘find.’”22 Rhetoric finds its materials in a community’s beliefs, values, fantasies, conspiracies, and so forth. Such pieces make up a polyglot world offering speakers opportunities to mix and match, framing, appropriating, refuting, satirizing, dissociating, and associating the old terms to make new claims on communal life. Rhetorical production, then, relies on the complementary skill of rhetorical interpretation, the ability to analyze that linguistically diverse and agitated world of words. To make a speech in a specific circumstance, one must know the words that have led to and shaped that context. Only that knowledge allows a speaker to intervene effectively, much as a good conversationalist picks up the flow before joining in a chat. Michael Leff calls this “hermeneutical rhetoric,” yet it is a capacity that shapes all rhetoric and not only the exemplars informing Leff ’s work. Kirt Wilson,

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too, emphasizes “the intimacy between interpretation and rhetorical production.”23 John Kennedy needed to know his nation’s languages in order to speak well in them, even to grasp when to talk or when to hold silence. Debra Hawhee analyzes this skill of timing, or kairos, as “invention-in-the-middle,” arguing that a rhetorical encounter is a “middle, an in-between, a simultaneously interruptive and connective hooking-in to circulating discourses.”24 Orators read and cut bodies of discourse, pruning and nurturing. Like Hawhee’s model, the sophist Gorgias, John Kennedy “emphasized the rhythmic movement of discourse, a movement that was closely tied to the ‘mobility’ of discourse.” As a verbal musician, he picked up useful rhythms and themes while discarding others, imploring audiences to follow his lead. At times of decision, from the Latin decidere, to “cut off,” JFK, like all orators, cut off debates by articulating normative and practical judgments. Rhetoric asks people to consider not only what is, but also what could and should be in light of its extensions of prior wisdom. Leff notes, “As the embodied utterances of the past are interpreted for current application, their ideas and modes of articulation are reembodied, and old voices are recovered for use in new circumstances.”25 Thus, rhetoric seeks to settle for now the issues sparking debate. Problems always continue, but rhetoric does not pretend to the eternal nor does its material allow such pretensions. Instead, it sutures as best it can the cuts between social knowledge and felt experience. It tries to make life better. As a result, speakers and critics of speech tend to work the political mainstream. It is no accident that this study will join hundreds concerned with the American presidency. Rhetoric is, Maurice Charland notes, “pragmatically impatient before what it considers ineffective political and intellectual practice.”26 Rather than valorizing the marginal or gesturing toward the silenced, rhetoric seeks to mobilize them to win the political battles that will change lives. However, that does not mean the mainstream flows unchangingly onward. During my life, rhetoric has turned domestic violence from a private to a public concern, and my younger self could not imagine a president discussing “gay marriage,” much less endorsing it.27 Rhetoric facilitates social change. Rhetorical criticism, in turn, seeks to interpret and evaluate the ways discourse crafts a world, defines choices, and authorizes new

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understandings and policies.28 There is no doubt that rhetoric’s pragmatism and concern with the state constrain reflection on its assumptions and sometimes result in criticism that merely identifies techniques sustaining the powerful.29 Yet even then the belief that the “divine right of kings” and “executive privilege” are merely symbols, nothing more than linguistically created and sustained social agreements, undermines claims to theological certitude or original intent. God, the Constitution, and all else are up for debate. The same is true of criticism. It is a reflexive activity that assesses arguments as it makes arguments. But its knowledge claims differ from those of the social sciences, the rhetorician’s neighbor. The twentieth-century advance of social science enshrined empirical verification as the chief standard for “true” knowledge. As a more reliable and flexible approach than tradition or luck, social science uses tested empirical research procedures to analyze the world. Yet, as David Zarefsky observes, if that “is the sole means” of knowing, then “it is impossible for us to ‘know’ anything about matters that cannot be verified,” including such broad domains as “values, predictions, choices of action, probabilities, and indeed everything that is uncertain and contingent.”30 In other words, the stuff of rhetoric goes unremarked and unnoticed. Instead, rhetorical criticism shares with other humanities the determination to offer an account of, in our case, rhetorical acts, whether those be speeches, photographs, media programs, or other sorts of symbolic action usefully understood as efforts to persuade audiences. Critics, like rhetors, engage in invention. We invent the persuasion we study and the stories we tell about it, if only because there is so much persuasion and there are so many ways to speak about it. Even as we select some texts to study, we deflect others; the stories we then tell about those rhetorical acts edit yet more. But as we invent, critics and speakers work from within material and community constraints. There is wide latitude within such limits to make a history suitable for our persuasive purposes. But constraints matter. On one level, they mean that critics cannot defy material reality; John F. Kennedy lived from 1917 to 1963. On a second level, critics cannot distort at will. Bonnie Dow argues that “our artistry, what we make of the material with which we work, the text that we authorize, is always subject to the approval of our community. We do not toil solipsistically, or, if we do, we are subject to the judgment of our

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peers. Criticism, like art, is ultimately a social act.”31 On a third level, this means critics must give good reasons for critiques to peers. David Zarefsky argues good reasons include “intrinsic readings of the text, judgments by other critics, consistency with known background conditions, and consistency with theoretical precepts,” as well as revision of such precepts when warranted.32 Critics, too, write for audiences and must persuade them that a critique makes sense. Finally, critics judge the value of the works we study. Rhetoric is a practice with goods internal and external to its performance.33 In practice, rhetoric teaches internal goods such as strategic imagination, analytic skill, and empathy for others, as well as the creation and articulation of ethical and aesthetic norms. For example, it is clear that many presidents (JFK among them) did not fully deal with an issue until they scheduled a speech. That exigence concentrated their minds wonderfully and led to new policies, a heightened awareness of the values grounding such plans, and the invention of stylistic devices to define and vivify ideas. Critics assess these goods, but also note rhetoric’s power, goods flowing from or external to performance. Rhetoric can shape linguistic norms, alter institutional discourses, craft communal identities, and create measurable, material change—new legislation, different behaviors, praise from opinion leaders, movement in opinion polls, reelection, or other such rewards. Evaluation is never easy and, like interpretation, requires good reasons to persuade peers.34 The fact that rhetoric is a practice also suggests varying levels of performance. Contrary to what many students and talk show hosts believe, a speech is not just “my opinion” and thus beyond critique; it is an argument. Critics can evaluate it as a good or a poor one. Evaluation also reveals the potential for improvement. Critics identify touchstones, bemoan travesties, worry at biases, and argue that bad rhetoric does not exhaust the art’s possibilities while exemplary works stretch its boundaries. At its best, then, rhetorical criticism defines and explains a work, indicates its significance, argues that it is useful to view the work as the critic does, judges the work’s value, and offers good arguments to support its conclusions. As should be apparent from this discussion, rhetoric and criticism are undeniably social acts. The virtues that flow from both are, as Farrell

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argues, relational goods.35 Rhetoric cultivates practices that facilitate community, from public debate to civic friendship to political dissent to social trust. This is due largely to the fact that rhetoric addresses audiences; even Bakhtin, no fan, concedes this “orientation toward the listener is usually considered the basic constitutive feature of rhetorical discourse.”36 In fact, he notes a too-often overlooked element of public address: It anticipates audience response in its composition. JFK’s every word reflects an awareness of his listeners and their linguistic worlds.

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The Presidential Rhetoric of John Kennedy Certainly, that is the assumption with which I approach his speeches. I have argued here for a specific sort of rhetorical reading, one rooted in the claims that rhetoric is an art of public thought and that we inherit the words shaping those thoughts. In that sense, rhetoric charts an always emerging public story, one in which a community makes itself in and through the various languages vivifying and defining its controversies. Each rhetorical act flows from and into others, while maintaining its integrity as a particular address at a specific moment. My critiques seek to chart that flow, tracing the debates from which President Kennedy’s addresses rose and to which they contributed. This commitment elides the difference between text and context, foreground and background. Rather, his speeches cut into an intertextual matrix. That matrix, or contextual text, merits serious examination; Dwight Eisenhower, Richard Russell, Martin Luther King Jr., and others contributed, if often unwillingly, to JFK’s legacy. Their words matter. In concert with the president’s, they helped to define his goals and American liberalism. The following chapters attend to such rhetoric as a practical tool that secures political success and a creative force that crafts a liberal persuasion. I focus on his greatest hits. They illuminate his artistry, particularly because they engage recurring issues: authority, money, expertise, war, diplomacy, and equality. Working with the available means of persuasion, he nonetheless invented the words to transform public life. That effort began with his inheritance. The story of twentieth-century American liberalism intertwined with that of the presidency because the

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people empowered the president to do more for them even as they held him accountable for his use of power. I start, then, with the story of the liberal presidency John Kennedy fell heir to on January 20, 1961. That inaugural address, in turn, is considered among the best. It inspired the nation, but its call for Cold War Americans to “bear any burden” burdened his legacy. Key to its persuasive dynamic, however, is its sense of time. It moved citizens through time, mirroring and authorizing the liberal course he wished to pursue during his administration. At the heart of that effort was invigoration of the economy. JFK needed the money provided by growth to support his ambitious agenda. In a 1962 speech at Yale University, he sought to transcend the worn terms of economic debate and, in doing so, addressed the role of experts in public life. If a modern sense of science and inquiry infused liberalism, how might orators respect that, while engaging in democratic deliberation? How can the economy be subject to both public control and expert management? A similar search for an unconventional solution characterized Kennedy’s most difficult moment as president, his speech during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Presidents have long had to justify the use of force, but nuclear weapons changed the equation. His speech addressed the tension between the defense of national interests and the newly cataclysmic consequences of total war. Could a liberal democracy fight a total war and yet remain true to its values? What justified the use of such force and how should Americans make that decision? The satisfactory resolution of this crisis led both sides to think anew about their competition. John Kennedy sought to shape that process with his famed address at American University in June 1963 and with his notable speech at the Berlin Wall. Together, these speeches redefined the Cold War, both its outside order, the global conflict with the Soviet Union, and its inside order, the values of the Western alliance. Both speeches established discursive parity, in which all parties could see the world as others saw it and had the right to speak to its future and be heard. That became an important liberal standard for the conduct of international relations. His civil rights address brought that ideal home. Liberals have always held a fundamental belief in the “rights of man,” yet white liberals and others have also often rejected the humanity of those unlike themselves. John Kennedy insisted that all Americans deserved recognition as full

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citizens. Through reciprocity, he developed a strong definition of equality, one rooted in the demand that white Americans must live as their fellow black citizens before this nation could be “fully free.” In deliberations over authority, money, expertise, war, diplomacy, and equality, a liberal persuasion emerged, one given shape by President Kennedy’s rhetorical choices. It is to the American liberal tradition and the presidency it created that I now turn.

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Acknowledgments

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his book took a long time to complete. I deeply appreciate the faith of those who continued to believe in me through the years. At Michigan State University Press, Martin J. Medhurst played the major role in bringing this project to life. He managed the review process with his usual skill, generosity, and intelligence. He made this a better book. Then again, he has made so much of my work better. Throughout my career, Marty has given me opportunities to speak, welcomed my essays into books, judged them fit (and unfit) to publish in Rhetoric & Public Affairs, invited me onto editorial boards, included me in convention panels, and more. I cannot begin to pay my debt to him, although I suspect he will think of ways for me to try. He also asked excellent anonymous critics to review the manuscript of this book and they made it better. I particularly thank Denise M. Bostdorff for her willingness to read the book and her intellectual companionship for more years than I

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care to remember. Thank you also to the folk at MSU Press who have taken such good care of this manuscript, particularly Kristine Blakeslee. The Department of Communication at the University of Illinois has supported this project in ways both material and spiritual. Barb Wilson, the late Dale Brashers, Dave Tewksbury, and John Caughlin have led the department with exemplary skill and grace; without their help, I would not have completed this book. During my first years at Illinois, John Lammers and Scott Poole led a reading group on institutions, composed of faculty members and graduate students. The discussions taught a rhetorician new ways to think about institutions and organizations. I enjoyed my “seminar” in organizational communication and I thank all those who participated. More graduate research assistants than I can remember have provided me with help during the many years I worked on John Kennedy. I particularly thank Gordon Stables and Paul McKean, although I am sure there are others. I apologize for my failure to recall them. In a broader sense, this book emerged in the classroom. It is common for critics of higher education to assert that productive scholars neglect teaching. That has not been my experience. My best teachers have been superb scholars. In fact, I’ve taught every one of the major speeches in this book and many of the minor ones. When I teach a speech, I think about it differently than I do when I read or study it. There are occasionally wonderful moments during a class when teaching a text shows me the text in a new light. Analogous to a “runner’s high,” I suppose, “teaching highs” have been essential to this book. Those highs happened because of the many students I have taught over the years. I cannot name them all, but I particularly thank the advisees with whom I have worked closely and who have made me better, as well as the graduate students in my presidency seminars. I have also learned from wonderful and generous colleagues in my department and across the country. Portions of Chapters 5 and 6 began as the keynote address at the 11th Biennial Public Address Conference at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and I owe Susan Zaeske, Stephen Lucas, and Robert Asen a big thank you for that honor. I gave a version of Chapter 4 as the Kurt Ritter Lecture at Texas A&M University in April 2014. Thanks to those folks for that honor. A version of Chapter 3 appeared as “The Language of the Liberal Consensus: John F. Kennedy, Technical

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Reason, and the ‘New Economics’ at Yale University,” Quarterly Journal of Speech 90 (2004): 133–62. I thank Taylor & Francis for permission to reprint parts of that essay. Ned O’Gorman, David Cisneros, Cara Finnegan, and Pat Gill have been my rhetoric colleagues at Illinois. I have learned much from them, particularly in the unlikely venue of student defenses. For friendship, conversation, and criticism over the years, I thank Trevor Parry-Giles, Shawn Parry-Giles, Kirt Wilson, Debbie Hawhee, Vanessa Beasley, Mary Stuckey, Richard Wheeler, Tracy Sulkin, Robert Hariman, Davis Houck, David Zarefsky, Michelle Ballif, John Sloop, Lisa Corrigan, Kristan Poirot, Ashli Quesinberry Stokes, Wendy Atkins Sayre, Gordon Stables, John Jordan, Paul Achter, Courtney Caudle Travers, Michael Lee, Jarrod Atchison, Kevin Barge, Tasha Dubriwny, the late James Aune, and Jennifer Merceica. Many of these folks have taught or are teaching in the Department of Communication at Texas A & M University. The mind reels at the number of conferences they have hosted and their collegiality plays a vital role in rhetorical studies. I have likely given more talks there than at any place I have actually worked and they have always said “Howdy!” Go #teamrhetoric! To use the jargon of higher education, Jim Jasinski is my aspirational institution. I wish I could know what he knows or even what he has forgotten. His intellectual fingerprints are all over this book. I thank him for the friendship, the fun, the sources, and the beer. Bonnie Dow has been my colleague at three different institutions and I could not ask for a better one. She taught me how to find the “hook” in an academic journal article and started me on the road to publication. She has read more of my work than she cares to remember and, as important, she is a fabulous teacher. Her lecture notes and teaching units have guided me through many a semester and influenced the studies in this book. She is an extraordinary critic and person. Karlyn Kohrs Campbell served as my advisor throughout graduate school. She taught me how to think, how to write, how to argue, how to work, and how to teach. As I evaluate my work, I try to read with her eyes. She will always be my universal audience. I came to rhetorical studies through speech and debate and so owe an enormous debt of gratitude to two coaches who did not live to see this book, John Hires and George Armstrong. I miss them very much. Happily, I still have many colleagues from those days and I thank Andy

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Heaton, Wil Burns, and Sam Marcosson, in particular, for the debates and conversations. In recent years, I have taken up running. I doubt I would have finished this book without first learning to run a marathon. A big thank you to all of my Chambana and virtual running friends. My family has never been anything but supportive even when they had no idea what I was talking about or why I never left college. My late father, Robert Murphy, and mother, Marjorie Murphy, indulged me in many ways, particularly in my love for reading. They let me read nearly anywhere and at any time. They bought me an insane number of books. They loved me and that mattered enormously to a child. My brother Dan does as well, and he continues to send me books. As my parents have aged, he has been the rock in our family, as has his wife, Ann. I have been blessed with an amazing array of loud in-laws and they have meant the world to me. I could not have finished this book without my feline and canine supervisors: Herbert, Zoe, Cecil, and Ivan never failed to teach me that cats like to “help.” Wren, Ellie, and Alice always gave me love and walks. It is no exaggeration to say that Madison J. Dog rescued me at a bad time in my life. As she aged, she carefully herded me up to my computer in the morning and made sure I got my work done, even as she napped away the day. She is missed. Cara Finnegan believes in me. I believe in her. She is an amazing colleague, critic, and cook. This book would not exist without her and neither would my happiness. My heart is full.

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C HA PTE R 1

The Liberal Presidency

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owever progressive his program, John Kennedy had a fraught relationship with the liberal establishment. Nowhere was that clearer than in his dealings with New York’s Liberal Party. Founded in 1944 as an alternative to the two major parties, it shared membership and leadership with the liberal national interest group Americans for Democratic Action.1 These activists did not embrace his candidacy. His famous father was an anti-Semitic isolationist; JFK seemed more interested in power than principle; he voted for a crippling amendment to the 1957 Civil Rights Act; he crushed liberal hero Adlai Stevenson at the 1960 convention; he selected Texan Lyndon Johnson as his running mate. Worst, he had failed to condemn Senator Joe McCarthy’s witch hunt nor did he vote for McCarthy’s censure, a litmus test for liberals.2 The Liberal Party did not endorse him with any enthusiasm, nor did many activists around the country feel good about him. His September 14, 1960, acceptance address to an audience of luminaries 1

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including Adlai Stevenson and Reinhold Niebuhr mattered more than the usual state party appearance. The candidate delivered a rousing speech that not only cemented his liberal support, but also defined his political faith. After the appropriate greetings and pointed humor at Republican expense, Kennedy announced, “I’m proud to say I’m a ‘Liberal.’”3 Two days after his landmark Houston address, in which he “set forth my views . . . on the proper relationship between church and state,” he turned here to “the proper relationship between the state and the citizen.” To show that both carried the same weight, he framed each as a statement of faith. “This,” he announced, “is my political credo.” In a rhythmic parallel structure, he said: “I believe in human dignity as the source of national purpose, in human liberty as the source of national action, and the human heart as the source of national compassion, and in the human mind as the source of our invention and ideas. It is, I believe, this faith in our fellow citizens as individuals and as people that lies at the heart of the liberal faith.” Yet if liberals made but “an announcement of virtuous ends,” their creed would matter little. They must pursue these goals “with social invention, political skill, and executive vigor.” The last mattered to candidate Kennedy, yet he noted leadership was not the only factor: “Our liberalism has its roots in our diverse origins.” Immigrants had usually become liberals, he argued, “generations of men and women who fled from the despotism of the czars, the horrors of the Nazis, the tyranny of hunger, who came here to the new frontier in the state of New York.” They were, he insisted, “a living cross section of American history,” the “pioneers and builders of the American labor movement.” They had brought forth leaders like “Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman and Adlai Stevenson.” The nation, Kennedy suggested, required that sort of liberal executive “vigah” once more. The links between the liberal faith, presidential power, and a diverse people lie at the heart of mid-century American politics. JFK’s belief that executive vigor enabled liberty for all might astonish some liberal forebears, but it flowed logically from his era’s freedom movements. During the twentieth century, an increasingly diverse electorate demanded presidential accountability while enhancing presidential power in an effort to make real the promise of human dignity. This chapter explores that

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evolution. To do so, I first outline the rhetorical lineaments of the liberal persuasion, taking particular note of its core appeal, the reciprocity argument. I turn then to the presidency’s institutional evolution, arguing that a more democratic mode of presidential rhetoric emerged as a means to articulate a liberal agenda and hold presidents to those priorities. Both the liberal persuasion and the presidency it made possible enabled and constrained John Kennedy’s rhetoric and merit examination. I conclude with his rhetorical education, the ways that he came to understand these elements in public life.

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The Liberal Tradition Like the other isms circulating in contemporary life, liberalism is an essentially contested concept, one whose definition provokes controversy but whose use seems necessary to intelligent public argument.4 I begin with the belief that liberalism is a situated and thick political language or mode of persuasion that has evolved over time in dialogue with other aspects of the modern world. Liberal traces to the Latin liber, meaning “free man.” Liberal refers to personal qualities including an open mind, a tolerant spirit, a generous inclination, a willingness to spend, a desire to innovate, a wide knowledge, and an embrace of diversity. In a larger sense, liberals design state structures and rules to enact or encourage those qualities: religious liberty, the freedom of body, thought, and speech, an independent, plural civil society, the rule of law, private property, economic freedom, and a division of governmental powers.5 Liberalism evinces varying hues, but it is useful to offer a core story or family of rhetorical appeals.6 Philosophical purity is not my goal here. Rather, I examine how liberalism works as a useful language for public debate. At liberalism’s heart, Michael Doyle argues, is “an essential principle, the importance of the freedom of the individual. Above all, this is a belief in the importance of moral freedom, of a right to be treated and a duty to treat others as ethical subjects.”7 Nancy Fraser defines the “core concepts of the liberal tradition” as “the equal autonomy and moral worth of human beings.”8 In his story of liberalism’s emergence, Isaac Kramnick claims that this equal autonomy entailed the capacity to author oneself. Rather

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than being defined by God, custom, or community, people “increasingly came to define themselves as active subjects. . . . Their own enterprise and ability mattered; they possessed the opportunity (a key word) to determine their place through their own voluntary actions in this world.”9 People asserted that place through work. “Liberalism,” Kramnick notes, “at its origin, is an ideology of work. It attributes virtue to people who are industrious and diligent and condemns as corrupt privileged aristocrats and leisured gentlefolk.”10 In these persuasively appealing heroes and villains, as well as in other ways, liberalism cohered well with the Protestant reformation and emerging capitalist cultures. Like those reformers, liberals believed that people could interpret life as a series of meaningful choices, understand and assess the material needed to make those choices, and act out futures free from the hegemony of a church, a sovereign, or both. Merit and competition were dominant values in an order based on individual success and social mobility. Good fortune came to those who looked to the future, saw a need, and planned to meet it. The talented and vigorous would serve as models for the rest. A classic account is Chapter 5, “Of Property,” in John Locke’s Second Treatise of Government.11 It defined identity as economic; labor mixed with nature and gave the diligent title to the resulting product. Property revealed God’s favor. “Do you not know,” Paul (1 Corinthians 9:24) wrote, “that in a race the runners all compete, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win it.” Rewards no longer resulted from one’s ascribed place in a chain of being, nor from a sovereign’s favor, nor from sacrifice for the public good. No, one ran so as to win and the winnings filled the wallet. For that reason, liberalism is also often defined in terms of its antipathies. If all should have the opportunity to make something of themselves, to become the classic “self-made man,” then society needed to clear away the artificial barriers hindering their efforts.12 That meant a strong liberal distaste for the oft-conjoined powers of church and state.13 In the early modern era, governments sought to make war and collect taxes, two not unrelated activities.14 As an arm of the state, an established church assured the nation that the war was just, the taxes required, and the enemy evil. In addition, a state church could demand ideological conformity and enforce obedience to sacred and secular masters. This blend legitimated

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state power because God’s will infused that state. By contrast, liberals opposed unchecked power, invoked individual conscience, and urged religious toleration. A state with absolute powers, clothed in the majesty of God, and able to grant benefits to favored economic actors precluded the emergence of a self-made person. In this society, one could only succeed, if that was possible, through favor rather than merit. This was unacceptable to early liberals.15 They called for individual emancipation, often defined as the broad extension of civic rights, an end to government restraints on commerce, and the cultivation of human reason and ambition.16 Kramnick contrasts the metaphors that defined the conflict: “If chains and immobility are the metaphoric embodiment of the hierarchical ideal, we should not be surprised that its liberal replacement was captured in talk of motion, mobility, and races.”17 These antipathies implied a positive project, one devoted to the creation of a society that would allow diligent workers to succeed. Diffident as it often was, the liberal state deployed its power to facilitate free competition. That meant the creation of open markets, ones based on the expression of individual preferences and not on a king’s need for money nor on an arbitrary idea of a just price. In free markets, people pursued their interests under the protection of the rule of law; the state enforced contracts, monopolized the use of violence, and secured property rights. All stood equal before that law. Unlike other creeds (e.g., republicanism), people needed no unique insight (e.g., knowledge of the public good) to speak and act in the political arena. All persons, Adam Smith wrote, possessed a “propensity to truck, barter, and exchange” and so all had an interest in rules that would allow them to pursue that inclination.18 The nascent logic of liberalism indicated that was warrant enough for being a part of public life. There were two big flies in the ointment. The first concerned the conflicts that inevitably erupted when people raced and political order became a dynamic process. No longer would the great chain of being, from God to king to peasant, stabilize communal life. Instead, liberals tried to make political order in a pitching world. Endless change, Edmund Fawcett observes, “thrilled and horrified” them: “It is not possible to understand their political temperament unless the hold on them of thrill and horror together is kept in mind.”19 As emancipation released

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people from tradition, their ambition, reason, and industry would lead them to discover God’s natural laws, making the world a more secure and predictable place. Or so liberals argued. But the willingness to question tradition “unleashed corrosive doubt,” Karen Whedbee notes. Critics claimed that the “liberal demand for justification produces a terrifying lack of certainty and moral pluralism that threatens to fragment and, ultimately, obliterate both communal and individual identity.” Yet to be human, Whedbee writes of John Stuart Mill’s position, was to make choices. The “anxiety” this produces “is essential to the human condition.”20 Only through argument and decision could people develop their full and fully human capacities. Liberalism became a language to manage uncertainty, the thrill and horror of individual growth, rhetorical justification, and social change. Second, contingency also marked personhood. Absent eternal definitions, who possesses the capacity to become fully human? Who counts? In his “definition of man,” Kenneth Burke argues that language defines humanity. Thus, people possess a “perfection principle,” the desire “to name something by its ‘proper’ name,” and to carry out the implications of that name. With his usual irony, he calls that the tendency to become “rotten with perfection.”21 If people could define themselves in the market, the perfection principle extended the liberal project to other arenas. Quoting Wilhelm von Humboldt, Mill insisted that people must grow beyond money and by experimentation: “The ‘end of man . . . is the highest and most harmonious development of his powers to a complete and consistent whole.’” Self-realization became possible for those not now subject to the powerful and their designs. Mill continued, “Human nature is not a machine to be built after a model, and set to do exactly the work prescribed for it, but a tree, which requires to grow and develop itself on all sides, according to the tendency of the inward forces which make it a living thing.”22 His progressive principle authorized people to explore unique talents and insights, unleash eccentricities, and celebrate active individuality. Life was “not just a matter of what we believe and do, but a matter of the liveliness with which we believe and act.”23 Much as people needed to create, develop, and own property, they should also create, develop, and own talents. In fact, the two enjoyed a reciprocal relation. Work could be a Romantic expression of the self, an exertion of one’s will

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and skill on daily life.24 The idea of authorship came to mean more than money. It signified the conscious development of a comprehensive self. Yet if I require my freedom, then I also have a duty to treat others as ethical subjects.25 Fraser calls this demand the “norm of participatory parity.” All people should be able to access power; thus, liberals must eliminate “externally manifest and publicly verifiable impediments to some people’s standing as full members of the community.”26 Nadia Urbinati spies this sort of commitment in Mill’s call for liberals to reveal and end “submission or docility.” She terms this “liberty from subjection.” It “postulates a redefinition of power relations in terms of symmetry and mutual responsibility.” Liberty in this sense also “demands intervention and the removal of the factors of subjection.”27 Contrary to a common complaint, then, liberals do possess a social sense, a grasp of the rules and resources that facilitate the pursuit of happiness and a commitment to end the subjection blocking some from that race.28 This sociality partly explains the emphasis on rights and obligations, on freedom of thought, conscience, body, and speech. If others cannot respond to me, argue, think, play, or trade with me, then I am not fully free because their efforts help to enlarge me, as mine do them. People and societies only develop fully through “symmetry and mutual responsibility.” Many liberals beyond Mill view reciprocity as critical to political life, whether one calls it sympathy, as does Smith, equality, as does Ronald Dworkin, or the rule of justice, as does Chaim Perelman.29 They differ greatly, but each embraces reciprocity. Perelman defines its form: “The argument of reciprocity equates two beings or situations, by showing that correlative expressions in a relation ought to be treated in the same fashion. In formal logic, the terms A and B, antecedent and consequent of a relationship, R, can be inverted without difficulty if the relationship is symmetrical.”30 In short, those in the same class must be treated equally. The centrality of reciprocity has two implications. First, it links liberalism to democracy. Normatively, Alan Ryan writes, “to exclude anyone from the process of decision making in his or her society is inconsistent with the self-respect we seek for each individual. Nobody has a natural right to rule, and nobody can expect to rule” except by consent.31 Practically, democracy best accommodates the diverse and changing ambitions of free people. Rhetorically, reciprocity also characterizes many faiths

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(e.g., the Golden Rule), and the cultural resources of faith legitimate a liberal democracy. Second, it takes skilled rhetoric to define people as similar enough to deserve equality. That has long been the question for liberals. If one must treat people as one expects to be treated, then who counts as a person? The poor? Catholics? Women? African Americans? Gays? Rogers Smith claims that the history of liberal democracy in the United States consists of just such deliberations.32 This question of “who counts” is critical to liberalism because once one “becomes” a person, equal rights necessarily follow. Much as prudence defines republicanism, reciprocity defines the liberal persuasion and grounds Kennedy’s rhetoric.33 If liberals demand respect for those like us, then reciprocity is the rhetorical strategy to make “the other” one of us. They do so in a modern world. Liberalism, capitalism, individualism, and much else besides, fuse into a structure of feeling termed modernity.34 When modernity became discernible is impossible to establish accurately, but its qualities are not. They share much with liberalism.35 Ryan lists: “social and geographical mobility, economic and moral individualism, subjectivity, secularism, a faith in . . . science to resolve the problems that beset our world, and, on the down side, . . . a sense of being abandoned by God or, in another jargon, a sense of ‘alienation.’”36 Liberal modernity values free, fearless, and relentless research. The “systematic gathering and analysis of socioeconomic data” from the nineteenth century forward granted liberals the ability to assess the success and failure of their policies and make appropriate adjustments.37 This marriage of liberal reform and modern science leads to a better life, one including graces like vaccinations. But if all question authority and follow reason wherever it leads, modernity’s anxiety makes sense. There is no rest for the diligent, searching, justifying liberal. The godly traditions and norms making one feel at “home” become superstitions, barriers to the improvement of self and society. The truth is out there. People must pursue it regardless of their discomfort.38 Such was the perfection principle at work. It had unnecessarily pernicious implications for rhetoric’s status.39 If the truth was out there, then rhetoric’s vagaries impeded its discovery. Rhetoric embraced contingency, suggested there were many sides to most questions, and urged advocates to engage and resolve them. This meant that rhetoric sought social, not

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eternal, truths. Now these commitments animated several strands of liberalism, broadly construed, including those of John Dewey and John Stuart Mill.40 But many thinkers concluded that the Enlightenment emphasis on individual autonomy and transcendent truth precluded rhetoric and contingency.41 Unfortunately, most rhetoricians also accepted that claim and picked the least congenial theorists as representative of an inherent liberal disdain for persuasion. For example, James Arnt Aune turns to Immanuel Kant: “Liberal democracy itself was based on a fundamental distrust of persuasion. Once the autonomous individual rather than the family or community became the fundamental building block of politics, any effort to subvert that autonomy, whether through rhetoric or violence, came to be viewed as a ‘heteronomous imposition,’ as Immanuel Kant put it.” He wrote: “‘We can each know without being told what we ought to do because moral requirements are requirements we impose on ourselves.’” Rhetoric diverted people from the universal, moral law they already knew. That was unethical.42 Jurgen Habermas’s disdain for strategic discourse was another much-cited example. To such modernists, the dream was tantalizingly near: a transparent language that ended misunderstanding and false consciousness.43 They would give a kingdom for that ideal speech situation.44 As a result, rhetoric went underground. Its status declined even as its practice continued.45 Democratic communities require deliberation, and it is arguable that all states find ways to engage their people in debates about the future. In modernity’s grip, however, scholars and politicians often deny deliberation. Rather than using mere rhetoric, they speak the “truth.” When partisans of rhetoric seek to save it, they tend to condemn modernity, conflate it with liberalism, deny the possibility of such a persuasion, and extol alternatives, often a socialist ideal or Aristotelean republican revival. Both choices share with conservatism a need to enmesh the individual in the social. Absent a common language, shared morality, or class loyalty, the autonomous person destroys community by bowling alone. Scholars as diverse as Aune, Bryan Garsten, and Danielle Allen take the modern yen for transparent language as inherent to liberalism; in defiance of Mill and Dewey, among others, they assert that liberalism has no capacity for community, sociality, or rhetoric.46 To make this claim

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stick, they also ignore public address and assert that philosophers like Kant and Habermas influence American liberalism more than Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt (FDR), or John Kennedy.47 I suspect this is not the case, and this book is partly an effort to discern and explain one version of a liberal persuasion. That rhetoric arises out of the qualities outlined here: the recognition of one another as ethical subjects, an orientation toward the future, the authorship of a self in pursuit of happiness, the significance of economics, the analytical vocabulary of scientific inquiry, the demand to test claims, regardless of the ensuing anxiety, the twin value of a “liberal democracy,” and, perhaps most important, the reciprocity argument and its role in the constitution of those ethical subjects. This language has evolved out of political struggles and continues to do so; it has proven popular in its ability to make sense of the world and resilient in the face of hard challenges. The first half of the twentieth century posed many of those. As a result, liberalism’s story in the United States became interwoven with that of the presidency. Both shaped the rhetorical resources available to John Kennedy.

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Presidential Rhetoric and American Liberalism During the first half of the last century, depression, war, and occupation toppled liberal democracies across the globe. Pundits and politicians found the liberal persuasion inadequate to the times. Supposedly rational, ethical citizens did not respond to crises; liberal economics failed; rights did not feed children or stop tanks; intensely nationalistic governments blamed “them” for all ills.48 Civic emancipation, it seemed, was not enough. People needed conditions in which they could learn, a community in which to live decently, and security in which to grow if they were to reach their full potential.49 As it turned out, government was a means for subjection, not the thing itself. False prophets, racist creeds, capitalist greed, and more captured the state and used it for their own nasty ends. This history justified the liberal turn to a strong, popular government as the means to protect an oft-promised human dignity. For example, Paul Starr argues a limited state could not manage two world wars, a Great

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Depression, or a Cold War and survive intact. Thus, “modern democratic liberalism” grew “out of the more egalitarian aspects of the broader tradition and serves as the basis of contemporary liberal politics.”50 Ideological evolutions often invent new principles out of old ideals or demand purified allegiance to an ancient creed. Liberals innovated or redeemed on three issues from 1900 to 1950. The first concerned human nature. By the late nineteenth century, liberal reformers, particularly those associated with the Social Gospel movement, came to argue not only that people could be improved, but also that they could be perfected. By contrast, the doctrine of original sin vanished into the mists of a superstitious past.51 Although reformers associated with the Social Gospel, Populism, and Progressivism developed a strong rationale for social and political action, they were convinced people would change if only the evils afflicting society became visible. Some preached the Gospel, others turned to the insights of modern science, and more put their faith in education, but nearly all believed, with extraordinary optimism and fervor, that the people—even the rich—could be brought to see and do good. Ignorance, not evil, was the problem of the day. World War I challenged this belief. Fired by Christian pacifism, most liberal Protestants opposed American entry until its occurrence. They then enthusiastically endorsed the slaughter, a reversal that proved hard to square with the liberal conscience as the war’s seeming futility became obvious in the 1920s and 1930s. In response, some insisted on a renewed adherence to their prewar, pacifist faith, more abandoned liberal churches and adopted fundamentalism, while others, inspired by Reinhold Niebuhr’s Christian realism, doubted human goodness.52 In short, by taking the available vocabularies defining humanity to their perfected, contradictory conclusions, liberals determined that all people were either potentially saints or inherently sinners. The second concerned the role of government. If a limited government was good, then a small government would be better. If a small government was better, then little or no government would be perfect. In theory, this view coincided with the idea that humans could be perfect. As James Madison famously wrote, “If men were angels, no government would be necessary.” In practice, as Madison understood, greed forbade

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paradise. Those who wished the freedom to grasp with their invisible hands the riches of the market emphasized the liberal fear of big government, while those who sought a new deal emphasized the liberal embrace of equality. Importantly, this tension inhered in liberalism and surfaced in response particularly to the challenge of the Great Depression. Those who defined government as the greatest threat to liberty purified liberalism; they defended the laissez faire status quo as newly minted conservatives. Those who defined raw capitalism as the greatest threat to liberty innovated; they crafted government and civil society as what John Kenneth Galbraith later termed “countervailing powers,” Madisonian checks against the corporate dangers.53 In short, the liberal tradition offered the linguistic resources to perfect government as problem or solution.54 The third concerned the definition of citizenship. In this regard, American liberalism had always been inflected by and in tension with a strong republican element. Citizenship, it was felt, must be earned. It must reflect more than the accident of living here rather than there. It should require a stake in the community’s future. Liberals began with the idea that people developed in competition and cooperation with others, all becoming more fully themselves as each worked with others. Each needed those others, so each had the stake that republicans also demanded. Yet this commitment needed to be proven, seen by all, to matter. Property ownership and military service were the most common signs, although neither mattered if one was not of the right race or gender. Those were thought to reflect ability and responsibility; religion also often sustained bigotry. Some people did not deserve rights because they were visibly not children of God.55 Yet this prejudice, supported by the selfinterest of the white, wealthy male, conflicted with Smith’s surprisingly radical vision, or, at least, the radical purposes to which it could be put. Recall he wrote that people possessed a bent to barter. That authorized participation in public life. Self-interest, then, was a stake. If people had to work, then they should have a say in the government enabling that effort. More broadly, as the progressive principle took hold, the evolution of the self came to justify political agency. One of the great liberal creeds, Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s “Solitude of Self,” illustrates that argument. Delivered near the end of her public life, the speech justified woman’s

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freedom with its haunting images of those moments in life that we must face alone. All people, she argued, had the right to prepare themselves for those crises, for the solitude of self.56 In short, liberalism offered the resources to define and perfect citizens as some or all of the people in the early twentieth century. This debate gained urgency due to the increasingly visible diversity of that people. The spread of segregation in the South and parts of the North sparked the founding of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the anti-lynching movement, the Harlem Renaissance, and other social activism. The flood of immigrants at the turn of the twentieth century changed the population of major cities and spurred the creation of urban political machines (including Boston’s, run in part by JFK’s grandfathers) to expand the power of these new citizens. Women gained the vote in some states and won passage of the Nineteenth Amendment after World War I. Working men and women sought collective bargaining as a means to secure their economic rewards for hard work in this new society. In the eyes of the rich and all those yearning to breathe tradition, these United States did not feel like their America any more. New forms of media, from the photograph to the mass circulation newspaper and from magazine to radio, drove the dislocation home.57 These growing social forces came to focus on the presidency. From its start, the new mass media personalized political issues. People, not policy, won eyeballs. Congress had hundreds of members, the Supreme Court had nine, yet the presidency had but one, the only official elected by the people. When the new emphasis on personality collided with one of the most charismatic men to hold the post, Theodore Roosevelt, presidential dominance of the page and eventually the airwaves became assured. A few of his successors declined celebrity’s siren call, but most, and John Kennedy most emphatically, gladly accepted the attention as a useful resource. In addition, as immigrants, women, people of color, and more sought to exert political influence in the first half of the twentieth century, they found two branches unresponsive. Given its structure and the fact that “one man, one vote” came later, Congress emphasized the issues of wealthy, white interests over all others. The end of Reconstruction and the growth of Southern apartheid also meant that in a large part of the

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nation, oligarchy, not democracy, became the form of government, whatever the constitutional guarantees. Southern racists served for decades and dominated the leadership. Reform rarely originated in Congress. The Supreme Court, for which the members were confirmed by the generally regressive Senate, was also unlikely to lead social change. The Court could not act; it could only react to the cases brought to it. But even when it ruled, its elite members seldom saw the need to leave the nineteenth century, as Franklin Roosevelt found to his fury. The presidency was the main game in town.58 This story cuts against the grain of that told by scholars of the “rhetorical presidency,” the most common way to conceptualize the relationship between discourse and office. It originated in a 1981 essay, “The Rise of the Rhetorical Presidency,” developed fully in Jeffrey Tulis’s 1987 The Rhetorical Presidency, and celebrated its own insight in 2012’s Rethinking the Rhetorical Presidency.59 These scholars do not argue the presidency changed due to rhetorical and political pressures from the nation. Instead, they claim that Woodrow Wilson offered a new doctrine of presidential power, one emphasizing his sole status as the people’s voice. The aforementioned rise of mass media and the democratization of the presidential selection process abetted Wilson’s claim to power.60 This revolution destabilized the constitutional balance between the branches. Presidents seized the chance to aggrandize their office, a move manifested by the choice to speak directly and constantly to the people, a heretofore rare practice. Many scholars believe that damaged public deliberation and the Constitution.61 This master narrative distorts more than it informs. It occludes the fact that liberals and reformers of all stripes drove these changes, usually as a way to bring about a nation that would live up to its values. Equally important, the concept of the rhetorical presidency manifests a deep discomfort with the indispensable means by which reformers made change, public speech. That dislike does not lead to a good interpretation of the role of presidential rhetoric, in the same way that those who hate television seldom write insightful criticism about television.62 When distaste starts a study, the end is usually preordained. Ironically, these same scholars seek to persuade; unpacking their strategies reveals their conceptual limitations. In a clue, Tulis uses definition to argue that The

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Rhetorical Presidency is not “really a book about rhetoric or the presidency.” It concerns “American constitutional order.”63 In this view, order matters most, the nation requires order, and rhetoric poses a clear and present danger to order. The argument for order and against rhetoric rests on conceptual, historical, normative, and practical grounds. On a conceptual level, these scholars rely on the rhetorical strategy of dissociation.64 They divide persuasion in two. Rhetoric is direct speech, those times when presidents address the people, either in person or on the air. It is dangerous. Discourse with other branches, particularly Congress, is termed deliberation. It is good. Dissociation confines rhetoric to public speech. If that alone is rhetoric, scholars can claim the presidency has become more rhetorical and more dangerous over time. This first dissociation opens the way for a second, more persuasive one. On a historical level, these scholars argue that the change occurred in the administrations of Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson. The turn of the twentieth century marked a paradigm shift. Prior to that, presidents stayed within constitutional confines. They worked with Congress to make policy for the common good. After that, presidents threatened legislators with an aroused public. This use of time dissociates presidential speech from the founders, thus denying rhetoric’s legitimacy in a culture still marked by filial piety. Bryan Garsten uses this strategy. He claims the “heart of constitutional government is the rule of law. Constitutional government therefore seems naturally hostile to the idea of a rhetorical presidency, which magnifies the personal influence of one individual.” Order requires that the office “be exercised as impartially, impersonally, and un-rhetorically as possible.” This is now “implausible”; that an unrhetorical executive is “necessary and implausible highlights one of the central dilemmas of constitutional government.”65 In short, constitutional government requires the rule of law; the law rejects personal influence; rhetoric is personal influence; therefore, rhetoric is dissociated from the law and constitutional government. The fact that he needs but a “therefore” to slide from the rule of law claim to the hostility claim says much. The rule of law is hostile neither to rhetoric nor the presidency, both of which have shaped the law and flourished within it.66 More important, rhetoric is never about the “personal influence of one individual.” Rhetoric always considers its

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audiences, much as Garsten assumes his readers would “naturally” see hostility as characterizing the relationships among a rhetorical president, the people, and constitutional order. “Therefore,” he need only assert, and not prove, this claim. Tulis thinks “Garsten states my synoptic and theoretical purposes better than I did in an earlier response to critics.”67 Indeed. In that response, Tulis claims a new Constitution resulted from this subversion of the founders, defining it as a “layered text,” one with the “competing logics of an old Constitution and a relatively new, superimposed, constitutional understanding.”68 A “superimposed understanding” obviously lacks historical legitimacy. More broadly, a fear of rhetoric animates almost every essay in Rethinking the Rhetorical Presidency. That panic flows from these conceptual and historical beliefs and leads to concerns about demagogic presidents, to warnings of a rhetorical judiciary, and to arguments that partisanship could “constrain some of the problematic effects of the rhetorical presidency.”69 When partisanship is deemed helpful, the Constitution faces parlous times. As it emerges here, rhetoric is a disruptive force that erodes public order. In fact, Garsten recommends “that presidents should wield rhetoric in a modest, self-effacing manner.” The harlot of the arts must learn proper deportment.70 On a normative level, then, the rhetorical presidency damages good government, much as immodest women disturb a community’s moral order. These men argue the value of presidential discourse varies by audience. When presidents speak to public officials, good arguments result. When presidents talk to the public, demagoguery results. Rhetoric, they claim, relies too heavily on emotional appeals, personal charisma, and seductive visuals. It debases public deliberation because it addresses the public and these sorts of appeals are all the public can understand.71 By using such base currency, rhetoric accentuates the dilemmas of modern governance.72 Public speech creates disdain for the quiet deals that should mark administration. In a new dissociation, governing is split into speaking and doing. Only doing matters, a traditional attack on language. Rhetoric impedes good government because it damages bargaining. When presidents bully, they accomplish less because Congress hates them more. Plato’s addiction analogy is inescapable; the more presidents speak, the less effect they have, and the less effect the rhetorical opioid

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has, the more they use it. The rhetorical presidency’s normative flaws lead to political failure. On a practical level, the rhetorical presidency does not work. George Edwards III most clearly makes the pragmatic argument in 2003’s On Deaf Ears. It begins with George W. Bush’s “massive public relations campaign” for tax cuts and education reform, and claims that it failed, an odd assessment given that both passed. Edwards relies on polls to support his claim. They did not move after Bush’s speeches. Thus, those failed. Despite the persuasive campaign that opens the book, he remains consistent with the prevailing definition of rhetoric. He focuses on specific presidential speeches, argues they do not move the polls, and concludes presidents are wasting their time and neglecting more effective modes of governance.73 This school of thought blames the rhetorical presidency for the political dysfunction that seems to characterize our times. In sum, the rhetorical presidency project sees rhetoric as Ronald Reagan saw government, as the problem and not the solution. It is no accident that conservatives and these scholars blame the same man for the systemic failures: Woodrow Wilson. George F. Will claims Wilson “ruined the 20th century” and Jonah Goldberg calls him “the 20th Century’s first fascist dictator.”74 Jeffrey Friedman, editor of Rethinking, characterizes Tulis’s interpretation: “Wilson made ordinary the extraordinary use of demagoguery resorted to, in extremis, by Theodore Roosevelt—who had been trying to defend the liberal constitutional order against socialist revolution.”75 If demagoguery (rhetoric) threatens constitutional order, then the United States requires a president distant from the people. The problem is not rhetoric, nor the office, but the theory. Conceptually, this school of thought rests on a narrow definition of rhetoric, one justified by neither theory nor experience. It offers a simplistic model of oral communication: A source (president) makes messages (speeches) to move a receiver (audience). By doing so, these scholars dismiss by definition both written and surrogate rhetoric, grant agency only to the president, neglect the fluid field of action on which presidents maneuver, and adopt a “magic bullet” theory of persuasion—one speech can do it all.76 Rhetoric is a considerably more complex social practice. Historically, presidents have always shaped and been shaped by public opinion.77 Most damning to the historical argument are Karlyn

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Kohrs Campbell and Kathleen Hall Jamieson’s generic studies of the presidency.78 They trace the crucial genres that constitute the office to the founding, vitiating the claim that nineteenth-century presidents did not engage in public rhetoric. In fact, they persuasively contend the office is best understood as an institution and argue that its genres “serve as structural supports for the edifice of the presidency.”79 If the topics for public debate are, as Aristotle claimed, “finances, war and peace, national defense, imports and exports, and the framing of laws,” then presidents have vigorously debated since the founding.80 It is true that presidents speak more often to the people from the start of the twentieth century forward. It is also true that the core constitutive rhetorical genres of the office, those addressing the traditional deliberative topics, have existed from the start: inaugural addresses, state of the union addresses, war rhetoric, veto messages, and so forth.81 Both claims can be true; neither makes the president into a demagogue. Neither the conceptual nor the historical dissociation holds up under scrutiny. Normatively, the case against rhetorical presidents depicts the rise of direct presidential speech as a conscious demagogic effort by Wilson to seize power. Extended by his successors, it breaks with original intent, debases public deliberation, and results in less effective government. It is difficult to credit the nostalgia for a century in which a majority of American citizens were denied the vote, a minority of Americans faced the threat and fact of lynching, another minority sought to survive statesponsored genocide, and power was reserved for white, wealthy men.82 I grant every respect to the powerful freedom movements, heroic figures, and extraordinary public discourse of the nineteenth century when I say they paved the way for a twentieth century that, with its many faults, eventually saw a more egalitarian, free, liberal, safe, powerful, useful, caring, and happy society, nation, and government. Given that such movements lacked the conventional resources for political influence—lawyers, guns, and money—rhetoric played a major role in their success and presidential rhetoric, though the pens of John Quincy Adams, Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, and Wilson, among others, mattered as well. To believe in political and rhetorical decline requires dismissal of Franklin Roosevelt’s first inaugural, Arsenal of Democracy, and War addresses, Dwight Eisenhower’s farewell address, John Kennedy’s inaugural, Ronald

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Reagan’s Normandy speech, and Barack Obama’s Selma address. And those are but presidential speeches; if a rhetorical culture debases public life, as these scholars imply, the absurdities multiply in a Kingly fashion. Normatively, there is no case for a decline from a nineteenth-century Golden Age. At first glance, that fact also calls into question the pragmatic argument. If the rhetorical presidency works so badly, why has the nation grown more powerful and embraced democratic values more fully since its putative advent? On Deaf Ears uses definition and dissociation to evade that question. First, Edwards defines and redefines his thesis so as to narrow and broaden claims as needed. At the start, he implies that “massive public relations campaigns” fail, and yet that turns out to mean individual speeches. By the end, the book again indicts all presidential rhetoric. The second strategy concerns evidence. Using dissociation, the book divides effective presidential speeches from ineffective ones, explains successes away, and maintains its claim. For example, it sets a six-point rise in presidential approval as an arbitrary standard for a speech’s success. By the data provided, President Clinton met that criterion for four of his first seven speeches.83 Other studies also find strong evidence of effects.84 But Edwards defines away success. It was war rhetoric (which does not count), there were odd circumstances, and so forth.85 There is little doubt that circumstance shapes speech. Aristotle defines rhetoric as study of the available means of persuasion in particular cases. But triumphs there regularly are, and that casts doubt on the categorical claim that presidential speech fails. Third, there is the standard. To gauge effect solely by polls creates serious validity issues. Many have noted problems with polls, the effects criterion, and the fact that opinion itself is a rhetorical resource, one open to appropriation.86 In addition, other effects (e.g., legislation) must be detached from rhetoric, then linked to nonrhetorical forms of influence to justify the book’s disdain for rhetoric. For instance, Amos Kiewe notes, Edwards claims that FDR’s 1933 Banking speech, which explained banking and encouraged people to deposit money in reopened banks, created neither higher confidence nor a flow of funds, despite the fact that both happened after the speech. Edwards claims that FDR’s “charisma” created those effects, not his speech, and that FDR asked

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people to do what they wanted to do—embrace banking.87 The first claim is incoherent because people can only recognize charisma in a speech through the speech. Charisma is not a virus that magically floats through the air and filters into people’s minds. The second is wrong. People feared banks, as It’s a Wonderful Life dramatizes. In addition, although Edwards seems unaccustomed to marshaling empirical evidence through serious media effects models, others are not. There is a powerful research tradition crossing communication, political science, and other disciplines that transcends polls and offers a wealth of methodological means to measure social, attitudinal, and behavioral change, should one wish to do so.88 Finally, David Zarefsky and others note presidential rhetoric shapes political realities in ways difficult for social science to capture.89 For example, inaugural addresses in particular and other genres of rhetoric in general seek to define Americans as a people, one appropriate to the moment yet warranted by traditional values.90 The power of definition matters, practically and normatively. Particular “peoples” incline toward different values and policies. President Reagan often defined Americans as heroic pioneers, but in his 1984 keynote address, Governor Mario Cuomo spoke of the wagon train, a strikingly different image.91 National traditions warrant both metaphors, yet they craft contradictory understandings of the country, one rooted in individual achievement, the other in communal solidarity. In short, to focus only on the instrumental effects of rhetoric reveals but a part of the picture, like measuring the value of a marriage solely by the cash it generates. There is something more there. The ways that we think about each other, talk to each other, and act with one another, matter. It is important to develop a conceptual account that respects the presidency, democratic values, the nation’s political evolution, and the idea that rhetoric enables order by giving people a way to hold presidents accountable even as those citizens respond to presidential persuasion. I begin with that story of American liberalism. As Americans too slowly began to live out the true meaning of their creed, presidents became the focal point of discontent. Given structural barriers, it was too arduous to overthrow majorities in Congress or on the Supreme Court. But one could change presidents every four years. They were more vulnerable to the vagaries of public opinion. Although this has theoretically been

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true since the founding, it came to a head in the early twentieth century when the electorate expanded.92 As majorities, or vocal minorities, sought change, they tried to elect “their” president, partly because one person is more accessible than nine judges or hundreds of legislators and partly because of the office itself. The president is not only the prime minister, as it were; he or she is the head of state. To see the “king” as one of us makes us feel as if we belong. The presidency is a symbolically powerful target. Plus, if liberalism values the integrity of the individual, then liberals will likely turn to the singular in a government of collectives. A liberal democratic culture, like the one that evolved at the turn of the twentieth century, will value the lone presidential hero.93 Rather than arguing that presidents sought to gain unwarranted power through direct speech, then, it seems plausible that people demanded more accountability from leaders. Many Progressive reforms, from presidential primaries to the direct election of senators to recalls of public officials, were designed to do that. In that vein, presidents realized the newly energized and enlarged public demanded accountability; accountability requires one to offer an account for one’s choices, to give good reasons for one’s actions. Presidents heeded the cry for democracy and spoke to the people. In short, the presidency assumed a more visible role in the nation due not to an unquenchable thirst for power by its occupants (although that played a role) but rather to the ways it articulated to social movements and liberal democracy. In a like manner, Jeffrey Mehltretter Drury emphasizes “the demands of public opinion, demands that call upon presidents to be the malleable entity as they attempt to speak on behalf of the people.”94 The resulting vitriol flows not from a rhetorical presidency but from the fact that the powerful seldom gracefully yield power. Segregationists, for example, needed to be defeated, not accommodated. Under the aegis of liberal presidents, the institution took on larger responsibilities and powers because citizens wanted that, but, as it happened, they also held presidents accountable in ways beyond previous norms.95 Presidents sought to both direct and respond to public opinion. In other words, the institution evolved to meet changing needs, which resulted from the country’s democratization, which demanded yet more institutional evolution. Much as liberals sought to perfect government as a solution to the nation’s problems, they also sought to perfect

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the presidency as a solution to the government’s problems, particularly its resistance to social and political change.96 To narrate a tale of the rhetorical presidency that laments this development, as many do, is to smuggle discomfort with broad democratic equality and unseemly public debate into an “objective” theory of the office. After all, the issue here is clear. Rhetorical presidency scholars object to the facts that presidents want to talk to their constituents and that said constituents want their presidents to talk to them. Such talk seems to me to be the heart of liberal democracy. Rather than deriding it, scholars should assay the institution’s powers, rhetorical and otherwise, as well as a president’s capacity to use that authority. What choices are open to presidents? How do they use their tools in specific cases? How do person and structure, president and institution, interact? Mary Stuckey writes, “The best work on both the rhetorical presidency and presidential rhetoric has been profoundly institutional in its orientation.”97 Yet institution has not often been usefully defined for studies of presidential rhetoric.98 Drawing on sociology and communication, John Lammers and Joshua Barbour define institutions “as constellations of established practices guided by enduring, formalized, rational beliefs that transcend particular organizations and situations.”99 They note “established patterns of communication and conduct” are usually how people encounter institutions.100 That is why, as Roderick Hart sadly notes, people often equate the work of the presidency with its words. The institution becomes real to the nation in those established communicative practices.101 They provide presidents with coherent, stable scripts addressing recurring problems. For example, the Constitution requires that the president “shall from time to time give to the Congress information of the state of the union, and recommend to their consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient”; the state of the union address meets that need.102 But it is salient to note, Lammers, Barbour, and Mattea Garcia argue, that institutions exceed specific organizations while also evolving in response to innovations. The presidency is not the only entity that creates expectations for public speech. Fictional presidents give speeches, too, and the media set norms. The institution encompasses all of these actors in all senses of that term.103 In the following, I treat the institution as an enabling constraint for JFK’s discourse. A pragmatic presidency asks

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its occupants to use and amplify its resources in pursuit of important goals. I focus on four elements of the institution.104 First, the presidency offers legal/administrative powers and those changed greatly in the twentieth century. During the mid-century liberal heyday, Congress expanded presidential powers and responsibilities. The 1939 Administrative Reorganization Act authorized the Executive Office of the President and arguably institutionalized “the presidency.” The Office of the President grew exponentially over the next two decades, giving JFK an administrative tool unknown to most predecessors. Small compared to the rest of the executive branch, it was nonetheless large enough to steer the ship. The 1946 Employment Act made the federal government responsible for economic performance and created the Council of Economic Advisors to assist presidents. The 1946 Atomic Energy Act gave presidents sole responsibility for atomic weapons and nuclear research; the Atomic Energy Commission became their tool. The 1947 National Security Act acknowledged the president’s preeminent role in defense and foreign policy. It established a bureaucracy to fight the Cold War, including a Secretary of Defense, a Central Intelligence Agency, and a National Security Council, with the National Security Advisor and accompanying staff, all under the aegis of the president. For example, given his authority over nuclear weapons and his defense powers, JFK could stop or start nuclear testing when he chose, subject, of course, to large political pressures. But as he sought a test ban treaty, that was a nice unilateral power to possess. I do not wish to exaggerate; Congress mattered, but the acts granted the president a dominant place when it came to the development and implementation of economic and defense policies.105 However, for that to matter, presidents need to exercise those powers. If presidential authority flows partly through discursive acts, then, like rhetoric, it is a dynamis, “a potential for doing, a power in its nascent state.”106 Presidential power always exists in theory but it is only realized at the moment of performance, a second element needed to analyze institutions. Diana Taylor defines performance as “the many practices and events—dance, theatre, ritual, political rallies, funerals—that involve theatrical, rehearsed, or conventional/event-appropriate behaviors. These practices are usually bracketed off from those around them to constitute discrete foci of analysis.”107 Such episodes or events are a repeatable,

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conventional means of “transmitting social knowledge, memory, and a sense of identity,” not to mention power.108 To paraphrase Judith Butler, the presidency is what presidents do rather than what they are. They make and enact the office through a contingent construction of meaning in performance, as they walk to “Hail to the Chief,” lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, execute the speeches constitutive of the office from the inaugural to the farewell, pardon Thanksgiving turkeys, receive security briefings, issue executive orders, applaud cellists, and so forth. Of course, the institution requires individuals to create those performances; the office is embodied in the person. I make a point of this because the presidency is a peculiar institution in that regard, and that is apparent in daily talk. General Motors announces a recall, Major League Baseball changes its rules, but “The Presidency” does not do anything. A nightly news anchor never reports, “The Presidency issued new guidelines today on . . .” Rather, President Kennedy establishes the hotline with the Soviet Union or challenges military officers to hike fifty miles. In that sense, it is useful to think of presidents as what Christa Olson terms an “embodiable topos,” a common place of social energy, a way to bring before our eyes the common sense of a culture, a unification of policy and institution in a body.109 For instance, President Jimmy Carter used the capacities of the office to embody a national concern for human rights, established that issue as an enduring commitment, and offered a set of performative rules through which subsequent chief executives could do so.110 Even as the pledge to human rights transcended Carter, he represented it, much as John Kennedy embodied the space program. In fact, it is almost impossible to watch anything about NASA without hearing Kennedy’s clipped accent. Specific presidents embody the presidency through rhetorical performances. The performative aspect of the office enables a clearer account of its agency, the third element. By agency, I mean the capacity and skill to act in ways meaningful to others. Institutions exist partly because they “involve prescriptions for how to get things done. . . . Institutions guide individuals via knowledge formally [and informally] stored and followed.”111 The presidency is no different, although evaluations of that power differ. Scholars and pundits routinely celebrate and lament presidential power.112

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The concept of agency, Campbell claims, “is polysemic and ambiguous, a term that can refer to invention, strategies, authorship, institutional power, identity, subjectivity, practices, and subject positions, among others.”113 She focuses on the social nature of agency, the ability of rhetors, as points of articulation, not free actors, to invent aesthetically and politically powerful forms of address that induce audience participation in the middle of a challenging environment. As both a presidential and feminist scholar, she is well positioned to remind us that agency is “the power to do evil, to demean and belittle,” as well as to do good.114 The good and the bad flow from both the institutional capacity of the presidency and the talents of specific presidents. The office wields considerable cultural, social, and political authority. From statutory powers to routine news coverage, from the legitimation provided by election to the support offered by partisans, presidents have much at their fingertips, including the office’s rhetorical resources, such as its public address genres, professional media advisors, public relations staff, and the like. That potential is enacted in performance, what Campbell terms “iteration with a difference,” what I discussed as invention. Citations or repetitions can exploit the past, extend values and ideas, or amplify performative capacities to make something new and useful.115 John Kennedy was aware of these possibilities and often ruthlessly exploited them to enhance his power and that of successors. For instance, he transformed boring briefings into the live televised press conference, a genre highlighting his rhetorical skills, the most important of which were a quick wit, a wide intelligence, and spontaneous eloquence. The change enhanced the office’s institutional power. The previous format empowered reporters; they mediated the president for the nation. This new format empowered the president; journalists became foils for his performance. Iteration with a difference equals agency. Even such skilled presidents exploit and struggle with external environmental factors, the fourth element. Rhetoricians have long been concerned with context, and institutions act through and against other institutions, organizations, individual actors, material constraints, and so forth. Campbell and Jamieson persuasively argue that “the institutions of our government constitute an experiment in rhetorical adaptation in which the initiatives of any one branch can be modified and refined by

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the reactions of the others, and in which the flaws and idiosyncrasies of any branch at any given time can be accommodated by action in the others.”116 For example, George Washington’s initial state of the union address was modeled on the British monarch’s speech from the throne, complete with extraordinary pomp, and Congress offered an institutional reply, like that of the House of Commons. This complicated dance of deference, compounded by the fact that, in a bizarre internal dialogue, James Madison drafted nearly all of these messages on behalf of Washington and Congress, was soon abandoned as inappropriate for a republic. Yet adaptation never stopped. Presidential rhetoric now intertwines with the institutional norms of television programming, and the state of the union address has changed accordingly.117 In a larger sense, the presidency changes as environmental factors ebb and flow against it. For example, the two decades before 1960 saw a renewed scholarly interest in the office, one that influenced the public. Harold Laski’s The American Presidency, E. S. Corwin’s The President, Offices and Powers, Sidney Hyman’s The American President, Clinton Rossiter’s The American Presidency, Richard Neustadt’s Presidential Power, Rexford Tugwell’s The Enlargement of the Presidency, Herman Finer’s The Presidency: Crisis and Regeneration, and others appeared. In addition, there was a spate of biographies, a genre likely more congenial to the public. The era saw classics such as Douglas Southall Freeman’s Washington, Carl Sandburg’s Lincoln, Marquis James’s Jackson, and Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr.’s Age of Jackson, not to mention Schlesinger’s three volume account of FDR’s first two terms.118 Nearly all praised a strong presidency and extolled the heroes who got things done. From JFK’s perspective, this culminated in Theodore H. White’s popular 1961 book The Making of the President 1960, a work that mythologized the office and glorified its current occupant.119 High expectations ruled the day. Those meant nothing to Howard W. Smith. Born in 1883 in Fauquier County, Virginia, he became a judge in 1922 and won election to the House in 1930. In 1955, he ascended to the rarified height of Chair of the House Rules Committee. That body possessed the power to clear all legislation before it reached the House floor; the chair possessed the power to clear everything before it reached the committee. This chair thought little of value had passed through Congress since Andrew Jackson. In

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that, he was not alone. A strict rule of seniority determined committee chairmen, and committee chairmen ran Congress at the time. Given Southern oligarchy, Dixiecrats accumulated seniority and ruled the committees: “In 1960 they chaired 65 percent of the standing committees in the Senate and 67 percent in the House. When they gathered behind closed doors to make public policy, the food was Virginia ham and collard greens, the drink was bourbon and branch water, the song was ‘Dixie,’ and the politics were conservative.”120 The huge Democratic gains in the 1958 midterms swept liberals into office, but the odds still daunted JFK, whatever authors, intellectuals, and scholars thought he should be able to do. His dilemma illustrates the ways in which the environment can shape, frustrate, or influence the presidency.121 In summary, a pragmatic perspective on the presidency asks scholars to consider its institutional and legal powers, its performative capacity, its agency, and its environment. This discussion leads me to two larger claims about the office. First, communication constitutes the presidency, as it does all institutions. Lammers and Barbour note, “It is the day-to-day practices enacted, endorsed, routinized, and recorded that sustain institutions.”122 Presidents make the office through daily presidential performances and the culture does, too, through acceptance, contestation, and dialogue with presidents. Each time a network anchor throws the broadcast to the White House reporter, a president gets his institutional wings. Second, that communication seeks legitimacy. In this way, rhetoric’s belief in an audience has much to offer to institutional understandings of the presidency. As Farrell argues, Aristotle saw the audience as something more than “a target or a message consumer. This is the audience as victim or as some kind of collective digestive tract for messages.” Rather, the audience emerges as a “kind of collaborative agency for making ongoing judgments.”123 People bring interests to the debate; they know their interests better than others do. However, rhetoric possesses the capacity to craft shared interests. As we discuss and deliberate, we understand and feel the ways we are one nation and, perhaps through reciprocity arguments, develop collective identities. We recognize one another’s place in national life.124 At its best, rhetoric offers languages of engagement amid civic friendship. That legitimates the ensuing policies and judgments, and they, in turn, reflect back to and constitute the institutions that so speak.

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This is admittedly an ideal ethical vision, but there seems little reason to encourage something less. We must allow in theory for the practices we sometimes see and hope always to make. In a departure from the historical norm, John Kennedy came to the office with a good idea of both the theory and practice of presidential persuasion.

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A Rhetorical Life John Fitzgerald Kennedy was born on May 29, 1917, the second child of an eventual nine for Joseph P. and Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy.125 His name seemingly obligated him to public life. John “Honey Fitz” Fitzgerald, JFK’s maternal grandfather and namesake, served in Congress and as the first Irish American mayor of Boston. The paternal grandfather, Patrick J. Kennedy, owned several businesses, including bars, a liquor importing firm, parts of a coal company, and a bank, while working actively in the Boston Irish political machine.126 The father, Joseph P. Kennedy, built a great fortune and turned to politics in the 1930s. He capably served as the founding chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission, but destroyed whatever future he possessed with his isolationism and defeatism during his tumultuous term as the U.S. Ambassador to Great Britain, 1938–1940. From that point on, he concentrated his considerable energy and talent on his family. That family—and its wealth—saw its sickly second son through more health problems than anyone should have had to endure. The 2003 publication of Robert Dallek’s An Unfinished Life revealed the full extent of Kennedy’s illnesses; this theme has since become a dominant motif in biographies. He went through nearly all of the childhood illnesses and much else as well. Most prominently, he suffered from colitis and digestive problems. They can become life-threatening if the colon becomes ulcerated. Doctors treated him with adrenal extracts. Physicians then “did not realize what today is common medical knowledge: namely, that adrenal extracts are effective in treating acute ulcerative colitis, but can have deleterious long-term chronic effects, including osteoporosis with vertebral column deterioration and peptic ulcers. In addition, chronic use of corticosteroids can lead to the suppression of normal adrenal function

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and may have caused or contributed to Jack’s Addison’s disease.”127 In retrospect, his symptoms suggest he suffered from some combination of colitis, irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn’s disease, Addison’s disease, and back weakness. His treatments reduced his white blood cell count, opening him to opportunistic contagions such as hives, bladder infections, and the flu. Surgery in 1944 showed a deterioration of his lumbar spine, and operations in 1954 to 1955 nearly killed him. During his life and presidency, he tried nearly every drug or treatment available; some were good, some bad, some dangerous, and some merely odd. In short, John Kennedy suffered from something nearly every day of his life. Nonetheless, he lived that life. He attended a series of schools, matriculating at Choate, then Harvard. He spent his first years there befriending men and seducing women. In the summer of 1937, he took a tour of Europe. It was the thing that wealthy young men of his generation did. Despite his father’s mixed feelings about the British, JFK grew up as an Anglophile, attending boarding schools, traveling abroad, living in the broad Atlantic community, and seeing life as an Anglo-American aristocrat. The trip deepened his interest in current events and foreign policy. Equally important, his status gave him access to the leading families of Great Britain and Europe, as did his father’s December 1937 appointment to the Court of St. James. Kennedy came back to Harvard a more serious student, focused his course work on government, and, for the first time, excelled in his classes. He chose to complete an honor’s thesis on foreign affairs and analyzed Great Britain’s appeasement of Germany. With editorial help from family friend and political writer Arthur Krock, it was published in 1940 as Why England Slept. Nicely timed to the public mood, the book “received almost uniformly glowing reviews and substantial sales in the United States and Britain.”128 Upon his graduation in spring 1940, he again acted like many young men of his time; he marked time with inconsequential projects while waiting for war. The war came. Kennedy’s health initially prevented him from joining the service and then precluded sea duty once he enlisted in the Navy. His father, and Massachusetts politicians, eventually cleared the way with a clearly false physical report and JFK came to command a PT (“patrol-torpedo”) boat in the South Pacific. Most famously, Kennedy’s boat was one of fifteen sent out on August 1, 1943, to intercept a Japanese convoy near New Georgia.

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It was a disastrous operation. Only four of the fifteen boats had radar and those leaders left for home after firing their torpedoes. On a black night, no one else, including Kennedy, had any idea where the Japanese were; surprise, American skippers were told, was the key to success and so they were enjoined to radio silence and told to cruise quietly. Thus, the PT-109 had only one engine running and could not move out of the way when a destroyer loomed up in the dark. Critics have attacked him because his was the only boat rammed during the war, but seldom were other commanders subjected to such stupid tactics.129 Kennedy made mistakes that night and in the war. But he reacted courageously and intelligently to the wreck and, after a week-long ordeal, the survivors were rescued. The PT-109 soon became an irresistible story with which to support the war effort—a handsome, wealthy, and charming commander, his heroic crew, a terrible wreck, an awful ordeal, all of it became fodder for the press and for future political campaigns. Most important at the time, Dallek notes, was the demonstration of American egalitarianism. JFK’s very presence in the combat zone seemed proof positive of the patriotic claim that all Americans risked all in wartime.130 Legend has it that John Kennedy turned to public life only when the death of his brother Joseph in the war led his father to insist on politics. Yet JFK’s life pulsed with politics from his birth. He majored in government, read extensively in current affairs and history, wrote a foreign policy best-seller, and endlessly discussed politics with his mates in the South Pacific.131 Much as Edward Kennedy ran for office before the deaths of his two brothers, so it seems likely that John Kennedy would have pursued a political career even had Joe lived. Thomas Oliphant and Curtis Wilkie argue, “The force behind Kennedy’s ambition was Kennedy himself.” A seat opened in the U.S. House of Representatives in 1946, one happily located in Democratic Charlestown, Massachusetts. He rented a hotel room in the district, ran hard for election, and defeated an array of challengers.132 Several factors that characterized his later campaigns began here. First, Kennedy never worried about money. He seldom raised money or asked where it went. It came and went where it could do the most or the least good. The family had so much money that mistakes did not matter. Second, partly as a result of that, JFK could simply be the candidate.

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People he trusted—his father or his brother Robert—ran his campaigns. Nothing ever distracted him from his job as a candidate. Third, he worked. John Kennedy ran hard from the first moment of the campaign, always surfing dangerously close to major health problems.133 Fourth, he learned to run left on social welfare and right on foreign policy. James MacGregor Burns notes that on economic matters, “Kennedy followed a straight labor-liberal line during his six years in the House,” a pattern that continued, apart from the occasional spasmodic concern for a balanced budget, until the White House. By contrast, he irresponsibly attacked Truman for being too soft on the Communists.134 Fifth, he was a poor public speaker. He read prepared texts too quickly and he appeared ill.135 He had his moments, but his meet and greets worked better than his speeches. Most important, he learned. Robert Caro notes, “One of Jack Kennedy’s most impressive characteristics was an ability to observe—and to generalize from his observations, to understand the implications of what he was seeing—no matter how hectic his pace might be: to ‘learn on the run,’ as one of his aides put it.”136 He seemed to know where television was taking politics and what it meant for him. Rare for a major politician, he critiqued himself. W. J. Rorabaugh writes: “One of Kennedy’s talents was a capacity for cold, accurate analysis of his own performances.” His 1960 campaign bought one of the first portable video recorders. “Rare at the time,” they cost “about $100,000,” and “few machines were in private hands.” Beginning with the Wisconsin primary, the campaign “videotaped all rallies and speeches. He then carefully reviewed the tapes, noticing flubbed lines, thinking of better ways to make a point, and especially watching crowd reactions.”137 The willingness to critique one’s performance and correct errors is rare. Kennedy showed the capacity not only to improve technique, but also to analyze and adapt to the terrain created by television in particular and the postwar era in general. He used that knowledge well. When he reached the House, he began thinking about the Senate; when he reached the Senate, he began to wonder whether a Catholic could win the White House.138 He spent his House years traveling the state, improving his speaking, and developing a network. In 1952, he challenged a Republican Senate incumbent, Henry Cabot Lodge Jr. The son and grandson of famous Massachusetts families,

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a wealthy war hero, Lodge seemed secure in his seat. He was close to Dwight Eisenhower and spearheaded his nomination campaign against conservative Ohio Senator Robert Taft. That, however, may have hurt Lodge with conservatives and, as usual, JFK ran to Lodge’s right on foreign policy. Yet the incumbent benefited from a Republican landslide and an election eve appearance by Eisenhower. JFK’s margin (70,737 votes out of 2,353,231 cast) looks small but stands up against Ike’s 208,800 vote margin in the state.139 John Kennedy’s national ambitions quickly became clear in the Sen140 ate. After several legislative controversies and health crises, he became interested in the idea of political courage. The result was a small volume with a large impact. Profiles in Courage won the 1957 Pulitzer Prize for history. That provoked controversy, mostly due to disputes surrounding his authorship. In 1953, the newly elected Senator decided that he needed to expand and improve his staff. After two short interviews, JFK hired a twenty-four-year-old lawyer from Lincoln, Nebraska, named Theodore Sorensen. He hailed from a prominent progressive Republican family; his father had been the state’s attorney general and an important ally of famed Senator George Norris (one of the men in Profiles), and his brother later served as the Lieutenant Governor of the state. Sorensen grew up in an intellectual family, one that shared with the Kennedys a strong interest in current affairs and the English language. He was president of the Lincoln High Writers club and wrote in his last memoir, “The clarity, quality, and color of my writing also improved as a result of my experience as a high school debater.” He continued in speech competition at the University of Nebraska and “learned a lot from two wise university debate coaches and speech instructors, Dr. Leroy T. Laase and Dr. Donald Olsen, and from my participation in one debate and oratory contest after another.”141 Jeffrey Sachs calls Sorensen JFK’s “verbal Excalibur.” In The Making of the President 1960, White floridly termed Sorensen the “steward of the candidate’s intellectual personality. ‘My intellectual blood bank,’ Kennedy styled him. . . . Sorensen had, by his learning, his dedication, his total devotion to his chief, become almost a lobe of Kennedy’s mind.”142 Given this relationship, many claim that JFK did not deserve a Pulitzer Prize for Profiles in Courage. That misses the point. Dallek writes, “The final product was essentially Jack’s.” He dictated and edited chapters. In

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a balanced judgment, Dallek concludes, “Jack did more on the book than some later critics believed, but less than the term author normally connotes. Profiles in Courage was more the work of a ‘committee’ than of any one person.”143 Such also describes his presidential speeches and, more generally, the relationship between ghosts and presidents. Karlyn Kohrs Campbell and Kathleen Hall Jamieson note all presidents use writers, and as the office’s rhetorical demands have increased, so has the use of ghosts. There are many reasons for this, but the most important result is the fact that the office is “a corporate entity.” When the president speaks, the institution speaks. “In that sense,” Campbell and Jamieson write, “the presidency is a syndicate generating the actions associated with the head of state, including those deeds done in words. And whoever the author(s) may be, once the president takes responsibility for them, the words become an integral part of that presidency.”144 Nor is this news. For example, scholars know James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and George Washington contributed to Washington’s Farewell. No one thinks less of it, nor do critics apportion credit, nor do they condemn the president for relying on two-thirds of “Publius” to write it.145 Yet such has become common in studies of Kennedy’s rhetoric. To be clear, I occasionally discuss the drafting process. But I am less concerned with who wrote a speech than I am with what it did and how it interacted with its contextual text—with the discourses that shaped and framed it. More important, “John Kennedy” and the “Kennedys” were corporations. This is not an attack, but a simple fact. Wealth let them hire staff to research ideas, as well as to draft speeches, articles, and books. In a rhetorical sense, John Kennedy behaved presidentially before he was a politician. During the 1950s, he exploited these resources to create a public brand. In 1957 alone, he and other family members were profiled by Time, McCall’s, American Mercury, U.S. News and World Report, Saturday Evening Post, and the Catholic Digest, as well as many newspapers. He contributed to McCall’s, Foreign Affairs, American Weekly, Parade, the Saturday Evening Post, Foreign Policy Bulletin, and the New York Times Magazine, appeared on television shows, and won that Pulitzer Prize.146 To wonder whether he wrote his books, speeches, or anything else is beside the point. They were the work of an institution named John Fitzgerald Kennedy with which the man had a close relationship.

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That institution entered firmly into the public eye at the 1956 Democratic Convention. Kennedy narrated the obligatory campaign film about the party and, when that went well, was chosen by the Stevenson campaign to nominate the former Illinois governor for the presidency. In a bizarre move, Stevenson opened the vice-presidential nomination to a floor vote; Kennedy sought election. He luckily lost the nomination and, thus, the chance to lose the election in a landslide. His graceful concession, however, won him many admirers. Much as Franklin Roosevelt’s 1928 nomination speech for Governor Al Smith and Barack Obama’s 2004 keynote address propelled them into presidential politics, so, too, did John Kennedy’s performance at this convention.147 He spent the next four years running for the presidency and eventually won that office by the narrowest of margins.148 The lessons learned in his first congressional campaign served him well, as did several other factors. Kennedy’s strongest potential rival, the incumbent Republican President Dwight Eisenhower, could not run for a third term, thanks to the Republican-sponsored Twenty-Second Amendment to the Constitution. Kennedy’s strongest potential Democratic rival, Senator Lyndon Johnson (LBJ), agonized over his decision to run, eventually entered too late to win, and settled for the vice-presidency.149 LBJ’s popularity in Texas and the South helped Kennedy immensely. His Republican opponent, Vice-President Richard Nixon, struggled with disdain for the office he held, as well as with a balky economy. Eisenhower was, at best, a mediocre economic steward and presided over three recessions, the last of which took place during the election. That did not help Nixon, nor did mistakes during the campaign, from his commitment to appear in every state, to his silence when the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. was arrested, to a poor performance in the first debate, to the failure to use Eisenhower as well as the incumbent’s popularity warranted. John Kennedy ran a smart, efficient campaign, but only outside events permitted a victory by less than one vote per precinct, one offering no coattails to congressional candidates. Any change in any of these circumstances and he likely would have lost. The newly elected president was well aware of the fragility of his political coalition. This life and these experiences crafted important qualities JFK brought to his presidency. In my judgment, three most likely grounded

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his presidential rhetoric. He possessed a willingness to ignore the rules of any game, an understanding of the power of opinion in a democracy, and a rhetorical sensibility he felt would allow him to move the public mind. Together, these elements provided many of the resources of invention he needed to articulate and, perhaps, attain his goals. First, John Kennedy had no regard for widely accepted “rules of the game.” His family’s wealth and prominence, his natural and practiced charm, intellect, work ethic, and much else besides meant that most rules never applied to him. When he became ill, the best doctors in the world attended him. Diseases that likely would have killed an “ordinary” person became barely manageable. When he wanted to publish his undergraduate honor’s thesis, it happened. When he wanted command of a PT boat, it happened. When he wanted a House seat to which he had only the tenuous connection of a hotel room, it happened. When he wanted an incumbent’s Senate seat, it happened. To be clear, Kennedy earned these achievements. He proved himself again and again. Yet he apparently came to learn that his abilities and resources would allow him to outwit norms that would frustrate most people. In his private life, this conviction caused grief for JFK, his family, and others. But he also gained the confidence and imagination to recast the political game rather than simply obey its rules. He felt he needed such imagination because he understood the power of public opinion in a democracy, the second quality he brought to the office. Oddly, nothing reveals that as much as Why England Slept. If it is read today, it is as evidence for his unethical authorial practices or as an augury of his foreign policy.150 Alan Brinkley sees “the muscular vision of American power that would characterize his future career.” Yet the historian senses a rhetorical theme: “But most of all, he laid out what he considered the great challenge of democracy. How can a free society mobilize its citizens for war?”151 The title began to answer that question, an homage to Winston Churchill’s While England Slept, and rhetoric, Churchill’s weapon, would be central to JFK’s argument.152 Indeed, the book reads like rhetorical criticism. He began with the public mind: Before beginning any discussion of British rearmament, it is important to know what the psychology of the nation was at its commencement.

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Because of the inertia of human thought, nations, like individuals, change their ideas slowly. In a Democracy, especially, where a majority must share the idea before it becomes part of the national viewpoint, it is necessary to study the fundamentals upon which the public’s opinions are based.153

For the youthful Kennedy, Great Britain capitulated at Munich because she perceived she did not have the military might to deny Germany; she did not have military might because public opinion had not supported rearmament; the public did not do so because of a rhetorical failure on the part of Britain’s leaders. They knew rearmament was necessary, but they did not educate people. JFK confronted a dilemma of democratic deliberation: How do you convince a reluctant people to do what you believe should be done? He then traced the rhetorical campaign that eventually led to a stronger nation. Not only did he analyze Parliamentary debates,154 he also studied popular culture, emphasizing the views of periodicals such as The Economist.155 He critiqued rhetorical strategies, such as the power the “words ‘League’ and ‘Disarmament’ had on the minds of the people.”156 Why England Slept revealed a strong rhetorical sensibility. That facility for rhetorical analysis became the third key quality he brought to the White House. Again, the presidency then “was still a fledgling institution.” The Executive Office was established in 1939 and the “annual ‘program of the president’ had evolved a decade later.’” Congress began to look to the president for legislative leadership; Eisenhower began to provide it.157 Kennedy accelerated that evolution with rhetoric. Roderick Hart writes: “If FDR gave birth to the modern presidency, surely it was John Kennedy who became its adolescence.” Hart claims that JFK “shifted the rhetorical focus of the White House. Kennedy spoke more frequently, for a greater variety of purposes, and in a greater range of speech settings than did his two immediate predecessors.” Not only did he speak more often, he invented anew the rhetorical rules. Hart tellingly argues JFK “imposed rhetorical solutions upon problems not normally admitting to such solutions . . . and, if he were presented with an anomalous political situation, JFK more often than not invented a rhetorical form suitable for dealing with it.”158 He exploited occasions that had not been thought fully political or rhetorical, such as graduations or White

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House concerts. He used them to advance his policies, create a graceful tone for his administration, and lift his popularity. His family, from his wife and children to brothers and sisters, projected the youthful, vigorous appearance he wanted and reinforced the salience of those norms. More than most predecessors, this president saw most public appearances and many ostensibly private moments as political opportunities. The evolution of mass media and the advent of television immeasurably aided him. The comprehensiveness of this vision, the ways he used all that there was to use, revealed, as much as anything else did, Kennedy’s rhetorical creativity.159 Perhaps the finest pre-presidential example of his creativity concerned his Catholicism. No Catholic had ever won election to the White House; only New York Governor Alfred Smith had even been nominated by a major political party. Kennedy’s excellent speech to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association has received the praise that is its due, but, as Sean Casey has argued, it concluded a long campaign.160 Particularly from 1956 to 1960, JFK and his staff monitored religious publications, responded to anti-Catholic statements, wrote widely circulated strategy memos lauding the electoral advantages of a Catholic candidate, gave commencement addresses and routine speeches for Catholic and Protestant colleges and organizations, cultivated Protestant clergy, listened to Catholic prelates, and, in general, invented and tested Houston’s arguments.161 The man who wrote Why England Slept understood the need for this long march. John Kennedy entered the White House with the convictions that nothing important happened in a democracy without public support and that he possessed the creativity to craft such support, even if that required an innovative disregard for conventional wisdom.

The Liberal Spirit of Daring To a remarkable extent, liberal democracy’s evolution in the United States, concomitant changes in the presidency, and John Kennedy’s rhetorical education fit together nicely. As his speech to the Liberal party revealed, JFK understood how to weave together the diverse peoples of the nation with his political credo. Liberal principles could only gain force and

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power when warranted by the people; the people could only gain force and power through the executive vigor personified by this dynamic, young president. To understand the public discourse that made this possible, I have offered an alternative story of the nation’s political history, the institution of the presidency, and its articulation within the liberal persuasion. The presidency did not change as a result of executive arrogance, nor should any mourn the loss of the “Old Constitution.” A bigger, better, more liberal and democratic nation emerged in the twentieth century, one energized by women, immigrants, and minorities. The presidency played a key role in this evolution and John Kennedy was positioned, by rhetorical inclination and political experience, to carry liberalism’s torch into the 1960s. His inaugural address made that abundantly clear.

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C HA PTE R 2

Let Us Begin

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•••

T

he images and words of that day shape the start of John Kennedy’s presidency as surely now as they did then: the cold, the snow, the aged past president, the iconic American poet, the shockingly beautiful First Lady, and the visible puffs of air each time the new president sent forth a word. Television offered those pictures and more during its fifteen hours of coverage, ranging from the morning mass to the evening’s celebrations. Countless photographs document that day, and yet one lingers, Paul Schutzer’s beautiful portrait of the Kennedys at one of the balls. Jackie, seated, smiles adoringly up at her husband, as he stands, pointing to his left, arm extended, light framing him, yet somehow flowing from him. David Lubin believes the shot entered the canon “not because it echoed classical cultural prototypes but rather because, like them, it strikingly summarized Western culture’s most deeply ingrained notions about youthful grace, leadership, and nobility.”1 One could say much the same about the speech, and its words 39

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immediately entered the canon. Praise poured into the White House. Eudora Welty felt “a surge of hope,” Carl Sandburg called it a “classic,” and Eleanor Roosevelt, always dubious about Joe Kennedy’s son, wrote to him, “I think ‘gratitude’ best describes the kind of liberation & lift to the listener you gave.” The press loved it and decided that “Kennedy’s great idea had been his invitation to reduce cold-war tensions.” Papers emphasized his “quest for peace,” noting, as one columnist wrote, that he was “neither soft nor truculent.”2 James Reston, the influential New York Times writer, thought the “reaction to President Kennedy’s Inaugural speech was even more remarkable than the speech itself,” noting all “praised it, from the conservative Republicans to the Communists in Moscow, which is quite a distance.” He topped them: “The evangelical and transcendent spirit of America has not been better expressed since Woodrow Wilson and maybe not even since Ralph Waldo Emerson.”3 Early rhetorical critics also heard a masterpiece. Burnham Carter Jr. and Edward Kenny offered analyses of the text, while James Golden recounted its composition. In a more recent appraisal, Karlyn Kohrs Campbell and Kathleen Hall Jamieson treated it as an exemplary instance of its genre. Two popular histories similarly praised the speech, while paying detailed attention to its composition. Scholars tend to regard it as one of the best inaugural addresses in history, along with Thomas Jefferson’s first, Abraham Lincoln’s first and second, and Franklin Roosevelt’s first.4 Yet none of those speeches arouses the fury created by President Kennedy’s words. If his contemporaries heard a bid for peace, later critics discerned a call to war. British journalist Henry Fairlie opened the revisionist ball when he wrote in 1971: “It was brilliant; it was moving; it was dangerous.” Its menace flowed from the “universal mission” offered by JFK, particularly in what became the most controversial lines in the speech, the “pay any price, bear any burden” section. “These are the words,” Fairlie wrote, “which many of those who applauded the speech at the time now find offensive; and they are offensive.” Journalist Neil Sheehan claimed, “Liberty as defined by John Kennedy . . . meant an American-imposed order in Kennedy’s ‘New Frontier’ beyond America’s shores.” Historian William O’Neill noted, “His affection for verbal tricks was never more pronounced” and called the speech “bombast.” Journalist Alexander Kendrick thought, “A decade of experience revealed the

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oration to have been in truth not only rhetorical, but jingoistic, if not arrogant.” Rhetorical critics Steven Goldzwig and George Dionisopoulos acknowledged its beauty, but thought its language “ambivalent, at times teetering between grandiose bombast and highly styled eloquence,” claiming the speech “seemed overly bellicose.” Rhetorician Moya Ball argued: “With its accent on survival and success, it was an example of the flair for inflammatory rhetoric so important to NewFrontierspeak.” JFK’s most acerbic antagonist, Garry Wills, wrote: “The famous antitheses and alliterations of John Kennedy’s rhetoric sound tinny now.” In 2009, Sara Mehltretter summarized the revisionist case, dissenting from the 1961 consensus. She noted the speech’s “perceived eloquence” but argued it exemplified the “hard-line, cold war rhetoric that reduced global politics to an apocalyptic battle between democracy and communism—indeed, between good and evil.”5 People do not write such things of Abraham Lincoln’s inaugural addresses.6 The discord surrounding JFK’s speech matters to assessments of his oratory and liberalism. In fact, the two fuse in this moment. His speech has become a part for that whole, perhaps the purest expression of the possibilities and problems of mid-century American liberalism. For admirers, the address catalyzed a generation of public servants. It was an idealistic call that truly recalled the nation’s transcendent spirit. For detractors, that was the issue. His evangelical embrace of an American mission corrupted democratic ideals. Fairlie charged its most famous line echoed Rousseau’s belief that citizens should subordinate “individual wills to a general will. . . . Something of this theory lurks in all modern forms of totalitarianism; and the ‘ask not’ sentence . . . is only a powerful statement of the ‘voluntary totalitarianism’ to which he was attracted as a young man, and never altogether forsook.”7 Fairlie’s hyperbole mars the argument, but his challenge lingers. It makes no sense to laud Kennedy’s “grace, leadership, and nobility” if they served imperial purposes. To make sense of this controversial speech, I shall read it as a whole, as text in context, as form and content, and as exemplar of genre. Most important to my argument will be the way the address offers the audience a wholly coherent experience of time. The speech should be seen as a linguistic projection of his administration. He accepts his inheritance, offers a covenant, and concludes with a challenge. Yet only the audience’s

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participation, its agency, makes possible this pilgrimage to a promised land. Their pledge can change an inherited “hard and bitter peace” into a “new world of law, where the strong are just and the weak secure, and the peace preserved.” That is the movement of his Inaugural and, he hoped, of the world in the thousand days to come. In turn, I suggest this ordering of time, what the ancient Greeks termed kairos, typifies the liberal persuasion. Rather than defining the nation through blood, place, or race, liberals look to the future and see “America” as a continuing ideal, a “more perfect union.” That can never be a fact (there is always more “more”), but it is, as Abraham Lincoln felt, a proposition, a claim on a society to be made real in time.8 As citizens strive to perfect that ideal, they enlarge themselves; that enables the nation to enlarge itself. The reciprocity between the work of a citizen and the fate of the nation dovetails with the words of JFK’s Puritan forebears. His address gains persuasive force through this orchestration and reveals the consonance between American liberalism and civil religion, particularly the claim that America should regularly renew itself through errands into the wilderness. That is not an altogether comforting idea, as Sheehan notes, and I explore its implications in the following manner. In the first part, I trace John Kennedy’s road to the White House. As heir to a Cold War defined and elaborated by his two immediate predecessors, as well as by his rivals, the newly inaugurated president needed to address the tensions posed by those discourses and by his own past rhetorical choices. This section sketches the intertextual matrix that defined the postwar era and provided the discursive resources that made up the Inaugural. I then examine that address in detail and think about its implications, for both JFK and the liberal cause he so ably represented.

The Challenging, Revolutionary Sixties When JFK ascended to the presidency, he felt he needed his manifest persuasive skills. Although people tend now to read this speech as an iconic statement of inspiration or arrogance, it was then a practical effort to get his administration off to a good start. He won by less than one vote per precinct, he extended no coattails to Congressional allies, and

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he addressed a governing coalition split between a liberal North and a reactionary South. This did not encourage boldness in a careful man. However innovative his rhetorical acumen may have been, his political instincts trended in the other direction. Columnist Joseph Kraft wrote, “By nature, he was cautious.”9 A superior Inaugural could build the capital his narrow victory had denied him.10 To critique his effort, I attend to the relevant rhetorical history, including the Cold War consensus dominating public life, the campaign rhetoric foreshadowing the Inaugural, and the speeches framing it: Dwight Eisenhower’s farewell address to the nation and JFK’s farewell address to his state.

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The Cold War Accord During the campaign, the venerated political columnist Walter Lippmann wrote: “The public mood of the country is defensive, to hold on and to conserve, not to push forward and to create.”11 Written on the eve of the 1960s, this turned out to be a less than astute observation, but it expressed the feelings of those immersed in Washington’s culture. Few in the know expected dramatic change from John Kennedy because they knew he was not an innovative senator. But he inherited a political accord flowing from the liberal history discussed earlier, as well as from the work of thinkers and politicians in the 1950s. It evolved as liberals wondered “What next?” after FDR’s era and solidified in opposition to President Eisenhower’s program. It also followed from efforts to analyze the postwar terrain: the advent of nuclear weapons and the Cold War, the rise of new nations, the challenge of race, and the evolution of the economy. This agenda developed through popular books that sparked public debates: Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr.’s The Vital Center, John Kenneth Galbraith’s American Capitalism and The Affluent Society, Gunnar Myrdal’s An American Dilemma, Reinold Niebuhr’s The Irony of American History, Maxwell Taylor’s The Uncertain Trumpet, and Daniel Bell’s The End of Ideology are among the best examples.12 This postwar accord can be read as a reaction against the optimism and joy of an earlier liberalism. The ideological alliance among Social Gospel Protestantism, Enlightenment reason, and secular humanism in the late nineteenth century composed a theory of natural harmony, one

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that transcended the historical liberal concern with conflict.13 A loving God had made an orderly and reasonable world. As people and societies learned, the parts would fit together. Nature would reveal its secrets to reason; reasoned people would create order through the congruent pursuit of interests; the order resulting from these “invisible hands” in all arenas of life would help people to achieve real fulfillment; as people and societies fulfilled their potential, they would achieve peace and prosperity for all. This perfect circle relied on a faith in humanity’s essential goodness. In a later edition of The Vital Center, Arthur Schlesinger wrote of his disillusionment: “My generation had been brought up to regard human nature as benign and human progress as inevitable. The existing deficiencies of society, it was supposed, could be cured by education and by the improvement of social arrangements. Sin and evil were theological superstitions irrelevant to political analysis.” The Great Depression and World War II, corrupt industrialists and horrific dictators, thoroughly re-educated the children of the Social Gospel and left postwar liberals with no doubt about humanity’s sin. Schlesinger dryly concluded, “Our philosophical presuppositions were inadequate to the ghastly realities of the age in which we lived.”14 In an ever-rolling stream of publications, theologian Reinhold Niebuhr argued that people must acknowledge original sin. He defined it as the propensity to pride, the desire to act as God by defining, naming, and ruling the world. Thus, he coined an aphoristic defense of democracy, one grounding liberalism in a not altogether benign view of humanity: “Man’s capacity for justice makes democracy possible; but man’s inclination to injustice makes democracy necessary.”15 John Kennedy and his fellow liberals saw that inclination to injustice take form as the Soviet Union. After efforts to sustain the wartime alliance failed, President Truman broke with the USSR in 1947, articulating the “Truman Doctrine” to the world and offering the Marshall Plan to Europe. The former cast the Soviet Union into darkness, arguing nations “must choose between alternative ways of life,” between one life “based upon the will of the majority,” “free institutions,” and “individual liberty,” and one based on “terror and oppression, a controlled press and radio, fixed elections, and the suppression of personal freedoms.” Since nations should be free to choose, but often could not, Truman said, “it must be the policy of the United States to support free peoples who are resisting

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attempted subjugation by armed minorities or outside pressures.”16 Support first took the form of economic aid; the Marshall Plan illustrated that tack. In a June 5, 1947, Harvard University address, Secretary of State George C. Marshall announced the European Recovery Program. It was open to all nations, including the Communist ones, who predictably refused it. It asked Europeans to draft a reconstruction plan and offered the funds to make it happen. It stalled in Congress until a Soviet coup toppled an elected Czechoslovakian government in February 1948. That shocked Congress. The Marshall Plan passed.17 The two initiatives set the foundation for liberal Cold War policy. The Marshall Plan assumed that no one would choose Soviet-style communism unless hunger and disorder made it the only plausible alternative. That belief underscored continued liberal support for foreign aid, economic development, trade agreements, diplomatic alliances, and a variety of peaceful efforts designed to induce nations to remain in or join the West. The Truman doctrine assumed that no one would be free to choose unless the USSR was kept at tank’s length. The Czechoslovakian coup and the 1956 Hungary invasion made that abundantly clear. The American military must possess the means and will to contain communism so that the free world could stay that way. In practice, however, aid, trade, and diplomacy most often characterized relations with European, industrialized states, those the United States regarded as intellectual and racial equals. Military intervention and aid tended to dominate relations with those nations not so regarded, particularly former colonial possessions, although Greece and Turkey also fell into this category. As G. John Ikenberry argues, then, the United States took on two order-building projects. The first, “driven by” the Cold War and spanning the globe, was “organized around deterrence, containment, alliances, and the bi-polar balance of power.” The second, inspired by the Atlantic charter, FDR’s Four Freedoms, and his economic bill of rights, focused on “an open, stable, and managed order” among allied nations and worked through consent and reciprocity, again values honored more in Europe than around the world.18 Ikenberry concludes: The United States provided security, championed mutually agreedupon rules and institutions, and led in the management of an open

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world economy. In return, other states affiliated with and supported the United States as it led the larger order. The United States dominated the order, but the political space created by American domination was organized around partnerships and agreed-upon rules and institutions that facilitated restraint, commitment, reciprocity, and legitimacy.19

Both political parties signed on to this accord, although each had those who objected. But mainstream rhetoric positioned containment and development as the best ways to wage the Cold War. The decade’s dominant politician adopted that view.

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Our National Quest President Dwight Eisenhower took office determined to end the crises of the 1940s and build a “normal” world, one balancing economic and military demands, a strong defense and arms control, civil rights, and public order, as well personal and social responsibility.20 In this way, he hoped to prepare the nation to endure a long Cold War and his efforts felt appropriate to people during his first term. For the most part, they remained satisfied in 1960. He enjoyed wide popularity and there was no sense the country faced crises comparable to the ones it had suffered in the immediate past: the Great Depression, World War II, and the start of the Cold War. But in the late 1950s, a debate erupted about the “national purpose,” not least because it seemed that “Eisenhower had lost his grip on policy.”21 Sparked partly by the successful Soviet launch of the Sputnik space satellite, partly by politics as usual, partly by economic recession, and partly by cultural anxiety, a series of commissions, reports, and media pieces attacked a “bland, vapid, self-satisfied, banal” society.22 Advocates structured the world as a Cold War competition. They argued the United States was losing ground to the Soviet Union. On some issues, facts supported this claim (economic growth), and on others, there was nothing there (the missile gap). Contrary to JFK’s repeated assertions, the United States had not fallen behind the Soviet Union and the nuclear deterrent remained robust.23 Yet he rode to reelection in 1958 amid a worried public in a deep economic recession. He won by a record margin; Democrats

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triumphed. They gained 48 seats in the House and held a 282–154 advantage. They gained 15 Senate seats and held a 64–34 advantage. Nor were these only Southern Democrats, although, in coalition with Republicans, they held a practical majority. But the year ushered in liberals who would lead the way for a decade: Philip Hart of Michigan, Edmund Muskie of Maine, Eugene McCarthy of Minnesota, Tom Dodd of Connecticut, and George Miller of California, among others.24 It did not take a weatherman to see which way the wind was blowing. JFK exploited the mood, repeatedly challenging the nation in the late 1950s and the 1960 campaign. He wanted, he said, to get this country moving again, to open a New Frontier in all areas of public life. Clearly, he understood that a challenger need only supply a lovely slogan and not a clear program. Facing an only vaguely dissatisfied electorate, he did not indict the administration for what it had done, because the nation mostly approved of that, but rather for what it had not done. This was an ideal attack on a popular administration because there is an infinite list of potential problems; few incumbents could claim to have done everything.25 Even at Houston, where JFK’s topic was religion, he offered a condensed version of his usual enumeration of key issues: “the spread of Communist influence until it now festers only ninety miles from the coast of Florida; the humiliating treatment of our President and Vice-President by those who no longer respect our power; the hungry children I saw in West Virginia; the old people who cannot pay their doctor’s bills; the families forced to give up their farms; an America with too many slums, with too few schools, and too late to the moon and outer space.”26 Notice how he reduced the length of each clause, gaining speed, implying there were so many unaddressed problems, he could hardly fit them into the speech. The opening statement of the first debate similarly framed the choice: “If we do well here, if we meet our obligations, if we are moving ahead, then I think freedom will be secure around the world. If we fail, then freedom fails. Therefore, I think the question before the American people is: Are we doing as much as we can do? I do not think we are doing enough.”27 A “nonpartisan” essay on national purpose in Life magazine explained: “Our national purpose consists of the combined purposefulness of each of us when we are at our moral best: striving, risking, choosing, making decisions, engaging in a pursuit of happiness that is

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strenuous, heroic, exciting and exalted. . . . a constant, restless, confident questing.”28 The clear ring of Theodore Roosevelt suggests JFK’s belief that TR could defeat William Howard Taft in 1960. Kennedy’s liberal language of movement and risk recalled TR more than any president.29 Kennedy echoed Mill’s progressive principle, Cady Stanton’s quest for a wholly sufficient self, and liberalism’s restlessness, its ceaseless drive to be all that it can be. That became abundantly clear when JFK turned his thoughts to the presidency itself. On January 14, 1960, he spoke to the National Press Club, his first major speech since announcing his candidacy. Developing Schlesinger’s theory of historical cycles, JFK claimed the “history of this nation—its brightest and bleakest pages—has been written largely in terms of the different views our Presidents have had of the Presidency itself.” He asked Americans to choose between two theories of the office. “During the past eight years,” he said, “we have seen. . . . a detached, limited concept of the Presidency,” a needed respite, he supposed, “after twenty years of fast-moving, creative presidential rule.” But now “a restricted concept of the Presidency is not enough.” In a metaphor that nicely framed the present and foreshadowed the future, he claimed, “For beneath today’s surface gloss of peace and prosperity are increasingly dangerous, unsolved, long postponed problems that will inevitably explode to the surface during the next four years of the next administration.”30 In the bulk of the address, he reviewed four key facets of the role—the president as legislative, military, political, and moral leader—and illustrated the two theories with historical examples. In doing so, he aligned himself with the great presidents—Jefferson, Jackson, Lincoln, TR, Wilson, and FDR— while tagging the incumbent administration with Buchanan, Taft, Harding, and Coolidge. The hierarchy was clear, as was the message: Great presidents strive with every fiber of their being to challenge the nation. In his view, that theory of the office crafted the president’s agency; absent that concept, presidents, as the recent past demonstrated, did not act. His performance embodied this view. For example, if leaders should risk the people’s displeasure for the public good, then he demonstrated his willingness to do so with attacks on the popular Eisenhower.31 His performance “absorbed” the great presidents, sharing their substance. Through this embodied topos, the young, liberal, Catholic Senator could lay claim

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to an office always held by old Protestants.32 He lived the strenuous life, as had the great presidents. Nor were the American people at all upset by this orientation. If John Kennedy did not meet Eleanor Roosevelt’s definition of a liberal, he was certainly “a federal government man.”33 Popular myth tended then and tends now to construct him as I have—a young, liberal, Catholic outsider. Richard Nixon tried to capitalize on Kennedy’s “inexperience.” But this was only partly true. Recall his grandfather had been in Congress, his father chair of the SEC and an ambassador, and he and his brothers served in the military. He came of age in the navy and entered Congress at 29. He served 14 years there, more than all but three other presidents.34 For him, Washington, DC, was the center of the world and the focal point of his ambition. In that, he differed little from the postwar presidents. Americans trusted government in this era and elected presidents accordingly. Every president from Eisenhower to Ford spent his life drawing a paycheck from the federal government and all served in the military. None were governors or even state legislators. None ran a business or plowed a field to earn a living. Only Nixon spent any real time in the private sector, and that was the involuntary result of electoral defeats. None of this bothered people. This was the era of national action and John Kennedy’s vision of an active presidency made good sense to most Americans. It horrified Senator Barry Goldwater of Arizona. He may have been in the minority at this point, but it was a growing minority and his views began, in the year of Kennedy’s election, to gather a force the new president could not ignore. That became apparent with the publication of Conscience of a Conservative, a popular phenomenon. It debuted at number 10 on Time’s best-seller list on June 6 and at number 14 on the New York Times’s list on June 26. By election day, half a million copies had flown out of bookstores.35 In it, Goldwater expressed his Jeffersonian opposition to “creative” presidential rule by arguing both parties “propound the first principle of totalitarianism: that the State is competent to do all things and is limited in what it actually does only by the will of those who control the State.” This, he claimed, was in “direct conflict” with the Constitution, which created a limited government. The founders knew that “government” had always “proved to be the chief instrument

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for thwarting man’s liberty.”36 He built stark contrasts between power and liberty, government and citizen. The former always and forever threatened the latter. Using slippery slope arguments (one step down means a slide to the bottom) and the locus of the irreparable (a tipping point), he argued vigor on the part of the federal government had nearly destroyed freedom in this nation.37 Only the stalwart opposition of the states and stout conservatives had saved what little liberty remained.38 In form and content, he urged a renewed attachment to the eternal principles of the Constitution. The book’s argument marched across its pages in a series of syllogistic, deductive claims from first principles. Like a Calvinist preacher expounding the Scripture, the Senator deviated not a whit from the plain text of the Constitution as he saw it and as all should see it. President Dwight Eisenhower, a fellow Republican, although it often did not seem that way, saw Kennedy in much the same light. Eisenhower, however, grounded his opposition and disdain not on constitutional principle so much as on practical concerns. Nowhere did he express himself more clearly than he did in his famed farewell address. Delivered only three days before the inaugural, Eisenhower’s speech may have influenced public reception of JFK’s effort. The farewell address, Campbell and Jamieson claim, responds “to an institutional need for a ritual of departure.”39 The office must be vacated before it can be filled and the farewell address fulfills that need. Drawn distantly from the biblical book of Deuteronomy, which functions as Moses’s farewell, and more directly from George Washington’s founding farewell, the genre generally crafts the departing president as a visionary leader who offers practical and nonpartisan wisdom to the nation for contemplation. For the address to work, those lessons should cohere with the course of his administration and with the national covenant, shortly to be renewed in the next Inaugural ceremony.40 Eisenhower’s effort exemplifies the genre. As noted, he had dedicated his administration to a search for the Aristotelian golden mean, an equipoise on which the country could base a long, difficult Cold War against Communism. As Martin Medhurst argues, the address enacted the administration’s theme, that of balance.41 It developed in four parts (sturdy table legs) that argued for balance in governmental relations, foreign policy, domestic concerns, and the nation’s mission through time. While

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offered for contemplation, the speech unmistakably sought to bridle the incoming president. If Kennedy highlighted the president’s role, Eisenhower crafted a “mutually interdependent” relationship between executive and Congress, one designed to “serve the national good rather than mere partisanship.” If the youthful JFK urged the people to meet world crises, the wise Ike sadly warned them the Cold War “promises to be of infinite duration. To meet it successfully, there is called for, not so much the emotional and transitory sacrifices of crisis, but rather those which enable us to carry forward steadily, surely, and without complaint the burdens of a prolonged and complex struggle—with liberty the stake.” From this, it seemed as if he had Kennedy’s Inaugural in hand. By using the Democrat’s favorite terms (sacrifice, burden, liberty), Eisenhower defined a reality markedly different from that of his successor. If JFK sought to ignite economic growth, Ike warned against “the impulse to live only for today, plundering, for our own ease and convenience, the precious resources of tomorrow.” If John Kennedy called forth evangelical zeal, Dwight Eisenhower prudently advised against the “recurring temptation to feel that some spectacular and costly action could become the miraculous solution to all current difficulties.”42 President Eisenhower had spent eight years building a precarious balance between the President and Congress, the United States and the Soviet Union, investment and restraint, present and future. Balance, calm, and prudence were national values, as shown by his many allusions to Washington.43 The new man threatened to undo all of the good that had been done. By that January, the nearly presidential Kennedy felt the burden more than Eisenhower imagined. In a lovely speech that JFK worried would upstage his Inaugural, he spoke to his home state legislature on January 9, 1961.44 The normally rootless liberal drew on his inheritance, the state’s Puritan tradition. The speech began with reciprocal relationships between representative and constituent, between Senator and citizen, between his peripatetic life and “my home.” He said, “No man about to enter high office in this country can ever be unmindful of the contribution this state has made to our national greatness.” Its achievements “served as beacon lights” to all Americans. As Pericles said of Athens: “‘We do not imitate— for we are a model to others.’” The state had become a model because the equality created by reciprocity deepened into a covenant consisting

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of “the common threads woven by the Pilgrim and the Puritan, the fisherman and the farmer, the Yankee and the immigrant.” That led this son of Massachusetts to his Pericles, John Winthrop, and the speech that made a commonwealth and, perhaps, a nation: “We must always consider,’ he said, ‘that we shall be as a city upon a hill—the eyes of all people are upon us.’” The voyage Americans faced in 1961 was “no less hazardous than that undertaken by the Arabella [sic] in 1630,” and the duty demanded of this generation was no less than that of their forebears.45 The eyes of the world remained always and forever upon Americans. This farewell, like the Inaugural, was a type of epideictic address, a genre that “praises or blames on ceremonial occasions, invites the audience to evaluate the speaker’s performance, recalls the past and speculates about the future while focusing on the present, employs a noble, dignified literary style, and amplifies or rehearses admitted facts” or values.46 The goal of these strategies is contemplation of communal identity; no action is required. Because citizens seek to see themselves as one, the controversy attendant to a policy debate violates the occasion’s norms. Yet the community’s identity is not static. Yun Lee Too notes the genre “exemplifies rhetoric as a language of transformations—of old to new, of great to lowly, of familiar to unfamiliar” and identifies “the amplification of its subject” as a key technique.47 Amplification acts as it sounds. It makes ideas and people bigger, broader, and louder. Richard Lanham argues that it crafts a “seeming synonymy by dividing and particularizing an assertion, creating thereby an expanded set of words for which, in turn, the audience can invent an expanded sense of reality.”48 JFK shaped a new reality, drawn from the Puritans and extended into the future through the amplified ways in which this state and nation might be a model. As Too notes, Pericles famously did so, arguing “Athens itself is the ‘teacher’ of all Greece.” In that, he established its exceptionalism, shall we say, for Athens alone “admits of logos, that is, speech and reason, before action such that calculation goes hand in hand with risk taking.”49 Greatness requires prudence and risk. Periclean epideictic schools a people for greatness by shaping a civic history and ideology in public and in the public. It is no wonder that Kennedy worried this speech would preempt his Inaugural, because it, like inaugural addresses, sought to define and renew the covenant between leader and led, nation and history. Since the

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settlement of New England, Americans have reiterated that covenant, a pact first with God and then, as secularism followed, with each other. If they enacted national values, then surely goodness and greatness would follow the nation for all of its days.50 The Puritan narrative offered JFK the “mystic chords of memory” often absent from liberalism: a sense of destiny and community flowing from a covenant that had sustained the people in times of trouble and promised to do so once again. It affirmed national greatness, but rooted it not in the power of arms, but that of example. When the nation adheres to its covenant and renews its values, then others will see the light and wish to become as those so favored by fate. But the eyes of the world—not to mention the Lord, who lingered— were always on them. This was a heavy burden, for “of those to whom much is given, much is required” (Luke 12:48), a verse quoted by JFK and Winthrop. The biblical text, indeed invocation of this tradition, collapsed time, typing Kennedy as Winthrop, this generation as that generation.51 That sacred tie and its corresponding sense of a timeless time suggest the need to interpret its younger sibling, the Inaugural, through Puritan eyes. Cultural critic Sarah Vowell nicely caught the typology and the tone of his goodbye: “At this grave moment, he is not a man merely talking about the Arbella. He is on the dock in Southhampton, ready to board the Arbella, along with the people before him. The mood is ominous and the fear is real. But this is a new beginning and he is not alone.”52 As her book explains, this is but one of many new beginnings. That is critical for a clear understanding of John Kennedy’s inaugural address. Rhetoric emerges out of past rhetoric, out of a discursive history enabling and constraining a speaker’s choices, even one as powerful as a Cold War president of the United States. That is the reason for this rhetorical excursion through a now-distant time. To this point, I have argued that the Cold War consensus accepted by nearly all politicians, as well as arguments made by JFK during his rise and presidential campaign, shaped the discursive world from which he could invent his Inaugural. Political realities, embodied by his Republican adversaries, likewise demanded attention. All of this set the available means of persuasion for the new president. As does the occasion. Its expectations, the traditional Inaugural insistence on a renewal of the national covenant as a new president and, yes,

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a new people, inevitably and discursively made in his image, also do so. Specifically, Campbell and Jamieson argue, the Inauguration is a ritual of investiture.53 In its classic meaning, to invest someone with an office is to clothe them with the appropriate vestments, the signs of authority. One thinks of religious ceremonies, the investiture of a Pope or a minister. In such a ritual, the person is transformed, born again as it were, washed in the blood of the office. Popes literally take on a new name and clothes. Protestant ministers do not, but must display their new identity in an ordination sermon, a demonstration they understand the responsibilities of the Word preached. Similarly, presidents must display their understanding of America preached. Through the national word, presidents invest themselves with the office, generally by uniting all citizens as witnesses to the ritual, constituting them as a people through the nation’s traditional values, and foreshadowing future policies as concrete materializations of those spiritual norms. By doing so, presidents enact the role and are worthy of investiture. They become the word made flesh. The religious tone of the ceremony derives from the dual nature of the role. Presidents are Prime Ministers and Kings and thus serve at the pleasure of the people and their God. John Kennedy needed to propitiate both.

A Good Conscience Happily for him, he took office at a time ripe for a new beginning. Even fate apparently favored renewal. The contrasts between the oldest and youngest elected presidents, one party yielding power and the other seizing it, the end of one decade and the start of another, even the white blanket of fresh snow covering old sins, all held out the promise of rebirth. Yet decorum demanded that the new president display respect for the old order even as he sought to change it. And so, like all epideictic speakers, Kennedy began with valued memories of past community.54 But that is not where he ended. He asked his audience to journey with him from inheritance to covenant to challenge. In doing so, he discursively projected the course of his presidency. He began in the moment: “We observe today not a victory of party, but a celebration of freedom—symbolizing an end, as well as a

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beginning—signifying renewal as well as change.”55 The pairs defined the day, although they are not opposites, as his antithetical form suggests. In liberal democracies, parties facilitate freedom; renewal leads to change; ends turn to beginnings and vice versa. JFK loved antitheses with a rare passion, yet he typically relied not on opposites, but on “correlatives or reciprocal terms, terms that in a sense bring one another into existence: parent/child, teacher/student” and so forth.56 His antitheses related what they separated. They also created rhythm and that, as anyone who suffers from a musical earworm knows, is seductive. Kenneth Burke notes that antithesis can “readily awaken an air of collaborative expectancy in us. . . . Once you grasp the trend of the form, it invites participation regardless of the subject matter. Formally, you will find yourself swinging along with the succession of antitheses, even though you may not agree with the proposition that is being presented in this form.”57 Since JFK spoke from the nation’s common opinion or doxa, disagreement was unlikely, and his alluring rhythm made it less so. He might be new, but he swore the “same solemn oath” as before, the “world is very different now” than then, but the “same revolutionary beliefs for which our forebears fought are still at issue around the globe—the belief that the rights of man come not from the generosity of the state but from the hand of God.” Note that Kennedy’s pairs, indeed the whole opening, moved in time. Party dominated the election, but freedom marked the inaugural, ends created beginnings, renewal led to change, and old oaths made new presidents. The speech is obsessed with time, from the initial claim that the “world is very different now” to his closing belief that “history” will be the “final judge of our deeds.” In classical rhetoric, kairos is typically the term that defines the invention of time. It is usually translated from the Greek as “timing” or the “right time.” It marks a quality of time, a key time, unlike chronos, which signals a quantity of time, a chronology.58 But the two should not be seen as opposites. Chronos rolls along, yet its flow gives rise to eddies and opportunities. Some open naturally, while others result from purposeful strategy. The Greeks saw rhetoric as much like athletics, so kairos often marked the moment to move, the opening to drive the lane in basketball, the chance to yank a hit the other way in baseball.59 The opportunity to make a play, however, results from strategy, context, and chance: The score, the plan, moves of others, a slick spot

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here, a slip there, all converge as situation, orator, competitors, allies, and much else besides collaborate in time. As the old saying goes, the man and moment meet, but neither determines the result. Debra Hawhee claims that kairos allows the “emergence of a pro-visional ‘subject,’ one that works on—and is worked on by—the situation.”60 The times may enable change, but Kennedy needed to make time, to define the moment as a turn from this to that. In this genre, however, he did so only for contemplation, not action. Although kairos means the time to act, it also, Philip Sipiora notes, encompasses a family of terms “including ‘symmetry,’ ‘propriety,’ ‘occasion,’ ‘due measure,’ ‘fitness,’ ‘tact,’ ‘decorum,’ ‘convenience,’ ‘proportion,’” and more.61 To use a musical analogy, the times, orator, and speech should resolve in Kennedy’s performance; ideally, he would arrange and embody the chords of public life into a pleasing whole, one representing the nation as it was and could be. Fittingly, that is the judgment asked of epideictic audiences. Christine Oravec explains: The speaker “receives common values and experiences from his [sic] audience and, by reshaping them in artistic language, returns these experiences heightened and renewed.”62 The audience would judge JFK by such criteria. Did he plausibly represent experience and did he do so in a beautiful, fit language enriching judgment? However well they thought they knew Senator Kennedy, President Kennedy would now emerge. The people, in turn, would observe and judge the performance of this new leader. He stood a better chance of a favorable decision, of course, if the people resembled their new president. They did so because both inherited a common history. Recall JFK concluded with “the belief that the rights of man come not from the generosity of the state, but from the hand of God.” Atheist Thomas Paine, author of The Rights of Man, and his antagonist, Edmund Burke, a fervent believer in the hand of God, collaborated to state the thesis for the liberal alliance, its unyielding belief in the rights of man and in governments that respected such rights. “We dare not forget today,” JFK continued, “that we are the heirs of that first revolution.” To fall heir is to inherit or to receive as a right or divine portion. This metaphor shaped the audience’s identity in the first part of the address.63 As the “heirs of that first revolution,” Americans had been crafted by it. The president then asserted his executive authority to proclaim: “Let the

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word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans.” A torch likely suggested the Olympics and, Thurston Clarke notes, the “audience saw a decorated war hero, standing in a pavilion inspired by ancient Greece, and surrounded by old men who were letting this torch fall from their grip.”64 A “new generation” echoed JFK’s past campaign slogans; the proclamation made him the natural outcome of history’s course. Character flows from plot, as people take form in action. Who, then, was this generation? It was “born in this century, tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace, proud of our ancient heritage—and unwilling to witness or permit the slow undoing of those human rights to which this nation has always been committed, and to which we are committed today at home and around the world.” Each verb phrase modified and amplified his generation, making it bigger and broader, asserting its centrality in national life and displacing the past generation. Notably, JFK had lived these phrases. People and president became one, harmonized in the passing of the torch to those born in this century, steeled by war, and now center stage in national life. History had not made it easy for them. These were Niebuhr’s children, a people tempered, disciplined, perhaps hard and bitter. Yet they were also proud and stoic.65 Those qualities came to the fore as Kennedy named and extended their inheritance in what became his most controversial lines: “Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and success of liberty.” The hammer of “any,” a modifier that quantified, dominated the sentence and created the repetitive parallelism or anaphora.66 These were categorical claims. That was what made so many so angry. Nothing, it seemed, was beyond his reach. He would do any-thing and “we” would pay the price. Yet textual context matters here. This sentence began a pivot. It named his generation’s inheritance. It reflected American resolve, symbolically orchestrating Goldwater and Eisenhower, Schlesinger and Niebuhr, in a chorale of national unity. And to hallow liberty made good sense. Liberty means to live free from domination, to be at liberty, a claim staked by the Declaration of Independence (“life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”)

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and often since.67 JFK’s generation had lived in and through fear.68 They had seen the nation’s liberty, not distant places, but their homes ravaged and threatened by depression and war. An uneasy peace and prosperity followed but, as even the outgoing president acknowledged, they were fragile. To say that the nation would pay any price to ensure its liberty, its freedom from domination, was simply to reiterate what it had already said and done over the last fifty years. After all, it had fought two world wars and dropped two atomic bombs. Those who now blame him for this language should understand he had received his eloquence from his audience (including those critics) and returned it, heightened and renewed, to them.69 What followed—“This much we pledge—and more”—referenced the hard inheritance, but also opened out to the next section. The address echoed the Bible’s structure. JFK amplified the old covenant with the new. Significantly, amplification does not mean addition. As Lanham says, it splits, particularizes, divides. Specifics make a new reality out of the old. How do I love thee? Let me count the ways; the ways specify. This strategy marks epideictic speech because it renews the world (his love). Epideictic begins on common ground, but in amplifying who and what we should honor (love), it charts roads not yet traveled, ideas not yet considered, identities not yet assumed.70 Amplification transforms. JFK had created unity with his performance of national identity, but he would use amplification and reciprocity, among other strategies, to reform that identity. These now-controversial sentences reflected past commitments and opened into new resolves. They became the foundation for transformation. That resulted from the (literal) metaphor of the pledge. Campbell and Jamieson argue that Kennedy’s speech “derived its power in part from its construction as an extension of the oath of office and as an invitation to participate in a mutual covenant.”71 Too often, the current meaning of a covenant is that of a contract. Both offer conditions to which rational, free, consenting adults agree. As long as a mutually beneficial result obtains, the contract continues. When it does not, it ends. Of course, that is the meaning John Calhoun of South Carolina made of the Constitution and the interpretation Abraham Lincoln denied.72 A covenant is more than a contract. When the Israelites entered into covenant with Yahweh, when

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we the people made a nation, they changed.73 At those times and places, they became something more as they swore. Like rhetoric, covenants exist in theory; we can observe and discuss them. But they live in history, when orators realize their potential, dynamis, in performance. As I have argued elsewhere, “the abstract terms of the covenant become embodied, incarnated in leader and people as they move from an old to a new way of crafting communal life.”74 Covenants can make change because they begin with the given but stretch those identities to augment communal life. Much as JFK would become a president in his performance, Americans would craft themselves anew through participation in the ceremony. In a strategic move, however, the pledges did not offer abstractions. Rather, JFK used this section to present the political principles that would guide his term.75 Yet this was more than the list that fills state of the union addresses. These might be termed proto-policies, ideas that are something more than values but something less than clear plans. By framing them in the oath, he risked much; he asked the audience to join his pledge, which would change both parties. People could resist and some likely did so. But as is true of oaths, each time people swore, they renewed and amplified their identities. The normative power packed into each pledge charged communal life, much as acts of communion renew Christian congregations. Cast as a covenant, Kennedy’s principles became concrete examples of traditional values, which enabled their acceptance and preserved the unity required by the occasion. Each pledge materialized the nation’s spirit, a nice example of metonymy.76 He crafted his political philosophy as the substance of inherited ideals. The people were changed, yet renewed. The care with which the text sought to preserve unity while making change was reflected in the inductive structure of the oath. “We pledge” first to old allies, then new states, struggling peoples, sister republics south of the border, the United Nations, and, finally, those “who would make themselves our adversary.” The president began with what even Senator Goldwater could accept and moved to what many, and most emphatically Senator Goldwater, would dispute, a better relationship with the Soviet bloc. Much like a typical sales associate, President Kennedy sought to gain consent to the small before asking for it all. Not only did he ease into controversy, he also widened the purview of the oath. This was his

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most quietly subversive strategy. Rather than invoking the American exceptionalism typical of Puritanism, he offered covenant to all. Seldom has liberalism’s universal impulse been so powerfully, yet subtly, developed. To do so, he used liberalism’s characteristic form, reciprocity arguments. The exchange made by these pledges altered the parties subject to them, much as marriage vows join what had been separate, amplifying and transforming those involved. He began with “old allies.” To them, “we pledge the loyalty of faithful friends.” In turn, he asked them to unite with us “in a host of cooperative ventures.” Reciprocity marked each pledge. New states were free to disagree with the United States, but “we shall always hope to find them strongly supporting their own freedom.” To those “struggling to break the bonds of mass misery,” the United States would “pledge our best efforts to help them help themselves,” a classic sort of reciprocity. We would do so “because it is right. If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich,” a claim acknowledging that the United States and others believed that values and interests were reciprocal. Latin and South America would join in “a new alliance for progress” as all countries pledged to cast off “the chains of poverty.” Most important, he called the United Nations “our last best hope in an age where the instruments of war have far outpaced the instruments of peace.” He alluded here to Lincoln’s December 1, 1862, annual message. Its close is a beautiful, succinct expression of American exceptionalism: “In giving freedom to the slave, we assure freedom to the free—honorable alike in what we give, and what we preserve. We shall nobly save or meanly lose, the last best hope of earth. . . . The way is plain, peaceful, generous, just—a way, which if followed, the world will forever applaud, and God must forever bless.”77 In a logic JFK often echoed, Lincoln proclaimed freedom’s indivisibility: The only way to secure my liberty is to free the slave, to treat others as I would be treated. In that way, America would become as a city upon a hill, the last best hope of earth. All the world would see and imitate. Yet John Kennedy spoke not of the United States, but the United Nations. One can only imagine what would happen should a current president so redefine exceptionalism and JFK did so during the Cold War.78 Confronting a threat Eisenhower had argued three days before

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“absorbs our very beings,” JFK saw not America but the United Nations as a “shield of the new and the weak.” He pledged to “enlarge the area in which its writ may run” even as the speech enlarged. Metaphorically speaking, this part feels like a funnel, moving up, widening out, drawing more people and nations into a new global covenant. It climaxed at that “world assembly of sovereign nations.” In return for an American “pledge of support,” he asked only that it not become “merely a forum for invective.” Of course, that would likely depend on his next addressee. To that audience, “those nations who would make themselves our adversary, we offer not a pledge but a request.” The shift in terms mattered, for Kennedy here acknowledged history. To old friends, struggling peoples, and so on, he could call for a pledge. They composed the inside order (he assumed) of which Ikenberry spoke, the one based on the Atlantic charter. Much as the authors of the Declaration of Independence could “mutually pledge to each other,” so, too, could the like-minded community the president addressed. The Soviet Union and its allies stood outside of that circle. He could but respectfully request their participation. Why would they do so? The request itself gave the reason: “That both sides begin anew the quest for peace, before the dark powers of destruction unleashed by science engulf all humanity in planned or accidental self-destruction.” Earlier, JFK had said that “man” now held in “his mortal hands the power to abolish all forms of human poverty and all forms of human life.” That power to abolish all life obsessed him. His later reading of Barbara Tuchman’s 1962 account of the stumbling, stupid start of World War I reinforced his desire to control nuclear weapons such that an accidental or even a planned suicide would be impossible.79 He quickly reassured hawks worried by mention of peace with a selfinvented maxim, one echoing his reading of Winston Churchill: “We dare not tempt them with weakness. For only when our arms are sufficient beyond doubt can we be certain beyond doubt that they will never be employed.” This not only summoned the great conservative leader’s tone, it also beautifully condensed the doctrine of deterrence. Yet JFK did not believe that mutually assured destruction, that Eisenhower’s precarious balance, could long endure. Refutation is anathema in epideictic address because the division it creates threatens the unity the genre seeks.80 Kennedy risked it, however indirectly, because his speech

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had to present good reasons why balance could not be sustained. That was the only real justification for change in the wake of Eisenhower’s farewell. If the balance could be maintained, as it had been maintained, why not do so? Why risk a holocaust? On one level, JFK’s campaign rhetoric and his statement of the problem suggested American arms were not sufficient beyond doubt, so there must be more. But that was only addition, not transformation. He had more in mind. Thus, he reshaped a vulnerable metaphor. People only think of their balance when they wobble. Otherwise, they take it for granted. Eisenhower made everyone aware of it by staking his claim to greatness on balance. He had restored equilibrium after two awful decades; that was his presidential legacy, so it must have been hard. Greatness can never be easy. Kennedy turned the metaphor: “But neither can two great and powerful groups of nations take comfort from our present course—both sides overburdened by the cost of modern weapons, both rightly alarmed by the steady spread of the deadly atom, yet both racing to alter that uncertain balance of terror that stays the hand of mankind’s final war.” As both sides race, overburdened, alarmed, paradoxically steadied by terror, balance became impossible. JFK’s words amplified the problem and subverted Ike’s metaphor. Plus, the unsteadiness threatened not simply liberty, as Eisenhower had asserted and Kennedy inherited. No, it was about survival, “mankind’s final war.” Balance was hard. It could not indefinitely be maintained, any more than those performers on Ed Sullivan could keep the plates spinning on the sticks forever. The new president addressed two primary audiences here. He acknowledged the Soviet Union’s fear of nuclear proliferation, displaying it through a joint subject (both) and assonance: The “steady spread of the deadly atom” was an iconic phrase, the vowel sound spreading from word to word as the deadly atom spread across the globe. He recognized the common stance of both, the unique power and vulnerability resulting from their joint superpower status. Whatever their issues, they differed from other nations. They held a near monopoly on the atom. Its spread to West Germany, France, or China threatened both. Those were grounds for identification and cooperation, as Kennedy would more explicitly argue in 1963 at American University. He was telling Americans that Ike’s treasured balance was an illusion. An “uncertain balance of terror” could

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not forever stay the hand of war. So, in more of those ironically balanced maxims for which the speech is famous, he said: “Let us begin anew— remembering on both sides that civility is not a sign of weakness, and sincerity is always subject to proof. Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate.” His second most famous antithesis changed the mood. As he, like FDR, banished fear, he projected a joyous future. His rhythmic phrases encouraged the audience to understand the clear need to leave a grim past and make a new beginning. That new beginning would lift his audience from secular to sacred time. Kennedy urged “both sides” to focus on “problems that unite” rather than divide them, turned again to the atom, to arms control, sought yet wider cooperative vistas in the “wonders of science,” and called on “both sides” to “explore the stars, conquer the deserts, eradicate disease, tap the ocean depths, and encourage the arts and commerce.” Anaphora, assonance, alliteration, antithesis, and rhyme established rhythm, a formal means to unify all in support of peaceful pursuits. Mikhail Bakhtin writes about cadence: “Rhythm serves to strengthen and concentrate even further the unity and hermetic quality of the surface of poetic style, and of the unitary language this style posits.”81 It eases tensions and creates a sealed world of the work. That makes it hard for listeners to lose the beat. Rhythm crafts a seemingly unmediated experience of the word. Rhetoric is too much of the world for rhythm’s effects fully to take hold, yet the yen for unity served the new president’s purposes well as he brought his requests to a close. If “both sides” could, figuratively speaking, be caught up in the dance, moving faster, rising together, then they could forget themselves in the rhythm, lose inhibitions and identities, and find surcease and release in “the command of Isaiah—to ‘undo the heavy burdens and to let the oppressed go free.’” The mushroom cloud did not have to define the end; instead, both sides could let the burdens fall. In fact, the speech’s kairos can be traced through its use of “burden.” JFK’s generation inherited the duty to “bear any burden” and would do so if necessary. However, it knew that both sides were “overburdened.” “Let both,” then, “begin anew” and “undo the heavy burdens.” Burdens afflicted both sides, so both should seek their release in covenant together. The covenant section closed with his worst metaphor and most transcendent vision. But the bad obscured the good, a rare rhetorical

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misstep. If a “beachhead of cooperation” could “push back the jungle of suspicion,” that, he said, would be a start. I suppose the metaphor was meant to recall success in the South Pacific, but it was too militaristic, particularly given the subsequent transcendence. It was a lapse in taste, a bit of purple prose. But the climax was marvelous: “Let both sides join in creating a new endeavor, not a new balance of power, but a new world of law, where the strong are just and the weak secure and the peace preserved.” First, he asked for both sides, for all listed in the oath, one suspects, to join his new endeavor, an international covenant. Second, the goals were central to the liberal tradition. He rejected realism’s balance of power and offered a world where all stood equal before the law. Through their oaths, the audience had now become like him, a people, a nation, a world born in this century and determined to change its bloody course. Inherited divisions dropped out of his compact. As Burke might put it, Kennedy transformed “the competing voices in a jangling relation with one another” into an ultimate order characterized by a “‘guiding idea’ or ‘unitary principle.’” The “voices” would not “confront one another as somewhat disrelated competitors . . . ; rather, they would be like successive positions or moments in a single process.”82 The president projected “a new world of law” out of his series of pledges and the identities they crafted.83 Yet they would not be realized “in the first hundred days.” He lowered expectations here, but did more than distinguish himself from FDR. As JFK acknowledged the probability that this would not likely “be finished in the first thousand days, nor in the life of this Administration nor even perhaps in our lifetime on this planet,” he amplified the contingency of political work and the limitations of rhetoric. No one could know the outcome of his project nor the time it would take. He could but declare, “Let us begin.” The pronoun signaled his need for the audience’s help to make real his vision. He continued in that spirit: “In your hands, my fellow citizens, more than in mine, will rest the final success or failure of our course.” Nearing the end, he returned to his primary audience, the American people. Yet they were not the same people with which he had begun. The oath had altered this generation. They had pledged not only with one another and old allies, but also with great adversaries and all did so with no guarantees. That asked a lot. People do not readily abandon

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the certainty provided by good enemies, as our occasional nostalgia for the Cold War testifies. Kennedy turned to that challenge for the rest of the speech. His effort reveals a powerful normative capacity of rhetoric, or at least of its Aristotelian strain. The “emphasis of the Rhetoric,” Farrell writes, “is on the action and agency of others as an audience in the formation of character and the rendering of judgments.”84 Kennedy could only become himself, the people could only become themselves, as they joined to judge, accept, and put into practice the oaths they had sworn. It was likely that they could do so because they had done so before; “each generation” had been summoned and the “graves of young Americans who answered the call to service are found around the globe.” But while “the trumpet summons us again,” this call was different. In an anaphora set apart by word inversion, he argued it should be heard “not as a call to bear arms, though arms we need; not as a call to battle, though embattled we are; but a call to bear the burden of a long, twilight struggle, year in and year out, ‘rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation’—a struggle against the common enemies of man: tyranny, poverty, disease, and war itself.” This was a dark moment in the speech, as a “long, twilight struggle” did not enliven the proceedings and echoed Eisenhower’s claim of an eternal war. Yet textual context is important and “burden” is again a key to Kennedy’s cut into that discourse. No longer would the Cold War define the times; that burden had been dropped. Rather, they faced the “common enemies” of all people: tyranny, poverty, disease, and war.85 Since that likely conjured the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, one can be excused for wondering at the weight of this burden. But the Apostle Paul (Romans 12:12) inspired stoicism and a rhetorical question crafted a people worthy of the challenge: “Can we forge against these enemies a grand and global alliance, north and south, east and west, that can assure a more fruitful life for all mankind? Will you join in that historic effort?” The call for a global alliance echoed the Christian call to the communion table, subtly reinforcing the binding power of the oath and the ultimate power of the alliance. It also reiterated the transcendence lifting all of his audiences. Note how JFK had altered his emotional flow. The stakes were now not liberty nor even survival. Defense of “the rights of man” was not the object. Rather, he asked all to join in striving for a better life.

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When JFK turns, then, to his exceptionalism, to the claim that “only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger,” that should be understood in terms of what has come before. There was a dual meaning. The text invoked both old and new covenants. In an enactment of the role, of his investiture, he said, in but his second use of the first person, “I do not shrink from this responsibility—I welcome it.” Now that people and president had become one, he could claim that they did as well. Freedom’s defense defined his inheritance, but the “energy, the faith, the devotion which we bring to this endeavor will light our country and all who serve it—and the glow from that fire can truly light the world.” Repetition of “endeavor” signaled his covenant; reiteration of the fire metaphor nicely redefined his earlier words. No longer did the flame represent only freedom’s torch, a threatened inheritance. Rather, the audience would “light the world,” an archetypal metaphor suggesting the rule of law and the Enlightenment.They did not merely inherit a torch; they glowed with dedication. Their agency mattered to the nation and its president. By accentuating that, he spoke to them “as an audience.” Farrell explains that this is not “a morally neutral activity. Aesthetically speaking, it may be to see people in assembly as better than they are, thereby allowing us to address the best in them. Ethically speaking, it is to address them in such a way that they and we may become better than we were.”86 The normative power of the pledges, the energetic and faithful service people would give as they fulfilled the covenant, would transform them and the world. And so. “And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country. My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.” When seen positively, these lines are said to condense beautifully the eternal ideal of sacrifice for the public good.87 When seen negatively, they are said to condense dangerously the eternal ideal to sacrifice the person to the state, a most illiberal impulse. Neither explains the import of these words. Like so many of JFK’s antitheses, citizen and country brought each other into being. In the endeavor he offered, energy, devotion, and sacrifice would amplify individual and nation, making each better than before through their reciprocal relationship. Since these lines also summarized his ideals, he naturally broadened out

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as he had in the oath, turning to citizens of the world. All would become more in that quest for a better life and a more perfect union. In a move typical of the liberal and Puritan traditions, it was in covenant with one another, as each enacted the Golden Rule, that all would become more. “All” included his administration. He offered a last reciprocity: “Finally, whether you are citizens of America or citizens of the world, ask of us here the same high standards of strength and sacrifice which we ask of you.” As many have remarked, the Inaugural’s close echoed that of his farewell. In that way, the nation stood on the dock, ready to embark into the unknown: “With a good conscience our only sure reward, with history the final judge of our deeds, let us go forth to lead the land we love, asking His blessing and His help, but knowing that here on earth God’s work must truly be our own.” If Lincoln’s 1862 message beautifully crafted a holy union, then Kennedy’s Inaugural carefully but unmistakably took the nation’s fate into the people’s hands. No divinely sanctioned mission closed the speech. There was a distinctly ambivalent relationship between God and country. We could but be certain only of a good conscience and of that only if we dared go forth. Prayer there would be, but the work of the world was our own. Only history would tell if we did it well.

The Final Judge of Our Deeds As the debate recounted at the start indicates, history’s jury remains out on this address. That is due in large part to a failure to see the speech as a whole and, more particularly, to see its movement in and through time. The president began with his inheritance, with the state of the world in 1961, and with those commitments he could not deny. Nor, in fact, did he want to deny them for he believed in the “rights of man” as fully as did the author of that phrase. Yet he did not stop there, where his critics often halt. Rather, he argued that the times required change and the speech projected that change through time, through not only the “life of this Administration,” but also “our lifetime on this planet.” The address may have begun with what everyone already knew, the Cold War duty to bear any burden, but it did not end there. It is the transformative action of the text that should draw attention.

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That reveals itself most fully in the act of covenant. To covenant with one another is to respond to each other. Kennedy asked what he offered— a willingness to give and receive. Such reciprocity implies equality. Not always in resources or in power, but in responsiveness, what Danielle Allen terms “an equality of agency,” an acknowledgment of a shared status as equals before the law.88 Responsiveness should characterize a liberal democracy. Democracies assume that many heads are better than one and that persuasion makes more sense than coercion. A “free people,” Allen writes, “grounds its problem-solving methods on this sort of egalitarian basis, in habits of reciprocity.”89 JFK sought to engage his fellow Americans, old allies, new nations, and adversaries as “wordy shipmates,” to borrow from Vowell. He thought a civil community requires constant adjustments in relations such that the strong did not encroach too much on the weak. A “world of law” was the liberal guarantee of fair rules to govern such conversations. The covenant guaranteed that all could join the debate. The speech began with a hard and disciplined people, transformed them through renewal of a world covenant, and ended with a challenge. He wanted all citizens of the world to pursue his vision, even though no guarantees existed. Here on earth, God might not respond. But those bound in covenant could and would face this voyage together. It was time to begin. This endeavor would make of the nation a city upon a hill, a model unto others. Therein lies the liberal temptation. His speech does not call for the United States to impose order on the world. It seeks instead to persuade the world, to make what Ikenberry called the inside order the entire order. Edmund Fawcett believes there are “rival longings in the liberal breast.” One is for home, where people join in covenant, where rights are protected, where “we” choose, work, think, and worship free from interference. But liberals like to wander, to make themselves anew through competition, comparison, deliberation, and trade with others, to trundle through a world as free and open as home. Liberals, as Alan Ryan more bluntly puts it, wish to make liberals of everyone.90 Others may not wish so to be remade. The problem rests not so much with Kennedy’s requests, as with a refusal. From the liberal perspective, that made no sense. No rational person would refuse. Therefore, the rejection of liberalism might signal the incapacity to make a liberal government and thus the need to

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supervise such irrational people until they might prove worthy of liberal government. Kennedy’s Inaugural refuses imperialism, yet imperialism lingers because liberals cannot imagine reasonable people would refuse them. In that way, the liberal persuasion sets a trap for other modernist governments, like that of the Soviet Union. All modernists wish to be seen as legitimate rulers, as rational. By artfully drawing the Soviets into a liberal order rather than casting them into the darkness, Kennedy sought to make liberals, not to mention capitalists, of them. If they accepted his requests, they would become us and the United States would win the Cold War. If they failed to become us (as they did), we would win the Cold War. This was brilliant strategy, yet one that threatened self-destruction. The desire to make liberals of all violated the norms of equality and choice inherent to liberalism. There are, then, two senses of that liberal project and they war on one another. To make a more perfect union is to leave one another alone to do as we please. But to make a more perfect union is also to unite with others, and how that should be accomplished and what it should mean are subject to debate. That becomes particularly fierce when those others might be us. Kennedy pointedly ignored domestic disputes in this address, but he could not do so forever. Of particular concern was the application of human rights “at home,” a brief and pregnant prepositional phrase in the speech. If, as a liberal leader, he committed to responsiveness, then black Americans had an equal call on that value—if they were fully human. It would take a long time for him to sort out that issue. More immediately (in his mind), he faced a critical question. If the nation must grow, develop, and reach its potential, then its economy needed to do so. That was due partly to the key role money played in the construction of a liberal self and partly to practical considerations. The ambitious Kennedy platform required the healthy tax revenues of a booming economy. Yet the new president faced pressing questions. Could government afford to leave people alone to make a more perfect union in the economic arena? If not, how does one justify government actions to make more union? Do some know better than others when it comes to economic management of that union? How can liberals square technical rule with democratic responsiveness? President Kennedy addressed those questions in a historic address at Yale University.

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T

he president lost his legendary cool. For months, John Kennedy and his Secretary of Labor, Arthur Goldberg, had labored to restrain labor, more specifically, the wage demands of the United Steelworkers. Both in a letter to their president, David J. McDonald, and in the 1962 Economic Report, the president proposed that wage gains be limited to productivity advances. If wages went any higher in the bellwether steel industry, JFK reasoned, prices across the economy would jump and inflation would ensue. That would threaten his budget and economic growth. He made this same argument to presidents of the major steel companies and added that should the steelworkers accede to his advice, then the executives should waive price increases. On April 6, 1962, he succeeded. Steelworkers signed a contract raising wages and benefits by only the 2.5 percent provided for by productivity growth. In JFK’s mind, improved efficiency provided that pay. Therefore, no price increase was needed. He and his advisors celebrated, sure that they had 71

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slain the inflation dragon in the cradle. On April 10, the president of U.S. Steel, Roger Blough, walked into the Oval Office and handed President Kennedy a just-released announcement of a 3.5 percent price increase. He was incensed.1 “You have made a terrible mistake,” he snapped at Blough, “you doublecrossed me.” After a shaken Blough left, JFK called McDonald and told him, “Dave, you’ve been screwed and I’ve been screwed.” In a remark the White House leaked to reveal the depth of the president’s anger, he said, “My father always told me that all businessmen were sons-of-bitches, but I never believed it till now.”2 His public language was hardly less restrained although less obscene. He led off an April 11 press conference by deploring the price increase, a “wholly unjustifiable and irresponsible defiance of the public interest.” He listed the sacrifices made by other Americans, including the “four [who] were killed in the last two days in Vietnam.” At this “serious hour in our nation’s history,” Kennedy said, “the American people find it hard, as I do, to accept a situation in which a tiny handful of steel executives whose pursuit of private power and profit exceeds their sense of public responsibility can show such utter contempt for the interests of one hundred eighty-five million Americans.” Reporters gasped, but John Fitzgerald Kennedy was not done. In Rooseveltian thunder, he accused “a few gigantic corporations” of acting in “ruthless disregard of their public responsibilities,” while praising labor’s restraint. He called the increase a threat to national security in the midst of the Cold War and concluded: “Some time ago I asked each American to consider what he would do for his country and I asked the steel companies. In the last twenty four hours, we had their answer.”3 Over the next 72 hours, the president ran a ferocious campaign against the price increase. As Denise Bostdorff and Daniel O’Rourke argue, he claimed that it created an economic crisis.4 Cabinet members detailed the damaging effects in their domains, Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara moved contracts to steel companies that had held the line on prices, and Attorney General Robert Kennedy (RFK) spoke darkly of antitrust violations and grand juries. The FBI hauled people in for questioning at three in the morning. RFK later acknowledged, “It was a tough way to operate. But under the circumstances, we couldn’t afford to lose.”5 Big steel surrendered. David Lawrence, editor of U.S.

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News and World Report, called the president’s actions “quasi-Fascism,” but most Americans shared Robert Frost’s joyful response: “Oh, didn’t he do a good one! Didn’t he show the Irish all right?”6 The Wall Street Journal reported that 60 percent of Americans supported JFK’s position. Another poll showed a 73 percent job approval rating and disapproval at only 22 percent. Bostdorff and O’Rourke conclude, “The seventy-two hour battle that President Kennedy waged against the steel industry was decisive and resolute.”7 John Kennedy’s three-day war reflected not only his personal resolve, but also an era in which liberals explicitly justified strong action by a forceful government in a mixed economy. As he confronted big steel, he had available a rhetorical arsenal of economic democracy, one that he enriched in this and subsequent performances. To examine his language and the larger traditions infusing it, I turn to his most famous analysis of economics, a commencement address given at Yale University on June 11, 1962. In stark contrast to his angry crisis rhetoric and inspirational inaugural, he insisted that citizens should discuss the economy “carefully and dispassionately,” that Americans too often “enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought,” and that “what is at stake” in “public debates” is “not some grand warfare of rival ideologies which will sweep the country with passion but the practical management of a modern economy.”8 His change in tone indicates the salience of the speech. Like much presidential rhetoric, it sought to set the terms for public debate. It crafted a preferred language for deliberation even as it proposed a preferred object of deliberation, a tax cut. If his language gained wide currency, his tax cut would likely become reality. More broadly, his words changed presidential economic talk. Andrew Yarrow writes: “In the annals of American political economy, few speeches were more influential.” H. W. Brands claims that JFK was the first president to assume “the responsibility for managing the national economy.” Predecessors had hinted at this role or taken control while denying it, “but not until now had any administration openly claimed a mandate for manipulating tax and spending policies to spur the economy to faster growth.”9 This matters. While Presidents Truman and Eisenhower celebrated the growth rate and grasped the need to spend if a depression threatened, neither offered a “sophisticated, explicit embrace

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of Keynesian fiscal policy” as a way to create a larger economy.10 JFK did. Walter Heller, head of his Council of Economic Advisors, explained why. He proclaimed that a great nation “takes root far more readily in the garden of growth than in the desert of stagnation. When the cost of fulfilling a people’s aspirations can be met out of a growing horn of plenty—instead of robbing Peter to pay Paul—ideological roadblocks melt away, and consensus replaces conflict.”11 Subsequent generations of scholars disdained both Heller’s consensus and his confidence that “modern economics can, after all, deliver the goods.”12 They preferred the populist hero of the steel crisis and thought Kennedy’s “technocratic” turn at Yale marked the moment in which liberals abandoned Franklin D. Roosevelt’s embrace of class solidarity and chose instead the rule of an educated elite. Historian Meg Jacobs claims that JFK was shaken by a brief stock-market drop after the steel crisis and, with this “signal speech,” began a “program of appeasement” of big business, a particularly nasty metaphor for a Kennedy. Political scientist Bruce Miroff loathes JFK’s “powerful elitist and managerial impulses.” In this call for technical management, Miroff detects disdain for left and right: “Both stood condemned by their partisanship and ignorance; at best, they could only confirm the wisdom of handing economic affairs over to the President, his professional advisors, and those responsible statesmen in business and labor who followed the cues from Washington.” Arguing the Yale speech “instituted an era in which corporate profits and corporate power soared,” and consistent with his larger thesis that John Kennedy ignored the presidential bully pulpit, Miroff claims JFK diminished democracy and empowered elites.13 That has been the charge leveled against modern liberal democracy as well. A formidable array of scholars, from Jürgen Habermas and G. Thomas Goodnight to Stephen Turner, James Carey, Philip Wander, Thomas Farrell, Thomas Frentz, Walter Fisher, Robert Asen, and more, decry the effects of technical reason on public debate.14 They argue that modern liberal capitalism facilitated an unbalanced evolution of political society, one emphasizing domination of nature, expansion of technical interests, and rule of an educated elite. The resulting rise of administrative and financial power displaced popular sovereignty, creating a legitimation crisis. Citizens no longer trusted any government to

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seek the public good. Liberals could not answer the challenge. Their beliefs in individual autonomy and modern rationality spurred the eclipse of the public they allegedly deplored. Of course, that claim recalls John Dewey’s critique. Carey and others root the technocratic turn in a recurrent liberal temptation, one exemplified by the controversy between Dewey and Walter Lippmann. Tired by the stupidity of the many, liberals turned to the few. Led by Lippmann, they enthroned a generation of scientist kings who knew better than the people what was good for people and enforced their edicts with governmental power. In this charge, the left circled round to join the right, who doubted egghead intellectuals understood the real world and decried the federal leviathan’s erosion of freedom.15 In his speeches, it seems, John Kennedy repeated the mistakes of that professor president, Woodrow Wilson, and his generation of elitist Progressives. Or so goes the tale. Others have objected to this characterization of Lippmann, and it was John Dewey, after all, who wrote, “The attempt to decide by law that the legends of a primitive Hebrew people regarding the genesis of man are more authoritative than the results of scientific inquiry might be cited as the sort of thing which is bound to happen when the accepted doctrine is that a public organized for political purposes, rather than experts guided by specialized inquiry, is the final umpire and arbiter of issues.”16 Dewey’s endorsement of expertise defies the usual dichotomy defining this debate. Almost inevitably, scholars set a technical elite, empowered by corporate government, against the virtuous public and said scholars. Although I hate to lose this flattering identity, I suspect every generation believes itself beset by complexity, experts, and new technologies. At the founding, Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton’s plan to fund the nation’s debt faced similar charges: “Thomas Jefferson . . . could not fathom all the details of the plan and believed incorrectly—that Hamilton himself did not fully understand it. As a Maryland congressman complained in 1790, the secretary’s proposals were so complicated as to ‘be above the comprehension of persons in general.’”17 However satisfying, this dichotomy is not helpful. The Yale address enshrined no elites, nor did it promote technocracy. But it faced a hard rhetorical problem. How does Kennedy talk about economic issues to a lay public while living up to the democratic covenant offered in the

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Inaugural? If democratic governance of a modern economy requires technical expertise, then liberals need a language that incorporates that knowledge, yet preserves participatory parity. A critical approach defined by a split between public deliberation and technical reason offers no good way to get at JFK’s rhetorical achievement or that of the liberal persuasion. His success rested largely on his turn to a classical mode of proof, ethos, or character. He exploited a “scientific ethos” circulated by liberals and others in the postwar United States.18 His use of ethos traces back to the “culture of inquiry” developed by pragmatists like William James and Dewey in the early twentieth century. In the postwar era, it met the need to debate issues without resort to the ignominious passions that led to fascism or communism. As Dewey wrote, “policies and proposals for social action [should] be treated as working hypotheses, not as [rigid] programs. . . . They will be experimental in the sense that they will be entertained subject to constant and well-equipped observation of the consequences they entail when acted upon, and subject to ready and flexible revision in the light of observed consequences.”19 JFK appealed to this spirit of science and made it, not traditional shibboleth or technical reason, the standard for economic argument in general and his tax cut in particular. To see how he made this spirit flesh, I turn first to the conceptual histories and economic discourses enabling and infusing his rhetoric. I then focus on the Yale address, while noting other statements as well. Finally, I discuss the implications of this language for public economic debate and the liberal persuasion.

A Spirit of Inquiry What sparked these controversies, of course, was the growing role of experts in public life. Paul Stob, among others, has traced the move from a culture of eloquence to a culture of expertise in the late nineteenth century.20 If amateur lecturers like Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr., were once thought to exemplify true knowledge, the advances of science, particularly the visible signs of technical innovation (the telegraph, the camera, etc.), made clear that intellectual respectability required professionalism. The new modern research universities and disciplinary

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associations certified this status. David Brown notes the “profitable shift to standardization encouraged scores of institutions to jettison the ‘unscientific’ conventions associated with preindustrial culture, and among its many devotees, the cult of professionalization bit deep into academia. . . . During the second half of the nineteenth century, some 200 scholarly organizations were founded.”21 The discursive performance of a scientific ethos thus shifted from the popular lecture platform, where eloquence defined wisdom, to conferences and classrooms, where, Stob writes, knowledge was revealed in “specialized discourse—precise ways of talking shared by members of a specialized enclave but more or less inaccessible to general audiences.”22 The implications of this shift stretched beyond these enclaves. The solvent of modern science dissolved beliefs held by most Americans. They did not get the methods, procedures, or reasoning by which their God, for example, was declared dead. Science not only threatened the traditions composing their community, it also eroded the basis for democracy. If the people could not grasp the ways and means of modern governance, then perhaps the people should yield their place.23 Given the traditional warrants for American political authority, if neither the people nor their God held ultimate sovereignty, there was a problem. But the professionals also had an issue because they were increasingly unable to meet their own standards for “true” knowledge. In many ways, pragmatism arose in response to crises of authority across communities. David Hollinger argues that James, Dewey, and the rest spoke “not only to the great epistemological and metaphysical questions of post-Kantian thought, but also to their desire for a way of life consistent with what they and their contemporaries variously perceived as the implications of modern science.” In short, they wondered “how modern culture could be integrated and energized.”24 Facing the anxiety created when each generation of experts defined the last one’s knowledge as mostly wrong, pragmatists like George Herbert Mead, James, and Dewey proposed that people should stop playing knowledge games and made at least three moves to put an end to them.25 Initially, James Kloppenberg claims, they “exchanged epistemology for history.”26 They erased lines between subject and object, knower and known, and the internal and external worlds. Instead, they argued

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history conditioned everyone. People moved inescapably in its flow. Truth did, too, so there were no transcendent truths outside of human experience. Only debate and experimentation could establish truth, not least because people’s experiences, even their concepts of themselves, were constituted through social interaction.27 Truth emerges in the collaborative doing of it. James famously wrote, “Any idea upon which we can ride, so to speak; any idea that will carry us prosperously from any one part of our experience to any other part, linking things satisfactorily, working securely, saving labor; is true for just so much, true in so far forth, true instrumentally.”28 Bodies of knowledge mattered less than the modes of inquiry used to discern them. Dewey wrote, “The future of our civilization depends upon the widening spread and deepening hold of the scientific habit of mind.”29 His aphorism felt right and continues to do so because it meshed well with traditional cultural maxims: “Give a man a fish and he’ll eat for a day; teach him to fish and he’ll eat for a lifetime.” Larry Hickman defines this view of inquiry as “the primary means by which reflective organisms seek to achieve stability through adaptation.” People assessed their experiences, reformed habits, and created new modes of action. Because a recalcitrant world and stubborn people posed obstacles as well as resources, successful “living requires an active and ongoing reconstruction of experienced situations.”30 Thus, it was not only what we knew but also our means of coming to know that could provide a helpful guide in a changing and uncertain world. That world, in turn, was open to human influence. Pragmatists denied that a person is, in Kloppenberg’s words, “a passive receiver of sensations or a conscious automaton following the decrees of fate.” Rather, he continues, pragmatists believed that individual choices make history and specific decisions “are validated in the concrete historical process.”31 In Human Nature and Conduct, Dewey explained the reasons for hope. There were, he wrote, “two schools of social reform.” The first relied on inner morality and asserted “the only way to change institutions is for men to purify their own hearts, and that when this has been accomplished, change of institutions will follow of itself.” The second argued the reverse: “till institutions are changed, nothing can be done.” He dismissed, in effect, religious evangelicalism and Marxist revolution as fruitless. Yet he saw “an alternative penned in between these two theories. We can

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recognize that all conduct is interaction between elements of human nature and the environment, natural and social.” People seemed “infinitely frail in comparison with exterior forces, yet they may have the support of a foreseeing and contriving intelligence.”32 It developed a spirit of “meliorism,” a commitment to improve life through incremental steps, guided by the norms of inquiry. To start down that path required a “strenuous mood,” an act of will, in James’s terms. As Dewey wrote, a faith “in the power of intelligence to imagine a future which is a projection of the desirable in the present, and to invent the instrumentalities of its realization, is our salvation. And it is a faith which must be nurtured and made articulate.”33 A scientific habit of mind could discern new truths, which could, in turn, shape a reformed world. Finally, everyone could pick it up. The pragmatist faith was fundamentally a democratic one. Neither Dewey nor James denied that people would sometimes find themselves dependent on expert testimony nor did they deny there were different kinds of scientific investigation. But they believed all people could learn to assess the world in this fashion. In fact, Hollinger notes, “Dewey translated so many of life’s activities—humble and exalted—into the terms of inquiry that Bertrand Russell once accused him of being unable to distinguish between the work of a scientist and that of a bricklayer.”34 This was why both James and Dewey devoted themselves to education reform; some of their most important political and philosophical works addressed teachers and spoke to the role of education in American life.35 In 1896, Dewey wrote, “It is impossible to foretell definitely just what civilization will be twenty years from now. Hence it is impossible to prepare the child for any precise set of conditions.” The world offers unpredictable challenges. A liberal democratic society, he thought, must be a restless, innovative one and students must not only learn what is known, but also develop the faculty to learn that which is not now known. As Alan Ryan observes, that his view “should seem banal to many of us is only a sign of how far we have moved from a belief in the virtues of producing factory fodder or instilling simple political acquiescence in a lower class whose destiny is to take orders and do the world’s work.”36 People could learn these new habits of mind. In short, the pragmatists sought to focus the nation’s attention not only on what it knew but also on how it knew this. Good habits of inquiry

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could reform American society and all people could participate in that important project. In a larger sense, the pragmatist way of approaching philosophical and public problems, they believed, would suture the gaps between science and religion, mass society and individual, upper and lower class, and so forth. Most important, their language might restore the relationship between popular discourse and specialized knowledge. Rhetoricians admire Dewey, but never more so than when they read: “The essential need, in other words, is the improvement of the methods and conditions of debate, discussion, and persuasion. That is the problem of the public. We have asserted that this improvement depends essentially upon freeing and perfecting the processes of inquiry and of dissemination of their conclusions.”37 Experts there would always be, he argued, but everyone could learn inquiry, judge those experts, and develop the capacity to change lives. The culture could be integrated and energized through such “methods and conditions of debate, discussion, and persuasion.” This was not the technical reason of a later century. It was, as Kenneth Burke might say, an effort to offer “equipment for living,” a vocabulary that enabled citizens to “size things up properly.” It would aid in “the strategic naming of a situation” through terms enabling judgment and reform.38 The pragmatists held the democratic faith that all could learn to size up the world. I certainly do not make the claim that the pragmatist tradition came to dominate public debate and discussion, much less arguments in scholarly communities. I do claim that it, or at least popular, even crude versions of it, became available, a live option for those who sought to persuade Americans. It made sense because it accorded with the American belief that the United States was a practical, hard-working country, particularly in contrast to airy, literary Europeans. It shared with liberalism the convictions that uncertainty pervaded the human condition, that people could use this uncertainty to change their lives, and that intelligence could guide reform. These similarities meant the events of the early twentieth century shook both, but nothing more so than the Depression. There had been financial panics before, but, Edmund Fawcett argues, “the crisis of the 1930s was on a new scale. Events were shredding liberal platitudes. Economies were not righting themselves when disturbed. Free markets were not bringing social peace.”39 Liberals and pragmatists felt any differences fade as they faced awful competitors.

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The manifest inadequacy of liberalism as an economic doctrine led to its dismissal in all spheres of communal life. Nation after nation abandoned democracy, turned to strong men on black tanks, and prospered. In the midst of depression, it was the latter that mattered the most. By the war’s start, dictators had made the case that liberal democracy did not work under modern conditions. Seven years of FDR had yet to fully lift the nation out of depression; seven years of Adolf Hitler had seemingly restored Germany’s economy. In 1940, Lewis Mumford wrote, “The record of liberalism during the last decade has been one of shameful evasion and inept retreat. Liberalism has compromised with despotism because despotism promised economic benefits to the masses.” In his view, liberalism’s passive, utopian, incoherent premises left it prey to stronger forces.40 In less apocalyptic terms, Dewey, too, discerned a “Crisis in Liberalism,” a failure to use practical intelligence in response to changing problems.41 Given liberalism’s collapse, the West failed to defend democracy in the Rhineland, Austria, Ethiopia, Spain, Czechoslovakia, Finland, and, finally, Poland. It took France’s fall to spur Americans to a draft. The subjugation of the European continent failed to stir Americans to war. That seemingly confirmed two decades of research concluding citizens had failed to develop any habits of mind, much less those preferred by pragmatists.42 Fascism or even communism seemed to offer those few intelligent enough to see the only real ways for nations to survive in what had become a very tough world. Burke famously traces Hitler’s rhetorical success to his capacity to unify Germans against the enemy and reveal that one “spot towards which all roads lead.”43 He hated liberalism because it represented a “babel of voices,” a “wrangle” of “interests lying awkwardly on the bias across one another,” a “vocal diaspora,” a “disintegrated mass of fragments,” with no direction.44 Such terms also indicted a scientific habit of mind; indeed, Mumford attacked the tendency of “pragmatic liberalism” to rely too heavily on rationality. The Nazis offered a nationalistic view of inquiry, one challenging science’s belief in open debate. In 1942, Robert K. Merton responded. He insisted, Hollinger argues, “that the scientific enterprise was an expression of democratic political culture, and that the autonomy of science depended upon the strength of democracy.”45 “A Note on Science and Democracy” appeared in various guises and venues over the years and became famous as a founding statement in

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the sociology of science. But, as Hollinger notes, it originally sought to refute the Nazi idea of science through four fundamental norms. “Universalism” meant evaluation of scientific claims absent personal, political, or racial criteria. “Communism” meant science was open to all. “Disinterestedness” meant neutral evaluation of scientific claims and theories, and finally, “organized skepticism” meant scrutiny of all claims and assumptions, regardless of their traditional force or political power. Taken together, the four characterized a habit of mind, a way of approaching scientific and public problems that, while not always internally consistent, formed a recognizable alternative to that of Nazi Germany and, later, the Soviet Union. Hollinger cites many scholars who wrote similarly. Not surprisingly, Dewey was among the most prominent. Lacking Merton’s ease with language, he promoted similar values, including the “‘morale of fair-mindedness, intellectual integrity, of will to subordinate personal preference to ascertained facts and to share with others what is found out, instead of using it for personal gain.’” Believing only a small part of the public felt this way, he hoped these norms would spread until the resolve to rely on evidence rather than “habit, accidents of circumstance, propaganda, personal and class bias” would define the nation’s communicative culture.46 By defining liberal norms as science’s norms, Merton, Dewey, and the rest achieved two complementary goals. They defended science, especially its anti-authoritarianism, against totalitarianism and populism. And, as science became important, they suggested that it, in turn, would enable liberal democracy.47 If science and liberalism shared values and interests, to defend one was to defend the other. In the event, both won. That victory, once Americans discounted the not inconsiderable assistance of its erstwhile ally the Soviet Union, vindicated the qualities of liberal democracy most in doubt prior to the war. The people’s inability to speak as one, their inattention to public affairs, the corrupt babel of political parties, the capitalist system of privately engineered greed, the amateur soldier, the conflicting voices of inquiry, qualities once thought to have threatened national survival, now signified a peculiarly pragmatic American genius. Government organized the war effort, but it acted as a part, not a whole. The government married individual initiative to intelligent planning to outsmart, outproduce, and

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outfight the enemy.48 Totalitarian automatons could not stand against such a people. The lesson was clear: Individual genius was not enough nor was big government. The nation must work as a team. Yet war’s close brought three fears to the surface. The first eventuated in the Cold War; the Soviet Union offered a fierce strategic and intellectual rival to liberal democracy. The second concerned human nature. Intellectuals moved beyond Reinhold Niebuhr’s humility in the face of original sin to question the bases for any belief in reason.49 It was best, many thought as they had after the Great War, to protect people from their irrationality. The third was a practical concern, shared by intellectuals and politicians: War’s end must not mean a return to depression.50 If it did, irrational ordinary people might trade surrender for bread in the Cold War. Ira Katznelson has convincingly argued that postwar leaders had two options open as they sought to prevent another depression. They could follow the lead of the early New Deal and the war by enriching “the government’s capacities to intervene directly in capital and labor markets.” In other words, the government could manage and plan economic activity as actively as would the nations of Western Europe. Or, politicians could take the lessons of John Maynard Keynes to heart. Rather than planning, the government could use fiscal policy to craft economic stability.51 That came to dominate, although the growth of the defense establishment directed the economy in intentional and unintentional ways. Yet fiscal policy became the preference, not least because Southern lawmakers could rest assured that the long arm of the federal government would not reach directly into segregated labor markets and dangerously empower African Americans.52 This decision implied a second choice. The government did not act in the spirit of Woodrow Wilson’s New Freedom and dismantle big business or big labor, but it domesticated them, in the spirit of Theodore Roosevelt’s New Nationalism. Yet the growth of huge industrial corporations since 1912 had changed the landscape. Arthur Schlesinger Jr., a JFK advisor, and John Kenneth Galbraith, JFK’s Ambassador to India, addressed that concern. Schlesinger urged liberals to use “Hamiltonian means for Jeffersonian ends,” or, as Galbraith wrote, liberals needed to trust “countervailing powers.”53 Government and its allies must be robust

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enough to balance big business and make big businesses balance each other. Galbraith was a rare economist of the old school. He disdained statistical models, wrote for the public, and concerned himself with the economy’s structure.54 In American Capitalism, he rejected the traditional idea of many small sellers competing in a free market as unrealistic and incorrect. Rather, large institutions exerted countervailing power against each other; suppliers and sellers constrained one another. But the problem, Joseph Schumpeter wrote, was innovation. The corporation stifled individual ingenuity, reducing the genius to the organization man. Without innovation, demand would eventually fail and not even the federal government would be able to maintain it.55 The liberal accord, a product of the American century, solved the problem. The clash of countervailing powers produced innovations, from tail fins to mass consumer credit, that spurred the economy. The liberal tradition, Louis Hartz wrote in 1955, ensured political stability and created prosperity.56 As economic actors clashed, ideas bloomed, productivity rose, and the United States became the envy of the world. The same rhetoric ordered politics and economics, that of checks, balances, countervailing powers, controlled reform and innovation, a vision with roots in James Madison’s Federalist #10. Much like the ways scientists and soldiers intelligently advanced the war effort, so, too, did they confront the problems shadowing the peace. Ideas could go only so far. They needed to be tested, operationalized, and applied. Genius might spark innovation, but reason made it useful. Passions derailed this effort and were not useful.57 Compromise developed by the exchange of ideas between people of good will would solve the nation’s problems. Victory in war vindicated this view, as did the spread of this mode of thought through the vast expansion of university education.58 As my references to Madison and the war show, the liberal matrix was justified in most traditional terms. It was the American way.59 This view received perhaps its clearest expression in Daniel Bell’s The End of Ideology: On the Exhaustion of Political Ideas in the Fifties. As he ruefully noted in a later edition, “There are some books that are better known for their titles than their contents. Mine is one of them.” Bell acknowledged critics saw his work as a defense of “technocratic thinking,” but, with some justice, denied the claim.60 Yet his excellent analysis faded

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next to his rhetorical skill. He offered a realist rhetoric in which data explained the world. Despite his protests, he often endorsed this view: “The tendency to convert concrete issues into ideological problems, to invest them with moral color and high emotional charge, is to invite conflicts which can only damage a society. . . . It has been one of the glories of the United States that politics has always been a pragmatic give-and-take rather than a series of wars-to-the-death.”61 History authorized deals, the “traditional” American demand for results. To be a pragmatic liberal was to celebrate the glories of the United States. This was a different world from that of Lewis Mumford in 1940. The academic discipline that incarnated these norms perhaps more than any other was economics. The term “economy” derives from the Greek oikonomia, which means “household management.” Given the analogy between the household and the nation, notions of the economy in the Anglo-American tradition intertwined with Greek and Roman republicanism. Signified by the term “political economy,” philosophers presumed a close tie between commerce and virtue, which meant that trade should serve the common good, not individual self-interest, much as all members of a household must serve its common welfare—which usually meant the welfare of the white male patriarch. Drew McCoy claims that the founders “were acutely aware of the moral dimension of economic life. . . . they assumed that a healthy republican government demanded an economic and social order that would encourage the shaping of a virtuous citizenry.”62 Politicians still sometimes speak this way, but the scientific revolution of the late nineteenth century established contemporary economics.63 Three developments facilitated the discipline’s evolution. First, the modern nation state developed a capacity to collect data on its activities and citizens, mostly in order to make war. This movement began in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, but the rivalries leading to World War I accelerated the process.64 By the 1929 crash, nations had some, but not all, of the data needed to understand the catastrophe, but they lacked the policy levers to relieve the pain. Zachary Karabell argues unemployment became conceivable only in the late nineteenth century. People rarely had jobs; they “farmed, or traded, or served, or fought.” A few found work as artisans but there was no concept of unemployment,

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“only of want versus plenty, hard work versus idleness, good times versus bad.”65 Throughout history, hardship so defined the human lot (“nasty, brutish, and short”) that no one thought to measure it. As life became better, leaders did not care to do so. Classical economic theory stated there was no unemployment, only those who did not want work. Hard times would cause wages to fall until it was feasible for employers once again to offer jobs. There were temporary adjustments, but wage deflation ruled out lingering unemployment, unless immoral people preferred the hammock of joblessness. One waited out a depression, much like a drought. In short, Dewey could urge a scientific habit of mind, but the crucial concepts and statistics to assess the economy were not there. In a way, baseball’s later Moneyball revolution mirrored the “fiscal revolution in America” that took place after World War II. Prior to Bill James and a few others, nobody cared about the statistics that could analyze or even forecast baseball performance. One could not efficiently build a team or manage an economy absent those data, concepts, and statistics.66 That, then, was the second development enabling the emergence of economics and, for that matter, JFK’s speech. Statistics transform raw data into meaningful relationships and ideas; once analysts defined on-base percentage, they realized it boosted runs scored more than past measures, like runs batted in. Similarly, once statisticians such as Wesley Mitchell, Ethelbert Stewart, Simon Kuznets, and Keynes, as well as politicians such as Herbert Hoover, Robert La Follette Jr., and Robert Wagner, developed and drove the government to use the unemployment rate, national income accounts, and gross domestic and national products (GDP and GNP), economists could investigate relationships. Naturally, depression and war demanded action. Once they had the statistics, people could ask if government spending lifted national income. If it did, might that lift GNP? If growth meant jobs, might the electorate reward those who expanded it more than those who did not? In short, statistics created “the economy” as a rhetorical issue.67 It became visible, fungible, contingent. Depressions, like the Chicago Cubs, were no longer natural disasters to be endured, but human creations to be changed. Public debate could lead to reform. This meant a new role for government. Robert Heilbroner and Aaron Singer note the government “was a promoter of business,” in the nineteenth century, making internal improvements, granting land to

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railroads, and enacting tariffs. Then, the government became a “regulator of the economy, using its powers to assure the orderly workings of individual markets or industries.” Finally, in the postwar era, the government “took on the function of guarantor” of the economy, insuring there would be no more Great Depressions and, increasingly, promoting “socially acceptable rates of growth and levels of employment.”68 It could only do so in light of Keynesian economics, the third factor. Classical economic theory, more often than not, advised always that the cure of government action was worse than the disease of unemployment or, for that matter, inflation. In the long run, all would be well. In the long run, John Maynard Keynes tartly and famously observed, we are all dead. The General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money appeared at about the same time as the statistics. If classical theorists defined an economic world of universal laws, Keynes, like the pragmatists, stressed contingency and argued economies could stabilize at disastrously low levels of growth and employment. Classical theory believed that as an economy contracted, excess savings would pile up and drive interest rates down. Business would eventually find low rates and the lowered wages already noted irresistible, borrow and hire, and thus lift the economy out of depression. This was not a disinterested theory, of course, because the burden of recovery would fall on workers, who would endure lost jobs and lower wages.69 But Keynes observed that even this suffering was not enough. If no demand was evident, businesses would continue to hoard the savings left to them after the collapse of their incomes.70 Demand would stay low, people would stay unemployed, and the paradox of thrift would result. In bad times, everyone seeks to cut their spending and secure their financial position. But since your spending is my income, when you cut back, my income drops. I then cut back, lowering your income, and you cut, lowering my income, and the result is a nasty, downward spiral, “fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.”71 In such a liquidity trap, only government could fill the gap. It could spend, using fiscal policy to break the cycle, lift demand, and spur growth. Moreover, statistics now allowed it and its economists to define the size of the demand shortfall, square up the appropriate amount of spending, and assess the results. A scientific habit of mind could work.

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In theory, that is. In harsh political practice, only World War II made possible the scope of deficit spending needed. But in light of that experience, postwar economists began to develop ever more sophisticated mathematical models of economic activity, melding the insights of Keynes and the classical tradition. At the front of this movement was the first American Nobel Prize winner in economics, Paul Samuelson. Not only did he lead the project to make economics into a science, he also popularized the result. He wrote perhaps the most successful college text in history, one whose myriad editions coincided with a postwar explosion in enrollments, spurred by the GI Bill.72 The first edition (1948) coldly justified economic study: “When, and if, the next great depression comes along, any one of us may be completely unemployed—without income or prospects. . . . From a purely selfish point of view, then, it is desirable to gain understanding” of economics. But, more than that, “the political health of a democracy is tied up in a crucial way with the successful maintenance of stable high employment and living opportunities.” The lack of those a decade earlier led to “dictatorships and the resulting World War II.” His generation knew in its bones the significance of economics, and the most popular textbook hammered home the dangers of depression, “this modern day plague.”73 But to grasp these issues, to “succeed in this, the student of economics must first cultivate an objective and detached ability to see things as they are, regardless of his likes or dislikes.” He offered what became for millions of students a profoundly pragmatic orientation. They were here to assess reality and solve problems. He acknowledged economics might cause blood to boil. The biases that reared up might be but “thinly veiled rationalizations of special economic interest.” In a revealing analogy, he compared economics to bacteriology (the plague), noting the doctor must see the world clearly: “Wishful thinking is bad thinking and leads to little wish fulfillment. In the same way there is only one valid reality in a given economic situation, however hard it may be to recognize and isolate it.”74 Yes, economists differed on policies, but they did not and could not differ on reality. They took life—and people—as they were. No real economists crafted a virtuous citizenry; they analyzed its behavior. In science, virtue mattered less than facts, if it mattered at all. But facts gave people something virtue did not: agency. There would be disagreements

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on what to choose, but there were always textbook solutions to economic troubles. The student needed to develop the detached habits of mind to understand them. That was true not least because economic analysis pervaded the postwar culture. To get ahead, one needed to know economics. The number of PhD economists exploded, jumping to 22,000 by 1960. The “annual number of doctorates awarded tripled between 1947 and 1959.”75 But that was the least of it. Yarrow reports the press turned to economics with a vengeance. Periodicals offered multiple articles authored by economists, using technical terms, and habituating people to that vocabulary. It became equipment for living. For example, U.S. News was founded in 1933, merged with World Report in 1948, and expanded from roughly 50 to 160 pages in the early 1950s. A third of every issue reported on economics; it often reprinted major economic reports and academic studies in full and included regular features devoted to the numbers. In that, it was not alone, as Business Week, Forbes, Fortune, and others did so as well. In 1959, the Saturday Review joined the Committee for Economic Development, a moderate, powerful business group, to produce a dense, annual issue on macroeconomic policy. When the average weekly news magazine reader, and there were millions of them, regularly encountered articles defining and discussing the effect of short-term interest rates on the balance of payments, the value of the dollar, and, thus, the economic viability of continuing to deploy American forces in Europe, then the boundaries of “technical reason” became blurry, indeed.76 People read this stuff because the economic boom was the wonder of the age. In the late 1940s, the United States had 7 percent of the world’s population and produced 42 percent of its income. Americans made 57 percent of the world’s steel, 43 percent of its electricity, 62 percent of its oil, and 80 percent of its automobiles. One might object that the war made for a special circumstance; untroubled by postmodern questions of agency, liberals would respond that they made those circumstances. They won the war. The economy refused to give in to fears of a new depression. It rolled forward, producing the highest rates of growth in history. What was most remarkable, of course, was the change in people’s lives. That reinforced the efficacy of the liberal matrix and its habits of thought. Americans bought homes; they did not rent them. That alone

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was new, but there was more. Modern life emerged. James Patterson lists the “automatic car transmission, the electric clothes dryer, the longplaying record, the Polaroid camera and the automatic garbage disposal.” People bought refrigerators, ran vacuum cleaners, stored food in freezers, ate frozen dinners from said freezers, discovered “‘wonder’ fibers and plastics: nylon for clothing, cheap food wraps, light new Styrofoam containers, inexpensive vinyl floor coverings, and a wide array of plastic toys.” People spent, including a fivefold increase for liquor between 1939 and 1945.77 This bounty flowed out to the depression generation courtesy of liberal economics and leadership and became visible in those magazines and on new televisions. Yet this was not the whole story. Scientific breakthroughs arrived with the nightly news. Atomic power promised free energy; miracle drugs, like penicillin, moved from wartime use into general practice; and respect for science, medicine, and experts soared. Perhaps most symbolic was the destruction of polio. The disease people feared because it struck their children, the disease that claimed FDR, the disease that caused panic every summer, was vanquished. An epidemic in 1952 afflicted nearly 58,000 and killed 1,400. In 1962, there were 910 cases. Science worked.78 Stories almost inevitably suggest causality, and the tale I have told draws a line from John Dewey to television in ways that would likely horrify him. But what I hope to have sketched is a mode of thought outlined by James, Dewey, Merton, and others. They saw inquiry as a way to invigorate democratic life and constituted its norms—evidence, universalism, consensus, reason, skepticism, observation, assessment, and debate—as politico-rhetorical norms. In doing so, they amplified liberalism. Its bias toward an open mind, tolerant spirit, individual freedom, universal rights, competition, and merit complemented this scientific ethos. Together, the two projected a future in which people would come together to decide issues based on argument and evidence rather than prejudice or propaganda. The Depression and the war seemingly shattered this vision, but postwar thinkers and politicians believed that victory vindicated its assumptions. Disdaining analytical philosophy and tragic social theory alike, writers such as Schlesinger, Galbraith, Bell, Heller, and darker figures including Richard Hofstadter and Niebuhr turned to the give and take of

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public debate, which they constituted as the defining quality of American history. If this was something of an act of will, it was a powerful one and the boom energized the argument. Because of it, economics came to the fore. One study notes that starting in the Depression and accelerating through the postwar era, economics became “the queen of the social sciences” and economists dominated the ranks of experts cited.79 As economists crowded into the conversation, their language and detached mode of thought became equipment for living. If it was sometimes more technical than citizens could readily understand, public intellectuals, officials, and the press worked to make these new terms routine. Predictably, the presidency came to assume a highly visible role in this discussion. History and legislation made it so. Franklin Roosevelt ascended to myth at his death and his legacy had strong institutional effects.80 Writers and scholars like Hofstadter traced FDR’s success to the fact that he was “sufficiently opportunistic and flexible to cope.”81 He famously said, “The country needs and, unless I mistake its temper, the country demands bold, persistent experimentation. It is common sense to take a method and try it: If it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But above all try something.”82 Many wondered if he had any principles, but others lauded his “quick adaptability,” as James MacGregor Burns put it. He thought FDR a “man of no fixed convictions about policies.” This was good because he led at “a time of swirling change. . . . a time when experimentation was vital” and over “a people of sublime diversity, presiding over a nation of nations.” He did so successfully because “he spoke so many languages of social experience.”83 As FDR became a model, his pragmatism became a quality to imitate. His economic leadership, central to his presidency, became central to every presidency for the simple reason that the law soon demanded it. His first Fireside Chat dealt with banking and he asserted that economic policy, “couched for the most part in banking and legal terms, ought to be explained for the benefit of the average citizen.”84 With these words, the presidency became the institution most responsible for that rhetoric. Equally important, the federal government grew enormously in an effort to meet its new economic and defense burdens. At war’s end, politicians sought to codify the federal government’s economic role and the ways its discourse worked. The result was the 1946 Employment Act. As scholars

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have both lamented and celebrated, depending on their perspective, the act began as a legislative version of FDR’s economic bill of rights. A “Full Employment Bill” made a job a right for all Americans. It called on the president to submit budgets to achieve that goal. No one doubted that people now held the government responsible for economic stability, but this went too far for too many. Congressional conservatives watered it down because they hated Keynesianism, feared that inflation could result from full employment, and worried the bill’s planning aspects would disrupt segregation.85 The excised “full” marked the change. “Maximum employment, production, and purchasing power” became national goals, accompanied by a commitment to the free enterprise system.86 Distrustful of any planning agency and the Bureau of the Budget, rife with Keynesians, conservatives created a new Council of Economic Advisors (CEA) under the president but subject to congressional confirmation.87 The act also created a Joint Economic Committee (JEC) of the Congress. In a fascinating fashion, this bill revealed, perhaps more than any other act, the postwar faith in pragmatic reason and public rhetoric. The president, with the assistance of professional economists, would prepare a fiscal plan and a full budget to implement that plan. Both would see light of day in the state of the union address. That was to be followed by the Economic Report to Congress. The president’s economic advisors would then testify in front of the Joint Committee. It would assess the plan and issue its report, with assistance from staff and outside experts. After Democrats regained control of Congress in 1954, this process came to resemble a formal debate, with the president speaking first and the JEC responding.88 The gravity with which this process unfolded might again be judged by Samuelson’s textbook. In the preface, he explains the book’s purpose and adds, “Perhaps present-day Americans will have no more important civic duty than that of approaching critically the President’s Economic Report to Congress. Is it too much to ask of the text of the future that it contribute toward the effective performance of this task?”89 In sum, the Employment Act made presidents largely responsible for the economy, gave them bureaucratic resources to do the job, institutionalized the subsequent public deliberation, and displayed a rather touching faith in the power of public reason. In the event, it worked, at least for the period covered by this study.

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President Truman’s CEA suffered political turmoil, but President Eisenhower recognized the value of professionals.90 He appointed Dr. Arthur Burns of Columbia University the chair. Herbert Stein thought the nomination of an economist “who had no previous political or business connections in an administration which seemed otherwise to believe that any corporation president could do anything, indicated that [Ike believed] economic stabilization was a serious, and largely technical, job.”91 It also showed that he had accepted the New Deal, recognized the president’s economic responsibilities, and had a deep interest in economic affairs. Yet an unquenchable desire for a balanced budget defined that interest. Stein thinks this was often just words. He claims observers confused Ike’s “fiscal talk” with policy.92 But Dan Wood argues that fiscal talk and policy cannot be disentangled.93 The president loved the virtuous ideal of a balanced budget. His advocacy revealed an unshakeable belief that inflation presented a more serious threat than recession. That may have been true after the Korean War. A mild recession struck in 1953, followed by strong growth that carried him to reelection. Given that expansion, it was no wonder that prices concerned him. But shortly after that point, a severe recession struck in 1957–1958. Not only did it damage Republican political fortunes in the 1958 elections, it lingered. Despite a recovery, job growth never returned to its previous levels. Presidential insistence on a balanced budget, even a surplus, meant middling to poor growth for the rest of his term. The numbers pop the bubble of 1950s nostalgia. Among postwar presidents, Eisenhower ranks ahead of only the Bushes in average annual job creation and ahead only of those two and Gerald Ford in average annual growth.94 Yet, to Eisenhower’s credit, he improved the country’s capacity for long-term growth, including investments in education, science, and “giant public infrastructure projects, such as the interstate highway system, the St. Lawrence Seaway, and the Colorado River Storage Project.”95 For all that, the United States again fell into recession during the 1960 campaign, adding to Richard Nixon’s woes, and resulting in the charge that Ike’s three recessions proved once more that Republicans could not be trusted with the economy. Candidate John Kennedy zestfully made that point, but awoke, like many a predecessor and successor, on January 21, to find that the economy was now his problem.

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Unfortunately, Kennedy knew little about it. On this point, memoirs, recollections, and biographies are perversely proud: John Kennedy knew almost nothing about money. In fact, he disdained the chase for the almighty dollar, probably, as Richard Reeves put it, because his father had won the race for him.96 Kennedy never saw a paycheck, never balanced a checkbook, seldom handled money, and had no idea of how much money it took to live an average life. Fortunately for him, macroeconomic policy had little to do with those issues. Unfortunately for him, he knew little about that, either. The economy refused to wait for his education. Unemployment remained high, moving up to nearly 7 percent in 1961.97 Growth wobbled, at times rising, at times falling, hitting, for instance, only 1.1 percent in 1962’s first quarter, and the balance of payments deficit deteriorated, prompting a flow of gold out of the United States.98 The stock market drifted lower during JFK’s early years, climaxing on Blue Monday, May 28, 1962. Nearly 21 billion dollars in value disappeared during the biggest one-day drop in the market since 1929, a fact the New York Times headline helpfully bannered the next day.99 Business leaders blamed a White House that, they claimed, had socialized steel production during the April crisis. The picture, perhaps, was not as gloomy as it appeared. Prompted partly by the growing demographic bulge of increasingly well-educated young people, growth gathered strength as it bounced. A series of measures, from business investment credits to appropriations directed at poverty-stricken locales (“area redevelopment funds”), helped bolster recovery, as did increases in the defense budget.100 But JFK’s advisors told him higher growth would require fiscal stimulus. As in foreign policy, Kennedy filled economic Cabinet posts with gray Republicans and southern Democrats (e.g., Douglas Dillon as Treasury Secretary) to assure people he was no radical. But he made Heller head of the CEA and appointed future Nobel Prize winner James Tobin to it as well. JFK made so much of them that one writer quipped, “Not quite all the president’s advisors were economists.”101 During Inaugural week, the New York Times Magazine devoted its cover to the economic team; Life and Harper’s later ran similar features. The high profile continued. In the first few months of 1962, for example, Heller “delivered twenty-nine public speeches, including five that were televised, in which he called for higher growth.”102

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He bombarded JFK with more than 300 memos and was the sort of wry personality who engaged an easily bored president.103 Heller focused on a tool popular among the Keynesians, now called the “New Economics”: the “performance gap.” That was the difference between what the economy was producing and what it could produce at full employment. If the budget balanced or moved too far toward balance before full employment (defined as 4 percent unemployment), then the government was taking more out of the revenue stream than it was putting into that stream, even if it ran a deficit. Apparent deficits did not matter as much as real surpluses or deficits, “real” defined as what the budget would look like in full employment. Deficits were good in slow times because they kept money in the private sector that “real” balanced budgets would pull out—money that could be used, Heller thought, to create five million jobs. The 1962 budget slowed the economy because it would be in surplus if there were full employment. Now, there was not a surplus because unemployment was higher than 4 percent, but to get to 4 percent, the nation should act as if the budget was in surplus—it should spend more. In addition, as the president often said, he presided over a tax system created to win World War II, with a top rate of 90 percent. It acted, he complained, as a “drag” on the economy. Traditionalists did not see that because they could not see past the apparent deficit to the real surplus. The “new economics” argued it understood the economy more clearly; that meant the administration could use fiscal policy more effectively. Plus, growth would expand the economic base, yielding a larger future economy. Because the baby boomers would require jobs and because growth had become another way to win the Cold War, “growthmanship” was an imperative.104 Intelligent policy could advance the public good.105 The president came to believe the economists. Yet Congress remained dubious and the people unsure. Balanced budgets had enticed nearly every president. Kennedy came to office determined to balance his budget because that was what every president wanted to do and every household had to do. The power of that misleading analogy between federal and family budgets was extraordinary. Once persuaded by his economists, he had to defy conventional wisdom and explain the need for budget deficits absent a recession—confirming every stereotype about those Democrats

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and your money, an obstacle for liberals since 1933. Specifically, he had to persuade Wilbur Mills. As JFK flew to Yale University, U.S. News ran an interview with the powerful chair of the House Ways and Means Committee. In it, he said, “I can’t go along with the idea that you just cut taxes without regard to the deficit that is created.” Without his support, the bill would die. James Sundquist notes many “described the balanced budget in words that embodied a positive set of personal moral values— ‘responsibility,’ ‘prudence,’ ‘thrift,’ ‘soundness,’ ‘solvency.’”106 Those were formidable values; they posed a difficult obstacle. To this language, the president proposed to juxtapose “the discomfort of thought.”

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Myths and Realities Yale University had asked Kennedy to speak at commencement and he liked such occasions.107 As his Inaugural revealed, he saw his administration as a transition, a move from one generation to the next, from past to future, and that fit well with graduation. He habitually employed a literary style consonant with the modernism of the academy; a university setting also encouraged him to act as teacher or historian and he liked those roles.108 Campuses served as settings for some of his better speeches. He spoke on space at Rice University in 1961, defense at West Point in 1962, the economy here, and the Cold War at American University in 1963. JFK used these speeches, and his televised 1963 civil rights address, to begin larger persuasive campaigns. That raises interesting generic questions. Critics usually think of a commencement speech as epideictic; thus, the Yale address is a ceremonial address. In an insightful analysis of Kennedy’s American University address, Denise Bostdorff and Shawna Ferris follow that lead and focus on what they call Kennedy’s penchant for “epideictic progression,” a way of altering perception by substituting one vision for another.109 Yet JFK argued for his vocabulary’s superiority. Contrary to epideictic norms, he refuted opposing views, rather nastily attacking them at Yale as “incantations from the forgotten past.” Refutation marks deliberation; these speeches partake of its other norms as well. In the Aristotelian tradition, deliberative speech makes the rules by which a community lives. Consistent with

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its generic norms, JFK advised the nation on expedient ways to solve problems, addressed typical policy concerns, oriented the audience to think toward the future, and, while linguistically sophisticated, did not employ the high style of his inaugural address.110 Importantly, he defined truth as pragmatic: It would emerge in a “fruitful collaboration among all elements of economic society and [lead] to a decade of unrivaled economic progress.” In other words, his truths were true so long as they worked—they were “true instrumentally.” For him, expediency was the key issue, as it is in deliberative address, and the reaction to this speech (as well as the American University and civil rights ones) assumed its argumentative traits. Yet Kennedy sought to change the ways citizens both talked and acted because he thought words and deeds inseparable. Ned O’Gorman notes the “boundaries of Aristotle’s epideictic are perforated,” and he cites Aristotle’s On Rhetoric: “Praise and deliberations are part of a common species in that what one might propose in deliberation becomes encomia when the form of the expression is changed.” President Kennedy exploited the institutional power of his office to set the terms for deliberation, to, as O’Gorman writes, establish “the locus of civic sight,” the words and images that “underlie, inform, and direct political deliberation.”111 For such speeches, “perforation” is an apt metaphor. JFK argued his civic sight, his language, should regulate deliberation. The speeches also reflect the big picture. They started campaigns of the sort he critiqued in Why England Slept and performed as a Catholic candidate for ten years. As he worked to convince Americans that they should accept Keynesian economics, negotiate with the Soviets, and expand civil rights, he began with the status quo, the deeds done in words people used to act in politics. Each campaign more or less kicked off with an address in which he defined problems, destabilized vocabularies and images, and offered his alternatives. In this case, he tried to convince his fellow citizens that a scientific habit of rhetoric was an expedient economic choice. Values and policies intertwined. Although the Yale address marked the start of this campaign, JFK tried out themes in two prior appearances. In the first, he tested his terms, and in the second, he proposed his policy. On May 21, he opened a White House Conference on National Economic Issues. He was “glad,” he said,

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“that one of the ground rules is that no resolutions shall be passed.” He knew participants could agree on many, but “they would probably be so generally worded that they would give us very little guidance. And what we really need are more specifics.” For instance, all endorsed “the concept of a free economy. But what we want to hear from you is how we can make this free economy work.” He dismissed the abstract and embraced the concrete. Similarly, he offered “a word about the difference between myth and reality.” Americans had a “political viewpoint” on economic issues, but “most of the problems, or at least many of them, we now face are technical problems, are administrative problems. They are very sophisticated judgments which do not lend themselves to the great sort of ‘passionate movements’ which have stirred this country so often in the past.” It seemed as if Americans faced passionate, political issues, but they truly faced a reality replete with technical concerns requiring “very sophisticated judgments.” These are classic examples of dissociation.112 Orators tend to use dissociation when they must negotiate tensions, contradictions, or, to use a musical metaphor, dissonance in a situation. Dissociation divides the source of dissonance into two incompatible parts, “thereby redefining or modifying our view of the world.”113 One part is valued negatively, one positively. But this is more than simple division. Dissociation not only separates an appearance from reality, but also recasts the world or, more specifically, the criteria by which one measures or judges the world. For example, Kennedy’s Houston Ministerial Association address needed to negotiate the dissonance many citizens felt about a Catholic as president. They thought the two incompatible. He began with dissociation: “While the so-called religious issue is necessarily and properly the chief topic here tonight, I want to emphasize from the outset that I believe that we have far more critical issues in the 1960 campaign.” He then crisply listed key concerns. They were, he claimed, “the real issues which should decide this campaign.”114 Dissociations structured the speech. It might appear that religion was a real issue, but it was a false one. It might appear that he should discuss the church in which he believed, but he must discuss the nation in which he believed. Most important, “I am not the Catholic candidate for President. I am the Democratic Party’s candidate who happens to be a Catholic. I do not speak for my church

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on public matters, and the church does not speak for me.”115 The dissociations remodeled reality. Religion might seem like an essential quality of a candidate, but it was happenstance. Religion was a private, not a public, matter, so should not affect a vote.116 His distinctions resolved the dissonance between the presidency and Catholicism. Only public, essential, critical issues should affect one’s vote and a candidate’s religion was not one of those. It inevitably remained, but as a negligible force in a reconfigured sense of the political world. That is how dissociation works. It symbolically restructures reality. JFK wanted to do for economics what he had done for religion. In general, he needed to negotiate the incompatibility between the language characterizing public economic debate and the knowledge now offered by the Keynesians. He wanted partisan passions and useless vocabularies to fade and a scientific habit of mind to brighten. Obviously, that was partly because he thought reason the best strategic choice to win the day. To succeed, however, he also needed to negotiate the dissonance between a tax cut and budget deficits. Most Americans believed the two incompatible. The nation could not cut taxes while running a deficit. He had to provide good reasons to do so, and he began at a June 7, 1962, news conference. These were televised live and offered regularly. A Gallup poll showed in April 1962 “that nearly three out of every four adults in the country” had seen one. Ninety-one percent approved of his performance at them; 4 percent did not.117 At this one, his opening statement addressed the economy. JFK defended his record, said he wanted the nation to grow yet more, and offered a tax cut as the means. The May stock market crash, he explained, was due to lower inflation. Once it fell, the market was bound to drop. But he noted his administration had “not been fully satisfied” by growth. Recovery had been good, he said, and several assertions supported that assertion, but “we should take every appropriate step to make certain that recovery is longer and stronger than before and is not cut short by a new recession.” He condemned a tax code that “exerts too heavy a drain on a prospering economy,” especially when compared to “Common Market nations. If the United States was now working at full employment and full capacity, this would produce a budget surplus at present taxation rates of about $8 billion.” As he twice emphasized, this was a “heavy” tax

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code. The time had come to lighten the load: He proposed a “comprehensive tax reform bill” which would make “effective as of January 1 of next year an across-the-board reduction in personal and corporate tax rates which will not be wholly offset by other reforms—in other words, a net tax reduction.”118 Although the specifics would come later, Kennedy had set the legislative agenda. In doing so, another strategy came to the fore: analogy. An analogy compares objects, ideas, persons, situations, or almost anything imaginable. They generally predict or evaluate two related needs. We compare two baseball teams to evaluate which one is better, to predict which will win. The more literal the analogy, the more relevant the similarities between the two items, the more logical force an analogy carries. The more figurative, the fewer the similarities, the less logical force obtains, although a powerful emotional effect often occurs. Kennedy used three analogies here that carried throughout this campaign. The first was between the Common Market nations and the United States. Six Western European nations came together to form the European Economic Community (EEC) or the Common Market in 1957 and it took effect in 1958. The EEC was a rival and ally. JFK compared its growth to that of the United States. He found it troubling that nations so similar to the United States should so surpass it.119 The second was hypothetical; consistent with the New Economics, he compared the apparent budget to the real one, an analogy also serving as dissociation. Finally, he used figurative analogies dealing with weight or water; the system was a “drain,” a “heavy” burden. Chaim Perelman and Lucie Olbrechts-Tyteca emphasize the distinction between the two elements of an analogy, what they term the theme (the lesser known term) and the phoros (the better known term). For them, it is the transfer of value from the better to the lesser known that creates persuasive power. If people believe that European economic growth results from a lighter tax structure, then they will transfer good feelings about lower taxes to the American debate. The two argue that this transfer will inevitably make the two items more alike. James Measell notes the “implication here is that the terms are seen to be subsumed under the same general law.”120 If European nations can goose growth with active government, then all should be able to do so. The rule comes

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to define reality. Analogy is one of several associative devices (example, model, and metaphor) that create a “structure of reality.” The familiar phoros iterates a known reality; the theme reiterates it. Through extension to parallel cases, analogy reconfigures the real, the probable, and the possible. Dissociation and analogy partly crafted Kennedy’s ethos and made him more credible. Dissociation suggests a sort of vertical intelligence. He could look beneath the surface gloss and see the real issues. Analogy suggests a sort of horizontal intelligence. He could look across the world, judging this nation’s performance against that of others. These strategies, then, constituted a comprehensive scientific habit of mind. He showed that he could engage in “constant and well-equipped observation” of the world and assess the results of economic policies. But his analysis was not beyond an audience’s capacity. He did not dig into scholarly studies, explain the output gap, rely on specialized jargon, or even cite a specific economist. This was accessible discourse. The president’s ethos was of his culture. As it should be. Scholars generally translate ethos as the moral character or credibility of the speaker. It is one of three persuasive appeals that Aristotle identifies as crucial to rhetorical performance. They matter because they flow from fundamental human capacities: People think (logos); they feel (pathos); they socialize (ethos). He observes of ethos: “[There is persuasion] through character when the speech is spoken in such a way as to make the speaker worthy of credence; for we believe fairminded people to a greater extent and more quickly [than we do others] on all subjects in general and completely so in cases where there is not exact knowledge but room for doubt.”121 Since rhetoric aims at producing belief on issues in doubt, ethos has an important role in persuasion. Craig Smith picks up its duality, noting Aristotle claims “it is not enough for a speaker to be good, a speaker must understand virtue; the virtue of the culture is one of the fonts (dwelling places) of ethos.”122 Ethos flows from a culture’s views of the intelligent, good, and worthy; audiences judge a speaker’s character with their own cultural norms. In fact, ethos is used in reference to both a person and community. After all, Merton drew on anthropology when he coined the term “ethos of science.”123 That might explain why Aristotle insists that ethos “should

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result from the speech, not from a previous opinion that the speaker is a certain kind of person.”124 This injunction seems counterintuitive; we know speakers before they talk. Should we not consider a liar’s history? Aristotle, Thomas Farrell writes, understands that. But Aristotle thinks that character “is not something that is constant or prior to rhetorical success. Rather, character in public must constantly be re-formed and performed through the rhetorical choices we make in engaging responsible others.”125 Advocate and audience transform each other through the mutual cultivation of judgment as they consider the urgent, unsettled matters that are the province of rhetoric. They come to the speech in character, but that is crafted anew through discourse. People live in history, as the pragmatists note, and character reemerges through that story. In a larger sense, “the ethos of rhetoric” refers “to the way discourse is used to transform space and time into ‘dwelling places’ (ethos; pl. ethea) where people can deliberate about and ‘know together’ (con-scientia) some matter of interest.”126 Knowing together is a fine description of John Kennedy’s purpose at Yale. To do so, he would have to transform figuratively his time and space. Americans lived in a place where the old economic rules applied, where nations and households had to balance their budgets, where tax cuts signaled lost virtue, where liberals wasted money, and where idealistic presidents knew less about economic affairs than tough businessmen. Appropriately, the speech deployed a series of strategies aimed at reversing and transforming these accepted cultural norms, from dissociation and definition to irony and modeling, from kairos and structure to example and analogy. All sought to unveil a new reality hidden by the old rules and authorize the ethos of an orator who saw the world more clearly than others. He embodied a scientific habit of mind. Kennedy started with irony. Introductions often require identification because the speaker must establish common ground with people before they will consider arguments. He used irony to accomplish that. Irony is the dialectical trope.127 It works through indirect reference and enlists the audience in a conspiracy; everyone knows that the speaker says one thing but means another. He opened: “Let me begin by expressing my appreciation for the very deep honor that you have conferred upon me. As General de Gaulle occasionally acknowledges America to

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be the daughter of Europe, so I am pleased to come to Yale, the daughter of Harvard. It might be said now that I have the best of both worlds, a Harvard education and a Yale degree.” The analogies between Old World and New, Harvard and Yale, and de Gaulle and JFK compressed identification and division into a few short lines. The common ground between the terms encapsulated powerful tensions humorously expressed. Thus, he implied that disagreements need not be disagreeable. Rivals were allies and yet adversaries. The same might be true of Kennedy and his audience. After all, even as he spoke at New Haven, Connecticut, he slyly preferred the reality of a Harvard education and only the appearance of a Yale degree. The irony continued as he teased his audience. He was “particularly glad to become a Yale man because as I think about my troubles, I find that a lot of them have come from other Yale men.” He started with “Roger Blough, of the law school class of 1931,” with whom “I have had a minor disagreement” to Henry Ford to John Hay Whitney to William F. Buckley to Henry Luce—all of whom caused “troubles,” but they were ironically reduced by understatement. There were “some complaints,” and “I also sometimes displease.” He had even had “some trouble with my Yale advisers. I get along with them, but I am not always sure how well they get along with each other.” He concluded by noting that “this administration which aims at peaceful cooperation among all Americans has been the victim of a certain natural pugnacity developed in this city among Yale men. Now that I, too, am a Yale man, it is time for peace.” The irony achieved its effect through performance of the appropriate ethos. All joined in, and so shared a world even as they disputed particulars. Reuben Brower claims irony gains force only through a shared background of “positive allegiances.”128 To get Jonathan Swift, one must know that people should not eat children. To get JFK, one must accept his attitude toward debate. In his view, rhetoric required humor, joy, and respect, although Blough and Buckley were objects of fun more than colleagues. Kennedy anachronistically embodied Richard Rorty’s liberal ironist, and, one suspects, served as a conscious or unconscious model for him.129 Irony nicely intertwined with the habits of mind sketched by Dewey and Merton; advocates assess, disagree, laugh, and learn. JFK asked the audience to argue as he was arguing and to approach public problems in a posture

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of “peaceful cooperation.” He became a model. The debate platform and seminar room would merge in his “embodiable topos.” Modeling, Perelman and Olbrechts-Tyteca argue, is another of the associative strategies that crafts a sense of reality. “Particular behavior may serve,” they note, “not only to establish or illustrate a general rule, but also to incite to an action inspired by it.”130 Modeling’s persuasive force rests in its capacity to induce imitation. It does so partly through the power of preeminence: “One does not imitate just anybody; the person chosen as model must enjoy some measure of prestige.”131 Such implies only prior ethos, but, Aristotle would whisper, even the best models fare poorly in bad speeches. As president, JFK’s performance carried the institution’s prestige, its capacity to model cultural norms. More important, perhaps, if he performed his habit of mind in an attractive and powerful way, others might pick it up, as surely as men stopped wearing hats after his inaugural address. He might “incite to an action.” That would be more likely if he also plotted his train of argument into the history of the office and nation. So, he wondered aloud “what earlier links [had] existed between the institution of the Presidency and Yale.” The light tone continued, as the president revealed that “William Howard Taft served one term in the White House as preparation for becoming a member of this faculty.” And “John C. Calhoun regarded the Vice Presidency, quite naturally, as too lowly a status for a Yale alumnus—and became the only man in history to ever resign that office.” The resignation, perhaps, signaled a tone change, but it still felt abrupt when JFK announced, “Calhoun in 1804 and Taft in 1878 graduated into a world very different from ours.” The tonal break imitated the temporal break he proposed. Kennedy turned, as he had in the Inaugural, to kairos, seeking to define the times in which the audience lived. But here, he ordered time, attaching a high regard to his definition and lowering that of others. If his argument fit the times, and others did not, then his was preferable. His text sought to persuade people of the timeliness of his perspective. The difference between now and then flowed from the nature of the issues Calhoun and Taft addressed. They and “their contemporaries spent entire careers stretching over 40 years in grappling with a few dramatic issues on which the Nation was sharply and emotionally divided,

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issues that occupied the attention of a generation at a time.” But, Kennedy argued, “the central domestic [note the qualification] issues of our time are more subtle and less simple. They relate not to basic clashes of philosophy or ideology but to ways and means of reaching common goals—to research for sophisticated solutions to complex and obstinate issues.” The examples were revealing. Taft and Calhoun represented earlier generations of graduates, struggling for years to resolve a single issue. One inevitably pictures Calhoun on slavery, scribbling by the light of a flickering lamp. By contrast, the nation must now “face technical problems without ideological preconceptions.” In an undoubtedly unintentional but revealing way, Kennedy echoed the cultural narrative of science. No longer did or could people trust the work of the lone genius in the study or even the popular amateur. Rather, the world had changed. The United States faced complex and obstinate issues requiring sophisticated solutions. Those on the public platform, particularly the president, must display their awareness, the habits of mind and inquiry that would allow them to encompass this new reality. In addition, the fundamentals were not in question. Americans now knew what they wanted—it was a question “of ways and means of reaching common goals.” Those involved sensible, empirical solutions. Past issues concerned the ideological clashes of armies by night; present issues concerned the research of enlightened scholars by day. His thesis reflected these truths: “As every past generation has had to disenthrall itself from an inheritance of truisms and stereotypes, so in our own time we must move on from the reassuring repetition of stale phrases to a new, difficult, but essential confrontation with reality.” Ironically, the inheritance remained. Lippmann had invented the term “stereotype,” but, more important, JFK alluded again to Lincoln’s 1862 Annual Message, although people were more likely to remember this reference from composer Aaron Copland’s “Lincoln Portrait.” Lincoln said: “As our case is new, so we must think anew and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country.” Like Lincoln, JFK believed that the nation must disenthrall itself with new words. Too often, “myth—persistent, persuasive, unrealistic” seduced people. He amplified myth as a “prefabricated set of interpretations,” an “illusion,” and a “platitude.” That language must yield to “the true realities of American society.”

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Myth and reality structured the speech and this contrast had force. Appearance often contrasts with reality; Perelman and Olbrechts-Tyteca note that this is the “prototype” for all dissociations.132 Reality possesses a stronger charge than appearance in Western philosophy. JFK took advantage of that as he considered the best available economic languages. His dissociation exploited reality’s power, but accentuated it with the implication of a mythic past, a willingness to use “Beowulf” to guide policy. Such was ridiculous, and yet that was what many did with “our national economy.” To echo Robert Hariman, Kennedy restructured “the received unity of all [economic] discourse into separate realms of appearance and reality.”133 He lifted the status of his discourse and marginalized competing efforts. They reflected “myths,” not “the discomfort of thought.” He sought a “confrontation with reality.” This stance, the president carefully noted, aligned well with the university’s mission: “I speak of these matters here at Yale because of the self-evident truth that a great university is always enlisted against the spread of illusion and on the side of reality.” That truth justified his choice to speak on deliberative matters at commencement, and he also quoted “your President Griswold” in support of that decision. The “national interest” required, he said, “not partisan wrangling but common concentration on common problems. I come here to this distinguished university to ask you to join in this great task.” The latter recalled his widely known inaugural address and enlisted the audience, the “new class,” as it were, of professionals, managers, white-collar workers, and educated people, in his effort.134 Throughout the speech, his language reinforced the detached habit of mind he preferred. Issues were now “more subtle and less simple” than in the past. He wanted to “talk . . . carefully and dispassionately.” Americans needed to “find ways of clarifying this area of discourse”; they should adopt “a more sophisticated view.” “Well-informed and disinterested” people disagreed, but that was no cause for passion. These were “matters . . . which government and business should be discussing in the most sober, dispassionate, and careful way if we are to maintain the kind of vigorous economy upon which our country depends.” Through such descriptions, the scientific community and the liberal polity became one in his text.

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Good thought required a considered agenda, so the president offered a preview. To forecast a speech’s parts is typical for students, but rare for politicians. Clarity makes a speech transparent; people “see” its structure, its skeleton, and that aids judgment. Sharon Crowley and Debra Hawhee argue also that kairos has temporal and spatial dimensions, which “suggests the possibility of achieving an advantage with optimal placement of arguments, propitious timing, or a combination of the two.”135 JFK’s points moved from general to specific: First, he examined “the size and the shape of government’s responsibilities; second, the question of public fiscal policy; and, third, the matter of confidence, business confidence or public confidence, or simply confidence in America.” He planned to argue the last depended on the first two, and the second on the first. A complex, sophisticated structure reflected a complex, sophisticated economy. It is here that the relationship between Kennedy’s ethos and dissociation became most apparent. He displayed his civic sight, an ability to see reality better than rivals or the audience, although it presumably would learn from him. His discernment flowed from “finding ways to separate false problems from real ones.” The introduction made myth and reality his theme. The preview listed three points. Each contained dissociations and divisions. In the first, he asserted: “the myth here is that government is big, and bad—and steadily getting bigger and worse.” He refuted that claim with three arguments. He initially acknowledged “this myth has some excuse for existence.” He was, as Aristotle would hope, “fair-minded.” FDR outspent Hoover, Truman (with allowance for the war) outspent FDR, Ike outspent Truman, and it “is even possible, some think, that this trend may continue.” But this was not the real concern. Instead, people should ask whether “big government is growing relatively bigger?” Americans felt dissonance; they believed in small government, yet they beheld a monster. JFK resolved that with an absolute/ relative pair: The “fact is for the last 15 years, the Federal Government— and also the Federal debt—and also the Federal bureaucracy—have grown less rapidly than the economy as a whole.” Absolute difference mattered less than relative, and relatively, government had “expanded less than any other major sector of our national life—less than industry, less than commerce, less than agriculture, less than higher education, and very much less than the noise about big government.” The quip

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verged on sarcasm, which modeled the disdain with which one should hear that noise. The succeeding example both supported and amplified his claim. It also took dead aim at Kennedy’s predecessor. Examples and illustrations work through generalization; orators use an instance to establish a rule and/or to reinforce an existing one.136 The president had shown that big government was not truly all that big; he now sought to prove that it was not all that bad. Size meant complexity, he acknowledged, but it brought benefits. Yale had contributed well “to our national progress in science and medicine,” so “it may be proper for me to mention one great and little noticed expansion of government which has brought strength to our whole society—the new role of our Federal Government as the major patron of research in science and medicine.” Little mentioned, that is, except by that former president. JFK dismissed the threat posed by a scientific elite and the military industrial complex. He asserted, “I need hardly point out that this has taken place without undue enlargement of Government control—that American scientists remain second to none in their independence and in their individualism.” He supported his claim with the self-evident truth of the scientists seated before him. They were hardly likely to say they were dupes of big government. JFK’s earlier tales of the “natural pugnacity of Yale men” also cast doubt on the idea that American scientists would bow and scrape. He offered no proof apart from every predisposition of his audience. That was likely enough. He acknowledged federal money brought “some measure of control,” but it would vary. Each case, “science, urban renewal, education, agriculture, natural resources, each case must be determined on its merits.” Inquiring minds brought a detached eye to particular cases; others spoke of complexes. This standard carried into fiscal policy as a whole. There, “the myths are legion and the truth hard to find,” but similar arguments would shine a light. He attacked three myths about the fiscal state of the United States. First, he denied that the conventional or administrative budget could best measure the country’s fiscal health. The world had grown too complicated for a simple measure. Second, the “myth persists that federal deficits create inflation and budget surpluses prevent it.” Buried a bit, this claim’s persuasiveness was important; he wanted deficits to create growth, and

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if people felt they would lead only to inflation, his proposal was doomed. Historical analogy supported his position; he argued surpluses after the war had not prevented inflation and recent deficits had not lifted prices. Again, analogies tend to generate rules governing subsequent decisions; historical analogies nicely do so. Aristotelian theory suggests the future will resemble the past. If a past claim failed, orators predict a similar one will do so now.137 The history was convincing. “Obviously,” he said, “deficits are sometimes dangerous—and so are surpluses. But honest assessment plainly requires a more sophisticated view than the old and automatic cliché that deficits automatically bring inflation.” Repetition of “automatic” put a thoughtless sheen on rival claims, as did “cliche.” On other occasions, Kennedy offered this argument in the language of Keynesian economics. On December 14, 1962, for instance, in front of a business audience, he said, “If the economy today were operating close to capacity levels with little unemployment, or if a sudden change in our military requirements should cause a scramble for men and resources, then I would oppose tax reductions as irresponsible and dangerous. . . . But our resources and manpower are not being fully utilized.”138 An output gap made room for growth. Finally, many “supposed that [federal] debt is growing at a dangerously rapid rate.” They were wrong. He proved that by again using the absolute/relative dissociation. The nation’s “debt per person and the debt as a proportion of our gross national product have declined sharply since the Second World War.” Plus, national debt had grown only about 8 percent since the war, while household debt had increased “305 percent.” State and local governments had spent even more, with debts increasing by “378 percent.” Remarkably for a politician, JFK concluded that “debts, public and private, are neither good nor bad, in and of themselves. Borrowing can lead to over-extension and collapse—but it can also lead to expansion and strength.” People should judge each case on its merits. There were no automatic truths. If citizens thought in this fashion, then they would have confidence in the nation’s future. Here, he needed to confront the charge that his actions in the April steel crisis had undermined business confidence and caused the stock-market tumble. In contrast to the previous sections, he turned to “the truth of the matter first.” Describing the economic accord

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sustaining the liberal matrix, he noted the “prosperity of this country depends on the assurance that all major elements within it will live up to their responsibilities.” This phrase echoed the attack he had made on big steel in that press conference. Business, labor, and government needed to monitor the economy, and the president had a “statutory” duty to do so. He had adhered to that duty because he knew that if any of the Big Three failed, stagnation would result: “This is the true issue of confidence.” But some falsely said “any and all unfavorable turns of the speculative wheel—however temporary and however plainly speculative in character—are the result of, and I quote, ‘a lack of confidence in the national administration.’” This was a confident president. Throughout the text, he had performed his ability to address the economy and see its movement clearly. In this section, he turned Wall Street into a Las Vegas roulette wheel and contrasted that to the administration’s “steady quest for economic progress.” He split the “speculative wheel” from real corporate plans, which “are not based on a political confidence in party leaders, but on an economic confidence in a Nation’s ability to invest and produce and consume.” Historical analogy once again supported him, as he caustically observed business “had full confidence in the administrations in power in 1929, 1954, 1958, and 1960—but this was not enough to prevent recession when business lacked full confidence in the economy.” His list associated Ike with Hoover; his dissociation of political and business confidence defined the best kind of confidence. Even as JFK disdained politics, he made a political point. Neither business leaders nor Republicans understood the conditions that led to economic prosperity. This was hardly appeasement of big business or conservatives. Their inadequacy resulted from the “stereotypes I have been discussing.” The following internal summary reiterated his thesis as clearly as was possible. The language he had attacked did the nation a disservice; it was “exhausted,” “irrelevant,” and “misleading.” It stood in the way of “sensible and clearheaded management of the domestic affairs of the United States,” a critical concern because “today the safety of all the world—the very future of freedom” depended on the ability of this nation to think clearly. He argued the United States could not succeed “if we are bound by traditional labels and worn-out slogans of an earlier era.” He regretted the “fact” that “our rhetoric has not kept pace with the speed of social and

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economic change. Our political debates, our public discourse—on current domestic and economic issues—too often bear little or no relation to the actual problems the United States faces.” He repeated the dissociation of time; American rhetoric no longer addressed real issues. Thus, the nation needed a “basic discussion of the sophisticated and technical questions involved in keeping a great economic machinery moving ahead.” “The national interest,” he continued, “lies in high employment and steady expansion of output, in stable prices, and a strong dollar.” To state goals was easy, but to reach them required “hard thought.” His commitment to that led to two questions that organized the peroration. That is the penultimate argument of the text. It leads to the conclusion and amplifies the key issue. The first question addressed the “budget and tax policies” that might best spur economic growth. The second concerned the best mix between fiscal and monetary policy. If the first two-thirds of the speech dispensed with false arguments, these were the real problems demanding solutions. But JFK showed that even when advocates understood the right questions, they sometimes failed to recognize the “complexity of these matters and how political labels and ideological approaches are irrelevant to the solution.” The repetition matters. This gifted politician attacked the use of political terms to debate economics and he did so on practical grounds. Four examples supported his claim. In each, conservatives took seemingly liberal views, liberals conservative ones, experts made bad predictions and politicians made good ones. The cases matter less than his point: When liberals, conservatives, experts, or financiers let “political labels or clichés” guide their thinking, they failed. To succeed, JFK argued, one must begin with the facts. Neither the size of government nor the shape of fiscal policy nor the need for public confidence followed from predetermined, rigid rules. Outmoded rhetoric would not do. The “problems of fiscal and monetary policies in the sixties as opposed to the kinds of problems we faced in the thirties demand subtle challenges for which technical answers, not political answers, must be provided.” Form imitated content in this crucial claim. The passive voice slowed the sentence and the dependent clauses shaped a complex sentence structure that forced the audience to wait for the point. Later in the conclusion, he repeated the historical analogy: “Some conversations I have heard in our own country sound like old records, long-playing,

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left over from the middle thirties. The debate of the thirties had its great significance and produced great results, but it took place in a different world with different needs and different tasks.” Indeed, “as the example of Western Europe shows,” modern problems “are capable of solution,” an analogy he also used twice in the conclusion. While the United States stayed stuck in the past, the Europeans had held a “serious dialog” that led to “growth and prosperity.” Change could happen. And Americans need not turn overseas to find the solution. “Nearly 150 years ago,” JFK pointedly observed, “Thomas Jefferson wrote, ‘The new circumstances under which we are placed call for new words, new phrases, and for the transfer of old words to new objects.’” Both Jefferson and Lincoln authorized the linguistic project of this president. “Discussion is essential,” he argued, and it needed the timely new language offered by scientific inquiry. Only in that way could the nation “generate a vision and an energy which will demonstrate anew to the world the superior vitality and the strength of a free society.” An appeal to the rhetorical force of the Inaugural and the political force of the Cold War closed the speech. In an ironic twist, only a pragmatic cast of mind could win an ideological competition.

The Horn of Plenty The Yale address triggered a massive White House effort. President Kennedy worked the country, offering speeches, press conferences, and interviews. Most significant were addresses on August 13, 1962 (nationally televised), December 14, 1962, and September 18, 1963 (nationally televised). Each developed the traditional topoi of policy argument, establishing the need to spur growth, demonstrating the status quo would not do so, and offering his tax cut as the best means to do so.139 Generally, he spoke in the language he had sought to make the nation’s equipment for living. Although opinion polls are fallible, they give insight. At the beginning of this campaign, one poll showed 42 percent of Americans in support of a tax cut while 43 percent thought it a bad idea. Another showed 72 percent opposed. By the end, 65 percent approved of the tax cut and only 17 percent opposed the policy.140 The House passed the legislation

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before JFK’s death, and President Johnson secured full passage early in 1964. There is little doubt that Kennedy would have done so as well. The results of his economic policies were spectacular. Yarrow writes, “Between 1961 and 1966 [when Great Society and war spending took effect], real GNP grew by more than 5 percent per year, unemployment fell below 4 percent, job growth averaged 2.5 percent per year, inflation stayed below 2 percent, and the U.S. poverty rate fell from 22.4 percent to 14.7 percent—a level from which it would barely change in the succeeding forty-five years.”141 The latter had much to do with Medicare, which led to a big decrease in poverty among the elderly. Kennedy also clearly benefited from Eisenhower’s investments in infrastructure. Yet the “horn of plenty” created by high growth made infrastructure spending, Medicare, Medicaid, the space program, and a larger military possible. When people long for the “good ol’ days” of the economy, that does not mean the 1950s. It means the Kennedy/Johnson administration. The Keynesian orientation of the administration generally guided this explosive growth, which undoubtedly resulted also from other factors. Yet JFK deserves credit for his willingness to learn what must have seemed like a foreign language and his ability to find ways to use those words to deliberate with his fellow citizens. The president apparently possessed a faith, as Dewey wrote, “in the power of intelligence to imagine a future which is a projection of the desirable in the present.” He invented “the instrumentalities of its realization” and made them “articulate.” In short, JFK crafted out of the materials of his rhetorical culture a language for the liberal accord. That this vocabulary should assert itself fully on the economy makes sense. Liberals have always believed it’s money that matters. JFK was no exception. Drawing from traditional liberal concerns and the popular iteration of pragmatism, the president embodied a scientific habit of mind. That abstraction took concrete form in the modernist rhetoric he deployed at Yale; through dissociation, analogy, irony, example, model, refutation and more, he crisply defined the world. He observed and measured, assessed and divided. The history of science demonstrates that this is a productive way to deal with an uncertain, recalcitrant reality. Yet it also creates that reality. To a great extent, such analytical strategies make a familiar world unfamiliar. His text reversed, turned, and

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laughed at the status quo. In doing so, it upended illusions and clichés that had comforted Americans. To use another of Kenneth Burke’s concepts, JFK dismissed the system’s “piety,” its sense of what goes with what.142 By exploding the myths pervading economic discourse, he denied pieties that had guided many and he cast people adrift in an uncertain sea. Deficits could be bad or good, as might government. It all depended, which meant people had to rely on their own intellect. Absent laws and pieties, there is only you. I exaggerate somewhat, of course, as Keynes and his successors offered rules of thumb, at any rate, that could guide economic thinking. But to a great extent, JFK’s manner of addressing economic issues demonstrated nicely the anxiety that marks modernity. The economic verities that previously made one feel “at home” were now myths. There was no default response, no rest. Americans could not rely on big government bad and balanced budget good. But when analytical strategies such as dissociation threaten to fragment the world, ethos becomes more important. In the absence of rules, there might be a guide. To live with pervasive uncertainty seems to require trust in one’s fellow travelers. Both in his performance and as an incarnation of the institution, the president provided that trust. He modeled the way of thinking he sought from the audience. While challenging, it was possible. Like James and Dewey, he argued discussion was essential and that this democratic habit of mind could characterize public debate. He asked no more of people than he demanded of himself, and, conversely, he asserted no more authority over them than he could earn through argument. He did not say that economic matters were too complex for individuals, as is often asserted. Rather, he argued that complexity required more of the people, a claim consistent with the inaugural’s demand for participation. Everyone needed to live up to their responsibilities, he repeatedly said, and those included development of the habits of mind enabling reasoned argument. The Yale address enlarged the deliberative capacity of a careful listener. This was not a liberalism dependent on technical expertise. At the same time, he asserted his authority and insight. He was the president. He argued that he saw this new world more clearly and understood needed policies more fully than did his opponents. The potential arrogance of that posture was relieved by the ethos he developed,

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an ironic stance emphasizing his humor, open mind, and fair judgment. In addition, JFK’s good reasons emerged out of the interaction of established discourses—the pragmatist habit of mind, the belief in science as an expression of democracy, the “end of ideology” movement, the liberal matrix, and the authority of scholars such as Bell and Galbraith—made prominent at this time by multiple forces. This rhetoric offered compelling explanations for the nation’s economic growth in the postwar era, interpretations that not only made sense, but also rooted their authority in yet older traditions. The striking resemblance between the market model as articulated by Galbraith and Schlesinger and Madison’s political model in Federalist #10 cannot be overlooked. Yet a language cannot emerge as authoritative unless its capacity, its dynamis, is brought into existence through a speaker’s concrete and considered engagement with an audience. President Kennedy’s speech shaped him, in Michael Halloran’s terms, as “a kind of living embodiment of the cultural heritage.”143 Such an ethos offers a good guide in politically uncertain times. Politics, in turn, was the arena in which JFK operated, and that is one answer to his critics. In a way, Miroff is right: Kennedy diminished rivals and amplified himself. Much like Abraham Lincoln at Cooper Union, Kennedy wanted to build a powerful coalition in support of his policies, and he did so with tactics designed to grant status to his terms and incoherence to other words.144 That is what presidents do. Those who critique the president for seeking power miss the point. At this moment, President Kennedy’s rhetorical preferences, the cultural discourses from which he drew, and the problems he faced convinced him these sorts of arguments would work. One can hardly blame a president for being a political pragmatist. At the same time, his rhetoric carried more than a whiff of elitism. It was not a technical rhetoric that excluded the people; it was often a snide rhetoric that dismissed opponents. Franklin Roosevelt cast his foes as moneychangers and welcomed their hatred. He was good; they were evil. Such passions were anathema to Kennedy, in part because the political and intellectual culture of his time deeply distrusted passion. This president cast his opponents not as evil, but as stupid. Nowhere was that clearer than in the conservative reaction to this address. While outlets such as the New York Times and the Washington Post cautiously

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praised the Yale speech, the National Review wrote: “What is most disheartening about Mr. Kennedy’s speech at Yale is the renewed evidence it gave of his inability to admit that it is possible for him to err.” Decrying his terms, Henry Hazlitt wrote, “By myths and worn-out slogans he meant the opinions and slogans of those who disagreed with him.” The Los Angeles Times liked his “literary art,” but claimed, “experience and what we have learned by studying the past, is not wholly mythological.” The Wall Street Journal titled its response “Too Sophisticated By Far.”145 Given that JFK was quite right on these issues, it is easy to snark about the National Review’s inability to admit error and I have now done so. Yet the charge warrants consideration. The irony did not engage Buckley in a serious dialogue on important issues. It assumed instead a set of “positive allegiances” dismissing Buckley from the ranks of “real” authorities. The difference between evil and stupid matters, yet it does not feel good to be called either one. In general, Kennedy’s is a cold and austere approach to economics. His humor leavens the mix, but nowhere in this persuasive campaign does he rally Americans to his cause through what opponents would undoubtedly have called “class war.” He seldom repeats the fury of the attack on big steel. As a result, few ever accused John Kennedy of being a traitor to his class. His policies made him one in many ways, but people rarely thought of him as such. JFK asked people to think carefully and clearly. There is not a lot of emotional satisfaction in that. Such a rhetoric is unlikely to inspire people to go to war for a cause. It might, however, stop them from doing so.

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•••

O

n October 13, 1962, U-2 pilot Major Richard S. Heyser got the green light for an overflight of Cuba. It had become increasingly clear over the previous few months that the Soviet Union had begun a military buildup there, but bad weather had thus far prevented use of the best American intelligence platform. Given the flight’s length and the time it took to develop and interpret photographs, the nation’s leaders could expect to know something late on October 15. President Kennedy’s national security advisor, McGeorge Bundy, got the word on schedule. The pictures showed two 70-foot-long medium-range ballistic missiles.1 That was but a bit of a large deployment. The Soviet Union sought to place “some forty-eight medium range and thirty-two intermediate range missiles—along with forty-eight ILB-28 bombers capable of carrying atomic bombs” on the island.2 They also sent Luna tactical nuclear weapons (to defend against invasion) and FKR nuclear-tipped cruise missiles, as well as about 42,000 troops.3 The president eventually 117

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knew about the medium- and intermediate-range nuclear missiles and the still-crated bombers. He also learned about the Soviet personnel, although intelligence badly underestimated the numbers. But on the evening of October 15, he knew nothing. Bundy let him sleep, sure it would be the last good night’s rest he would receive for a while. The Soviet Union had never sent nuclear weapons abroad and had sworn it would never do so. Why Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev would change course and take such a risk remains cloudy.4 Scholars, participants, and others have advanced several motives. For one, Khrushchev sought to protect Fidel Castro’s regime. Castro took power in 1958 and kept his political sympathies a mystery. But close associates, including his brother Raul, were Communists, and Cuba moved left during the rest of President Eisenhower’s term. In fact, it moved so quickly that he ordered up a plan to overthrow Castro, in the same way his CIA had taken action against leftist leaders in Iran and Guatemala and plotted against governments in the Congo and Dominican Republic. Kennedy chose to continue the operation to use Cuban exiles as an invasion force to overthrow Castro, but altered the plan in a futile attempt to cover American involvement. To achieve both goals was impossible. The effort caused the Bay of Pigs invasion to collapse under the weight of its own contradictions, as the exile brigade alone could not win and the president refused to order up overt American support. To be fair, no good choices faced JFK. Cancelation would have made him look weak, even as it underscored his idealistic call for national self-determination. A full invasion would have made him look strong, even as it clouded his call for peaceful relations with other countries. By acting as he did, he got the worst of both worlds. He impressed Castro and Khrushchev with his desire to topple the Cuban regime and his weakness when confronted with force. A continuing campaign of incompetent sabotage and covert action reinforced those judgments. In the face of this threat, Khrushchev felt a strong, even irrational, affection for Cuba. As a Soviet general said, the relationship was “an old Bolshevik’s romantic response to Castro and to the Cuban revolution.”5 Nuclear missiles seemed the perfect solution. Like Eisenhower’s promise of them to the British, Italians, and Turks in the late 1950s, the Soviet deployment would secure Castro’s regime. The weak JFK would not dispute their presence.6

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They would also address another problem. John Lewis Gaddis argues the Cuban missile crisis occurred “because Khrushchev understood more clearly than Kennedy that the West was winning the Cold War.” Japan and Western European countries, the industrial nations in play at war’s end, were liberal democracies. The Sino/Soviet split had undermined revolutionary unity. The USSR had failed to meet its people’s economic needs.7 Nor had it created a strong nuclear force. Since winning power, Khrushchev had built a Potemkin village. During the late 1950s, he boasted about Soviet nuclear prowess and events seemingly supported him. In the summer of 1957, the Soviets successfully tested the first intercontinental ballistic missile, and in October they launched the first satellite, Sputnik I. Americans could no longer take their technological superiority for granted and came to fear a nuclear “Pearl Harbor.” Unlike others, Ike refused to panic, but a scant five days later, his own defense review commission criticized the nation’s military preparedness and other such reports followed.8 JFK picked up the theme, hammering constantly at the “missile gap” between the superpowers. He was wrong. The gap favored the Americans. The Soviet obsession with size led to big, inaccurate missiles that were difficult to deploy. By the crisis, they had between ten and twenty-five intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) and no submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs). The United States had 172 operational ICBMs and 144 SLBMs. The more accurate mediumrange Cuban missiles would narrow that chasm.9 They would double, perhaps triple, the number of nuclear warheads that could hit the United States.10 For that reason and for political and symbolic reasons, the missiles could not stay. The president’s first reaction was personal—“He can’t do that to me!”—and he returned periodically to feelings of betrayal throughout the crisis.11 But he never wavered from his second reaction: The missiles had to go. There was then and has been since a debate about their importance. Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara thought they made little difference. A missile was a missile was a missile, regardless of its base. Even fifteen ICBMs would cause unacceptable damage to the United States, so Cuba did not mean much. The Joint Chiefs of Staff and the CIA disagreed, arguing the increase in deliverable warheads posed a nuclear threat and allowed a secure Castro to go on the offensive

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throughout Latin America. Kennedy also worried the missiles were leverage, designed to allow Communist moves elsewhere in the world.12 But no one doubted the political significance. The Soviets had secretly deployed nuclear weapons to a third party. That could set a destabilizing precedent for future collisions between the superpowers. Gaddis argues that the USSR had also revealed a poor grasp of democracy and democratic alliances, backing Kennedy into a corner. He could not let the missiles stay, lest he lose the next election. A new president would be bound by his promise to remove the missiles by any means necessary. That would mean war. Plus, allies might find the United States unreliable and cut the best deal they could with the Soviet Union. To be clear, this was not about ordinary electoral politics. JFK wanted reelection, but all democratic leaders face such constraints. They explain why even Neville Chamberlain reacted angrily to German breach of the Munich accords. A democratic leader cannot afford to look the fool. He had proclaimed peace, so the invasion of Czechoslovakia doomed his career and made war inevitable by discrediting talks with a clearly deceitful foe. Dictators can ignore public feeling and conclude, for example, a Nazi–Soviet NonAggression pact. Democratic leaders cannot. JFK warned the USSR not to send missiles to Cuba, including statements on September 4 and September 13, 1962. He said, “I have indicated that if Cuba should possess a capacity to carry out offensive actions against the United States, that the United States would act.” Despite the warnings, despite promises they would not to do so, the Soviets deployed the missiles. He had to get them out. In a nuclear era, no one wanted to make war inevitable.13 How to get them out? Initially, JFK and his advisors believed they could bomb the sites and destroy the missiles. As those seemingly proliferated like measles, it became apparent this would be a daunting mission. The military naturally wished to ensure as much as possible pilot safety, so the air strikes would have to include anti-aircraft forces, military bases, and so forth. The strike’s size grew with terrifying speed, and, even so, appeared unlikely to get every missile. Since that had to be the standard, an eventual invasion looked inevitable. If that was true, the reasoning went, why not start more diplomatically? Moral qualms about a surprise attack on a small country also encouraged prudence. Kennedy could always escalate later. Thus, he chose to “quarantine” the island, publicize

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the problem, and persuade the Soviets to remove the missiles. Although not often discussed as critical in accounts of the crisis, rhetoric played an integral role in JFK’s plan. Persuasion would commence with his speech on Monday, October 22, 1962. Yet one constant characterizes the oft-varying crisis histories: the artlessness of President Kennedy’s Radio and Television Report to the American People on the Soviet Arms Buildup in Cuba.14 Historians and rhetorical scholars generally see it as a clear window into the chaos of the crisis and the rattled mind of the president. James Giglio reviews the text and concludes it “raised the level of tension appreciably.” Robert Dallek argues: “Kennedy saw his speech to the country and the world explaining the crisis and his choice of a blockade as crucial not only in bringing Americans together, but also in pressuring Khrushchev to accede to his demands.” Crucial it may have been, but Dallek spends only a paragraph summarizing it.15 Others are harsh. Garry Wills writes of JFK on Cuba: “From the time of Why England Slept, John Kennedy had not thought of power as the recruiting of people’s opinion, but as the manipulation of their response by aristocrats who saw what the masses could not see. Relying on his own talent and will, the leader prods them, against their instincts, toward duty and empire.” Theodore Windt writes of this speech and its kind: “In situations the President perceives as critical, the President sees himself as Caesar and therefore uses an aristocratic form of rhetoric to justify his declarations of action. This perception and this use of rhetorical forms are unsuitable to a democratic society.” Michael Beschloss claims the “address was probably the most alarming ever delivered by an American President” and argues “a less apocalyptic speech” would not have served JFK’s electoral purposes, implicitly accusing him of deceit. Steven Goldzwig and George Dionisopoulos also see political motivations, claiming the crisis “was seized upon by Kennedy’s speechwriters as an opportunity to develop a portrait of leadership under trying circumstances.” They reverse Gaddis’s claim, arguing that Kennedy’s past Cold War rhetoric, and not Soviet weapons, had “backed him into a political corner of brinksmanship diplomacy. The president could cling only to the hope that the responsible person on the other side of the globe would blink first.” The critiques persuaded even Theodore Sorensen and Bundy to

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worry in retrospect that they had gone too far and to wonder “whether some of the president’s language had not been overblown, pretentious, and excessively nerve-wracking.”16 These reactions assert the text’s artlessness in two ways. Most critics think little of it. At best, it defined the issue to Kennedy’s advantage by diverting attention from what they perceive as his reckless Cuba policy and by amplifying the nation’s anticommunist ideology. At worst, it twisted the audience into anger, the same as if someone had made a straight-edge ruler crooked before using it, such that subsequent judgments would be perverted.17 Such evaluations led to the second sense in which the speech was thought artless: It was transparent. It reflected the roiling emotions, aristocratic instincts, and nervous exhaustion of Kennedy and his advisors. A critical consensus agrees that this emotional, artless address did little to resolve the crisis and may well have made that more difficult. In contrast, I believe that President Kennedy’s speech is remarkable for its control. He orchestrated the emotions of the audience so as to build support for quarantine of the island, a limited use of American military power for limited purposes. That should matter to contemporary critics because he managed a rhetorical problem that plagues nuclear era presidents: In a nation that firmly believes there is no substitute for total victory, in a time in which total victory would result in mutual annihilation, how does a president justify negotiation? The Munich precedent made that thorny problem thornier still. In popular memory, the appeasement of Hitler led to World War II. The only way to fend off a bully, it seemed, was with a good punch in the nose. In this case, that would mean the end of the world as we knew it. Instead, I argue John Kennedy adopted the norms of forensic or judicial address, modeled the appropriate emotional expression, and cultivated the habit of kairotic consideration. Rather than declaring war against the Soviets, he arraigned them in the court of public opinion. By doing so, he channeled passions that might otherwise have led to war into a courtroom drama of a sort. Missile crisis scholars almost inevitably highlight the problem of passion. For example, Gaddis writes the two leaders had to preserve “control while avoiding emotionalism.”18 The president’s critics also focus on feelings; they claim he inappropriately aroused emotion, prodded peaceful citizens to empire, and took dictatorial power at

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a time crying for democratic deliberation. Close study of the text reveals that these claims are not true. I begin by considering the resources of invention conditioning the speech: the liberal language of war, presidential war rhetoric, and the Cold War. I then consider the role of emotion in public address. Following that, I critique the speech, focusing on the ways President Kennedy made the missile deployment not a cause for war but a question of justice. I conclude by thinking about the wider implications of the address, particularly in terms of the liberal persuasion’s justifications for war. His performance modeled the reasoned way that liberals should approach use of force decisions.

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Liberal Democracy and Savage War Liberals tend to idealize an analytical approach to hard decisions, one relying on public reason and scientific research. That commitment flows partly from the larger project of liberal democracy. Its proponents generally claim that it best accommodates the diverse and changing ambitions of free peoples. The respect required to sustain community in light of individual choice rules in pragmatic solutions to problems and rules out conspicuous displays of public emotion.19 Liberals like to note the empirical success of this orientation. A systematic, scientific approach to the world results in more food, less disease, and happier lives. As we have seen, John Kennedy urged Americans to dispense with emotional myths and turn to sensible cures for economic ills. Reason, liberals claim, creates tolerant communities and good policy. By contrast, they worry about passion’s effects. They believe it too often grants a higher place to filiations and affiliations—kin and kind—in public life than does reason. Individual moral choice yields to what the powerful perceive as the greater good. Tolerance goes by the boards and affective bonds displace reflective choice.20 In particular, passions like religious fundamentalism or militant nationalism threaten personal freedom and public order. Robert Hariman and John Lucaites argue modern, liberal societies seek to privatize emotional expression and urge “public restraint.” In their view, liberalism demands “a governing rationality that subordinates emotional reaction to the deliberate analytical assessment

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of interests and constraints, means and ends, and other objective features of the political environment.”21 They see the “suppression of emotional display” in discourses including public oratory, media commentary, and theoretical reflection. One does not have to go quite so far to grasp the normative impulse at the heart of liberalism. Liberals think that people should be morally and intellectually self-sufficient, that the world is not mythical or mysterious, but yields its secrets to precise investigation, and that an intelligent, reasonable community can most effectively make public policy and apply existing law free from prejudice and passion. This bias results partly from liberalism’s history, a tale twined with war and the threat of war. Those of a literary bent might recall Shakespeare’s incisive portrayal of this issue in Henry V, Act I, Scene II. The gift of tennis balls from the Dauphin of France so enraged the King that he swore, “We will, in France, by God’s grace, play a set shall strike his father’s crown into the hazard . . . I will rise there with so full a glory That I will dazzle all the eyes of France.” Politics mattered, but Henry’s outraged masculinity emerged as a precipitating event of the second round of the Hundred Years War, a conflict that devastated Europe. Liberals believe one man’s quest for glory should not turn a continent into an abattoir. Stephen Holmes writes that the “principal aim of liberals, who wrote favorably of self-interest, was to bridle destructive and self-destructive passions, to reduce the social prestige of mindless male violence, to induce people, so far as possible, to act rationally, instead of hot-bloodedly or deferentially, and to focus on material goals such as economic wealth, instead of spiritual goals such as avenging a perceived slight or compelling neighbors to attend church.”22 Contrary to rational choice theorists, people are often susceptible “to the siren songs of aristocratic glory and religious redemption.” Self-interest is not a fact, but a hope. Early liberals thought that “commercial society and predictable state authority had powerful psychological effects and could conceivably knock some modicum of sense into mankind.”23 As Albert Hirschman notes in his classic study of the subject, this is not repression of emotion; self-interest requires emotion.24 Interest channels fervor so that people love their smartphones and disdain a bloody cause greater than self. And yet, as John Kennedy’s inaugural address exemplifies, a contradiction lurks at the heart of this project. Liberal democracies take

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seriously the charge to treat others as yourself and, like James Stewart in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence, seek to universalize liberal democratic norms to everyone, even if that requires John Wayne to shoot Lee Marvin.25 The universalizing impulse at the heart of Enlightenment liberalism encourages an imperial instinct: If only those others were more like ourselves, how grand the world would be!26 On an instrumental level, the liberal theory of international relations suggests that rational, commercial regimes do not often war on each other; the more of them there are, the more probable world peace. On a normative level, people possess the right to live as they please. Liberals should undermine regimes that deny such rights, support those that respect rights, and maximize the number of liberals in the world. Thus, humanitarian interventions. Thus, liberal imperialism.27 To be fair, all governments must be able to defend themselves, and prudential analysis sometimes restrains expansive desires. The American experience, however, indicates that this is a consummation more devoutly to be wished for than to be expected. For liberal reasons, for many reasons, Americans speak of war. Article 2 of the Constitution makes the president the “Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the militia of the several states, when called into the actual service of the United States.”28 Article 1 reserves the power to declare war and raise armies for Congress, but it has become common to note presidents maintain an institutional advantage over the Congress when it comes to conflict. The president speaks with a single voice, maintains the capacity to act with dispatch, dominates foreign policy, commands access to secret intelligence, and wields executive authority, which, as Alexander Hamilton repeatedly noted in the Federalist, offers extraordinary powers.29 As a result, the constitutional model of war, in which a president asks to act, has given way to the current model, in which the president asks for forgiveness after acting. Presidents justify the use of force after the fact or so near to that as to make no practical difference. Their justifications enact the liberal democratic tension between reason and emotion. The American founders clearly hoped that the Constitution’s reciprocal process would ensure that the decision to go to war would be thoughtful, not impulsive. The president would request a declaration of war, Congress would consider it, the community would debate it, and inflamed

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passions would have time to cool in the cup of deliberation. Presidential war rhetoric retains traces of this ideal. Karlyn Kohrs Campbell and Kathleen Hall Jamieson argue presidents claim “that the momentous decision to resort to force is deliberate, the product of thoughtful consideration.”30 Most often, presidents highlight their rationality, claim there is no alternative, narrate long, futile diplomatic efforts, offer the concurrence of other bodies such as the United Nations, or even emphasize the sleepless nights and personal agony caused by the request, all in an effort to show that war is the only reasonable choice. But personal slights, tennis balls, are strictly forbidden in this cultural frame. That is not the case with public slights. The reasons for action emerge out of a dramatic narrative. Narrative exhortation not only offers reasons for war, it also unifies the people as one community. Such stories claim “a threat imperils the nation, and indeed, civilization itself; that the threat emanates from the acts of an identifiable enemy; and that, despite a patient search for alternatives, the threat necessitates a forceful, immediate response.”31 Robert Ivie has detailed the portraits of savagery painted by presidents.32 They arouse the people’s righteous fury, depicting the horrors and humiliations imposed on the nation and world by an evil enemy. America must act. The rhetorical trajectory of the situation as a whole gathers momentum as a result of these tactics. In all likelihood, the president has, at minimum, already deployed forces, placed them on hair trigger alert, mobilized allies, gathered financial resources, and put the honor and fate of the nation at risk. For Congress and the people to say no seems highly unlikely, and the emotional reaction the stories invoke makes such a result more implausible. Yet it is also important to note that war has nearly always been a rational choice for the United States. This is a most dangerous nation, one that has defeated its hemispheric and world rivals (France, Great Britain, Mexico, Spain, Germany) in battle. Since the first colonists came ashore, Americans have fought a war about once every 20 years for the last 400 years and have become the most powerful nation on earth. They support a level of military spending and a rate of deployment unthinkable to others. Walter Russell Mead argues the “Jacksonian” school of foreign policy should matter to those trying to grasp this nation’s role in the world; for Wills and Windt to suggest otherwise peaceful

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Americans need to be prodded into war is an extraordinary misreading of history.33 When they perceive a threat, the default emotional and logical reaction is to destroy it with a remorseless fury, even when, as William Tecumseh Sherman demonstrated, the enemy is us. But if we believe with Kenneth Burke that rhetorical form is the creation and satisfaction of an appetite in an auditor’s mind, then postwar Americans could get no satisfaction.34 The Cold War complicated matters. Its very name crafted its paradoxical character: It was war/notwar.35 As noted, containment and development composed the consensus dominating Cold War policy. The allies held the line against Communism while assisting the developing world. Consistent with their view of selfinterest, liberals believed the joys of food, blue jeans, and the Rolling Stones would undercut Communism’s appeal. In time, the West would win. But containment’s restraint maintained a not-so-peaceful coexistence with traditional war rhetoric. President Truman proclaimed Soviet evil in his March 12, 1947, call for aid to Greece and Turkey and never altered his view. Wayne Brockreide and Robert L. Scott write of the speech, “Rhetorical justification had outstripped policy. It was an overwhelmingly persuasive justification for a specific proposal, but one that could not be limited and directed to that proposal.”36 This was true because, as Ivie argues, “Communism became the devil figure against which the United States had to conduct a warlike struggle to save the world from the specter of an evil ideology.”37 Yet Truman looked reasonable when pitted against Douglas MacArthur’s claim that in “war there is no substitute for victory.” Subsequent Soviet cruelty in Poland, Czechoslovakia, Korea, Hungary, and Berlin underscored perceptions of its savagery. Although President Eisenhower tried to ease tensions, he failed. His farewell address offered the stark solace of tragedy: “We face a hostile ideology—global in scope, atheistic in character, ruthless in purpose, and insidious in method. Unhappily, the danger it poses promises to be of infinite duration.”38 JFK spoke in a like manner, although he, too, sought opportunities to ease tensions. In short, the long history of war rhetoric conditioned Americans to respond swiftly and brutally to perceived threats, and for fifteen years, discourse of all sorts and presidential rhetoric in particular made the Soviet Union into the most dangerous threat ever faced by the United States.

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As a result, an irrepressible conflict between policy restraint and narrative evil erupted periodically during the Cold War. In the Eisenhower years, that dialectic took form as a debate about defense that shaped JFK’s rhetorical, political, and military options in 1962. To many, containment and development smacked of defeat and appeasement. Brockreide and Scott argue that this position naturally flowed from Truman’s rhetoric, given the “tendency of a rhetorical justification that outstrips a policy to find a larger policy. . . . Was not ‘liberation,’ for example, more appropriate than ‘containment’ to the world view implicit in anticommunist ideology?”39 In 1952, likely Secretary of State John Foster Dulles attacked containment as a “non-moral policy.” It shaped a “defeatist, appeasing mood.” It assumed “that the Kremlin should continue to rule its 800-million captive people, provided it will leave us alone.” Ned O’Gorman argues the conflict between Dulles and George Kennan, containment’s architect, took its “most visible and dramatic expression in the difference between containment and massive retaliation.” In 1954, Secretary Dulles declared “massive retaliatory power” the only way to “deter aggression.”40 The idea of massive retaliation, a decision to use atomic weapons to deter or halt Communist attacks when and where the United States chose, allowed Eisenhower to cut funds for conventional forces (the “New Look” program) and seek a balanced budget. Yet it had its limits. Advocates argued that even a small Soviet nuclear force meant a decision to use such weapons would result in the practical destruction of the United States. Plus, no president could plausibly threaten total war over small Communist incursions in the Third World. H. W. Brands writes, “The massive retaliation policy suffered from one fatal weakness: it required the United States to risk national suicide for interests not inherently vital to American security.”41 Realist Hans Morgenthau adds another problem: “The use of atomic force, however narrowly circumscribed by the initial intent, entails the enormous and unbearable risk that it may develop, imperceptibly but ineluctably, into the use of all-out atomic force.”42 Eisenhower ignored liberation and massive retaliation when he negotiated an end to the Korean War and stood aside while Soviet tanks crushed Hungarian democracy in 1956. The limitations of the “New Look” seemed clear. Therefore, liberals adopted retired General Maxwell Taylor’s idea of

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“flexible response.” In The Uncertain Trumpet, he argued that massive retaliation “reached full acceptance as military orthodoxy in the so-called New Look program adopted by our government in 1953.”43 Yet it gave Ike “only two choices, the initiation of general nuclear war or compromise and retreat.” While it “may have prevented the Great War—a World War III—it has not maintained the Little Peace; that is, peace from disturbances which are little only in comparison with the disaster of general war,” a claim he supported by citing numerous “limited wars.” The nation needed a strategic doctrine able “to react across the entire spectrum of possible challenge, for coping with anything from general atomic war to infiltrations and aggressions. . . . The new strategy would recognize that it is just as necessary to deter or win quickly a limited war as to deter general war.”44 Flexible response fit the bill. Kennedy’s inclinations in this direction were reinforced by his first briefing on nuclear war plans. As Walt Rostow, then head of the State Department’s Policy Planning Council, put it, “The plan he inherited . . . called for devastating, indiscriminately, China, Russia, Eastern Europe— it was an orgiastic, Wagnerian plan, and he [JFK] was determined, from that moment, to get the plan changed so he would have total control of it.” The plan forecast the “virtual incineration” of the United States and Europe; the thirty-eight flip charts used in the briefing detailed just how the Joint Chiefs of Staff would destroy two continents. Clearly, there was a failure to communicate between the president and his generals. They saw nuclear weapons as weapons, as tools in times of war and peace. He saw nuclear weapons as an impossible possibility, the use of which would cause a disaster of unimaginable proportions, a catastrophe that seemed all the more likely because it was sinful man who “holds in his mortal hands the power . . . to abolish all forms of human life.” The president abandoned the “New Look” program, expanded conventional forces, and created the capacity for a graduated ladder of responses short of nuclear war. He also famously remarked to Secretary of State Dean Rusk as they left the briefing, “And we call ourselves the human race.”45 But the lower rungs of that ladder, at any rate, required a willingness to see the enemy as human, someone with whom the United States could negotiate. The Munich analogy refuted that idea, as Dulles’s cries of “appeasement” revealed. On September 30, 1938, British Prime

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Minister Neville Chamberlain returned to London from his negotiations with Adolf Hitler in Munich. Waving to cheering crowds, he proclaimed “peace for our time.” The accord capped a diplomatic campaign given the then-neutral label of “appeasement.” Chamberlain and his compatriots believed the Versailles Treaty had so damaged Germany that it held the right to demand modifications.46 From the early 1930s on, the democracies ignored Germany’s breach of limits on its military. When Hitler demanded “justice” for Germans in the Sudetenland region of Czechoslovakia in 1938, the allies agreed. By then, they not only felt the treaty needed change, but also feared German power. Chamberlain claimed the Munich accord met Hitler’s territorial demands and avoided war, one he thought the allies would lose in 1938. Germany soon took all of Czechoslovakia, revealing that Hitler was unappeasable.47 Chamberlain’s failure forever tainted his name as well as the policy of “appeasement.” Gordon Craig and Alexander George define it as “the reduction of tension between [two states] by the methodical removal of the principal causes of conflict and disagreement between them.”48 Appeasement assumes two rivals share enough interests and values that, after the obstacles are removed, the nations can work together. The most successful example of appeasement is Great Britain’s conciliation of the United States at the turn of the twentieth century, a neat diplomatic trick that made possible the later “special relationship.”49 Yet Munich made the strategy unspeakable. Steven Rock observes, “Indeed, there exists in the United States a widespread belief in a kind of iron law: ‘If appeasement, then World War III.’”50 Again, historical analogies tend to generate rules governing subsequent choices. The rule became: “No appeasement.” Andrew Bacevich calls the Munich analogy a “theory of history,” and Jeffrey Record claims, “No historical event has exerted more influence on post-World War II U.S. presidential use-of-force decisions than the Anglo-French appeasement of Nazi Germany that led to the outbreak of World War II.”51 The Munich analogy made negotiations, much less compromise, suspect. That was certainly true in the Cold War’s early days. Rock notes the analogy “strongly influenced Washington’s strategy in relations with the Soviet Union, in the minds of many policymakers the postwar reincarnation of Hitlerian Germany.”52 The comparison seemed apt. Like Nazi

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Germany, the Soviet Union was a great power with territorial ambitions. Led by a dictator with an iron hand, the USSR occupied neighboring nations, subverted free elections, violated international agreements, and deployed the largest military in the world. In addition, it appeared inspired by an ideology inimical to democracy. Consistent with the analogy, analysts like Kennan portrayed the Soviet Union as an evil adversary requiring a firm response. But, however nasty, it was cautious. Gaddis writes that Kennan believed that “Stalin was no Hitler; he had no fixed timetable for aggression and would prefer, if possible, to make gains by political rather than military means.”53 The analogy did not cohere for Kennan. Yet the Soviet Union should and could be contained. But conservative critics like James Burnham argued that “liberal leaders” failed “to comprehend the inherently, revolutionary, expansionary, implacable nature of Communism.”54 The USSR was not another rival state. Burnham claimed, “Communists wanted total power, the conquest of the planet.”55 They did not follow the rules of international diplomacy and, for that reason, posed a more dangerous challenge than the cosmopolitan liberal elite realized. Record argues the Munich analogy defines “aggressor states” as “inherently insatiable and that failure to act against them automatically endangers U.S. security.”56 In this view, the Soviet Union was unappeasable and uncontainable. Influential journalists such as Joe Alsop began as early as 1947–1948 to explore the idea of “a nuclear attack on the Soviet Union.” Preventive war seemed the best choice because Alsop had no faith that a world “divided into two gigantic armed camps” could long endure. Tensions would inevitably lead to war. The United States should bomb while it still held the advantage in nuclear weapons.57 If people in the United States thought this way, then the Soviets might also be planning a nuclear Pearl Harbor. Critical to an understanding of the Munich analogy and its destabilizing effect during the Cuban crisis was the conviction that appeasement deluded leaders and their nations. Made comfortable by the appearance of peace, they ignored the looming reality of war. Regardless of historical fact, the United States and the Soviet Union believed they were talking and trading peacefully with Japan and Germany when those nations deceitfully and deliberately launched sudden attacks. That horror scarred the eventual superpowers. The Americans lost most of their Pacific bases and fleet. The Soviet

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experience was far worse; the first days of battle cost them large swaths of land and nearly 600,000 casualties.58 Weakness and appeasement threatened national existence. JFK understood the political and rhetorical problem. He had written a book about the appeasement that destroyed his father’s career. Kennedy served as a Democratic congressman when critics attacked Truman for “losing China” to the Communists and came close to saying that himself. His defeat at the Bay of Pigs, his shaky performance at the Vienna summit, and his choice to ignore construction of the Berlin Wall caused critics to say of him what he had nearly said of Truman. JFK was weak. Since his eloquence was his greatest asset, Republicans sought to undercut his pretty words by comparing them to his weak deeds. In June 1961, Richard Nixon said, “Never in American history has a man talked so big and acted so little.”59 Yet the best example came from the pen of Charles Percy, chair of the 1960 Republican Platform Committee and a future Illinois Senator. In a terrible piece of timing, he attacked JFK in a piece for the October 29, 1962, U.S. News & World Report.60 Percy claimed, “The gains of world Communism—in Latin America, in Africa, in Southeast Asia and behind the Wall in Europe—have been more marked under the Kennedy Administration than in any similar period in more than a decade.” Why had this happened? “Even admirers of the Kennedy Administration,” Percy wrote, “have commented frequently on the contrast between the boldness of Mr. Kennedy’s speeches and the hesitancy and uncertainty of his actions.”61 In that, JFK was a creature of his party, whose platform had promised everything while claiming arms control accords and 5 percent economic growth would pay for it all.62 Given such “utopian” promises, the administration would continue to talk even more and act even less as it flailed in the face of reality. Percy called this a pattern of weakness, but he cited mostly Cuba. Invoking the support of Eisenhower and Nixon, Percy charged that the president’s lily-livered refusal to seek victory had led to American decline. JFK could not grasp the “central fact of our national existence”: We “are engaged in a deadly struggle for the future of the world, a struggle to determine whether freedom will survive.” Clearly, in the next Cold War confrontation, critics would demand that Kennedy display the will to win.

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Percy nicely articulated the typical expectation for victory. The paradox facing postwar presidents shaped John Kennedy’s rhetorical options. Traditionally, Americans sought to destroy their enemies; presidential war rhetoric reflected and cultivated that desire; when people forgot that wisdom—appeasement—history’s worst war resulted; thus, the nation should now destroy its enemies; to destroy them was to destroy itself. Atomic weapons made the Jacksonian (or Percy) ideal impossible. Yet much of the nation wanted to see young Hotspur’s fury. If they did not, they would likely punish JFK at the polls and authorize a new president to crush the enemy. To evade that irrepressible conflict between policy restraint and narrative evil, the Cuba address exploited the rational resources of the liberal tradition.

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Rhetoric and Civic Emotion In this way, at any rate, Aristotle agrees with liberals. He finds emotion a troublesome rhetorical strategy. As a human capacity, emotion (pathos) demands theoretical treatment. But Aristotle does not have to like it, and he seeks, wherever possible, to tame its disruptive power. The beginning of Book 2 of the Rhetoric is a good example. He notes that rhetoric is “concerned with making a judgment.” A speech should be logically persuasive, but it is also important “to prepare the judge: for it makes much difference in regard to persuasion . . . that the speaker seem to be a certain kind of person and that his hearers suppose him to be disposed toward them in a certain way and in addition if they, too, happen to be disposed in a certain way.”63 Note that this passage concerns the audience: its judgment, its disposition toward the speaker and argument, and its frame of mind. The definition sharpens the focus: “The emotions [pathe] are those things through which, by undergoing change, people come to differ in their judgments and which are accompanied by pain and pleasure, for example, anger, pity, fear, and other such things and their opposites.”64 Passions can alter the audience’s judgments, but that claim only brings to mind his famous denunciation of emotion, the one I alluded to at the start of this chapter. Emotions “make crooked” the ruler and warp judgment. In this, Aristotle strikes a chord because most people can list bad

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decisions they have made or things they have said in the grip of emotion. Jeffrey Walker notes the language here is nasty; perversion, pandering, and pimping characterize the indictment and suggest emotional appeals cannot be ethical.65 How to square this circle? The answer lies with the audience. In his study of the Rhetoric, Eugene Garver notes the “role of emotions in rhetoric follows from their role in practical decisions, that of making judging determinate.” If reason alone cannot effect a decision, then “the emotions will have a constitutive role. By constitutive, I mean that the need for rhetoric comes not from the weakness of audiences, but from the complexity and indeterminacy of the world.”66 Given that a situation of pure reason is a surpassingly rare event in public life, pathos clarifies that complexity and finalizes decisions. Thomas Farrell justifies the art of rhetoric as a whole because “there is a need, at times, to firm up and complete our own reasoning practice through the intervention of competent, interested others.” Walker also argues that emotions finalize decisions. He does so by turning to katharsis. That term comes from medical and religious texts. The first sees emotion as a “purgation” of unhealthy elements from the body and the second defines it as a “purification,” or, perhaps, a sharpening of indeterminate appearances. As issues come “into focus,” the best choice becomes apparent. He notes, “An emotion is a will-to-act in a specific way—a mode of intentionality—which is prompted, quasi-syllogistically, by sensations and perceptions that are mediated by cognition or (in humans) by logos.” It is, he emphasizes, an “embodied” will to act, one “that arouses and prepares the body for physical action and impels that action in a particular direction.”67 Walker’s argument reflects the rational bias of the Aristotelian corpus and commentary. Like W. W. Fortenbaugh, Walker, Garver, and Farrell make pathos into a reasonable response to rhetorical appeals. They root emotion in cognition.68 Personal experience may make one dubious about such claims, and Lacanian critical models, for instance, move in a different direction.69 Yet the classical perspective offers one advantage in that it persistently concerns itself with public speech, not private conversation, with civic emotion, not personal fear or grief. Garver notes, for example, that Aristotle’s analysis of fear concerns only those fears arising from community life.70 There is no doubt, Aristotle and his commentators

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acknowledge, that emotions include physical reactions; the “boiling of the heart” when angry is a nearly universal example. But as rhetorical appeal, pathos arouses and justifies civic emotions. Individuals can feel as they wish, but when they ask others to share emotions, they need to justify them. From an Aristotelian perspective, a pathetic appeal always contains a more or less explicit normative claim. It invites people to feel this way even as it contends it makes sense to do so. Garver writes, “Emotions carry with them the judgment that the emotion is appropriate: the speaker makes an audience feel ashamed, by showing that they should be ashamed, and when I am convinced that I should not be angry, my anger dissipates.”71 Civic emotion is not a manipulation of the carpenter’s rule, but a rhetorical claim. Orators invite audiences to feel in ways that are plausibly fit for communal life. Such emotions can be contested because they require the participation of interested others in the civic realm.72 Emotions matter to deliberation because they finish or realize decisions that further the flourishing of a community. People need to feel good about their choices. They come to do so on two levels. In terms of the context’s pragmatic demands, pathetic appeals seek to alter judgments by crafting the audience’s frame of mind, the feelings of anger, pity, and so forth that it attaches to alternatives. To do so, orators make public private emotions through the intervention of conventional form.73 One of the great problems facing any speaker is the need to make civic oft-indescribable feelings. To do so, rhetors recite or renew the available means of emotional appeal, the cultural scripts comprising the community’s social knowledge.74 Inchoate feelings take familiar forms, ones recognizable as fear or faith, as when converts offer witness to amazing grace, a conventional performance if ever there was one. The danger is that convention devolves into cliché, that audiences only feel as they have always felt and for those who have always mattered. But Farrell claims rhetoric is a relational art. Pathos possesses the capacity, Aristotle notes, to make the misfortunes of others “seem close to ourselves.” This is more than “simply a spontaneous awareness of what is happening to an other, there is a doubly reflexive move,” from a grasp of my emotion to a recognition of what happens to others when they experience that emotion. As they come into focus, as we see them, pathos takes us “outside of our own immediacy: from the neighborhood to the moral community.”75 That feels legitimate because

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such appeals invoke the norms, feelings, and forms of the audience’s life to firm up a frame of mind.76 In that act of witness, speaker and congregation are transformed in a recurrent, mutual covenant of faith and affirm a new and continuing choice to live together. As my example shows, however, such rhetoric occurs within cultures and institutions; the convert expresses a familiar faith sanctified in substance and style by the larger religious culture (e.g., evangelicalism) and, perhaps, an institutional church (e.g., the Assemblies of God). That is the second level in which pathos realizes communal decisions. Recurrent performances craft cultural expectations, reconstitute institutions, and shape communities, but they may also run into the recalcitrant emotions that already occupy this terrain. Ronald Beiner takes note of Aristotle’s propensity for community. If the end of rhetoric is judgment, then its space is the commons, but not just any associations. Rather, Beiner insists, friendship (philia) “is a matter of community, and community, in turn, is a matter of justice. Thus, friendship is defined as sharing a common view of what is just.” That does not mean unanimous agreement or a rational consensus. There is instead a kind of concord on how citizens approach political life, on the issues, ideals, and values that matter, and on the just means of resolving conflict. Friendship, or philia, of course, carries emotional resonance, and how speakers recurrently arouse and justify emotions helps to constitute the chords of public sympathy that come to mark a culture, institution, or nation. How we feel about ourselves, our community, and our world emerges from discursive action and that constrains and enables subsequent performances. In short, as a mode of proof, pathos performs rhetoric’s art: It makes things matter. The ways in which it does so are shaped by the belief that rhetoric is an art of public thought, so pathos is a civic emotion, the frames of mind attached to public judgments. Pathetic appeals are ethical because they are justified by public speech and they work because they use conventional form to bring into focus the choices open to audiences. The recurrent use of these appeals defines the community’s emotional character; people learn the conventional forms of emotion. Those partly shape the cultures and institutions of public life, including the presidency. But what if the traditional script lets loose the (nuclear) dogs of war and a president wants them leashed?

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A Peaceful and Powerful Nation President Kennedy spoke from the Oval Office that evening. For those used to twenty-first-century presidential productions, it is important to understand the technological constraints and cultural norms crafting his performance. The Oval Office was once the favored venue for nearly all important presidential speeches, not least because it was difficult to set up cameras elsewhere and because the president could only be certain of effective and secure communications in the White House. Yet the Oval Office offered rhetorical advantages as well. It suggested that he spoke from the center of events, that he could instantly receive news from those who served him, and that the technological apparatuses of world power lay at his fingertips.77 As television came to dominate the Cold War’s cultural high ground, the Oval Office became an important institutional resource. Fictional presidents spoke and worked from there; real presidents signified their legitimacy, their (literal) occupancy of the office through their televised presence in it. But today’s technological world has dispersed. It offers no center. Presidents seemingly feel obliged to include physical movement and live audiences with their public address, and the online president may soon wield as much force as the physical one, if indeed the two can be separated. The three presidents since the turn of the twenty-first century have disdained the formal Oval Office address. One can well imagine a contemporary JFK speaking from Key West (with an iconic Hemingway beach cottage as a backdrop) and gesturing to those horrendous missiles just over the horizon.78 The emotional difference in register between these two scenarios is profound. The Oval Office emphasizes control and rationality. The president is at the center of events, weighing and evaluating the evidence as it comes into the White House. George W. Bush’s dreadful speech in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina shows a location shot makes a different impression.79 More important in this case is the passion locations arouse. Kennedy on the beach “prepares and arouses the body” for invasion. His place would emphasize the threat’s proximity and the need to smash it. A speech from Key West or, for that matter, at a joint session of Congress would have intensified the fear and fury aroused by the missiles.80 It would have readied the nation for war.

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As it was, Kennedy at the desk prepared and aroused the audience for debate. At the time, Oval Office addresses did not even show the Oval Office. The president spoke with a backdrop, in the presidential “work uniform” of the time: a dark suit, narrow dark tie, and light shirt. The only color in the room was an American flag. He spoke seated, from behind a desk, with a desk podium in front of him. The president carefully shuffled each page of the speech and read each just as carefully. The text offered little room for emotional crescendos and decrescendos. His characteristic stylistic devices (antithesis, rhythm, rhyme, and so forth) were nearly absent. Only when he quoted Soviet lies did his voice become more intense and reflect the anger he surely felt. In short, little or nothing in his delivery suggested he sought to terrify the American people.81 Instead, he sought to convict the Soviets in the court of American and world opinion. In most ways, his speech asks to be understood as a forensic address. Traditionally, forensic rhetoric takes place in a courtroom and deals with the problems posed by violations of rules and norms. The three Aristotelian genres facilitate the communicative tasks needed to sustain a community. Deliberative or policy address makes the rules; forensic address deals with those who break the rules; epideictic address mends the rents made by the other two controversial processes. The Soviets, Kennedy argued, had violated the norms governing national behavior in a nuclear age and he sought to hold them accountable for their actions. Consistent with the genre, then, he aims at justice. A key argumentative end unifies each genre; all strategies lead to it and justice is that Rome in forensic address. Justice is a notoriously slippery concept. Generally, it addresses issues of right and wrong and it does so through rhetoric. We ask those we suspect of bad behavior to justify themselves, to provide an account of how that window came to be broken, of why those missiles ended up in Cuba. Forensic rhetors examine alleged violations and, to do that, employ stasis theory to invent or generate useful arguments from probability (logos), induce the audience to adopt an appropriate frame of mind for judgment (pathos), develop a view of character such that this sort of person would do that sort of thing (ethos), and speak in or create a useful judicial forum.82 Again, as Beiner and James Boyd White emphasize, friendship flows from community, community is a matter of justice, and therefore, friendship means sharing a definition of justice. Of

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course, Kennedy did not speak in a court, but he symbolically created and exploited a forum for superpower adjudication. He sought “the constitution of a social world” in which the Soviets, Americans, and all others would come to share a common view of (nuclear) justice.83 That effort began early in the speech. The opening lines nodded toward the narrative common to war rhetoric. The president noted the government had, “as promised,” monitored the “Soviet military buildup on the island of Cuba.” Yet he did not follow that with a tale of Soviet evil. Instead, he said, “unmistakable evidence has established the fact that a series of offensive missile sites is now in preparation on that imprisoned island.” By doing so, he focused this part of the speech on a question of fact, the first kind of stasis. As a mode of rhetorical invention, the stases are questions designed to allow advocates to identify key issues in a dispute; they are arranged hierarchically such that one needs to answer the prior, higher questions before reaching ones lower on the scale. The question of fact or conjecture asks whether a thing exists; did it happen? The question of definition asks what kind of thing or event it is; how do we classify it? The question of quality evaluates the act; is it right or wrong? Finally, the question of procedure or jurisdiction concerns the forum; is this an appropriate place or space to decide the issue?84 In analytical mode, stasis theory can reveal the issues in dispute, but in prosecutorial mode, the questions of stasis can remorselessly build a rational case against a defendant. That is precisely what Kennedy did. Upon receiving those “first, preliminary” reports, “I directed that our surveillance be stepped up. And now having confirmed and completed our evaluation of the evidence and our decision on a course of action, this Government feels obliged to report this new crisis to you in fullest detail.” JFK emphasized the care with which he handled the crisis. Brockreide and Scott note, “The salutation and beginning of the speech stress the responsibility of the executive branch of the government to the people and assert that responsibility has been assumed completely and executed carefully.”85 In a sense, the administration had acted as a grand jury; it indicted the Soviets in its internal deliberations. He now arraigned them before the court of world opinion. The next two paragraphs established the facts, a case later reinforced by Ambassador Adlai Stevenson’s dramatic presentation to the

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United Nations and the photographs that were used there and published in nearly every newspaper and magazine.86 There were “two” types of installations, medium- and intermediate-range nuclear missiles. The former could hit much of the southeastern United States and the Caribbean; the latter could reach “most of the major cities of the Western Hemisphere.”87 Kennedy here sought to unify the Western Hemisphere against the Soviet threat, but he never detailed the horrors of nuclear war or the evils of communism, as one might expect in war rhetoric. For example, like President Roosevelt’s “Arsenal of Democracy” address, JFK shrunk space, so the threat became proximate and urgent to this hemisphere.88 But his speech lacked the vivid language characterizing FDR’s effort. Instead, these two paragraphs stolidly established the fact of nuclear weapons in Cuba. He next sought primarily to define or classify the Soviet act. He argued that the “urgent transformation of Cuba into an important strategic base—by the presence of these large, long-range, and clearly offensive weapons of sudden mass destruction—constitutes an explicit threat to the peace and security of all the Americas, in flagrant and deliberate defiance of the Rio Pact of 1947, the traditions of this nation and hemisphere, the joint resolution of the 87th Congress, the Charter of the United Nations, and my own public warnings to the Soviets on September 4 and 13.” The deployments made Cuba into a strategic base and he consistently labeled the missiles “strategic.” He justified that label through definition and amplification. They were “large, long-range, and clearly offensive,” a characterization supported by the range established earlier. JFK used the dissociative pair of defensive/strategic to define the missiles. The Soviets had upset the strategic balance because they claimed to deploy only defensive missiles, but, in truth, they had sent weapons of mass destruction. Their action “contradicts the repeated assurances of Soviet spokesmen, both publicly and privately delivered,” that any such weapons would be defensive “and that the Soviet Union had no need or desire to station strategic missiles on the territory of any other nation.” Deductive arguments characterize legal rhetoric. Here, Kennedy defined the “laws” the Soviets had broken, both the explicit pacts they endorsed and the implicit norm that those weapons defined as “strategic” and “offensive” could not take root in Cuban soil.

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Of course, definition or classification implies evaluation: A “murder” is “wrong.” The language Kennedy used evaluated the quality of the Soviets’ deployment. Their action threatened the “peace and security” of the hemisphere. They acted in “flagrant and deliberate defiance” of treaties and agreements and the accumulative power of that list of covenants amplified the Soviet criminal offense. Yet the featuring of those agreements gave them presence and bound all parties in a web of such pacts, highlighting past Soviet decisions to abide by international norms and keep their word to American presidents. Hawhee and Walker both emphasize emphasis; to grant presence to ideas is to attach emotion to them, to ask the audience to care about them.89 In a real sense, the agreements had made a community and the parties approved of that choice. Nuclear weapons were too dangerous to be sent hither and yon. Kennedy thus made present communal injustice. The Soviets had broken the law and the community made by that law. To end with his warnings might seem too personal, except for the fact the Soviets had accepted his admonitions. They had claimed “no need or desire to station strategic missiles” in other countries. To support that claim, JFK used two examples. He noted that the “size” of the deployment “made clear that it has been planned for some months.” Yet the Soviets had assured the world they would not deploy such weapons; he quoted the promise. He could only conclude: “That statement was false.” More recently, “Soviet Foreign Minister Gromyko” had reassured Kennedy “only last Thursday” that the weapons were defensive, and he quoted Gromyko at some length. That “statement was also false.” In both cases, the Soviets had lied. Aristotle would likely appreciate this effort to arouse American anger. He defines anger as a “desire, accompanied by [mental and physical] distress, for conspicuous retaliation because of a conspicuous slight that was directed, without justification, against oneself or those near to one.” The slight, of course, creates pain, but pleasure “follows all experience of anger from the hope of getting retaliation.” Anger is specific; it is directed not at an abstraction, but at a person. Anger assumes equality; we ignore slights from inferiors and endure them from superiors. He also notes that people can be particularly stirred to anger when they were “expecting the opposite [treatment]; for the quite unexpected hurts more, just as the quite unexpected delights.”90 In a textbook example of the

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Aristotelian blueprint, Kennedy argued an equal on the world stage had not only threatened the United States, but also slighted it. The Soviets had lied. They had lied personally and insultingly to the president, the representative of the American people. Such an act required retaliation, per Aristotelian theory, but a full retaliatory response, as it were, would likely end the world. JFK, then, sought to channel that response, and the ways in which he did so rested in part in the style with which he accused the Soviets. His delivery intensified, but it did so in a manner familiar to his audience. As both the chief counsel and witness for the prosecution, the president had trapped the Soviets. He knew about the missiles when he met with Gromyko; he gave the Foreign Minister the opportunity to recant; he did not do so. To an audience that had made “Perry Mason” the number 5 show on television that year, JFK’s performance made for a familiar moment. The Soviets claimed innocence and the president caught them out as surely as Raymond Burr caught out similar miscreants each week. Kennedy found a conventional form—the courtroom drama, the lying witness—with which he could arouse and satisfy the community’s expectations. Happily, Perry Mason did not wage nuclear war. The president complemented his use of conventional form with a procedural argument. Soviet deceit was not merely an insult; it resonated more widely because of the context. He stated that no one could “tolerate deliberate deception and offensive threats on the part of any nation,” but nuclear weapons intensified that concern. Critically, he argued: “We no longer live in a world where only the actual firing of weapons represents a sufficient challenge to a nation’s security to constitute maximum peril. Nuclear weapons are so destructive and ballistic missiles are so swift, that any substantially increased possibility of their use or any sudden change in their deployment may well be regarded as a definite threat to peace.” Nor was this only JFK’s view. For years, he said, “both the Soviet Union and the United States, recognizing this fact, have deployed nuclear weapons with great care, never upsetting the precarious status quo which insured these weapons would not be used in the absence of some vital challenge.” The traditional, liberal emphasis on transparency dominated. Nuclear weapons were different. Their speed and power were such that they had to be visible, apparent, and open to all at all times.91 He issued his strongest, most emotional condemnations of the deployment at this

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point. They focused on its invisibility. It was a “secret, swift, and extraordinary buildup,” it was a “sudden, clandestine decision to station Soviet strategic weapons for the first time outside of Soviet soil,” and it was a “deliberately provocative and unjustified change in the status quo which cannot be accepted by this country, if our courage and our commitments are ever to be trusted again by friend or foe.” This line shifted the audience’s concern to character. The issue of timing or kairos will come to the forefront later, but it played a significant role in the construction of Soviet character and, in contrast to that, the American ethos. Note that JFK portrayed the Soviet action as a sharp break from the past. “For many years,” he said, both sides had deployed these weapons “with great care.” In that time, the Soviets had signed treaties and agreements; they had stated publicly and privately that they would never deploy strategic weapons outside of their nation. They now violated not only those promises, but also the “original, defensive character” of the buildup. His adjectives (secret, swift) reinforced the unprecedented nature of the act. Chaim Perelman and Lucie Olbrechts-Tyteca analyze the reciprocal influences between act and person, arguing the effect “of the act on the agent is such as to modify constantly our concept of the person, whether one is dealing with new acts attributed to him or old acts to which reference is being made.”92 In this instance, Kennedy established a contradiction between new and old. It seemed impossible that a once responsible nation could make a “sudden, clandestine decision.” Such a movement from “knowledge of past acts” to “prediction of future acts” is common to “legal discussions.” Advocates often argue that this sort of person would, or would not, do that sort of thing. Kennedy used it to create a paradox: The deployment was inexplicable.93 He made this act an exception to their behavioral norm. By doing so, he dissociated character from act. Goldzwig and Dionosopoulos contend that JFK made the Soviets into “an outlaw actor in the world community.”94 That claim reflects the usual critical judgment. In fact, the president did not do that. The Soviets were not outlaws, but the missiles broke “the law.” There was a difference. The president criticized their conduct, not their character, in contrast to the excerpts I have cited from Truman and Eisenhower. This is consistent with a liberal, modern sense of argument. An advocate should not use ad hominem attacks, but

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should prove instead that someone violated the law and seek redress or punishment for that act. Although JFK briefly referenced a Soviet desire to dominate others, the speech contained nothing comparable to President Truman’s famous contrast between two ways of life in his 1947 address.95 In fact, the lies the Soviets told revealed their own acknowledgment of the indictment; we lie when we know we are wrong. They knew they had acted badly. Kennedy interpreted the Soviet deployment as a sudden, ill-advised emotional outburst, one uncharacteristic of the Soviet Union in particular and a great power in general.96 As he drew this section to a close, he exhorted the audience to stand true by invoking a powerful precedent:

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The 1930s taught us a clear lesson: aggressive conduct, if allowed to go unchecked and unchallenged, ultimately leads to war. This nation is opposed to war. We are also true to our word. Our unswerving objective, therefore, must be to prevent the use of these missiles against this or any other country, and to secure their withdrawal or elimination from the Western Hemisphere.

The president clearly understood the power of the Munich analogy. He dissociated his strategic goal from appeasement and associated it with strength. He reinforced that perception with several allusions to Roosevelt’s war address, both in substance and tone, noting that this action, like the Pearl Harbor attack, had long been planned, that the Soviets, like the Japanese, had broken their word, and that they had done so “deliberately,” a word both presidents repeatedly used. This was the strongest fear appeal used by Kennedy and the closest he came to war rhetoric. Yet even here, he focused only on “aggressive conduct.” He did not do as George H. W. Bush later did; he did not personify Khrushchev as his nation nor claim that the Soviet leader was an “evil dictator.”97 Unlike FDR in the war address, JFK did not list evil acts. As a critic familiar with war rhetoric, I can write the litany: “In 1948, the Soviets closed Berlin; in 1950, their proxies attacked the small, helpless country of South Korea; in 1953, Communists murdered striking East German workers; in 1954, their agents subverted a free Vietnam; in 1956, Khrushchev ground Hungarians beneath his boot.” That history would have warranted war. Nor did JFK

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propose to end the threat once and for all. He defined as his “unswerving objective” only the withdrawal or elimination of the missiles, not the destruction of the Soviets nor, for that matter, regime change in Cuba. This goal fit American character, as Kennedy crafted it. If the sudden, swift, clandestine, irresponsible, provocative, and unjustified Soviet decision emerged as an “anti-model,” then the president could urge Americans to act with the opposite qualities. An anti-model, Perelman and Olbrechts-Tyteca note, “turns us away from his course of action.”98 The audience understood the dialectical pair Soviet (evil)/American (good). So, JFK constituted his policy as “one of patience and restraint.” He did return the insult of Soviet lies, noting we “have been determined not to be diverted from our central concerns by mere irritants and fanatics.” But the Soviet challenge must be met and American acts would flow from and reflect a nation “opposed to war” but also “true to our word.” How might that needle be threaded? In one of his rare stylistic flourishes, the president set the standard for his policy: “We will not prematurely or unnecessarily risk the costs of worldwide nuclear war in which even the fruits of victory would be ashes in our mouth—but neither will we shrink from that risk at any time it must be faced.” Kennedy’s structure iconically framed the balance he sought in the world, and the striking metaphor with its biblical overtones acknowledged the risks even “patience and restraint” offered. In addition, he shaped the audience’s frame of mind by preparing it for a thoughtful, restrained, public policy, and he did so by contrasting that to the sudden, deceptive, and clandestine work of the Communists. If “America” indeed represented all that the Soviets loathed and they were all that good Americans disdained, then Kennedy had done his work well. He had primed the audience to accept a limited, thoughtful response. American policy would be, as Brockreide and Scott note, “firm but restrained.”99 JFK’s explanation of that policy sounded more like the careful, summary judgment of a court than an apocalyptic call to war. Kennedy carefully numbered his points (1–7), emphasized the limits of his actions, cited the authorities that justified his moves, called “upon Chairman Khrushchev” to reverse his policy, and listed the fora in which the United States was prepared to meet to resolve the conflict. Kennedy explained his actions as a prelude to negotiations (even the order implied that), not

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as a response to the failure of diplomacy. At each stage, he emphasized the contingency of events. By doing so, the president featured the role of kairos and choice in human affairs. Recall that kairos means timing. Rhetorical theorists emphasize the choice of a timely moment to enter a debate, an external sense of time. When should one speak? Texts also create an internal sense of time. They unfold over time and, with strategy and luck, shape the audience’s sense of time. Finally, kairos flows in and out of a family of terms, such as the appropriate and the decorous.100 From the start, Kennedy sought to shape the audience’s sense of time, beginning with a focus on the present fact of a sudden Soviet deployment, contrasting that with a past willingness to behave responsibly, and ending with the lesson Americans had learned and should use now: Aggressive conduct must be met with strength and restraint. His policy crafted a contingent, reciprocal, and pragmatic sense of time. The United States would begin a delicate dance. It would take steps. At each stage, it would assess results, as John Dewey might suggest. If the Soviets behaved badly, war might result. If the Soviets behaved well, we might have “peaceful and permanent solutions” to this and other problems. This was the textual embodiment of flexible response. President Kennedy announced first a “strict quarantine of all offensive military equipment under shipment to Cuba.” A quarantine was not a blockade, which under international law is an act of war. Rather, he used and expanded the resources of international law to intercept only one category of ships, limiting the harm to Soviet dignity. Note also that the Soviets were not a virus. The metaphor identified “offensive military equipment” as the danger, not people. “Quarantine” also alluded to FDR’s famed “quarantine” speech of October 5, 1937. In that, he tried to restrain aggression with an ill-defined quarantine that he called a “search for peace.”101 Americans and allies had rejected that for isolation and appeasement. Kennedy appropriated the term. Much as FDR had hoped that a quarantine now would prevent world war later, so, too, did JFK believe that a quarantine now would prevent nuclear war later. The next three steps promised closer surveillance of Cuba and indicated that if “offensive military preparations continue,” then “further action will be justified.” That included unspecified responses by “the Armed

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Forces,” a “full retaliatory response upon the Soviet Union” if missiles were launched from Cuba (the most militant and famous statement in the speech), and increased readiness at Guantanamo. Each of these steps flowed from a negative reaction by the Soviets. In the next three steps, the climax of this section, Kennedy sketched a positive outcome, calling on the Soviets to negotiate and indicating American willingness to do so under the auspices of the Organization of American States, the United Nations, the United Nations Security Council, or at a joint meeting. If the Soviets talked, the superpowers might transcend the moment and “join in an historic effort to end the perilous arms race and transform the history of man.” Kennedy positioned the quarantine as the first move in a dance. The subsequent two scenarios flowed from likely Soviet reactions, and he obviously preferred one to the other. He crafted a contingent world, one in which people could start or forestall nuclear war. This was a reciprocal relationship, with genuine alternatives, not the doomsday scenario offered by those thirty-eight charts. His plan accorded with American character, as he had sketched it, and with past perceptions of Soviet character, a point he emphasized by saying Khrushchev could “move the world back from the abyss of destruction by returning [my emphasis] to his government’s own words.” Both sides could act in time to save time. In pursuit of that, JFK expressed his willingness to meet “at any time and in any forum,” but he was already doing so. Thomas Farrell notes that rhetorical cultures craft appropriate forums, “a space of engagement” that is created “within which issues, interests, positions, constituencies, and messages are advanced, shaped, and provisionally judged.”102 Examples include a courtroom, a scientific meeting, or a political convention.103 Forums matter because they have rules. They enable and constrain key rhetorical choices: the judgments required, the genres used, the speakers authorized, the issues examined, and more. Since the war, Soviet and American leaders had made a symbolic forum, one enacted in summits at Yalta, Potsdam, Camp David, Vienna, and so on, as well as in speeches about those meetings. Both spoke to the United Nations General Assembly, gave addresses to their people designed to be “overheard,” and, in the Soviet case, leaked “secret” speeches to make important points. A symbolic forum had arisen through which the superpowers painfully

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worked out the rules governing their relationship. This forum allowed them to talk to, about, and with each other, as well as to claim and discard positions, often with a wink and a nod. Dallek knew what he was talking about when he identified the American people and the Soviet leadership as audiences for this speech. Critically, the pressure Kennedy exerted against Khrushchev came not so much from a military deployment, but from history. JFK established the community’s norms and values, indicated the Soviet violations of said rules, and reminded one and all that the USSR had agreed to them. This effort rooted his argument in time. Richard Neustadt and Ernest May catch this sense of time in the administration’s internal debate; they write, “In unusual degree, Kennedy and his ExComm saw the issues before them as part of a time sequence beginning long before the onset of crisis and continuing into an increasingly indistinct future.”104 Unlike war rhetoric, JFK expanded the audience’s sense of time. This was particularly true at the end. Rather than sharpening the threat’s urgency, a move justifying immediate action, he announced there would be “many months of sacrifice and self-discipline” and the “path we have chosen for the present is full of hazards.” In fact, he broadened time from start to close. He began with the exigence giving rise to the speech, the missiles. Yet the text’s temporal horizons pushed out from that, drawing from the past and looking to an indistinct future, one that would come into focus only through human choice. He ended not with war, but in a time beyond time: “Our goal is not the victory of might, but the vindication of right— not peace at the expense of freedom, but both peace and freedom, here in this hemisphere, and, we hope, around the world. God willing, that goal will be achieved.” As usual, John Kennedy paradoxically used antithetical language to transcend conflict and make a counterfactual world of peace and freedom.

A Tragic Dilemma Happily, those lines did not become as ashes in his mouth and we live to tell the tale. It is one worth the telling. The Cuban Missile Crisis lingers in popular memory as the most dangerous moment of the Cold War, the

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one time in which a full nuclear exchange seemed terribly possible. Yet its impossibility also mattered then and now. From the first moments of his presidency, John Kennedy believed no one could win a nuclear war. Most now share this judgment, although many did not do so then, including the Joint Chiefs of Staff. To put it differently, nuclear war was not and is not a deliberative issue. It is no more contingent than gravity. If the missiles fly, the world dies. As a result, the decision to go nuclear is uniquely ill-suited to deliberation. If, as Aristotle suggests, the goal of deliberative address is to identify the most expedient policy, then there is no way to debate this choice; nuclear war is always inexpedient. Deliberation is comedic in the literary sense. It assumes that there are alternatives, that we can choose from among them, and that the choice will make the world better. Nuclear war offers only death. The great theologian Reinhold Niebuhr understood more clearly than most that nuclear weapons posed a “tragic dilemma.” Although Western civilization was “confident of its virtue, it must yet hold atomic bombs ready for use so as to prevent a possible world conflagration. It may actually make the conflict more inevitable by this threat; and yet it cannot abandon the threat.” Beyond that, if war should break out, the West would “be in danger of destroying itself as a moral culture in the process of defending itself physically.” Writing in 1952, Niebuhr could envision that something might survive, but there was always the danger that it would not, and what of our virtue then? Moreover, if one of the superpowers did survive, it would likely be “so preponderant and unchallenged that its world rule would almost certainly violate basic standards of justice.”105 Niebuhr understood that in the tragic dilemma posed by nuclear weapons, justice, rather than expediency, was the only fit matter for public discussion. So when John Kennedy confronted the danger Niebuhr only imagined, the president made it a matter of justice. The text evinced the norms of forensic address, asking the audience to assess the president’s policy not in terms of its expediency, for that could not matter, but in terms of its justice, which he made matter. Through the questions of stasis, JFK made a case that the Soviet deployment was an unjust act. It had, in fact, happened; it had upset the carefully defined strategic balance, the “precarious status quo,” by which peace was sustained; it

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thus set the awful precedent of deception in nuclear deployment; and it had ignored the treaties, statements, and commitments constituting the symbolic fora through which nuclear policy was made. To invoke Chaim Perelman’s idea of justice, the nuclear powers had implicitly agreed that these weapons were so dangerous that all members of their class should be treated similarly; they should be visible, such that they performed the task of deterrence and yet enacted the value of stability.106 The Soviet act violated such norms. It was so manifestly unjust that, JFK argued, it required the nation to grasp the dilemma so effectively analyzed by Niebuhr. To preserve the possibility of a just order, the United States must threaten the most unjust act: nuclear war. Yet it must do so in a rational, sequential fashion, one that offered Soviet participation at each step of this deadly dance, for that was the only just alternative. To let loose American war rhetoric would not only be inexpedient, but unjust. By its nature, nuclear war required another approach. JFK aroused anger, but he did so with forms—forensic address, the lying witness—that channeled that fury toward an institutional resolution. The nation would bring to bear the judicial norms that, Michael Walzer notes, characterize liberal democratic ideals of public argument.107 If Aristotle preferred the common wisdom of deliberative address, liberal philosophers have long tended to idealize the reasoned search for the whole truth in judicial forums. Chaim Perelman, James Boyd White, Jurgen Habermas, Stephen Toulmin, and more have written about forensic rhetoric, taken justice as the key aim of public discourse, and held up the reasoning practices of the courtroom as a model for all deliberation.108 This ideal assumes that people (juries) discard personal prejudices for reasoned standards, weigh a claim’s validity against the evidence offered by both sides, use appropriate norms to make judgments, and assume a fair system, one in which all are recognized as equal before the law. These values also assume a continuing system, one in which defendants are accused, arraigned, tried, punished, and released. There is no Armageddon in the judicial system. The gears of justice grind endlessly, inefficiently, intelligently, and dully along. The president enmeshed the Soviet Union in a web of pacts, fora, and people that would not be easy to rend. Equally important, he enmeshed his audience in that web. For them to strike at the threat would be to act as

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the Soviets had inexplicably acted and to destroy that which the Soviets threatened: a reasonable, fair, and open community, the American way of life. His speech attached their passion to the reversal of the Soviet action, not the eradication of the Soviet nation. The invocation of judicial norms, among other strategies, stretched the temporal horizons of the speech. War rhetoric narrows those horizons. When presidents ask for military action, they create urgency through proximity and kairos. The world narrows so that war is the only choice.109 JFK stretched time. The speech opened with a brief justification of the timeliness of his act. He and his aides had surveyed, debated, analyzed, and decided. Here, he focused narrowly on the exigence. Yet as the speech proceeded, it opened. He recalled past Soviet acts, current American choices, future plans, and more. The close invoked sacred time, one in which right would make might. That dispersed the fury needed to wage war. He did not focus on a savage enemy; he did not list the evil acts that led to this moment; he did not offer the orgiastic, Wagnerian climax with which he was familiar. He left open the possibility of war, but that was a choice in the hands of both sides as they continued the reciprocal dance of negotiation. Three concerns remain. First, the president adhered to the conventional expectation that he would arouse the audience’s passion. Whether those emotions would have taken a typical turn and led to war had the crisis continued for much past a week is an open question. History since seems to say yes. Absent this unique threat of nuclear war, Americans appear ready to crush their enemies; the Munich analogy lives. But for liberals, JFK’s concern about justice leaked from nuclear war to all war. Consequently, their determination that all wars must be just wars, from Vietnam to Iraq, has become fodder for conservative attacks. President George W. Bush defined his post 9/11 goal in this way: “I had to show the American people the resolve of a commander in chief that was going to do whatever it took to win. No yielding. No equivocation. No, you know, lawyering this thing to death.”110 In many ways, he was the antiKennedy.111 Second, although President Kennedy’s determination to act justly is praiseworthy, he did not walk humbly. His use of forensic address frustrated the people’s usual will by slowing the drive for war. The judicial metaphor offers an oddly equivocal vision of the role of the people in

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public decisions. Their sovereignty remains in place; as judge and jury, the people possess the power to decide the issues brought before them. Yet they must wait until the president “feels obliged to report” to them. They do not take an active role in the development of the case, as it were, in the choice to bring an indictment and prosecute the offenders. They do not participate fully in public deliberation. In most contexts, the nation needs more deliberation. As the Bush example proves, when presidents refuse to engage their fellow Americans, the results are less than satisfactory.112 Finally, the threat of nuclear war likely made this situation unique, so it is difficult to draw broad conclusions. Kennedy certainly hoped that nothing like this would happen again, but he did not rely on that faith. The polarization inherent to the Cold War held an awful logic, one summed up by Burke’s observation that people are “rotten with perfection.” If nothing changed, the two sides would probably take their demons to the end of the line. The Cuban Missile Crisis served notice. It showed there was little room left for gamesmanship or confrontation. The terms and the rhetoric of the Cold War needed revision, reform, rehabilitation, if only because “we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s future. And we are all mortal.” President Kennedy soon turned his attention to human mortality.

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•••

J

ournalists often claim the right to write the first draft of history, but John Kennedy wanted to help. On December 16, 1962, he spoke with William H. Lawrence of ABC News and George E. Herman of NBC News. Broadcast the next evening on their television and radio networks, the extended interview gave JFK the chance to reflect on his presidency and offer his interpretation of the Cuban crisis. Not surprisingly, he emphasized the complexity of his job. The problems were “more difficult than I imagined them to be.” There were limits “on the ability of the United States to solve these problems.” Most troubling to him was the chance of war between the superpowers. He worried about the possibility of an accidental nuclear exchange and the fact that “both governments were so out of contact, really.” They did not understand one another, and “if you look at the history of this century, where World War I really came through a series of misjudgments of the intentions of others, certainly World War II, where Hitler thought . . . the British might not fight,” and, 153

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Korea, when “we did not think the Chinese were going to come in,” then one could not help but believe that “one mistake could make this whole thing blow up.” He claimed: “I think that anybody who looks at the fatality lists on atomic weapons, and realizes the Communists have a completely twisted view of the United States, and that we don’t comprehend them, that is what makes life in the sixties hazardous.”1 Kennedy had long worried about the ways the decisions of both sides could lead to a war neither wanted. But a new theme appeared here, the idea that neither the United States nor the Soviet Union comprehended each other. Two surprising assumptions supported that claim. First, the United States and other nations often, perhaps more often than not, made mistakes. In the abstract, most would agree, but open chronicles of everyone’s errors were (and are) surpassingly rare in presidential rhetoric. Kennedy saw a most precarious world. Second, the Soviet Union was worth knowing. To be clear, many government agencies spent millions of dollars in an effort to discern the Kremlin’s thinking, but he implied something more than that. Usually, Americans thought that its evil was all one truly needed to know about the Soviet Union. But the president said, “We don’t comprehend them.” What should we comprehend and how might that matter? John Kennedy and his interlocutors left those questions for another day. More specifically, they left them for June 10, 1963. In what is now regarded as his best speech, President Kennedy redefined the Cold War by calling peace “the necessary, rational end of rational men.”2 Yet a short two weeks later, after seeing the moral abomination known as the Berlin Wall, he declared, “And there are some who say in Europe or elsewhere we can work with the Communists. Let them come to Berlin.” The “some,” his critics waggishly noted, included the president. Many scholars argue he got carried away after seeing the Wall, and that is likely true. Yet it is useful to understand that these seemingly contradictory texts are complementary. The president sought to make the sixties less hazardous. To that end, he felt he needed to redefine the Cold War’s rules, those of both the outer and inner orders. The “small” wars, the evolution and growth of Western European democracies and associations, the development and proliferation of ever-more-powerful atomic bombs, the fact of the Wall, the

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lessons learned in the Cuban crisis and more suggested that the postwar settlement needed revision. Not, he clearly felt, to institutions like the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), although he proposed new policies. But he sought to renew the critical rhetorical relationships between the United States and Soviet Union, as well as between the United States and its European allies. His texts assumed what David Zarefsky argues: “Characterizations of social reality are not ‘given’; they are chosen from among multiple possibilities and hence always could be otherwise.”3 These speeches confronted the need for a newly envisioned social reality, an “otherwise” drawn from the present, but better able to manage the traditional liberal problem of dynamic order. The world had changed and would change. How might nations build a stable order assuming disorder, one open enough to allow the superpowers to comprehend each other’s intentions, flexible enough to accommodate Western Europe’s rise, and grounded enough in what JFK knew to be essential differences with the Soviet Union? He began by recognizing the status of adversaries and allies. To recognize others, Nancy Fraser notes, is to see them “as peers, capable of participating on a par with one another in social life.”4 The president wished all sides to see each other as citizens of one world. He did so through strategies including reciprocity, irony, synecdoche, metonymy, metaphor, dissociation, phantasia, transcendence, and perspective by incongruity. These linguistically embodied the dynamic order he sought in the world.5 Each strategy energized the speeches through a skein of mobility, one that substituted one term for another, a part for a whole, and so on. Reciprocity and mobility, he hoped, might craft a less hazardous decade. To explain his rhetorical dynamism, I turn first to the challenges he faced in June 1963 and then to the speeches. I end by considering the implications of this language for international and domestic order.

Kennedy’s Cold War The Cold War defined the world in which President Kennedy acted, but it took concrete and dangerous shape in three conflicts he faced throughout his term: Cuba, Berlin, and nuclear arms control. Each issue seemed

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likely to cause the sorts of miscalculations that so worried the president. The official conclusion of the missile crisis in no way resolved all of the problems posed by Castro’s regime, not least the need to make sure that the Soviets kept their word and removed all offensive weapons. Berlin had long been a flash point between the two sides, and prior to the crisis, Khrushchev indicated that he would soon insist on an agreement to resolve the city’s status. Finally, nuclear proliferation heightened the stakes in these conflicts and others; a Cuban bomb, a German bomb, a French bomb, a Chinese bomb could all make a local conflict a world conflict and threaten annihilation. Conversely, movement on these issues might redefine the larger confrontation. On November 16, 1962, the president met with the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Nearly three weeks had passed since the end of the Cuban missile crisis. The Chiefs informed him that they were now ready to invade Cuba.6 The president no doubt inwardly rolled his eyes at the news, but the very fact of the meeting indicated that the crisis continued to rumble along. Given that the Soviets had lied about the missile deployment in the first place, the United States needed to find ways to make sure the offensive weapons left Cuba. Equally important, what counted as such a weapon? Obviously, the medium- and intermediate-range ballistic missiles fell into that category, but what about the bombers? There were Soviet troops in Cuba, far more than CIA and military estimates, and the question of their presence recurred. In short, a complicated set of negotiations ensued, one troubled by a distinct lack of trust. The two countries sought to resolve these issues in a series of meetings at the United Nations. The administration appointed United Nations Ambassador Adlai Stevenson and experienced arms control negotiator John J. McCloy to represent them at the talks. Stevenson, a liberal Democrat and former presidential candidate, had famously done well during the crisis, but Kennedy wished a Republican to share the responsibility (blame) for the agreements and McCloy fit the bill. Ideally, the United States wanted on-site inspectors in Cuba to verify removal of the missiles. Only after that would JFK lift his quarantine.7 It soon became clear that Castro would never agree to that condition and the Soviets, even if they wanted to, could not move him. So, with Soviet cooperation, the United States used surveillance flights to verify the departure. If that was an

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American compromise, the Soviet Union reluctantly agreed to vacate the IL-28 bombers, which they did not regard as offensive, in hopes of ending the crisis. That sealed the deal. They also took out many, but not all, of their troops. Kennedy announced the agreement at a November 20 press conference. For all practical purposes, that ended the confrontation.8 Yet political and diplomatic issues lingered. Republicans thought Cuba was their most powerful weapon in the midterm elections, as the Percy piece showed, and this October surprise effectively neutralized that appeal by demonstrating the president’s strength. To the public, he did not look like Neville Chamberlain. Nonetheless, his opponents sought to keep Cuba alive. Conservatives charged that Kennedy had held in his hands the chance to overthrow Castro and fumbled it away. Congressional critics also charged the USSR was hiding nuclear warheads in caves, citing “reliable sources” who had emigrated from Cuba.9 The Communists were duping the Democrats, as they had in the summer and fall. Critics twisted the knife by proclaiming a “photo gap” or an “intelligence gap,” the equivalent of a missile gap. Most voters cared little. Democrats fared well in the elections, losing only five seats in the House and gaining two in the Senate, a nice result for the party in power. Most pleasing to JFK, perhaps, was Richard Nixon’s defeat in the California Governor’s race. That removed from the board a formidable 1964 rival. But partisan fissures lingered. As the new year dawned, Americans still identified Cuba as the country’s most important problem and Republicans disapproved of JFK’s performance on that issue. A consistent thorn in the administration’s side, Republican Senator Kenneth Keating of New York promised to “eat my hat” if Kennedy could prove that the missiles were gone. A commanding February 6 press briefing by Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, broadcast live on all three television networks, evidenced the administration’s tough expertise and set the table for Keating. There were no nuclear caves. Keating simply switched his attention to Soviet troops on the island, and former President Eisenhower also weighed in. He argued the Soviets seemed “intent on making Cuba” into a formidable military base. Senator Goldwater agreed, saying that the president needed to “do anything that needs to be done to get rid of that cancer. If it means war, let it mean war.” The inimitable Nixon refused to go gently into that good night: “We must no longer postpone

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making a command decision to do whatever is necessary to force removal of the Soviet beachhead.”10 Despite all this, JFK’s standing rose nicely into 1963. His postcrisis approval rating initially soared into the low 70s, and then settled back again, but at a level worthy of envy.11 In short, the nation remained as closely divided as ever, but Kennedy held a somewhat stronger hand. The November deal restored some normalcy to the superpower relationship, but serious issues remained. As part of the deal to conclude the crisis, President Kennedy had promised not to invade Cuba and to remove Jupiter missiles from Turkey. But he never included the former in a formal agreement and he never announced the latter. It only went public with the posthumous publication of Robert Kennedy’s memoir in 1969. Removal of the Jupiters posed no problem, but continued military raids conducted by exiles sparked periodic protests from the USSR. Yet two factors seemed more important. First, conventional wisdom has correctly suggested the Cuban crisis scared both leaders and led them to ease tensions. Second, the negotiations invigorated the symbolic forum for Soviet–American relations. This was not a terribly significant agreement, yet both sides dealt with one another, exchanged ideas, and made compromises. That offered hope for the future, as did correspondence between the two men. “Now,” Khrushchev famously wrote to Kennedy, “we have untied our hands to engage closely on other urgent international matters.” Those might include Berlin and nuclear testing.12 But tied hands seemed a perilously apt metaphor for the two nations’ Berlin predicament. During the 1960 election, Khrushchev laid low, waiting for the advent of a new administration. He believed this would help Kennedy.13 Afterward, the Premier made several good-will gestures, including the release of two pilots whose RB-47 aircraft had been shot down after wandering into Soviet airspace in the summer of 1960. He did so in the hope that Kennedy would help to resolve Berlin’s status. Occupied by the four victorious powers (France, Great Britain, the United States, and the USSR) at the close of World War II, the city lay deep within the Soviet zone of Germany, which itself had been divided into four occupation zones. Since then, the zones had solidified into a de facto East and West Berlin and a de facto East and West Germany. But no peace treaty had been signed, nor were the divisions, and the legal rights

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appertaining to them, formally set in an agreement. Khrushchev wanted to resolve the situation for at least three reasons. First, he sought the traditional respect due to a great power. For his rival to hold an outpost in the Soviet sphere of influence was intolerable. Second, that bolt hole created an enormous flow of refugees that he and the East Germans wished to stop. John Lewis Gaddis reports that one-sixth of the East German population moved west between 1945 and 1961.14 Third, the creation of West Germany, its remarkable economic growth, and its incorporation into NATO led many to believe that it would inevitably develop a nuclear deterrent. In fact, Eisenhower made nuclear sharing a foundation of his NATO policy. He felt the United States could not forever deny allies weapons critical to their defense in the event of war. Equally important, a “unified Western Europe, with a nuclear force under its own control, could effectively counterbalance Soviet power without direct American involvement.” The United States would never be able to bring the troops home, balance the budget, and resume normal life without a Western European nuclear deterrent.15 For the USSR, the idea of a German finger on the nuclear trigger was terrifying beyond words. Not only had the Germans twice launched preventive war in the last 50 years, they could also use nuclear weapons to alter Soviet behavior in East Germany, should the need arise.16 For instance, if East German workers rioted as they had in 1953, would a nuclear West Germany stand by as Soviets slaughtered Germans? The Soviets also feared a reverse domino theory; if East Germany gained more freedom as a result of a West German bomb, it might trigger similar ideas across Eastern Europe. Khrushchev felt he needed a treaty to end the exodus and West German nuclear ambitions. He also wanted to persuade hardliners in and outside (China) of his government that negotiations would lead to good results. Starting with an ultimatum in 1958, he intermittently threatened to sign a separate peace treaty with the East German government that would give it the power to regulate access to West Berlin. Since neither the United States nor the West Germans formally recognized or trusted East Germany, the danger was clear. It could stop emigration and assert its sovereignty by isolating West Berlin. NATO would have no real choice but war to restore access. Given the Soviet advantage in conventional forces, the conflict would cause NATO

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to go nuclear. Khrushchev sought to use threats to gain immediate or eventual removal of NATO forces from West Berlin, leaving it prey to the East Germans. Meanwhile, President Kennedy saw Berlin as a dangerous issue that could disrupt the Western alliance and focused instead on nuclear testing. He thought its end and the consequent limit placed on the nuclear club would be the first step toward easing the threat of nuclear war. He believed an agreement was near; it had only been stalled by the acrimonious end of the Eisenhower administration. He also knew Americans were deeply concerned about atmospheric radioactive fallout from airborne tests. Glenn Seaborg, head of the Atomic Energy Commission under JFK, wrote during the later ratification fight: “A Gallup poll in early September [1963] showed nearly four-to-one support for the treaty among those with opinions. . . . Congressional mail and other public expressions made it clear that the fallout question was probably the most important factor leading to this popular support.”17 A test ban treaty looked to be good politics. A Berlin accord was not. Given its inevitable compromises, an agreement might worry allies abroad and paint JFK as an appeaser at home. Lawrence Freedman summarizes the problem: “The point of all this [the gestures], as far as Khrushchev was concerned, was to create a climate in which the issue of Berlin, and Germany more generally, could be dealt with once and for all. Kennedy, however, saw the Berlin issue as treacherous and wanted instead to work on agreements to reduce the dangers of nuclear war.”18 Yet as the administration found its footing, it became apparent that the two issues flowed into one another. The “fixed point” of American policy in Europe, as National Security Advisor McGeorge Bundy wrote, was to deny the Germans control of nuclear weapons. JFK understood Soviet fears and hated the idea of proliferation. The more nations that controlled such weapons, the more likely was an accidental or intentional exchange. He did not want a Soviet–West German confrontation to light up Chicago or Boston. But if the United States denied such weapons to one ally, it needed to deny or limit their spread to the British (who had an obsolete nuclear force) and the French (who had none). And if the Western Europeans lacked a credible deterrent, the United States would have to offer a security guarantee, stay in Europe, and, in particular, stay

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in West Berlin. Neither the West German nor the American public would tolerate its loss. There was a deal to be had. If the Soviets would accept the status quo, including the American troops and deterrent, the United States would keep West Germany non-nuclear. A test ban treaty could serve as the unspoken means to that end. If both Germanies signed, there would be no West German bomb. Yet JFK and Khrushchev insisted on different starting points. Khrushchev thought a test ban treaty would not solve the refugee crisis or the issue of respect; only the withdrawal of NATO troops would do that. He wanted to begin there. Kennedy thought a denial of West German nuclear status should apply to all allies: A test ban could ensure that, at least for the French (and, for that matter, the Chinese). If no nuclear weapons became the status quo, then American troops had to stay in West Berlin as evidence for the security guarantee.19 The two men agreed to meet in Vienna in summer 1961 to negotiate, but the failures of the prior six months, from the Bay of Pigs to their differing priorities, made conflict inevitable. Khrushchev sought to bully Kennedy; Kennedy sought a meeting of the minds. Both failed and no agreements were reached. The Soviet leader would not bend on his insistence that NATO should evacuate West Berlin. The acrimony infected relations for the next eighteen months. The frustrated Soviets solved the exodus by building a wall. JFK saw this as better than war and, like Eisenhower in regard to Hungary, accepted Soviet power to control Eastern Europe. The Wall ended the “brain drain” of refugees, but failed initially to ease tensions. Khrushchev continued to insist that West Berlin was an insult to the East Germans and the Soviet Union.20 Paradoxically, the superpowers needed the Cuban missile crisis to stabilize the situation. In July 1962, Premier Khrushchev began quietly, but urgently, indicating in several meetings that he would not arouse Americans with demands before the midterm elections, but would insist on a Berlin treaty after.21 In fact, Foreign Minister Gromyko repeated that demand in the famed October lying witness meeting. Khrushchev also suggested that he might go to New York to address the United Nations after the midterm elections. Given this, it is “tempting,” David Coleman notes, to see a plan. In November 1962, Khrushchev would travel to Havana, reveal the missiles, go on to the United Nations, and call for an end to Berlin’s “occupation,” a demand supported by enhanced nuclear

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power. There is no evidence as of yet that he thought this coherently, but it does make sense.22 In the event, he failed. There was no Havana trip, United Nations address, or Berlin demand. In fact, the Wall and Cuba normalized the status quo. The Wall brutally solved the refugee crisis; the murders of people trying to cross it drove that point home.23 The significance Khrushchev’s gambit granted Cuba made it hostage to good behavior in Berlin. As JFK told congressional leaders in a private meeting, “I think if Berlin gets difficult we’d always—they have now given—Cuba’s almost the same position Berlin was with us for a decade. Any action they take in Berlin we can take action in Cuba.”24 The United States had an outpost in the Soviet sphere; the Soviets had one in the American sphere. Honor was satisfied. In an April meeting with diplomat Averell Harriman, Khrushchev said “flatly that Berlin was no longer a problem.”25 That opened the door to a nonproliferation treaty that would implicitly authorize the Berlin accord. Both sides needed the treaty to provide the quid pro quo for a continued NATO presence in West Berlin: a nonnuclear West Germany. Yet that would not be easy. Following the Cuban crisis, the two sides went to work on a test ban treaty, but came to loggerheads on the issue of inspections. In the “untied hands” letter, Khrushchev claimed that American negotiator Arthur Dean had told the Soviets that two to four inspections a year would be necessary to persuade the United States Senate to ratify a treaty. The Soviet leader offered two to three, but Kennedy was puzzled. The Americans had always insisted that on-site inspections were a requirement because they did not trust the Soviet Union to keep an agreement. But the minimum was eight to ten a year. JFK replied in that vein. Khrushchev was furious, claiming the American had double-crossed him. This came at a trying time. The premier faced a strong leadership challenge because of his Cuban failure and his willingness to engage the West diplomatically. It was resolved only by the death of his rival.26 As important, Kennedy’s seeming triumph in the crisis and now this slight aroused Soviet anger. On April 3, Soviet Ambassador Anatoly Dobrynin gave Robert Kennedy a paper from the premier to the president: “The basic theme was this: ‘The United States had better learn that the Soviet Union was as strong as the United States and did not enjoy being treated as a second class power.’”27 The Attorney General decided it was

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so “insulting and rude” that he could not accept it.28 JFK had recognized shortly after the new year that relations had taken a turn for the worse. When asked at a March press conference whether he hoped for a test ban treaty, he said, “Well, my hopes are somewhat dimmed, but nevertheless, I still hope. . . . Now, the reason why we keep moving and working on this question. . . . is because personally I am haunted by the feeling that by 1970, unless we are successful, there may be 10 nuclear powers instead of 4, and by 1975, 15 or 20. . . . I regard that as the greatest possible danger and hazard.”29 Yet the talks stayed stalled. Robert Dallek writes, “Kennedy saw little hope for a breakthrough unless there were some new departure or fresh impetus.”30 Although he had likely ruminated for some time about a speech to spur negotiations, the decision to move forward came from meetings he and Sorensen held with journalist Norman Cousins. Cousins had met with Khrushchev and emphasized to Kennedy the similarity between their positions: Both wanted a way out of the impasse and both felt pressure from hardliners. Cousins argued the United States could afford to move first and Bundy agreed. Kennedy decided to speak, but kept the choice quiet, involving only Sorensen and Bundy in the drafting of what came to be called the “peace speech.” That continued while JFK made a Western tour and flew to Hawaii for the Conference of Mayors meeting. Sorensen worked with Kennedy on the speech during the flight home. Before Sorensen left, he passed a draft to Bundy, two of his deputies, and two other aides, Tom Sorensen (Ted’s brother) and Arthur Schlesinger. On June 8, Kennedy let Secretary of State Dean Rusk, Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, and Joint Chiefs Chair Maxwell Taylor see the speech. JFK feared members of his administration would dilute the draft or that it would leak, sparking attacks that might mitigate the speech’s impact.31 That fear likely resulted from his realistic appreciation for the political power of opposing arguments, particularly the ways that politicians had characterized the Soviet Union. Scholars have long documented the polarization inherent to Cold War rhetoric.32 Serious negotiations that resulted in a treaty to limit or end nuclear testing meant that the United States would have to trust the Communists. Some tests were inevitably highly public, but others could be concealed. The sticking point concerned inspections. How many would there be? How intrusive could they

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be? More generally, negotiations implied some sense on the part of the interlocutors that they trusted each other enough even to talk, much less conclude an agreement. If the president succeeded, he would have to persuade Congress and the American people that his faith made sense. However well an end to nuclear testing and fallout might poll, a treaty implying even minimal trust was something else. Beyond that, a “peace speech,” the talks, their successful outcome, and more would signal a new era, one based on a modus vivendi. The Soviet character, as constituted in prior Cold War rhetoric, offered his rivals the chance to rouse Americans in opposition to this accord and the new relationship it augured. Although previous Cold War presidents and politicians occasionally extended an open hand to the USSR, they more often offered the closed fist. Three prominent figures of the time illustrate the difficulties faced by JFK as he asked Americans to comprehend the Soviets. Senator Barry Goldwater felt that he already knew the Soviets. In Conscience of a Conservative, he called them “alien forces,” a “revolutionary world movement,” a “ruthless despotism,” and leaders of “an international fifth column that operates conspiratorially in the heart of our defenses.” Talks were but another weapon to help Communists win world domination. Many claimed there was nothing to lose by negotiating, but he retorted that there “is harm in talking under present conditions.” It showed weakness. Presumably, Goldwater’s logic led him to believe those committed to talks were part of that “fifth column.” Conspiracy arguments have a long pedigree in American history and he exploited that tradition.33 They work partly through tautology, and that posed a problem for JFK. If he claimed he was not a conspirator and that he hated Communism, that would only prove his cunning as he covered his tracks. The circular logic could not be broken. To talk was to betray. A treaty was worse. Goldwater “firmly rejected” an accord because there was “no reliable means of preventing the Communists from breaking such an agreement” and because it would end tests of “small, clean nuclear weapons.” Those might balance the threat posed by “superior Communist manpower.” Plus, the ostensible concern spurring talks, “radio-active fallout” was “Communist-induced hysteria.”34 Science mattered little to Barry Goldwater. Senator Richard Russell, leader of the Southern wing of the Democratic Party and a highly respected defense expert in the Senate and the

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Washington establishment, agreed.35 For instance, in a December 13, 1962, speech to Dalton, Georgia, high school students, he lauded the advances of science and technology. But he concluded the address by decrying efforts to sustain the civil rights of black Americans and offered an equally gloomy assessment of the international scene: “Ours is not a world at peace, and there has hardly been a moment of international tranquility in the last decade. I see little hope for such in the immediate future.” The fault rested primarily with the Soviet Union, yet Russell also distrusted his own president: “No one would be more willing than I to destroy every atomic weapon on earth if a realistic program of disarmament could be adopted. However, I am completely opposed to adopting any wooly-minded plan which in any way would depend upon the word and faith of the Communist leaders. For, if we did so, we would risk our own suicide and would ensure our ultimate destruction.”36 Two strategies marked this speech and others on the Soviet Union by the Georgia senator. First, he identified as a realist. He shared JFK’s goals, but, given a “realistic” assessment of Communist character, no progress was possible. Note the terms of an agreement mattered little to the claim. Soviet character made any agreement unrealistic. Second, Russell used the “suicide” metaphor, presumably because a treaty’s consequences could be seen so clearly ahead of time that it could only be the result of an American death wish. The Soviet “word and faith” were not good. President Eisenhower’s initially more subtle characterizations of the Soviet Union shared much with Senator Russell. Kennedy’s predecessor was a careful orator who viewed words as a key weapon in the Cold War. As J. Michael Hogan and Martin J. Medhurst have both argued, Eisenhower saw language as a strategic resource aimed at winning the battle for world opinion; he portrayed the United States as a peaceful power and the USSR as its belligerent counterpart.37 That view was not likely to lead him to language that recognized Soviet interests. Instead, he often couched unacceptable proposals in peaceable terms. For instance, Stalin’s March 1953 death offered the chance for a “peace offensive.” Ike began with a speech called the “Age of Peril” or “The Chance for Peace.”38 It opened with his inheritance, a less compact version of Truman’s “two ways of life,” now called “two distinct roads.” But the song remained the same: America stood for freedom and the Soviets did not. Eisenhower,

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however, decried division’s results: a possible “atomic war,” a “life of perpetual fear and tension,” and a “wasting of strength” that precluded efforts “to achieve true abundance and happiness for the peoples of this earth.” Such woe opened a door he then shut. The United States had done its part for peace: “I know of nothing I can add to make plainer the sincere purpose of the United States.” There was “only one question upon which progress waits: What is the Soviet Union ready to do?” The verb was no accident. Eisenhower had said earlier: “We welcome every honest act of peace. We care nothing for mere rhetoric.” Although he acknowledged the horror of war, he never faltered in the claim that peace depended on the USSR. Only it could make peace because “we” did not need to change. He cast the USSR as solely responsible for those harms. It seems unlikely that the Soviets missed the attack. This pattern characterized his diplomacy, and, as Hogan and Medhurst note, one should doubt the intensity of these efforts. Hogan believes the “Open Skies” proposal, a plan to allow each to survey the other through aerial reconnaissance, did “what it had been designed to do: it recaptured the propaganda offensive from the Soviet Union and brought Eisenhower worldwide acclaim as a champion of peace.” But it gave the Americans more than the Soviets. Eisenhower later admitted, “We knew the Soviets wouldn’t accept it. We were sure of that but we took a look and thought it was a good move.”39 Similarly, Medhurst argues the “Atoms for Peace” speech seemingly portrayed “‘Atoms for Peace’ as part of the free world’s (read America’s) commitment to nuclear arms control,” but it was designed only “to gain a psychological cold war victory.”40 Not surprisingly, none of these gambits increased trust, nor did they lead to concrete progress. In his last annual message, Eisenhower threw in the towel.41 He posed the question facing the nation by alluding to Abraham Lincoln’s “House Divided” speech: “Can Government based upon liberty and the God-given rights of man, permanently endure when ceaselessly challenged by a dictatorship, hostile to our mode of life, and controlling an economic and military power of great and growing strength?” It did not seem as if a world divided could endure as it had endured. In words inimical to negotiations, he claimed, “Moreover, we have learned the bitter lesson that international agreements, historically considered by us as

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sacred, are regarded in Communist doctrine and in practice to be mere scraps of paper.” Even that was not tough enough. Goldwater and Russell surely nodded as the president asserted, “We can have no confidence in any treaty to which Communists are a party except where such a treaty provides within itself for self-enforcing mechanisms. Indeed, the demonstrated disregard of the Communists of their own pledges is one of the greatest obstacles to success in substituting the Rule of Law for rule by force.”42 He could not have expressed himself more clearly. For his successor, the force with which these leaders denounced the Soviet Union was a major impediment, not least because he often joined them. Denise Bostdorff and Shawna Ferris claim that JFK’s “anticommunist rhetoric during his first two years as president” made it difficult to change perceptions and “gain acceptance of the treaty.”43 They are surely correct. Although I have offered a peaceful interpretation of his more famous addresses, there is no doubt he often donned Cold War armor. For instance, he returned from Vienna determined to match Khrushchev word for word, and he did so in a July 25, 1961, speech to Congress.44 He began with the Soviet’s “grim warnings about the future of the world, his aide memoire on Berlin, and his subsequent speeches and threats which he and his agents have launched.” That nasty vision of Khrushchev set up an uncompromising claim: The United States was in Berlin “as a result of our victory over Nazi Germany—and our basic rights to be there, deriving from that victory, include both our presence in West Berlin and the enjoyment of access across East Germany.” He asked for a large increase in defense spending, and, with a metaphor a certain Zane Grey fan likely appreciated, said, “For the choice of peace or war is largely theirs, not ours. It is the Soviets who have stirred up this crisis. . . . It is they who have opposed free elections. It is they who have rejected an all-German peace treaty, and the rulings of international law. And as Americans know from our history in our own old frontier, gun battles are caused by outlaws, and not by officers of the peace.” These were lines President Eisenhower could literally have spoken. And unlike in the Cuban speech, Kennedy called the Soviets outlaws.45 The logic sustaining the rhetoric of all these men can nicely be expressed as a syllogism: The Soviets are untrustworthy. Treaties with untrustworthy people are foolish. A treaty with the Soviets is foolish.

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Syllogisms express eternal truths, ones that hold throughout time and space. One could never trust the Soviets. JFK’s opponents advanced two arguments to bolster that case. The first, and lesser, claim was that of conspiracy. Communism was, as Goldwater said of Cuba, a cancer. It spread throughout the national body. It was helped by fools who believed that cancer would see the light of reason and peaceably depart. Not everyone likely bought into this premise, but the willingness of people to believe conspiracy cries should never surprise. The second, and stronger, claim was that of realism. It had the additional advantage, as Russell and Eisenhower demonstrated, of sad agreement with idealistic goals. Yes, it would be wonderful to rid the planet of these horrible weapons, but that is not the world in which we live. Again and again, the United States had offered to open its skies, create an international atomic bank, negotiate over Berlin, and come together in conferences and summits. Again and again, the Soviets refused to act for peace. This argument not only made Kennedy seem “unrealistic,” it also tried to turn his greatest strength into a weakness through the traditional dissociation of words from deeds. If words were a chimera, then an eloquent, liberal president embodied the most dangerous illusion: The Soviets could be talked into peace. Such was the double bind JFK’s opponents sought to craft. The better the speech, the worse was the likely result. Words misled. Only acts mattered in a dangerous world.

The Pursuit of Peace As President Kennedy rose to speak on a very hot day at American University, he aimed to influence two main audiences. First, he wished to persuade the Soviet Union that negotiations between the two nations made sense and, more specifically, that he had become a useful partner. The vast differences between the two would remain, but he sought to create and model a way of doing business in the sixties, a reasonable competition that would not culminate in a mushroom cloud. Second, he needed to convince Americans that, in spite of the stereotypes, the time had come to support negotiations with the Soviet Union. Agreements would not only resolve specific conflicts, but would also craft a

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continuing relationship. In a democracy, a new policy such as this one required authorization from a sovereign people. In pursuit of his goals, the president amplified the habits of pragmatic inquiry with which he sought to ground public debate. He argued that social truths emerged from public deliberation. Advocates should treat their policies as working hypotheses that required assessment to measure effects and develop needed revisions. He believed that everyone had the capacity to participate in this process and judge ideas. When he spoke of peace as “the necessary rational end of rational men,” he invoked and tested such assumptions. He argued for rationality, as he had at Yale University, but his reflexivity meant that he had to meet his own standards. He needed to show that the status quo made “no sense” and he made sense. Yet an unspoken precondition lurked behind his call: Who counted as “rational men?” “Who counts” is a question that often challenges liberals to face the thrill and horror of change. To comprehend the Soviets meant that “we” must see “them” as partners. We should not respect them as moral equals, JFK said, but we shared enough to recognize them. “Recognition,” Nancy Fraser and Axel Honneth note, “has become a keyword of our time.”46 It draws from “recognize,” which derives from the Latin recognoscere, meaning “to know again, recall to mind.” A nagging sense of visual deja vu (“I know I recognize her”) shadows its three major meanings. People offer recognition when they recall or know someone from a past meeting, when they acknowledge someone’s existence or legitimacy in ways they had not before, and when they laud someone for her achievements. The term asks people to see the past and present in ways that alter their perceptions of the future. Such coheres with how the term has enlivened debates in political philosophy. It clearly enables efforts to clarify struggles over identity, difference, and change. To recognize others is to respect their legitimacy, however much “they” differ from “us.” Thinkers such as Honneth and Charles Taylor emphasize its constitutive qualities.47 Drawing from George Herbert Mead, they argue people only develop identities, author themselves, and become whole through the mutual recognition of one another in community. But Fraser turns to status and justice issues that infuse recognition. To recognize people is to see them as legitimate actors

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in social life. She focuses on the ways institutions and cultural forces misrecognize and subordinate people. That move enables social theory to make visible injustices and offer remedies. Fraser makes considerable sense, but the two perspectives seem complementary rather than competitive.48 More important, however, are the means by which recognition takes form in textual action. It often does so through visual figures. Debra Hawhee has explored “rhetoric’s role in sense perception and the importance of developing a rhetorical style that infuses words with perceivable movement and life with visualizable action.”49 At American University, JFK asked his audiences to see, to face, to examine, to reexamine, and, most famously, to “not be blind,” all words invoking visual recognition. Of course, seeing often serves “as a metaphorical placeholder for semantic understanding,” and other strategies also result in recognition, such as reciprocity. But, Hawhee notes, there is something more than metaphorical occurring when seeing is used linguistically to make visions and shape perception. JFK sought to alter perception. That rarely results from one speech, but rhetoric can make present that which is absent, bring before the eyes that which is invisible (phantasia), make lively (enargeia) that which is dull, and help “words come to life.”50 In developing this view, Hawhee joins a long critical tradition interested in how language makes people see, one stretching from Aristotle and Quintillian on phantasia to Chaim Perelman and Lucie OlbrechtsTyteca on presence.51 Michele Kennerly writes that when “images of absent stimuli are generated and made present through civic phantasia, we find ourselves transported, and the conditions of the here, the now, and the self altered.”52 Such, Martha Nussbaum notes, matters much to deliberation and decision: “To move a creature to action, an object must appear to him: he must select it, mark it off, organize it, interpret it. But this is, desire aside, what it is to see it. Learning to perceive, as Aristotle tells us, is learning to make distinctions.”53 President Kennedy wished Americans and Soviets to make rational distinctions and decisions. If clarity sharpens visibility, then this speech should work. The thing was organized as rigidly as the Yale address. Good structure highlights ideas, it is true, but it also seeks to forestall misunderstanding. Kennedy evidently wanted any criticism to result from what he said and not from

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conspiratorial distortions. More important, a structured speech ordered the dynamism, the change, he sought to bring to the U.S.–Soviet relationship. Mobility alone could create chaos; structure alone could prevent change. Together, they defined reform. Clarity reflected also the demands of his language. His emphasis on good reasons entailed a rational text. It divided into six parts. The introduction crafted affiliations with his audiences and established an appropriate identity for the forthcoming task; an overview defined the concern of the day, peace; a tripartite body induced Americans to alter their attitudes toward peace, the Soviets, and the Cold War; a set of symbolic acts made plausible his new policy; and a conclusion reinforced his views. The structure accorded with his purpose. Kennedy spoke so that others might see a fundamental truth of the atomic age: “I speak of peace, therefore, as the necessary, rational end of rational men.”54 If Kennedy wanted people to judge rationally, then how did he induce audiences to see themselves as rational? The introduction set that into motion. After appropriate salutations, the president praised the university, recounting its history as a Methodist institution, and noting that President Wilson graced its opening ceremony. Bishop Hurst, its founder, hoped the university would elevate “the study of history and public affairs in a city devoted to the making of history and to the conduct of the public’s business.” Kennedy assured the audience that they embodied this reciprocity, particularly because the university opened its doors “for all who wish to learn, whatever their color or creed,” a neat reference to the other raging issue of the day, civil rights. As graduates, they would fulfill Wilson’s hope “that every man sent out from a university should be a man of his nation as well as a man of his time.” In a few sentences, the president moved the audience from occasion to university to city to nation. He had often similarly stretched imaginative boundaries. John Jordan contends that JFK’s advocacy of the space program deployed a “spatial progression,” one that “drew a connection between the people and a larger beyond.”55 Importantly, as he here moved his audience outward geographically and visually from the field to the city to the nation, so, too, did he ask of them an inward move consonant with his purpose. As they beheld the buildings and greens, they should see a university’s

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true beauty, which rests, poet John Masefield wrote, in its mission as a “‘place where those who hate ignorance may strive to know, where those who perceive truth may strive to make others see.’” Active verbs suited an activist purpose. Those in universities sought knowledge and strove to make others “see” it as well. Thus, he appropriately chose “a topic on which ignorance too often abounds and the truth [is] too rarely perceived. And that is the most important topic on earth: peace.” The decision to make truth/ignorance his god/devil pair was useful. When ignorance (not deception) became the counterpart to truth, then truth became knowledge or, perhaps, reason, the frame he required. If American ignorance of the Soviets (or vice versa) sickened their relationship, then reason could effect a cure. Ignorance is contingent. People can learn. Evil is permanent. It does not learn. The introduction primed his listeners to think as rational students who strove to perceive knowledge, much as the American University graduates had already done. The overview solidified this role and defined the issue. David Zarefsky writes of that useful institutional power: “To choose a definition is, in effect, to plead a cause, as if one were advancing a claim and offering support for it. But no explicit claim is offered and no support is provided.”56 None is generally needed because the chief executive’s institutional and political capital means that presidential definitions often become the dominant definitions, thus crafting an advantageous context for the subsequent debate. Yet JFK did not rely solely on his stipulative power; instead, he deployed a “dissociative definition,” one that “claims to furnish the real true meaning of the concept as opposed to its customary or apparent usage.”57 At this critical moment, he sought to undermine peace’s apparent definition and reveal its true contours. He began by demarcating the borders of peace with a negative definition: “What kind of peace do I mean and what kind of peace do we seek? Not a Pax Americana enforced on the world by American weapons of war. Not the peace of the grave or the security of the slave.” Kennedy’s allusion to Rome disavowed imperial ambitions even as he also dispensed with war or surrender in rhyme. In doing so, he stereotyped and excluded the hard right and left as options and took the middle for himself. By presidential definition, Zarefsky might say, “genuine peace” became the dominant form

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of peace. But people could only grasp it through comparison; knowledge emerged from a dialectic, in movement from one to the other. JFK then amplified his definition so that it achieved presence. Since no one had seen genuine peace, he needed “to make present by verbal magic, what is actually absent but what he considers to be important to his argument.”58 Thus, Kennedy depicted a “genuine peace, the kind of peace that makes life on earth worth living, the kind that enables men and nations to grow and build a better life for their children—not merely peace for Americans but peace for all men and women, not merely peace in our time, but peace in all time.” Sounding in a realist and idealist register, the president focused on daily life and then transcended the quotidian to vivify genuine peace by emphasizing its most attractive qualities. They were appealing ones and became more so as Kennedy turned to the alternative. “I speak of peace,” he said, “because of the new face of war.” Since Hiroshima, writers, presidents, and public figures had made people look upon that grim visage. For example, in his “Atoms for Peace” speech, Eisenhower described the world’s nuclear arsenal and revealed the “hideous damage” that could be done by the “awful arithmetic of the atomic bomb.”59 Kennedy assumed his audience grasped the horror and chose instead to label it. In a parallel structure, he argued, “Total war makes no sense . . .” Repetition of “makes no sense” crafted an interpretation of nuclear war that highlighted its irrationality and modeled an appropriate attitude for the audience; people generally use that phrase when they are tired, impatient, and skeptical. The senselessness of total war and its “idle stockpiles—which can only destroy and never create” led him to “speak of peace, therefore, as the necessary, rational end of rational men.” Necessary” here took on its eighteenth-century connotation as an entailment of natural law. Repetition of “rational” supported this view. It also continued to create the identity he wished people to inhabit. The president made it difficult for any reasonable person to resist this argument and role. Who stands even now for ignorance, irrationality, and nuclear war? To borrow a phrase, it makes no sense. Rational people create order. The thesis led, as it had at Yale, into a forecast of the body. He acknowledged it might be “useless” to speak of peace “until the leaders of the Soviet Union adopt a more enlightened attitude. I hope they do. I believe we can help them do it.” “But,” he

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continued, “we must reexamine our own attitudes, as individuals and as a nation, for our attitude is as essential as theirs.” The two lines foreshadowed an argument later made explicit; drawing on traditional norms of optimism and progress, JFK asserted American agency. He believed “we” could help the Soviets alter their attitudes, if only because their beliefs emerged in conjunction with those of the United States. Each had learned these ways from the other, he suggested, and change on one side could lead to change from the other and thereby transform or transcend the conflict. This nicely reveals the ways in which reciprocity also crafts recognition. He saw the Soviets as equals, surely a reassuring nod to a nation that complained of treatment as a “second class power.” But this also suggested that Americans, too, had learned some unfortunate habits. Those could change if everyone would “begin by looking inward, by examining his own attitude towards the possibilities of peace, towards the Soviet Union, towards the course of the Cold War, and towards freedom and peace here at home.” Like a Puritan preacher, he tied the nation’s fate to its people’s dedication as he had in his farewell and inaugural addresses. Only internal study could alter the outer world. Consistent with liberal and Puritan premises, personal change led to political change. The metaphorical reciprocity between inward and outward reinforced that claim and enlivened his vision. Plus, he asked only what he had requested in his popular inaugural. Looking inward was what people could do for their country. The introduction and overview accomplished several important goals. Consistent with his view on public debate, Kennedy began by praising the university’s ceaseless search for truth and hatred for ignorance. The truth/ ignorance pair was complemented by a genuine peace/false peace pair, a peace/war pair, and a rational/irrational pair. The resulting schema made his genuine peace the “rational end of rational men” (note his rhyme) and ordered the rest of the argument. He also amplified genuine peace, making it visible in the middle of the political spectrum. In addition, the values JFK featured made it hard to resist the identity he offered. Once ensconced in that role, the audience likely accepted his (presidential) definitions and they grounded the argument of the speech as a whole. He recognized the Soviet Union as a partner and suggested Americans did, in fact, have more to do for peace. Finally, he vivified his opening through

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enargeia. The anaphora, rhymes, allusions, imagery, and rhythm enlivened his claims. If one accepted the ideas he praised in the rhythmic prose he made, then one would likely embrace the rest of the speech. It followed from the ingenious opening sections. If the overview defined peace as a goal, the first section made it a means to redefine the Cold War. The sections informed each other while retaining an end/means distinction. Building on his overview, he noted that “too many of us” imagine peace as “impossible” or “unreal,” briefly including himself in the ranks of the skeptics. Rallying from his apostasy, the president said, “But that is a dangerous, defeatist belief.” As if debating Senator Goldwater, JFK argued, “It leads to the conclusion that war is inevitable, that mankind is doomed, that we are gripped by forces we cannot control.” He denied this was the case:

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We need not accept that view. Our problems are man-made. Therefore, they can be solved by man. And man can be as big as he wants. No problem of human destiny is beyond human beings. Man’s reason and spirit have often solved the seemingly unsolvable, and we believe they can do it again.

President Kennedy here took the high ground in the debate. His refutation assumed the form of a “quasi-logical argument,” reasoning that can “lay claim to a certain form of conviction, in the degree that [it claims] to be similar to the formal reasoning of logic or mathematics.”60 It looked like a classic syllogism and served to respond to that other one: Socrates is a man (“Our problems are man-made”). All men are mortal (“man can be as big as he wants”). Socrates is mortal (“Therefore, they can be solved by man”). The premises were social, not natural, but, as Perelman and Olbrechts-Tyteca write, the form lends conviction to an argument by infusing a contingent claim with the symbolic charge of a demonstrative one. To assume the Soviets would never change denied human agency. He believed that true realism, which looked very much like Deweyean pragmatism, disdained defeatism, a claim invigorated by values like optimism and ingenuity. Who would deny the grace of human “reason and spirit”? Resolution of the Cold War, his new logic suggested, rested with the audience. To attack this argument, his opponents had to view people

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as helpless, “gripped by forces we cannot control.” That was a difficult political stance in postwar America. Peace could meliorate the Cold War. Yet President Kennedy also faced serious risks. To this point, the speech had sounded an idealistic tone, chords that could have been played by Adlai Stevenson or Hubert Humphrey, the titans of the democratic wing of the Democratic Party, as it were. Both were confirmed losers in national elections. The current president wished to avoid that fate. He made clear that he did not refer “to the absolute, infinite concept of universal peace and good will of which some fantasies and fanatics dream,” a textbook example of hyperbole, as nouns, adverbs, and adjectives soared beyond reason and distanced him from such lunacy. Instead, the nation should “focus” on “a more practical, more attainable peace—based not on a sudden revolution in human nature but on a gradual evolution in human institutions, on a series of concrete actions and effective agreements which are in the interest of all concerned.” A new pair (evolution/revolution) again dissociated peace. It was an implausible and dangerous hope that humanity could be remodeled by a “grand or magic formula”; peace truly came about by incremental stages through solid agreements and active institutions. God terms like practical, concrete, and effective shaped perception, as did evolution, a metaphor suggesting true advocates of a genuine peace adapted to the environment rather than defying it. A genuine peace “must be dynamic, not static, meeting the challenge of each new generation. For peace is a process—a way of solving problems.” He acknowledged that “there will still be quarrels and conflicting interests, as there are within families and nations. World peace, like community peace, does not require that each man love his neighbor—it requires only that they live together in mutual tolerance, submitting their disputes to a just and peaceful settlement.” JFK’s emphasis on process made peace plausible, reasonable, and familiar to citizens of a liberal democracy. He did not say he would end conflict, only contain it, as was true in domestic politics. Recall analogies make new ideas acceptable by tying them to familiar ones. For Kennedy, peace was the negotiating table, not the communion table. Given that, he built peace on the firm ground of self-interest rather than the slippery ideal of Christian love. Like Madison, he knew that “if men were angels, no government would

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be necessary.”61 Similarly, if the Soviets were angels, then one could rely on their love and word. They were not. Therefore, one must turn to interests; “effective agreements,” he had noted earlier, were “in the interest of all concerned.” This was a logic familiar from the founders and likely to make sense to people. If it did not, there was history. It “teaches that enmities between nations, as between individuals, do not last forever,” a fact familiar to Americans who had hated, cheered, and then hated the USSR over the past thirty years.62 He acknowledged the gap between the United States and the Soviet Union. They were not the same, but difference itself offered room for negotiation. He also reminded his audiences that the world could and would change. He concluded, “So, let us persevere. Peace need not be impracticable, and war need not be inevitable.” A balanced rhyme made his summary more memorable. If Americans thought peace worked when it served interests, the president needed next to argue the Soviets agreed. Yet to make this claim by defending them would evoke the stereotypes drawn by Eisenhower, Goldwater, Russell, and JFK. Instead, he showed what the Soviet Union thought of the United States. Americans would disdain this caricature. But the symbolic reversal would reveal the similarity between their thinking and that of the Communists. As in the missile crisis speech, he counted on the resemblance to nauseate Americans. “It is discouraging,” JFK said, “to think that their leaders may actually believe what their propagandists write.” The poor, ignorant Russians wrote books with “wholly baseless and incredible claims,” like the idea “that ‘American imperialist circles are preparing to unleash different types of war.’ . . . and that the political aims—and I quote—‘of the American imperialists are to enslave economically and politically the European and other capitalist countries and . . . achieve world domination by means of aggressive war.’ Unquote.” Using the Bible’s wisdom literature to describe such nonsense, he quoted, “The wicked flee when no man pursueth.” Yes, “it is sad to read these Soviet statements, to realize the extent of the gulf between us.” Yes, audience and speaker figuratively shook their heads at the obdurate Soviets, an attitude they had danced many a time before in the Cold War. Kenneth Burke would likely note that this ritualistic denunciation of the Soviets invoked American pieties, a “sense of what properly goes with what.” Piety “is a system-builder, a desire to round things out, to

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fit experiences together into a unified whole.” An altar suggests a ritual cleansing; only the symbolically purified should approach the holy. Such linkages brought “all the significant details of the day into coordination, relating them integrally with one another by a complex interpretative network.”63 “We” knew the pieties rounding out, filling up “them”—the Soviets. Not only did JFK’s pieties draw up the entire linguistic system, he enacted his role as the high presidential priest of the nation by articulating its deepest feelings about its foe. Until he exploded them. “Perspective by incongruity,” Burke writes, is a “method for gauging situations by verbal ‘atom-cracking.’” Rhetors know that “a word belongs by custom to a certain category—and by rational planning you wrench it loose and metaphorically apply it to a different category. . . . It is ‘impious’ as regards our linguistic categories by custom.”64 James Jasinski insightfully notes that perspective by incongruity “is a principal mechanism of change—a way of disrupting and reorganizing existing pieties to allow for the possibility of new ways of thinking about and perceiving the world.”65 The “gulf” JFK saw became “a warning—a warning to the American people not to fall into the same trap as the Soviets, not to see only a distorted and desperate view of the other side, not to see conflict as inevitable, accommodation as impossible, and communication as nothing more than an exchange of threats.” The first metaphor urged the audience to see the “trap” posed by their pieties; the second revealed the “distorted” and ugly face of them. Both split apart the existing system by putting it before our eyes—a gulf, a trap, a distorted and ugly view, all came together in this vision of the status quo. Kennedy highlighted the incongruity. To see as the Soviets saw made no sense, and, one suspects, the listening Soviet audience probably thought the same. To see as a capitalist running dog was equally unacceptable to them. The president altered the here and now, the selves of both sides, by revealing what they were, without the comfort of rose-colored glasses. Yet in doing so, he still made important distinctions. Only those like the Soviets would perceive the Cold War as did the Soviets, would “see conflict as inevitable, accommodation as impossible.” This did not describe all Americans, although most likely felt tempted by an easy system of pieties. It nicely targeted Kennedy’s foes. The American right and the Communist left, he implied, shared a fundamentalist interpretation of

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the era, a literal reading of history projecting only the continuing inevitability of past pieties. By revealing the congruence between Cold War absolutists and the Soviets, he cracked the atom of the linguistic system and induced change. He flipped conservative pieties. Their wild language revealed an inherent similarity to that of the Communists. Senator Goldwater spoke as those people spoke. The president did not. Yet the enmity remained, so Kennedy needed to negotiate the tension between the old and his new, salvaging the best of the past system and folding that into a new vocabulary. He also continued to insist that the United States and the Soviet Union were not morally equivalent. JFK distinguished between the two through dissociation: “No government or social system is so evil that its people must be considered as lacking in virtue.” Americans agreed “Communism” was “profoundly repugnant as a negation of personal freedom and liberty.” “But,” and dissociation always has a “but,” “we can still hail the Russian people for their many achievements—in science and space, in economic and industrial growth, in culture, in acts of courage.” He recognized the Russians as people, a view hard for Americans to accept in 1963. So he encouraged them to pile their disdain on Communism, but allowed the “Russian people” to emerge barely touched by the rhetorical wreckage. Arguably, the Communist regime had made these triumphs possible, but dissociation enabled Americans to ignore that inconvenient fact and laud the average Russian. It helped that those over thirty probably retained some good feeling for the USSR from the war. That, in turn, became the next topic for JFK, as he reminded Americans of the enormous losses incurred by the Soviets. Equally important, he crafted grounds for identification between Russians and Americans. Among them, “none is stronger than our mutual abhorrence of war.” He noted that “we have never been at war with each other.” While he defined Americans as naturally peaceful, the Soviets had learned their hatred of war: And no nation in the history of battle ever suffered more than the Soviet Union in the Second World War. At least twenty million lost their lives. Countless millions of homes and families were burned or sacked. A third of the nation’s territory, including two-thirds of its industrial base,

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was turned into a wasteland—a loss equivalent to the destruction of this country east of Chicago.

Statistics showed the scale of Soviet losses, while the analogy translated abstract numbers into geographical terms Americans could understand; a map of the United States almost inevitably springs to mind’s eye. Importantly, the argument showed that the Soviets could learn and they had done so through an unforgettable experience of war, unlike any in history. They knew the next war could be worse and that tragic knowledge bound both sides. Other nations would face horrific casualties, but “our two countries will be the primary target.” Even absent a war, the two “bear the heaviest burdens. . . . , devoting massive sums of money to weapons that could be better devoted to combat ignorance, poverty, and disease.” This recalled his inaugural address, calling the people to his original mission as president. He had recognized a special relationship between the USSR and the United States, one characterized by their paradoxical status of power and vulnerability. They were the only members of the same class and should be treated equally. They could bear the heaviest burdens or drop them. The choice seemed obvious. But note that this did not mean Americans should love the USSR, nor should the Soviets embrace the United States. Rather, good policy rested on interest. He had argued that American biases mirrored Soviet prejudices, that disdain should focus on Communism, not Russians, and that fundamentalism was an untrustworthy and irrational guide to diplomacy. By doing so, JFK portrayed the USSR as a nation that recognized its interests, especially if American policy rested on interests. After all, he crafted a reciprocal relationship between them. Americans should see the awful Soviet experience of war, their consequent abhorrence of it, the mutual vulnerability of the two nations in any new war, and, therefore, their “mutually deep interest in a just and genuine peace and in halting the arms race.” If Americans perceived this, they should then see that “even the most hostile nations can be relied upon to accept and keep those treaty obligations, and only those treaty obligations, which are in their own interest.” Note that the “most hostile nations” line included both parties. Unlike Eisenhower, JFK saw the sins of all and, in that, found a foundation for talks. He offered a sober appraisal of the limited

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trust needed for negotiations. Arms control talks could work only insofar as utility stretched. Interest provided the mortar with which to build a foundation for peace. Yet this left Kennedy with a rhetorical dilemma. Although such reasons would probably convince opinion leaders, realist argumentation had seldom inspired people to storm a barricade or change their way of life. As an idiom, realism defines the international scene as a Hobbesian state of nature with nation-states as the key actors. Absent rules, nations “learn to conduct their foreign policies on the basis of national interest defined in terms of power.”66 Power generally means domination of the scene and its actors and is measured in terms of financial and military strength. But that can be wasted if leaders do not understand the reality of international anarchy. Realists see the world “as it is,” while others paint pretty pictures, offering only “wooly-minded” plans that rely on the goodwill of wolves. Like Plato, realists see through the deceptive, linguistic shadows and do what must be done in a cold world. Unfortunately for realism’s popularity, this is necessarily an elitist rhetoric. It shapes an elect, philosopher kings who can “see through” appearances to discern the real forces controlling nations. By definition, such insights are limited to the few; otherwise, there could be no deluded many to disdain and nothing to see through. Realism’s elitism makes up much of its appeal and so, by its nature, it can never be popular. Should a particular version become so, “realists” will almost inevitably find yet more hard choices invisible to others in order to maintain their status. Beyond that, its reductive view of human nature limits realism’s means of persuasion. There are never grounds for identification or trust because life is a zerosum game, like Monopoly. Each player’s interest excludes those of others. Since only interest matters, only it can be persuasive. That makes it hard to imagine a community, much less persuade one.67 Realism’s grounding in interest also undermines the existence of its agent, the nation-state. A realist ontology based on interest erodes personal commitment to a national order as surely as it does national support for an international order. As an idiom, realism effectively deconstructs languages and commitments but it cannot build communal life.68 It is nihilistic. For these reasons, Kennedy needed to transcend realism without discarding it. Interest justified his new policy, but realism did not offer

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an adequate account of interest. Liberalism did. But his purpose also required such a move. To this point, a text seeking to manage the conflict between the United States and Soviet Union had relied heavily on dissociation: truth/ignorance, peace/war, and so on. If rhetorical form creates “an appetite in the mind of an auditor, and the adequate satisfying of that appetite,” then JFK needed to manage or transcend the oppositions in his text to show that it could happen in the world.69 His solution became famous. He urged, “So let us not be blind to our differences, but let us also direct attention to our common interests and the means by which those differences can be resolved.” He argued for a comprehensive vision, one aware of difference but able to see ways in which it “can be resolved.” This was a step above conflict and he climbed again: “And if we cannot end now our differences, at least we can help make the world safe for diversity.” The inverted word order in the first clause meant both clauses ended with alliterative key terms, but there was a twist. Difference did not now oppose diversity. It created diversity. One animated the other and signaled his use of transcendence. As he did in the inaugural address, JFK sought to create a hierarchy in which “there would be a guiding order or unitary principle.”70 He would transcend division to find common ground. That led him to continue up. If difference created diversity, then both held in common a respect for difference, for the worth of the other. That, in the text, became the path to peace. Peace meant diversity. Diversity flowed from difference. Differences between nations became not a reason for war but a warrant for peace. Equally important, the phrase “safe for diversity” invoked and altered President Wilson’s call for a world “safe for democracy.” JFK’s words reworked that liberal idealism for an atomic age. To make the world safe for democracy with a crusade against a nuclear-tipped Soviet Union would be, as he said, “a collective death wish.” Instead, he held difference/diversity in tension, as a productive and constitutive force that could lead to a new relationship. That need was dire, for “in the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s futures. And we are all mortal.” One complex sentence led into three simple ones, adding momentum to these famous words. The final analysis displaced the nation-state in favor of the small planet. “We” identified all citizens of the planet as a single

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community that shared the need to breathe the air and raise the children. All also shared a tragic truth: mortality. That was the common interest. All lived in the bomb’s shadow. That fact meant that peace became everyone’s interest and interest grounded the ideal of peace. In sum, the body’s first two sections took as their main rhetorical task the justification of negotiations with the Soviet Union. Given the rational audience the president had earlier defined, he forwarded two lines of argument. He first redefined peace, re-visioning it from fanciful dream to practical reality—a way of doing tasks, a process of working through institutions and meetings, “concrete actions and effective agreements which are in the interest of all concerned.” If accords were in the interest of all, could even the Soviet Union be trusted to see its interest in this way?71 JFK said yes. He argued history had made the Soviets abhor war, the current impasse accentuated that loathing, and the bomb had changed realist calculations of interest. Traditional realism had been measured and found wanting. Instead, JFK sought a pragmatic sense of interests, one that recognized it was now in the mutual interest of both sides to “make the world safe for diversity.” The Cuban missile crisis had made that clear. If peace was in Soviet interests and if it understood its interests, then how could the United States bring its adversary to act on them? That task occupied the third part of the body, his analysis of the Cold War. In a key move, he vacated “the history of last eighteen years,” so that he might introduce “new principles while theoretically remaining faithful to old” ones, a strategy Burke labels “casuistic stretching.”72 At the same time, JFK reiterated the reciprocity between the United States and Soviet Union. By connecting the two in this way, he revealed how they might alter each other’s behaviors. He turned quickly to reciprocity. He dismissed past conflict, discarded the need to score points, disdained the idea of “distributing blame,” and asserted that Americans should hope for change from the “Communist bloc,” but must “conduct our affairs in such a way that it becomes in the Communists’ interest to agree on a genuine peace.” This reciprocity should “above all” be marked by a determination “to avert those confrontations which bring an adversary to a choice of either a humiliating retreat or a nuclear war.” That would threaten his small planet. Note

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again the United States could act for peace in a way that would induce a corresponding Soviet action. He then turned to the major issues between the two. In each, he tacked between American policies and Soviet responses; in each, he spoke as if past principles authorized current choices. American weapons were “carefully controlled, designed to deter, and capable of selective use,” a dismissal of massive retaliation and a statement of flexible response. Americans would not “jam foreign broadcasts” because they sought “peaceful competition.” Americans would bolster “the United Nations” in order to build “a system capable of resolving disputes on the basis of law, of ensuring the security of the large and the small, and of creating conditions under which arms can finally be abolished.” This echo of his inaugural address’s idealistic call for a “world of law” led to his most bellicose moment. He said the “Communist drive to impose their . . . system on others is the primary cause of world tension today,” but “if all nations could refrain from interfering in the self-determination of others, then the peace,” which was in the Soviet interest, “would be much more assured.” My insertion in the last line in the preceding paragraph characterized his argument. JFK explained American choices as an articulation of past common sense, even as most of them shifted the emphasis, and often the substance, of the Eisenhower Cold War. Yet each argument was also alive with the possibilities posed by the earlier portions of the speech. Burke notes that a “truly liquid attitude towards speech” would “employ ‘casuistry’ at points where . . . lacunae are felt.” The result “would be a firmer kind of certainty, though it lacked the deceptive comforts of ideological rigidity.”73 Like perspective by incongruity, casuistic stretching liquefies language, folding change into its texture. It facilitates movement. JFK moved American words and policies in ways that invited reciprocity and addressed existing lacunae. American weapons sought deterrence and so Soviet weapons should . . . ? The United States welcomed peaceful competition and so the Soviets should . . . ? The Americans supported their allies, expecting the Soviets would . . . ? In each, there was an implied invitation based on reciprocity and on the repeated thesis/antithesis/ transcendence pattern. If the USSR accepted, then both sides could rise above this cold war and begin “a new effort to achieve world law, a new

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context for world discussion.” Reciprocity recognized the USSR’s participatory parity in the world and authorized that status as “true” to past principle. The two nations could work together and Americans should accept that fact. The proof for that would come in action. So the president turned, as deliberative speakers often do, to steps signaling his policy’s plausibility. He proposed “a direct line between Moscow and Washington, to avoid . . . the dangerous delays, misunderstandings, and misreadings of others’ actions which might occur at a time of crisis.”74 That likely made sense to people and JFK had again started with the small. Arms control looked to be more troublesome. Although “complete disarmament” remained a priority, he would look in the near future to “a treaty to outlaw nuclear tests. The conclusion of such a treaty, so near and yet so far, would check the spiraling arms race in one of its most dangerous areas.” The cliché in the first half of the last sentence diminished the goal’s difficulty, while the metaphor in the second heightened its impact. This was a good choice, practical yet important. He then made two announcements. First, the United States, the Soviet Union, and Great Britain would begin talks. Second, the United States would not conduct atmospheric tests “so long as other states do not do so.” As Theodore Windt notes, such “acts of good faith” often “demonstrate to friend and foe alike that one means what one says.”75 If successful, these steps would show the new policy’s expediency. The subsequent few paragraphs concerned civil rights more than relations with the Soviet Union, yet he invoked the same principles in an effort to show that they would work at home and abroad. They were practical, concrete, and effective. He argued first that “the quality and spirit of our own society must justify and support our efforts abroad.” Second, “peace and freedom walk together.” The metaphor was likely no accident, given the central role marches played in the civil rights movement. Peace required freedom, he said, and freedom would come with peace. The two became visible and real in those mobile bodies, a point to which he would return the next day. Finally, “this is not unrelated to world peace. ‘When a man’s way[s] please the Lord,’ the Scriptures [Proverbs 16:7] tell us, ‘he maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him.’”76 This biblical endorsement of reciprocity led, as one might now expect, to transcendence. He asked if peace was not, in the “last analysis, basically

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a matter of human rights—the right to live out our lives without fear of devastation, the right to breathe air as nature provided, the right of future generations to a healthy existence?” Much as he had rewritten Wilson, he now tailored Franklin Roosevelt’s words to fit the issues of nuclear war and civil rights.77 His allusions aligned peace here and abroad with the Fourteen Points and the Four Freedoms. Casuistic stretching, indeed. JFK closed by posing a choice because the time had come for the decision deliberation demanded. He acknowledged no treaty “can provide absolute security.” But, “if it is sufficiently effective in its enforcement and it is sufficiently in the interests of its signers,” it could “offer far more security and far fewer risks than an unabated, uncontrolled, unpredictable arms race.” By amplifying the risks of the old, he diminished the threat of the new. He reiterated his god terms here, as well as the “interests” of the two parties. Those moves summarized his major themes. Consistent with his larger political agenda, JFK emphasized that change was better than standing pat. He asserted that the United States would defend its interests, but would also “do our part to build a world of peace where the weak are safe and the strong are just.” This vision of a planet’s common good again echoed the inaugural. That good would result not from “a strategy of annihilation,” but from “a strategy of peace.” Given the alternatives, there seemed little doubt about the best choice. Indeed, the speech drew praise from nearly everyone. Although the next day’s civil rights address complicated reaction to this one, there was little doubt that JFK changed the debate. The New York Times called the speech “eloquent” and, echoing him, noted: “We cannot argue that all virtue is on our side, that we have been wholly right and the Russians wholly wrong. The search must be to find a truce so that the world can live in peace while the arms race is halted.” The Times and Washington Post reprinted the text. The Post caught his view of interests: “In effect he was pleading for a kind of coexistence, but a kind that would safeguard the interests of the free world. . . . his specific proposals reflect complete understanding of the necessity for beginning with relatively modest objectives.” The New Republic’s T.R.B. called it “one of the best speeches he ever made.” Newsweek amplified JFK’s argument, terming the speech “the most forthright appeal any President has made for coexistence in the world power struggle.” It was “notable for its confidence, magnanimity,

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and lack of cant. It was greeted enthusiastically abroad and printed in full in Moscow papers.” The Times also reported the enthusiastic international response. But conservatives reacted angrily to his words. “Republicans,” U.S. News and World Report noted, “denounced the President, said his announcement was a triumph for ‘accommodators’ in the Administration. Said Senator Everett Dirksen of Illinois, the Republican leader: ‘Two weeks ago we urged the Senate Foreign Relations and the House Foreign Affairs committees to conduct a review of foreign policy. Now, with President Kennedy’s drastic shift in policy toward the Soviet Union, we deem such a review imperative.’” Frank Meyer of National Review argued that it was “pathetic to hope” that a diverse world could long endure because diversity was “just what the Communists, with their vision of a collectivist, controlled, engineered, and utopian world, strive by every means at their disposal to eliminate.” He claimed the speech “represents a homogeneous ideology which is antagonistic to the American tradition of freedom, and, as a result, blurs our vision of the enemies of freedom and abysmally lowers our guard against them.”78 Fascinatingly, Meyer, too, turned to vision and claimed that Kennedy failed to grasp the fundamental distinction in the world. He “blurs” the nation’s sight. Even the president’s enemies caught the persuasive texture of the address and found themselves arguing on his terms. Biographers and historians have thought better of it. Robert Dallek writes, “The speech was one of the great state papers of any twentiethcentury American presidency.” Herbert Parmet notes, “Kennedy’s American University speech remains a landmark in the history of post-World War II Soviet American relations.” James Giglio called it JFK’s “most significant foreign policy speech” and said the “responsive chord Kennedy struck related to his desire for ‘genuine peace.’” C. Calvin MacKenzie and Robert Weisbrot praised it, as did Michael Beschloss: “This lyrical address was easily the best speech of Kennedy’s life.” Beschloss also detailed Khrushchev’s positive reaction to the address, quoting the same line of the Chairman’s that appears in nearly every account: It was “the best speech by any President since Roosevelt.”79 At American University, President Kennedy asked his audiences to see the world as he spoke it. The pragmatist reason with which he debated economic issues offered him the resources to recalibrate the

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American relationship with the Soviet Union. Yet reason also achieved another, equally important goal. It allowed him to make distinctions, to see beyond the tired stereotypes of a bipolar world. It was a more complicated place than that. By developing better modes of sight and perception, the president authorized his policy and recognized the Soviet Union as a partner in world affairs. The two sides were not the same and disagreed vehemently on the morality and efficacy of their systems. But they could do business. To echo an earlier chapter, JFK developed alternative “equipment for living.” Soviets could recall the president of the inaugural address, not the one who implied that only “we” won the war, that “our victory” authorized “our” presence in West Berlin. Americans could recall the Soviets who had sacrificed so much to defeat such great evil. Dissociation dissolved the ugly, old pieties distorting civic vision. But the speech did more. It not only dismantled the status quo, it also crafted something new out of that mess. Striking incongruities and associations shaped alternative ways of seeing, a revived recognition of the USSR. He built on that by locating the agency to change the Cold War in the reciprocal relationship between the United States and Soviet Union. Rather than continuing the vicious circle that had characterized their relationship, one bomb leading to two to three to ten and more, they could seek to use this reciprocity to create a virtuous circle, in which one act of peace led to two and more, making a world safe for diversity. To prove this policy made sense, JFK established its expediency through quasi-logical arguments, casuistic stretching, symbolic acts, and more. The argument for change rested on the solid foundation of interest, but interest defined by ideals, the only rational choice in an atomic age. His reason found its complement in a musical text. A compendium of devices, including balance, rhyme, rhythm, and alliteration, lent enargeia to his reason. The speech sang. It enacted its theme of a dynamic peace in an array of figures such as metaphor, irony, and reciprocity. Finally, he put his opponents in a hole. Kennedy defined realism as liberal pragmatism, crafting a “liquid” approach that embraced change and escaped the traps set by his foes. He demonstrated only eloquent idealism could define American interests in a world where both sides must breath the same air. He claimed history by tying his ideas to the true principles of the past, from the Fourteen Points to the Four Freedoms. To oppose him was to

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oppose them as well as to embrace despair, defeat, and death. As Meyer’s reaction shows, this was not a comfortable place. He could only offer an unacceptable status quo, even as American interests and values called for an accord on the Cold War.

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Let Them Come To Berlin The American University address defined anew a difficult relationship with the Soviet Union and tried to build a more resilient world order, one that would not result in another Cuba. Yet movement there inevitably affected allied relationships, and a complementary task awaited Kennedy on his subsequent European trip. That, he hoped, would build an “Atlantic partnership.” Journalist Joseph Kraft defined it as a “creative harmony between the United States and Europe for economic, military, and political purposes.”80 It tried to refine the inside order of the Western Alliance.81 At war’s close, the United States not only crafted the bipolar world, it also, John Ikenberry notes, “shaped the governing arrangements of the Western system into an order tied together by partnerships, pacts, institutions, and grand bargains and built around multilayered agreements that served to open markets, bind democracies and anticommunist authoritarian regimes together, and create a far-flung security community.”82 By 1961, that fabric had begun to fray. Generally speaking, that happened because Western European nations were no longer as devastated and dependent as they were in 1947. They demanded a greater voice in allied deliberations. Yet envisioning a new alliance would be nearly as difficult as the task he undertook at American University. European developments had long constrained and intrigued JFK. In the previous 15 years, the former colonial powers had lost their empires and concomitant trading partners. Economic interest led to a turn inward as did security concerns. Western Europe steadily developed common institutions. In 1951, the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) appeared; in the mid-1950s, regional groups formed, like the Scandinavian Nordic Labor Market in 1954; in 1955, the European Atomic Energy Community took shape; and, in 1957, the six ECSC nations signed the Treaty of Rome establishing the European Economic Community (EEC).

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Historian Tony Judt writes, “It is important not to overstate” the impact of that. The Treaty of Rome was not implemented for some time and key innovations, such as the European Court of Justice, were then barely noticed. The EEC also “depended utterly upon the American security guarantee, without which its members would never have been able to indulge in economic integration to the exclusion of all concern with the common defense.”83 But the EEC mattered. Intracommunity tariffs disappeared by 1968, trade between members quadrupled by that same year, and, perhaps most important, the project took on an air of inevitability, which is why nations began lining up to join.84 The political, economic, and military integration of Western Europe made war within the alliance seem impossible. That was a historic achievement, one encouraged by successive American administrations. President Kennedy fully supported this project and, in fits and starts, sought to make it a key part of his foreign policy. Prior to this trip, he developed his vision most clearly in his 1962 Independence Day address in Philadelphia. JFK drew the natural link between the independence and consolidation of the American Union and Western Europe’s effort: “The nations of Western Europe, long divided by feuds far more bitter than any which existed among the 13 colonies, are today joining together, seeking, as our forefathers sought, to find freedom in diversity and in unity, strength.” JFK authorized the EEC to a domestic audience by placing it in the tradition of the American experiment and grounded that in freedom, diversity, strength, and unity, a quartet of useful values. He expressed the “hope and admiration” the United States had for the EEC and said, “We do not regard a strong and united Europe as a rival, but as a partner.” He followed that with joint goals, from a strong “common defense” to “lowering trade barriers.” All this could and should be done with Europe as “a partner with whom we can deal on a basis of full equality in all the great and burdensome tasks of building and defending a community of free nations.” The emphasis on an “equal” partnership was critical to his vision. He knew the United States would have to consult more with allies but he hoped they would carry a heavier burden. Participatory parity was within reach as Western European nations assumed their rightful place in the world. In the spirit of the holiday, he told his fellow citizens, “In urging the adoption of the United States Constitution, Alexander Hamilton told

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his fellow New Yorkers ‘to think continentally.’ Today, Americans must think inter-continentally.”85 But for John Kennedy, three challenges arose from integration. The first was economic, the second, military, the third, French.86 The EEC’s advent posed economic challenges. In the early 1960s, the domestic market absorbed 95% of production, so this was no pressing issue. But he wrote in a message to Congress that “some 30% of our exports” go to members or “prospective members” of the EEC. It was “a single economic community which may soon have a population half again as big as our own . . . in an economy which has been growing roughly twice as fast as ours—representing a purchasing power which will someday equal our own and a living standard growing faster than our own.”87 These were trends, not facts, but the fact was that the United States did not wish to get caught on the wrong side of a tariff wall. More important, perhaps, in that special trade message, his 1962 State of the Union, and a speech to the National Association of Manufacturers, JFK emphasized American economic leadership in the Cold War; capitalism must triumph over communism.88 As his trends showed, these speeches used the “locus of the irreparable.”89 If the United States did not craft an Atlantic community, the opportunity would be missed and the alliance lost. He asked for a revised Trade Expansion Act, one granting him authority to renegotiate tariffs. He won passage in late 1962, but deals remained to be done. All in all, JFK sought to make Western Europe and the United States into an Atlantic Economic Community, one bigger and better than the Communist world.90 That rivalry took center stage when it came to defense policy. Western Europe’s growing clout in NATO and JFK’s move from massive retaliation to flexible response created tensions. On the one hand, the Europeans worried their continent could be devastated by an atomic war begun by what they saw as an insane American obsession. Cuba was an obvious example, given the Bay of Pigs and the missile crisis; clearly, the threat posed by a Soviet nuclear force ninety miles off Florida little impressed West Berliners. More generally, dependence on an American nuclear umbrella put Europe at risk in any crisis. On the other hand, Europeans worried that “flexible response” was a way for the United States to abandon Europe. Since the Soviets now possessed intercontinental ballistic

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missiles, many doubted an American president would risk Boston for West Berlin. “For the Europeans,” Andreas Daum writes, “the willingness of the United States to assume the risks inherent in the strategy of massive retaliation offered the best guarantee that America could be counted on to fulfill its obligations to its allies.”91 West German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer was particularly troubled. Freedman writes: “He feared that the move to flexible response would allow the Warsaw Pact to treat German territory as an exploratory battlefield. Deterrence required that Moscow be left in no doubt that an attack on any part of Germany would trigger a nuclear war.”92 JFK believed flexible response would deter the Soviets while lowering the risk of war; Adenauer thought that risk was the only thing that made deterrence viable. The eighty-seven-year-old chancellor also had little trust in a young JFK’s resolve or wisdom. In addition, media coverage of the Eichmann trial in Israel and the popularity of William Shirer’s The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich “left Germans unsure as to whether they could ever be accepted as good allies by their old enemies,” Freedman notes.93 Judt argues that some felt West Germany, or even a unified Germany, should “steer a ‘middle way’ between the triple evils of modernity: Nazism, Communism and ‘Americanism.’”94 If that was the case, the other of the “old men” of Europe would welcome the chancellor’s choice with open arms. President Charles de Gaulle sought to restore the grandeur, honor, and power of France after decades of serial humiliations. A political, economic, and ethical malaise between the wars smoothed the way for the collapse of French military power in May 1940, the British sinking of the French fleet in July 1940, an awful four-year occupation, the 1942 Anglo-American invasion of French North Africa, and the evil called Vichy France. Few allies took de Gaulle seriously as leader of the Free French forces. The Big Three (FDR, Stalin, and Churchill) excluded him from talks about the shape of postwar Europe. Liberation ushered in a near civil war between Right and Left, followed by the rickety Fourth Republic, with an extraordinarily weak executive. An economic mess, France required American financial subsidies to lose its wars of empire in the 1950s. Syria and Lebanon departed with little regret, but horrible struggles with major internal divisions attended the loss of Indo-China in the early 1950s and Algeria, after nearly eight years of ferocious fighting,

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in 1962. Despite U.S. aid, the wars cost France “two-thirds of its currency reserves. . . . Exchange controls, . . . foreign debt, budget deficits, and chronic inflation were all attributable to the uncontrolled expenses of unsuccessful colonial wars.”95 In addition, monetary aid meant power. President Eisenhower pulled the plug on the Indo-China war in 1954 and the French/British/Israeli effort to secure the Sinai in 1956. It also likely did not pass notice in Paris that a youthful Senator Kennedy made a powerful plea for Algerian independence on the Senate floor in 1957.96 de Gaulle felt he had little reason to like American leadership. A radical economic reform program began with the issuance of a new franc and aid from the International Monetary Fund in 1958. Shortly after, France created the Fifth Republic with a stronger executive. Charles de Gaulle assumed the presidency. A good economy was critical for his strategy to restore France. He wished to wean her from dependence on the Anglo-American cabal, build a nuclear deterrent, assure French primacy in Western Europe, and prevent the rise of a new German threat. To that end, in a January 14, 1963, press conference, he vetoed British membership in the EEC and “sympathized” with West German interest in nuclear status. A week later, he and Adenauer signed a Treaty of Franco-German friendship.97 To some observers, that presaged the development of a French/West German bomb, one that would, as I have noted, be unacceptable to the Soviets and undo all that Kennedy and Khrushchev had done. Adenauer’s party, however, disavowed his acts and eased him from power. Still, many French and Germans found the remarkably stupid idea of an independent European bloc attractive. Yet without West Germany, de Gaulle’s plan would come to naught.98 President Kennedy’s purpose was clear. France seemed temporarily beyond redemption. He needed to forge a strong bond with West Germany, assuring it that the two nations could partner in European and world affairs. Again, the issue was one of status. Were the Germans truly equal members of NATO or were they merely an occupied power? If nuclear weapons could not signal West Germany’s status in the world, what could? Given the “special relationship” with Great Britain and American security guarantees to small European nations, a West German bond likely would encourage an alliance so strong that France would feel compelled to cooperate. But the Germans were the key.

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JFK’s reception seemingly showed that he would not have to say anything. In Cologne, 350,000 people cheered him, chanting, as they did everywhere, “Ken-ah-dee, Ken-ah-dee.” In Frankfurt, “the Presidential motorcade was mobbed by friendly well-wishers; police estimated the crowd at nearly a million, and 400 cheerers, mostly women, fainted in the crush.” One felt inspired to give “birth to a baby right on the street.” Amid the hoopla, Time magazine identified two major goals for JFK: “First, and most important, he reasserted in clear, forceful terms the major aim of U.S. policy toward Europe: to help Western Europe become a strong, independent force of its own, linked by bonds of friendship to a strong, independent U.S.” Second, he refuted “Charles de Gaulle, whose lofty vision of a future Europe not only excludes U.S. influence but presupposes that the U.S. would not make good its promises to help defend the Continent.”99 The president did so most clearly in what Newsweek termed and what the administration planned to be “the major speech of his trip”: his Paulskirche address at Frankfurt. Delivered at the church that hosted the first democratic German Parliament in 1848, the speech made a practical case for alliance.100 The text echoed American University’s pragmatism. JFK claimed that the “Atlantic partnership” was “no fantasy. It will be achieved by concrete steps to solve the problems that face us all: military, economic, and political. Partnership is not a posture but a process—a continuous process that grows stronger each year as we devote ourselves to common tasks.” The tripartite problems forecast the body. Kennedy argued the alliance made good sense on military, economic, and political grounds. But he asked West Germans for their loyalty in the same way one sold a Volkswagen Beetle. This was a road-tested alliance, one that would last for years and earn its keep. The occasional stylistic spark could not lift a most expedient argument. To cement the bond with West Germany, JFK needed words to match his ecstatic reception. He invented them out of the experience of seeing the Wall and used the Wall itself as proof for his claims. Yet in doing so, he confronted a thorny visual rhetorical problem, one nicely articulated by Daum. Kennedy’s tour of Europe was much like a political campaign. He sought to seduce the West Germans away from the loving embrace of de Gaulle, a task to which JFK was eminently suited. But to do so, he had to be

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seen. The president had “to see” the Wall, “be seen” seeing the Wall, and publicize this as broadly “as possible throughout the world for the benefit of those not participating.” His trip was a “milestone in German television journalism.”101 Like his 1960 campaign, then, he needed the “jumpers,” the screamers, the crowds thronging about him as visual evidence to the world of a successful seduction. Yet pictures of German masses mobbing a charismatic leader made the West German government, indeed, most EEC governments, acutely uncomfortable, particularly because the East Germans had used many visual echoes of the Third Reich. “Would it be possible,” Daum wonders, “to find democratic forms of political theater to celebrate Kennedy that would free West Germany from Hitler’s shadow and at the same time disassociate the Federal Republic from the GDR?”102 In one symbol, neither the West Berlin nor the West German government distributed flags. Massed flags brought back too much of the past. Handkerchiefs greeted Kennedy throughout the day in West Berlin.103 And it was quite the day. The New York Times reported “over a million” people cheered him; the motorcade from the airport to the Berlin Wall took hours as the city offered “a heartfelt and spectacular welcome to the United States President.” Press Secretary Pierre Salinger “said the reception here was ‘the greatest he has had anywhere.’”104 Biographers fight to describe the enthusiasm. Richard Reeves wins: “Here, after the Cuban missile crisis, after the peace speech at American University, after finally taking the side of the Negroes, it was as if he were being crowned Prince of the World.” Reeves also reports that JFK showed his speech to General James Polke, the city’s commander, asking, “You think this is any good?” He replied, “‘This is terrible, Mr. President.’” Kennedy agreed. Months of writerly negotiation had led to an awful address.105 They stopped twice to view the Wall. At the first, he and the general climbed a platform to look “into the grayness of East Berlin.”106 At the other, the Brandenburg Gate, East German banners blocked the president’s view. The cars moved slowly to City Hall Plaza, where 250,000 people waited. Many had paid “250 marks ($62.50)” to rent “windows and balconies on the square opposite West Berlin’s city hall.”107 During the drive, “Kennedy, who had said very little after looking over the Wall, was putting together a new speech in his head.”108 Not entirely new. RFK had urged him before the trip to say something in German and JFK got the idea for his signature phrase

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on the flight. He practiced it repeatedly, as he had no feel whatsoever for any language other than Boston English.109 The opening greetings sought identification with West Berliners. “I am proud to come to this city,” he said, and displayed his pride by calling forth the “distinguished Mayor” of the city, who “symbolized” its “fighting spirit,” the “distinguished Chancellor” who had “committed Germany to democracy and freedom and progress,” and “my fellow American, General Clay” who led the Berlin airlift in 1948.110 With this tableau, John Kennedy associated himself with these leaders and shared their affiliations with West Berliners. They were all one. He may have used the first person here, but his “I” rang with presidential authority. As leader of the Western alliance, for instance, he announced Clay would “come again if ever needed.” From the opening stanza, the President of the United States as president became one with West Berlin and the rest of the speech amplified that status. The second stanza began with analogy. “Two thousand years ago,” he announced, “two thousand years ago the proudest boast was Civis Romanus sum. Today, in the world of freedom, the proudest boast is Ich bin ein Berliner.” His German did not quite echo that of a native and he smilingly commented, “I appreciate my interpreter translating my German,” which the interpreter duly translated.111 But the analogy was significant. For centuries, Rome was the center of the known world. To be a Roman citizen granted one high status and clear privileges. Many people knew this from the biblical book of Acts when Paul invoked his right as a citizen to demand a trial in Rome (Acts: 23–28). Citizenship also implied a world of law, of rights, of democratic status in the world. For years, Germans had been subjects, not citizens, humiliated and shamed by their history, divided and occupied by foreigners. Kennedy could do little about the division, but as the leader of the current empire, he could do something about status and history. The analogy made citizens of these subjects, but the speech did much more indeed.112 “There are many,” he said, “who really don’t understand, or say they don’t, what is the great issue between the free world and the Communist world. Let them come to Berlin.” The “many” framed this stanza as a debate with unseen interlocutors, people outside of and judging the issue between the two worlds.113 But this was not only refutation. It also

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became a dramatic encounter, a morality play, signaled by the bad faith of outsiders (“say they don’t”), the amplified “great issue,” and the either/or choice. JFK became their champion. He stood and spoke for West Berlin as he urged all who faced that choice: “Let them come to Berlin.” Two strategies infused that phrase. First, the identification was already so strong between the American president and the West German crowd that they could fill out the implication. “Let them come to Berlin” is an enthymeme, an argument in which the audience supplies the needed good reasons and evidence. It works both because it invokes participation—you are more likely to talk yourself into a belief than to be talked into it—and because it relies on and amplifies shared experience. Speaker and audience “know” the facts that support the claim. To come to Berlin, to share the experience of that life, was to understand the great issue. Second, the phrase challenged the unseen others to do as the president did—come to Berlin. It was dramatic and reflexive, a form of enactment as the speaker performed his claim. He knew because he had seen the Wall. To see the issue was the only way to judge well. Sight enabled the distinction between the two sides. The succeeding lines formed a climax construction, as President Kennedy built the mood by heightening the stakes. Repeating the key phrases (“there are some”; “let them come”), he dispensed with claims that “Communism is the wave of the future,” that “we can work with the Communists,” and that “Communism is an evil system, but it permits us to make economic progress. Lass sie nach Berlin kommen. Let them come to Berlin.” The German occurred only in the last unit and intensified the climax of the sequence. Yet the end following that end revealed the moral of that vision: “Freedom has many difficulties and democracy is not perfect, but we have never had to put up a wall to keep our people in, to prevent them from leaving us.” The trope of metonymy recasts the material as spiritual and the spiritual as material. JFK used the material wall to symbolize the spiritual difference between East and West.114 To come to Berlin was to see the Wall; to see the Wall was to see immorality; to see immorality was to know the difference. Refutation, repetition, enactment, enthymeme, and metonymy fused in this sequence to justify and vivify (enargeia) that moral abyss, one symbolized now and ever after this moment by the Wall and the awful truth about communism it made

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visible: “We have never had to put up a wall to keep our people in.” No system could be more impoverished. The third stanza turned from the outer order to the inner order among democratic citizens. Speaking “on behalf of my fellow countrymen, who live many miles away on the other side of the Atlantic, who are far distant from you,” JFK proclaimed that “they take the greatest pride that they have been able to share with you, even from a distance, the story of the last eighteen years.” The contrast is fascinating. The closer one came to Communism, the larger the gap between its values and those of liberal democracy. Yet the distance between Americans and West Berliners mattered not; “my countrymen” still took pride in a shared story. But the president featured the role of West Berlin: “I know of no town, no city, that has been besieged for eighteen years that still lives with the vitality and the force and the hope and the determination of West Berlin.” After the previous climax, he had lowered the volume, but he now began to build again. The military metaphor marked the bravery of West Berliners, and the repeated conjunction/article units—“and the”—slowed the pace of the sentence, emphasizing each remarkable quality. The next lines evidence the impromptu nature of the address. As an amplification of the Wall’s immorality, they seemed better fitted to close the second than to serve as a transition in the third stanza. They interrupted his build, but they did model the best ethical stance toward the Wall. On the one hand, it was “the most obvious and vivid demonstration of the failures of the Communist system.” On the other, “we take no satisfaction in it, for it is, as your Mayor has said, an offense not only against history, but an offense against humanity.” When speaking about the Wall, contempt for its builders should not elide compassion for its victims. The pain came in two forms. The latter echoed the United Nation’s 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights,115 but the former is more general and intriguing. It argued history condemned the Wall. As he decried the Wall’s effects, he built from personal—“separating families”— to political—“dividing a people who wish to be joined together,” reversing the previous order, emphasizing the offense against history. This raised a natural question. What had changed to make the Wall particularly odious? The West German people. Before the interruption, Kennedy had praised the “vitality and the force and the hope and the determination” of

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the city and he now wove that into the historical claim through synecdoche, the trope in which a part represents the whole. It is, Burke notes, the trope of representative democracy.116 JFK argued: “What is true of this city is true of Germany.” The city represented the country, which represented the continent: “Real lasting peace in Europe can never be assured” until two conditions were met. There could be no such peace “as long as one German out of four is denied the elementary right of free men, and that is to make a free choice.” Article 13 of the Universal Declaration defined “freedom of movement” as a right, and JFK used that. But critical to his case was the belief that Germans should be seen as humans who had rights rather than as beasts who slaughtered others. He continued: “In eighteen years of peace and good faith, this generation of Germans has earned the right to be free, including the right to unite their families and their nation in lasting peace with goodwill to all people.” In 1945, it was right to divide and occupy a conquered evil; in 1963, that could not be justified. West Germans had earned their citizenship, an American president proclaimed it, and history now demanded it. Given that, it was appropriate that Kennedy began his last stanza with an allusion to John Donne’s Meditation XVII, his great tribute to the solidarity of humanity. “You live in a defended island of freedom,” the president proclaimed, “but your life is part of the main.” Donne’s vision inspired JFK’s close. Indeed, historian Michael Beschloss reprinted the peroration of this speech as a poem.117 In a sign of the new relationship, Kennedy remarked: So let me ask you, as I close, to lift your eyes beyond the dangers of today to the hopes of tomorrow, beyond the freedom merely of this city of Berlin or your country of Germany to the advance of freedom everywhere, beyond the wall to the day of peace with justice, beyond yourselves and ourselves to all mankind.

The American president made a request of the heretofore despised Germans. Together, speaker and audience lifted their eyes to transcend battle. These beautiful lines spiraled upward, steeling Berliners to their continued ordeal and assuring them of ultimate triumph. Space transformed into time and those quotidian marks of everyday life into a nearly

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eschatological vision of the day of peace and justice for all mankind, a day brought about in no small part, through the wonders of synecdoche, by the democratic people of West Berlin. “Freedom,” he continued, “is indivisible, and when one man is enslaved, all are not free,” an allusion again to Donne, but also to the civil rights address and the reciprocity infusing many of his speeches this June. As usual, the reciprocity flowed cleanly into transcendence. If people lived freely as equals, if they saw as others saw, then “we can look forward to that day when this city will be joined as one and this country and this great continent of Europe in a peaceful and hopeful globe.” Only when people treated one another as they would wish to be treated could that day of peace and justice come. When that happened, “as it will, the people of West Berlin can take sober satisfaction in the fact that they were in the front lines for almost two decades.” The repetition of the military metaphor symbolically transformed the German experience. They were not the aggressors, but the besieged, they did not attack, but stood when attacked, they acted not with violence, but with peace. They could take satisfaction in that performance. A democratic theater and politics, a way of seeing and being seen as good citizens, was not only possible, it was there. All saw it. A despised people had become part of the main and one with their former enemy: “All, all free men, wherever they may live, are citizens of Berlin, and therefore as a free man, I take pride in the words Ich bin ein Berliner.” Jonathan Rieder insightfully writes of the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr.’s mass meeting sermons: “Over and over, King invoked the Exodus, envisioning the promised land that awaited his people. Over and over, too, he invited his audiences to participate in the dramaturgy of resurrection. . . . King’s grandiloquence was almost always at work, elevating the people and poeticizing their pain and struggle.”118 In a secularization of that religious pattern, JFK poeticized the struggle of West Berliners and the West. Through synecdoche, the former stood in for the latter, a move that united the Atlantic community and redeemed the Germans. If they wondered “whether they could ever be accepted as good allies by their old enemies,” this speech more than answered that question. The President of the United States affiliated with the West Berliners and their nation; he acknowledged their citizenship in his powerful analogy

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to Rome; he centered the Cold War on their struggle, thereby elevating West Berlin into the political and spiritual symbol of that fight; he turned the Wall that divided their city into a marker of their enemy’s failure and their city’s triumph; he invited them into the community of nations, symbolically redeeming “this generation of Germans” from their shameful history; and he revealed the resurrection, as it were, the victory they had earned through their pain and struggle. It was a remarkable performance. Reeves reports the “crowd’s reaction was explosive. The President was euphoric. [Ted] Sorensen and McGeorge Bundy were not.”119 The reason for that marks nearly every account of the speech at and since that time. JFK’s emotional claim, “And there are some who say in Europe and elsewhere we can work with the Communists. Let them come to Berlin,” did not account for the fact that “elsewhere” included American University. He sought to soften this in a speech that afternoon at the Free University of Berlin. Reeves dryly writes that Kennedy “sound[ed] a little like Eisenhower used to when he was deliberately trying to confuse the press.”120 Arthur Krock acidly wrote in the New York Times that the “intellectual agility” needed to believe Kennedy’s claim that he meant only coalition governments including Communists should be no problem for White House flacks who often “declare, straight-faced, that black is white.” The traditionalist Krock also questioned the larger strategy. If Europe was to include France, of what use was “a political campaign, by the President, and in Europe, against the German-French alliance”?121 Yet JFK clearly felt appeasement of France could not help. The Frankfurt address offered a strong, pragmatic justification for NATO, and the Berlin address solidified the emotional bond between the United States and West Germany. His campaign united the two nations, forestalling de Gaulle’s effort to create an independent Europe. More generally, the Berlin speech, with that caveat, has received high praise. Pundit and biographer Chris Matthews fulsomely claimed the “speech that day was—both for his listeners and for all those who lived in that time—the greatest of the Cold War.” Beschloss praised it as “a kind of angry poetry,” noting the most important response: “Luckily, the Chairman [Khrushchev] took the longer view and wrote it off as Cold War rabble-rousing, a rhetorical form with which he had no small acquaintance.” Freedman wrote that the Soviets dismissed this speech and

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praised American University, while the Germans did the opposite: “So unusually in international affairs, communications worked well. The various audiences heard largely what they were supposed to hear (and wanted to hear) and were not distracted by utterances elsewhere.”122 Khrushchev knew the trip’s purpose: “Kennedy was ‘competing with the President of France in courting the old West German widow. Both try to win her heart.” JFK did not seek to influence the Soviets. They understood that. Critics should as well. Instead, he wished to cement ties to West Germany and isolate de Gaulle diplomatically. His success in that endeavor can perhaps best be measured by this bit of reporting from Newsweek: “While millions of other Europeans watched almost every step of the Kennedy visit on Eurovision, de Gaulle’s government-controlled French television network dismissed the trip with a 30 second film sequence the first evening, a three-minute look the next.”123 Some people were too dangerous to be seen on television.

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The Hopes of Tomorrow In the postwar era, the United States engaged in an extraordinary diplomatic and military effort to create a liberal, hegemonic world order. On a global level, the United States developed a bipolar system, in which the United States and its allies confronted the USSR and its reluctant allies. Of course, there were nonaligned countries that did not choose, but a bifurcated globe, one shaped by nuclear deterrence, proxy wars, and economic, cultural, and rhetorical competition structured world affairs. Inside the West, the United States sought a liberal order, one marked by free trade, market economies, multilateral institutions, allied states, client nations, and the rule of law. The United States enjoyed unique rights within that order, but other nations had access to American decision making. The United States also assented to most of the rules governing Western nations, while providing significant services, such as the bulk of the alliance’s security needs. By 1961, however, natural evolution and human decisions necessitated repairs. Despite President Eisenhower’s best efforts, he left superpower relations in nearly as disagreeable a posture as he found them. The early

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Kennedy years heightened the crisis; from Berlin to Cuba, confrontations, missteps, and misunderstandings scarred the relationship. This culminated in the Cuban missile crisis, the closest the two would ever come to nuclear war. For once, conventional wisdom proved correct. A brush with global genocide sobered leaders of both nations. Beyond that, the continued emergence of new nations increased the competition for their loyalties, the continued emergence of new weapons systems threatened the balance of terror that kept the war Cold, the continued evolution of the two economies pressured leaders to find new markets, and so forth and so on. The bilateral relationship needed new rules, a means by which superpower competition could be sustained, yet controlled; continued, yet stabilized. Similarly, the fabric of the Western alliance had begun to fray. At the close of the war, the primary fear for nearly every Western European nation was an American return to isolationism. In exchange for its presence, they let Americans take the lead in funding reconstruction of the continent, developing multilateral institutions like the World Bank, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, and so on. Equally important, Germany was divided, despised, and occupied, while France and Great Britain sought to maintain their empires. By 1961, the dreams of empire had ended, West Germany had joined the alliance, France chafed at what it saw as the dominance of an Anglo-American cabal, and Western Europe sought more say in its fate. It asserted that need through the development of institutions, culminating in the European Economic Community. “Europe” threw a weight that individual nations did not. These changes required the United States to develop new rules, a means by which the alliance could be sustained, yet expanded; reformed, yet stabilized. President Kennedy naturally saw rhetoric as a solution to these problems. Roderick Hart, a most perceptive student of the patterns of postwar presidential speech, notes JFK “redefined the presidency as an institution in which public rhetoric—of whatever variety—was to count a great deal more than it had in the past. Under Kennedy, rhetoric became a consistent presidential ally and the president both its nurturer and master.”124 This was true partly because technological change, particularly television’s maturation, gave president and people more access to each other. JFK understood that, it seems, and, in these speeches, used the power of

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visibility. He asked his audiences to see, he made himself seen, and he made visible the rules he hoped would govern the world. His new policies sought to make this possible, including flexible response, the trade expansion act, and the atmospheric test ban treaty. Yet he did more. His linguistic choices addressed the need to refurbish the terms of the global order. The president recognized adversaries and allies, articulating reciprocal relationships that created rhetorical parity in world affairs. He never acknowledged Communism’s morality nor did he want allies to develop military parity through nuclear weapons. Rather, he sought a discursive parity, in which all actors on the world stage could talk to each other and develop a system of rules to regulate competition and cooperation. They would come to comprehend each other. To do so, he used reciprocity, synecdoche, metonymy, dissociation, and perspective by incongruity. They embodied the convertibility of terms, the exchange of people and perspectives. Part for the whole, spiritual for the material, material for the spiritual, treating another as one would wish to be treated, rearranging pieties by using “unnatural” terms, these were the key argumentative and aesthetic moves. His heavy use of this particular discursive family, in turn, envisioned a new world. On one level, the mobility of terms, people, and relationships posited its contingency. For instance, the president not only denied that Russians were irreversibly and irredeemably evil, his discourse undermined the claim. No set of terms dominated because he urged us to see the world as others saw it, substituted piety for impiety and impiety for piety, and more. Form enacted the world’s contingency. He said at American University, “history teaches us that enmities between nations, as between individuals, do not last forever”; he proved that in Berlin by saying “this generation of Germans has earned the right to be free.” As rhetoric makes politics, contingency works its will with certainty. The formal structure of these speeches crafted a contingent world. On a second level, such a reality invents human agency. Absent natural law or some such certainty, people possess the power to craft the society in which they live. Of course, they always face obstacles. This is no easy task. Yet, as JFK argued, “no problem of human destiny is beyond human beings.” The Cold War’s seeming intractability and that of its antagonists posed a major obstacle to progress. Senators Goldwater and

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Russell argued it could never end. Kennedy said that a mutable world offered room for people to size up their situation and invent solutions. He made good arguments to sustain his position and used symbolic acts to test the sincerity of the Soviets. If they responded well, then both sides could move forward into the future, ever the time for liberal action. Pragmatic reason showed, as it had in regard to the economy, that people could make the choice to change. On a third level, that rule was paradoxically the certainty in a contingent world. Chaim Perelman reminds us that an argument of reciprocity represents the most equitable rule of justice. Just societies do not “treat with excessive inequality beings forming part of the same essential category.” Of course, both ends of that equation (excessive; essential) may be subject to public argument for adjudication. Nonetheless, President Kennedy’s speeches define justice in these terms. If West Germans and Americans stood watch at the front, then both became Berliners. If Americans and Soviets “inhabit this small planet,” then all had an interest in its survival. The fact that reciprocity embodies the rule of justice tends to lead orators to transcendence. In this logic, justice asks citizens to rise above current inessential divisions to find a new essential category, one that then grounds collective life. In a contingent world, that is an unending movement. New identities provide grounds for subsequent division.125 Such is human life. Rhetoric, then, served important foreign policy purposes. This family of strategies opened the way to change and set in motion a new sense of possibility. His accomplishment rested in part on his ability to fuse content and form. Even as he argued for progress, his speeches enacted and embodied the restlessness he so eagerly sought. Out of a static system, he made a world safe for diversity. But as parts of the American University speech suggested, many critics demanded that he fulfill that promise at home. He had yet to practice either reciprocity or equality when it came to black Americans. The continued piety embodied by his tolerance of segregation would not do.

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•••

T

he fluidity that came to characterize John Kennedy’s language on foreign affairs took too long to reach civil rights. Racial hierarchies and political realities had long constrained his commitments to mobility and reciprocity. In Profiles in Courage, for example, he praised Lucius Quintus Cincinnatus Lamar, who grew up in Georgia, attended Emory University, taught at the University of Mississippi, served the Confederacy, and entered Congress in 1873.1 JFK admired Lamar, noting he had “lived quietly” after the war, despite the fact that “no state suffered more from carpetbag rule than Mississippi.” The two men shared the belief that when one person is a slave, no one is free. Lamar “hoped to make the North realize that the abrogation of the Constitutional guarantees of the people of the South must inevitably affect the liberties of the people of the North.” Yet this reciprocity claim wrote black Americans out of the people, since they could use those guarantees because they had not committed treason. But that freedom 207

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would end when the “[white] people of the South” persuaded those of the North to protect the liberty of all.2 JFK’s praise for Lamar typified the white consensus then dominating historical studies. Many writers saw the Civil War as an awful, bloody mistake. Historians James G. Randall and Avery Craven, for example, condemned the antebellum era’s “blundering generation.” Irrational ideologues had forced war, Randall felt, as they did World War I. Slavery could not and should not have caused the conflict. It was “perfectly clear,” Craven wrote, “that slavery played a rather minor role in the life of the South and of the Negro.”3 A racist view of Reconstruction flowed easily from this analysis of the war’s origins. Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. and others objected, but Eric Foner believes that a true scholarly revolution required “a profound change in the nation’s politics and racial attitudes.” He claims that the “traditional interpretation reflected, and helped to legitimize, the racial order of a society in which blacks were disenfranchised and subjected to discrimination.” Reconstruction revisionism, therefore, “bore the mark of the modern civil rights movement.”4 Kennedy did as well. Hours after his civil rights speech, one of Lamar’s spiritual successors murdered Medgar Evers, director of the Mississippi NAACP. A week later, JFK met with the Evers family and remarked afterward to Schlesinger: “I don’t understand the South. I’m coming to believe that Thaddeus Stevens was right. I had always been taught to regard him as a man of vicious bias. But, when I see this sort of thing, I begin to wonder how else you can treat them.”5 The “them” mattered. The president no longer identified solely with Lamar’s people. He saw history more clearly as he lived it again. To call this era the Second Reconstruction now seems cliché, but history loomed large in 1963. The drumbeat of one-hundredth anniversaries—the Emancipation Proclamation, Gettysburg, the address—made the battle ever more ferocious. Kennedy could insist, “One hundred years of delay have passed since President Lincoln freed the slaves, yet their heirs, their grandsons, are not fully free.” But, David Blight writes, for a “majority, especially of white Americans—even as they watched TV images of civil rights marchers being clubbed by police and bitten by dogs in Birmingham, Alabama—to claim the centrality of slavery and emancipation in Civil War memory was still an awkward kind of impoliteness at

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best and heresy at worst.” As commemoration and demonstration clashed in 1963, the “national temper and mythology still preferred a story of the mutual valor of the Blue and Gray to the troublesome, disruptive problems of black and white.”6 It may seem disrespectful to the memories of those who died for the cause of civil rights to say that awkwardness made for a formidable rhetorical problem, but that was the case. For too much of this period, too many white Americans did not want to address race or have the nation’s leaders address it in a serious way. That included their presidents. Dwight Eisenhower and John Kennedy avoided the issue until they could not avoid it any more. Study of JFK’s civil rights address demands engagement with the national debate from which it eventually arose, if only because he possessed limited rhetorical resources and a fraught past when it came to race.7 More so even than the other texts in this study, his words emerged from the larger linguistic matrix. Yet liberalism did not offer the sources of invention it did on the economy or Cold War. As Michael Eric Dyson has insightfully argued, the “liberal understanding of race in the United States is modeled on the white European immigrant experience.” In this view, race is another of the variables, including nationality, religion, and language, mediating assimilation or cultural pluralism, depending on the liberalism one espouses. Liberals assume the black experience can, should, or does imitate that of JFK’s Irish ancestors, for example. To think that, however, means liberalism “cannot make sense of the particular forms of oppression generated primarily by racial identity.” It does not acknowledge “the unique structural character of racism or historical content of racial oppression.”8 On this issue, liberalism’s characteristic kairos, its orientation toward the future, is a mixed blessing, at best. Equally troubling was the often strongly held idea that “they” were not like “us,” that African Americans were not fully human. That, too, was something of which good liberals seldom spoke, although it infused the public debate. If the liberal tradition did not offer a critique of structural inequities, it did provide the norm of reciprocity. In this speech, Kennedy extended that relationship to African Americans. He argued all citizens deserved equal treatment, insisting, “Every American ought to have the right to be treated as he would wish to be treated, as he would wish his children

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to be treated.” There is a radical edge there. Although he did not discuss structural racism, he created what James Jasinski, drawing on Eugene Garver, calls an “‘ethical surplus’ (incipient ethical commitments in a state of potential waiting to be actualized) to immediate and future audiences through argument.”9 In this view, rhetoric’s latent power results not solely from a speaker’s intention, nor an interpretive community, nor the text; its force flows from all that and more. Good rhetoric is “ampliative”; it makes more than it initially seems to make and offers that surplus to subsequent generations.10 Such is true of reciprocity in general and of this argument for equality in particular. JFK’s claim that unless whites were willing to switch their skin color and “stand in” the place of blacks, then all were not “fully free,” crafted an ethical surplus by asking whites to see through black eyes. Such linguistic mobility eroded the rigid hierarchy enabling segregation. To speak to civil rights, then, required him to ponder white supremacy, liberal values, public politisse, and, not least, the black challenge to these norms. To make sense of this, I take seriously the “respectable” white supremacist argument offered by men such as Richard Russell, James J. Kilpatrick, and Richard Weaver. Politician, pundit, and scholar, they advanced a strong rationale for inequality, one that denied black people’s humanity as a way to craft white identity. I turn then to two texts that asserted black humanity and framed JFK’s speech: James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time and Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail.” Politicians sought support from both sides at this time, so I explore President Eisenhower’s balancing act as well as that of the Kennedy administration. Only then do I critique JFK’s address and draw conclusions about its liberal call for racial equality.

The Inequality of Man The 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision marks the start of the classical phase of the civil rights movement for most people, although Manning Marable, Jacqueline Dowd Hall, and others make a strong case for a “long civil rights movement,” stretching from the 1940s to the Reagan presidency.11 Certainly, white supremacists saw the late New

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Deal coalition of civil rights activists, union organizers, radicals, and even mainline liberals as a serious threat. Reacting to such grass-roots pressure, Democrats adopted a strong civil rights platform plank in 1948, one supportive of President Truman and inspired by Mayor Hubert Humphrey’s call “to get out of the shadow of states’ rights and to walk forthrightly into the bright sunshine of human rights.” Many Southerners preferred the shadows, however, and formed the States Rights’ Democratic Party, better known as the Dixiecrats. It mounted a strong presidential campaign, organizing the South, in particular, and winning four states. That was a dress rehearsal for the reaction to Brown.12 It was a watershed. No longer did mere politicians threaten segregation with legislation, a menace regional leaders routinely defeated in Congress. The Supreme Court, once a bulwark for white supremacy, had betrayed them. Brown gave focus to a “massive resistance.” A social movement, Kenneth Burke observes, should have “one unifying center of reference for all,” with not only “a centralizing hub of ideas, but a mecca geographically located, towards which all eyes could turn at the appointed hours of prayer (or, in this case, the appointed hours of prayerin-reverse, the hours of vituperation).”13 A school was an excellent literal (your neighborhood ) and metaphorical (a red brick imagined) symbol. A school also offered a “locus of the irreparable.”14 If black and white grew up together, the inevitable next step horrified many. Kilpatrick felt “the fear of ultimate racial interbreeding, encouraged by prospective generations of desegregated and integrated school systems is a very real fear. . . . the white Southerner sees nothing but disaster to his race in risking an accelerated intermingling of blood lines.”15 In short, if segregated schools disappeared, then civil rights, marriage rights, and economic rights might follow, ending the white Southern way. To forestall that, supremacists made several arguments that together posed a formidable barrier to the president’s persuasion. They included black inferiority, a republican community based on inequality, and states’ rights as the vehicle to defend this culture. These formed a coherent, authoritative vision of an eternal social order. Its central idea was the “reality” the Southerner “faces squarely,” the “one reality most often shunned: the inequality of man.”16 Kilpatrick, born in Oklahoma, educated at the University of Missouri, and trained by the

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famed editor and historian Douglas Southall Freeman at the Richmond News-Leader, served as editor of that paper during the civil rights era.17 A gregarious man, Kilpatrick “quickly achieved eminence on the Right,” and proved valuable to the National Review, William F. Buckley’s magazine and a most important forum for conservative debates. Kilpatrick contributed often and “in time he became one of its more or less ‘official’ spokesmen on constitutional issues and civil rights.”18 He defined his stance in a 1962 book: The “Negro race, as a race, plainly is not equal to the white race, as a race; nor, for that matter, in the wider world beyond, by the accepted judgment of ten thousand years, has the Negro race, as a race, ever been the cultural or intellectual equal of the white race, as a race.”19 He supported this claim in several ways. He created a scientific aura for his position with statistics drawn from military tests, IQ exams, and the like. The first half of the book, titled “The Evidence,” bombarded the reader with such “studies.”20 To that, Kilpatrick added the logic noted by Dyson: “Other races of men, caught at the bottom of the ladder, have clambered up.” An easy example supported this claim of a postethnic nation: “Who would have imagined, say, in 1880, that a Boston Irish Catholic would be President? But the Irish fought their way up, on merit and ambition and hard work. They made a place at the table.” Sadly shaking his head, as it were, he wrote of blacks: “Instead of ambition (I speak in general terms), we have witnessed indolence; instead of skill, ineptitude; instead of talent, an inability to learn.”21 Finally, he generalized from historical example, asking: “What library houses the works of a Nubian Thucydides? Who was the Senegalese Cicero? . . . What are the contributions of the Negro culture to enduring art, or music, or literature, or architecture? To law, jurisprudence, government? To science, invention, mathematics, philosophy?”22 Buckley agreed with his friend, writing of voting restrictions in a 1957 National Review: “The central question that emerges . . . is whether the White community in the South is entitled to take such measures to prevail, politically and culturally, in areas where it does not predominate numerically? The sobering answer is Yes—the White community is so entitled because, for the time being, it is the advanced race. . . . Universal suffrage is not the beginning of wisdom or the beginning of freedom.”23 Russell was a national security expert, a lion of the Senate, and led its

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segregationist bloc. His opposition to interracial marriage made clear his views: “Any policy of solving the grave racial problem of this nation by absorbing the Negro race through the process of amalgamation is abhorrent to us. Wherever this solution has been applied, degeneration has followed. We consider it a crime against our civilization and a sin against nature’s God.”24 Richard Weaver, intellectual historian and rhetorician, student of the Vanderbilt Agrarians, and professor at the University of Chicago, offered a paternalistic view, writing of the freed slaves in his doctoral dissertation, later published as a book: “The Negro was an exceedingly pliable being, and his conduct, both in its virtuous aspects and in its vagaries, can nearly always be correlated with immediate influences. If the influence was good, he was likely to remain the ideal of a devoted subordinate; if temptations fell his way, he usually had little with which to withstand them.”25 Both Weaver and Russell assumed and articulated a resonant cultural and political claim: The white South was separate, “our civilization,” charged with the responsibility to care for this “pliable being.” During this era, indeed throughout American history, liberals and conservatives alike accepted Southern difference.26 Visions of Southern order began on the farm; developing their agrarian tradition, intellectuals extolled rural life. Thomas Jefferson famously exclaimed, “Those who labour in the earth are the chosen people of God, if ever he had a chosen people, whose breasts he has made his peculiar deposit for substantial and genuine virtue.”27 Independent farmers embodied “genuine” virtue because of independence. According to republican ideology, to work for others enervated the qualities needed for civic life. One became subject to the will of those who held the purse strings. These republicans claimed that political and moral corruption flowed from a wage-based manufacturing economy. In the early Republic, Jefferson and James Madison tried to forestall this Hamiltonian horror by supporting independent farmers. Madison wrote: “That class of citizens who provide at once their own food and their own raiment, may be viewed as the most truly independent and happy. They are more; they are the best basis of public liberty, and the strongest bulwark of public safety.”28 Such men could see the public good, free from private interest, because they owed no one their living. They stood clear of corruption.

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Yet the shape of their households limited the ranks of citizens. By definition, women, children, employees, slaves, all those who depended on the white, male head of household for guidance could not be full citizens. A peculiar sort of individualism emerged, one that, Eugene Genovese notes, relied on community. Antebellum and contemporary Southerners, from John C. Calhoun to Weaver, dissociated individualism. They condemned “an individualism torn loose from family, community, and civic responsibility—an individualism that has metamorphosed into egocentrism, personal irresponsibility, and a loss of civic discipline,” while celebrating “an older Christian notion of a God-given dignity of the personality [that] . . . requires roots in the community and, above all, the family.”29 A strong contradiction thus characterizes republican ideology in that a citizen is at once independent of other heads of household but dependent on the labor of those making his living through the sweat of their brows. Paradoxically, it was this condition that made his breast the deposit for genuine virtue. “Republicanism is historically,” Isaac Kramnick writes, “an ideology of leisure.” Its ideal of a citizen requires devotion to civic life; in “this commitment to public duty, independent landowners realize their essence as human beings.” Aristotle claims that good citizens cannot “live a mechanical or commercial life. Such a life is not noble, and it militates against virtue. Nor must those who are to be citizens be agricultural workers, for they must have leisure to develop their virtue, and for the activities of a citizen.”30 Civic devotion certified status, so hierarchy evolved. The labor of women/slaves freed the civic leader to do his public duty; to “free” the lesser would be to enslave the greater, denying him his essence as a public man. Neither he nor his community could then see the common good. The impartiality and leisure needed to do so relied on a “freedom” earned by others. Southern conservatism, Genovese argues, “accepts social stratification as necessary and proper, and it rejects the ideal of a classless or radically egalitarian society.” A “transcendent order or natural law in society as well as nature” authorized this hierarchy and defined “political problems” as “essentially religious and moral.”31 In short, Southern partisans argued they had crafted a natural, moral polity, characterized by benevolent masters, who represented the interests of those lesser beings within households and communities, while dealing as equals with those like themselves. Nature’s God had ordained

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this hierarchy, a claim reiterated throughout Southern history, as advocates laid claim to a piety not shared by the rest of the nation. Kilpatrick invoked an agrarian Romanticism, rhapsodizing that the “blessing of the harvest, the wrath of the storm, and the benediction of a slow and mizzling rain on freshly seeded land speak to the Southerner of God’s handiwork.” Organized religion, as a result, “continues to play a pervasive role in Southern life.”32 The fact that “our code of ethics has a religious origin” led Weaver to a significant but paradoxical claim: “It will seem to many anomalous that a slaveholding society like the South should be presented as ethically superior.” He understood that, but wrote, “The great intellectual effort which went into the defense of slavery indicates an ethical awareness and established some conclusions not yet entirely refuted.” Those included the South’s “astonishing resistance to the insidious doctrines of relativism and empiricism.”33 In her study of Confederate nationalism, Drew Gilpin Faust notes the Southern jeremiad’s “focus on decline, almost perfectly paralleled the influential antebellum political ideology of republicanism, with its assumption of a lost world of public virtue and its calls for redemption through a return to past values.”34 These republican and evangelical leanings crafted nationhood by appropriating key themes of American history. The North had embraced equality and relativism through advocacy of abolition and facilitated corruption with a manufacturing, “wage slavery” economy. In doing so, it violated the founding covenant between the states and with God. Disaster would inevitably follow. Secession arrested that decline, but to restore public virtue, Southerners needed to return to the sacred values of the founders. Those included slavery, a positive good even to the slave. Jefferson’s description of black Americans in his Notes on the State of Virginia explained why: “The blacks, whether originally a distinct race, or made distinct by time and circumstances, are inferior to the whites in the endowments both of body and mind.” Such inequality formed “a powerful obstacle to the emancipation of these people.”35 Instead, they needed civilizing. Slavery became “the central component of the mission God had designed for the South,” Faust writes of the rebel persuasion, explaining that monitoring “inferior, helpless Africans, assisting in their ‘remedial advancement,’ converting them to Christianity, protecting them

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from the destructive notions prevalent in much of the rest of the world— these were God’s purposes for the South.”36 Emancipation imposed a yet heavier burden on the white man. Weaver knew Southerners understood that “the presence of the African had been the chief source of Southern misfortunes,” and yet “his very childlikeness, his extraordinary exhibitions of loyalty, and his pathetic attempts to find his place in the complicated white man’s civilization rather had the effect of endearing him to his former owners. . . . the white man could not forget that the Negro had always been dependent on him for instruction and care.”37 Segregation evolved as a means to do that. Russell said it had worked: “I challenge all human history to show another instance where in the brief span of seventy-five years as much progress has been made by an uncivilized race as has been made by the southern Negro.”38 Change would “cause race feeling and confusion in the South.”39 It would disrupt its racial harmony, “this delicate intimacy of human beings whose lives are so intricately bound together,” as Kilpatrick put it. He wrote, “What others see as the dark night of our bigotry is regarded, in our own observation, as the revealing light of experience. It guides our feet. As Patrick Henry said, we know no other light to go by.”40 Happily for his light, founders like Henry and Jefferson had crafted the constitutional means to defend this civilization. The Southern conservative idea of states’ rights flowed from this republican narrative in two ways. Constitutionally, Forrest McDonald argues, compact theory argued that the states were “founded on natural law and embodied in the common law and history.” Thus, they “antedated and were superior to the Constitution.” As “political societies,” authorized by colonial charters and state constitutions, they had joined together to craft “the Constitution by delegating certain limited and specific powers to a confederal government, reserving all others to themselves.”41 Yet the Constitution’s undeniably national features, the influential antebellum statesman John C. Calhoun felt, threatened political freedoms. In effect, he rejected Madison’s Federalist #10. James Read argues that Calhoun believed the “safeguards against abuse of power in a popular government—responsibility of the government to the governed, freedom of the press, and separation of powers—insufficient to prevent the oppression of a minority by the majority.”42 Given time and cunning, a majority could

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capture the government and civil society. In response, he developed a consensus theory of political power, one claiming the states, the logically anterior and superior political communities, had the right to nullify federal law. Practically, however, one state could not stand alone, as President Andrew Jackson forcefully showed Calhoun’s South Carolina, and, worse, a government could not work when dozens exercise vetoes. Rather, Read continues, the number “entitled to veto rights must necessarily be limited. It might be possible to secure the ongoing consent of two or three basic interests, but not of ten or fifty.”43 So, before a consensus government could come into being, a few—and only a few—interests had to constitute themselves as viable, valuable communities worthy of wielding veto power. That, in turn, is the second way in which the theory of states’ rights depended heavily on the story of Southern difference. In theory, Southerners spoke of states’ rights, but Weaver wrote of the “Southern tradition,” as did Genovese; Kilpatrick proffered the “Southern Case for School Segregation.” Rhetorically speaking, white Southerners made a people, one rooted in the land of Dixie, based on inequality, and shaped by enduring religious values. The North had yielded to the “insidious” ideas of relativism, egalitarianism, and more; the South had not. This story gained persuasiveness as what Chaim Perelman and Lucie Olbrechts-Tyteca term a “locus of quality.” It shows “the struggle of one in possession of the truth, guaranteed by God, against the multitude that is in error.” That which they defend is “a value of a higher order, beyond compare.”44 Unique in the nation, Southerners knew the links between wise public deliberation, social stratification, rural life, and the nation’s Constitutional heritage. This culture was irreplaceable. By locating the key distinction as a regional one, white Southern rhetors asserted their value as a region and right to a veto. This narrative of divinely ordained black inequality, enacted by truly republican states, and defended by a compact theory of the Constitution, made their polity seem natural. It was the way it was and ever shall be. States’ rights became the means for the South to resist integration, and the narrative of Southern difference authorized the deployment of that argument. The second half of Kilpatrick’s book, titled “The Law,” argued that the language of the Declaration of Independence, the Articles

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of Confederation, and the Constitution supported compact theory. Distrust of “big government” led to the Bill of Rights, which climaxed in the Tenth Amendment. In its words—“the powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people”—one found “the key that should unlock all mysteries of construction.”45 Like a good Baptist preacher, Kilpatrick claimed interpretive tricks or false sophistication should not obscure the plain language of the Constitution. The power to run public schools—to regulate civil society—was “not delegated to the United States.” Judicial precedent for “eighty years” after the Fourteenth Amendment reinforced that.46 He often argued this position and believed fervently in interposition and nullification. Beginning in November 1955 and lasting until the following February, News-Leader readers “were fed the Virginia Resolution of 1798, the First Kentucky Resolution of 1798, and the Second Kentucky Resolution of 1799,” as well as “Calhoun’s 1831 speech at Fort Hill, South Carolina.” He used the “United States” as a plural noun. Eleven Southern states enacted “prointerposition laws and resolutions” in the late 1950s.47 The South had a Constitutional right to its peculiar institutions. In his attack on the recommendations of President Truman’s Civil Rights Commission, Senator Russell agreed. He dissociated the word “rights,” putting scare quotation marks around the term “civil rights,” denying their existence, and he alluded to the Tenth Amendment: “Our Federal Constitution reserves to the several States and to the people all powers not specifically given to the federal Government.” Thus, states’ rights most assuredly did exist, but they could not survive the Democratic President’s proposed legislation: “The passage of these laws will strip the once proud States of this Union of their last remaining rights and reduce them to a state of abject vassalage to Washington.” That would shatter Southern life. The “Southern whites,” he claimed, “have a pride of race”; they “resent the efforts to employ the power of the Federal Government to force Negro children into the white schools.” In short, “we . . . insist upon the right to build our own social order, based on our own experiences.”48 Careening down his slippery slope, he said that federal “police powers” would inevitably lead to “complete regimentation and to that disastrous loss of personal liberties which marks the centralized police state.”49

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Like Russell, future Republican presidential nominee Senator Barry Goldwater based his argument against civil rights action on the Tenth Amendment. In Conscience of a Conservative, a chapter on “states’ rights” claimed the Tenth prohibited federal legislation. Goldwater thought this a wise policy because it prevented “the accumulation of power in a central government” and recognized “the principle that essentially local problems are best dealt with by the people most directly concerned.”50 Declining to define which “people” were directly concerned by lynching, he applied this plain rule to “what are called ‘civil rights,’” adopting the scare quotation marks. Although Goldwater acknowledged the Constitution protected the right to vote, he denied the federal government’s power to act on other civil rights issues and announced his opposition to Brown. Indeed, he said the Court’s ruling was not the “law of the land,” supporting an extreme Southern claim. He urged a constitutional amendment that would reserve educational policy to the states, thus clarifying what he regarded as an existing right.51 Although he agreed with the “objectives” of Brown, his views put him in the same place as James Buchanan on secession.52 Goldwater thought segregation wrong, but denied the federal government had any power to end the degradation and murder of its black citizens. A federal effort to do so “enthrones tyrants and dooms freedom.” As with Russell, the locus of the irreparable figured in Goldwater’s argument. The “engines of national power” would disrupt “the orderly processes of the law.”53 Absent law, Russell’s “centralized police state” would emerge. Given that Communism was the paradigm of that, it seemed natural to call civil rights activists Communists.54 Russell said that if the nation “eliminate[d] every social, economic and political principle to which we are devoted as the solid core of our great progress as a nation, we will ourselves become nothing more than Communists in the process.”55 Goldwater claimed that states’ rights, the “cornerstone of the Republic, our chief bulwark against the encroachment of individual freedom by Big Government, is fast disappearing under the piling sands of absolutism.”56 In one of the astonishing paradoxes marking this language, the absolutism white men wielded over African Americans had to continue if absolutism was to be thwarted. Yet from within the world this rhetoric created, that assertion made sense. Freedom for the lesser being meant

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enslavement for the greater. As alien (or familiar) as these words may seem today, they posed a serious problem for President Kennedy’s persuasion.57 His opponents argued the South formed a separate community critical to American life. Possessing a unique knowledge attained through both a true reading of God’s will and hard experience of life with African Americans, white Southerners had made a wise, republican polity based on inequality. They rooted their story in the founding and articulated it in linguistic traditions such as republicanism and the jeremiad often persuasive to many citizens. Equally important, Southerners had traditionally flourished Calhoun’s figurative veto pen. As noted, much of the New Deal and postwar economic policy, for example, passed only when such sensibilities were addressed.58 Many Americans had long thought the South had the right to do as it wished, and many, likely a majority of whites, did not dispute black inferiority, although they probably wished it would not be put so crudely. In other words, the South held presumption in American politics and embodied principles—states’ rights, republicanism, divine authority—important to many people. And that way was under threat. As with most unique creations, ordained by God but enacted by clumsy, foolish men, Southern society was fragile. To survive in the face of social movements, industrialization, mass culture, relativism, empiricism, and the other plagues of modern life, it needed vigilant care. White Southerners repeatedly deployed the locus of the irreparable, suggesting that the nation teetered on a precipice. Given the South’s unique value to the country, Americans would inevitably fall into the abyss of centralized government should segregation end. White Southerners understood divine hierarchy, saw its value in public life, and enacted its norms in its racial order.

Letters to America I have to this point emphasized “the South” because it mattered the most. To paraphrase Weaver, white, Southern thinkers displayed their ethical awareness as they made a detailed and forceful defense of their social order. They developed a “Calhounian” persuasion, as it were, and its conclusions were “not yet entirely refuted” by June 1963. In other words, such

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men did the most to make the language that justified oppression. But many throughout the country listened. Elements of this vocabulary could easily migrate to other locales, to the growing suburbs created by a “white flight,” which every level of government encouraged through discriminatory lending, red-lining, and more. The wise and white suburban dad knew the common good and represented those in his household; inferior others who failed to compete successfully in the “free market” stayed behind in cities, as those, always the locus of sin in Jefferson’s pastoral vision, grew yet more corrupt; suburbs exercised their right of free association by protecting their schools from metropolitan busing and urban degradation; only in these ways could a decent public order be maintained.59 In sum, this discourse crafted a stable, coherent world, one in which everyone knew their place, one that precluded the chaos of the previous three decades, and one that promised to produce wise statesmen who worked for the public good. Such stability was not to be disdained, given the bloody and awful times the twentieth century had thus far produced and, as the Cold War continued, seemed likely to produce again. Civil rights activists disrupted a fragile and valuable peace. Americans listened to the Calhounian persuasion not only because its vision of order made good sense, but also because race marked the national identity. Liberalism was not exempt. Writer James Baldwin, for one, endlessly explained that the liberal story of authorship, mobility, equality, and choice depended to a very real extent on the “constitutive exclusion” of blacks.60 In material terms, slaves formed the bulk of American capital between the Revolution and Civil War; Jim Crow artificially undervalued the cost of African American labor after that. The sweat and blood of black Americans played a key role in white economic mobility.61 Martin Luther King Jr. wrote, “Few people consider the fact that, in addition to being enslaved for two centuries, the Negro was, during all those years, robbed of the wages of his toil.”62 A rich, white, liberal society was built on the solid foundation of black backs. In symbolic terms, the capacity to author yourself gained definition and force by contrast to those who could not and did not. The moral worth of discipline, rationality, control, all that made up “our” sovereignty, measured itself against the dialectical backdrop of “them.” Pliable beings, they yielded to passion, chaos, license, darkness, and, at best, were like children.63 They could not seem to assimilate as “we” had done. The

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identification of whites as white arose by division from blacks.64 Baldwin argued:

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The idea of white supremacy rests simply on the fact that white men are the creators of civilization . . . and are therefore civilization’s guardians and defenders. Thus it was impossible for Americans to accept the black man as one of themselves, for to do so was to jeopardize their status as white men. But not to so accept him was to deny his human reality.

Yet with democracy came “the necessity, which Americans faced, of broadening this concept to include black men.”65 That “broadening” was the crux of the matter for American liberals. They faced the traditional query to their persuasion: Who counts as a person? In this case, the answer cut close to the bone. Baldwin’s analysis is dead right; dominant discourses promised to preserve white physical and psychological privilege. Baldwin, King, and others sought to jeopardize this privilege by broadening the common definition of humanity. That would, as philosopher Maurice Natanson understood, risk the self. He draws an illuminating distinction between standard arguments, like those between broker and client, in which the “self” is not at stake and what he terms “genuine argument.” The choice to buy stock does not often affect one’s story of self.66 But civil rights did do so. Genovese and Read argue the individualism characterizing Southern conservatism rested on racial hierarchy. The traditional republican values of community, family, and God relied on the constitutive exclusion of black Americans to make a public man. Similarly, mobile, intelligent liberals could only congratulate themselves on their personal wealth, political power, and national greatness if they ignored the ways white “self-reliance” relied on the exploitation of African Americans. Debate about these assumptions created risk for those involved: “I risk myself in an argument when I know or sense that the very nature of the activity I’m engaging in has its own rationale within which what I am and who I am must be determined.”67 Even to engage King or Baldwin in deliberation risked white superiority by assuming the “children” could speak at the adult table. To grant exploitation admitted the moral ambivalence of one’s own achievements

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and the American Dream. Although a racist as thorough as Weaver could never risk himself in this way, a majority of whites were at least partly open to new possibilities in the mid-sixties. Baldwin once insightfully argued that a majority does not necessarily mean a numerical one. Rather, it often “refers to influence. Someone said, and said it very accurately, that what is honored in a country is cultivated there.”68 Or, as Weaver might say, ideas have consequences. The majority northern wing of the Democratic Party had come to the conclusion that segregation had to go. Two Democratic presidents, as well as liberal majorities in both houses of Congress, won passage of the civil rights bill. But to defeat a Senate filibuster supported by segregationist southern Democrats (like Russell) and conservative Republicans (like Goldwater), advocates needed the assistance of moderate Republicans. Or, as I tell students when I teach these debates, they needed my parents. Good Illinois Republicans, they had also lived in Richmond, Virginia, Louisville, Kentucky, and Omaha, Nebraska. Depression children, they valued stability, order, frugality, hard work, mowed lawns, paid taxes, and educated children. They were not racists, as they understood the term, and they had not liked segregation. But neither were they convinced civil rights mattered enough to compel federal action. They disliked big government and liked an orderly community, an understandable impulse for a generation that had seldom experienced that good fortune. Their friends and family did as well as did Illinois Senator Everett Dirksen, who also happened to lead the Republican minority. For such good people as these, engaging Baldwin and King created an almost immediate selfconsciousness, a sense of transgression. To accept, for example, King’s claim that “the judgment of God is upon the church as never before” risked the collective self of those who filled the pews every week.69 To do that, Natanson writes, was to invite “a stranger to the interior familiarity of our home, not merely the living room of the floor plan but the living space of a private sphere, home as it is meant by one for whom it is home.”70 Yet those reluctant hosts, the moderate middle, my parents, were the influential majority.71 I cannot do justice here to The Fire Next Time and “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” but I highlight two strategies that appealed to that middle, undermined the Calhounian persuasion, and framed JFK’s speech.72 In a

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remarkable convergence, both were public letters. Baldwin combined a missive to his namesake and nephew James and a “Letter from a Region in My Mind,” more commonly known as “Down at the Cross.” King ostensibly addressed seven white pastors who had publicly denied his legitimacy as a leader in Birmingham, while the nation read over their shoulders. That duality partly explains the genre’s power; it is rhetoric that denies its rhetoricity. Like private correspondents, the authors chat with friends, tell stories, and share community. But their words “happen” to reach a wider audience. This sense of the private amplifies the letter’s authenticity. A public letter tells the truth because, like all letters, it is “personal.” Yet it is a peculiar sort of intimacy. In most cases, its structure and persona authorize and empower the writer. The public letter has a long history, both in the American context and around the world.73 The most famous examples tend to reveal their utility for the oppressed, but, Brandon Inabinet writes, the genre usually betrays a “love of order and authority. Since antiquity, ecclesiastical, economic, and political bodies used the form to maintain power.”74 Yet these are not contradictory claims. King, Sarah Grimke, and others sought to exploit its resources to win authority. Although they could not deploy much institutional weight, they wielded the cultural force offered by the personae infusing such letters. King reconstituted the space between writer and audience. The ministers denied his legitimacy as a person through their failure to name him, an act redolent of the millions of times in which blacks were called “Uncle” or “Mammie,” rather than by their names. By contrast, King asserted himself. His salutation—“My Dear Fellow Clergymen”—made him a colleague; the Pauline model made him a superior. In a deeply churched nation, the Epistles offered useful resources. Malinda Snow discerns Paul’s presence in King’s “Letter”; he used Paul’s style, alluded to the Epistles, thickened those with other biblical references, and, most important, exploited the irony of Paul’s life. He was “a stranger, but not an outsider,” “an enemy of Christians turned Christian, a persecutor persecuted, an imprisoned preacher using his cell as a platform.” King, too, relied on this knowing trope: “The prisoner boldly writes of freedom, the lawbreaker confidently defines justice.”75 Irony flipped the writer/audience relationship. Snow notes: “The very composing of an epistle (as a proxy sermon) defines one’s audience as people who are to

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be advised, guided, and convinced. . . . Paul’s letters aimed to strengthen the belief of the converted, to show them how to conduct themselves in light of their belief, and to teach them the implications of their belief.”76 A despised, nameless, black stranger assumed the authority to instruct the white church on the meaning of its faith and a nation on the force of its creed. Similarly, Baldwin flipped the script, or, more specifically, the metaphor. He did so by reversing it so that whites were the children, pliable beings unable to face reality: “It is galling indeed to have stood so long, hat in hand, waiting for Americans to grow up enough to realize that you do not threaten them.”77 Maturation meant that white America would have to lose its innocence, a critical concept for Baldwin. He meant by innocence not a freedom from guilt, but a willful blindness, a determination to render others invisible.78 Few recognize the other, and most guard “their system of reality and what they assume themselves to be.” But giving respect or reciprocity meant “risking oneself. If one cannot risk oneself, then one is simply incapable of giving.” The “American republic has never become sufficiently mature to do” so.79 White America would not grow up, a recurrent metaphor used powerfully near the end of the essay. The “great struggle” to make a life and language had shaped a “long line of improbable aristocrats—the only genuine aristocrats this country has produced.” He himself had “great respect for that unsung army of black men and women who trudged down back lanes and entered back doors, saying ‘Yes, sir,’ and ‘No, Ma’am’ in order to acquire a new roof for the schoolhouse, new books, a new chemistry lab, more beds for the dormitories, more dormitories.” They “did not like” doing so but “knew the job had to be done, and they put their pride in their pockets in order to do it.” Note the role reversal. Whites had no idea that this army disliked them, disliked the routine, and thought it a “routine” in the sense of a false performance of respect. But he did not think this meant that blacks were “racially superior.” Rather, “I am proud of these people not because of their color but because of their intelligence and their spiritual force and their beauty.” The work that went into those performances yielded an additional benefit: deep audience analysis. Blacks knew “more about white Americans” than did any white advertising executive. Swaddled in myths of

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innocence, whites could not know themselves; “it can almost be said, in fact, that they [blacks] know about white Americans what parents—or, anyway, mothers—know about their children, and that they very often regard white Americans that way.” As if in ironic homage to Weaver, Baldwin wrote, “The tendency has really been insofar as this was possible, to dismiss white people as the slightly mad victims of their own brainwashing.” Longing for love but unable to love due to innocence, the white man came for solace, but “he was not often able to give what he came seeking. The price for this was too high; he had too much to lose.” The cost was innocence because one could not love an innocent: “Ultimately, one tends to avoid him, for the universal characteristic of children is to assume that they have a monopoly on trouble, and therefore a monopoly on you. (Ask any Negro what he knows about the white people with whom he works. And then ask the white people with whom he works what they know about him).”80 The final parenthetical statement provided irrefutable evidence; New Yorker readers, or the white middle that bought or read the book, would likely have a shock of recognition at it. If it was true, the chain of argument unwound and bound the reader. Lack of knowledge meant belief in myth. The myths swathed white minds and created innocence. And so it went, back through the story. Baldwin composed an authority different from but equal to that of King. Baldwin’s oppression gave him a rhetorical virtuosity and knowledge of the public good superior to that of Weaver or Russell. His realism made him the adult; their innocence made them children. His inventiveness testified to his eloquence; their clichés testified to banality. He flipped the valence of dominant discourses, much as King exploited the Pauline model to assert authority through irony. Baldwin knew more because they had made him less. In a liberal postwar culture, superior knowledge warranted a superior claim to leadership. In each letter, whites emerged as those whose “superiority” had deluded them about the world in which they lived. Needless to say, this was and is not always true. For much of U.S. history, the burden to change rested on blacks and yet the game was rigged. As uncivilized beings, they had to perform the qualities of public people that national discourses (liberalism, republicanism, Puritanism) had defined as constitutive of citizenship: reason, intelligence, control,

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concern with the common good, and faith in American exceptionalism. As a result, Eddie Glaude Jr. and others contend, the politics of respectability emerged in the nineteenth century and, some argue, linger now.81 Blacks “were urged to embrace temperance, to work hard, and, in short, to assume a general sense of self-regulation and self-improvement along moral, educational, and economic lines.” By acting in the approved manner, they “would be, in effect, worthy of respect.”82 But the dual meaning of performance complicates matters, Kirt Wilson argues. If blacks refused respectability, they could be condemned and denied citizenship. Yet if they performed as respectability demanded, it could be dismissed as an “imitation” of their betters, a performance in the false sense of the term.83 Heads, whites win, tails, blacks lose. Glaude and Wilson both note that the politics of respectability and the rhetorical canon of imitatio gave black Americans the means to control, in part, their fate and should not casually be dismissed as regressive.84 Nonetheless, a social world incarnating eternal standards of citizenship that eternally required improved black performance made full citizenship unlikely. In the eyes of Kilpatrick, Russell, Weaver, and others, blacks would always need “improvement.” Just a little more. Faced with a social and rhetorical Kobayashi Maru test, King and Baldwin reprogrammed the social structure. They sought to craft in argument and performance the fluidity of public life, the second strategy worthy of notice. Segregation required stability, a society in which all kept to their place in a divinely ordained great chain of being. Rather than seeking an equal slot in this static hierarchy, King and Baldwin sought to “mobilize” people in every sense of the word. Once firm identities became liquid possibilities, movement became mandatory. Solid structures melted into air. The personae of these letters enacted such fluidity, for the authority they created had not readily sprung to a black man’s hand in the United States. But the language of both men also embodied the power of movement in public life. King’s philosophy of nonviolence asserted and assumed life’s fluidity. He expressed his faith that faith could move mountains. If he felt disappointment in most white moderates, he was “thankful” for those who “have written about our struggle in eloquent and prophetic terms.”85 If specific cases demonstrated the potential for transformation, nonviolent

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tactics sought to broaden King’s base and his style enacted the social movement he sought. He explained that nonviolence tried to “foster such a tension that a community that has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue.” Dissociating the term, he said he was “not afraid” of tension:

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I have earnestly opposed violent tension, but there is a type of constructive, nonviolent tension which is necessary for growth. Just as Socrates felt that it was necessary to create a tension in the mind so that individuals could rise from the bondage of myths and half-truths to the unfettered realm of creative analysis and objective appraisal, so must we see the need for nonviolent gadflies to create the kind of tension in society that will help men rise from the dark depths of prejudice and racism to the majestic heights of understanding and brotherhood.86

These words move, as people “rise” from “bondage,” a stillness enforced by “myths and half-truths” to “unfettered” heights. The archetypal high/ low metaphor amplified the already strong normative flow, as people rose from ignorant myth to “understanding and brotherhood.” Myths opposed creativity, half-truths stood against objectivity, and who could refuse the good in each pair? Significantly, “gadflies,” a metaphor signaling the small size and apparent weakness of the protestors, achieved great things through annoying, incessant movement.87 Such spatial fluidity articulated to a corresponding sense of time. King claimed “progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability; it comes through the tireless efforts of men willing to be co-workers with God, and without this hard work, time itself becomes an ally of the forces of social stagnation.” Movement again opposed monotony. That would continue absent the “tireless efforts” of those who toiled with God; like Kennedy, King apparently believed that here on earth, God’s work must truly be our own. Calling on his faith, he concluded with words he would use again on a hot August day: “Now is the time to lift our national policy from the quicksand of racial injustice to the solid rock of human dignity.”88 Paradoxically, only movement in time could stabilize justice in space. An appropriate kairos would build the national house on that rock.

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King’s “Letter” moved. It flowed in its major arguments and in the figurations that made his abstractions concrete. A similar fluidity infused Baldwin’s prose. Several critics have noted his subjectivity’s shiftiness. In the classic “Many Thousands Gone,” he undermined the stability of race. His “we” crafted a protean identity: “We cannot ask: what do we really feel about him [the Negro man]—such a question merely opens the gates on chaos. What we really feel about him is involved with all that we feel about everything, about everyone, about ourselves.”89 He courted chaos because it would disrupt rigid order and restore flow to collective life. Marianne DeKoven argues this “fluidity is noteworthy.” It suggests a post-modern subjectivity while also demanding “modern, universal utopian revolutionary change.”90 Such complex impulses can also be seen clearly in Fire’s treatment of identity. Early in “Down at the Cross,” Baldwin attacked the white failure to extend reciprocity. Thinking of the police and “everyone else—housewives, taxi-drivers, elevator boys, dishwashers, bartenders, lawyers, judges, doctors, and grocers,” a list exhausting the pool of whites blacks regularly encountered, he wrote, “Neither civilized reason nor Christian love would cause any of those people to treat you as they presumably wanted to be treated; only the fear of your power to retaliate would cause them to do that, or to seem to do it, which was (and is) good enough.” Whites had created a Hobbesian state of nature with no reciprocity. As a result, black people were not “eager to be ‘accepted’ by white people, still less to be loved by them; they, the blacks, simply don’t wish to be beaten over the head by the whites every instant of our brief passage on this planet.” A more profound distrust can scarcely be imagined.91 Yet it did not hold. The letter was structured as a series of encounters in space enabling him to accumulate roles through time. Son, street kid, “boy preacher,” lover, writer, American, cosmopolitan, and more, he became a protean figure, always learning and never discarding the languages he encountered. The essay builds in this way to a long and vividly depicted dinner scene (Last Supper?) with Elijah Muhammad and members of the Nation of Islam. That became a story of temptation as Elijah held out to him the promise of Truth if only Baldwin would adopt Elijah’s one word. The vivacity and power of Elijah moved Baldwin and tempted him. It offered rest, calm, stability, a coherent identity at long

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last, and so he distrusted, resisted, and squirmed, always testing that one word by using it to and on himself, thinking, “My weak, deluded scruples could avail nothing against the iron word of the prophet.” In the end, he could say “to myself, but not to Elijah” that “I love a few people and they love me and some of them are white, and isn’t love more important than color?”92 Reduced to cliché, it ironically saved him, the most eloquent of men. The call to love one’s neighbor as oneself emerged as critical to public life. Both men sought to make redemption’s reality a living possibility in their prose. People and their communities could change; that fluidity, in fact, marks all human relations. Through the genre of the public letter, both men addressed those who regarded blacks as inferiors and argued that racial strife was their problem. Both men, then, demanded change from whites. They must risk themselves. The authority ironically crafted by the genre’s typical personae warranted that claim. The letter’s eyes saw the world as it was and could be, a palimpsest of possibility.93 The mobility embodied by the personae, in turn, was reflected in the language, as both letters shifted, resisted, and transcended the reality of black experience. In a sense, the writers agreed that social life was all imitation all the way down. As Baldwin knew, that courted chaos, for with fluidity came unending change. Politicians generally held a rather less rosy view of such disorder.

Proper and Sensible Observance of the Law On April 3, 1948, recently retired General Dwight Eisenhower testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee about the army’s structure. Segregation was the rule and he would not flout the government’s policy. He supported putting platoons of blacks into white companies, suggesting that each man was “entitled to show his wares.” But he did not want to integrate platoons because the black man was “less well educated” and could not win promotion “to such grades as technical sergeant, master sergeant, and so on.” Two days earlier, Walter White, the NAACP’s executive secretary, published a piece based on a 1944 interview. White wrote, “Eisenhower was implacable in his opposition to that system

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[segregation] so we confined our discussion to practical means of abolishing it as swiftly as possible.” That was the rub, however, because Ike dismissed the most direct way to end segregation. He said before the committee in words he would echo in the years ahead, “I do believe that if we attempt merely by passing a lot of laws to force someone to like someone else, we are just going to get into trouble.”94 These dual impulses defined President Eisenhower’s approach to civil rights. He loathed segregation but thought its end could come only when white supremacists came to “like” blacks; it was a matter of prudent evolution, not moral revolution. He longed for an orderly, consensual end to segregation. In his first years in office, he tried. His administration ended segregation in the capital, appointed unprecedented numbers of black Americans to white-collar posts in the executive branch, vigorously enacted the military’s integration, and sought to end discrimination in federal employment.95 As recent histories of his presidency would suggest, he moved with a low profile, using what Fred Greenstein would call “The Hidden-Hand Presidency.” But Brown demanded more of the president. Not only did it make desegregation a burning issue, it required him to enforce that decision and those of lower courts as they tried to make a living reality out of Brown’s paper proclamation. Yet, as the most sympathetic student of his civil rights record notes, “Ike was a man of deeds rather than words.” His “public utterances,” it seems, paint a “distorted picture” of his leadership.96 But words are deeds. Speeches matter. The president’s passion for order dominated his two most intriguing civil rights addresses. Both occurred in 1957, as court orders demanding desegregation came into conflict with vicious resistance on the ground and as the president sought passage of the first civil rights bill in decades. Constitutional rights had been extended to cover the states during Reconstruction. But should they trample such rights, the only remedy was the judicial branch. For more than a half-century, that meant lawsuits brought by individuals at risk from the very oppression legal action sought to remedy. Few brought suit for fear of retaliation. The new bill would create a bipartisan civil rights commission, a Civil Rights Division at the Justice Department, and grant it strong injunctive powers to file suit to relieve injured parties and protect the right to vote as well as to speed desegregation in classrooms.

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Part III dealt with schools. But Congress stripped it from the bill after the president said that it might not be a wise extension of federal power. The injunctive relief on voting remained, but was crippled by an amendment that gave indicted Southern registrars the right to an (always white) jury when standing trial for voting rights abuses.97 On June 24, Eisenhower spoke to the Governor’s Conference in Williamsburg, Virginia, to “reassure the southerners” in light of his plan.98 He did not mention civil rights, but argued for the “principle” that “those who would be and would stay free must stand eternal watch against excessive concentration of power in government.” He upheld the compact theory, claiming “the national government was itself not the parent, but the creature of the States acting together. Yet today it is often made to appear that the creature, Frankenstein-like, is determined to destroy the creators.”99 Three months later, Frankenstein deployed the 101st Airborne division to enforce the court order to integrate schools in Little Rock, Arkansas. In a powerful September 24 speech, Ike justified that decision to the nation.100 Although it is easy to poke fun at the conflicts between the two speeches, they jointly offer a clear account of his view of civil rights, one most visible when we consider his patterns of praise and blame. Like all presidents, Eisenhower wanted to occupy the middle of the political spectrum while making it as large as possible. Thus, he demonized those who wanted more action from the executive or more resistance to the judiciary. The best path to social change, he suggested, rested snugly between his definition of the extremes. Big government was the target of his “pilgrimage” to Virginia. He rooted his view in history, lauding the “men and women who cradled this mighty Republic.” They made sure that “governmental power was diffused—counterbalanced—checked, hedged about and restrained.” Yet Americans “have seen tendencies develop that transgress our most cherished principles of government.” He decried the “extreme and dictatorial concentration of power” all saw in Eastern Europe. Only a year after the brutal suppression of the Hungarians, he attacked the “unbridled force,” “extreme centralization,” “centralization,” and the cost of that in “privation, in degradation, in human suffering and despair.” In like language, he said that if “present trends continue, the States are sure to degenerate into powerless satellites of the national government in Washington.” The analogy was clear; the

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national government and the states were, intentionally or not, colluding to concentrate power in Washington and make it the Soviet Union to state satellites. The only extended example of centralization he offered was education. This was a year after the Southern Manifesto’s declaration of white resistance. Whatever reassurances the White House later offered to civil rights activists, Ike’s disdain for federal action was clear.101 As was his fury for the mobs three months later. Presidents seldom speak of American citizens as Eisenhower did on September 24. He again invoked history to start, noting that “in speaking from the house of Lincoln, of Jackson and of Wilson,” he emphasized the sadness and determination with which he acted. Each of those men moved sharply against domestic enemies. This one spoke in that spirit. He denounced “demagogic extremists,” “violent opposition,” “the call of extremists to violence,” and “mob rule.” In his close, he condemned the disorder, claiming “it would be difficult to exaggerate the harm that is being done to the prestige and influence, and indeed, to the safety, of our nation and the world” during the Cold War. The nation’s “enemies are gloating.” He accused segregationists of doing the work of Communists. Both denied “those standards of conduct” that all countries had sworn to uphold in the United Nations Charter. There, all recognized “‘the dignity and worth of the human person’ and they did so ‘without distinction as to race, sex, language or religion.’” Few presidents have spoken more idealistically. David Nichols argues this same man held a conservative “constitutional philosophy” and “embraced a traditional interpretation of the separation of powers.”102 These speeches reveal that powerful commitment to public order. In Virginia, he claimed the nation’s success flowed from the fact that “Constitutional checks and balances, our State and Territorial governments, our multiplicity of county and municipal governing bodies, our emphasis upon individual initiative and community responsibility, encourage unlimited experimentation in the solving of America’s problems.” This “diversified approach” limited errors, averted “calamitous mistakes,” shaped the “general good,” and renewed “the self-governing genius of our people.” Note how he lovingly amplified separated powers and praised federalism’s oft-derided complexity. Yet the American “genius” for selfgovernment also depended on self-restraint, for this was, he said in September, “a nation in which laws, not men, are supreme.” A “foundation

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of our American way of life is our national respect for law.” The United States had a “right to expect” the “proper and sensible observance of the law,” a “respectful obedience” necessary to order. Absent that, “anarchy would result.” He thought “our personal opinions” about decisions did not matter and, obedient to that view, he did not assess Brown. Rather, most Americans and “the overwhelming majority of the people in the South— including those of Arkansas and of Little Rock—are of good will, united in their efforts to preserve and respect the law even when they disagree with it.”103 Public order and respect for the law emerged as Eisenhower’s preeminent values and he disdained those who violated these norms. Nichols claims Ike “was uncomfortable with the role of public educator,” and “resisted” the “‘bully pulpit.’”104 Yet he spoke clearly, if not often, about civil rights. Public order and “the proper and sensible observance of the law” governed his views. Those who acted in the streets defied that order and demeaned that law. If change was to occur, and he believed it should, it must happen within the confines of constitutional order and public opinion. His intentions were good, and under his aegis, Congress passed the first two civil rights bills since Reconstruction. His judicial appointments put his liberal predecessor and successor to shame. But President Eisenhower was a Republican and a republican. He believed only a stable social order stood between the nation and chaos. Better to move prudently, and allow continued injustice, than to move hastily and make a “calamitous mistake.”

Equal Before the Law His successor initially took much the same view. Through his early legislative years, JFK strongly supported civil rights, a posture consistent with his liberal views on domestic issues. But after his 1952 Senate win and after barely losing the vice-presidential nomination in 1956, his presidential ambition required appeasement of the white South. Steven Levingston writes, “And so began a career-long high-wire act: For his political future, Kennedy had to balance the support of racist politicians against a civic obligation to fight for racial justice.”105 He placated the South by voting for

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the jury trial amendment, but it soon became clear that he would never pry Southern delegates away from the loving embrace of Lyndon Johnson. JFK then returned to his natural, if not particularly well-informed, inclination to advance civil rights. He supported a strong platform plank at the Democratic National Convention, one primarily written by the liberal congressman and future JFK advisor Chester Bowles. Once nominated, however, JFK needed to appeal to all Democrats, and so danced again. His choice of LBJ for the vice-presidency calmed Southerners, while he used what writer Nick Bryant calls a “strategy of association” to appeal to black voters. Sorensen termed it “indirect identification.”106 In a reversal of Booker T. Washington’s famous hand metaphor, JFK showed that in all things social, he would happily associate with black Americans, but in most things substantive, he hesitated. The famous Kennedy teas, social events, and so on were integrated. He usually had a black aide with him. The campaign advertised in the black press and gave equal access to black reporters. On a policy level, he made sincere but often vague commitments to civil rights. He spoke eloquently about African independence movements, an important issue to many civil rights leaders, one allowing him to speak more comfortably of civil rights as a weapon in the Cold War. He also gave political and financial support to African students wishing to study in the United States.107 His associations culminated in the famous phone call to Coretta Scott King when her husband was arrested and sentenced to a Georgia prison. The campaign’s effort played a role in his release. As a result, when JFK took power, African Americans had high expectations.108 Given that the Justice Department emerged as the locus of civil rights action in this era, it was fortunate that fate and two presidents provided a pair of superb Attorneys General, Herbert Brownell Jr. and Robert Kennedy. The former spearheaded the Eisenhower civil rights agenda and did much else besides; the latter did the same for President Kennedy and had the additional advantage of being the First Brother.109 The two often played good cop/bad cop, and that held true on civil rights. Prior to 1963, JFK outsourced civil rights to his brother, distancing himself from a volatile issue in order to placate Southern leaders, while assuring activists of his commitment via a blood relation. Levingston thinks that while JFK “heard the rising chorus of black grievances, he wanted Bobby and others

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in the administration to deal with them.”110 The Attorney General made the administration’s first major statement on civil rights. He spoke at the University of Georgia because, after a nasty riot on January 10, 1961, it had successfully admitted two black students, Charlayne Hunter and Hamilton Holmes.111 Two months later, RFK received an invitation to speak at the university’s annual Law Day program. He accepted because he wanted to praise Georgia for integration, and, one suspects, with John Kennedy’s Houston address in mind. If venturing into the lion’s den had worked once, why not twice? The Attorney General also thought “a clarification” of administration policy “might ease the task of law enforcement while simultaneously reducing the possibility of extreme political reactions when the Justice Department sought changes in the South,” Carl Brauer claims.112 Thomas Hopkins reveals the speech went through several drafts. Hunter and Holmes integrated an otherwise all-white crowd.113 As one might expect, RFK began with ingratiation and humor but turned quickly to the topic of the day, respect for the law. He explained the need for such respect, and turned to three problems—organized crime, white-collar corruption, and civil rights—that threatened to erode it. He ended with words from an Athens hometown hero, the Reconstructionera newspaper editor Henry Grady. It was a classical oration, one suited to a conservative audience in an institutional forum. Three key strategies animated this text and shaped early administration policy: reverence for the law, cultivation of Southern reason, and political restraint. As a presidential surrogate, the Attorney General appropriated that institution’s power of definition. He did so by citing President Kennedy’s Law Day Proclamation, which claimed that “‘the law is the strongest link between man and freedom.’” Using that as a kind of scriptural text, he amplified its meaning, noting that “we cannot live together without rules which tell us what is right and what is wrong.” Law “creates order out of chaos,” it is “the glue that holds civilization together.” One could hardly speak more highly of the law, but for it to fulfill its sacred functions, reciprocity was required: “And, we know that if one’s man’s rights are denied, the rights of all are endangered.” RFK put that principle to work in his denunciation of the disregard for the law displayed by “international Communism” and he cited two equally disreputable domestic criminal

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enterprises, white-collar corruption and organized crime. He turned to Brown and acknowledged that it required “difficult local adjustments.” But Kennedy said that some of his best friends were Southerners, as it were, and he understood their “special respect for candor and plain talk.” They would reason together about their problem. Honest and open he may have been, but his analogies challenged Southern sensibilities. Those who regularly flouted the law were Communists, swindlers, gangsters, and Southerners. No one wanted to be in such company. In addition, he justified the administration’s commitment to civil rights on grounds that patriotic Southerners could understand; he claimed that the “fact that 50% of the countries in the United Nations are not white” meant Cold War concerns demanded civil rights.114 Critical to victory, JFK had argued in his inaugural address, was the “rule of law.” RFK agreed: “We are upholding the law.” He said, “I say to you today that if the orders of the court are circumvented, the Department of Justice will act. We will not stand by or be aloof. We will move.” As strong as he sounded, note that the promised action resulted from court orders. Deductive argument structured a norm of political restraint. He argued that the law should shape behavior: We are maintaining the orders of the courts. We are doing nothing more or less. And if one of you were in my position, you would do likewise for it would be required by your oath of office. You might not want to do it, you might not like to do it, but you would do it.

In contrast to his immediate audience and Eisenhower, RFK said he happened to “believe that the 1954 decision was right.” Yet, like Ike, RFK also said: “my belief does not matter—it is the law.” His endorsement of Brown was significant and the Civil Rights Division took far more action under Kennedy than under Brownell.115 Yet by lionizing the law, the Attorney General relieved himself and the President of the responsibility to choose. The Constitution articulated fundamental rules; the courts interpreted them; the executive enforced them. Both RFK and his audience were at the mercy of the judiciary and should avoid open conflict through restraint. He said he sought “amicable, voluntary solutions without going to court.” He noted that when civil rights

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complaints had arisen, the Civil Rights Division’s lawyers had held “conversations” with officials that were “devoid of bitterness and hate,” and were “carried on with mutual respect, understanding and good will.” One suspects that Kennedy did not similarly reason with the Mafia. The audience applauded his speech, as well they might, for his rhetoric made problems for the administration.116 To be fair, those arose partly because, as Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Burke Marshall argued, the Department of Justice held a weak hand. The 1957 Civil Rights Act permitted Justice to file suit on behalf of injured parties, but that meant voting rights had to be litigated throughout the South, city by city, county by county. To say the least, this arduous process moved slowly.117 Instead, Justice sought voluntary agreements that would speed school desegregation and voting rights, still placing faith in a mythical, moderate Southern silent majority. That, too, meant long negotiations. RFK’s language further empowered segregationists. As metaphor, “conversation” implied an informal relationship of equals. Instead of starting with the idea that people should obey the law, Justice lawyers negotiated the terms and timing of that obedience. Inevitably, segregationists negotiated in bad faith, creating more delays. Although progress was made, particularly in the upper South, the core problem remained. Equally important, Robert Kennedy and, subsequently, President Kennedy argued from the “locus of the existent.” That is, both chose to “affirm the superiority of that which exists, of the actual, of the real, over the possible, the contingent, or the impossible.”118 Segregation was a fact of life. Prudence dictated that political leaders could not wish it away, nor would parchment proclamations dissolve white resistance. Neither did the Constitution authorize a national police force or protection for civil rights activists unless the judiciary required it in a specific case (e.g., James Meredith at Mississippi). The administration dealt with the powerful players on the board: the white barons of the South and Senate. Consistent with Eisenhower’s practice, both Kennedys called for order and placated segregationists. But as civil rights protests created tension, President Kennedy had to respond as had President Eisenhower at Little Rock. Steven Goldzwig and George Dionisopoulos nicely trace John Kennedy’s reliance on legal appeals throughout 1961–1962, but focus particularly on his speech regarding James Meredith’s admission to the University

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of Mississippi.119 The first African American to win a place at Ole Miss, Meredith gained a court order requiring his enrollment. In the face of repeated threats and, eventually, physical attack, he also won federal protection because the Governor of Mississippi refused to obey the law. The administration badly handled the situation. Falsely assured that all was well when Meredith arrived, JFK took to television to explain the situation and commend the campus even as order collapsed and war ensued. The initial deployment of federal marshals proved insufficient and reinforcements took forever to arrive. Hundreds of people were wounded and two died.120 Kennedy’s awful speech that night relied on his typical themes. At the outset, he stressed “the integrity of American law.” The nation was “founded on the principle that observance of the law is the eternal safeguard of liberty and defiance of the law is the surest road to tyranny.” President Kennedy said that Americans “are free” to “disagree” but “not to disobey” the law. In an echo of Eisenhower’s use of that famous John Adams quotation, JFK continued, for “in a government of laws and not of men, no man, however prominent or powerful, and no mob, however unruly or boisterous, is entitled to defy a court of law.” But he was sure that defiance was and would be an isolated case. This “nation is proud of the many instances in which Governors, educators, and everyday citizens from the South have shown to the world the gains that can be made by persuasion and good will in a society ruled by law.” Law crafted a rational nation and the president asserted that good will would dominate the debate. In that vein, he displayed his sympathy for Southern reactionaries: “I recognize that the present period of transition and adjustment in our Nation’s Southland is hard for many people. Neither Mississippi nor any other southern state deserves to be charged with all the accumulated wrongs of the last 100 years of race relations.” Surely the reason personified by the state’s “Medal of Honor” winners and by “Lucius Lamar and many others who have placed the national good ahead of sectional interest” would prevail. He supplemented the republican appeal to the common good with resort to the South’s secular religion. JFK called forth “a tradition of honor and courage won on the field of battle and on the gridiron.” For if one could not count on the reason and prudence of Southern football fans, what could one count on?

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That Southern spirit urged restraint on the president and his audience.121 He claimed, “I deeply regret the fact that any action by the executive branch was necessary in this case.” He only acted because the “United States Court of Appeals consisting of Chief Judge Tuttle of Georgia, Judge Hutcheson of Texas, Judge Rives of Alabama, Judge Jones of Florida, Judge Brown of Texas, Judge Wisdom [!] of Louisiana, Judge Gewin of Alabama, and Judge Bell of Georgia, made clear the fact that the enforcement of its order [for Meredith’s admission] had become an obligation of the United States Government.” JFK felt that “my responsibility as President was inescapable,” suggesting he had wanted to escape it and only this array of Southern judges had prevented flight. His restraint offered a model for the audience to emulate. He closed by speaking directly to Mississippians and to students: “For the most effective means of upholding the law is not the State policemen or the marshals or the National Guard. It is you. It lies in your courage to accept those laws with which you disagree as well as those with which you agree.” In Kennedy’s view, restraint did not mean failure. Rather, as he had demonstrated virtue by obeying a court order that he regretted, so, too, should the audience perform their prudence. As public (white) men, all could display honor and courage through a political and physical restraint. Like Ike, JFK never once offered his support for court decisions, only his duty to enforce them. So, again like Ike, like RFK, he would inescapably submit to the judiciary. So should Mississippians. For the Kennedys and Eisenhower, the political realities they saw defined their range of action on civil rights. In that way, they articulated a form of prudential accommodation.122 They tried to balance the competing demands of judicial decisions requiring equality with political refusals to recognize the legitimacy of such orders. These speeches began, then, with the fact of resistance, with the locus of the existent. The practical problems posed by white riots at Little Rock and Oxford, Mississippi, not to mention the many vicious attacks endured by the Freedom Riders and others, provided the exigence for the speeches and governed their logic. First and foremost, the presidents felt institutionally compelled to end the violence. That was their job. This practical priority, however, evolved into a normative one. The three men often praised the white South, invoked its traditions, and cultivated its views in order to use those as levers

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to stop the disorder. They tried to end massive resistance by characterizing it as inconsistent with their version of the white Southern way. The Kennedys, in particular, sought to institutionalize the regulative ideals of reverence for the law, Southern reason, and political restraint. These relied on the larger norms of public reason and practical negotiation that marked the times. Those who disdained prudential accommodation, the give and take sustaining a complex and layered political system, and instead indulged emotions in violence, threatened the stability personified by restrained chief executives. Levingston is blunt in his assessment of Kennedy’s prudent Ole Miss speech: “His anemic words stood in sharp, ironic contrast to the frenzy in the streets.”123 That fury meant he could not sustain this rhetoric; the existent was changing beneath his feet and tensions within his own discourse disrupted his argument. White supremacists continued to demonstrate their disdain for the law when it failed to suit them, a program of violence that culminated in the Birmingham campaign. In April and May 1963, Dr. King, the Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth, and many others tried to desegregate “Bombingham,” one of the most racist cities in the nation. Vicious attacks on the nonviolent protestors became a cultural watershed. Caught on camera, white Southern disregard for the law and embrace of violence could not be ignored, even in the Oval Office.124 To appeal to the reason of George Wallace and Bull Connor seemed a quixotic quest at best. If there was a Southern silent majority, it intended to remain silent, as Dr. King explained in his Letter. As a result, the administration’s restraint meant that it effectively continued to side with the segregationists. Nor did nonviolence alone continue to mark the African American reaction to ongoing abuse. The Ku Klux Klan did not like the settlement that ended the Birmingham campaign and desegregated city businesses. After a meeting on May 11, 1963, Klansmen tried to assassinate King by dynamiting his brother’s home and the Gaston Hotel. Angry black citizens soon gathered in the area around the hotel. Some 2500 people began a decidedly violent protest, targeting police officers and exploitative white grocery stores in particular, while badly damaging and destroying much else besides. This was the first of the urban rebellions of the mid to late 1960s. President Kennedy ordered parts of two Army divisions onto standby status and prepared to federalize the Alabama National Guard.

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But King, Jackie Robinson, Floyd Patterson, and local leaders managed to calm the area. Tension remained high, as it did around the country.125 In fact, this campaign ignited intense protests across the nation, with activists taking a more aggressive stance, knowing that the Birmingham protests had turned the Southern Christian Leadership Conference into a financially and politically powerful organization. Levingston notes, “Before Birmingham, only 4 percent of Americans polled believed civil rights was the country’s most urgent issue; after Birmingham, that figure jumped to 52 percent.”126 Taylor Branch writes that there were “758 racial demonstrations and 14,733 arrests in 186 American cities” during the summer.127 Black violence worried the administration. Bryant notes: “Kennedy had grown used to segregationist attacks against civil rights protestors. But he—along with his brother and other administration officials—was far more troubled by black mobs running amok.”128 To put it more charitably, the locus of the existent had changed. No longer would the president’s rhetoric placate powerful white segregationists running amok. There were other players. He needed to address their concerns, a distinctly missing element in presidential civil rights discourse. Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of these speeches is the failure to address or take into account African Americans. On rare occasions, the presidents spoke to black audiences; Ike, for instance, addressed the Negro Publishers Association in 1958.129 They met with black leadership. But the two men seemed generally to see civil rights in terms of the difficulties black equality posed for white Southerners and the ways the government might ease their pain. Neither the Little Rock text nor the Ole Miss speech addressed blacks, articulated their perspectives, or recognized the courage of the Little Rock Nine or James Meredith.130 Compare that to the sympathy JFK offered to white supremacists. Nor did the three Kennedy themes resonate with blacks. Most did not experience the law as the glue that held civilization together. Rather, it authorized confiscation of their money, exploitation of their labor, and torture of their bodies.131 Neither did the reason of those who happily lynched African Americans much impress activists. To argue for patience and restraint seemed to them an extraordinarily oblivious choice, even for white liberals. If the protests did not make that clear, James Baldwin did. In late November 1962, the New Yorker published “Letter from a Region in My

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Mind,” followed in early 1963 by Dial Press’s edition of The Fire Next Time. It created a national sensation and the administration felt more pressure to act. Former Deputy Secretary of State Chester Bowles lashed out at JFK for his failure to enact the 1960 Democratic platform on civil rights (which, again, Bowles had written), and the speech, which cited Fire, reached both Kennedys.132 Baldwin seemed to captivate Robert Kennedy. The writer had attended a White House dinner honoring the 1962 American Nobel Prize winners (more of the strategy of association) and the two later met twice, in a quick chat at RFK’s Virginia home and, more famously, in a second meeting at his New York City apartment, arranged by Baldwin and attended by other black celebrities and activists. They excoriated the Attorney General. A Freedom Rider, Jerome Smith, announced that being in the same room with RFK made him want to vomit. The meeting went downhill from that promising start. Kennedy stuck it out for three hours and received an earful.133 By that time, both Kennedys had begun to move. In February 1963, the president sent a civil rights message to Capitol Hill, offering a bill that would expand voting rights, widen black educational opportunities, and extend the life of the Civil Rights Commission. For the first time, he made a moral case, opening with Justice Harlan’s famed Plessy dissent and the Emancipation Proclamation. They articulated national ideals, but “the practices of the country do not always conform to the principles of the Constitution.” He decried “the harmful, wasteful, and wrongful results of racial discrimination and segregation” and said they appeared “in virtually every aspect of national life, in virtually every part of the Nation.” JFK used statistics that would appear again in June to prove segregation’s practical harms, but then shifted his ground: “No American who believes in the basic truth that ‘all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights’ can fully excuse, explain, or defend the picture these statistics portray.” The declaration authorized his moral attack on segregation: “Above all, it is wrong. Therefore, let it be clear, in our own hearts and minds, that it is not merely because of the Cold War, and not merely because of the economic waste of discrimination, that we are committed to true equality of opportunity. The basic reason is because it is right.”134 The weak bill hardly justified the ringing phrases, but the ice had begun to break.

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In part, that resulted from tensions within JFK’s rhetoric. On issues other than civil rights, he articulated key premises of American liberalism: movement, progress, reason, reciprocity, and human dignity. On the right of a Catholic to win equal access to the presidency, Senator Kennedy set a trajectory that inevitably shadowed President Kennedy’s civil rights speeches. For example, at Houston, he believed in an America “where no man is denied public office merely because his religion differs from the President who might appoint him or the people who might elect him.” He concluded, “But if this election is decided on the basis that forty million Americans lost their chance of being President on the day they were baptized, then it is the whole nation that will be the loser in the eyes of Catholics and non-Catholics around the world, in the eyes of history, and in the eyes of our own people.”135 A president could no longer articulate equal rights for me but not for thee. He could not preserve a stable hierarchy on civil rights and mobilize Americans and the world on all other issues. And so he went South. In two speeches, JFK began to extend the reciprocity argument in ways justifying federal action on equal rights for all Americans. On May 18, he marked the ninetieth anniversary convocation at Vanderbilt University. Kennedy began with encomia to local and regional heroes but quickly narrowed to the two “touchstones of Vanderbilt University and of any free university in this country or in the world. I say two touchstones, yet they are also inseparable, inseparable if not indistinguishable, for liberty without learning is always in peril, and learning without liberty is always in vain.”136 Using his beloved spatial sequence, he proclaimed, “This State, this city, this campus have stood long for both human rights and human enlightenment,” a statement true only if one did not count blacks as humans. Yet he used that dual commitment to liberty and learning, the right and the light, to leverage equality for black Americans. The country “is now engaged in a continuing debate about the rights of a portion of its citizens. That will go on, and those rights will expand until the standard first forged by the Nation’s founders has been reached, and all Americans enjoy equal opportunity and liberty under the law.” JFK augmented his authority to make this claim through citation of the founders and allusion to Lincoln.137 Yet the chiasmus (liberty/learning; learning/liberty) embodied his

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struggle to act as Lincoln had acted. The form accentuated instability; in peril, in vain, liberty/learning sought a middle way between Scylla and Charybdis. Given the history of racial oppression the president invoked by citing the founders, this was a precarious venture requiring support.138 JFK deployed reciprocity to anchor and transcend his unstable touchstones: “But this nation was not founded solely on the principle of citizens’ rights. Equally important, though too often not discussed, is the citizen’s responsibility. For our privileges are no greater than our obligations.” Hearkening to his rhetorical past, he emphasized the point with a favorite Bible verse: “Increased responsibility goes with increased ability, for ‘of those to whom much is given, much is required,’” a lovely adaptation to Vanderbilt students. He turned then to “the responsibility of the educated citizen” and said bluntly, “You have responsibilities, in short, to use your talents for the benefit of the society which helped develop those talents.” Society enabled them, but they would renew it. As in the inaugural address’s covenant, JFK sought audience participation to anchor and amplify key values. He elaborated on their duties in three areas (pursuit of learning, public service, and obedience to the law), and the latter addressed civil rights. Kennedy offered his routine praise of the law, with phrases borrowed from his brother’s Athens speech, but then the tone changed. For the first time, I believe, a president praised the protestors: “No one can deny the complexity of the problems involved in assuring to all of our citizens their full rights as Americans. But no one can gainsay the fact that the determination to secure these rights is in the highest traditions of American freedom.”139 Governor George Wallace begged to disagree, and it was to him, and Muscle Shoals, Alabama, that Kennedy then traveled. He went to commemorate the thirtieth anniversary of the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA). Administration officials worried that Wallace would behave badly, perhaps seek to serve the president with a suit to protest the use of federal troops in Alabama.140 Wallace chose not to indulge his love for the theatrical, at least not yet. JFK, however, indulged his love for the ironic, for he explained to one and all the glories of Frankenstein made manifest in the Tennessee Valley. Most of the speech detailed the dire predictions made in 1933 and even 1963 by opponents. They charged the TVA was impractical, idealistic, communistic, and claimed it would

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squelch growth and even “undermine the State and the local governments.” None of this came to pass, nor would it come to pass. The TVA worked. The double meaning was clear, for those with ears to hear. At the end, he made it obvious: “From time to time statements are made labeling the Federal Government an outsider, an intruder, an adversary.” The unnamed speakers should know “the people of this area know that the United States Government is not a stranger or not an enemy. It is the people of the 50 States joining in a national effort to see progress in every State of the Union.” His irony should not obscure a serious point. This was Lincoln’s argument; the people made the federal government and worked in the states to achieve the public good. In parallel phrases, he said, “Without the National Government, without the people of the United States working as a people, there would be no . . .” and listed the many material benefits brought to the South by the New Deal. Not only did he craft reciprocity between the people and the national government, he also reminded those present they had supported federal action when it was for us and not for them. In short, he implied, it was not big government they found objectionable; states’ rights did not taint the Southern love for federal dollars. Taken together, these speeches developed a series of arguments Kennedy had previously been loath to make on civil rights. He rejected the compact theory of the nation’s founding and stood, instead, with Lincoln. From there, he reasoned that the federal government of the people, by the people, and for the people worked for the good of all people. That meant its citizens had rights and obligations. They had the right to protest, acts that stood in the “highest traditions of American freedom,” and the duty to respond to the demands of those traditions. As he put it at Vanderbilt, “a special burden rests on the educated men and women of this country to reject the temptations of prejudice and violence, and to reaffirm the values of freedom and law on which our free society depends.” Here, freedom bracketed the law; only when the law enabled freedom was it worthy of respect. The people brought the federal government to life. It acted as their agent to assure the survival and success of liberty, at home and abroad. JFK had bent toward justice. And if his arc was not moving fast enough, the vice-president proposed to give him a push. As every scholar of the Johnson vice-presidency

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notes, the office diminished the man. He did not like it, not one bit, but found release on the issue of civil rights. One suspects he accepted the job partly to shed his Southern identity and craft a national profile, thus freeing him from the albatross of Richard Russell’s racism. As Garth Pauley has catalogued, beginning with a speech at Howard University on June 9, 1961, and accelerating throughout the administration, Lyndon Johnson increasingly made the moral case for civil rights. In 1963 alone, he offered “major civil rights speeches in Cleveland, Detroit, Boston, Washington, Philadelphia, Miami, St. Louis, Los Angeles, and Sacramento.” Conservatives Rowland Evans and Robert Novak mischievously reported LBJ’s “‘new, firm—almost militant—civil rights stance.’”141 This campaign culminated in a Memorial Day address at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, one marking the holiday as well as the 100th anniversary of the battle and Lincoln’s speech. In it, Pauley notes, LBJ made “accountability” the “theme of the entire speech, . . . Johnson holds the nation and its citizenry answerable to all citizens, the law, the fallen, Lincoln, and the Emancipation Proclamation.”142 In Lincoln’s spirit, Johnson claimed the epideictic impulse was inadequate; the nation needed to fulfill the promises made to its black citizens. Widespread praise greeted Johnson’s effort, and it gained him access to the president’s meetings about legislative strategies on civil rights.143 Strategies were indeed the issue because Kennedy had decided to move. In a chaotic May 20 Oval Office meeting, JFK, spurred by his brother, decided on new legislation. During a May 22 press conference, he hinted he would offer new proposals. But, as was his wont, he kept his options open. George Wallace’s theatricality, however, ended the vacillation. He had taken office that year with the inaugural cry “Segregation now! Segregation tomorrow! Segregation forever!” But a federal district court ordered admission of two students, Vivian Malone and James Hood, to the University of Alabama. Wallace had sworn to stand in the “schoolhouse door” and defy the federal leviathan. The Kennedys, educated by their failure at Ole Miss, stood firm and Wallace wanted a media event, not bloodshed. Thus, all parties collaborated in a piece of performance art, given on June 11. The two students would remain in the car of Assistant Attorney General Nick Katzenbach; he would order Wallace to move; Wallace would defy the order, deliver a proclamation, and glow

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in the media sun. JFK would federalize the Guard to enforce the order, Wallace would stand down, and the students would enroll in classes. All went as advertised.144 Yet there was one more issue. Wallace could not be allowed, as pundits would later say, to seize the news cycle. On June 10, Theodore Sorensen suggested a national speech might be in order. JFK demurred, but to everyone’s surprise, Robert Kennedy urged his brother to speak. “It was rare,” Richard Reeves writes, “for the brothers to work things out with other people around. Normally they grunted and nodded in a fraternal language.” But RFK believed the administration had to define the civil rights agenda, lest it spin out of anyone’s control. Protests had continued to accelerate. There were “one hundred and sixty separate civil rights incidents during the first week in June” alone.145 Yet the decision to speak was not taken until Wallace left campus on June 11. Sorensen had little time to compose and relied on past efforts. Kennedy got the text only a few moments before broadcast and improvised the closing from his scribbled notes. The resulting speech mobilized citizens in every way, declaring that all Americans had a right to be treated as they might wish to be treated, to move through the nation’s public spaces as they chose. For John Kennedy, reciprocity and mobility defined citizenship and justified civil rights.

Our Fellow Americans As he so often did, JFK began with the exigence. That “afternoon,” he noted, “following a series of threats and defiant statements” by someone beneath explicit presidential notice, “two clearly qualified young Alabama residents who happen to have been born Negro” were admitted to the University of Alabama. In contrast to other speeches, he began with the students, although he did not name them. But their names mattered less than their status, as his allusion revealed. At Houston, he had said, “I am not the Catholic candidate for President. I am the Democratic Party’s candidate for President who happens also to be a Catholic.”146 That dissociation happened to use the same logic as this one. Much as Kennedy’s Catholicism was incidental to his public life, so was the race

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of those students. As Lionel Trilling might observe, religion and race did not define their authentic identities. He links the emergence of modern individuality to the growth of social mobility. A fixed hierarchy had bound people in place. But mobility enabled individuality. Free to move across hierarchies, people turned inward to find their authentic selves, since society no longer exhaustively defined them.147 In the liberal culture that eventually evolved, most white, male citizens (in theory) authored (or, at least, edited) themselves. President Kennedy sought to extend that logic from a Catholic presidential candidate to black Alabama students. To do so, he departed from precedent. Rather than making white rage the locus of the existent and the focus of his speech, JFK abandoned Alabama and broadened the argument: “I hope that every American, regardless of where he lives, will stop and examine his conscience about this and other related incidents.” The president spoke from the White House and had the same delivery arrangement as the Cuba speech. The existing video opens with a wide shot, but, as he asked people to look inward, for each person to search his or her conscience (the modern locus of judgment), the shot tightened into a close-up. That paralleled the verbal request and the shot remained tight until the conclusion. Americans “looked into his eyes” and no angle could better visualize the moral case he sought to make. Its shape soon became clear. He claimed that the “nation was founded by men of many nations and backgrounds. It was founded on the principle that all men are created equal and that the rights of every man are diminished when the rights of one man are threatened.” The allusions to Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Paine, John Donne, and JFK’s inaugural address crafted and authorized the ideals that the nation had failed to uphold. As noted, a republican standard of citizenship often informs liberalism; military service should secure civil rights. JFK turned to the Cold War to display the country’s racial contradictions. The United States sought “to promote and protect the rights of all who wish to be free. And when Americans are sent to Vietnam and West Berlin, we do not ask for whites only.” The allusion to the ubiquitous Southern signs of degradation showed not only his effort to disrupt Jim Crow pieties, but also his sarcastic impatience. The tone belied his usual cool; the argument again repeated that of Houston. Then, he spoke of a “shrine I

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visited today—the Alamo. For side by side with Bowie and Crockett died Fuentes and McCafferty and Bailey and Bedillo and Carey—but no one knows whether they were Catholics or not, for there was no religious test there.”148 Nor was there a racial test in Saigon or West Berlin. Given the fact that all Americans shared the status of citizen, made visible by universal male military service, it “ought to be possible, therefore, for American students of any color to attend any public institution they select without having to be backed up by troops.” Again, the colloquialism contrasted with Kennedy’s often styled eloquence. More important, a quasi-logical argument supported his claim. The “therefore” said blacks had earned their way: All who served deserved full citizenship; black Americans served; therefore, they deserved full citizenship. Not content with the immediate exigence, he amplified these rights. In an anaphora, he insisted it “ought to be possible” for “American consumers of any color to receive equal service in places of public accommodation” and “it ought to be possible for American citizens of any color to register and to vote,” without extraordinary effort. He memorably climaxed the argument with the ethical imperatives and rhetorical force of the American liberal persuasion: “It ought to be possible, in short, for every American to enjoy the privileges of being American without regard to his race or his color. In short, every American ought to have the right to be treated as he would wish to be treated, as one would wish his children to be treated.” The first line articulated the core liberal belief in each person’s worth; the second extended that to all persons and echoed the Golden Rule. Together, they transcended earned citizenship. Faith in the nation’s ideals, not works for the nation’s defense, mattered most. Plus, the “ought” made this into a moral demand. “Ought,” the New Oxford American Dictionary notes, is “used to indicate duty or correctness.” It also indicates “a desirable or expected state” and “that something is probable.” JFK sought to make the moral into the probable. To reach that end, he quickly but memorably summarized the scope of the harm, a duty inherent to deliberative address. Extending his reference to children, he used a powerful, periodic sentence to display the dismal odds facing an innocent: “The Negro baby born in America today, regardless of the section of the [nation] in which he is born, has about one-half as much chance of completing a high school as a white baby born in the

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same place on the same day, one-third as much chance of completing college, one-third as much chance of becoming a professional man, twice as much chance of becoming unemployed, about one-seventh as much chance of earning $10,000 a year, a life expectancy which is seven years shorter, and the prospects of earning only half as much.” The sheer accumulation likely overwhelmed listeners, but the choice to use ratios made JFK’s recitation vivid, as did the image of two babies lying side by side. The ratios also turned statistics into analogy and forced white Americans to confront discrimination. Unless they followed Kilpatrick and explained the disparities as evidence of inferiority, whites had to admit the inequity. In other words, Kennedy made my parents choose: Either blacks were inferior or the United States had systematically oppressed them. His earlier recitation of national ideals and the Golden Rule likely excluded the racist response. Racism, however, existed not in the nation’s economic oppression of black people alone, but also across its broad continental sweep and deep partisan divides, “producing in many cities a rising tide of discontent that threatens the public safety.” Racism was not “a legal or legislative issue alone” because, while “new laws are needed at every level, . . . law alone cannot make men see right.” Rather, he famously said, “We are confronted primarily with a moral issue. It is as old as the Scriptures and is as clear as the Constitution,” which were two strange authorities to invoke. The Bible endorsed slavery. The Constitution defined a black American as three-fifths of a white one. Both iconic documents were potent sources of white supremacist invention as the rhetoric of Kilpatrick and Weaver demonstrated. But by defining anew American civil religion, for that was the task, the president asserted his interpretive authority by appropriating these powerful symbols. JFK deployed his institutional power to enable textual and social movement. He did not do so alone, of course, for the resources developed by many, including Baldwin and King, had long been available. Even so, he teased out new meanings from old ones by using concepts key to religious and constitutional traditions to subvert racist interpretations of that discourse. Critical to his effort was the reciprocity argument. A particular form of recognition, a claim of reciprocity asks people to treat others as us.

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Logically speaking, its force derives from its use of precedent. Its quasilogical form, Perelman and Olbrechts-Tyteca note, asserts “beings of one and the same essential category must be treated in the same way.”149 If white citizens had long enjoyed civil rights, then so should black citizens. They share one status. Consistent with liberalism, this does not mean that people are identical. But in practice, advocates seek to “know in what case it is rational or just to treat in the same way two beings or situations which differ but can be likened to one another.” What differences matter? When are differences “considered negligible but the likenesses essential”? When should people be treated as interchangeable?150 Public argument seeks to resolve such questions. In a case dear to Kennedy’s heart, for instance, Perelman and Olbrechts-Tyteca offer John Locke’s Letter Concerning Toleration as an example of reciprocity. Much as a liberal society leaves individuals alone to make good or bad choices in economic and civil affairs, so, too, should it leave them alone in religious affairs. The categories, identical in essential aspects, should be treated in the same way, Locke argued.151 Yet, as the two theorists acknowledge, this is a rule of formal justice, and that “does not tell when two objects belong to the same category.”152 Rhetorically speaking, reciprocity’s force flows from the faculty to imagine ourselves as in the same essential category or situation as them. Adam Smith writes in The Theory of Moral Sentiments: As we have no immediate experience of what other men feel, we can form no idea of the manner in which they are affected, but by conceiving what we ourselves should feel in the like situation. Though our brother is upon the rack, as long as we ourselves are at our ease, our senses will never inform us of what he suffers. They never did, and never can, carry us beyond our own person, and it is by the imagination only that we can inform any conception of what are his sensations.153

Language, Smith, Martha Nussbaum, and others argue, transports us from our ease to their pain. As a species of pathos, reciprocity, or sympathy as Smith calls it, makes another’s pain our own. Conventional form transforms such emotions into a public experience, as Susanna Kelly Engbers says of Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s use of

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sympathy. A common concept in nineteenth-century rhetorical theory, sympathy was seen as a “contagion” that could be transmitted from orator to audience. Stanton placed white men in the positions of a young woman dragged before a “‘bar of grim-visaged judges, lawyers, and jurors,’” or a child denied Christmas.154 Men might then think of themselves as that child, enabled by reciprocity’s conventional form, the interchangeability of A and B, audience and example. From this perspective, identities are provisional, not permanent. People “see one thing as another.”155 Borrowing from Charles Dickens’s Hard Times, Nussbaum calls this “fancy.” It takes us beyond facts, which is, in fact, necessary to moral and political life. Significantly, Nussbaum argues, fancy often works generously. To see ourselves in another is to cultivate a liberal view of them because we want them to do so for us. For example, we want others to see our good intentions even when we act badly. Imagining ourselves in their place, we should do the same. The first rule of life, Sissy Jupe says in the novel, is “‘to do unto others as I would that they should do unto me.’” This “principle” invites readers “to concern ourselves with the fates of others like ourselves, attaching ourselves to them both by sympathetic friendship and by empathetic identification.”156 For example, fancy asks whites to imagine and live King’s pain in a legendary line from “Birmingham Jail.” In the second person, he wrote in part, “when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six-year old daughter why she can’t go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her eyes when she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children, and see ominous clouds of inferiority beginning to form in her little mental sky, and see her beginning to distort her personality by developing an unconscious bitterness toward white people,” then “you can understand our legitimate and unavoidable impatience.”157 If readers stood in his place, they could understand his agony. The logical and emotional force of reciprocity helps to shape a common view of justice. King, again, expressed this clearly: “An unjust law is a code that a numerical or power majority compels a minority group to obey but does not make binding on itself. This is difference made legal. By the same token, a just law is a code that a majority compels a minority to follow and that it is willing to follow itself. This is sameness made

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legal.”158 That sameness demands, as Nancy Fraser would put it, participatory parity. To interpret recognition as social status, “means examining institutionalized patterns of cultural value for their effects on the relative standing of social actors.” If the law does so, if a majority asks of others what it asks of itself, then “such patterns constitute actors as peers, capable of participating on a par with one another in social life.”159 In doing so, Danielle Allen eloquently argues, reciprocity crafts the social trust needed for a democratic politics. To deny reciprocity is to act unjustly and erode that same trust.160 This argument is at the core of JFK’s speech. He used Jefferson, Paine, Donne, Scripture, and Constitution to authorize his version of civil religion. After that famous line, he reiterated the reciprocity claim: “The heart of the question is whether all Americans are to be afforded equal rights and equal opportunities, whether we are going to treat our fellow Americans as we want to be treated.” The nearly dead metaphor nevertheless enlivened his thesis, the heart of the speech. That led to a standard call for equal rights, but he followed with a question for his fellow white citizens. That is, JFK’s “we” signified a white audience in this textual context. Are “we” going to treat “them” as “we” wish to be treated? Yet this was not the sympathy for reactionaries that had so often characterized his past discourse with whites. Rather, he adopted the perspective of King and Baldwin. Racism was a white problem and JFK challenged whites. Did they obey the Golden Rule? If not, they should because blacks were people. He disdained to say it aloud, but that suffused his words. The two “clearly qualified” students “happen to have been born Negro”; the nation called on blacks to fight the Cold War; black citizens rightfully sought entrance to public schools, service at places of public accommodation, power to register and vote, and the right to be treated as every American would be treated. That “ought” to be possible for citizens. It was not. If he had not yet made that clear, the next lines did so. Amplifying the “ought” again, another periodic sentence culminated in two questions: “If an American, because his skin is dark, cannot eat lunch in a restaurant open to the public, if he cannot send his children to the best public school available, if he cannot vote for the public officials who represent him, if, in short, he cannot enjoy the full and free life which all of us want, then who among us would be content to have the color of

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his skin changed and stand in his place? Who among us would then be content with the counsels of patience and delay?” These are, perhaps, the most crucial lines in the address. He reasserted his key premise: Americans could have dark skins. If that skin meant people could not live a good life—if they could not buy a burger, pick a neighborhood school, vote at that school, and get a sticker, then “we” had sinned. “We” had denied “them” a “full and free life,” a telling phrase. A “full” life invoked the teleology of the liberal persuasion. In contrast to the republican, segregationist argument, people should not be bound to their place in the social hierarchy, to fill those roles, and only those roles, that contributed to the “common” good. Instead, all should have the chance to develop talents, unleash idiosyncrasies, and live a lively life. Only freedom, in turn, would allow such experimentation and the social mobility and disorder that would follow. “All of us” want that life. How could Americans meet that test? Only if institutional patterns of social value made everyone into peers. We could measure that with a simple rule, the third instance of reciprocity in the speech. If we would willingly have the color of our skin changed and stand in their place, then all citizens could be said to be free. Until then, counsels of patience and delay would not do. Recall that this was not only a thought experiment. In 1961, John Howard Griffin published Black Like Me, a memoir about the experience of a white man passing as black. He wrote of his book, “It traces the changes that occur to heart and body and intelligence when a so-called first-class citizen is cast on the junkheap of second-class citizenship.”161 Elaborating on the consequences of junk citizenship, JFK said, “One hundred years of delay have passed since President Lincoln freed the slaves, yet their heirs, their grandsons are not fully free.” They could not fully develop their capacities due to “bonds of injustice,” as well as “social and economic oppression.” Critically, he continued, “this nation, for all its hopes and all its boasts, will not be fully free until all its citizens are free.” The assonance of hopes and boasts vivified the assertion. This fourth reciprocity claim built on the third. The nation could be free only when all were free and all could not be free until all would trade places. His tone intensified. He extended the sarcastic “boasts” by observing, “We preach freedom around the world, and we mean it, and we cherish

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our freedom here at home.” The first verb challenged whites, even as he then admitted their good intentions. In a move that created risk, he then asked: “But are we to say to the world and, much more importantly, to each other that this is the land of the free except for the Negroes; that we have no second class citizens except Negroes; that we have no class or caste system, no ghettos, no master race, except with respect to Negroes?” The nasty juxtapositions created perspective by incongruity, as the text sought to shatter segregation’s pieties. Phrasing the anaphora in the form of a conditional question put the onus on the audience to examine its conscience; seriously, were we to say that? Each clause put people in an excruciating position. “Yes” was the obvious impossible answer, an empirical fact and ethical abomination. The “Star-Spangled Banner” kicked off a parade of allusions, setting the standard the nation had failed to meet. Our pious hypocrisy had created “second class citizens,” which meant a “class or caste system.” Americans had traditionally deplored the Marxist notion of class, and “caste” implied a more exotic evil. JFK also echoed Justice Harlan. After a brief tribute to white supremacy, he nonetheless wrote in his Plessy dissent: But in view of the Constitution, in the eye of the law, there is in this country no superior, dominant, ruling class of citizens. There is no caste here. Our Constitution is color-blind, and neither knows nor tolerates classes among citizens. In respect of civil rights, all citizens are equal before the law. The humblest is the peer of the most powerful.

The Kentuckian wrote confidently because, he argued, the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments, these “notable additions to the fundamental law” had “removed the race line from our governmental systems.”162 Yet even that was not enough, for this sequence continued to confront the audience. JFK tied segregation to the more recent past. Only in the previous decade had the meaning of the term “ghetto” migrated from places of Jewish confinement to those of blacks.163 “Master race,” of course, had a horrible referent. Seldom has a president so assaulted his fellow white citizens. The Nazi analogy appears too often in American public address, but it is hard to think of many instances in which a

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president accused his constituents of behaving like Nazis. That does not tend to raise approval ratings. Yet the larger strategic movement matters. President Kennedy began with the Bible and the Constitution, facing the need to appropriate these symbols of America’s exceptional racism. Ephesians 6:5, Colossians 3:22, and 1 Peter 2:18, all New Testament Epistles, made the demand that slaves obey their masters; the Constitution said much the same thing when Article IV, Section 2, denied slaves the right to seek refuge in free states and insisted that escapees be given up to their masters. The “city on a hill” disdained those living below.164 Yet many theologians, including the Puritans, argued “God had allowed the Covenant to grow, first dispensing it through conscience, then through the Prophets,” and so on.165 The word might remain constant, but understanding of God’s will evolved. Biblical pilgrimages, like the Exodus, signified growth. This Puritan faith fit with liberalism’s belief in what Gary Gerstle terms “three foundational principles: emancipation, rationality, and progress.”166 The emancipation of the mind from artificial restraints freed people, Jeremy Waldron argues, to “make sense of the world.” After “millenia of ignorance, terror, and superstition,” people could “build a human world, a world in which [they] might feel safely and securely at home.”167 The Puritan faith of the Enlightenment, or the Enlightenment faith of the Puritans, infused American liberals with an incurable faith in progress. Contra Michel Foucault, life could improve. JFK’s sequence is chronological—from 1814 to Reconstruction to Justice Harlan to World War II. The nation had evolved and, with each experience, came to a more liberal understanding of itself. Sacvan Bercovitch writes that the Puritans believed history moved “from promise to fulfillment: from Moses to John the Baptist to Samuel Danforth, from the Old World to the New; from Israel in Canaan to New Israel in America” in successively greater revelations from God.168 In a secularization of this religious pattern, John Kennedy argued that American history revealed successively greater revelations of its true meaning, from the founding to World War II. Yet Americans were, as he had said before, “the heirs of that first revolution.” Even as biblical interpretation changed, it stayed true to its (new, yet old) core principle: We should treat others as we wish to be treated. Even as constitutional interpretation

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changed, it stayed true to its (new, yet old) core principle: No one, “on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude” could be denied a full and free life. Kennedy appropriated these key symbols and justified civil rights through renewed and extended application of those ideals. The Golden Rule, the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments teased new meanings out of old prejudices. Like Baldwin himself in Fire, this protean nation’s movement through time changed its understanding of itself. Thus, the president could proclaim, “Now the time has come for this nation to fulfill its promise.” That movement in time trumped segregation in space. The “events in Birmingham and elsewhere have so increased the cries for equality that no city or state or legislative body can prudently choose to ignore them.” Prudential accommodation had failed; the “fires of frustration and discord . . . burning” across the nation, “North and South,” gave testament to that fact. “Where legal remedies” were denied, “redress is sought in the streets—in demonstrations, parades, and protests which create tensions and threaten violence and threaten lives.” The cause–effect logic framed the protests. They occurred when “legal remedies” were “not at hand.” In other words, the demonstrations were justified, yet dangerous, a terrible combination.169 The “moral crisis” the nation “therefore” faced had but one solution, and Kennedy used the next few paragraphs to make that clear. In a residues argument, he systematically eliminated each possible alternative until he reached his choice. The anaphora asserted “It cannot . . .” and discarded, in turn, “repressive police action,” “increased demonstrations,” and “token moves or talk.” Rather, the “time” had come “to act,” and he demanded that from all levels of government, as well as in “our daily lives.” The breadth of the request reflected the commitment characteristic of the Puritan heritage; the success of the American experiment rested on each American. If one failed, if one’s rights were denied, then all failed and the nation violated its covenant. As was the case with his inaugural address, civil religion supplemented the reciprocity argument to enact a strong sense of community. Citizens could not evade their responsibilities. Continuing to disdain easy but bad choices, he said, “It was not enough to pin the blame on others, to say this is a problem of one section of the country or another, or to deplore the facts that we face.”

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For the fourth time, President Kennedy denied this was “a sectional issue.” On one level, this mollified the white South; he did not mean to pick on them. Indeed, Kilpatrick complained often and loudly about the tendency of wire services, for example, to cover racial violence in the South and ignore it in the North.170 So, this was reassurance. But in a larger sense, this argument, like his more recent efforts, also had the effect of denying Southern difference. The people had made the federal government, he argued at Muscle Shoals, and this speech built on that fact. To craft a national problem consequently erased regional difference. There was no special Southern community, piety, wisdom, or concurrent majority. Thus, there could be no social order peculiar to the South. This was “a country and a people” and, as such, it needed to end segregation. That meant a “great change” was “at hand.” It was “our task, our obligation” to “make that revolution, that change, peaceful and constructive for all. Those who do nothing are inviting shame as well as violence. Those who act boldly are recognizing right as well as reality.” Seldom do presidents preach revolution, but JFK tentatively did so. He sought to control its course, but revolution the nation would have, and the rhythm and rhyme accentuated its inevitability. To act and think otherwise was shameful. The full force of the presidency weighed in on behalf of civil rights. As JFK had done the day before at American University, he insisted only movement and progress could address the reality that faced the country. Therefore, “I shall ask the Congress of the United States to act,” a quite formal locution emphasizing the united character of those states and the importance of the occasion. Echoing Harlan and Lincoln, Kennedy wanted Congress “to make a commitment it has not fully made in this century to the proposition that race has no place in American life or law.” Pointedly noting that the judicial branch and executive branch had already endorsed this principle, JFK insisted that Congress must act. Anticipating and refuting the claim that the 1957 act was enough, the president acknowledged that the “old code of equity law under which we live commands for every wrong a remedy.” Such remedies, however, were not there “for Negro citizens.” Single lawsuits, one by one, city by city, and so on, could not work. Unless “Congress acts, their only remedy is

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the street,” an amazing statement, given that it could only be interpreted as a threat. Act or else. He then briefly outlined the bill. Highlighting the most visible change, he insisted that “all Americans” be given “the right to be served in facilities which are open to the public—hotels, restaurants, theaters, retail stores, and similar establishments.” He called it “an elementary right” whose “denial is an arbitrary indignity that no American in 1963 should have to endure but many do.” Putting human dignity front and center not only emphasized one of liberalism’s core values, but also exploited the term’s ordinary meaning.171 Whites knew the daily indignities filling black lives. If they did not, King and Baldwin had eloquently depicted them. Anticipating objections to this stance, Kennedy noted he had met with “scores” of business leaders and “been encouraged by their responses.” Plus, “over seventy-five cities” had made progress. In argumentative terms, the president demonstrated solvency. If integration worked locally, then it could work nationally. He then turned to schools, taking on the issue that so horrified and energized Kilpatrick and the white South. He asked for the authority to pursue integration vigorously, walking a line typical of presidents nearing the end of their first term. Progress had been made, the inevitable candidate carefully said, but it was “very slow.” He bluntly stated the costs of that: “Too many Negro children entering segregated grade schools at the time of the Supreme Court’s decision nine years ago will enter segregated high schools this fall having suffered a loss which can never be restored.” The “lack of an adequate education denied” them the chance to “get a decent job.” Kennedy’s consistent emphasis on the economic consequences of segregation accorded with that of King and Baldwin, while fading in the popular memory of a speech characterized primarily as displaying a “sure moral compass.”172 Yet the president articulated the economic harm done to African Americans with that long, periodic sentence, said “social and economic oppression” denied blacks a full life, spoke of class and caste, emphasized his meetings with business leaders, and here discussed jobs. The meetings he mentioned were, Bryant notes, more extensive than he revealed. Before and after the speech, JFK met with clergy, lawyers, educators, business owners, union officials, civic leaders, and more. At these

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conferences, he pushed for biracial committees to create jobs, increase educational opportunity, admit blacks into union apprentice programs, lower the dropout rate, and develop job referral services. In addition, Kennedy linked civil rights to his economic program, urging support for his “tax proposals, youth employment initiatives, mass transit job creation programs, and extensions to area redevelopment legislation.”173 His Keynesian tax cuts rested on the idea that a rising tide lifted even rickety boats, but he also asked Walter Heller and Ted Sorensen to “formulate an antipoverty program” in the wake of Michael Harrington’s landmark book, The Other America.174 The meetings, Bryant concluded, sought a consensus in order to “take or support economic action to tackle the sources of racial discord. They were not mere exercises in public relations; rather they were carefully considered efforts at long-term social and economic reengineering.”175 For postwar liberals, it was money that mattered. Economic power led to civil rights; civil rights led to economic power. After a brief nod to voting rights, Kennedy praised the activists. He paid “tribute to those citizens, North and South, who’ve been working in their communities to make life better for all.” They acted not from a “sense of legal duty, but out of a sense of human decency.” The president compared them to “our soldiers and sailors in all parts of the world,” for they all met “freedom’s challenge on the firing line, and I salute them for their honor and their courage.” Much as he had claimed at Vanderbilt that protestors acted in the “highest traditions of American freedom,” here he lifted those civil rights activists “on the firing line” to the level of “our soldiers and sailors.” Presidents have few higher compliments to offer. At this point, Kennedy turned to his summary and conclusion, a movement signaled by a renewed greeting, “My fellow Americans,” and the camera shot as it pulled away. His delivery noticeably picked up pace and energy as well. Reliant on notes, he reiterated his main points in a series of complex sentences marked by anaphora. The first two parts summarized the problem; the last two, the solution. After emphasizing the issue’s national scope, he reiterated economic harms, saying that today “there are Negroes unemployed, two or three times as many compared to whites, inadequate education, moving into large cities, unable to find work.” That left them “without hope,” partly because they had

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been “denied equal rights, denied the opportunity to eat at a restaurant or a lunch counter, or go to a movie theater, denied the right to a decent education, denied almost today the right to attend a state university, even though qualified.” Three rhetorical choices vivified this litany. First, the president again highlighted economic rights and tied their denial to that of civil rights. Second, he emphasized active discrimination; the repetition of “denied” pounded home his point. The absence of sentence subjects hurried the prose, giving the sense, as he had at Houston, that there were so many problems, he could not fit them all into the speech. Finally, the complex style linked everything together, “matters which concern us all—not merely Presidents or Congressmen or Governors, but every citizen of the United States.” The “merely” intrigues, for he put the onus on all citizens, which he again emphasized. “This is one country,” he said. It was that way “because all of us, and all the people who came here, had an equal chance to develop their talents.” Given that, “we” could “not say to 10 percent of the population that you can’t have that right; your children can’t have the chance to develop whatever talents they have; that the only way that they’re going to get their rights is to go in the streets and demonstrate.” The second person made the white audience co-defendants, putting them in the place of a Richard Russell as he denied black Americans their dignity. Few wanted to be there. The language reflected JFK’s outrage that people needed to demonstrate simply so they could exercise their rights and develop their talents. This likely did not surprise him, but he made it seem surprising. Whites could act shocked that discrimination was going on here, and if that fiction helped them to end their inertia and act, JFK seemed happy to indulge it. “We owe them,” he concluded, “and we owe ourselves a better country than that.” The implicit shaming of opponents continued. Everyone deserved “the kind of equality of treatment which we would want ourselves—to give a chance for every child to be educated to the limit of his talents.” Reciprocity once more set the standard to which the nation must aspire. The president acknowledged that not everyone possessed equal talents but that all deserved equal opportunity. Significantly, the way forward was also lit by reciprocity. “We have a right to expect,” he said, “that the Negro community will be responsible, will uphold the law. But they

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have a right to expect that the law will be fair, that the Constitution will be color-blind, as Justice Harlan said at the turn of the century.” For that cause, John Kennedy concluded, “I ask the support of all of our citizens.”

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Conclusion He did not quite get “all.” Bryant notes the “speech met with broad acclaim.” King said it was “‘one of the most eloquent, profound and unequivocal pleas for justice and freedom by any President.’” From the other side of the color line, Richard Russell claimed he was “‘shocked,’” and accused JFK of encouraging Communism: “It was the Georgian’s most vitriolic attack on the president to date, which revealed the newfound fear within southern ranks. A president long considered weak and ineffectual now posed a genuine threat.”176 Such was to be expected. The response to the president’s policy proposals fell into a predictable pattern. Yet the reaction to the speech differed from most in this study. Observers did not often praise or parse John Kennedy’s eloquence. Rather, the somber tone and comprehensive coverage suggested that these words, and those at American University, marked an irrevocable moment for the nation and its president. Time magazine nicely caught that mood. The cover story, titled “The Long March,” reported the events of the week and assessed the Kennedy record on civil rights. It gave a detailed account of Wallace’s stand, emphasizing throughout his cowardice and “Bobby Kennedy’s propensity for manipulation.” The Governor, “a bit pudgy,” his “fighting spirit . . . pretty well drained away,” stood “visibly pale and trembly.” The result was “a charade,” one that Time felt sure the Attorney General, with his “shrewd, tough abilities for detail-by-detail planning,” had arranged. The narrative fix was in and its heroes and villains took their places.177 Yet the story then changed tone: “But was that enough? Was it in any substantive sense a settlement to the Negro revolution? The answers could only be no.” The rest of the story traced the movement’s history, emphasizing the “torrent of Negro demands” and the administration’s ineffectual response. It was a damning indictment of inaction, one culminating in RFK’s meeting with Baldwin and his subsequent attack on

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the Kennedys.178 Such pressure, the story suggested, pushed the brothers into action. The article claimed:

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In its substance, the speech was possibly the most important that Kennedy has delivered as President of the U.S. Never before had a U.S. President appealed to the nation for an end to all discrimination against Negroes. And never before had a President so forcefully pointed out that the Negroes’ right to equality with whites rests not upon the law alone, but also upon morality. Despite the power of his appeal, Kennedy’s speech did not and could not solve the civil rights crisis.179

From there forward, Time soberly assessed the likely constitutional issues facing the legislation, the fact that it would not resolve conflicts in major cities, and the economic issues facing blacks. A sidebar, “A Legal History of Negro Progress,” summarized that. The next article covered the murder of Medgar Evers. The next reported on the American University speech, mostly through excerpts. The president’s agenda dominated the magazine, but it did not inspire JFK or anyone else. The march ahead, Time implied, would be nearly as difficult as the one to this point.180 Kenneth Crawford of Newsweek caught the same mood, albeit with more rhetorical verve. “President Kennedy,” he observed, “has recently let two genii out of bottles and he can’t be sure what they will do for him or to him.” He sought to “melt down the cold war” and “assure Negro citizens their birthright.” Both efforts attacked “existing mores, prejudices, and convictions. . . . It took courage of a high order for the President to open the bottles.” Crawford supported that claim by arguing that JFK had wagered his presidency. He was “betting his re-election that a majority of voters will pay something in terms of cherished pride and prejudice to advance the causes of justice and peace. His opposition is betting that the price is higher than the market will bear.”181 Crawford nicely caught the stakes, and not only for the president’s reelection. Whites had long indulged their “cherished pride and prejudice” in a stable, bigoted order. JFK sought to end that. Indeed, Time’s claim that a president had never before argued in this way, combined with Crawford’s view of the stakes, reveals that JFK’s contemporaries grasped the significance of the moment. His performance

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forged a lasting bond between himself, civil rights, and the presidency. Levingston says, “In thirteen minutes that evening, Kennedy became the nation’s first civil rights president.”182 Again, recall the contours of the presidential Oval Office address. It is a recurrent practice that shapes, while exploiting, national identities. Presidents use the nation’s common sense, its doxa, to persuade the public to accept their policies even as those same words remake the national self. On an issue as salient as civil rights, an Oval Office speech also likely recalls past moments of national identity formation, from FDR on banking to JFK on Cuba. Thus, these speeches use the symbolic force of the presidency to craft the meanings people make for an issue, a president, the presidency, and the country amid a national cacophony. In this case, Kennedy’s performance capped and defined an escalating debate over civil rights, from Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time to Wallace’s stand, from Birmingham protests to King’s “Letter,” from LBJ’s recollection of Gettysburg to Kilpatrick’s account of Southern order. JFK orchestrated and embodied the social energies swirling through this great national discussion. Scholars have recently returned to topics as a way to get at the persuasive force of such social energy. Literally, common places to find arguments, topoi organize social truths and aid pattern recognition; they allow people to know what they see and see what they know. Yet even as topoi order the familiar, they facilitate its transcendence. But Christa Olson argues bodies also matter. If commonplaces are thought of “as repeated motifs, forms of pattern recognition, or storehouses of social energy,” then critics can apprehend “embodiable topoi as gaining their force by indexing and incorporating available assumptions about the bodies they reference.”183 Exploiting the power to define inherent to his office, John Kennedy ordered the body politic in this address. He aligned black bodies, those moving “in the streets—in demonstrations, parades, and protests,” suffering from “social and economic oppression,” facing dismal odds of material success, with Thomas Jefferson, John Donne, Thomas Paine, John Harlan, Abraham Lincoln, the Scriptures, and the Constitution. Black people stood in the “highest traditions of American freedom” and on “the firing line.” In other words, those long disdained and exploited black bodies embodied the national faith, and with them stood their

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president. Like Baldwin and King, Kennedy demanded full black equality and humanity. As they did, JFK flipped traditional assumptions and set people into motion; “we” could not “say to 10 percent of the population that you can’t make something of yourself.” Nor did he placate or appease his opponents: “Unless Congress acts,” he clearly said, “the only remedy is the street.” Russell was particularly angry at that, “calling it a ‘threat’ that would only frighten ‘a few weak-kneed people.’”184 Such fury is revealing. Eddie Glaude Jr. notes, “the power of marching in the civil rights era stemmed, in part, from the organization of public space.” As metonymy, the South’s public spaces materialized the spiritual values of segregation: Black souls were lesser and black bodies consequently contaminated that which they touched. The rules, then, regulated that public space and limited the formation of a black public. Violations risked life and limb: “In such a context, organized marching constituted a subversive act; it directly challenged the prevailing laws and norms of southern communities.”185 When a president, however reluctantly, endorsed the marchers, identified with black bodies, and proclaimed a revolution, presumption flipped. Kennedy legitimated the black public created through the civil rights and allied movements. The institutional force of the presidency broadened the field of political movement for black bodies. Concomitantly, segregation’s advocates could no longer rest comfortably in the idea that blacks were unequal, that the social order kept them in place, and that tradition, faith, and state sustained this bigotry. In modernity, there was no Southern difference, nor could they argue from a locus of quality. Their system brought nothing to the nation but shame. Yet Americans can always redeem themselves. My reading has argued that civil religion complemented the liberal persuasion, as it did in JFK’s inaugural address and in King’s “Letter.” The two texts fused communal law and individual responsibility. To fulfill the national covenant, each citizen must act “in our daily lives,” yet Congress must make sure “race has no place in American life or law.” The people’s government crafts the norms constituting citizens, but they make real that promise, translating norms into practices that, in turn, elect and make a government of, by, and for the people. By doing so, they could enact King’s view of justice. The majority could agree to rules fair for all and binding on all.

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That argument explains the usual evaluation of this speech. President Kennedy made the moral case for civil rights, so the story goes; neither the nation nor his presidency was ever the same. That claim, while accurate, is incomplete. Redemption also required reason. The speech’s authority appeals were inextricably interwoven with dissociation, causal arguments, quasi-logical arguments, and statistical evidence. JFK asked citizens to heed traditional values not because they were traditional but because they made sense. The pragmatism characterizing his rhetorical corpus sustained this address, too. Disturbances, economic waste, loss of the nation’s promise, a compromised ability to wage the Cold War, and a bad conscience would all result from a failure to act. In fact, the speech can be summarized as a classic syllogism: The nation was dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. The nation does not treat black citizens as equal. It should do so. Unlike Calhoun’s persuasion, Kennedy’s speech asked for the reasoned assent of a people capable of assessing and altering their moral choices. In other words, the emancipatory power of public reason guided the argument. The liberal sense of redemption demands that people think their way to salvation. I do not believe that JFK offered a philosophical case for civil rights. He was an orator. Facing “perishable circumstance, incomplete knowledge, and fallible human action,” he orchestrated available resources, from the affective force of Bible and Constitution, Jefferson and Lincoln, to deductive arguments that used such ideals as foundation stones for reasoned public debate.186 The president sorted through and selected varying threads of the civil rights discussion, developing a good argument that he then wove into the nation’s sense of its life. Recognizing its open, unfinished state—more should and would follow from all parties—he nonetheless urged Americans, as usual, to begin. In that contingent, rhetorical sense, the speech displayed a plausible version of a Rawlsian “overlapping consensus,” plausible being the best an orator can do in a sinful world.187 In terms of style, he deployed his usual aesthetic strategies, from metaphor and perspective by incongruity to rhythm, rhyme, anaphora, periodic, and complex sentences. The speech articulated nicely with the American University speech, and together they destabilized reigning norms and enacted movement. Yet in this text, he also interrupted his normal cool with sarcasm and confrontation. The

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final part of the speech provided an awkward sincerity rare in his public address and reflected the risk he took himself and asked the audience to take as well. Thus, the speech cast a wide formal net, which, in turn, shaped and exploited normatively powerful languages of citizenship. That was key: JFK argued that black citizens must be treated in the same way as white citizens. Rather than insisting on black responsibility by asking them to prove they deserved citizenship, he flipped the script, insisting that whites live up to the nation’s liberal, Puritan, and republican heritage. But only if “we” responded could we “say to the world and, much more important, to each other that this is the land of the free.” Reciprocity emerged as the central strategy in his civil rights argument, which became, in fact, a white redemption project. He insisted the rights of all were threatened when those of one were denied, and he asked white Americans to become that one. They should be willing to change the color of their skins and stand in their place. That is a high standard. Glaude argues a “value gap” pervades the United States: “No matter our stated principles or how much progress we think we’ve made, white people are valued more than others in this country, and that fact continues to shape the life chances of millions of Americans.” He supports that claim with statistical and authority evidence, but JFK’s reciprocity standard succinctly summarizes the argument—would whites today willingly change the color of their skins? The honest answer for most is no. That in itself illustrates the value gap Glaude claims is “in our national DNA.”188 It is there that liberals part company with him, such is their belief in political change, a commitment made possible in part through the ampliative power of reciprocity. As long as it holds up, a series of entailments flow from it. A request for reciprocity assumes first that people can see one another. Everyone can see themselves and others as individuals and not as exhaustively defined by the social order. Second, since good sight reveals that people are like one another in crucial ways, they can trade places. If that is true, we can experience a different world. Fancy thus yields, liberals hope, transformation, a Saul on the road to Paul.189 Liberals think that because reciprocity incarnates the key elements of their persuasion. Reciprocity arguments assume the moral worth of each person. They suggest the best and easiest rule of thumb to measure success at putting that

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norm into practice is the willingness to switch places. Obviously, one can seldom actually do so, but fancy, the faculty to imagine ourselves as the other, to see reality through other eyes, is critical to a liberal social and political order. In both a moral and legal sense, a liberal order asks people, as Kennedy did here, to treat each other as interchangeable, as equal before the law and God. It is not always good, of course, to treat citizens as interchangeable parts, and the tendency to carry that idea to the end of the line, to make it “rotten with perfection,” is a real danger. But the solution is built into the problem; we would not want to be so treated. Significantly, fancy also carries with it a provisional sense of identity. A person’s authenticity, Trilling might say, is malleable. If identities are provisional, they can change. Finally, reciprocity is open-ended. If the answer is no, then more remains to be done. One can appeal to reciprocity year after year because the argument is not exhausted until the value gap is closed. In that way, reciprocity might get liberals to structural change, although they have not often traveled that road. A reciprocity argument, this reciprocity argument, offers an ample ethical surplus. On the other hand, for those invested in a rigid social order, the ability to imagine across strict boundaries is a powerful danger. That explains, in part, the strong opposition President Kennedy’s civil rights program encountered. On June 19, he sent his legislation to Congress. The Attorney General spent much of July jousting with Southerners during testimony on behalf of the bill. In particular, he enjoyed “nine agonizing appearances” before the Judiciary Committee debating Senator Sam Irvin.190 In July, Gallup reported 49 percent of the nation favored the legislation and 42 percent opposed. Then came the March on Washington and “I Have a Dream.” It does not diminish Kennedy’s achievement to note that King’s great speech again reordered the political environment. Whether due to King, Kennedy, news coverage, events, or all of the above, by September, 54 percent were in favor and only 38 percent opposed.191 The Senate, however, has often defied public majorities, and whether Kennedy could have done what Lyndon Johnson did remains an unanswerable question. Yet JFK’s identification with that cause facilitated LBJ’s effort. He famously proclaimed that “no memorial oration or eulogy

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could more eloquently honor President Kennedy’s memory than the earliest possible passage of the civil rights bill for which he fought so long.”192 John Kennedy forged an unbreakable bond between the black freedom movement and his presidential body. His rhetoric enabled others to make of civil rights a martyr’s cause. More important, he irrevocably committed the institution to that same cause. From this speech on, every president needed to “get right” with civil rights and (an idealized version of) its history, even if they opposed its substance.193 They had to speak in his terms, acknowledging that the civil rights movement embodied the best in American life, that national values forbade racial discrimination, and that all people had the right to be treated as we would wish to be treated. That is no small legacy.

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•••

A

t first glance, the arts hardly seem as significant as civil rights or the Cold War, but John Kennedy saw them as a national treasure. Despite his middlebrow tastes, he always promoted the arts, partly because he appreciated the First Lady’s interest in them, partly because he appreciated the political benefits, and partly because he and Jackie appreciated the arts as an expression of national excellence. They believed a great nation should embody aesthetic grace. Cultivation of poetry, painting, music, architecture, and more showed the world the best of the United States and showed Americans the best of themselves. The president invited Robert Frost to speak at his Inauguration and included painters, novelists, and other artists in the festivities. The First Lady famously transformed the White House into a museum of American history. Together, the two saw state dinners as a display of American artistic and culinary excellence, exemplified by the staging of the first one at Mount Vernon. They honored the nation’s Nobel Prize recipients with a 271

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glittering dinner and hosted classical performances at the White House. Kennedy invigorated the campaign for a national arts center, one that eventually bore his name, created the Presidential Medal of Freedom for cultural achievement, designed the award, and nominated its first class of recipients. Of course, his lyrical orations also cultivated a sophisticated, national style. Nowhere did these themes come together more fully than when he went home on October 26, 1963, to discuss power and poetry in public life.1 He went to dedicate the Amherst College library to Robert Frost. The poet had become a symbol of the administration’s zest for the arts, but JFK had coldly cut him for graceless remarks Frost made after a trip to the Soviet Union.2 They did not reconcile prior to his death. The speech could repair at least the public perception of their relationship, but it did more than that. Kennedy honored Frost by using him to symbolize the role the arts should play in public life. After briefly saluting administration officials with ties to Amherst, he turned to a favorite theme: the duties owed by universities. Even private colleges, he insisted, should serve “a great national purpose.” Amherst should not teach “merely to give this school’s graduates an advantage, an economic advantage in the life struggle.” It did that, he acknowledged, but, in a reciprocity argument, he said “in return for that, in return for the great opportunity which society gives the graduates of this and related schools, it seems to me incumbent upon this and other schools’ graduates to recognize their responsibilities to the public interest.” In case any doubted his meaning, he condensed it in a familiar way: “Privilege is here, and with privilege goes responsibility.” Privilege shaped the nation’s society and economy. He noted private colleges drew “50 percent of their students from the wealthiest 10 percent of our nation.” Even public schools drew 25 percent of their students from that stratum. Yet “persons of 18 years or older who had not completed high school made up 46 percent of the total labor force, and such persons comprised 64 percent of those who were unemployed.” He pointedly observed to a privileged audience that in 1958, “the lowest fifth of the families in the United States had 4½ percent of the total personal income, the highest fifth, 44½ percent. There is inherited wealth in this country and also inherited poverty.”3 Those who are “given a running start in life” needed to

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address that concern. They must “put back into our society those talents, the broad sympathy, the understanding, the compassion—unless they are willing to put those qualities back into the service of the Great Republic, then obviously the presuppositions upon which our democracy are based are bound to be fallible.” Kennedy’s meaning here was cloudy. He argued inherited wealth and poverty threatened democracy, which created a moral duty for those given a “running start in life.”4 Just what form that should take was unclear. He suggested vaguely that reciprocity was needed—the privileged must “put back into society” that which they had received. This did not have much to do with the arts and the speech wandered from its purpose. A list of the “staggering” problems the country faced followed. JFK noted, “All this requires the best of us.” At that point, he awkwardly turned to Frost as an example of the best and a generous critic can begin to discern his argument. Robert Frost in particular and the arts in general embodied qualities necessary to democratic citizenship. If his opening was odd, the encomium was eloquent. Acknowledging epideictic norms, he defined the occasion as “an opportunity for reflection which is prized by politicians as well as by others, and even by poets.” This poet was an “artist and an American. A nation reveals itself not only by the men it produces, but also by the men it honors.” In honoring Frost, the nation “honors a man whose contribution was not to our size but to our spirit, not to our political beliefs but to our insight, not to our self-esteem, but to our self-comprehension.” President Kennedy’s usual aesthetic—anaphora, antithesis, rhythm—shaped the phrase and revealed his regard for Frost’s impiety. Those “who create power make an indispensable contribution to the Nation’s greatness, but the men who question power make a contribution just as [in]dispensable, especially when that questioning is disinterested, for they determine whether we use power or power uses us.” For Kennedy, poetry writ large, the arts, held up a mirror showing the ugliness often perpetuated by power. If might was to make right, then it needed poetry’s insight. In that spirit, Frost brought “an unsparing instinct for reality to bear on the platitudes and pieties of society.” His feel for “the human tragedy” strengthened him: “‘I have been,’ he wrote, ‘one acquainted with the night.’”5 Familiarity with ordeal as well as triumph gave him a “deep faith

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in the spirit of man, and it is hardly an accident that Robert Frost coupled poetry and power, for he saw poetry as the means of saving power from itself.” In this speech, Kennedy coupled apparent opposites—power and poetry, tragedy and comedy, ordeal and triumph. Yet rather than shaping an ultimate order guided by a unitary principle, the president held them in tension. In a sense, they worked as his antitheses did; they were correlatives. One needed the other for each to become fully itself. One could not know daybreak’s joy absent an acquaintance with the night. In an eloquent anaphora, he heightened the tension to define the role of art in a liberal democracy: “When power leads man toward arrogance, poetry reminds him of his limitations. When power narrows the areas of man’s concern, poetry reminds him of the richness and diversity of his existence. When power corrupts, poetry cleanses.” Note the declarative. When, not if, but when power inflates, narrows, corrupts, poetry cleanses. That was not always a welcome role. The “great artist” was a “solitary figure” who had, as “Frost said, a lover’s quarrel with the world.” Yet Frost was popular, so JFK explained that “a good many preferred to ignore his darker truths.” Those were as necessary as light: “If sometimes our great artists have been the most critical of our society, it is because their sensitivity and their concern for justice, which must motivate any true artist, makes him aware that our nation falls short of our highest potential.” The president saw “little of more importance to the future of our country and our civilization than full recognition” of that critical voice. With privilege, came responsibility. With wealth, came obligation. A liberal democracy knew this to be true because with Kennedy, came Frost. With power, came poetry. The president’s performance embodied these ideals and recognized the critical role of poetry in public life. With that recognition came a “great future.” Kennedy closed with an anaphora organized around the phrase “I look forward to an America . . .,” which did not roll off the tongue as well as “I have a dream,” but borrowed that sensibility. The formal contrasts continued, as he held in tension wealth and wisdom, strength and civilization. The content of the passage, indeed of the speech, foreshadowed a second term. Education, economic opportunity, military strength, moral restraint, “the beauty of our natural environment,” preservation of “great old American houses and squares and parks of our national past,” and development of “handsome and balanced

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cities of our future” would shape the country to come.6 Most pertinent was his declaration that he saw “an America which will steadily raise the standards of artistic accomplishment and which will steadily enlarge cultural opportunities for all of our citizens.” JFK believed a great democracy could honor distinction while spreading beauty. Artistry should inspire everyone, for cultural expression formed an inalienable part of the full and free life that should be open to all. That was the hope, he concluded, held by Robert Frost, and that hope ended the president’s journey home. The story closed, then, as it began in his inaugural address, with the lively life that should define citizenship in a liberal democracy. This speech illustrates John Kennedy’s rhetorical artistry, but also reveals tensions. He offered values for contemplation, but refused the hierarchy that might have ordered them. He looked to the future, yet imagined that out of the past. He crafted his ideas within a modern aesthetic—clean, balanced, rhythmic—that indelibly fused form and content. But restless impieties characterized his rhetoric, blasphemies he believed would enhance traditional values. He asked people to see as those left out, even as he remained vague on the causes of and the cures for injustice. He called for critique as he wielded power. It was likely no accident he recognized a dead poet as a critical voice. Robert Frost could no longer hold inconvenient press conferences. Presidents tend to like poets more in the shimmering abstract than in the annoying concrete. Yet such should not lead us to dismiss John Kennedy’s achievement. In 1961, the new president asked Americans to demand of him “the same high standards” that he asked of them. In this final chapter, I take up that invitation by thinking through the liberal persuasion that emerged from his rhetorical action. JFK possessed neither the time nor inclination to develop a political philosophy. Rather, his liberalism evolved as a situated discourse that sought to answer his needs and those of his time. At critical moments, from his inauguration to the schoolhouse door, he turned to rhetoric as a means to interpret and resolve the problems he perceived. He drew from the liberal consensus that preceded him, but he made that language his own. To a large extent, the nation he proposed lived—and continues to live—in the words he offered to its people. The coherence and force of that vision flowed from a series of interdependent rhetorical choices.

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When the president “looked forward to an America” at Amherst, he did more than pay Dr. King the compliment of imitation. Kennedy defined time, shaping his administration as a moment of kairos. Opportunity shone. It offered a fleeting opening, a chance to make the world anew. This endeavor required knowledge of the prosaic past as a way into the demanding future. JFK could credibly teach history’s lessons and often did so. But his pedagogy looked ahead. If conservatives sought to preserve past wisdom, he transcended its terms. His inaugural address projected the arc of his upcoming administration. He defined the people not by their eternal place but by their active potential, a transformation enabled by that mutual pledge. More broadly, deliberative address as a genre speaks to the future. His speeches at Yale and American universities, on Cuba and civil rights, sought to shape the requisite decisions. In the ancient Greek, krisis, crisis, one might say, means a judgment. JFK sought krisis; it was past time to make the decisions that would craft the time to come.7 Yet a broader logic characterizes this perspective, one inherent to liberalism’s temporal orientation. It seeks emancipation through reason. People must be able to free themselves from the social and material cords binding them; the critical time to do so seems always to be now. By acting now, people “make something of themselves,” author their lives, and exert authority over circumstance. They could not and should not be only what they were. Liberalism emphasizes the coming identity, the formation of a more perfect union. That constitutional phrase is as liberal as anything written at the founding, partly because perfect is one of the more perfectly paradoxical words in the English language. As adjective, it means to have the required elements, to be exactly right. One is often admonished not to do as the founders did and modify the word. It is absolute, complete in and of itself. As a verb, however, it is to do that—to make something free of faults or defects, meaning the word is product and process and, as verb tense, it is criticism. The perfect tense reflects back on a completed or habitual action. In short, the phrase “to form a more perfect union” perfectly captures the promise and anxiety of a liberal kairos. The nation and its people must forever strive to complete perfection even as they critique perfection, which, of course, means it is not perfection. Liberals cannot complete themselves

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through change, yet change they must. It is no wonder they hope that reason might ease emancipation’s anxieties. If God and tradition could not banish anxiety, then liberals needed to find new grounds for political authority. Edmund Fawcett gets it exactly right when he notes that liberalism began not as a set of principles, but “with a predicament.” The “productive turmoil of early industrial capitalism and three late eighteenth century political revolutions—American, Dutch, French—had turned society and politics upside down.”8 Given that, liberals suspected social order would be a dynamic affair. Eternal verities could not make a people perfectly secure anymore, if indeed they ever did for the vast majority. In many ways, liberals welcomed this development. Tradition trapped as well as secured. People could now craft themselves, as they could not before. They could attend the University of Alabama, even if they happened to be born black. But a turbulent order required grounding. It needed a means to assert authority, to grant stability to social life and confidence to planning. A fixed hierarchy was neither practical nor ethical, but total chaos was not acceptable, either. How could political language shape a dynamic order? John Kennedy used pragmatic reason to answer that question. In his version of Fawcett’s predicament, he perceived a need to build a vigorous public and economic life, one that would craft a dynamic world. Balance alone would not do. Blacks, women, the great demographic bulge of baby boomers, newly empowered Western European nations, former colonial possessions now independent, all sought a place in the sun. The United States had to spur growth, invigorate the postwar settlement, end segregation, and devise a means to create a mobile order in the face of an active and dangerous alternative in the Soviet Union. JFK asserted his authority to enact such policies based on the warrant that he understood this new world better than did his foes. To borrow later pungent phrases, he staked a claim to the “reality-based community”; he argued reality had a “well-known liberal bias” and he sought to prove that in his rhetoric. For example, the opening at Amherst advanced three interconnected claims in the form of his familiar quasi-logical argument. An Amherst education was a privilege. With privilege came responsibility. Responsible people should give back to a society that had enabled them through education. The president supported his claims with statistics.

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Universities drew students primarily from the wealthy and, therefore, recreated privilege through education, as shown by unemployment and wealth inequality numbers. Facts are useful. In a dynamic liberal order, the language that his critics later termed “technocratic reason” acted as JFK’s warrant for the ethos or rhetorical authority to address public issues. He knew the world and his opponents did not. At Yale, dissociation demonstrated that he could look beneath a problem’s surface and analogy demonstrated he could look across cases. The depth and breadth of vision in his speeches sustained the authority claim he established in the inaugural covenant. In a dynamic order, he could be a guide. As such, he did not use a correspondence theory of truth. When he tested ideas, he asked: Did they work? Was this true in so far forth, true instrumentally? His rhetoric wove together better than most the needs of expertise and democracy. He tested claims against the world, but he wanted his audience to do the same. He asked of them no more than he demanded of himself. To call his speeches elitist strains credulity and reveals a distinct lack of familiarity with the discursive conventions of the time. Absent a transcendent faith in divine authority, aristocratic hierarchy, social ownership of the means of production, or a Leviathan state, liberals place a contingent faith in public reason. It is significant that JFK discerned the political role of language. He avowed at Yale and elsewhere that the nation required new words with which to make new policies. Few presidents so reflect on the constitutive, or world-building, properties of language. His campaigns for a tax cut and a nuclear test ban treaty began with speeches that argued explicitly for his vocabulary’s superiority, and civil rights implicitly did so. His lexicon embodied liberal ideals: Social truths emerged from the marketplace of ideas as working hypotheses requiring rigorous tests to measure their utility. If past words had failed, he sought new words for his (presidentially defined) new times. He drew the authority to do so partly from the institution and largely from his linguistic claim to a superior representation of reality. But reality moves. To account for such, the president wove contingency into the fabric of his language. He invoked an aesthetic that also moved, and, as important, built critique into itself, so that he could test hypotheses. It was a reflexive language. On one level, Kennedy participated in

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a larger cultural shift, one exemplified in this study by the work of James Baldwin and Martin Luther King Jr. Faced with a nasty social hierarchy, they evaded its demands by mobilizing the words that made it real. John Kennedy, too, consistently employed these strategies, from irony and synecdoche to dissociation and more, particularizing to generalize, reasoning to redeem, or listing to amplify. Take perspective by incongruity. In Debra Hawhee’s analysis of the ways that Kenneth Burke might “speak to our transdisciplinary moment,” she explores incongruity. It tries, Burke said, to “see around the edges of an orientation.” As perspectives multiply, out “of all this overlapping, conflicting, and supplementing of interpretive frames, what arises as a totality? The only thing that all this seems to make for is a reinforcement of the interpretive attitude itself.”9 As odd as it was for presidential rhetoric, JFK’s speeches took this attitude. Much as Burke asked the artist to dislocate “accepted linkages” of an “imposing sort” by peering “through the reverse end of his glass, converting mastodons into microbes,” so did JFK see Americans as the Soviets saw them or ask his white audience to view itself as a “master race.”10 Consistent with pragmatic reason, there is a “suspension,” a “deliberate forgetting” of the familiar that tests that which we know for a fact.11 We see differently. Formal aesthetic and substantive argument merge. On a second level, the president’s style built a critical voice into its texture. Recall that Frost’s contribution to the nation “was not to our size, but to our spirit, not to our political beliefs but to our insight, not to our self-esteem, but to our self-comprehension.” On the one hand, the balance enticed, making it easy to agree, as the words rhythmically swung people along. On the other, each pair turned on itself, because the second term undermined the first. His form asked the audience to use rhythm to query values, an unusual choice, yet one consistent with the man JFK praised. Tim Kendall notes, “From the outset, he [Frost] valued above all else in poetry what he called ‘the pleasure of ulteriority’—that is, ‘saying one thing and meaning another, saying one thing in terms of another.’”12 In an insightful preface to that classic of mid-century criticism, The Liberal Imagination, Louis Menand sees the same in Lionel Trilling: “Balancing a thought was the essence of Trilling’s genius.” Yet he did not do so to stabilize; rather, his “sentences turn in on themselves.” Nor was his “cast of mind . . . paradoxical; it is dialectical.”13

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So was that intriguing line in the civil rights speech. JFK began with a conditional: “But are we to say to the world and, much more importantly, to each other . . . ,” posing in a concrete context the sort of dialogue he only imagined at Amherst. The sentence assumed that the United States was the “land of the free,” that it had “no second class citizens,” and so on as it negated its own assumptions: “except with respect to Negroes.” Yet it was more complicated even than that because whites knew the counterfactual (“are we to say”) he posed was factual. What seemed a conditional supposition in form was a substantive condition in fact. The sentence turned on itself and, by doing so, asked the audience to turn on itself, to reconsider its beliefs and policies. Like Trilling, JFK “saw everything under a double aspect: as cause and effect, progress and reaction, recognition and self-deception.” His speeches enacted the idea that “oppositional attitudes are produced by, in a sense are complicit in, the attitude they oppose.”14 Nadia Urbinati argues John Stuart Mill shared this belief in the productive role of critique. His embrace of dissent was “more than simply a protest against coercion.” He felt dissent was “the constitutive political virtue of democracy” because democratic “legitimacy is based on consent, independence of mind, and thus reciprocal openness to the opinions of others.” Rather than “corroding social sentiments,” dissent “fosters relations of sympathy and cooperation among citizens.”15 Liberals believe people must use the master’s tools, but those facilitate change when they spark critique. JFK’s inventiveness showed in the vivid ways he fostered reflection. John Harlan and Abraham Lincoln judged “our” treatment of “the Negroes,” even as Kennedy’s argument altered “our” interpretations of Harlan and Lincoln. A liberal knows, Menand writes, that “there is no stable point outside a culture from which to critique it. The adversarial and the subversive have a place within the system; they are creations of the system; the system cannot survive without them.”16 Of course, liberalism’s capacity to absorb challenges into its dialogue infuriates partisans of the left and right.17 In their eyes, liberalism precludes “real” opposition through its absorption of critique. Yet, it is useful to turn this claim on itself. That line began with dialogue: “But are we to say to the world and, much more importantly, to each other . . .” For JFK, this commitment to responsiveness rests at the heart of what it means to live in a democratic society. Radicals and reactionaries may not like it, but

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liberals will talk. Oh lord, how liberals will talk. That is why he argued at Amherst that Americans must welcome critical voices. The key test for and of liberals is clear. Kennedy asked it well: What are we to say to the world and to each other? That echoed Thomas Jefferson. The first line of the Declaration of Independence makes justification an essential task of liberal democracy. If a people sought “to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another,” then they owed the others an explanation: “a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.” Danielle Allen argues that central to those causes was the King’s failure to respond, and she cites this: “In every stage of these Oppressions We have petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.” These lines matter, because they give independence a rhetorical justification. They declare the colonists a free people. They perform that status through petition because only a free people can complain to its leaders. They deserve a government befitting that status. A fair answer to petitions defines that government.18 Freedom and equality thus become imbricated. A free people deserve equality of voice.19 If they speak, even royalty should respond. Yet all equalities are not created equal. The colonists did not expect petitions to produce aristocratic titles for everyone. Rather, Allen writes, they sought “an equality of agency, and a commitment to participate in the conversational modes that allow friends, or groups of citizens, to restore balance in the distribution of agency.”20 Free citizens expect that other citizens and their leaders will use rhetoric to comprehend one another, test responsiveness, figure out where things may have gone wrong, and make changes. In other words, we expect our leaders to treat us as an audience, as a people capable of judgment and necessary to the conduct of public affairs. Underlying responsiveness is reciprocity. If you have a “running start in life,” then you must “put back into our society those talents, the broad sympathy, the compassion” that aided you. Equality of agency flows from a commitment to treat all in the same class as equals; the best way to assess the state of equality is to imagine me as thee.21 This

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ontological flexibility reflects and enhances Kennedy’s style. To imagine a part as a whole, a this for a that, a that for a this, a material as a spiritual, and so on dances an interpretive attitude that enables fancy. The commitment to responsiveness and the capacity to see the world as others do marks Kennedy’s speeches. The Cuban Missile Crisis is the most counterintuitive example. The Soviets had clandestinely placed nuclear missiles in Cuba. That violated the rules governing deployment of those horrific weapons. Generic norms and political pressures shaped a context that made war rhetoric seem inevitable. Its attitude is nicely put in the preceding. Presidents do as the founders did. They disdain responsiveness as hopeless: “Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury.” Yet JFK petitioned. He turned to forensic address and made justice the issue. Central to justice was participatory parity. If nuclear war was to be just, if it could be just (which Kennedy doubted), it could not result from a mistake or the inevitable march of the war genre. Rather, the Soviets deserved a voice at each stage. The final part of the address offered reciprocal proposals that restored the agency war rhetoric excises. He could set that rhythm because, as he had said in the inaugural address, the two nations were unique. They alone could end the world, so they alone could save the world. JFK acknowledged equality of agency and used it as a reason to make the world safe for diversity.22 The American University address formalized that recognition. In defiance of a long skein of vituperation, including his own, JFK saw the Soviet Union and put it before his nation’s eyes. He asked his audience to see themselves as the Communists saw them and he asked the Soviets to see that willingness. In short, he made a bet that responsiveness would result in reciprocity and that would lead to transcendence. If the Americans offered and the Soviets responded, we could see them as us, and, together, a transcendent “we” could save this small planet. Yet this was no kind of philosophical transcendence; it was forged in the crucible of public address. Kennedy rejected the appealing purity of idealism and realism. No one could change the world overnight. People should expect “not a sudden revolution in human nature,” but rather “a gradual evolution in human institutions.” Similarly, he rejected realism’s nihilism. In the bomb’s shadow, interests were a joint affair; mutually assured destruction made sure of that. The president, then, sought a genuine peace,

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one demanded at this time, authorized by his superior grasp of the world, vivified in a modern aesthetic, and legitimated by participatory parity. Civil rights tested that commitment to parity more than any other issue and, in a larger sense, challenged the normative foundation of the liberal persuasion. The predicament President Kennedy faced was simple: Many whites did not regard blacks as fully human or as full citizens of the nation. He disagreed. To borrow Fawcett’s term, Kennedy sought to justify “civic respect” for African Americans.23 Like the president, they were due the respect owed to all citizens; they should be able to live their lives in peace, develop their talents as fully as they wished, participate in public affairs, and pick their leaders. Such rights were overdue—100 years past due—and “Now the time has come for this nation to fulfill its promise.” Yet it was not time alone that demanded change. Kennedy made civil rights wholly American. Liberal to its core, his speech nonetheless animated that tradition with republican and Puritan strains, providing a comprehensive rationale for white citizens of all persuasions to grant civic respect to black Americans. The progress thus far, from Old Covenant to New, from Article IV to the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments, defined civil rights as “a moral issue” requiring action now. This historical argument made reciprocity central to that progress. A “full and free life” required that “every American ought to have the right to be treated as he would wish to be treated, as he would wish his children to be treated.” Kennedy peered past the edges of the old orientation and insisted a new interpretation demanded civic respect for all. Although not perfect, the reciprocity argument carries an ethical surplus, an amplitude built into its structure. As people measure themselves against that rule— am I treating others as I wish to be treated?—they find ever more reasons for anxiety and change. Yet race cuts to the heart of that claim because, in the United States, it is hard to imagine that I can imagine myself as a black person. That problem challenges reciprocity. It asks people to do the implausible—can we truly see me as thee?—and, the critics say, little good comes from that. Some, like James J. Kilpatrick and less odious skeptics, make hierarchy the key to a stable social order and therefore dismiss sympathy as inimical to the public good. Reciprocity threatens stability by enabling mobility. People should instead stay in place. Society works best when clear rules

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govern everyone’s conduct. Each person must play the role given by God’s natural law or chaos will result. There is little to be said to this, except that a rigid hierarchy always looks more homey from the top of the pile. More serious critics advance three claims that question the normative basis of President Kennedy’s rhetoric and the liberal persuasion. To begin, reciprocity is impossible. It assumes the universal aspects of humanity override a person’s particulars. People identify with their common qualities, what political philosophers have come to call their “basic equality,” regardless of their specific histories.24 But Iris Marion Young argues that irreparable differences make symmetry an impossibility. Race, gender, and class impede and/or forbid sympathy. Even to try results in nasty appropriations, as when whites start “playing Indian,” erasing Indians.25 In addition, stealing the spaces of others erodes the conflict sparked by difference. In the Hegelian tradition, at any rate, encountering the difference embodied by others as other enables the growth of a self. Reciprocity and symmetry deny the conflict needed to develop one’s full potential.26 To extend her position, reciprocity does in part what liberalism as a whole apparently does: It absorbs the lived, concrete experience of others into its transcendent, universal machine, reifying the hierarchy liberals claim to dismantle. Symmetry erases difference. Charles Mills explains how symmetry erases race in liberal political theory. For him, as for Baldwin, racial injustice is the original sin, one “central to the making of the modern world and to the creation of the United States.”27 Like Young, Mills scorns reciprocity, even as an ideal. When theorists like John Rawls posit an original position or recognition respect, they effectively eliminate race. Such political theory studies “what justice demands in a perfectly just society.” Rawls and the social contract tradition writ large begin with the ideal of a just society and ask what economic, social, and political arrangements would define this wonder. Racism is evil. Thus, race is eliminated: “In a perfectly just society, race would not exist, so we do not (as white philosophers working in ideal theory) have to concern ourselves with matters of racial justice in our own society, where it does exist—just as the white citizenry increasingly insist that the surest way of bringing about a raceless society is to ignore race and that those (largely people of color) who still claim to see race are themselves the real racists.”28 To use reciprocity is to see myself as

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the other and, since I already do that in my imagined just society, I need not address the racism in my nation. By definition, it will be/has been eliminated. This theoretical move works in the same way as conservative political appropriations of a famous line from “I Have A Dream.” If I judge people not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character, then those who bring up color are racists. I am not. Reciprocity erases race because it makes all one.29 For Reinhold Niebuhr, the problem is more universal and intractable, if that is possible. In his early masterpiece, Moral Man and Immoral Society, he argues forcefully that reciprocity is impossible, not because specificity precludes symmetry, but rather because people sin. Their self-interest and ineradicable will to transcend make it inconceivable for anyone to treat others with the generosity we accord ourselves. In his view, original sin is the term that describes this urge to act as God, to make a world in Imago Me; as a mid-twentieth-century liberal, he detects this desire to control people’s lives in capitalism, communism, fascism, and segregation. At times, individuals can reciprocate, but groups cannot. Conflict might be ameliorated only if “groups could achieve a degree of reason and sympathy which would permit them to see and to understand the interests of others as vividly as they understand their own, and a moral goodwill which would prompt them to affirm the rights of others as vigorously as they affirm their own.” He thinks this benevolence “beyond the capacities of human societies” because “ethical attitudes” rely on “personal contacts and direct relations.” Such do not exist between groups, which explains “the moral chaos of a civilization.”30 Sin precludes reciprocity. Niebuhr’s critique undercuts the liberal persuasion. JFK warranted his claim to authority with his superior grasp of the world, yet that pragmatic reason, Niebuhr argues, always results in the desire to make the world anew, to make it over in my image, to control others for their own good, as people imagine God should. In an irony that Niebuhr would surely appreciate, the very pragmatic reason that promises to make liberalism effective in the world denies the equality of agency or responsiveness that grants it democratic legitimacy. The inevitable desire to know and to control the world is the ripe temptation offered by original sin, defined by the Edenic myth and enacted throughout history. People try

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always and forever to forestall the precariousness of their existence by reasoning away contingency. They eat the apple. In short, these three significant critiques assert that reciprocity cannot work in practice due to human difference and human nature. If thought of only as a useful ideal, it may be worse. It erases difference, enables racism, and reasserts domination. No wonder liberalism comforts the comfortable and afflicts the afflicted, except that it doesn’t, or, at least, it doesn’t often enough to deny that categorical claim. My appeal to history here is but one difference between a rhetorical reading and these theoretical projects. I am less interested in a “communicative theory of moral respect” than I am in the ways moral respect comes to matter in symbolic action.31 If liberalism makes the moral worth of each individual its justification for existence, then how does that worth come to matter? How does a community argue that worth into existence and decide who matters and, for that matter, who does not?32 Such requires close attention to the particulars of strategic action and public controversy. To understand how a community establishes its norms and inculcates its modes of persuasion, I look to political texts and, in this particular case, to John Kennedy’s liberal persuasion. Yet his words did not drop from the heavens; rather, they arose from a history of political speech. From this view, liberalism is a situated and thick political language. It asks people to see the world as it does and act in the world as liberals would act. It seeks to resolve communal problems even as it defines and grants civic respect. It often does so through reciprocity arguments. Rooted as it is in JFK’s rhetoric, my analysis of reciprocity escapes many of these critiques. Communal life is not ideal; asymmetry, difference, history, Richard Weaver, and more alienate people from each other. But Kenneth Burke reminds us that division yields identification, and with that come joy, James Baldwin, friendship, and more division. In public debates, liberals seek a more perfect union, not a perfect one. Contingent identifications, what Young terms “asymmetrical relations,” are always possible, but never guaranteed.33 Equally important, when liberals make reciprocity arguments, or at least when Kennedy does so, they do not require a projection of self into another, or pure persuasion, as Burke would say.34 Reciprocal relations are not relations of identity. Rather, when people address one another

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in public, when they make claims on an audience’s time, attention, and respect, they both assume and constitute the competence, authority, and responsibility of that audience.35 King’s greeting to the ministers in “Letter from Birmingham Jail” made such claims on those men. All were God’s ministers, as were King and those who later read his missive. The “Letter” asked Americans, black and white, moderate and radical, to read as children of God, eager to know and abide by God’s will as revealed in history. Civil religion, indeed. Yet that common identity never precludes difference. Rather, Kennedy and King spoke to and of the basic equality or dignity of each person. Although people assuredly differ, there is in their status as individuals a moral worth. Immanuel Kant wrote of treating people as ends and not means, sparking a long tradition that seeks to specify what terms like dignity and equality mean. Liberal philosopher Jeremy Waldron offers an array of candidates for the core element defining basic equality: “I have talked of reason (practical and theoretical); I have talked of feeling pain; I have talked of love; I have talked of the organization of a life; I have talked of the ability to set ends for oneself, to respond to principles, to differentiate right and wrong and to act on such differentiations. Which of these capacities are we to privilege?”36 A rhetorician would ask the question differently: Which of these capacities or topics are the most useful means of persuasion in specific situations? One, some, or all may make people matter, assert their worth as citizens. To abstract equality out of the “eventness” of controversies can be useful. Yet it is also important to understand that speakers often need to argue a people’s capacity to love or plan into existence and make it matter to others.37 This painfully established and deeply significant common status enables and is enabled by differences among us; people may love in many ways but that does not deny their capacity to love, which is proven each time we witness love. Reciprocity arguments insist that this common status demands equal treatment, that those in the same class should be treated in the same way. Waldron notes people generally wish to live and plan their lives by their own lights. I can infer from my plans that others plan. I may evaluate their efforts only by their effect on me. But “I begin to treat them as equals when I recognize that they have a point of view. . . . that, like me, they identify with what they are doing, are seeking to realize purposes of

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their own to the extent they can, and desire to do all this on their own terms rather than just being the instrument of another’s will.”38 Reciprocity enables difference through its recognition of common qualities, plans, feelings, and more. They do not have to be the same feelings as ours, but we grant that others possess them. They do not have to value what we value, but we acknowledge their values.39 Demands for equal treatment flow from such recognition. Chaim Perelman writes: “In practice, the problem is to know in what case it is rational or just to treat in the same way two beings or situations which differ but which can be likened to each other. It is thus a question of partial, not complete identification, which is justified by the fact that the differences are considered negligible but the likenesses essential.”40 I do not have to be you to resent unfair treatment of you. For example, I have never been locked in a jet on a runway for six hours, but I can imagine that well enough to support rules compensating those who have lived with the resulting toilets. Humans have enough at hand to enable fancy. Happily, rhetoric enacts and amplifies that capacity, as my mere mention of toilets during flight delays probably proves to readers now wrinkling their noses. It is, as both Perelman and Thomas Farrell note, public argument that crafts civic respect, and, in a contingent sense, enacts justice. As President Kennedy recognizes equality of agency with the Soviets, responds to West Germany’s case for respect, or argues for equal rights, he and his audiences judge together. As Farrell writes of Perelman’s view, the “entire process of judging well in concrete settings helps us to enact and make more real the virtue of justice. It is a performative microcosm of concrete justice itself.”41 At Amherst, JFK defended artistic autonomy as just. In a “democratic society,” he claimed, “the highest duty of the writer, the composer, the artist, is to remain true to himself.” Why was that true? Because of artists’ “sensitivity and their concern for justice.” They were “the most critical of our society” due to that concern. They knew “our Nation falls short of its highest potential.” It often violated its own sense of justice. In “serving his vision of the truth, the artist best serves his nation.” Ask not what the nation requires of the artist; ask what the artist requires of the nation. At that moment, the rule of justice became real, manifested in argumentative grit, as a people judged the claims of art on the country’s conscience. Norms exist

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in the abstract, but are only made real in a considered engagement of orator and audience. Rhetoric makes real the human dignity, the essential worth, of even the most annoying of poets. To do so, to realize the virtue of justice, rhetors exploit the power of form. Equality of treatment matters, but that is a rule of procedural justice. It claims those in the same class must be treated equally. The difficulty arises when advocates insist that those people are the same as us, that our differences are negligible but our likenesses essential. Kennedy maintained that black Americans were essentially the same as whites and deserved equal rights. Much of reciprocity’s force flows from its capacity to encourage us to imagine them as us. This is no absolute identity claim, yet it suggests we share enough. We can imagine ourselves upon the rack. Since few have experienced the rack, conventional form supplies the lack. Whites seldom had to explain to their children that their nation believed them inferior, but King’s account of that experience, that long, periodic sentence, made injustice real. Its accumulation of daily indignities piled upon the reader, like the experience of explaining that horror to your child. Less eloquently, but still powerfully, JFK’s statistical comparisons of the odds faced by black and white babies not only equated them through the form of analogy, but also called up the popular image of parents peering through a nursery window. Imagine if your child had “about one-half as much chance of completing high school” as the one next to her. The comparison put black and white in the same class and in the same room. The “personal contact and direct relations” Niebuhr requires become vividly alive through form in public argument. At its best, rhetoric shapes social emotions, extensions of the feelings people naturally hold for the near and dear to the far and lost. Most whites did not talk with King or his children, yet his eloquence let them share enough of that experience to think of him as a parent like me. That is good enough for justice work. As Farrell notes, “it may be said that concrete justice is enacted in part through the way we participate in forms of justification.”42 Then again, partisans of rhetoric generally believe that good enough is good enough. The world comes to people as an array of appearances. Absolute truth could be out there, but rhetoric does not often care about it or, rather, thinks about it only as people thrash out problems caused by differing claims to Truth. Rhetoric focuses on contingent matters that

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diminish people’s lives, whether those be the threat of nuclear annihilation or the injustices made visible on black bodies. In Aristotle’s famous phrase, it considers the “available means of persuasion,” but those means, its theoria, can only come alive in concrete settings. Key to that is the audience. Farrell notes, “In a quite subtle but persistent way, the whole emphasis of the Rhetoric is on the action and agency of others as an audience in the formation of character and the rendering of judgments.”43 In Kennedy’s case, liberalism embodies and enacts the moral worth of people through its persistent, uneven, imperfect engagements with them, by its determination to respond to petitions for change. Those occur in performances, in episodes of public address with an accepted beginning, middle, and end. At those critical moments, speaker and audience recognize the stakes, cut into existing discourses, make them anew, and debate the community’s future. Through public engagements—the Oval Office speech, the commencement address—a liberal polity does its necessary rhetorical work. This perspective explains my antipathy toward the concept of the rhetorical presidency. It fails on its own terms because its resolute disdain for presidential rhetoric renders those working from within its strictures incapable of explaining successes such as FDR’s banking speech or JFK’s inaugural address. The rhetorical presidency does not critique rhetoric; it only criticizes it. That is not useful. Yet the normative implications matter more. As Kennedy’s example suggests, the presidency as an institution possesses the rhetorical capacity to recognize or reject those who seek to assert their moral worth in the public arena. For example, as head of state and legislative leader, the president can confer legitimacy by addressing civil rights groups and arguing for the legislation to assure their rights. In turn, the petitions for change activists offer, the eloquence of “I Have a Dream,” confers recognition on the president and on liberal democratic government. A responsive president grants respect to a free people even as a free people constitute a legitimate president by insisting that he or she listen and respond. In such interactions and arguments over policy, presidents repeatedly earn the right to represent the people and the people (re)authorize the president to act in their name. What is most troubling about the rhetorical presidency program is its smallness, its lack of faith in the people and in the worth of civic engagement. Improvement

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there can always be, but public debate and dissent establish political legitimacy. That should matter to scholars of the presidency. I seek, then, to understand the presidency as an institution that has evolved pragmatically to do the tasks demanded of it by the American people. At its best and in its routines, presidential rhetoric crafts the action and agency of its audiences as they seek to solve public problems and shape national character. We best “see” the office in its rhetoric, through communication patterns characterizing its conduct. Such patterns emerge from institutional capacities, including the laws governing its operations, the public performances repeated and developed in the culture and by each president, the agency defined and realized in performance, and the constraints against which the office struggles. Rhetoric governs my interpretation of a pragmatic presidency because that is often how the job gets done. In the twentieth century, the presidency emerged as a key political and practical resource for many citizens. Traditionally denied civic respect, they demanded more accountability of politicians and more activity of presidents. Democratization of the institution should be celebrated and encouraged, not demeaned and diminished. I do not think it an accident that just as many Americans became part of “the people,” many scholars decided that presidents should not speak to the people. Numerous institutional and empirical studies from a variety of perspectives offer important insights into the presidency, but it seems reasonable to emphasize rhetoric in this study of an office and a man often noted for linguistic capacities and skills. Like the way that James Jasinski argues that abduction, a tacking between particular and general, enhances understanding of both rhetorical theory and public address, so, too, does a similar move between the presidency and John F. Kennedy make better sense of both.44 The same abduction characterizes the movement between JFK’s rhetoric and the liberal persuasion. Kennedy’s is not the only way to articulate liberal values. Rather, at this moment, he drew on the resources of the liberal tradition and others to fashion a useful language. This study focuses on his exploitation and transformation of these traditions. For example, the solidarity and sense of destiny within the Puritan tradition supplemented the individualism and pragmatism of American liberalism. One amplifies the other, leaving traces of its rhetorical DNA to

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subsequent speakers. In theory, it is possible and useful to define pure liberalism, but in practice, mongrels rule the day. In short, a rhetorical reading tries to say something useful about President Kennedy and his language in action. That is the ultimate test of criticism. But such a reading has limitations. In some ways, Kennedy’s choices bind me. The best example of that problem is Vietnam. He never spoke seriously about it. Had he lived, he would have given a major address, as did Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon.45 The words and policies he would have pursued remain forever unknowable, which has not stopped many from knowing what he would have said and done.46 In circumstances such as these, rhetoric matters. The very process of announcing a speech, discussing it with Theodore Sorensen, composing and editing drafts, feeling out what he could defend and what he had to reject, reading his brother Robert’s edits, batting about ideas with journalists, advisors, and antagonists, all of the work that goes into a major address makes policy. Absent the speech, it is impossible to know what he would have done, any more than scholars could have predicted an American University or civil rights speech had he been shot on November 22, 1962. Presidents make their choices when they speak. Those words come to mean differently as others argue with them. This study juxtaposes JFK’s words with his Cold War inheritance, liberalism, pragmatism, the Puritan heritage, rival politicians, and presidential surrogates. Inevitably, however, John Kennedy assumes center stage. That is the bias of this sort of critique, much as liberalism inevitably returns to the moral worth of each person. I have sought to read his words as a way of “living with language and with each other through language.”47 At the heart of John Kennedy’s linguistic life was the determination to treat his audience as he wished to be treated. He demanded equality for all people and shaped a nation rooted in that value. To make that real, he developed a mobile language, one that opened gaps, invited participation, urged action, and tested itself. His words flowed from past discourse into future speech. If this is, as Lincoln said, a nation “dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal,” then that equality demands argument, as do all propositions, claims that may or may not be true. In a liberal democracy, claims are debated in time, settled as they arise. The nation will always face more decisions; the arc of the universe is long and

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bends toward endless speech. But when we recognize one another as an audience, as people worthy of civic respect, we justify liberal democracy. Scholars seldom consider rhetoric a legacy, contrasting words to deeds. Words compose a weighty inheritance. John F. Kennedy lives on in his language, as does the country he asked us to make.

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Notes

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•••

Preface 1. Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr., A Thousand Days: John F. Kennedy in the White House (New York: Fawcett Crest, 1965), 805–43. 2. Ted Sorensen, Counselor: A Life at the Edge of History (New York: Harper, 2008), 328. 3. See Stephen E. Lucas and Martin J. Medhurst, eds., Words of a Century: The Top 100 American Speeches, 1900–1999 (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009). 4. Schlesinger, A Thousand Days, 940. 5. Robert Dallek, An Unfinished Life: John F. Kennedy, 1917–1963 (Boston: Little, Brown, 2003), 711. 6. James N. Giglio, The Presidency of John F. Kennedy, 2nd ed. (Lawrence: University of Kansas Press, 2006), 304. 7. Alan Brinkley, John F. Kennedy (New York: Times Books, 2012), 158. 8. Dallek, Unfinished Life, 699–701. Robert W. Merry, Where They Stand: The American Presidents in the Eyes of Voters and Historians (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2012).

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9. Larry Sabato, The Kennedy Half-Century: The Presidency, Assassination, and Lasting Legacy of John F. Kennedy (New York: Bloomsbury Books, 2013), 417. The results of the poll are to be found on 406–17. 10. George C. Edwards, On Deaf Ears: The Limits of the Bully Pulpit (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2003), 90. Giglio claims he never fell below 59% (Presidency of John F. Kennedy, 304). But civil rights was beginning to take a toll and one suspects that had he lived, the number would steadily have dropped. For an excellent breakdown of Kennedy’s poll numbers, see Hazel Gaudet Erskine, “The Polls: Kennedy as President,” Public Opinion Quarterly 28 (1964): 334–42. 11. For an extraordinary list of named everythings, see Thurston Clarke, JFK’s Last Hundred Days: The Transformation of a Man and the Emergence of a Great President (New York: Penguin Press, 2013), 351–52. 12. Exceptions include: Steven R. Goldzwig and George N. Dionisopoulos, “In a Perilous Hour”: The Public Address of John F. Kennedy (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1995); Sachs, To Move the World (New York: Random House, 2013); Vito N. Silvestri, Becoming JFK: A Profile in Communication (Westport, CT: Praeger, 2000). Of course, there have also been numerous scholarly articles and book chapters, many of which I will cite in the course of this book. But the number of book-length studies of Kennedy’s rhetoric is surprisingly small. 13. James Boyd White, When Words Lose Their Meaning: Constitutions and Copyright © 2019. Michigan State University Press. All rights reserved.

Reconstitutions of Language, Character, and Community (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1984), ix. 14. Thomas B. Farrell, “Sizing Things Up: Colloquial Reflection as Practical Wisdom,” Argumentation 12 (1998): 1. 15. James Arnt Aune, Selling the Free Market: The Rhetoric of Economic Correctness (New York: Guilford Press, 2001), 4. See also Chaim Perelman and Lucie Olbrechts-Tyteca, The New Rhetoric: A Treatise on Argumentation, trans. John Wilkinson and Purcell Weaver (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press), 1–10. 16. Thomas B. Farrell, Norms of Rhetorical Culture (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1993), 78; see also, Ronald Beiner, Political Judgment (London: Methuen, 1983), 72–73. 17. Thomas Farrell, “Knowledge, Consensus, and Rhetorical Theory,” Quarterly Journal of Speech 62 (1976): 1–14. 18. Thomas Gardner, John in the Company of Poets: The Gospel in Literary Imagination (Waco, TX: Baylor University Press, 2011), 15–16.

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19. White, When Words Lose Their Meaning, 6. 20. Mikhail Bakhtin, The Dialogic Imagination: Four Essays, trans. Caryl Emerson and Michael Holquist, ed. Michael Holquist (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1981), 276. 21. Karlyn Kohrs Campbell, “Inventing Women: From Amaterasu to Virginia Woolf,” Women’s Studies in Communication 21 (1998): 111. See also J. Robert Cox, “Cultural Memory and Public Moral Argument,” The Van Zelst Lecture in Communication, Northwestern University, May 1987; J. Robert Cox, “Argument and Usable Traditions,” in Argument Across the Lines of Disciplines, ed. Frans H. Van Eemeren et al. (Dordrecht: Foris Publishing, 1987), 93–99; J. Robert Cox, “Memory, Critical Theory, and the Argument from History,” Argumentation and Advocacy 27 (1990): 1–13; James Jasinski, “Instrumentalism, Contextualism, and Interpretation in Rhetorical Criticism,” in Rhetorical Hermeneutics: Invention and Interpretation in the Age of Science, ed. Alan G. Gross and William M. Keith (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1997), 195–224; James Jasinski and John M. Murphy, “Time, Space, and Generic Reconstitution: Martin Luther King’s ‘A Time to Break Silence’ as Radical Jeremiad,” in Public Address and Moral Judgment, ed. Shawn J. Parry-Giles and Trevor Parry-Giles (East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 2009), 98–125. 22. Campbell, “Inventing Women,” 111. Copyright © 2019. Michigan State University Press. All rights reserved.

23. Kirt H. Wilson, “Interpreting the Discursive Field of the Montgomery Bus Boycott: Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Holt Street Address,” Rhetoric & Public Affairs 8 (2005): 306. Wilson elaborates on a critical orientation long present in rhetorical studies. Michael Leff, “Hermeneutical Rhetoric,” in Rethinking Rhetorical Theory, Criticism, and Pedagogy, ed. Antonio de Velasco, John Angus Campbell, and David Henry (East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 2016): 307–29; Steven Mailloux, Rhetorical Power (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1989); Steven Mailloux, Reception Histories: Rhetoric, Pragmatism, and American Cultural Politics (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1998). 24. Debra Hawhee, “Kairotic Encounters,” in Perspectives on Rhetorical Invention, ed. Janet M. Atwill and Janice M. Lauer (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 2002), 24. 25. Leff, “Hermeneutical Rhetoric,” 315. 26. Maurice Charland, “Rehabilitating Rhetoric: Confronting Blindspots in Discourse and Social Theory,” in Contemporary Rhetorical Theory: A Reader, ed. John Louis Lucaites, Celeste Michelle Condit, and Sally Caudill (New York: Guilford Press,

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Notes 1999), 469.

27. For a discussion of such transformations, see G. Thomas Goodnight, “The Personal, Technical, and Public Spheres of Argument: A Speculative Inquiry into the Art of Public Deliberation,” in Contemporary Rhetorical Theory: A Reader, ed. John Louis Lucaites, Celeste Michelle Condit, and Sally Caudill (New York: The Guilford Press, 1999), 251–64. 28. Charland, “Rehabilitating Rhetoric,” 467. 29. The classic example is Forbes Hill, “Conventional Wisdom, Traditional Form: The President’s Message of November 3, 1969,” Quarterly Journal of Speech 58 (1972): 373–86. 30. David Zarefsky, “Knowledge Claims in Rhetorical Criticism,” Journal of Communication, 58 (2008): 631. Much of the argument of this paragraph is drawn from this essay. 31. Bonnie J. Dow, “Criticism and Authority in the Artistic Mode,” Western Journal of Communication 65 (2001): 343. Dow’s essay inspires much of this paragraph. 32. Zarefsky, “Knowledge Claims,” 633. 33. See Farrell, Norms; Alasdair MacIntyre, After Virtue: A Study in Moral Theory (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1981), 175–80. 34. For a quick overview of various modes of assessment, see Karlyn Kohrs Campbell, The Rhetorical Act (Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Publishing, 1982), 152–56. Copyright © 2019. Michigan State University Press. All rights reserved.

35. Farrell, Norms, 95. Note that internal goods—strategic imagination, analytic skill, and so forth—are developed most effectively in collaboration or competition with others. 36. Bakhtin, Dialogic Imagination, 280. Chapter 1. The Liberal Presidency 1. Steven M. Gillon, Politics and Vision: The ADA and American Liberalism, 1947–1985 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1987). Minor parties do well in New York because the state allows electoral fusion. Candidates may receive nominations from more than one party and may count all of the votes they receive on all lines. That makes the nominations of these parties worthwhile. 2. See, for example, Arthur Schlesinger Jr., Kennedy or Nixon? Does It Make Any Difference? (New York: Macmillan, 1960); Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr., A Thousand Days: John F. Kennedy in the White House (New York: Fawcett Crest, 1965), 62–67; Edmund F. Kallina Jr., Kennedy v. Nixon: The Presidential Election of 1960 (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2010), 37–38. Eleanor Roosevelt, still a

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power in the party, was particularly upset about McCarthy. On her reaction and other liberal misgivings, see Thomas Oliphant and Curtis Wilkie, The Road to Camelot: Inside JFK’s Five-Year Campaign (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2017), 20–23, 41, 271. 3. John F. Kennedy, “Speech of Senator John F. Kennedy, Commodore Hotel, New York, NY, Acceptance of Party Nomination,” September 14, 1960, available on the website of The American Presidency Project. Subsequent references are to this text. 4. Walter Bryce Gallie, “Essentially Contested Concepts,” Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 56 (1956): 167–98; for a rhetorical sense of that terminological change, see James Jasinski, “Definition/Definition of the Situation,” in Sourcebook on Rhetoric: Key Concepts in Contemporary Rhetorical Studies (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2001), 151–60. 5. I draw these lists from Paul Starr, Freedom’s Power: The History and Promise of Liberalism (New York: Basic Books, 2007), 3. See also Raymond Williams, Keywords: A Vocabulary of Culture and Society, rev. ed. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1983), 179–81. 6. Ronald Dworkin, “Liberalism,” in Public & Private Morality, ed. Stuart Hampshire (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1978), 113–43. 7. Michael W. Doyle, Liberal Peace: Selected Essays (New York: Routledge, 2012), 5. Copyright © 2019. Michigan State University Press. All rights reserved.

8. Nancy Fraser and Axel Honneth, Redistribution or Recognition? A PoliticalPhilosophical Exchange, trans. Joel Golb, James Ingram and Christine Wilke (New York: Verso, 2003), 224. 9. Isaac Kramnick, Republicanism & Bourgeois Radicalism: Political Ideology in Late Eighteenth-Century England and America (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1990), 9. 10. Ibid., 1. 11. John Locke, Two Treatises of Government, ed. Mark Goldie (London: Everyman, 1993), 127–39. Yet it is important to note that even in this classic statement of liberal doctrine, there is a strong commitment to a “society dedicated by natural law to mutual aid and preservation among equals.” In fact, Locke may be trying “to unpack the case that may be made for the Golden Rule. . . . once we acknowledge that no human has a superior status, we have no choice but to treat the needs and desires of others as on a par with our own.” Reciprocity is at the core of the liberal persuasion. Jeremy Waldron, God, Locke, and Equality: Christian Foundations in Locke’s Political Thought (Cambridge: Cambridge

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Notes University Press, 2002), 155.

12. See John G. Cawelti, Apostles of the Self-Made Man: Changing Concepts of Success in America (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1965). 13. I draw from Alan Ryan, “Liberalism,” in The Making of Modern Liberalism (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2012), 22–44. 14. The classic statement of this thesis is found in John Brewer, The Sinews of Power: War, Money and the English State, 1688–1783 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1988). 15. See also Stephen Holmes, Passions & Constraint: On the Theory of Liberal Democracy (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995); Andreas Kalyvas and Ira Katznelson, Liberal Beginnings: Making a Republic for the Moderns (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2008). 16. Gary Gerstle, “The Protean Character of American Liberalism,” American Historical Review 99 (1994): 1046. 17. Kramnick, Republicanism, 6. 18. Quoted in Kalyvas and Katznelson, Liberal Beginnings, 22. 19. Edmund Fawcett, Liberalism: The Life of an Idea (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2014), 4. 20. Karen Whedbee, “Authority, Freedom and Political Judgment: The Presumptions and Presumptuousness of Whately, Mill and Tocqueville,” Quarterly Journal of Copyright © 2019. Michigan State University Press. All rights reserved.

Speech 84 (1998): 183. 21. Kenneth Burke, “Definition of Man,” in Language as Symbolic Action: Essays on Life, Literature, and Method (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1966), 16–17. 22. John Stuart Mill, On Liberty, Utilitarianism and Other Essays, ed. Mark Philp and Frederick Rosen (Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2008), 56, 58. 23. Alan Ryan, “Mill’s Essay On Liberty,” in The Making of Modern Liberalism. J. S. Mill, On Liberty and Other Writings, ed. Stefan Collini (London: Cambridge University Press, 2007). 24. Ryan, “The Romantic Theory of Ownership,” in Making of Modern Liberalism. 25. Fraser and Honneth, Redistribution, 31. 26. Ibid. 27. Nadia Urbinati, Mill on Democracy: From the Athenian Polis to Representative Government (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2002), 10. 28. For an example of such criticism, see Michael Sandel, Liberalism and the Limits of Justice (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982).

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29. Ronald Dworkin, “Liberalism,” in Public & Private Morality, ed. Stuart Hampshire (London: Cambridge University Press, 1978), 113–43; Chaim Perelman, The Idea of Justice and the Problem of Argument, trans. John Petrie (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1977); Chaim Perelman, The Realm of Rhetoric, trans. William Kluback (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1982); Adam Smith, The Theory of Moral Sentiments, ed. Knud Haakonssen (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2002). 30. Perelman, Realm of Rhetoric, 67. 31. Ryan, “The Liberal Community,” in Making of Modern Liberalism, 105. 32. Rogers M. Smith, Civic Ideals: Conflicting Visions of Citizenship in U.S. History (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1997). 33. On the importance of prudence to republicanism, see James Jasinski, “The Forms and Limits of Prudence in Henry Clay’s (1850) Defense of the Compromise Measures,” Quarterly Journal of Speech 81 (1995): 454–78; James Jasinski, “Prudence/Phronesis,” in Sourcebook on Rhetoric. 34. On structure of feeling, see Raymond Williams, Marxism and Literature (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1977). 35. Although Raymond Williams notes that an “unfavourable” sense of modern emerged in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, to be followed by a positive connotation in the nineteenth century. Early in the seventeenth century, our Copyright © 2019. Michigan State University Press. All rights reserved.

sense of the individual began to emerge but, again, that process was halting until the nineteenth century. Williams, Keywords, 208–9; 161–65. 36. Alan Ryan, “Pragmatism, Social Identity, Patriotism, and Self-Criticism,” Social Research, 63 (1996): 1060. See also Robert B. Pippin, Modernism as a Philosophical Problem, 2nd ed. (Malden, MA: Blackwell, 1999). 37. Starr, Freedom’s Power, 141. 38. See, for instance, Jeremy Waldron, “Mill and the Value of Moral Distress,” in Liberal Rights: Collected Papers 1981–1991 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1993), 115–33. 39. See Robert Hariman, “Status, Marginality, and Rhetorical Theory,” Quarterly Journal of Speech 72 (1995): 2–17. 40. John Dewey, The Public and Its Problems (Athens: Ohio University Press, 1954); John Dewey, Liberalism and Social Action (Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 2000); Mill, On Liberty. On Dewey and liberalism, see Alan Ryan, John Dewey and the High Tide of American Liberalism (New York: W. W. Norton, 1995). On Mill and rhetoric, see Urbinati, Mill on Democracy.

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41. Nicholas Capaldi nicely sketches the Enlightenment Project, its articulation in the work of James Mill, and John Stuart Mill’s rejection of many of its key premises. Nicholas Capaldi, John Stuart Mill: A Biography (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2004); see pages 55–85 in particular. 42. James Arnt Aune, “Modernity as a Rhetorical Problem: Phronesis, Forms, and Forums in Norms of Rhetorical Culture,” Philosophy and Rhetoric 4 (2008): 405. See also John M. Murphy, “Between Structure and Struggle: The Intellectual Legacy of James Arnt Aune,” Rhetoric & Public Affairs 16 (2013): 567–75. This paragraph is partly based on that essay. 43. James Arnt Aune, Rhetoric & Marxism (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1994), xi. 44. Aune, Rhetoric & Marxism, 117–42. For a noble effort to claim Habermas for rhetoric, see Thomas Farrell, Norms of Rhetorical Culture (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1993). For a noble effort to rehabilitate Kant, see Scott R. Stroud, Kant and the Promise of Rhetoric (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2014). 45. Hariman, “Status.” 46. Aune, Rhetoric & Marxism; Bryan Garsten, Saving Persuasion: A Defense of Rhetoric and Judgment (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2009); Danielle Allen, Talking to Strangers: Anxieties of Citizenship since Brown v. Board of Education (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2004). Copyright © 2019. Michigan State University Press. All rights reserved.

47. The near miss that proves the rule is Fawcett, Liberalism. This marvelous intellectual history recognizes the significance of politicians to the liberal tradition but tends to list their positions and explain their achievements. Fawcett does not unpack liberalism’s linguistic life. 48. For two authors who explore the perceived failures of liberal citizens in the early 20th century, see David M. Ricci, The Tragedy of Political Science (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1984), 78–96; Michael Schudson, The Good Citizen (New York: Free Press, 1998), 144–87. Of course, these concerns inspired the debate between Walter Lippmann and John Dewey. See Walter Lippmann, Public Opinion (New York: Harcourt Brace, 1922); Walter Lippmann, The Phantom Public: A Sequel to Public Opinion (New York: Harcourt Brace, 1925); Dewey, The Public and Its Problems. I take issue with stereotypes of this debate in Chapter 3. 49. Gerstle, “Protean Character,” 1046. 50. Starr, Freedom’s Power, 3. 51. Gary Dorrien, Social Ethics in the Making: Interpreting an American Tradition (Malden, MA: Wiley Blackwell, 2011), 60–145. Much of this account draws from

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Dorrien, as well as from Richard Fox, Reinhold Niebuhr: A Biography (New York: Pantheon Books, 1985); Langdon Gilkey, On Niebuhr: A Theological Study (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2001); Donald B. Meyer, The Protestant Search for Political Realism, 1919–1941 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1960); Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr., The Vital Center: Politics of Freedom (New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction, 2009). 52. The book that first inspired this turn was Reinhold Niebuhr, Moral Man & Immoral Society: A Study in Ethics and Politics (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2001). 53. John Kenneth Galbraith, American Capitalism in The Affluent Society and Other Writings, 1952–1967, ed. James K. Galbraith (New York: Library of America, 2010). 54. For analysis of the ways this debate over economic liberty took shape in presidential rhetoric, see Martin J. Medhurst, “LBJ, Reagan, and the American Dream,” Presidential Studies Quarterly 46 (2016): 98–124. 55. For cogent discussions of these issues, see Rogers M. Smith, Civic Ideals: Conflicting Visions of Citizenship in U.S. History (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1997); Vanessa B. Beasley, You, the People: American National Identity in Presidential Rhetoric (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 2004). 56. Karlyn Kohrs Campbell, “Stanton’s ‘Solitude of Self ’: A Rationale for Feminism,” Quarterly Journal of Speech 66 (1980): 304–12; Karlyn Kohrs Campbell, Man Copyright © 2019. Michigan State University Press. All rights reserved.

Cannot Speak for Her, 2 volumes (New York: Praeger, 1989); Susanna Kelly Engbers, “With Great Sympathy: Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s Innovative Appeals to Emotion,” Rhetoric Society Quarterly 37 (2007): 307–32. Engbers critiques the text through Smith’s concept of sympathy and nicely elucidates the appeal Stanton makes: If you understand the perceptions, feelings, and lives of women, then you will embrace woman’s freedom. The need to walk in another’s shoes, a reciprocity argument, vivifies the text. In addition, Kristan Poirot provides a superb analysis of the ways that Cady Stanton’s rhetoric works through issues of sex, race, and liberalism. Kristan Poirot, A Question of Sex: Feminism, Rhetoric, and Differences That Matter (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2014), 43–63. 57. For a marvelous account of these changes, see Nell Irvin Painter, Standing at Armageddon: The United States, 1877–1919 (New York: W. W. Norton, 1987). 58. For a postwar history that emphasizes the centrality of the presidency for liberals, see Godfrey Hodgson, America in Our Time: From World War II to Nixon—What Happened and Why (New York: Vintage Books, 1976). On FDR and the Court, see Jeff Shesol, Supreme Power: Franklin Roosevelt vs. The Supreme Court (New

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Notes York: W. W. Norton, 2010). Beginning with the Brown decision in 1954, the Court became a means for progressive social reform, but, even then, it was still constrained by its structural passivity. It could not initiate. The Second New Deal is the best example of an exception that proves the rule, a reform agenda that began more in Congress than in the White House. Vanessa Beasley beautifully links the increasing diversity of the early twentieth century to the rhetorical presidency in You, the People, 20–23.

59. James W. Ceaser, Glen E. Thurow, Jeffrey K. Tulis, and Joseph M. Bessette, “The Rise of the Rhetorical Presidency,” Presidential Studies Quarterly 11 (1981): 158–71; Jeffrey K. Tulis, The Rhetorical Presidency (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1987); Jeffrey Friedman and Shterna Friedman, editors, Rethinking the Rhetorical Presidency (New York: Routledge, 2012). Stephen Skowronek has also reviewed presidential studies, but is less concerned with reining in the power of presidential rhetoric and more with asserting the power of professors. He claims, “Then again, the presidency might never have attained the power and position it now holds in American government without a broad and influential cadre of public intellectuals committed to its development and capable of lending legitimacy to its transformation.” I enjoy the writings of Arthur Schlesinger Jr., and James MacGregor Burns as much as the next scholar, and I cite them regularly as I discuss JFK’s rhetoric, but I suspect that FDR’s liberal victories Copyright © 2019. Michigan State University Press. All rights reserved.

over depression and fascism had more to do with the evolution of the presidency than the books written about those achievements. Nonetheless, his essay shows the influence of the rhetorical presidency story and the ways that presidential scholarship consistently seeks to displace the role of the people in warranting the expansion of presidential power. Stephen Skowronek, “The Unsettled State of Presidential History,” in Recapturing the Oval Office: New Historical Approaches to the American Presidency, ed. Brian Balogh and Bruce J. Shulman (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2015), 15. 60. Mary E. Stuckey, “Rethinking the Rhetorical Presidency and Presidential Rhetoric,” Review of Communication 10 (2010): 39. 61. For example, see Roderick P. Hart, The Sound of Leadership: Presidential Communication in the Modern Age (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1987); Kathleen Hall Jamieson, Eloquence in an Electronic Age: The Transformation of Political Speechmaking (New York: Oxford University Press, 1988). 62. Bonnie J. Dow, Prime-Time Feminism: Television, Media Culture, and the Women’s Movement Since 1970 (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1996), xi–xiii.

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63. Jeffrey K. Tulis, “Conclusion: The Rhetorical Presidency in Retrospect,” in Friedman and Friedman, editors, Rethinking the Rhetorical Presidency, 267. 64. Dissociation is a rhetorical strategy through which a single concept is divided in two, one of which is more highly valued than the other. The most common example is the appearance/reality pair in which orators claim that A may appear to be true, but, in reality, it is B that matters. See Perelman, Realm, 126–37. I discuss this strategy more fully in Chapter 3. 65. Bryan Garsten, “The Idea of an Un-Rhetorical Presidency,” in Friedman and Friedman, editors, Rethinking the Rhetorical Presidency, 118. 66. For example, see Michael Gagarin, “Rhetoric and Law,” in The Oxford Handbook of Rhetorical Studies, ed. Michael J. MacDonald (New York: Oxford University Press, 2017), 43–52; Richard Leo Enos, “Rhetoric and Law,” in Oxford Handbook, 173–82; Lorna Hutson, “Rhetoric and Law,” in Oxford Handbook, 397–408; Peter Goodrich, “Rhetoric and Law,” in Oxford Handbook, 613–24. 67. Tulis, “Conclusion,” 267. 68. Jeffrey Tulis, “Revising the Rhetorical Presidency,” in Beyond the Rhetorical Presidency, ed. Martin J. Medhurst (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1996), 5. 69. Nicole Mellow, “The Rhetorical Presidency and the Partisan Echo Chamber,” in Friedman and Friedman, editors, Rethinking the Rhetorical Presidency, 162. Copyright © 2019. Michigan State University Press. All rights reserved.

70. Celeste Michelle Condit, “The Birth of Understanding: Chaste Science and the Harlot of the Arts,” Communication Monographs 57 (1990): 323–27. 71. Most in this school of thought condemn rhetoric in this way. See particularly Elvin T. Lim, The Anti-Intellectual Presidency: The Decline of Presidential Rhetoric from George Washington to George W. Bush (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008). 72. Martin Medhurst nicely makes this argument. See Martin J. Medhurst, “A Tale of Two Constructs: The Rhetorical Presidency Versus Presidential Rhetoric,” in Medhurst, editor, Beyond the Rhetorical Presidency. One also wonders how closely these scholars have studied nineteenth-century presidential, legislative, and judicial interactions. The 1854 Kansas-Nebraska Act, the Dred Scott decision, and President Buchanan’s acceptance of the Lecompton constitution hardly brought glory to republican principles and the “old Constitution.” See David Zarefsky, Lincoln, Douglas, and Slavery: In the Crucible of Public Debate (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1990), 1–17. 73. George C. Edwards, On Deaf Ears: The Limits of the Bully Pulpit (New Haven,

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Notes CT: Yale University Press, 2003).

74. Quoted in Jacob S. Hacker and Paul Pierson, American Amnesia: How the War on Government Led Us to Forget What Made America Prosper (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2016), 10. J. Michael Hogan makes considerably more sense when it comes to Wilson than either conservative pundits or Jeffrey Tulis: J. Michael Hogan, Woodrow Wilson’s Western Tour: Rhetoric, Public Opinion, and the League of Nations (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 2006). 75. Jeffrey Friedman, “Introduction: A ‘Weapon in The Hands of the People’: The Rhetorical Presidency in Historical and Conceptual Context” in Friedman and Friedman, eds., Rethinking, 5–6. To see the Progressive Era only as a response to the barely perceptible rise of socialism is a peculiar interpretation. The quotation in Friedman’s title is from a 1912 Theodore Roosevelt speech and is cited on the first page of the essay: “We advocate, not as ends in themselves, but as weapons in the hands of the people, all governmental devices which will make the representatives of the people more easily and certainly responsible to the nation’s will.” TR validates the idea of presidential accountability to the people, but Friedman believed that TR was playing “the soft demagogue” and that William Howard Taft, to his credit, “refused to try to out-demagogue TR, or to out-campaign him–not just because of the hopelessness of such an endeavor, but because it would undermine the dignity of his office” (23). Friedman does not Copyright © 2019. Michigan State University Press. All rights reserved.

understand TR’s argument. 76. For example, Trevor and Shawn Parry-Giles coined the term “presidentiality” to describe the ways in which fictional portrayals of the presidency come to constitute norms of performance for the office, a conceptual move well beyond the ken of rhetorical presidency theorists. See Trevor Parry-Giles and Shawn Parry-Giles, “The West Wing’s Prime-Time Presidentiality: Mimesis and Catharsis in a Postmodern Romance,” Quarterly Journal of Speech 88 (2002): 209–27; Trevor Parry-Giles and Shawn Parry-Giles, The Prime-Time Presidency: The West Wing and U.S. Nationalism (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2006). It is also useful to note that presidents have acted rhetorically through surrogates since the founding; Alexander Hamilton penned powerful defenses of the Washington Administration. 77. Richard J. Ellis, ed., Speaking to the People: The Rhetorical Presidency in Historical Perspective (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1998); Mel Laracey, Presidents and the People: The Partisan Story of Going Public (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 2002).

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78. Karlyn Kohrs Campbell and Kathleen Hall Jamieson, Deeds Done in Words: Presidential Rhetoric and the Genres of Governance (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1990); Karlyn Kohrs Campbell and Kathleen Hall Jamieson, Presidents Creating the Presidency: Deeds Done in Words (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2008). As Skowronek notes, a series of studies, generally in political science, has also collapsed the Modern–Traditional divide. Skowronek, “Unsettled,” 26–31. 79. Campbell and Jamieson, Deeds, 4. 80. Aristotle, On Rhetoric: A Theory of Civic Discourse, trans. George A Kennedy (New York: Oxford University Press, 1991), 53. 81. It is also true that the bureaucratic capacity of the presidency expanded significantly in the twentieth century, as, arguably, did its responsibilities. Those, as political scientists themselves often remind other scholars, are conceptually distinct from the rhetorical capacities of the office, although they are linked, as I argue in the following. 82. Stuckey makes this argument more generously than I do in “Rethinking the Rhetorical Presidency.” 83. Edwards, On Deaf Ears, 29–34. 84. For example, see Steven Casey, Cautious Crusade: Franklin D. Roosevelt, American Public Opinion, and the War Against Nazi Germany (New York: Oxford Copyright © 2019. Michigan State University Press. All rights reserved.

University Press, 2001); Brandon Rottinghaus, The Provisional Pulpit: Modern Presidential Leadership of Public Opinion (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 2010); B. Dan Wood, The Politics of Economic Leadership: The Causes and Consequences of Presidential Rhetoric (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2007). In fact, Wood goes so far as to argue that presidential rhetoric not only affects public opinion, but also economic growth. 85. It works the other way as well. Edwards’s chart shows that Reagan consistently failed to meet the 6% standard, for whatever that is worth. Rather than generalizing that all presidential rhetoric is a failure because Reagan “failed,” one could understand the context. Reagan did not need to persuade people. Between the support he already commanded, the powerful interests sustaining his position, and the ideological exhaustion of the New Deal coalition after its long dominance, he had only to mobilize his base in his first term to pass his agenda. But Edwards classifies Reagan as a failure because the polls did not move, even though his discourse aimed primarily at those who already believed—and those were about the only folks he needed for success.

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86. Karlyn Kohrs Campbell, Critiques of Contemporary Rhetoric (Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 1972), 28–30; Jeffrey P. Mehltretter Drury, Speaking with the People’s Voice: How Presidents Invoke Public Opinion (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 2014); Amos Kiewe and Davis W. Houck, eds., The Effects of Rhetoric and the Rhetoric of Effects (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 2015). Drury nicely explains the problems with polling and summarizes much of the rhetorical literature surrounding it. He also artfully discusses the use of public opinion in presidential rhetoric itself. 87. Amos Kiewe, “Letters to Franklin D. Roosevelt Following the First Fireside Chat: The Case for Studying Effects,” in Kiewe and Houck, eds., Effects of Rhetoric, 184–55. 88. For example, see Jennings Bryant and Mary Beth Oliver, eds., Media Effects, 3rd ed. (New York: Routledge, 2009). Wood, in The Politics of Economic Leadership, also develops a significantly more sophisticated empirical model of presidential influence. 89. David Zarefsky, “Presidential Rhetoric and the Power of Definition,” Presidential Studies Quarterly 34 (2004): 607–19; James Jasinski and Jennifer R. Mercieca, “Analyzing Constitutive Rhetorics: The Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions and the ‘Principles of ’98,’” in The Handbook of Rhetoric and Public Address, ed. Shawn J. Parry-Giles and J. Michael Hogan (Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2010), 314–41; Copyright © 2019. Michigan State University Press. All rights reserved.

Mary E. Stuckey, “Jimmy Carter, Human Rights, and Instrumental Effects of Presidential Rhetoric,” in Handbook of Rhetoric and Public Address, 293–312. 90. Campbell and Jamieson, Presidents, 29–56. For classic statements of the constitutive force of public address, see Edwin Black, “The Second Persona,” Quarterly Journal of Speech 56 (1970): 109–119; Michael McGee, “In Search of ‘the People’: A Rhetorical Alternative,” Quarterly Journal of Speech 61 (1975): 235–49; Maurice Charland, “Constitutive Rhetoric: The Case of the peuple Quebecois,’” Quarterly Journal of Speech 73 (1987): 133–50. 91. See Mario Cuomo, “A Tale of Two Cities,” in Words of a Century: The Top 100 American Speeches, 1900–1999, ed. Stephen E. Lucas and Martin J. Medhurst (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009), 576–83; Ronald Reagan, “Address on the Challenger Explosion,” in Words of a Century, 611–12. 92. If only because half of the population finally got the vote in 1919. It was also sometimes practically true, as John Quincy Adams and Martin van Buren could testify. They were the two nineteenth-century presidents who were clearly turned out due to tidal waves of public anger.

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93. For liberal history written in that fashion, see Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr., The Cycles of American History (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1986). 94. Drury, Speaking with the People’s Voice, 9. 95. My argument also departs from the academic left’s critique of the presidency. Perhaps not surprisingly, such critiques of an undemocratic presidency align nicely with Tulis’s outlook. See Dana D. Nelson, Bad for Democracy: How the Presidency Undermines the Power of the People (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2008). Finally, Paul Starr and Dan Wood note that twentiethcentury presidents were held responsible for the economy in ways different from those in the nineteenth century. It is also arguable that as people saw presidents as us, the public also became more interested in presidential personal lives and held them more accountable for scandals. Starr, Freedom’s Power, 142; Wood, Politics, 8; Roderick Hart, Seducing America: How Television Charms the Modern Voter (New York: Oxford University Press, 1994). 96. Or, to put it more bluntly, liberals and progressives saw the presidency as the solution to the nation’s Southern problem. Its oligarchy fought nearly every reform in American history, from abolition to the Affordable Care Act. A powerful president, it was thought, might overcome this massive resistance, a hypothesis JFK sought to test. 97. Stuckey, “Rethinking the Rhetorical Presidency,” 39. For the difference between Copyright © 2019. Michigan State University Press. All rights reserved.

the rhetorical presidency and presidential rhetoric, see Medhurst, “A Tale of Two Constructs.” I agree with his distinctions and evaluations and they’ve deeply influenced my work. Yet I also want to keep focus firmly on the presidency, while I read him as being primarily concerned with rhetoric. 98. For example, Terry Moe suggests rational choice theory as a useful way to understand the presidency as an institution, an odd move since its classical economics foundation simply reinscribes the individualism Moe seeks to avoid. See Terry M. Moe, “Presidents, Institutions, and Theory,” in Researching the Presidency: Vital Questions, New Approaches, ed. George C. Edwards III, John H. Kessel, and Bert A. Rockman (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1993), 289–336. For an exception to the rule and one that will inform this discussion, see Vanessa B. Beasley, “Understanding Institutions’ Rhetorical Agency,” in Communication and Language Analysis in the Public Sphere, ed. Roderick P. Hart (Hershey, PA: IGI Global, 2014), 477–90. 99. John C. Lammers and Joshua B. Barbour, “An Institutional Theory of Organizational Communication,” Communication Theory 16 (2006): 357.

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Notes Interestingly, Campbell and Jamieson use the constellation metaphor to characterize the concept of genre in rhetorical studies. Karlyn Kohrs Campbell and Kathleen Hall Jamieson, “Form and Genre in Rhetorical Criticism: An Introduction,” in Form and Genre: Shaping Rhetorical Action, ed. Karlyn Kohrs Campbell and Kathleen Hall Jamieson (Falls Church, VA: Speech Communication Association, 1978).

100. John C. Lammers and Mattea A. Garcia, “Institutional Theory,” in The SAGE Handbook of Organizational Communication, 3rd ed., ed. Linda Putnam and Dennis Mumby (Newbury Park, CA: Sage, 2014), 195–216. 101. Hart, Sound of Leadership, 14–15. 102. Campbell and Jamieson, Presidents Creating the Presidency, 137–64. They also recognize the institutional force of presidential genres, suggesting that even rhetorically incompetent presidents have a basic script that can assist them in the performance of their duties. 103. For instance, see Season 1, Episode 12 of The West Wing, “He Shall from Time to Time . . .” at http://westwing.wikia.com/wiki/He_Shall,_from_Time_to_Time . . . As noted in the preceding, Shawn Parry-Giles and Trevor Parry-Giles have explored this idea through the concept of “presidentiality.” 104. The following discussion draws from Beasley, “Understanding Institutions’ Rhetorical Agency”; Lammers and Barbour, “An Institutional Theory”; Lammers Copyright © 2019. Michigan State University Press. All rights reserved.

and Garcia, “Institutional Theory”; and John C. Lammers, “How Institutions Communicate: Institutional Messages, Institutional Logics, and Organizational Communication,” Management Communication Quarterly 25 (2011): 154–82. 105. Vanessa Beasley, “The Rhetorical Presidency Meets the Unitary Executive: Implications for Presidential Rhetoric on Public Policy,” Rhetoric & Public Affairs 13 (2010): 7–37; Hodgson, America in Our Time, 106–7. On economic issues, of course, the Federal Reserve Board Chair carries equal if not heavier weight, although that official is subject to presidential appointment and congressional approval as well as oversight. But the president held a significant advantage over Congress when it came to the economy during the Kennedy administration, if only due to institutional capacity. Congress created no budget nor did it even possess a facility to analyze the numbers until passage of the Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act of 1974, which created the Congressional Budget Office. See http://www.cbo.gov/about/ourfounding. 106. Thomas B. Farrell, Norms of Rhetorical Culture (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1993), 63.

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107. Diana Taylor, The Archive and the Repertoire: Performing Cultural Memory in the Americas (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2003), 3. 108. Taylor, Archive and the Repertoire, 2. On performance and iterability, see Judith Butler, Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity (New York: Routledge, 1990); Judith Butler, Bodies That Matter: On the Discursive Limits of “Sex” (New York: Routledge, 1993); John M. Sloop, Disciplining Gender: Rhetorics of Sex Identity in Contemporary U.S. Culture (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2004). 109. Christa J. Olson, “Performing Embodiable Topoi: Strategic Indigeneity and the Incorporation of Ecuadorian National Identity,” Quarterly Journal of Speech 96 (2010): 300–23. 110. Mary E. Stuckey, Jimmy Carter, Human Rights, and the National Agenda (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 2008). 111. Lammers and Barbour, “An Institutional Theory,” 364. In a broader sense, agency in this literature tends to emerge out of a theory of structuration. For a classic statement of that in communication studies, see Marshall Scott Poole, David R. Seibold, and Robert D. McPhee, “Group Decision-Making as a Structurational Process,” Quarterly Journal of Speech 71 (1985): 74–102. 112. Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. performs this cycle all by himself over the course of his long career as historian, counselor, and pundit. Copyright © 2019. Michigan State University Press. All rights reserved.

113. Karlyn Kohrs Campbell, “Agency: Promiscuous and Protean,” Communication and Critical/Cultural Studies 2 (2005): 1. 114. Ibid., 7. 115. Ibid. 116. Campbell and Jamieson, Presidents Creating the Presidency, 2. 117. Campbell and Jamieson, Presidents Creating the Presidency, 137–64. Lance Banning, The Sacred Fire of Liberty: James Madison and the Founding of the Federal Republic (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1995), 274–75; Stephen E. Lucas, “George Washington and the Rhetoric of Presidential Leadership,” in The Presidency and Rhetorical Leadership, ed. Leroy G. Dorsey (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 2002), 42–72. 118. Hodgson, America in Our Time, 100–105, discusses this outpouring. 119. John M. Murphy, “Knowing the President: The Dialogic Evolution of the Campaign History,” Quarterly Journal of Speech 84 (1998): 23–40. 120. G. Calvin MacKenzie and Robert Weisbrot, The Liberal Hour: Washington and the Politics of Change in the 1960s (New York: The Penguin Press, 2008), 57. For

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Notes Smith, see pages 54–55. This is, by the way, the “bipartisanship” held up as a model by many pundits and political scientists today.

121. These examples focus on obvious contextual concerns. But institutions also need to work through the utility and resistance of specific organizations, even those supposedly under their authority. Arthur Schlesinger argues that the “bureaucracy” often opposed Kennedy as vigorously as did Representative Smith. Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr., A Thousand Days: John F. Kennedy in the White House (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2002), 678–86. 122. Lammers and Barbour, “An Institutional Theory,” 365. 123. Farrell, Norms of Rhetorical Culture, 96–97. 124. Fraser and Honneth, Redistribution or Recognition. Fraser’s answer is both, and I tend toward her view of recognition as a status issue. 125. Robert Dallek has written the best biography of Kennedy (An Unfinished Life: John F. Kennedy, 1917–1963 [Boston: Little, Brown, 2003]). Other useful efforts include Joan Blair and Clay Blair, The Search for JFK (New York: Berkley Publishing, 1976); Hugh Brogan, Kennedy: Profiles in Power (New York: Longman, 1996); Alan Brinkley, John F. Kennedy (New York: Times Books, 2012); Chris Matthews, Jack Kennedy: Elusive Hero (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2011); Nigel Hamilton, JFK: Reckless Youth (New York: Random House, 1992); Herbert Parmet, Jack: The Struggles of John F. Kennedy (New York: Dial Press, 1980); Copyright © 2019. Michigan State University Press. All rights reserved.

Herbert Parmet, JFK: The Presidency of John F. Kennedy (New York: Dial Press, 1983). Useful short sketches can be found in James Giglio, The Presidency of John F. Kennedy, 2nd ed. rev. (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2006), 1–23; Edmund F. Kallina, Kennedy v. Nixon: The Presidential Election of 1960 (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2010), 25–38. 126. For accounts of Kennedy’s family, see: Doris Kearns Goodwin, The Fitzgeralds and the Kennedys: An American Saga (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1987); David Nasaw, The Patriarch: The Remarkable Life and Turbulent Times of Joseph P. Kennedy (New York: Penguin Press, 2012). 127. Dallek, An Unfinished Life, 76. This paragraph draws on 73–81. 128. Ibid., 65. 129. Ibid., 95–96. Joan and Clay Blair offer a significantly more critical account than does Dallek. Some of their criticism rings true; much of it assumes a standard of performance that demands a lot of people in combat. Blair and Blair, Search for JFK, 178–278. See also Matthews, Jack Kennedy, 48–59. 130. Dallek, An Unfinished Life, 98.

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131. Matthews, Jack Kennedy, 48–68. 132. Matthews offers a loving account of this campaign in Jack Kennedy (65–87). Oliphant and Wilkie, Road to Camelot, 8. 133. Matthews, Jack Kennedy, 86. In fact, Kennedy collapsed during the 1946 Bunker Hill parade a short time before the primary. The parade commemorated a battle of the Revolutionary War; the British burned the city of Charlestown during the fight. Robert Caro emphasizes JFK’s willingness to suffer in the service of his ambition, going so far as to say of the 1960 campaign: “The man Lyndon Johnson was running against—this man he didn’t take seriously—not only wanted the same thing he did, but was a man just as determined to get it as he was.” Robert Caro, The Years of Lyndon Johnson: The Passage of Power (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2012), 48. 134. James MacGregor Burns, John Kennedy: A Political Profile (New York: Avon Books, 1960), 87–88. On foreign policy, see pages 88–93. 135. Caro, Years of Lyndon Johnson, 41. 136. Ibid., 48. 137. W. J. Rorabaugh, The Real Making of the President: Kennedy, Nixon, and the 1960 Campaign (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2009), 147–48. 138. Oliphant and Wilkie, The Road to Camelot, 11–12. 139. Dallek, An Unfinished Life, 168–74. See also, Matthews, Jack Kennedy, 125–49; Copyright © 2019. Michigan State University Press. All rights reserved.

Thomas J. Whalen, Kennedy versus Lodge: The 1952 Massachusetts Senate Race (Boston: Northeastern University Press, 2000). 140. Accounts of his Senate years include Sean J. Savage, The Senator from New England: The Rise of JFK (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2015); John T. Shaw, JFK in the Senate: Pathway to the Presidency (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013). 141. Theodore Sorensen, Counselor: A Life at the Edge of History (New York: Harper, 2008), 61, 63. 142. Jeffrey D. Sachs, To Move the World: JFK’s Quest for Peace (New York: Random House, 2013), 51; Theodore H. White, The Making of the President 1960 (New York: Pocket Books, 1961), 61. 143. Dallek, An Unfinished Life,199. 144. Karlyn Kohrs Campbell and Kathleen Hall Jamieson, Deeds Done in Words, 10–11. For the increase in rhetorical demands, see Hart, The Sound of Leadership. 145. Ron Chernow, Washington: A Life (New York: Penguin Press, 2010), 752–58. 146. Burns, John Kennedy, 200–201; Oliphant and Wilkie nicely discuss Kennedy’s skill

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Notes at cultivating celebrity, in Road to Camelot, 73–76.

147. Matthews, Jack Kennedy, 203–13; Oliphant and Wilkie, Road to Camelot, 35–52. 148. I reviewed several histories of that campaign in John M. Murphy, “The Making of the President. Again,” Rhetoric & Public Affairs 15 (2012): 525–38. But by far the best account appeared in 2017: Oliphant and Wilkie, Road to Camelot. 149. See Caro, Years of Lyndon Johnson, 3–156. 150. Dallek, An Unfinished Life, 64. 151. Brinkley, John F. Kennedy, 16–17. 152. Thurston Clarke, JFK’s Last Hundred Days: The Transformation of a Man and the Emergence of a Great President (New York: Penguin Press, 2013), 130–31. 153. John F. Kennedy, Why England Slept (New York: Wilfred Funk, 1940), 3. 154. Ibid., 35–39, 59–73. 155. Ibid., 52–53, 99. 156. Ibid., 101. 157. MacKenzie and Weisbrot, The Liberal Hour, 41. 158. Hart, Sound of Leadership, 21–22. 159. Ibid., 28. 160. For the best analysis of Houston, see Barbara Warnick, “Argument Schemes and the Construction of Social Reality: John F. Kennedy’s Address to the Houston Ministerial Association,” Communication Quarterly 44 (1996): 183–96. Shaun A. Copyright © 2019. Michigan State University Press. All rights reserved.

Casey, The Making of a Catholic President: Kennedy vs. Nixon, 1960 (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009); Oliphant and Wilkie, Road to Camelot, 274–93. 161. Casey, Making of a Catholic President, 30–80. See also Burns, John Kennedy, 222–40. Burns’s book was a campaign biography, published before Houston, and one can see phrases JFK later used at Houston in interviews with Burns. Chapter 2. Let Us Begin 1. For a discussion of John Kennedy and television, see Mary Ann Watson, The Expanding Vista: American Television in the Kennedy Years (New York: Oxford University Press, 1990); David Lubin, Shooting Kennedy: JFK And The Culture of Images (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2003), 97. Two books document the events of that day: Thurston Clarke, Ask Not: The Inauguration of John F. Kennedy and the Speech That Changed America (New York: Henry Holt, 2004); Richard J. Tofel, Sounding the Trumpet: The Making of John F. Kennedy’s Inaugural Address (Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 2005). 2. Clarke, Ask Not, 207–11; the “soft” line appears in Roscoe Drummond, “Inaugural

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Message, A Radiantly Good Beginning,” Washington Post, January 22, 1961, A8. 3. James Reston, “President Kennedy’s Inaugural—Speech or Policy?” New York Times, January 22, 1961, B10. He decided it was both. My favorite headline also appeared in the Times: “Kennedy Hailed by Rabbis in the City.” But of course. 4. Burnham Carter Jr., “President Kennedy’s Inaugural Address,” College Composition and Communication 14 (1963): 36–40; Edward B. Kenny, “Another Look at Kennedy’s Inaugural Address,” Today’s Speech 13 (1965): 17–19; James L. Golden, “John F. Kennedy and the ‘Ghosts,’” Quarterly Journal of Speech 52 (1966): 348–57; Karlyn Kohrs Campbell and Kathleen Hall Jamieson, Presidents Creating the Presidency: Deeds Done In Words (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1990, 2008), 29–56; Clarke, Ask Not; Tofel, Sounding the Trumpet. A survey of rhetorical critics ranked it second only to King’s “I Have a Dream” for the best speech of the twentieth century. Words of a Century: The Top 100 American Speeches, 1900–1999, ed. Stephen E. Lucas and Martin J. Medhurst (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009). Other, less useful analyses of the address include Ronald H. Carpenter, “On Allan Nevins, Grand Style in Discourse, and John F. Kennedy’s Inaugural Address: The Trajectory of Stylistic Confluence,” Style 46 (2012): 1–26; P. J. Corbett, “Analysis of the Style of John F. Kennedy’s Inaugural Address,” in Essays in Presidential Rhetoric, 2nd ed., ed. Theodore Windt and Beth Ingold (Dubuque, IA: Kendall-Hunt, 1987), 95–104; Dan F. Hahn, “Ask Not What Copyright © 2019. Michigan State University Press. All rights reserved.

a Youngster Can Do for You: Kennedy’s Inaugural Address,” Presidential Studies Quarterly 12 (1982), 610–14; Sam Meyer, “The John F. Kennedy Inauguration Speech: Function and Importance of Its ‘Address System,’” Rhetoric Society Quarterly 12 (1982): 239–50; Donald L. Wolfarth, “John F. Kennedy in the Tradition of Inaugural Speeches,” Quarterly Journal of Speech 47 (1961): 124–32. 5. Henry Fairlie, The Kennedy Promise: The Politics of Expectation (New York: Doubleday, 1973), 103–7; Neil Sheehan, A Bright Shining Lie: John Paul Vann and America in Vietnam (New York: Random House, 1988), 11–12; William L. O’Neill, Coming Apart: An Informal History of America in the 1960s (New York: Quadrangle Books, 1971), 29; Alexander Kendrick, The Wound Within: America in the Vietnam Years, 1945–1974 (Boston: Little, Brown, 1974), 129; Steven R. Goldzwig and George N. Dionisopoulos, “In a Perilous Hour”: The Public Address of John F. Kennedy (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1995), 44, 47–48; Moya Ann Ball, Vietnamon-the-Potomac (Westport, CT: Praeger, 1992), 20; Garry Wills, The Kennedy Imprisonment: A Meditation on Power (New York: Pocket Books, 1982), 312. Sara Ann Mehltretter, “John F. Kennedy, ‘Inaugural Address’ (20 January 1961),” Voices of

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Notes Democracy 4 (2009): 42. Assessments of the Inaugural vary with larger evaluations of the Kennedy presidency. Michael Hogan offers a good account of the “memory wars” surrounding JFK: Michael J. Hogan, The Afterlife of John Fitzgerald Kennedy: A Biography (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2017), 156–96.

6. The exception that proves the rule is Martha Solomon, “‘With Firmness in the Right’: The Creation of Moral Hegemony in Lincoln’s Second Inaugural,” Communication Reports, 1 (1988): 32–37. 7. Fairlie, Kennedy Promise, 106–7. His claim is cheerfully oblivious to the totalitarianism vigorously practiced around the world during his lifetime. 8. For example, see David Zarefsky, Lincoln, Douglas, and Slavery: In the Crucible of Public Debate (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1990), 153. 9. Quoted in G. Calvin MacKenzie and Robert Weisbrot, The Liberal Hour: Washington and the Politics of Change in the 1960s (New York: Penguin Press, 2008), 87. 10. Robert Dallek, An Unfinished Life: John F. Kennedy, 1917–1963 (Boston: Little, Brown, 2003), 321. 11. Quoted in MacKenzie and Weisbrot, The Liberal Hour, 85. 12. Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr., The Vital Center: The Politics of Freedom (New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction, 2009); John Kenneth Galbraith, The Affluent Society and Other Writings 1952–1967 (New York: Library of America, 2010); Reinhold Copyright © 2019. Michigan State University Press. All rights reserved.

Niebuhr, The Irony of American History (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2008); Daniel Bell, The End of Ideology (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1988); Gunnar Myrdal, An American Dilemma: The Negro Problem and Modern Democracy (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1944). I use the term “liberal accord” to refer to the political platform that developed as an alternative to the modern Republican vision of President Eisenhower and Vice-President Nixon, as well as the conservative principles put forward by Senator Barry Goldwater in Conscience of a Conservative (Blacksburg, VA: Wilder Publications, 2009). Coincident with and complementary to this meaning is a scholarly argument that the United States was and always had been a liberal nation. The most prominent advocate of this view of a liberal consensus was Louis Hartz, The Liberal Tradition in America (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1991). 13. See James Luther Adams, “Tillich’s Concept of the Protestant Era,” in Paul Tillich, The Protestant Era, trans. James Luther Adams (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1948), 276–80; Gary Gerstle, “The Protean Character of American Liberalism,” American Historical Review 99 (1994): 1043–73.

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14. Schlesinger, Vital Center, xii. 15. Reinhold Niebuhr, The Children of Light and the Children of Darkness (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1945), xi. 16. Harry Truman, “Special Message to the Congress on Greece and Turkey,” in Denise M. Bostdorff, Proclaiming the Truman Doctrine: The Cold War Call to Arms (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 2008), 5. This book insightfully analyzes Truman’s address. 17. Stephen E. Ambrose and Douglas G. Brinkley, Rise to Globalism: American Foreign Policy Since 1938, 9th ed. (New York: Penguin Books, 2011), 84–94; John Lewis Gaddis, The Cold War: A New History (New York: Penguin Books, 2005), 30–32. On the Marshall Plan, see Michael J. Hogan, The Marshall Plan: America, Britain, and the Reconstruction of Western Europe, 1947–1952 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1987); Nicolaus Mills, Winning the Peace: The Marshall Plan and America’s Coming of Age as a Superpower (Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, 2008). 18. G. John Ikenberry, Liberal Leviathan: The Origins, Crisis, and Transformation of the American World Order (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2011), 161. 19. Ikenberry, Liberal Leviathan, 160. 20. Chester J. Pach Jr. and Elmo Richardson, The Presidency of Dwight Eisenhower, rev. ed. (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1991); Martin J. Medhurst, Dwight Copyright © 2019. Michigan State University Press. All rights reserved.

D. Eisenhower: Strategic Communicator (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1993). 21. Marc Trachtenberg, A Constructed Peace: The Making of the European Settlement 1945–1963 (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1999), 240. The quotation refers specifically to nuclear deterrence and the Cold War, but applied in many arenas. 22. Dallek, Unfinished Life, 274; MacKenzie and Weisbrot, Liberal Hour, 84–86. 23. Dallek, Unfinished Life, 223–24; John Lewis Gaddis, We Now Know: Rethinking Cold War History (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997), 244–59. 24. MacKenzie and Weisbrot, Liberal Hour, 57. In one way, 1958 was a mixed blessing for Kennedy. It set the stage for his election, but the magnitude of Democratic gains shrank the congressional electoral map for 1960 and partly explained why Kennedy offered few coattails in 1960. He had a strong Congressional majority, but one that had been elected on its own two years prior to his campaign. 25. See Thomas Oliphant and Curtis Wilkie, The Road to Camelot: Inside JFK’s FiveYear Campaign (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2017). George W. Bush followed much the same strategy in similar circumstances during the 2000 election.

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26. John F. Kennedy, “Speech to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association,” in Lucas and Medhurst, editors, Words of a Century, 334. 27. Quoted in Vito N. Silvestri, Becoming JFK: A Profile in Communication (Westport, CT: Praeger, 2000), 133. 28. Senator John F. Kennedy, “We Must Climb to the Hilltop,” Life, August 22, 1960, 70b, www.jfklink.com/speeches/joint/app04_html. 29. See John M. Murphy, “The Heroic Tradition in Presidential Rhetoric,” Rhetoric & Public Affairs 3 (2000): 466–70. 30. John F. Kennedy, “The Presidency in 1960,” January 14, 1960, www.presidency. ucsb.edu. Subsequent references are to this source. 31. For example, in a nasty assault on a military hero who had nonetheless not served in combat, JFK said, “In the decade that lies ahead—in the challenging, revolutionary sixties—the American Presidency will demand more than ringing manifestoes issued from the rear of battle. It will demand that the President place himself in the very thick of the fight, that he care passionately about the fate of the people he leads, that he be willing to serve them, at the risk of incurring their momentary displeasure.” Kennedy’s last clause alludes to Federalist #71, in which Alexander Hamilton praises those (potential) presidents “who had courage and magnanimity enough to serve them [the people] at the peril of their displeasure.” The Founder’s authority warrants Kennedy’s claim. James Madison, Alexander Copyright © 2019. Michigan State University Press. All rights reserved.

Hamilton, and John Jay, The Federalist Papers, ed. Isaac Kramnick (New York: Penguin Books, 1987), 410. 32. Christa J. Olson, “Performing Embodiable Topoi: Strategic Indigeneity and the Incorporation of Ecuadorian National Identity,” Quarterly Journal of Speech 96 (2010): 317–19. 33. MacKenzie and Weisbrot, Liberal Hour, 87. 34. Ibid., 69, 87. 35. Rick Perlstein, Before The Storm: Barry Goldwater and the Unmaking of the American Consensus (New York: Nation Books, 2009), 63; Michael J. Lee, Creating Conservatism: Postwar Words that Made an American Movement (East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 2014), 92–106; Barry Goldwater, Conscience of a Conservative (Blacksburg, VA: Wilder, 2009). 36. Goldwater, Conscience, 10. James Read beautifully explains Jefferson’s approach to power and liberty in James H. Read, Power versus Liberty: Madison, Hamilton, Wilson, and Jefferson (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 2000), 119–56. In words that could have been written of Goldwater, Read notes it was a “habit

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of Jefferson’s to simplify radically what was at stake in any important political or constitutional question. . . . For every important political contest is essentially between the principle of power and the principle of liberty; if the national government represents power, then state sovereignty becomes for practical purposes the embodiment of the principle of liberty.” Read, Power, 121. 37. On locus of the irreparable, see Chaim Perelman and Lucie Olbrechts-Tyteca, The New Rhetoric: A Treatise on Argumentation, trans. John Wilkinson and Purcell Weaver (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1969), 91–93; J. Robert Cox, “The Die Is Cast: Topical and Ontological Dimensions of the Locus of the Irreparable,” in The New Rhetoric of Chaim Perelman: Statement & Response, ed. Ray D. Dearin (Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1989), 121–39. 38. On the states, see Goldwater, Conscience, 15–18. Of course, this will be particularly important when I come to civil rights. 39. Campbell and Jamieson, Presidents Creating the Presidency, 307. 40. Ibid., 310–11. 41. Martin J. Medhurst, “Reconceptualizing Rhetorical History: Eisenhower’s Farewell Address,” Quarterly Journal of Speech 80 (1994): 195–218. 42. Dwight D. Eisenhower, “Farewell Radio and Television Address to the American People,” January 17, 1961, www.presidency.ucsb.edu. Copyright © 2019. Michigan State University Press. All rights reserved.

43. Medhurst, “Reconceptualizing Rhetorical History,” 202. 44. John F. Kennedy, “Address of President-Elect John F. Kennedy Delivered to a Joint Convention of the General Court of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts,” January 9, 1961, www.jfklibrary.org. 45. Ibid. 46. Campbell and Jamieson, Presidents Creating the Presidency, 29. 47. Yun Lee Too, “Epideictic Genre,” in Encyclopedia of Rhetoric, ed. Thomas O. Sloane (New York: Oxford University Press, 2001), 252. 48. Richard A. Lanham, A Handlist of Rhetorical Terms, 2nd ed. (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1991), 9. 49. Too, “Epideictic,” 255–56. 50. Perry Miller, Errand into the Wilderness (Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press, 1984); Sacvan Bercovitch, The American Jeremiad (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1978). Kennedy highlighted four sustaining values in this address, standards by which the nation would act and through which the audience could judge his performance: courage, judgment, integrity, and dedication. “These,” he said, “are

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Notes the historic qualities of the Bay Colony and the Bay State—the qualities which this state has consistently sent to this chamber on Beacon Hill here in Boston and to Capitol Hill back in Washington. And these are the qualities which, with God’s help, this son of Massachusetts hopes will characterize our government’s conduct in the four stormy years that lie ahead.”

51. For a discussion of typology, the homiletic practice of identifying a contemporary counterpart to a biblical figure, see Anthony Tyrrell Hanson, “Typology,” in The Oxford Companion to the Bible, ed. Bruce M. Metzger and Michael D. Coogan (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993), 783–84. 52. Sarah Vowell, The Wordy Shipmates (New York: Riverhead Books, 2008), 248. 53. Campbell and Jamieson, Presidents Creating the Presidency, 29–56. 54. Ibid., 29–30. 55. John F. Kennedy, “Inaugural Address,” January 20, 1961, www.presidency.ucsb. edu. All subsequent quotations are from this source. 56. Jeanne Fahnestock, Rhetorical Style: The Uses of Language in Persuasion (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011), 232. 57. Kenneth Burke, A Rhetoric of Motives (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1969), 58. 58. Debra Hawhee, “Kairotic Encounters,” in Perspectives on Rhetorical Invention, ed. Janet M. Atwill and Janice M. Lauer (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, Copyright © 2019. Michigan State University Press. All rights reserved.

2002), 16–35; Phillip Sipiora and James S. Baumlin, editors, Rhetoric and Kairos: Essays in History, Theory, and Praxis (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2002). I am grateful to my Illinois colleague, Ned O’Gorman, for conversations that helped me to understand more clearly the concept of kairos. 59. Debra Hawhee, Bodily Arts: Rhetoric and Athletics in Ancient Greece (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2004). 60. Hawhee, “Kairotic Encounters,” 18. 61. Philip Sipiora, “Introduction: The Ancient Concept of Kairos,” in Sipiora and Baulin, editors, Rhetoric and Kairos, 1. 62. Christine Oravec, “‘Observation’ in Aristotle’s Theory of Epideictic,” Philosophy & Rhetoric 9 (1976), 171. 63. Nor was the role limited to this speech. Near the start of his first Annual Message, he said, “The prudent heir takes careful inventory of his legacies, and gives a faithful accounting to those who he owes an obligation of trust.” The language here echoes Jesus’s parable of the talents, a fascinating, nasty bit of rhetorical business because JFK followed immediately by condemning

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Eisenhower’s “anemic and incomplete” economic performance. Clearly, Ike had not been a good and faithful steward of the nation’s resources. John F. Kennedy, “Annual Message to the Congress on the State of the Union,” January 30, 1961, www.presidency.ucsb.edu. 64. Clarke, Ask Not, 192. On the torch, see also Carter, “President Kennedy’s Inaugural Address,” 38. 65. Carter sees stoicism and optimism as the point of the “bear any burden” section, which indicates how much interpretation of the phrase changed over time. Carter, “President Kennedy’s Inaugural Address,” 39. 66. Fahnestock, Rhetorical Style, 190–91. 67. Danielle Allen, Our Declaration: A Reading of the Declaration of Independence in Defense of Equality (New York: Liveright, 2014). Kennedy also echoed the commitments made in The Federalist. In #23, Alexander Hamilton wrote of the powers granted for national defense: “These powers ought to exist without limitation: Because it is impossible to foresee or define the extent and variety of national exigencies, or the correspondent extent & variety of the means which may be necessary to satisfy them. The circumstances that endanger the safety of nations are infinite; and for this reason no constitutional shackles can wisely be imposed on the power to which the care of it is committed.” James Madison, Alexander Hamilton and John Jay, The Federalist Papers, ed. Isaac Kramnick (New York: Copyright © 2019. Michigan State University Press. All rights reserved.

Penguin Books, 1987), 184–85. 68. Ira Katznelson, Fear Itself: The New Deal and the Origins of Our Time (New York: Liveright, 2014). 69. Unless the critics were among the few who opposed World Wars I and II, a club exclusive, I believe, to Representative Jeanette Rankin. Robert J. McMahon also recognizes the historicity of this call: “Although later commentators have appropriately called attention to the overblown—and dangerous—nature of so expansive a pledge, it bears emphasizing that Kennedy’s attempt to frame American foreign policy in terms of a messianic mission to protect and transform humanity hardly constituted a new vision. As had Truman and Eisenhower before him, Kennedy turned the burdens of power into a challenge—and a privilege. Moreover, just as they had, he portrayed the United States as responding to a divine calling as well.” Like everyone else, however, McMahon believes the first part of the speech, the inheritance, dominates the rest. It does not. Robert J. McMahon, “‘By Helping Others, We Help Ourselves’: The Cold War Rhetoric of American Foreign Policy,” in Critical Reflections on the Cold War: Linking

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Notes Rhetoric and History ed. Martin J. Medhurst and H. W. Brands (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 2000), 239.

70. Cynthia Miecznikowski Sheard, “The Public Value of Epideictic Rhetoric,” College English, 58 (1996): 765–67; Ned O’Gorman, “Aristotle’s Phantasia in the Rhetoric: Lexis, Appearance, and the Epideictic Function of Discourse,” Philosophy and Rhetoric 38 (2005): 17–40. 71. Campbell and Jamieson, Presidents Creating the Presidency, 35. An early, nonparticipatory form of this strategy can be seen in Kennedy’s “Houston” speech, when he explained “what kind of America I believe in” in the form of a creed: “I believe in an America,” and so on. Kennedy, “Speech to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association,” 334. 72. On Calhoun, see James H. Read, Majority Rule versus Consensus: The Political Thought of John C. Calhoun (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2009); amid the unbelievably large array of books on Lincoln and the sacred ties of Union, see Glen E. Thurow, Abraham Lincoln and American Political Religion (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1976). 73. Bercovitch, American Jeremiad; Michael Walzer, Exodus and Revolution (New York: Basic Books, 1995). 74. John M. Murphy, “Barack Obama, the Exodus Tradition, and the Joshua Generation,” Quarterly Journal of Speech 97 (2011): 397. Copyright © 2019. Michigan State University Press. All rights reserved.

75. Campbell and Jamieson, Presidents Creating the Presidency, 39–41. 76. Kenneth Burke, A Grammar of Motives (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1969), 503–17. 77. Quoted in David Zarefsky, “Lincoln’s 1862 Annual Message: A Paradigm of Rhetorical Leadership,” Rhetoric & Public Affairs 3 (2000): 5–14. The lines were, as Zarefsky notes, polysemic. In the immediate context, the “way” referred to Lincoln’s plan for compensated emancipation. They came to make their own, larger context. 78. As I shall discuss in Chapter 4, this later became a talking point for Republicans. Chair of the 1960 Republican Platform Committee and future Illinois Senator Charles Percy concluded an article attacking JFK’s weakness by lambasting the “ultraliberal utopians” who believed this sort of nonsense. Percy wrote: “I believe only one conclusion can be drawn. We cannot depend on ‘world opinion’—in or out of the U.N. We must rely on ourselves. We—the United States—are still the last best hope of earth.” Charles H. Percy, “Kennedy Talk ‘Is Unrelated to Action,’” U.S. News & World Report, October 29, 1962, 115.

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79. Dallek, An Unfinished Life, 505. 80. Celeste Condit, “The Functions of Epideictic: The Boston Massacre Orations as Exemplar,” Communication Quarterly 33 (1985): 284–91. 81. Mikhail Bakhtin, The Dialogic Imagination: Four Essays, trans. Caryl Emerson and Michael Holquist, ed. Michael Holquist (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1981), 298. 82. Kenneth Burke, A Rhetoric of Motives (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1969): 187. For a Burkean sense of projecting a trajectory, see Leland Griffin, “When Dreams Collide: Rhetorical Trajectories in the Assassination of President Kennedy,” Quarterly Journal of Speech, 70 (1984): 111–31. 83. At American University, Kennedy would be yet more explicit about the practical nature of peace, on the ways in which it was “a series of concrete actions and effective agreements.” 84. Thomas B. Farrell, Norms of Rhetorical Culture (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1993), 69. 85. Kennedy never evinced any particular regard for his predecessor’s rhetoric, but here he paid Eisenhower the compliment of theft. He closed his 1959 Annual Message partly with this line: “We seek victory—not over any nation or people— but over the ancient enemies of us all; victory over ignorance, poverty, disease, and human degradation wherever they may be found.” Both men claimed the Copyright © 2019. Michigan State University Press. All rights reserved.

same goal, giving it a bipartisan sheen, although Kennedy’s rhythmic prose worked much more effectively. Dwight D. Eisenhower, “Annual Message to the Congress on the State of the Union,” January 9, 1959, www.presidency.ucsb.edu. 86. Farrell, Norms of Rhetorical Culture, 71. 87. Campbell and Jamieson, Presidents Creating the Presidency, 48. 88. Allen, Our Declaration, 253. 89. Ibid., 253. 90. Edmund Fawcett, Liberalism: The Life of an Idea (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2014), 199–200; Alan Ryan, “Liberal Imperialism,” in The Making of Modern Liberalism (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2012), 105. Chapter 3. The Discomfort of Thought 1. This account derives from Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr., A Thousand Days (New York: Fawcett Crest, 1965), 583–88; Richard Reeves, President Kennedy (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1993), 294–304; Robert Dallek, An Unfinished Life: John F. Kennedy, 1917–1963 (Boston: Little, Brown, 2003), 480–89; Denise M. Bostdorff

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Notes and Daniel J. O’Rourke, “The Presidency and the Promotion of Domestic Crisis: John Kennedy’s Management of the 1962 Steel Crisis,” Presidential Studies Quarterly 27 (1997): 343–61. Other accounts include Theodore C. Sorensen, Kennedy (New York: Pocket Books, 1965); Hugh Sidey, John F. Kennedy, President (New York: Fawcett, 1964); Herbert S. Parmet, The Presidency of John F. Kennedy (New York: Dial Press, 1983); Bruce Miroff, Pragmatic Illusions (New York: David McKay, 1976); James N. Giglio, The Presidency of John F. Kennedy (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1991). For the text of Kennedy’s 1962 Economic Report, see James Tobin and Murray Weidenbaum, Two Revolutions in Economic Policy (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1988). Kennedy’s concern about the steel industry arose partly from his economic advisor, Walter Heller, who informed him that steel “could upset the price applecart all by itself,” a claim Heller supported by arguing that between 1947 and 1958, “forty percent of the rise in the Wholesale Price Index was due to the fact that steel prices rose more than the average of all other prices.” Dallek, Unfinished Life, 482. In contrast, Richard Godden and Richard Maidment argue that the economic consequences of the price increase were minor. Kennedy’s reaction, then, could only be traced to his determination to preserve his reputation as an honest broker. Those two reasons do not appear to be mutually exclusive. Harry Sharp Jr. convincingly argues that the consequences for Kennedy’s prestige and the state of the economy played a role in his thinking

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and led to a powerful persuasive campaign. See Harry Sharp Jr., “Campaign Analysis: Kennedy vs. Big Steel,” in Explorations in Rhetorical Criticism, ed. G. P. Mohrmann, Charles J. Stewart, and Donovan J. Ochs (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1973), 32–50; Richard Godden and Richard Maidment, “Anger, Language, and Politics: John F. Kennedy and the Steel Crisis,” in Essays in Presidential Rhetoric, 2nd ed., ed. Theodore Windt and Beth Ingold (Dubuque, IA: Kendall Hunt, 1987), 105–24; See also Theodore Otto Windt Jr., Presidents and Protestors: Political Rhetoric in the 1960s (Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1990), 44–52. 2. There are odd discrepancies over the obscenities Kennedy employed. Reeves reports that as “pricks,” as does Dallek, but it leaked and became famous as “sons of bitches,” particularly when Kennedy, in an unusual display of a tin ear, said that his father had referred only to steel men, not all businessmen, as if that would make it better. Schlesinger also offers “bastards” as a favored Kennedy epithet for businessmen. Kennedy could never remember whether he called them “sons of bitches, or bastards, or pricks,” distinctions without a great deal of difference.

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Reeves, President Kennedy, 296; Schlesinger, A Thousand Days, 584; Dallek, Unfinished Life, 484. 3. Reeves, President Kennedy, 297. 4. Bostdorff and O’Rourke, “Presidency.” 5. Dallek, Unfinished Life, 486. 6. Reeves, President Kennedy, 298, 303. 7. Bostdorff and O’Rourke, “Presidency,” 356, 357; Giglio, Presidency, 132. 8. John F. Kennedy, “Commencement Address at Yale University,” www.presidency. ucsb.edu. All subsequent references are from this source. 9. Andrew L. Yarrow, Measuring America: How Economic Growth Came to Define American Greatness in the Late Twentieth Century (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2010), 68; H. W. Brands, The Strange Death of American Liberalism (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2001), 87. 10. Yarrow, Measuring America, 68. 11. Walter W. Heller, New Dimensions of Political Economy (New York: W. W. Norton, 1967), 6. For the Hamiltonian influence, see Stephen S. Cohen and J. Bradford DeLong, Concrete Economics: The Hamilton Approach to Economic Growth and Policy (Boston: Harvard Business Review Press, 2016). On Heller and the development of the CEA, see Michael A. Bernstein, A Perilous Progress: Economists and Public Purpose in Twentieth-Century America (Princeton, NJ: Copyright © 2019. Michigan State University Press. All rights reserved.

Princeton University Press, 2001). 12. Heller, New Dimensions of Political Economy, 3. 13. Meg Jacobs, Pocketbook Politics: Economic Citizenship in Twentieth Century America (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2005), 263; Miroff, Pragmatic Illusions, 23, 182–186. See also the attack on Kennedy in Bruce Miroff, Icons of Democracy (New York: Basic Books, 1993), 273–307. The passage of time and the example of administrations that truly increased corporate power did little to change Miroff ’s animus toward Kennedy between the first book (1976) and the second (1993). 14. Robert Asen, Deb Gurke, Ryan Solomon, Pamela Connors, and Elsa Gumm, “‘The Research Says’: Definitions and Uses of a Key Policy Term in Federal Law and Local School Board Deliberations,” Argumentation and Advocacy 47 (2011): 195–213; James W. Carey, “Communications and the Progressives,” Critical Studies in Mass Communication 6 (1989): 264–82; G. Thomas Goodnight, “The Personal, Technical, and Public Sphere of Argumentation: A Speculative Inquiry into the Art of Public Deliberation,” Argumentation and Advocacy 18 (1982):

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Notes 214–27; Thomas B. Farrell, “Knowledge, Consensus, and Rhetorical Theory” 62 (1976): 1–14; Thomas B. Farrell and G. Thomas Goodnight, “Accidental Rhetoric: The Root Metaphors of Three Mile Island,” Communication Monographs 48 (1981): 271–300; Thomas S. Frentz, “Rhetorical Conversation: Time and Moral Action,” 71 (1985): 1–18; Walter R. Fisher, “Narrative as a Human Communication Paradigm,” Communication Monographs 51 (1984): 1–22; E. Johanna Hartelius, The Rhetoric of Expertise (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2011); Stephen P. Turner, Liberal Democracy 3.0 (London: Sage, 2003); The Cambridge Companion to Habermas, ed. Stephen K. White (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995); David Zarefsky, “Goodnight’s ‘Speculative Inquiry’ In Its Intellectual Context,” Argumentation and Advocacy 48 (2012): 211–15.

15. The classic statement of the case is Friedrich Hayek, The Road to Serfdom (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1944). 16. John Dewey, The Public & Its Problems (Athens: Ohio University Press, 1954), 124; on stereotypes of Lippmann, see Sue Curry Jansen, Walter Lippmann: A Critical Introduction to Media and Communication Theory (New York: Peter Lang, 2012); Michael Schudson, “The ‘Lippmann–Dewey Debate’ and the Invention of Walter Lippmann as an Anti-Democrat 1986–1996,” International Journal of Communication 2 (2008): 1031–42. 17. Thomas K. McCraw, The Founders and Finance: How Hamilton, Gallatin, and Copyright © 2019. Michigan State University Press. All rights reserved.

Other Immigrants Forged a New Economy (Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2012), 104. 18. The “ethos of science” is a term famously coined by Robert K. Merton in “A Note on Science and Democracy,” Journal of Legal and Political Sociology 1 (1942): 115–26. 19. Dewey, Public, 202–03. 20. Paul Stob, William James and the Art of Popular Statement (East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 2013), 17–22. Also, Burton J. Bledstein, The Culture of Professionalism: The Middle Class and the Development of Higher Education in America (New York: W. W. Norton, 1978); James Perrin Warren, Culture of Eloquence: Oratory and Reform in Antebellum America (University Park: Pennsylvania University Press, 1999). 21. David S. Brown, Richard Hofstadter: An Intellectual Biography (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2006), 4–5. 22. Stob, William James, 20. 23. Michael Bernstein indicts the Progressives for “a wholly self-confident vision

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that reduced every question about the power of large corporations (and of the credentialed elites that served them), every anxiety about the loss of kinship networks and the rise of impersonal market ties, every approving gesture toward the communal values of the preindustrial farm to the frantic demonstrations of a reactionary, paranoid, and sentimental constituency—one quite often identifiable not simply by its aversion to modernity and progress but also by its flirtation with racist and nativist ideologies.” Perilous Progress, 12. 24. David Hollinger, “The Problem of Pragmatism in American History,” In the American Province (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1985), 29, 30. 25. I borrow and amplify these three elements from Hollinger, “Problem of Pragmatism,” 30–37. 26. James T. Kloppenberg, Uncertain Victory: Social Democracy and Progressivism in European and American Thought, 1870–1920 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1986), 95. 27. For an excellent discussion of the pragmatist sense of experience and rhetoric, see Paul Stob, “Pragmatism, Experience, and William James’s Politics of Blindness,” Philosophy and Rhetoric 44 (2011): 227–49. On the pragmatist sense of self, see George Herbert Mead, Mind, Self, and Society from the Standpoint of a Social Behaviorist (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1967). 28. Quoted in David Hollinger, “William James and the Culture of Inquiry,” in In the Copyright © 2019. Michigan State University Press. All rights reserved.

American Province (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1985), 12. 29. Quoted in Hollinger, “Problem of Pragmatism,” 30–31. 30. Larry A. Hickman, “Dewey’s Theory of Inquiry,” in Reading Dewey: Interpretations for a Postmodern Generation, ed. Larry Hickman (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1998), 167. For Dewey’s concept of habit and its importance in his theory of inquiry and social change, see John Dewey, Human Nature and Conduct: An Introduction to Social Psychology (New York: Henry Holt, 1922); Robert B. Westbrook, John Dewey and American Democracy (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1991), 287–93; Alan Ryan, John Dewey and the High Tide of American Liberalism (New York: W. W. Norton, 1995), 232–36. 31. Kloppenberg, Uncertain Victory, 113. 32. Dewey, Human Nature and Conduct, 9–10. 33. Quoted in John Stuhr, “Dewey’s Social and Political Philosophy,” in Reading Dewey, 83. 34. Hollinger, “Problem of Pragmatism,” 30–31. 35. For example, John Dewey, Democracy and Education: An Introduction to the

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Notes Philosophy of Education (New York: Free Press, 1997); William James, Talks to Teachers on Psychology; And to Students on Some of Life’s Ideals in William James: Writings 1878–1899, ed. Gerald E. Myers (New York: The Library of America, 1992). For a rare example of a current philosopher who does so, see Martha C. Nussbaum, Cultivating Humanity: A Classical Defense of Reform in Liberal Education (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1997).

36. Ryan, John Dewey, 135. The Dewey quotation in this paragraph may also be found here. 37. Dewey, Public, 208. 38. Kenneth Burke, “Literature as Equipment for Living,” in The Philosophy of Literary Form (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1941; 1973), 298, 300. 39. Edmund Fawcett, Liberalism: The Life of an Idea (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2014), 245. 40. Lewis Mumford, “The Corruption of Liberalism,” The New Republic, April 29, 1940, 568. 41. John Dewey, Liberalism and Social Action (Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 2000). 42. On Progressive concerns that citizens were not up to snuff, see David M. Ricci, The Tragedy of Political Science (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1984), 78–96; Michael Schudson, The Good Citizen (New York: Free Press, 1998), Copyright © 2019. Michigan State University Press. All rights reserved.

144–87. 43. Kenneth Burke, “The Rhetoric of Hitler’s ‘Battle,’ in The Philosophy of Literary Form, 192. 44. Ibid., 200. 45. David Hollinger, “The Defense of Democracy and Robert K. Merton’s Formulation of the Scientific Ethos,” in Science, Jews, and Secular Culture: Studies in Mid-Twentieth Century American Intellectual History (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1996), 81. 46. Hollinger, “Defense of Democracy,” 92. 47. Ibid. See also Bernstein, Perilous Progress, 8–10. 48. For accounts of the war that emphasize the same themes, see Richard Overy, Why The Allies Won (New York: W. W. Norton, 1997); Paul Kennedy, Engineers of Victory: The Problem Solvers Who Turned the Tide in the Second World War (New York: Random House, 2013). 49. Ira Katznelson, Desolation and Enlightenment: Political Knowledge After Total War, Totalitarianism, and The Holocaust (New York: Columbia University Press, 2003);

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Brown, Richard Hofstadter, 72–95. 50. Ira Katznelson, Fear Itself: The New Deal and the Origins of Our Time (New York: Liveright, 2013), 367–402; James T. Patterson, Grand Expectations: The United States, 1945–1974 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1996), 39–60. 51. Katznelson, Fear Itself, 371; Patterson, Grand Expectations, 59–60. Since its idiocy in the early 1930s, the Federal Reserve Board had generally followed the lead of presidents and it was only in the late Truman Administration that the Fed began to assert its independence. Even then, it was nothing like as free to act during the postwar period as it is today, as, for instance, Arthur Burns’s subservience to Richard Nixon’s reelection campaign testifies. See Herbert Stein, The Fiscal Revolution in America, Revised Edition (Washington, DC: AEI Press, 1990), 241–80; James Arnt Aune, “The Econo-Rhetorical Presidency,” in The Prospect of Presidential Rhetoric, ed. Martin J. Medhurst (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 2008), 46–68. 52. Katznelson, Fear Itself, 371–72. 53. The Jefferson/Hamilton phrase has been attributed to many, including most commonly Herbert Croly. See Paul Starr, Freedom’s Power: The History and Promise of Liberalism (New York: Basic Books, 2007), 105. Schlesinger’s discussion of these issues may be found in Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr., The Vital Center: The Politics of Freedom (New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction, 2009), 157–88; John Copyright © 2019. Michigan State University Press. All rights reserved.

Kenneth Galbraith, Galbraith: The Affluent Society & Other Writings 1952–1967 (New York: Library of America, 2010). For a twenty-first-century discussion of countervailing power, see Michael Walzer, Politics and Passion (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2004), 20–43. 54. Yarrow, Measuring America, 41–42. 55. See Godfrey Hodgson, America in Our Time: From World War II to Nixon, What Happened and Why (New York: Vintage Books, 1976), 76–77. 56. Louis Hartz, The Liberal Tradition (New York: Harcourt, Brace, and World, 1955). 57. For rhetorical critics, Richard Weaver’s writings provide a useful index of the extent of this consensus by virtue of his deep dissatisfaction with it. In his famous “Ultimate Terms” essay, he decides that the god term of the era is “progress” and sarcastically notes that “it will validate almost anything.” In The Ethics of Rhetoric, that essay was preceded by a powerful attack on “The Rhetoric of Social Science.” That essay, in turn, was preceded by a lamentation for the lost, spacious rhetoric of the nineteenth century. There was little place for Weaver’s traditional conservatism in the liberal consensus. See Richard M. Weaver, The Ethics of

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Notes Rhetoric (South Bend, IN: Regnery/Gateway, 1953), 212.

58. For this analysis, see Ricci, Tragedy. 59. See Wendy L. Wall, Inventing the ‘American Way’: The Politics of Consensus from the New Deal to the Civil Rights Movement (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008). Schlesinger’s Vital Center, 171, appeals to the authority of Madison’s #10 in precisely this fashion. Political compromise exerted such a powerful force that many Civil War historians in the 1950s judged Abraham Lincoln a failure for his inability to forestall the conflict. See the debate over this issue in one of the famed Amherst pamphlets: The Causes of the American Civil War, ed. Edwin C. Rozwene (Boston: D. C. Heath, 1961). 60. Daniel Bell, The End of Ideology: On the Exhaustion of Political Ideas in the Fifties, (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2000), 409. 61. Ibid., 90, 121. 62. Drew McCoy, The Elusive Republic: Political Economy in Jeffersonian America (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1980), 7. 63. Bernstein, Perilous Progress. Of course, liberal capitalism sneaked into the republican Eden much earlier. In the eyes of many historians, as well as of Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton was the snake. See, for example, Lance Banning, The Jeffersonian Persuasion: Evolution of a Party Ideology (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1978); Forrest McDonald, Alexander Hamilton: A Copyright © 2019. Michigan State University Press. All rights reserved.

Biography (New York: W. W. Norton, 1979); Steven Watts, The Republic Reborn: War and the Making of Liberal America, 1790–1820 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1987). For a discussion of economic virtue in the twenty-first century, see John M. Murphy, “Political Economy and Rhetorical Matter,” Rhetoric & Public Affairs 12 (2009): 303–16. 64. John Brewer, The Sinews of Power: War, Money and the English State, 1688–1783 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1988); John Keegan, The Second World War (New York: Penguin Books, 1989), 10–25; Zachary Karabell, The Leading Indicators: A Short History of the Numbers That Rule Our World (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2014), 16–24. 65. Karabell, Leading Indicators, 27. 66. Stein, The Fiscal Revolution in America; Michael Lewis, Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game (New York: W. W. Norton, 2003), 64–96. 67. Yarrow, Measuring America, 1–71; Karabell, Leading Indicators, 1–90; Bernstein, Perilous Progress, 73–90; Diane Coyle, GDP: A Brief but Affectionate History (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2014).

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68. Robert Heilbroner and Aaron Singer, The Economic Transformation of America, 1600 to the Present, 3rd ed. (Fort Worth, TX: Harcourt Brace College, 1994), 327. 69. Fawcett, Liberalism, 249. 70. Fawcett, Liberalism, 254. 71. Franklin D. Roosevelt, “First Inaugural Address,” in Words of a Century: The Top 100 American Speeches, 1900–1999, ed. Stephen E. Lucas and Martin J. Medhurst (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009), 222; for a clear illustration of this economic process, see the parable of the babysitting cooperative in Paul Krugman, The Return of Depression Economics and the Crisis of 2008 (New York: W. W. Norton, 2009), 16–20. 72. Yarrow, Measuring America, 35–36. 73. Paul Samuelson, Economics: An Introductory Analysis (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1948), 3. 74. Ibid., 5. 75. Yarrow, Measuring America, 34. 76. This was an obsession of Kennedy’s and of lesser concern to everyone else. The dollar was pegged to a specific value in gold. When massive American expenditures abroad, particularly the maintenance of troops in Europe, resulted in a balance of payments deficit, dollars flowed overseas. Holders could, and often did, trade excess or unwanted dollars for gold, causing a flow out of the Copyright © 2019. Michigan State University Press. All rights reserved.

country and putting pressure on the dollar’s value. When the economy stagnated and suffered from two recessions between 1958 and 1961, that worsened the problem, because investors were not particularly interested in the United States. To make it more attractive to keep dollars, the Fed could raise interest rates and investors could put their money in bonds rather than gold. But higher interest rates might slow growth. This was part of the reason why President Eisenhower tried to make Europe militarily self-sufficient and bring troops home. JFK would not support nuclear proliferation, however, and sought to find another solution. What resulted from the Fed was the “twist,” higher short-term rates, to boost the dollar, and lower long-term rates, to boost investment and the economy. He also made free trade a priority and sought to expand exports, thus reducing the trade deficit. The 1962 Trade Expansion Act resulted. Many thought this problem would solve itself with growth, but, because of the Cold War implications, JFK worried at it. Schlesinger, A Thousand Days, 651–656; Sorensen, Kennedy, 454–463; Seymour E. Harris, Economics of the Kennedy Years and a Look Ahead (New York: Harper & Row, 1964), 142–75. For a fascinating account of the Committee for

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Notes Economic Development (CED) and its adaptation to and promotion of a mixed economy, see Jacob S. Hacker and Paul Pierson, American Amnesia: How the War on Government Led Us to Forget What Made America Prosper (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2016), 140–52.

77. James Patterson, Grand Expectations: The United States 1945–1974 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1996), 70. 78. Ibid., 67, 320. 79. Justin Wolfers, “How Economists Came to Dominate the Conversation,” New York Times, January 27, 2015, A3. 80. The classic study is William E. Leuchtenburg, In the Shadow of FDR: From Harry Truman to Ronald Reagan (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1983). 81. Richard Hofstadter, The Age of Reform (New York: Vintage Books, 1956), 306. 82. Franklin D. Roosevelt, “Address at Oglethorpe University,” May 22, 1932, http:// newdeal.feri.org/speeches/1932d.htm. 83. James MacGregor Burns, Roosevelt: The Lion and the Fox (New York: Harcourt, Brace, & World, 1956), 474–75. 84. Franklin D. Roosevelt, “The Banking Crisis,” in Words of a Century, 226. 85. For celebration of these changes, see Stein, Fiscal Revolution, 197–204. For lamentation, see Katznelson, Fear Itself, 367–402. 86. Stein, Fiscal Revolution, 201. Copyright © 2019. Michigan State University Press. All rights reserved.

87. Bernstein, Perilous Progress, 108–9. 88. Ibid., 329–45. 89. Samuelson, Economics, vi. Although the reports no longer hold quite this level of prominence, they are still occasions for presidents to shape their view of the economy. For instance, see John Harwood, “Economic Report from Obama Focuses on Income Inequality,” New York Times, February 20, 2015, B3. 90. Bernstein, Perilous Progress, 108–30; Yarrow, Measuring America, 43–71. 91. Stein, Fiscal Revolution, 293–294. 92. Ibid., 282–83. 93. B. Dan Wood, The Politics of Economic Leadership: The Causes and Consequences of Presidential Rhetoric (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2007). 94. Bill Clinton, Back to Work: Why We Need Smart Government for a Strong Economy (New York: Alfred Knopf, 2011), 89. 95. Hacker and Pierson, American Amnesia, 151. 96. Reeves, President Kennedy, 317. For Kennedy’s general ignorance, see Reeves, President Kennedy, 295; Sidey, John F. Kennedy, 336.

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97. Giglio, Presidency, 125. 98. Ibid., 128–129. 99. Reeves, President Kennedy, 316. 100. Sorensen, Kennedy, 441–54. 101. Yarrow, Measuring America, 65; on JFK’s CEA, see also Bernstein, Perilous Progress, 130–39. 102. Ibid., 65–66. 103. Sorensen, Kennedy, 296, 443; James L. Sundquist, Politics and Policy: The Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Johnson Years (Washington, DC: Brookings Institution, 1968), 37–38. 104. Robert M. Collins, “Growth Liberalism in the Sixties,” in The Sixties: From Memory to History, ed. David Farber (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1994), 11–44. 105. This discussion of the performance gap is based on Reeves, President Kennedy, 316. 106. Sundquist, Politics and Policy, 45, 47. See also Reeves, President Kennedy, 333. 107. In doing so, the university broke tradition, which perhaps suits the purpose of the speech. Yale had not had a commencement speaker since 1903. President Griswold said that resulted from “a desire to keep the ceremony as simple and private as possible.” FDR had been the last president to be honored with a Copyright © 2019. Michigan State University Press. All rights reserved.

degree while in office and he addressed a luncheon. Around 12,000 people heard President Kennedy speak at an outdoor ceremony. Peter Khiss, “Kennedy to Break Tradition at Yale,” New York Times, June 11, 1962,14. 108. On modern style and the academy, see Hollinger, “The Canon and Its Keepers: Modernism and Mid-Twentieth Century Intellectuals,” American Province, 74–91; Lionel Trilling, The Liberal Imagination: Essays on Literature and Society (New York: New York Review Books, 1950; 2008). See also Louis Menand’s introduction to Trilling. 109. I previously followed the scholarly consensus. See John M. Murphy, “The Language of the Liberal Consensus: John F. Kennedy, Technical Reason, and the ‘New Economics’ at Yale University,” Quarterly Journal of Speech 90 (2004): 133–62; Denise M. Bostdorff and Shawna H. Ferris, “John F. Kennedy at American University: The Rhetoric of the Possible, Epideictic Progression, and the Commencement of Peace,” Quarterly Journal of Speech 100 (2014): 407–41. 110. For a clear account of deliberative address, see James Jasinski, Sourcebook on Rhetoric: Key Concepts in Contemporary Rhetorical Studies (Thousand Oaks, CA:

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Notes Sage, 2001), 160–63. Of the five deliberative concerns, JFK addressed ways and means here, war and peace at American University, and legislative, or, as Jasinski argues, constitutional concerns in his civil rights speech. It is also important to note that the immorality people often associate with “expediency” is nowhere to be found in Aristotle’s text. Kennedy translates the Greek as “the enlightened, long term advantage to the audience.” Morality matters, but Aristotle also seems to recognize that we must first inquire whether a policy will work. If it will not, then there’s no need to debate its morality. Practicality is logically the first question.

111. Ned O’Gorman, “Aristotle’s Phantasia in the Rhetoric: Lexis, Appearance, and the Epideictic Function of Discourse,” Philosophy and Rhetoric 38 (2005): 32, 31. 112. Chaim Perelman and Lucie Olbrachts-Tyteca, The New Rhetoric: A Treatise on Argumentation, trans. John Weaver and Purcell Wilkinson (Notre Dame, IN: Notre Dame University Press, 1969), 411–59. 113. Jasinski, Sourcebook, 176. 114. John F. Kennedy, “Speech to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association,” in Words of a Century, 334. 115. Kennedy, “Houston,” 336. For a superior analysis of this speech, see Barbara Warnick, “Argument Schemes and the Construction of Social Reality: John F. Kennedy’s Address to the Houston Ministerial Association, Communication Copyright © 2019. Michigan State University Press. All rights reserved.

Quarterly 44 (1996): 183–96. 116. Of course, Kennedy supported his claim with Article VI of the Constitution, which forbids religious tests for office. It is important to remember that a religious test was the issue at stake. 117. Dallek, Unfinished Life, 336. 118. John F. Kennedy, “The President’s News Conference, June 7, 1962,” www. presidency.ucsb.edu. 119. Interestingly, he seldom compared the Soviet Union’s growth rate to that of the United States. Since the Soviet Union was so different from the United States, it made little sense to make that comparison when he sought an active fiscal policy. He did make it on other occasions, but he was clearly bothered by the success of the Western Europeans. 120. James S. Measell, “Perelman on Analogy,” in The New Rhetoric of Chaim Perelman: Statement & Response, ed. Ray D. Dearin (Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1989), 185. 121. Aristotle, On Rhetoric: A Theory of Civic Discourse, 2nd ed., translated by George

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A. Kennedy (New York: Oxford University Press, 2007), 38. 122. Craig R. Smith, “Ethos Dwells Pervasively: A Hermeneutic Reading of Aristotle on Credibility,” in The Ethos of Rhetoric, ed. Michael J. Hyde (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 2004): 5. 123. Merton, “Note on Science and Democracy,” 116. 124. Aristotle, On Rhetoric, 38. 125. Thomas B. Farrell, Norms of Rhetorical Culture (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1993), 80. 126. Michael J. Hyde, “Introduction: Rhetorically, We Dwell,” in The Ethos of Rhetoric, xiii. 127. Kenneth Burke provides the classic contemporary account of irony in A Grammar of Motives (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1969), 511–17. Of particular interest is Burke’s insistence that an ironic sense of history “would be a dialectic of characters” in which one language would never end another. Rather, we should “note elements of all such positions (or ‘voices’) existing always, but attaining greater clarity of expression or imperiousness of proportion of [in?] one period than another.” In that sense, I trace the strategies through which Kennedy accords to his language the “imperiousness of proportion” in the public sphere that he desires for it. For another classic account, see Reuben Arthur Brower, The Fields of Light: An Experiment in Critical Reading (New York: Oxford University Copyright © 2019. Michigan State University Press. All rights reserved.

Press, 1951), 50–51. 128. Brower, Fields of Light, 52. 129. Richard Rorty, Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1989). 130. Perelman and Olbrechts-Tyteca, New Rhetoric, 362. 131. Ibid., 363. 132. Ibid., 415. 133. Robert Hariman, “Status, Marginality, And Rhetorical Theory,” Quarterly Journal of Speech 72 (1986): 41. 134. See Schlesinger, Vital Center for a discussion of the “new radicals” that constitute this audience. See also Stephen P. Depoe, Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., and the Ideological History of American Liberalism (Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1994). 135. Sharon Crowley and Debra Hawhee, Ancient Rhetorics for Contemporary Students, Fourth Edition (New York: Pearson, Longman, 2009), 293. 136. Perelman and Olbrechts-Tyteca, New Rhetoric, 350–61.

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137. Forbes Hill, “Conventional Wisdom—Traditional Form—The President’s Message of November 3, 1969,” in Readings in Rhetorical Criticism, 3rd ed., ed. Carl R. Burgchardt (State College, PA: Strata, 2005), 142–43. 138. John F. Kennedy, “Address and Question and Answer Period at the Economic Club of New York,” December 14, 1962, www.presidency.ucsb.edu. 139. John F. Kennedy, “Radio and Television Report to the American People on the State of the National Economy,” August 13, 1962, www.presidency.ucsb.edu; Kennedy, “Address and Question and Answer Period at the Economic Club”; John F. Kennedy, “Radio and Television Address to the Nation on the Test Ban Treaty and the Tax Reduction Bill,” September 18, 1963, www.presidency.ucsb.edu. 140. The 72 percent figure comes from Giglio, Presidency, 135. The rest come from Lewis J. Paper, John F. Kennedy, The Promise and the Performance (New York: Da Capo, 1975), 236. Accounts of the reaction and of this speech as the first in a series can be found in Sidey, John F. Kennedy, 344–46; Schlesinger, A Thousand Days, 595; Reeves, President Kennedy, 321. 141. Yarrow, Measuring America, 65. See also Bernstein, Perilous Progress, 148. 142. Kenneth Burke, Permanence and Change: An Anatomy of Purpose (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984), 71, 74. 143. S. M. Halloran, “Tradition and Theory in Rhetoric,” Quarterly Journal of Speech 62 (1976): 235. Copyright © 2019. Michigan State University Press. All rights reserved.

144. Michael C. Leff and G. P. Mohrmann, “Lincoln at Cooper Union: A Rhetorical Analysis of the Text,” Quarterly Journal of Speech 60 (1974): 346–58. 145. “Is Debate Enough?” New York Times, June 12, 1962, 32; “The President at Yale,” Washington Post, June 12, 1962, A14; Bernard D. Nossiter, “President Takes New Roads in Economic Policy,” Washington Post, June 12, 1962; Henry Hazlitt, “Mr. Kennedy’s Old Clichés,” National Review, July 3, 1962, 484; “The Harvard Man at Yale,” Los Angeles Times, June 12, 1962, 4; “Too Sophisticated By Far,” Wall Street Journal, June 12, 1962, 18. It should be noted that all of the daily newspapers, except for the Los Angeles Times, reprinted the text of the speech. Chapter 4. Ashes in Our Mouth 1. Aleksandr Fursenko and Timothy Naftali, “One Hell of a Gamble”: Khrushchev, Castro, and Kennedy 1958–1964, The Secret History of the Cuban Missile Crisis (New York: W. W. Norton, 1997), 221. This is one of two excellent accounts of the crisis that I relied on, with the other being Michael Dobbs, One Minute to Midnight: Kennedy, Khrushchev, and Castro on the Brink of Nuclear War (New

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York: Vintage Books, 2008). 2. James Giglio, The Presidency of John F. Kennedy, 2nd ed., rev. (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2006), 206. 3. Fursenko and Naftali, “One Hell of a Gamble,” 188–215; John Lewis Gaddis, We Now Know: Rethinking Cold War History (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997), 260–80. 4. Theodore Sorensen, Kennedy (New York: Pocket Books, 1965), 762–64, offers five theories and they have not changed much in the fifty years since then. The two primary motives appear to be the defense of Cuba and the missile gap. More generally, as I shall argue, the Soviets wanted recognition and respect as a great power. See also Graham Allison and Philip Zelikow, Essence of Decision: Explaining the Cuban Missile Crisis, 2nd ed. (New York: Longman, 1999), 78–109. 5. Gaddis, We Now Know, 263. 6. I draw primarily on Fursenko and Naftali, “One Hell of a Gamble.” A full discussion of the Bay of Pigs is offered in Jim Rasenberger, Brilliant Disaster: JFK, Castro, and America’s Doomed Invasion of Cuba’s Bay of Pigs (New York: Scribner, 2011). I also rely on Lawrence Freedman, Kennedy’s Wars: Berlin, Cuba, Laos, and Vietnam (New York: Oxford University Press, 2000), 123–248. 7. Gaddis, We Now Know, 261–62. 8. Freedman, Kennedy’s Wars, 25–26. Copyright © 2019. Michigan State University Press. All rights reserved.

9. Giglio, Presidency of John F. Kennedy, 206. 10. Gaddis, We Now Know, 268. Allison and Zelikow agree, quoting Secretary of State Dean Rusk that this deployment “is not something that we can brush aside, simply because the Soviets have some other missiles that can also reach the United States. The fact is that . . . the number of missiles that can launch in these sites would double the known missile strength the Soviet Union has to reach this country.” Allison and Zelikow, Essence of Decision, 96. 11. Freedman, Kennedy’s Wars, 169. 12. Gaddis, We Now Know, 268; Freedman, Kennedy’s Wars, 172–73; Richard E. Neustadt and Ernest R. May, Thinking in Time: The Uses of History for Decision Makers (New York: Free Press, 1986): 10. 13. John F. Kennedy, “The President’s News Conference,” www.presidency.ucsb.edu, September 13, 1962. Gaddis, We Now Know, 268–69, has a good discussion of these issues. Allison and Zelikow note, “Khrushchev certainly heard the warning” and wrote a letter to JFK complaining about it. Allison and Zelikow, Essence of Decision, 80. In addition, Kennedy once mused wryly about his possible

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Notes impeachment if he let the missiles stay. Judging by the disdain congressional leaders had for what they regarded as his pusillanimous quarantine, impeachment might well have been in the cards if he had not acted.

14. John F. Kennedy, “Radio and Television Report to the American People on the Soviet Arms Buildup in Cuba,” www.presidency.ucsb.edu, October 22, 1962. All subsequent citations to presidential speeches will be from this source. The only real exception to this rule is Wayne Brockreide and Robert L. Scott, Moments in the Rhetoric of the Cold War (New York: Random House, 1970), 79–117. Denise Bostdorff sees it as the paradigmatic case of contemporary presidential crisis rhetoric. Although she is more generous than other critics, she still emphasizes Kennedy’s amplification of the crisis and denigration of the Soviet Union. Denise M. Bostdorff, The Presidency and the Rhetoric of Foreign Crisis (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1994), 25–55. 15. Giglio, The Presidency of John F. Kennedy, 219; Robert Dallek, An Unfinished Life: John F. Kennedy, 1917–1963 (Boston: Little, Brown, 2003), 558. 16. Garry Wills, The Kennedy Imprisonment: A Meditation on Power (New York: Pocket Books, 1982), 267; Theodore Windt, “The Presidency and Speeches on International Crises: Repeating the Rhetorical Past,” in Essays in Presidential Rhetoric, 2nd ed., ed. Theodore Windt and Beth Ingold (Dubuque, IA: Kendall Hunt, 1987), 133; Michael Beschloss, The Crisis Years: Kennedy and Khrushchev Copyright © 2019. Michigan State University Press. All rights reserved.

1960–1963 (New York: Edward Burlingame Books, 1991), 485–86; Steven R. Goldzwig and George N. Dionisopoulos, “In a Perilous Hour”: The Public Address of John F. Kennedy (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1995), 116. The Sorensen misgivings are reported in Giglio, Presidency of John F. Kennedy, 218. Sorensen responds to Beschloss in Ted Sorensen, Counselor: A Life at the Edge of History (New York: Harper, 2008), 298–300. Bundy’s assessment is reported in Beschloss, Crisis Years, 485. 17. Aristotle, On Rhetoric: A Theory of Civic Discourse, 2nd ed., trans. George A. Kennedy (New York: Oxford University Press, 2007), 31–32. 18. Gaddis, We Now Know, 275. 19. For a good example of this tendency, see John Rawls on public reason and religion: John Rawls, “The Idea of Public Reason Revisited,” University of Chicago Law Review 64 (1997): 765–807. 20. On modernity’s tendency to covert filiations to affiliations, see Edward W. Said, The World, the Text and the Critic (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1983), 1–30.

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21. Robert Hariman and John Louis Lucaites, “Dissent and Emotional Management in a Liberal-Democratic Society: The Kent State Iconic Photograph,” Rhetoric Society Quarterly 31 (2001): 5. 22. Stephen Holmes, Passions & Constraint: On the Theory of Liberal Democracy (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995), 4. 23. Holmes, Passions, 25. 24. Albert O. Hirschman, The Passions and the Interests: Political Arguments for Capitalism before Its Triumph (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1977). 25. For an insightful analysis of the classic American western and democratic theory, see Robert B. Pippin, Hollywood Westerns and American Myth: The Importance of Howard Hawks and John Ford for Political Philosophy (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2010). 26. John Stuart Mill on India is an excellent example of imperial condescension. See Alan Ryan, “Bureaucracy, Democracy, Liberty: Some Unanswered Questions in Mill’s Politics,” in The Making of Modern Liberalism (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2012), 364–80. 27. On humanitarian interventions, see Samantha Power, “A Problem from Hell”: American and the Age of Genocide (New York: Basic Books, 2002). 28. Quoted in Karlyn Kohrs Campbell and Kathleen Hall Jamieson, Presidents Creating the Presidency: Deeds Done in Words (Chicago: University of Chicago Copyright © 2019. Michigan State University Press. All rights reserved.

Press, 2008), 218. 29. See Bostdorff, The Presidency, 26–30; Campbell and Jamieson, Presidents, 218; James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and John Jay, The Federalist Papers, ed. Isaac Kramnick (New York: Penguin Press, 1987). On Hamilton’s view of the Constitution and war, see Karl-Friederich Walling, Republican Empire: Alexander Hamilton on War and Free Government (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1999). The classic analysis of the modern liberal democratic state and war is John Brewer, The Sinews of Power: War, Money and the English State, 1688–1783 (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1988). 30. Campbell and Jamieson, Presidents, 221. 31. Campbell and Jamieson, Presidents, 224. 32. For example, Robert L. Ivie, “Presidential Motives For War,” Quarterly Journal of Speech 60 (1974): 337–45; “Images of Savagery in American Justifications for War,” Communication Monographs 47 (1980): 279–94; “Speaking ‘Common Sense’ About the Soviet Threat: Reagan’s Rhetorical Stance,” Western Journal of Communication 48 (1984): 39–50; “Literalizing the Metaphor of Soviet Savagery:

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Notes President Truman’s Plain Style,” Southern Speech Communication Journal 51 (1986): 91–105; “Democratic Deliberation in a Rhetorical Republic,” Quarterly Journal of Speech 84 (1998): 491–530.

33. Walter Russell Mead, Special Providence: American Foreign Policy and How It Changed the World (New York: Routledge Books, 2002), 218–63. 34. Kenneth Burke, Counter-Statement (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1968), 31. 35. For an excellent analysis of the term “Cold War,” see Brockreide and Scott, Moments, 3–5. 36. Brockreide and Scott, Moments, 40. 37. Ivie, “Soviet Savagery,” 93. 38. Dwight D. Eisenhower, “Farewell Address,” Words of a Century: The Top 100 American Speeches, 1900–1999, ed. Stephen E. Lucas and Martin J. Medhurst (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009), 338. 39. Brockreide and Scott, Moments, 40. 40. Ned O’Gorman, Spirits of the Cold War: Contesting Worldviews in the Classical Age of American Security Strategy (East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 2012), 76, 78. 41. H. W. Brands, “The Age of Vulnerability: Eisenhower and the National Insecurity State,” American Historical Review 94 (1989): 973. See also 977–78. Copyright © 2019. Michigan State University Press. All rights reserved.

42. Quoted in Lawrence Freedman, Kennedy’s Wars: Berlin, Cuba, Laos, and Vietnam (New York: Oxford University Press, 2000), 19. 43. Maxwell D. Taylor, The Uncertain Trumpet (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1959), 4–5. 44. Taylor, Uncertain Trumpet, 5–7. 45. Dallek, An Unfinished Life, 344–46. 46. Chamberlain and others felt this way in part because they compared Versailles to the widely praised Concert of Europe at the conclusion of the Napoleonic wars. It “integrated the defeated French, recognized legitimate French national and security interests, and put in place a diplomatic process for resolving emerging problems on the basis of shared principles and understandings.” Versailles did none of this and was seen as a key source of international instability. G. John Ikenberry, Liberal Leviathan: The Origins, Crisis, and Transformation of the American World Order (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2011), 21. See also G. John Ikenberry, After Victory: Institutions, Strategic Restraint, and the Rebuilding of Order After Major Wars (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2001).

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47. In this account, I rely primarily on George Herring, From Colony to Superpower: U.S. Foreign Relations Since 1776 (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008), 484– 517; Lynne Olson, Troublesome Young Men: The Rebels Who Brought Churchill to Power and Helped Save England (New York: Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, 2007), 126–57; Jeffrey Record, The Specter of Munich: Reconsidering the Lessons of Appeasing Hitler (Washington, DC: Potomac Books, 2006), 13–72; Steven R. Rock, Appeasement in International Politics (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2000), 49–76. 48. Quoted in Rock, Appeasement, 45. 49. Rock, Appeasement, 25–47. 50. Rock, Appeasement, 3–4. He is quoting Alexander L. George, Bridging the Gap: Theory and Practice in Foreign Policy (Washington, DC: U.S. Institute of Peace Press, 1993), 61–62. 51. Andrew Bacevich, The New American Militarism: How Americans are Seduced By War (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005), 73; Record, Specter,1. 52. Rock, Appeasement, 2. 53. John Lewis Gaddis, Strategies of Containment, rev. and expanded ed. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005), 33. 54. George Nash, The Conservative Intellectual Movement in America Since 1945 (New York: Basic Books, 1976), 89. Copyright © 2019. Michigan State University Press. All rights reserved.

55. Quoted and paraphrased in Nash, Conservative Intellectual Movement, 92. 56. Record, Specter, 6. 57. Gregg Herken, The Georgetown Set: Friends and Rivals in Cold War Washington (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2014), 59. 58. See John Keegan, The Second World War (New York: Penguin Books, 1989), 240–67; Richard Overy, Russia’s War: A History of the Soviet War Effort, 1941–1945 (New York: Penguin Books, 1997), 34–98; Chris Bellamy, Absolute War: Soviet Russia in the Second World War (New York: Vintage Books, 2007), 206. 59. Herken, The Georgetown Set, 5. 60. Charles H. Percy, “Kennedy Talk ‘Is Unrelated to Action,” U.S. News & World Report, October 29, 1962, 112–15. 61. Percy, “Kennedy Talk,” 112. 62. I cannot resist noting that Kennedy achieved both goals. 63. Aristotle, Rhetoric, 112. 64. Aristotle, Rhetoric, 113. 65. Jeffrey Walker, “Pathos and Katharsis in ‘Aristotelian’ Rhetoric: Some

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Notes Implications,” in Rereading Aristotle’s Rhetoric, ed. Alan G. Gross and Arthur E. Walzer (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 2000), 74.

66. Eugene Garver, Aristotle’s Rhetoric: An Art of Character (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994), 109. 67. Walker, “Pathos,” 76–77, 79. 68. See also Alan Brinton, “Pathos and the ‘Appeal to Emotion’: An Aristotelian Analysis,” History of Philosophy Quarterly 5 (1988): 207–19; Martha C. Nussbaum, Upheavals of Thought: The Intelligence of Emotions (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2001). 69. Joshua Gunn, “Hystericizing Huey: Emotional Appeals, Desire, and the Psychodynamics of Demagoguery,” Western Journal of Communication 71 (2007): 1–27. 70. Garver, Aristotle’s Rhetoric, 126. 71. Garver, Aristotle’s Rhetoric, 125. 72. I’d speculate that this is why Aristotle rejects the sophistic view of emotion in the Rhetoric. When speaking of public deliberation, I do not believe that he ever uses the drug (pharmakoi) analogy in which, as Gorgias believes, speeches act as drugs on the body. Such an involuntary view of pathos seems antithetical to Aristotle’s views. The audience emerges in his discussion as a responsible social agent. 73. For instance, Thomas Conley insightfully argues that pathetic appeals take shape Copyright © 2019. Michigan State University Press. All rights reserved.

and form in rhetorical argumentation as topical appeals, acting most often as warrants for argumentative claims. Thomas Conley, “Aristotle ‘Rhet.’ II 2–11,” Hermes, 110, no. 3 (1982): 300–15. 74. John M. Murphy, “Power and Authority in a Postmodern Presidency,” in The Prospect of Presidential Rhetoric, ed. James Arnt Aune and Martin J. Medhurst (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 2008), 36; on the relation between cultural frames and pathos, see Walker, “Pathos,” 81–85. 75. Debra Hawhee emphasizes the visual capacity of rhetoric, the ways language can bring pathetic appeals before the eyes as a result of the faculty of phantasia. See Debra Hawhee, “Looking into Aristotle’s Eyes: Toward a Theory of Rhetorical Vision,” Advances in the History of Rhetoric, 14 (2011): 139–165. 76. Thomas B. Farrell, Norms of Rhetorical Culture (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1993), 71. Note that Walker also speaks of the “quasi-syllogistic” nature of pathos. 77. Theodore H. White is generally acknowledged as the first person to capitalize “Oval Office” when he penned his classic account of Kennedy’s 1960 campaign:

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Theodore H. White, The Making of the President 1960 (New York: Pocket Books, 1961). See also John M. Murphy, “Knowing the President: The Dialogic Evolution of the Campaign History,” Quarterly Journal of Speech, 84 (1998): 23–40. 78. On the decline of the Oval Office address, see Jackie Calmes, “Live from the Oval Office: A Backdrop of History Fades from TV,” New York Times, July 9, 2013. 79. For an analysis of Bush’s Jackson Square speech, see Campbell and Jamieson, Presidents, 94–102. 80. On the power of proximity in time and space to create emotional intensity, see Sharon Crowley and Debra Hawhee, Ancient Rhetorics for Contemporary Students, 4th ed. (New York: Pearson/Longman, 2009), 252–53. Both Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Roosevelt spoke to a joint session to request a declaration of war. A Capitol Hill speech would have clearly indicated Kennedy’s decision to use force. 81. Compare JFK’s delivery, for example, to FDR’s masterful use of his voice in his December 8, 1941, war address, particularly his shifts in pitch and rate of speech. 82. See, for instance, Terence S. Morrow, “Forensic Genre,” in Encyclopedia of Rhetoric, ed. Thomas O. Sloane (New York: Oxford University Press, 2001), 314–20. 83. James Boyd White, When Words Lose Their Meaning: Constitutions and Reconstitutions of Language, Character, and Community (Chicago: University of Copyright © 2019. Michigan State University Press. All rights reserved.

Chicago Press, 1984), xi. 84. On stasis theory, see Crowley and Hawhee, Ancient Rhetorics, 71–116; James Jasinski, Sourcebook on Rhetoric: Key Concepts in Contemporary Rhetorical Studies (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2001), 528–31. 85. Brockreide and Scott, Moments, 81. 86. On Stevenson’s speech, see Dobbs, One Minute to Midnight, 129–32. The weekly news magazines offer good examples of the typical pictures. See “The Backdown,” Time, November 2, 1962, 15–29; “Showdown–Backdown,” Newsweek, November 5, 1962, 27–35. 87. Still ruminating on the violence created by segregationists when James Meredith was admitted to Ole Miss, the president wryly asked of the missiles, “Can they hit Oxford, Mississippi?” Taylor Branch, Parting the Waters: America in the King Years, 1954–63 (New York: Touchstone, 1988), 673. 88. Franklin D. Roosevelt, “The Arsenal of Democracy,” in Words of a Century, 256–62. Bostdorff, The Presidency, 49 and Brockreide and Scott, Moments, 81, emphasize the international audience Kennedy addresses.

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89. Hawhee, “Looking,” 150–52; Walker, “Pathos,” 85. 90. Aristotle, Rhetoric, 124–30. See also Marlene K. Sokolon, Political Emotions: Aristotle and the Symphony of Reason and Emotion (DeKalb: Northern Illinois University Press, 2006), 51–68. 91. Such a view was also consistent with President Eisenhower’s “Open Skies” proposal of July 21, 1955. Although Eisenhower later claimed he never thought that the Soviets would agree, the evolution of surveillance platforms (satellites, the U-2) created a de facto Open Skies status quo. Kennedy seems to be arguing here that the Cuban deployment violates that implicit accord. 92. Perelman and Olbrechts-Tyteca, The New Rhetoric: A Treatise on Argumentation, translated by John Wilkinson and Purcell Weaver (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1969), 296. 93. Perelman and Olbrechts-Tyteca, New Rhetoric, 298. Allison and Zelikow, for example, note that the president and his advisors could not believe the Soviets had done this. Kennedy sought to generalize that feeling to the country. Allison and Zelikow, Essence of Decision, 81. 94. Goldzwig and Dionisopoulos, “In a Perilous Hour,”112. 95. Harry S. Truman, “The Truman Doctrine,” in Words of a Century, 274. 96. But that would accord with the impression many had of Khrushchev, which may have had the effect of dissociating the Soviet nation and leadership from the act Copyright © 2019. Michigan State University Press. All rights reserved.

and tying the Soviet premier alone fully to the deployment. 97. George H. W. Bush, “Address to the Nation Announcing Allied Military Action in the Persian Gulf,” January 16, 1991, www.presidency.ucsb.edu. 98. Perelman and Olbrechts-Tyteca, New Rhetoric, 366. 99. Brockreide and Scott, Moments, 87. 100. See the discussion of kairos in chapter 2, as well as John Poulakos, “Toward a Sophistic Definition of Rhetoric,” Philosophy & Rhetoric 16 (1983): 35–48; Michael Leff, “Rhetorical Timing in Lincoln’s ‘House Divided’ Speech,” Van Zelst Lecture in Communication (Evanston, IL: Northwestern University School of Speech, 1984); Bruce Gronbeck, “Rhetorical Timing in Public Communication,” Central States Speech Journal 25 (1974): 84–94. 101. Franklin D. Roosevelt, “Address at Chicago,” October 5, 1937, www.presidency. ucsb.edu. 102. Farrell, Norms, 277, 282. 103. Stephen Toulmin, Richard Rieke, and Allen Janik, An Introduction of Reasoning, 2nd ed. (New York: Macmillan, 1984), 16.

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104. Richard E. Neustadt and Ernest R. May, Thinking in Time: The Uses of History for Decision Makers (New York: Free Press, 1986), 14. 105. Reinhold Niebuhr, The Irony of American History (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2008), 1–2. 106. Perelman argues that we can best define justice as equity, an effort to treat as the same all those who are of the “same essential category.” Thus, as we shall see in Chapter 6, if all people are created equal, then we cannot treat white and black differently because they are members of the same essential class. In this case, nuclear weapons form a special class and the superpowers must treat them in the same manner, which is different from land mines or AK-47s. Chaim Perelman, The Idea of Justice and the Problem of Argument, trans. John Petrie (Atlantic Highlands, NJ: Humanities Press, 1977), 32. 107. Michael Walzer, Politics and Passion (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2004), 90–91. The last two major essays in this collection raise excellent questions on the relationships between, as the title suggests, politics and passion. 108. Jurgen Habermas, Between Facts and Norms: Contributions to a Discourse Theory of Law and Democracy, trans. William Rehg (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1998); Chaim Perelman, The Idea of Justice; Stephen Toulmin, The Uses of Argument (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1958); White, When Words Lose Their Meaning; James Boyd White, Justice as Translation: An Essay in Cultural and Copyright © 2019. Michigan State University Press. All rights reserved.

Legal Criticism (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1990). See also David Zarefsky, “Taking the Jurisprudential Analogy Seriously,” in Rhetorical Perspectives on Argumentation: Selected Essays by David Zarefsky (New York: Springer International Publishing, 2014), 103–11. 109. Again, Woodrow Wilson and George H. W. Bush are excellent examples. 110. Bob Woodward, Bush at War (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2002), 145. 111. John M. Murphy, “Theory and Public Address: The Allusive Mr. Bush,” in The Handbook of Rhetoric and Public Address, ed. Shawn J. Parry-Giles and J. Michael Hogan (Walden, MA: Wiley Blackwell, 2010), 271–90. 112. John M. Murphy, “‘Our Mission and Our Moment’: George W. Bush and September 11th,” Rhetoric & Public Affairs 6 (2003): 607–32. Chapter 5. We Are All Mortal 1. John F. Kennedy, “Television and Radio Interview: ‘After Two Years—a Conversation With the President,” December 17, 1962, www.presidency.ucsb.edu. 2. John F. Kennedy, “Commencement Address at American University in

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Notes Washington,” June 10, 1963, www.presidency.ucsb.edu. All subsequent quotations of this speech are from this source.

3. David Zarefsky, “Presidential Rhetoric and the Power of Definition,” Presidential Studies Quarterly 34 (2003): 611. 4. Nancy Fraser, “Social Justice in the Age of Identity Politics,” in Nancy Fraser and Axel Honneth, Redistribution or Recognition? A Political Philosophical Exchange (New York: Verso Books, 2003), 29, 31. 5. Martha C. Nussbaum, Poetic Justice: The Literary Imagination and Public Life (Boston: Beacon Press, 1995), 36. 6. David G. Coleman, The Fourteenth Day: JFK and the Aftermath of the Cuban Missile Crisis (New York: W. W. Norton, 2012), 120. 7. Ibid., 33–54. 8. Lawrence Freedman, Kennedy’s Wars: Berlin, Cuba, Laos, and Vietnam (New York: Oxford University Press, 2000), 220–24; Coleman, Fourteenth Day, 146–50. In some ways, the administration liked the continued Soviet presence. It preferred the stable Soviets running sophisticated anti-aircraft missile sites to the unstable Cubans. The Soviets would not shoot down American planes. The Cubans might. See Michael R. Beschloss, The Crisis Years: Kennedy and Khrushchev 1960–1963 (New York: HarperCollins, 1991), 582. 9. Coleman, Fourteenth Day, 194–95. Copyright © 2019. Michigan State University Press. All rights reserved.

10. Coleman, Fourteenth Day, 200–201; Quotations from Beschloss, The Crisis Years, 581, 583. The Nixon and Goldwater quotations support the idea that if JFK had not acted as he did, a Republican would have come to office in 1964 determined to remove the missiles by force. Nuclear war would likely have resulted. 11. Coleman, Fourteenth Day, 97–107; Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr., A Thousand Days: John F. Kennedy in the White House (New York: Fawcett Crest, 1965), 830–35. 12. Beschloss, The Crisis Years, 546–72; Freedman, Kennedy’s Wars, 220–24. 13. Beschloss, Crisis Years, 32–37; Freedman, Kennedy’s Wars, 51. 14. John Lewis Gaddis, We Now Know: Rethinking Cold War History (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997), 138. 15. Marc Trachtenberg, A Constructed Peace: The Making of the European Settlement 1945–1963 (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1999), 284. A summary of Eisenhower’s policy can be found on 251–56; Beschloss, The Crisis Years, 113–51. 16. Trachtenberg, A Constructed Peace, 252–53. The link between West Germany’s nuclear status and Berlin often escapes critics who claim JFK “created” a crisis that began two years before he took office. Theodore Windt wonders, “The Berlin

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‘crisis’ of the summer of 1961 is a curious crisis. Reflecting on it now twentynine years later, one is hard-pressed to understand what the crisis was all about, except that during the first year of Kennedy’s presidency, everything was viewed as critical.” A hard-pressed understanding is indeed displayed here. Theodore Otto Windt, Jr., Presidents and Protestors: Political Rhetoric in the 1960s (Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1990), 35. 17. Glenn T. Seaborg, Kennedy, Khrushchev, and the Test Ban (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1981), 268–69. 18. Ibid., 268–69. 19. Trachtenberg, A Constructed Peace, 283–86. The Bundy quotation appears on 284. See also Andreas W. Daum, Kennedy in Berlin, trans. Dona Geyer (Washington, DC: The German Historical Institute and Cambridge University Press, 2008), 35–36. On West Berlin’s extraordinary popularity in the United States, see Daum, Kennedy, 36–50. 20. My account relies primarily on Beschloss, Crisis Years, 182–231; Robert Dallek, An Unfinished Life: John F. Kennedy, 1917–1963 (Boston: Little, Brown, 2003), 418–35; Freedman, Kennedy’s Wars, 51–91; Schlesinger, A Thousand Days, 333–73. 21. Beschloss, Crisis Years, 420–421; Coleman, Fourteenth Day, 172–73. 22. Coleman, Fourteenth Day, 179. 23. Daum, Kennedy, 31–33. Copyright © 2019. Michigan State University Press. All rights reserved.

24. Quoted in Coleman, Fourteenth Day, 191. 25. Trachtenberg, A Constructed Peace, 387. 26. See, for instance, Beschloss, Crisis Years, 572–85. 27. Freedman, Kennedy’s Wars, 265. The quotation was RFK’s characterization of the Soviet message. 28. Freedman, Kennedy’s Wars, 265; Beschloss, Crisis Years, 584. 29. Dallek, An Unfinished Life, 615. There are nine nuclear powers today. 30. Ibid., 618. 31. Ibid., 618–19; Ted Sorensen, Counselor: A Life at the Edge of History (New York: Harper, 2008), 326. 32. For a superb example, see Martin J. Medhurst, Robert L. Ivie, Philip Wander, and Robert L. Scott, Cold War Rhetoric: Strategy, Metaphor, and Ideology (East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 1997). 33. On conspiracy, see Richard Hofstadter, The Paranoid Style in American Politics (New York: Vintage Books, 2008); Michael William Pfau, The Political Style of Conspiracy: Chase, Sumner, and Lincoln (East Lansing: Michigan State University

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Notes Press, 2005).

34. Barry M. Goldwater, Conscience of a Conservative (Blacksburg, VA: Wilder, 1960, 2009), 50–51, 59, 65. 35. Gilbert C. Fite, Richard B. Russell, Jr., Senator from Georgia (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1991). 36. Richard B. Russell, “Dalton High School,” in Voice of Georgia: Speeches of Richard B. Russell, 1928–1969, ed. Calvin McLeod Logue and Dwight L. Freshley (Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 1997), 275. 37. See, for instance, J. Michael Hogan, “Eisenhower and Open Skies: A Case Study in ‘Psychological Warfare,’” in Eisenhower’s War of Words: Rhetoric and Leadership, ed. Martin J. Medhurst (East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 1994), 137–55; Martin J. Medhurst, “Eisenhower’s ‘Atoms for Peace’ Speech: A Case Study in the Strategic Use of Language,” Communication Monographs 54 (1987): 204–20. 38. Dwight D. Eisenhower, “Address ‘The Chance for Peace’ Delivered Before the American Society of Newspaper Editors, April 16, 1953,” www.presidency.ucsb. edu. Subsequent references are from this source. 39. Hogan, “Eisenhower and Open Skies,” 147. 40. Medhurst, “Eisenhower’s ‘Atoms for Peace’ Speech,” 205. 41. Dwight D. Eisenhower, “Annual Message to the Congress on the State of the Copyright © 2019. Michigan State University Press. All rights reserved.

Union,” January 9, 1959, www.presidency.ucsb.edu. Subsequent references are to this source. 42. It took brass to make this assertion. In 1954, the United States signed the Geneva Accords, which provided for a temporary truce and a partition in Vietnam, to be followed by elections two years later that would unify the country. Apparently, Eisenhower believed this to be merely a scrap of paper and not a sacred obligation. For a clear account of the Geneva Accords, see Stanley Karnow, Vietnam: A History (New York: Viking Press, 1983), 198–224. 43. Denise M. Bostdorff and Shawna H. Ferris, “John F. Kennedy at American University: The Rhetoric of the Possible, Epideictic Progression, and the Commencement of Peace,” Quarterly Journal of Speech 100 (2014): 412. 44. John F. Kennedy, “Radio and Television Report to the American People on the Berlin Crisis,” July 25, 1961, www.presidency.ucsb.edu. Subsequent references are to this source. 45. Yet, as usual, the president combined his attacks with some flexibility. As Andreas Daum notes, Kennedy identified three essentials: (1) the presence of Western

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troops in West Berlin; (2) the security and viability of West Berlin; and (3) access to West Berlin. He made no mention of East Berlin, nor did he declare a state of emergency, nor did he send troops to Berlin. Instead, he sent his Vice-President and, later, his brother Robert to reassure the West Germans. Daum, Kennedy, 21–27. 46. Nancy Fraser and Axel Honneth, “Introduction: Redistribution or Recognition?” in Fraser and Honneth, Redistribution or Recognition, 1. In moral philosophy, Stephen Darwall gets at the same idea with similar terms. He argues there are two kinds of respect. “Recognition respect” denotes the consideration due to people as human beings; everyone matters in deliberation. We do not have to like people to respect them in this sense. We offer “appraisal respect” to those we admire, people we hold in esteem. JFK did not appraise the Soviets highly, but he understood they should receive their due in debates about the future course of the global community. Stephen L. Darwall, “Two Kinds of Respect,” Ethics 88 (1977): 36–49. 47. Axel Honneth, “Integrity and Disrespect: Principles of a Conception of Morality Based on the Theory of Recognition,” Political Theory 20 (1992): 187–201; Axel Honneth, The Struggle For Recognition, trans. Joel Anderson (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1995); Charles Taylor, “The Politics of Recognition,” in Multiculturalism: Examining the Politics of Recognition, ed. Amy Guttman Copyright © 2019. Michigan State University Press. All rights reserved.

(Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1994), 25–73. 48. Fraser, “Social Justice.” 49. Debra Hawhee, “Looking into Aristotle’s Eyes: Toward a Theory of Rhetorical Vision,” Advances in the History of Rhetoric 14 (2011): 140. 50. Hawhee, “Looking into Aristotle’s Eyes,” 140. See also, Allison M. Prasch, “Reagan at Pointe du Hoc: Deitic Epidectic and the Persuasive Power of ‘Bringing Before the Eyes,’” Rhetoric & Public Affairs 18 (2015): 247–76. 51. For a review of this conceptual work, see Alan Gross, “The Rhetorical Tradition,” in The Viability of the Rhetorical Tradition, ed. Richard Graff, Arthur Walzer, and Janet Atwill (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2005), 31–45. 52. Michele Kennerly, “Getting Carried Away: How Rhetorical Transport Gets Judgment Going,” Rhetoric Society Quarterly 40 (2010): 270. 53. Martha Craven Nussbaum, “The Role of Phantasia in Aristotle’s Explanations of Action,” in Aristotle’s De Motu Animalium, ed. Martha Craven Nussbaum (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1978), 269. 54. My reading of this text is inspired by three excellent previous treatments:

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Notes Bostdorff and Ferris, “John F. Kennedy at American University”; Steven R. Goldzwig and George N. Dionosopoulos, “In a Perilous Hour”: The Public Address of John F. Kennedy (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1995), 119–25; and Theodore H. Windt, “Seeking Detente with Superpowers: John F. Kennedy at American University,” in Essays in Presidential Rhetoric, 2nd ed., ed. Theodore Windt and Beth Ingold (Dubuque, IA: Kendall Hunt, 1987), 135–48. Philip Wander’s “The Rhetoric of American Foreign Policy,” in Medhurst et al., Cold War Rhetoric, 153–83, has inspired subsequent work, but is far too simplistic, particularly in the bright line drawn between “prophetic dualism” and “technocratic realism.” As shall also be seen, I have some difficulty when the term “realism” is applied to Kennedy’s American University address.

55. John W. Jordan, “Kennedy’s Romantic Moon and Its Rhetorical Legacy for Space Exploration,” Rhetoric & Public Affairs 6 (2003): 215. 56. David Zarefsky, “Presidential Rhetoric and the Power of Definition,” Presidential Studies Quarterly 34 (2003): 612. See also Edward Schiappa, Defining Reality: Definitions and the Politics of Meaning (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 2003), and James Jasinski, “Definition/Definition of the Situation,” in Sourcebook on Rhetoric: Key Concepts in Contemporary Rhetorical Studies (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2001), 151–60. 57. Chaim Perelman and Lucie Olbrechts-Tyteca, The New Rhetoric: A Treatise on Copyright © 2019. Michigan State University Press. All rights reserved.

Argumentation, trans. John Wilkinson and Purcell Weaver (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1969), 444. 58. Ibid., 117. 59. Dwight D. Eisenhower, “Atoms for Peace,” in Words of a Century: The Top 100 American Speeches, 1900–1999, edited by Stephen E. Lucas and Martin J. Medhurst (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009), 324–25. On atomic-era culture, the fear it engendered, and one response, see, for instance, Paul Boyer, By the Bomb’s Early Light (New York: Pantheon Books, 1985); Mark LaVoie, “William Faulkner’s ‘Speech Accepting the Nobel Prize in Literature’: A Language for Ameliorating Atomic Anxiety,” Rhetoric & Public Affairs 17 (2014): 199–226. 60. Perelman and Olbrechs-Tyteca, New Rhetoric, 193. 61. James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and John Jay, The Federalist Papers, ed. Isaac Kramnick (New York: Penguin Books, 1987), 88, 319. 62. The argument also echoed George Washington’s farewell address’s advice that “permanent” antipathies or attachments to other nations should be avoided as that could lead a nation “astray from its duty and its interest.” George

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Washington, “Farewell Address,” in American Rhetorical Discourse, ed. Robert F. Reid and James F. Klumpp (Long Grove, IL: Waveland Press, 2005), 198. 63. Kenneth Burke, Permanence and Change: An Anatomy of Purpose, 3rd ed. (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984), 74–75. 64. Kenneth Burke, Attitudes Toward History, 3rd ed. (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984), 308–9. 65. Jasinski, “Definition,” 433. 66. Francis A. Beer and Robert Hariman, “Realism and Rhetoric in International Relations,” in Post-Realism: The Rhetorical Turn in International Relations, ed. Francis A. Beer and Robert Hariman (East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 1996), 3. See also Robert Hariman, Political Style: The Artistry of Power (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995), 13–50. 67. For a sense of such a community, see Bitzer’s argument in the Charles Dickens novel Hard Times; Nussbaum, Poetic Justice. 68. My assessment of realism benefitted from and relied on James Arnt Aune, Selling the Free Market: The Rhetoric of Economic Correctness (New York: Guilford Press, 2001), 41–43. 69. Kenneth Burke, Counter-Statement (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1968), 31. 70. Kenneth Burke, A Rhetoric of Motives (Berkeley: University of California Press, Copyright © 2019. Michigan State University Press. All rights reserved.

1969), 187. 71. As Jeffrey Sachs notes, the problem JFK faced resembled that of the prisoner’s dilemma. The long-term, or real, interests of both were served by cooperation, yet it might be possible to gain a short term advantage through betrayal. Kennedy sought to eliminate the latter as an option by arguing that betrayal would inevitably result in death in the atomic age. Jeffrey D. Sachs, To Move the World: JFK’s Quest for Peace (New York: Random House, 2013), 7. 72. Kenneth Burke, Attitudes, 229. 73. Ibid., 231. 74. This was the “hotline,” which became Kennedy’s most famous unintentional contribution to American campaign rhetoric. The visual trope of the blinking red telephone (accompanied by an ominous voice-over) quickly emerged as a powerful means to attack a candidate’s experience and credibility. 75. Windt, “Seeking Detente with Superpowers,” 142. 76. Enemies, in this context, stretched from Moscow to Birmingham. He once again suggested that his political opponents were speaking like the atheistic,

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Notes unreasonable Communists.

77. Franklin D. Roosevelt, “The Four Freedoms,” in Words of a Century, 263–68. 78. “New Hope for a Test Ban,” Editorial. The New York Times, June 11, 1963, 36; “‘A Strategy of Peace,’” Editorial. Washington Post, June 11, 1963, A14; “Text of Kennedy Speech to Class at American U.,” Washington Post, June 11, 1963, A16; “Text of Kennedy’s Address Offering ‘Strategy of Peace’ for Easing the Cold War,” New York Times, June 11, 1963, 16; “T.R.B. from Washington,” New Republic, June 22, 1963, 2; “JFK in the ‘Bully Pulpit,’” Newsweek, June 24, 1963, 27; “Kennedy’s ‘Peace Strategy’ Is Welcomed at U.N.,” New York Times, June 12, 1963, 4; “An Easing of the Cold War,” U.S. News and World Report, June 24, 1963, 8; Frank S. Meyer, “Principles and Heresies: What Does Kennedy Mean?,” National Review, July 16, 1963, 18. 79. Dallek, An Unfinished Life, 619; Herbert Parmet, JFK: The Presidency of John F. Kennedy (New York: Dial Press, 1980), 312; James N. Giglio, The Presidency of John F. Kennedy, 2nd ed. (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2006), 231; G. Calvin MacKenzie and Robert Weisbrot, The Liberal Hour: Washington and the Politics of Change in the 1960s (New York: Penguin Press, 2008), 277; Beschloss, Crisis Years, 599–600. In a rare dissent, James Kimble argues the address “failed to permanently change the outlook of the Cold War,” a standard that would condemn Abraham Lincoln’s second inaugural address for its failure Copyright © 2019. Michigan State University Press. All rights reserved.

to “permanently change the outlook of Reconstruction.” Kimble attributes the “failure” to its “androgynous” style, a claim offered with little textual support. James J. Kimble, “John F. Kennedy, the Construction of Peace, and the Pitfalls of Androgynous Rhetoric,” Communication Quarterly 57 (2009): 154–70. 80. Joseph Kraft, The Grand Design: From Common Market to Atlantic Partnership (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1962), 22. This book could not have been written save for considerable cooperation from the Kennedy administration. One suspects that it is a “semi-official” piece from a prominent journalist. 81. G. John Ikenberry, Liberal Leviathan: The Origins, Crisis, and Transformation of the American World Order (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2011), 161. 82. Ikenberry, Liberal Leviathan, 159. 83. Tony Judt, Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945 (New York: Penguin Books, 2005), 302–6. 84. Ibid., 308–9. 85. John F. Kennedy, “Address at Independence Hall, Philadelphia,” July 4, 1962, www.presidency.ucsb.edu. All subsequent references are to this text.

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86. My account relies primarily on Schlesinger, A Thousand Days, 842–48 and Kraft, The Grand Bargain, 15–42. Judt provides a broad background. 87. John F. Kennedy, “Special Message to the Congress on Foreign Trade Policy,” January 25, 1962, www.presidency.ucsb.edu. All subsequent references are to this text. 88. Kennedy, “Special Message,” John F. Kennedy, “Annual Message to the Congress on the State of the Union,” January 11, 1962; John F. Kennedy, “Address in New York City to the National Association of Manufacturers,” December 6, 1961, www. presidency.ucsb.edu. 89. Perelman and Olbrechts-Tyteca, New Rhetoric, 91–92. 90. For a good assessment of JFK’s trade policy, see Thomas W. Zeiler, “Meeting the European Challenge: The Common Market and Trade Policy,” in Kennedy: The New Frontier Revisited, ed. Mark J. White (New York: New York University Press, 1998), 132–59. 91. Daum, Kennedy, 23. 92. Freedman, Kennedy’s Wars, 63. 93. Ibid. Judt also notes that West German political stability and consensus rested on a “sanitized Germany of popular desires.” The postwar generation sought to ignore the war and many western leaders encouraged that effort, hoping that the Germans would, in Churchill’s words, grow “fat but impotent.” Judt, Postwar, Copyright © 2019. Michigan State University Press. All rights reserved.

273–77. 94. Judt, Postwar, 274. 95. Ibid., 289–90. For this narrative as a whole, see 282–92. 96. John F. Kennedy, “Algeria,” in The Strategy of Peace, ed. Allan Nevins (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1960), 65–81. A clear account of the Algerian speech and reaction to it may be found at John T. Shaw, JFK in the Senate: Pathway to the Presidency (New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2013), 101–7. 97. Schlesinger, A Thousand Days, 868; Judt, Postwar, 273. 98. A clear summary of the problems de Gaulle posed may be found at Josephine Brain, “Dealing with de Gaulle,” in White, New Frontier Revisited, 160–92. 99. The initial quotation comes from “‘Ken-ah-dee’ Abroad: The ‘Common Cause,’ Newsweek, July 8, 1963, 31; the other quotations appear in “Not Necessary, but Nice,” Time, July 5, 1963, 13–14. Both articles include nearly the exact same wording concerning the goals of the trip, so those clearly came from an administration briefing. 100. Daum, Kennedy, 93–94.

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101. Ibid., 115. 102. Ibid., 9. 103. Ibid., 114. 104. Arthur J. Olsen, “President Hailed by Over a Million in Visit to Berlin,” New York Times, June 27, 1963, 1, 12. The front page was dominated by a picture of Kennedy (helpfully indicated by an arrow) and other dignitaries looking from a platform across the Wall to the Brandenburg Gate. 105. Daum, Kennedy, 140. 106. Richard Reeves, President Kennedy: Profile of Power (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1993), 535. 107. “Berliners Selling Spaces for Speech by Kennedy,” New York Times, June 23, 1963, 7. 108. Reeves, President Kennedy, 536. 109. Beschloss, Crisis Years, 605. 110. John F. Kennedy, “Remarks in the Rudolph Wilde Plaza,” June 26, 1963, www. presidency.ucsb.edu. All subsequent references are to this text. 111. Andreas Daum definitively debunks the various legends that surround Kennedy’s famous phrase. Although some German grammar books would have advised deleting the “ein,” not all would and Kennedy’s choice was perfectly suitable, particularly as a figurative turn of phrase. He was not literally announcing a new Copyright © 2019. Michigan State University Press. All rights reserved.

place of residence. Nor did he call himself a jelly doughnut. Berliners and eastern Germans in general used the term “Pfannkuchen,” not Berliner, for the pastry in question, a word generally used only in the West. Nor did anyone in the crowd react as if JFK had made a gaffe. In short, it is an amusing, deceptive legend. Daum, Kennedy, 148–49. 112. Isabel Fay and Jim Kuypers also argue that Kennedy constitutes the Germans (West Germans) as agents, although they take a different theoretical path to that end. Isabel Fay and Jim A. Kuypers, “Transcending Mysticism and Building Identification Through Empowerment of the Rhetorical Agent: John F. Kennedy’s Berlin Speeches on June 26, 1963,” Southern Communication Journal 77 (2012): 198–215. 113. It is worth noting that the Soviets are not even an implied audience for this address, nor is the debate with the Soviets. The president staged a debate within the Western world. 114. On metonymy, see Kenneth Burke, “The Four Master Tropes,” in A Grammar of Motives (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1969), 503–17.

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115. http://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/index.shtml 116. Burke, “Four Master Tropes.” 117. Beschloss, Crisis Years, 607. 118. Jonathan Rieder, The Word of the Lord Is upon Me: The Righteous Performance of Martin Luther King, Jr. (Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2008), 154–55. 119. Reeves, President Kennedy, 536. 120. Ibid., 536; John F. Kennedy, “Address at the Free University of Berlin,” June 26, 1963, www.presidency.ucsb.edu. 121. Arthur Krock, “In the Nation,” New York Times, June 27, 1963, 21. 122. Chris Matthews, Jack Kennedy: Elusive Hero (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2011), 383; Beschloss, Crisis Years, 605, 608; Freedman, Kennedy’s Wars, 292. 123. “‘Ken-ah-Dee’ Abroad,” 32. 124. Roderick P. Hart, The Sound of Leadership: Presidential Communication in the Modern Age (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1987), 27. 125. Burke, Rhetoric. Chapter 6. A Full and Free Life 1. John F. Kennedy, Profiles in Courage (New York: Harper and Row, 1964), 1, 136–42. Copyright © 2019. Michigan State University Press. All rights reserved.

2. Kennedy, Profiles, 141. 3. James G. Randall, “The Blundering Generation,” in The Causes of the American Civil War, ed. Edwin C. Rozwenc (Boston: D. C. Heath, 1961), 163–70; Avery Craven, “The Breakdown of the Democratic Process,” in Causes, 171–81; Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr., “A Note on Historical Sentimentalism,” in Causes, 181–90. The Craven quotation can be found in Schlesinger, “Note,” 183. The essays were published in 1940, 1950, and 1949, respectively. The American Historical Association gives an award named after Craven for the “most original book” on the Civil War era. A factual account of slavery’s role in the nation is provided by Edward E. Baptist, The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and The Making of American Capitalism (New York: Basic Books, 2014). 4. Eric Foner, Reconstruction: America’s Unfinished Revolution 1863–1877 (New York: Harper and Row, 1988), xxi–xxii. 5. Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr., A Thousand Days: John F. Kennedy in the White House (New York: Fawcett Crest, 1965), 966. 6. John F. Kennedy, “Radio and Television Report to the American People on Civil

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Notes Rights,” www.presidency.ucsb.edu, June 11, 1963. All subsequent references to this speech are from this source. David W. Blight, American Oracle: The Civil War in the Civil Rights Era (Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University, 2011), 3. For a powerful analysis of those images, see Davi Johnson, “Martin Luther King Jr.’s 1963 Birmingham Campaign as Image Event,” Rhetoric & Public Affairs 10 (2007): 1–26.

7. For instance, my search of the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB), presidential rhetoric site may be inaccurate, but as far as I can tell, the first president to say Emmett Till’s name was George W. Bush. 8. Michael Eric Dyson, Reflecting Black: African-American Cultural Criticism (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1993), 136–37. I have discussed this same difficulty for another liberal president: John M. Murphy, “Inventing Authority: Bill Clinton, Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Orchestration of Rhetorical Traditions,” Quarterly Journal of Speech 83 (1997): 71–89. 9. James Jasinski, “Lysander Spooner’s The Unconstitutionality of Slavery: A Case Study in Constitutional Hermeneutics, Ethical Argument, and Practical Reason,” in Making the Case: Advocacy and Judgment in Public Argument, ed. Kathryn M. Olson, Michael William Pfau, Benjamin Ponder, and Kirt H. Wilson (East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 2012), 48; Eugene Garver, For The Sake of Argument: Practical Reasoning, Character, and the Ethics of Belief (Chicago: Copyright © 2019. Michigan State University Press. All rights reserved.

University of Chicago Press, 2004). For similar arguments about rhetoric and justice, see James Boyd White, Justice as Translation: An Essay in Cultural and Legal Criticism (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1990). Mikhail Bakhtin, too, claims “the word is, after all, not a dead material object in the hands of an artist . . . it is a living word and is therefore in all things true to itself.” Gary Saul Morson and Caryl Emerson explain Bakhtin, arguing that he believes texts can “genuinely grow in meaning over time.” Mikhail Bakhtin, “Discourse in the Novel,” in The Dialogic Imagination: Four Essays ed. Michael Holquist, trans. Caryl Emerson and Michael Holquist (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1981), 419; Gary Saul Morson and Caryl Emerson, Mikhail Bakhtin: Creation of a Prosaics (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1990), 284–85. 10. Jasinski, “Lysander Spooner,” 48. 11. The most comprehensive history of the classical movement is Taylor Branch, Parting the Waters: America in the King Years 1954–63 (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1989); Pillar of Fire: America in the King Years 1963–65 (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1999); At Canaan’s Edge: America in the King Years 1965–68

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(New York: Simon & Schuster, 2007). The best account of resistance is George Lewis, Massive Resistance: The White Response to the Civil Rights Movement (London: Hodder Education, 2006). On the long movement, see Jacquelyn Dowd Hall, “The Long Civil Rights Movement and the Political Uses of the Past,” Journal of American History 91 (2005): 1233–63; Stephen Lawson and Charles Payne, Debating the Civil Rights Movement, 1945–1968 (Lanham, MD: Rowan and Littlefield, 2006); Manning Marable, Race, Reform, and Rebellion: The Second Reconstruction in Black America, 1945–1990 (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1991); Jeanne F. Theoharris and Komozi Woodard, Freedom North: Black Freedom Struggles Outside the South, 1940–1980 (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003); Jeanne F. Theoharris, Komozi Woodward, and Charles Payne, Groundwork: Local Black Freedom Movements in America (New York: New York University Press, 2005). Stephen Tuck views the black freedom movement as a continuous whole: Stephen Tuck, We Ain’t What We Ought to Be: The Black Freedom Struggle from Emancipation to Obama (Cambridge Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2010). The three detailed accounts of the Kennedy Administration and civil rights are: Carl M. Brauer, John F. Kennedy and the Second Reconstruction (New York: Columbia University Press, 1977); Nick Bryant, The Bystander: John F. Kennedy and the Struggle for Black Equality (New York: Basic Books, 2006); Steven Levingston, Kennedy and King: The President, the Copyright © 2019. Michigan State University Press. All rights reserved.

Pastor, and the Battle Over Civil Rights (New York: Hachette Books, 2017). 12. Hubert H. Humphrey, “The Sunshine of Human Rights,” in Words of a Century: The Top 100 American Speeches, 1900–1999, ed. Stephen E. Lucas and Martin J. Medhurst (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009), 282; Lewis, Massive Resistance, 16–20; Kari Frederickson, The Dixiecrat Revolt and the End of the Solid South (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2001). For an excellent account of President Truman’s civil rights rhetoric, see Steven R. Goldzwig, “Inaugurating the Second Reconstruction: President Truman’s Committee on Civil Rights,” in Civil Rights Rhetoric and the American Presidency, ed. James Arnt Aune and Enrique D. Rigsby (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 2005), 83–113. 13. Kenneth Burke, “The Rhetoric of Hitler’s ‘Battle,’” in The Philosophy of Literary Form (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1973), 192. For the classic account of an hour of vituperation during the civil rights movement, see John Steinbeck, “Ain’t Those Cheerleaders Something,” in Reporting Civil Rights, Part One American Journalism 1941–1963 (New York: Library of America, 2003), 526–34.

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14. Chaim Perelman and Lucie Olbrechts-Tyteca, The New Rhetoric: A Treatise on Argumentation, trans. John Wilkinson and Purcell Weaver (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press), 91–93; J. Robert Cox, “The Die Is Cast: Topical and Ontological Dimensions of the Locus of the Irreparable,” in The New Rhetoric of Chaim Perelman: Statement & Response, ed. Ray D. Dearin (Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1989), 121–39. 15. James Jackson Kilpatrick, The Southern Case for School Segregation (New York: Crowell-Collier Press, 1962), 72. 16. Ibid., 36. 17. See William P. Hustwit, James J. Kilpatrick: Salesman for Segregation (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2013); Gene Roberts and Hank Klibanoff, The Race Beat: The Press, the Civil Rights Struggle, and the Awakening of a Nation (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2006). He continued as a powerful conservative voice well past the civil rights era and became famous as one side of the Point/ Counterpoint segment on 60 Minutes. As such, he was unforgettably lampooned by Dan Aykroyd on Saturday Night Live. 18. George H. Nash, The Conservative Intellectual Movement in America Since 1945 (New York: Basic Books, 1976), 202. On Buckley’s place among conservatives, see Michael J. Lee, Creating Conservatism: Postwar Words that Made an American Movement (East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 2014), 135–62. Lee Copyright © 2019. Michigan State University Press. All rights reserved.

briefly considers Kilpatrick and his importance in the conclusion, 198–200. 19. Kilpatrick, Southern Case, 26. His emphasis on “as a race” sought to preclude the response, “What about Booker T. Washington? What about . . .” He wished to cast out counterexamples as unrepresentative. But, as I note, he also denied the existence of any exemplars “of the race.” 20. For example, see Kilpatrick, Southern Case, 72–93. 21. Ibid., 35. 22. Ibid., 50. There may not be a better example of the classic fallacy argument ad ignorantium. Kirkpatrick’s ignorance, the ignorance of white America generally, “proves” his point, as whites fail to answer his rhetorical questions. Their ignorance is proof. 23. Quoted in Nash, Conservative Intellectual Movement, 200. 24. . Richard B. Russell, “President Harry S. Truman’s Civil Rights Commission,” in Voice of Georgia: Speeches of Richard B. Russell, 1928–1969, ed. Calvin Mcleod Logue and Dwight L. Freshley (Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 1997), 327. On Russell, see Gilbert C. Fite, Richard B. Russell, Jr., Senator from Georgia

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(Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1991). 25. Richard M. Weaver, The Southern Tradition at Bay: A History of Postbellum Thought, ed. George Core and M. E. Bradford (New Rochelle, NY: Arlington House, 1968), 261. This volume was based on his 1943 dissertation and published posthumously. For brief sketches of Weaver’s life and place in the conservative movement, see Nash, Conservative Intellectual Movement, 202–6; Lee, Creating Conservatism, 58–63; Eugene D. Genovese, The Southern Tradition: The Achievements and Limitations of an American Conservatism (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1994). A clear account of his life that virtually edits out race is provided by Fred Douglas Young, Richard M. Weaver, 1910–1963: A Life of the Mind (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1995). 26. Two classic accounts from different perspectives include Weaver, Southern Tradition and Louis Hartz, The Liberal Tradition in America (New York: Harvest/HBJ, 1991), 145–200. For a lucid discussion of Southern difference and Confederate nationalism, see Drew Gilpin Faust, The Creation of Confederate Nationalism: Ideology and Identity in the Civil War South (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1988). 27. Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia, in The Portable Thomas Jefferson, ed. Merrill D. Peterson (New York: Penguin Books, 1975), 217. Kilpatrick, Southern Case, 27, believes white Southerners “are, by nature, a contemplative Copyright © 2019. Michigan State University Press. All rights reserved.

people, and I am inclined to believe this stems from the agrarian tradition. A farm boy learns early that some things can’t be hurried—the birth of calves, the tasseling of corn, the curing of tobacco. On the farm, life is governed by patience, by the inexorable equinoctial rotation of the seasons, by factors beyond man’s control. It is, we say, ‘God’s will.’” By contrast, see Baptist’s account of the innovations in brutality and torture that forced slaves to pick cotton ever faster, thus prompting a massive increase in productivity between 1810 and 1860. Baptist, The Half, 111–44. Significantly, Kilpatrick and Weaver both felt the need to pretend that they were men of the soil. Kilpatrick built a home named White Walnut Hill on thirty-seven acres of land at the headwaters of the Rappahannock River. He then invented the hamlet of “Scrabble, Virginia,” and filed hundreds of columns about a South untouched by racial equality, where every man knew his place and all lived in harmony. Weaver traveled each summer to his mother’s home in North Carolina to live in rural splendor and plant his garden. He insisted that no machinery be used to plow his field, only horse or mule. In one important essay, he claimed the South in general and communities like Weaverville (his

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Notes Southern home, named after his family), in particular, served as the “flywheel” of American politics. The “South, with its massive weight of tradition, with its pace regularized by a steady contact with nature, seems [to be an] . . . indispensable conservative counterpoise.” Hustwit, James J. Kilpatrick: Salesman, 187–96; Young, Richard M. Weaver, 155.

28. Quoted in Drew McCoy, The Elusive Republic: Political Economy in Jeffersonian America (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1980), 156. McCoy and Lance Banning are still, in my judgment, the best treatments of the early republican argument. Lance Banning, The Jeffersonian Persuasion: Evolution of a Party Ideology (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1978). For an insightful discussion of the rhetorical economy of the republican style, see Robert Hariman, Political Style: The Artistry of Power (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995), 95–140. It was no coincidence that Alexander Hamilton opposed slavery and helped to found the New York Manumission Society. See Ron Chernow, Alexander Hamilton (New York: Penguin Press, 2004), 210–16. 29. Genovese, Southern Tradition, 14. 30. Isaac Kramnick, Republicanism & Bourgeois Radicalism: Political Ideology in Late Eighteenth-Century England and America (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1990), 1. Aristotle is quoted there. 31. Genovese, Southern Tradition, 22. Copyright © 2019. Michigan State University Press. All rights reserved.

32. Kilpatrick, Southern Case, 30. 33. Weaver, Southern Tradition, 34–35. 34. Faust, The Creation of Confederate Nationalism, 30. Originally a Puritan rhetorical genre, the jeremiad is a civic sermon with a trifold structure of covenant, declension, and redemption, summarized by the phrase “Once we were lost, now we are found.” As Faust notes, its themes align with those of republicanism. On the jeremiad, see Sacvan Bercovitch, The American Jeremiad (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1978); Perry Miller, Errand into the Wilderness (Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1984). On the coherence of republican and Puritan themes, see J. G. A. Pocock, The Machiavellian Moment: Florentine Political Thought and the Atlantic Republican Tradition (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1975), 545–49; James Jasinski and John M. Murphy, “Time, Space, and Generic Reconstitution: Martin Luther King’s ‘A Time to Break Silence’ as Radical Jeremiad,” in Public Address and Moral Judgment, ed. Shawn J. Parry-Giles and Trevor Parry-Giles (East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 2009), 97–125.

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35. Jefferson, Notes, 192–93. 36. Faust, Creation of Confederate Nationalism, 60. 37. Weaver, Southern Tradition, 169. 38. Russell, “The Poll Tax: 17 November 1942,” in Logue and