JFK ASKED TO ASSESS STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES OF HIS OWN PRESIDENCY 50 YEARS AGO TODAY
"Mr. President, as the election year (1964) approaches...I wonder if you would give us your thinking as an experienced politician as to the prime assets of your administration (as well as)...the prime liabilities?"
President Kennedy responded...
"I think we ought to make a judgment on that in 1964. (On) a lot of these matters we will have to decide if the United States is better off economically than it was before, and whether our position in the world has improved, and whether the prospects for peace are greater, and whether our defenses are stronger, and whether we are making progress at home and abroad."
"We can't make a judgment about the state of the economy in '64. I think if they pass our tax bill, we are going to be able to demonstrate a very successful, ebullient economy for a period of 4 years. If they do not, we will have a different situation."
In the area of foreign policy, the President added...
"I cannot tell what our relations will be in Southeast Asia a year from now. I know what results our policy is attempting to bring. But I think that the result ought to be judged in the summer of '64.... "
President Kennedy concluded his answer with these words...
"I have hopes that the judgment will be that the economy is moving ahead, that the rate of growth has been almost $100 billion...that we are substantially stronger militarily, that the chances of war have been reduced over Berlin and perhaps other areas."
In short, JFK believed it was too early in October 1963 to make a fair judgment of his administration. He argued that the judgment should be made "over a 4 year period," not 2 years and 9 months.
Ironically, however, historians have had to base their judgments on a Kennedy Presidency which lasted only 2 years and 10 months.
The news conference held on October 9, 1963 was JFK's next to last formal meeting with the press. His last press conference was held on November 14, 1963, just 8 days before his death.
President Kennedy was asked another question in the news conference of October 9th about his possible Republican adversary, Barry Goldwater*, in 1964.
The reporter asked...
"Mr. President, Former President Eisenhower wrote recently...that he was unclear about Senator (Barry) Goldwater's views on certain major issues. I wonder, sir, whether you share this uncertainty...?"
"Senator Goldwater is speaking frequently, and he is saying what he thinks...and I think...we have an opportunity to make a judgment on where he stands.
I don't think Senator Goldwater has ever been particularly deceptive. I think he has made very clear what he is opposed to, what he is for. I have gotten the idea. I think that President Eisenhower will, as time goes on."
*Barry Goldwater (1909-1998) was born in Phoenix, Arizona. His father founded the largest department store in the city and Barry ran the company after his father's death in 1930.
BG served in the USAF in WWII and was elected to the US Senate in 1952 then re-elected in 1958. Known as "Mr. Conservative," he became the Republican nominee for President in 1964 but was defeated in a landslide by LBJ.
Goldwater, a close personal friend, was devastated by JFK's death. He had little use for LBJ or Richard Nixon.
Despite his conservatism, Goldwater opposed the increasing influence of the religious right in his party. He believed their views encroached upon privacy and individual liberty.
"Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States, John F. Kennedy, 1963, United States Government Printing Office, 1964.