Posts tagged ‘JFK’

BOOK REVIEW: THREE DAYS IN JANUARY by Bret Baier reviewed by Charles Johnson

three days
THREE DAYS IN JANUARY: Dwight Eisenhower’s Final Mission
By Bret Baier
368 pages
Published by William Morrow
ISBN-10: 006259031
ISBN-13: 978-006259035
Reviewed by Charles Johnson

President Dwight Eisenhower gave us a life of service to our country – namely, a distinguished military career followed by a fine two terms as our president. In the book THREE DAYS IN JANUARY, author Bret Baier focuses how the flow of Eisenhower’s life led to the transition of his presidency to that of a young John F. Kennedy, complete with the hopes and concerns that Ike (Eisenhower, that is) shared with the incoming man from Massachusetts.

The author Bret Baier, using a clear, informative style, fills the first part of the book with a biography of Ike – his family, his schooling, his military training – all of which shaped his philosophies in what became his style as he took over the White House in 1952. From there, the reader is surrounded effectively by the author’s explanation of how Ike’s past influenced decisions made as he served as president – and then as he prepared himself to hand over the presidency. There are organizational skills, there’s seeking the advice of the experts and those who were learned in the field in which Ike needed guidance, there’s the strong leadership that Ike brought to the White House that was so very perfect. To wrap up the book, Eisenhower’s thought processes of how to end his eight years in the White House come to bear upon the reader. Ike had seen the merger of the military world and the industrial world – and how those two entities had come to unite into a strong unit, capable of both great and horrible things that ranged from the obvious military and economic factors to the philosophical notion that the military-industrial complex might wield an influence on government that could be crucial to the future. Also, how was Ike to pass this concept onward to his successor while a world is dealing with a nuclear arms race, Castro in Cuba, Russian leadership wavering for a while and finally settling on Nikita Kruschev?

Bret Baier spells it out for us. The transition from Truman to Eisenhower was not necessarily a smooth, amicable time. Because of this, Eisenhower wanted ensure that JFK was fully informed, totally ready, and as comfortable as possible. If there were to be a successful passing of the torch, all this need to occur.

Baier concludes his book with the thought that it such transitions must the smooth. He concludes the book, noting that as he wrote the end, Donald Trump was about to receive the reins of government from Barak Obama – and would there indeed be as smooth a transition as there was from Ike to JFK.

Time will tell if Baier’s record of the switch in 1961 had any bearing on the switch in 2017.


Presidential CRINGE

president heads

He is the president. He’s my president, and yours, too. He was elected by our laws and duly inaugurated, so on paper, he’s the president. Now, that’s just the raw fact – all talk of Russian influence and “He’s not my president” aside, I continue.

The office of president is revered. The creation of the institution of the President of the United States was a break from the idea of kings, of autocratic rulers. It is a position of great power, of great influence that has existed since the late 1700s. The entire world has looked at past presidents with awe and wonder at the leadership exhibited by our presidents.

We have video of George Bush reading to elementary students. We have Barack Obama singing AMAZING GRACE. We have Ronald Reagan challenging Mr. Gorbachev to tear down a wall. We have Jimmy Carter, forty years out of office, working to build homes for Habitat for Humanity. We have LBJ signing a civil rights bill. We have Nixon opening relations with China. We have many citizens who have served in the Peace Corps because JFK saw the need and pushed it into being. We have Eisenhower building an interstate highway system. We have the calming effects of fireside chats on that new-fangled radio with FDR. These are some of our past presidents providing reasons why the office of the President of the United States has become so respected and revered.

But I Cringe to watch our president. Cringe. With a capital C.

This man presently holding the office in the last eight months has soiled that office with his words, his lack of fruitful actions, and his disregard for the history that those past presidents have provided.

Shall I enumerate them? Where do you want to start? There’s a long list. Say what you want to about the latest storm (his Charlottesville comments; versions 1,2 and 3), but since January 20, 2017, there’s been one bizarre circumstance after the other of which Charlottesville is just the end of the list.

While the president tweets about fake news, young children are awaiting the school year to start where they experience old textbooks and crumbling buildings. While the president blusters about a wall, our soldiers wonder if they’ll be sent into a military (possibly nuclear) conflict. While the president gets in several rounds of golf while on vacation, there has been no bill passed that addresses the bridges, roads, utilities and other infrastructure needs across our fifty states. While the president listens to some people who have zero experience in government (at any level at all), any kind of tax reform sits and decays. While he disparages women, health care dies on the floor of congress several times.

And energy. And labor. And international diplomacy. And budgets. These matters – these routine matters, are not given their necessary attention. Never mind the promises (walls, jobs, being the greatest everything possible) made by the president during his campaign that have yet to even receive a start, much less been realized.

It is time for the talking heads (whether in the media or in congress or in gathering places across the country from the small restaurants on main street to board rooms in corporate offices) to call for the present man in the office of President of the United States (Donald Trump) to live up to the standards that we have seen from past presidents.

And if he can’t do that, get out.

The Assassination of JFK = Did Oswald cause us to “Jump the Shark”?

(NaBloPoMo for Nov. 21)


Once upon a time, the TV show “Happy Days” was the biggest show on the air.  After  several  years on TV, the ratings started to drop, so the writers of the show did what they could to bring back those top ratings – and their answer was to broadcast an episode in which the whole gang goes to Hawaii.  While there,   Fonzie is forced into water-skiing over a jump, crossing a tank holding a shark, doing so in leather jacket and all.  This episode became the definition of the beginning of the end for a TV series, and ‘jumping the shark’ meant you’ve crossed the point at which recovery is – well, highly unlikely.


On that day in November when Lee Harvey Oswald perched himself in the window the Texas Depository Building and assassinated the president of the United States, I have to wonder if he started us in our own “jump the shark’ situation as a country.


Here we are, fifty years later, where so many of us still recall that day.  We wince and cower at the mere thought.  We gasp, we sigh, we still recall the shock and grief of that day.


Since then, it is as if we just haven’t regained our balance in so many ways.  We still have the symptoms of that day affecting us.  JFK is recalled practically every campaign season – we hear the phrase “The Days of Camelot” when we talk about our presidents and how they just haven’t captured what the Kennedys did.  It might be mere nostalgia, but it also might be our own national post-traumatic stress syndrome.  We have healed very slowly from the incident of that sunny afternoon in Dallas.


Within 5 years of the day, the very man Kennedy defeated soundly in the 1960 presidential election was elected president – not so bad in itself, no, but then within 12 years, that same man resigned from the presidency for another affair (Watergate) that caused its own set of emotions in our country.  The handful of summers following that assassination, our country saw and felt the raw pain of race riots.  By the mid 70s, our economy saw double-digit inflation and the rise of terrorism with the hostage situation at the end of the Carter administration.  Viet Nam got out of hand – and we found ourselves in odd military situations from Kosovo to Grenada to the Gulf Wars.  Scandals bubbled up during practically every president’s administration – some more serious than others.  We found ourselves torn apart over issues that infected some of us so much that we saw conspiracy and nastiness in every angle possible.


In July of 1969, we were the proud people who saw us land a vehicle on the face of the moon.  That goal was set up when JFK himself challenged us to get to the moon by the end of the decade he would not see finished.  That event gave us a focus to aim for, and once achieved, to use as a measuring stick of our efforts.  It was a strong sign of what was right with the American way of doing things.  We’ve had our successes over the years, but nothing so galvanizing as the moon program.


So then, did Lee Harvey Oswald bring us over the shark cage?  Did his action signal the beginning of the end of the greatness of the country?   And if so…. Can we recover from that psychological earthquake that we endured that half a century ago?  I sure hope we can, but it has not been easy.  How do you treat that wound?  How do you diagnose and then bring about healing?

Maybe we need to quit picking at the scab – we need to resist the urge to scratch – and that’s what we’re doing when we bicker over every single matter that crosses our range of vision.  We need to allow the hurt, by all means, and we can never forget, but we must also allow ourselves to let the wound close, and get on with being the wonderful country that we can be.


From Dallas, Texas; The Flash, Apparently Official –

A Fourth Grade History Lesson in four chapters by Charles Johnson

Nov. 1, 8, 15 and 22, 2013  @

To appear in full version in Hometown Focus, Virginia, MN on Nov. 22, 2013




Shy waves from nine-year-old hands indicated that Mr. P had parked his car and was looking up at the windows.  The RCA radio, about the size of an old microwave oven – and almost as heavy – required both arms, so he could only manage a small finger wave in return, along with a nodding smile.  He strode up the sidewalk and into the school yard.  He made his way up the eight steps, opening the door with in a semi–coordinated effort, his right hand balancing the large radio, his left hand pulling the door handle.  His left knee held the door as he wedged the radio and himself into the building.

Although the weight of the large radio kept him from taking the stairs two at a time, he scaled them at a good healthy pace.  His students crowded the door, greeting his return with questions of all sorts and in all kinds of voices.  He bade them to please be quiet and return to their seats as he plugged in the radio in the outlet in the front of the room.  He would answer questions soon enough.

As the tubes in the radio warmed up, Mr.Pacetti told the kids that this was a historic time – a time they would never forget.  The radio slowly came to life, first with some electric hums and finally with scratchy radio static.  Mr. P worked the tuning dial, trying to find station that carried the news he wanted.  Identical twins Dan and Don Pecarny, offered advice from the front row.  Others chimed in to suggest which way to turn the knob.  Mr. P told them all to be patient, they’d be hearing something soon…. And sure enough, there came the voices and actual news about the shooting of President Kennedy.

After a few minutes of listening, it was clear there was no imminent news.  Mr. P turned down the sound, asking for any questions.  A flurry of hands flew into the air – some of them waving madly, some of them firm and still.

“What’s a rumor?” asked Toni Larson, looking up from her horse–drawing project that she had started when Mr. P first left to get the radio.

Dale Scott wondered who the announcers were.  Bonnie Hill wanted to know if there were police there.  More questions, more waving hands, concerned faces from all.

Mr.Pacetti raised the volume in time to hear a voice many of the kids knew from the evening news on TV.  It was Walter Cronkite…

“From Dallas, Texas, the flash, apparently official, President Kennedy died at 1 pm, Central Standard Time –  2 o’clock eastern standard time, some 38 minutes ago.”  There was a long pause, and then he continued.  “Vice President Lyndon  Johnson has left the hospital in Dallas but we do not know, uh, to where he has proceeded, presumably he will be taking the oath of office shortly and become the 36th President of the United States.”

Silence, but just for a few moments.  Whispers came from a few students.  Others were thinking “What did that guy say?”  The kids looked at each other, some understanding, some confused.

Mr. P turned off the radio, turning his back to the students, hiding his face for a moment, long enough to muster up some composure.  He allowed himself to feel the grief, the historic significance, the terror of it all.  He took a breath, wiped the one tear from his eye, and turned back to his students… his students, to whom he was now bound to in a way that no other class he’d ever serve.

“Kids, this hasn’t happened in our country in a long time.  You’ve all been such good listeners.  Our new president will be a man named LyndonJohnson”.  He went on to describe how our laws worked, how things would go.  The students listened, asked some questions, and he did his best to present it all in a package that they could grasp.

Paul stood in the back of the room, absorbing every word – every tragic, horrible word.

Kennedy dead?  How unbelievable – how inconceivable!  Here he is in his forties, having served in the army in World War II and seeing the waste of war – and now this….  Did he need to run home to see if his wife knew?  It was, after all, less than a block away… did he need to run down to the second grade room and check on his daughter?  He spotted his broom that he had abandoned next to the teachers’ lounge door, figuring that such chores as that were quite done for the day.


(fourth and final chapter coming next Friday.)