Kennedy-Johnson 1960

John F. Kennedy was elected after a campaign critical of the Eisenhower-Nixon administration’s “Missile Gap,” aided by a friendly press and voting irregularities in Chicago. As it turned out, the gap was illusory, but his campaign required Kennedy to govern as a cold war hawk. The Bay of Pigs invasion was followed by the Cuban Missile Crisis. The situation in Viet Nam also worsened, especially after the CIA-sponsored coup against Diem.

Way back in 1957, then-President Eisenhower had federalized the National Guard to enforce court-ordered desegregation in Arkansas. But Kennedy, perhaps because he owed his victory in part to pro-segregation southern Democrats, was slow to enforce the law. Not until the middle of Kennedy’s third year in office did his administration move to a stronger pro-Civil Rights position.

Kennedy did not finish his first term. He was replaced by Lyndon Johnson, who won election in 1964 but who was so unpopular both within and outside his party that he did not seek re-election in 1968.

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