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.