Tag Archives: Cuban Missile Crisis

NATO stands as one

It is impossible to overstate the diplomatic victory that President Biden has scored as he seeks to get Russia to stand down in its military invasion of Ukraine.

The victory involves the unanimous support for Ukraine by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, which leads me to hope — if not yet believe — that Russian goon Vladimir Putin will resist launching an attack on any of the NATO nations that border Ukraine.

NATO has this document called Article V, which declares that an attack on a single NATO nation is an attack on all of them. It reminds me of the warning President Kennedy issued in October 1962 when the USSR was erecting missile launch sites in Cuba; JFK told the Soviet leadership that an attack against any nation in the Western Hemisphere would bring a “full retaliatory response” from the United States.

President Biden has made essentially the same declaration, as has NATO, which is that the organization formed to protect Western Europe against the Soviet threat would respond collectively if the  Russians attacked any NATO state.

Think of where U.S.-NATO relations have gone since the Donald Trump administration. Trump castigated NATO over whether European members were paying their fair share of the cost. Yes, many of the nations have stepped up their financial load, but they did not trust the U.S. president to be there if a crisis exploded.

President Biden has helped restore that trust and in the process well might have acquired some leverage to keep the Russians from committing an act of utter foolishness.


Biden needs an RFK

Who functions in the Joe Biden administration as the tough guy in international negotiations? Who can President Biden rely on to get the message delivered in clear and unambiguous terms that the United States means business when it threatens the other side with severe punishment if talks break down?

I refer to someone such as Robert F. Kennedy, who filled that role for his brother, President John F. Kennedy, during the October 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis.

The situation today isn’t precisely identical, but to my eyes and ears it reminds me a bit of what transpired in 1962. Russian troops are massing on the Russian border with Ukraine. Russian thug Vladimir Putin is threatening to invade Ukraine if certain conditions are not met. President Biden is trying to talk Putin off the proverbial ledge.

In October 1962, the Soviet Union began assembling missile sites in Cuba. JFK got wind of it and set out to talk Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev out of deploying the missiles that could hit U.S. cities. He ordered a blockade of Cuba, using U.S. Navy ships to turn back any vessels heading for Cuban ports. He then dispatched his brother, Attorney General Robert Kennedy, to negotiate with the USSR envoys at the United Nations.

RFK laid down the law: either dismantle the missile sites or face the mighty wrath of American military might. The Soviets backed down. We gave them some concessions, to be sure, such as taking down our own missile sites in Turkey. The point is that JFK had RFK to do his dirty work.

Is there someone in the Biden administration to fill that task now? Man, I hope so.


‘No president has worked harder’

This isn’t a huge leap, so I feel comfortable in presuming that Donald Trump is angry over the revelations about all that “executive time” he takes in the White House.

That has to explain the Twitter messages he fired off declaring how “no president has worked harder than me” at making America great again and all the myriad tasks associated with being president of the United States.

He bellowed something about the “mess” he inherited in January 2017. How he has restored the military, repaired the Veterans Administration, dealt with “endless wars,” stopped the North Korean nuclear threat . . . and on and on.

No president has worked harder than this guy?

Hmm. Let’s see about that.

I wonder if his work ethic exceeds that of, say, Abraham Lincoln, who served while the country was killing itself during the Civil War; or when Franklin Roosevelt was trying to win World War II after the Japanese attacked us at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii; or when John F. Kennedy had to face down the Soviet Union’s missile threat in Cuba; or when George W. Bush had to respond to the 9/11 terror attacks.

Donald Trump would have us believe he has worked “harder” than those previous presidents? And what about the results of all those issues Trump has tackled? North Korea is still developing nukes; we’re still at war in Afghanistan and Iraq; the VA work remains undone; the military was just as strong when Trump took office as it is now.

It is typical Trumpian hyperbole, exaggeration and — dare I say it — outright lying.

U.S. ‘President Castro’ might be in the making

I cannot stop wondering: Is the United States ready to elect a president with the name “Castro”?

Julian Castro has just announced his 2020 presidential campaign effort. He wants to succeed Donald J. Trump.

He is a former San Antonio mayor and one-time housing secretary during the Obama administration. Castro is a dedicated Democrat and a fine young man. He even has an identical twin brother, Joaquin, serving in the U.S. House from Texas.

That’s out of the way.

What about the “Castro” thing?

The United States long ago declared the Cuban dictator Fidel Castro to be one of this nation’s top foreign enemies. It imposed an economic embargo on the island nation just off the Florida coast. We had no diplomatic relations since shortly after the communists took power in Havana in 1959, but we did restore relations with Cuba near the end of Barack Obama’s presidency.

But the memories are still long. We had that Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, which followed the disastrous Bay of Pigs invasion the previous year. The Soviets sought to install offensive nuclear missiles in Cuba. The CIA sought to remove Fidel Castro from power, so it landed those fighters at the Bay of Pigs.

Now an American politician with the name of “Castro” wants to become the next commander in chief.

It almost defies the imagination to think that we could elect someone who carries such a name. Then again, we did elect and re-elect a president who has the middle name of “Hussein.”

I suppose anything is possible.

Is U.N. ambassadorship a training position?

Welcome to the real big leagues, Heather Nauert.

Donald Trump wants the former Fox News correspondent and morning talk-show co-host to lead the U.S. diplomatic effort in the United Nations. I am left to wonder if the president values the U.N. as much as his national security adviser, John Bolton, does. It was Bolton who (in)famously said you could remove the top 10 floors from the U.N. Building in New York and not lose a thing. Then he became the U.S. ambassador to the world body.

Nauert brings far less foreign policy experience to this most delicate of posts. She did serve as State Department spokeswoman for a year after leaving Fox News.

You know, I actually thought that Nauert wasn’t the first rookie to take this job. My thoughts turned to the late John Scali, the former ABC News correspondent who was U.N. ambassador from 1973 to 1975. However, a quick check of Scali’s record showed something quite revealing.

He helped mediate an end to the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962 while working for ABC, carrying messages from President Kennedy and Attorney General Robert Kennedy to the Soviet embassy, warning them of the dire peril they were putting the world in by installing offensive missiles in Cuba. Scali then left ABC to work for the Nixon administration as a foreign policy adviser before becoming U.N. ambassador in 1973.

Thus, Scali had experience.

Nauert does not. In a way, though, she more or less mirrors the experience level of the man who nominated her. Donald Trump brought zero government or public service experience to the presidency when he got elected.

And it shows.

I fear the absence of any foreign policy chops is going to show itself yet again at the United Nations. Heaven help us.

Toughest POTUS ever on Russia? Aww, c’mon!

Donald J. Trump has no shortage of hyperbole. The president trots it out whenever he damn well feels like it.

Such as this: “I have been the toughest president on Russia … ever!”

Really? Hmm. Let’s review that bit of bluster, shall we?

October 1962: President Kennedy gets intelligence that the Soviet Union was building offensive missile sites in Cuba. He consults with his national security team. They debate whether to attack the sites, invade Cuba, do nothing, or impose a blockade on the island nation. JFK chooses to blockade Cuba. He then speaks to the world on national TV and warns the communists that an attack on any nation in the Western Hemisphere would result in a “full retaliatory response” from the United States.

The Soviets backed off. They took down the missile sites. World War III was, thus, averted.

June 1987: President Reagan ventures to West Germany. He already has described the communist regime in Moscow as the Evil Empire. The president goes to the Brandenburg Gate separating East and West Berlin and bellows, “Mr. (Mikhail) Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”

There have been other instances of U.S. presidents acting sternly in response to Russian (or Soviet) aggression. President Carter ordered a U.S. boycott of the 1980 Olympics in Moscow after the USSR invaded Afghanistan in the previous year. President Bush 41 oversaw the collapse of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the eventual dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991.

Presidents Truman, Eisenhower, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Clinton, Bush 43 and Obama all had their instances of spine-stiffening resolve as they involve the Russians. I include the Soviet Union era in this discussion because, well, the Soviets were Russians, too.

And yet the current president of the United States, Donald Trump, keeps insisting — without any demonstrable evidence — that he’s the toughest president of all time against the Russians.

Give me a break.

Anyone with a rudimentary understanding of history knows better.

Imagine JFK calling Khruschev ‘Rocket Man’

It’s The Donald vs. Rocket Man.

Two heads of state — Donald John Trump and Kim Jong Un — are locked now in a standoff. The president of the United States and the dictator of North Korea are trying to out-insult each other.

What continues to amaze me, though, is that Trump decided to elevate his Rocket Man poke at Kim in a highly unusual venue. He took his insult to the floor of the United (bleeping) Nations, man!

He said if Rocket Man continues to threaten the United States, this country would “totally destroy” North Korea. That’s the way you promote peace, Mr. President … by threatening to annihilate another nation.

I’m trying to imagine an earlier president, John F. Kennedy, using that kind of language during the height of the Cuban missile crisis in October 1962. I actually have a memory of that time, when the Soviet Union began building launch pads from which it could launch missiles at the United States or our Western Hemisphere allies. It scared the bejabbers out of me — and millions of other Americans, too!

Kennedy didn’t resort to name-calling, or attaching silly school-kid epithets to his references to Nikita Khrushchev, the Soviet leader. He actually left much of the bluster to our U.N. ambassador at the time, Adlai Stevenson.

The president’s use of a Rocket Man insult won’t get Kim to do what we want, which is to stand down in his attempt to develop a nuclear weapon capable of hitting us and our allies.

An earlier president, faced with an even graver threat, arguably, than the one confronting the current president, stared it down with steely resolve, which — according to commentary at the time — forced the other guy to blink.

President Kennedy didn’t need to insult his adversary.

POTUS and Putin: time for ‘frank’ talk

In short order, the president of the United States is going to shake hands with the president of Russia. They’ll sit down in a room and start talking about, oh, this and/or that.

Here will be the perfect opportunity for Donald J. Trump to look straight into Vladimir Putin’s steely eyes and give him holy hell for what numerous U.S. intelligence agencies have said: that Russian computer hackers sought to meddle in the U.S. presidential election this past year — and that they did so on orders from Putin himself.

Is this going to occur? Will the U.S. president have the moxie, the savvy, the guts to face down this other head of state?

And to think that such a discussion would just be a starting point in these two men’s relationship.

Of course, I am not privy to what the president will say to Putin. I am entitled, though, to offer an opinion or two on what he should say. My gut — along with my proverbial trick knee — tell me he needs to get directly to that point immediately.

History tells us that U.S.-Russian summit meetings are fraught with peril. In 1961, another rookie U.S. president traveled to Vienna to meet with the head of what then was known as the Soviet Union. Nikita Khrushchev thought he had taken the full measure of John F. Kennedy; he pushed the young president around, bullied him, threatened him.

It was reported at the time that President Kennedy made too many rookie mistakes in his first face-to-face meeting with the cantankerous Soviet leader. It turned out that the world’s leading communist made the rookie error.

Khrushchev miscalculated badly Kennedy’s resolve. The Soviets started building those missile bases the following year in Cuba. The president got word of it, huddled with his national security team, made a decision and then told the world of our reaction and what the cost would be to the Soviets if they were to launch an attack against any nation in the Western Hemisphere.

The cost? Annihilation. 

Check out JFK’s speech here:

Donald Trump isn’t prone to study history, so it’s not likely he’ll be interested in understanding that dangerous chapter.

The Russian meddling in our election, though, is on the minds of a lot of smart folks. It’s in all the papers, you know?

My hope would be for the president to talk directly and — in diplomatic parlance — “frankly” to his Russian colleague directly about what has consumed this nation since the election.

My fear is that Donald Trump will choke.

Prove me wrong, Mr. President.

Jared Kushner is no RFK

I keep hearing chatter that compares Jared Kushner’s lack of experience to Robert F. Kennedy.

I must now take up the cudgel for my first political hero … and it’s not Jared Kushner.

Kushner is under investigation by the FBI and Congress for something related to his father-in-law’s 2016 presidential campaign. He allegedly had some contact with Russian government officials that might be improper, it not illegal.

One of the arguments being offered is that Kushner doesn’t have any experience with government or public policy. They note that his father-in-law, the president, got around federal anti-nepotism laws when he appointed Kushner to be a senior policy adviser in the West Wing of the White House.

It’s the RFK thing all over again, some of them insist.

Hold the phone!

President-elect John F. Kennedy picked his brother to be attorney general shortly after winning the 1960 election. JFK joked at the time that a government job would give his brother some valuable experience when he decided to go into law.

I want to make a couple of points about Robert Kennedy.

One is that he had government experience. He had served as legal counsel to a Senate committee chaired by the infamous Sen. Joe McCarthy. He also served as a legal staffer working with his brother, Sen. JFK, on  a Senate committee that looked deeply into organized crime within the labor movement.

After that, Bobby Kennedy then managed his brother’s presidential campaign. Sen. Kennedy won the presidency by a narrow popular vote and Electoral College margin over Vice President Richard Nixon.

Compared to the absence of any government exposure as it regards Kushner, RFK brought much more experience to his job as U.S. attorney general.

And, indeed, he used his Justice Department office as a bully pulpit against organized crime and in the fight to enact civil rights legislation. Oh, and he also played a significant role in heading off nuclear war with the Soviet Union during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

With that, I shall now cease listening to any further comparison between Jared Kushner and Robert F. Kennedy.

There is no comparison to be made, except to point out how utterly unfit Kushner is to perform the duties to which he’s been assigned.

Worst ever U.S.-Russia relations? Hardly

History lessons sometimes need to be delivered on the fly.

Donald John Trump said recently that U.S.-Russia relations are at their “worst” in the history of the two nations. Tensions are rising over the Russian involvement in the Syrian civil war. The president wants relations to improve. Indeed, he still cannot bring himself to say out loud that the Russians are complicit in Syria’s use of chemical weapons against Syrian civilians.

Are bilateral relations the worst ever?

Ohhh, no. Not even close.

Let’s flash back about, let’s see, nearly 55 years.

Russia was known as the Soviet Union back then. The communists ran the government. Vladimir Putin would become head of the commies’ spy agency, the KGB.

What did the communists do to bring U.S.-Soviet relations to their nadir? They began installing offensive missiles in Cuba, capable of hitting targets throughout the Western Hemisphere with nuclear weapons.

Thus, the Cuban Missile Crisis was born.

President Kennedy got word of the intelligence. He summoned his National Security Council to the White House. He heard suggestions from his national security brass ranging from invading Cuba, bombing the missile sites, leveling economic sanctions, none of the above, all of the above.

The president settled on a naval blockade and an ultimatum: He told Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev to remove the missiles or else. He went on national TV and told the nation — and the world — that any attack from Cuba against any target in this hemisphere would be seen as an attack on the United States and would produce a “full retaliatory response” from this country against the Soviets.

The commies blinked. They took down the missiles in exchange for our taking down of missiles in Turkey.

Crisis averted — along with a nuclear holocaust.

That qualifies as the worst, Mr. Trump.