What if JFK had lived? Experts discuss the person he’d be today

President John F. Kennedy and his wife Jacqueline, shortly before his assassination in Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963. Credit: Getty Images
President John F. Kennedy and his wife Jacqueline, shortly before his assassination in Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963.
Credit: Getty Images

Half a century later, historians of John F. Kennedy have shifted their focus from the events of his assassination on Nov. 22, 1963, to imagining the impact of a presidency that could have been.

“He would be seen as significant, but without the aura,” says Robert Dallek, Kennedy historian and author of several books on JFK. “We probably wouldn’t be talking about him now.”

For some, the Cuban Missle Crisis, which transformed Kennedy from a Cold War hawk into the peace-mongering author of the first Nuclear Test Ban Treaty in 1963, is evidence that, today, he would be pursuing world peace.

“Kennedy became determined to avoid conflict with the Soviet Union and China,” says Dallek. “The new dialogue with the Kremlin and the Test Ban Treaty were a measure of how he was trying to wind down the Cold War. If he had lived, we would have had detente sooner than we got it under Richard Nixon.”

Many say Kennedy would have won the 1964 presidential election, having enjoyed a 70-percent approval rating. He also had a good chance of securing the Democratic majority in Congress, as his successor Lyndon Johnson did. That would have given him freedom from the Southern Republicans pressuring him to halt civil rights reforms, and his own advisers pushing for war with communist dictatorships.

That freedom would have extended to the Vietnam War, says Jeff Greenfield, author of “If Kennedy Lived.” “He was saying, ‘I can’t do anything until I’m elected, but after that I’m looking for a way out (of Vietnam).’”

Biographer Thurston Clarke claims Kennedy would have moved faster, “removing 1,000 advisers from Vietnam by the end of 1963.”

Dallek says America’s social revolution in late 1960s, when racial and sexual movements converged, would have been “less pronounced” had JFK stopped Vietnam. “The war provoked those divides in society; there wouldn’t have been that level of unrest.”

Without anger over Vietnam, Richard Nixon may not have been elected to stop the war. If so, the seediest episode in presidential history, when Nixon resigned over the Watergate scandal, would have been avoided.

Still, others say Kennedy may have struggled if re-elected.

“The press were becoming suspicious of his affairs,” said Greenfield, speculating that his infidelities would have become public and ruined him. His management of Addison’s disease would also have been difficult, he said.


News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

Memorial held for Sean Collier, MIT police officer…

More than 1,600 people gathered at MIT on Friday for a memorial service for Sean Collier, the police officer shot to death a year ago in the aftermath of the…

National

Florida man charged with murdering son to play…

A Florida man annoyed that his 16-month-old crying son was preventing him from playing video games suffocated the toddler, police said on Friday.

International

Powerful 7.2 magnitude earthquake rattles Mexico

A powerful earthquake struck Mexico Friday, shaking buildings and sending people running into the street, although there were no reports of major damage.

News

OMG! Exercise can make skin (and butt) look…

A moderate exercise regime can turn back time and actually reverse the skin's aging process, according to new research. The study showed that a minimum…

Entertainment

Whoopi Goldberg makes her debut as marijuana columnist

"It helps my head stop hurting, and with glaucoma your eyes ache, and she takes the ache out. It's wonderful," she said.

The Word

Kate Middleton made fun of Prince William's bald…

Kate Middleton and Prince William are in Sydney, Australia, right now, and it sounds like that brash Aussie sense of humor might be rubbing off.

The Word

Is Tom Cruise dating Laura Prepon?

"Mission: Impossible" star Cruise is said to be dating Laura Prepon, star of "Orange is the New Black."

Television

'Scandal' recap: Season 3, Episode 18, 'The Price…

Sally is Jesus, Olivia caused global warming, and Mellie's still drunk. Let's recap the Scandal finale. A church full of Washington insiders is about to…

MLB

MLB video highlights: Red Sox score two in…

Lester shines in Red Sox win over White Sox

Sports

2014 Boston Marathon preview: Elite American, International runners…

2014 Boston Marathon: Elite American, International runners to watch

NBA

2014 NBA Finals odds: Ranking which playoff teams…

2014 NBA Finals odds: Ranking which playoff teams have the best shot at a championship. The Thunder, Clippers, Heat and Rockets lead the way.

NFL

2014 Patriots, full NFL schedule release date announced

2014 Patriots, full NFL schedule release date announced

Tech

VIDEO: 'Vein-scanning' may become the future of paying

Designed to make transactions quicker and easier, the technology works by scanning the unique vein patterns in each person's palm.

Tech

#FollowFriday: 10 of the smartest Twitter accounts

Spending lots of time on Twitter? You might as well learn something. Here are some of the smartest accounts to follow.

Style

Light-up nail art syncs with phone

This Japanese technology syncs light-up nail art with your phone.

Wellbeing

Why is dance cardio taking off in NYC?

Instructors at some of the city's hottest classes explain why.