The Road to Camelot: Overcoming the religious issue.

May 29 will be the 100th birthday of President John F. Kennedy. Our 35th President is remembered today for his personal style (drop dead handsome) and his inspiration to the nation (“Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.”).

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However, his biggest achievement was breaking through the wall of religious prejudice. Never before and never since, has a Roman Catholic been elected President.

Thomas Oliphant (Boston Globe national correspondent) and Curtis Wilkie (journalism professor at the University of Mississippi and former Boston Globe national reporter) have written an enjoyable account of JFK’s five year quest for the Presidency.

The Road to Camelot (Simon and Schuster) covers JFK’s bid for the 1956 Vice Presidential nomination, the 1960 primaries and convention, the campaign against Richard Nixon, and the effort to build the Black vote. The book is rich in political lore–campaign strategy, power struggles within the party, the experts, the journalists, the bosses and the activists

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Thomas Oliphant

Most significant in the 1960 election was the religious issue. In less tolerant times, Kennedy had to defeat the perception that conservative Protestants would never vote for a Catholic. To reassure Protestants, JFK emphasized his commitment to separation of church and state. Meanwhile, he worked to boost the urban Catholic vote.

 

curtis-wilkie-1708144Curtis Wilkie

On election day, JFK won the popular vote by 112,000 votes. He won the electoral vote by 303 to 219. After examining polls taken in 1960, reviewing press reports, and comparing statistics from previous elections, Oliphant and Wilkie conclude that anti-Catholic bias probably reduced JFK’s popular vote. However, strong Catholic support helped him win several battleground states and raised his electoral vote. As we learned in 2016, the electoral vote counts.

Happy 100th birthday, JFK.

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Klaus Barbie: A Cold War chiller. A scandal which must not be forgotten.

Open Road Integrated Media has reissued a Cold War chiller, “Klaus Barbie” by Tom Bower. First issued in 1984, the book tells the story of Gestapo commander Klaus Barbie, who lead the bloody repression of Lyon, France during the World War II. Bower is a vivid writer. He gives just enough detail to explain history and tell a thrilling story, without overpowering the reader with information.

34221469.jpgMost disturbing is Barbie’s life after World War II. Recruited by American intelligence services , Barbie spent his immediate postwar years gathering information on Communist and Soviet elements in the American occupation zone of Germany. Meanwhile, Barbie was near the top of France’s most wanted list of war criminals. After he became too hot to handle and too difficult to hide, the American intelligence services arranged for him to travel to South America via a “rat line” run by a Croatian priest stationed in Rome. In South America, he joined some of the most notorious Nazis to survive World War II. Barbie settled in Bolivia where he entered business and enjoyed protection from the government.

The heroes of the book are Beate and Serge Klarsfeld, the French Nazi-hunters, who located Barbie and pressured France and Germany to seek extradition of Barbie from Bolivia. In 1987, Barbie was convicted by a French court. Barbie, known as “The Butcher of Lyon, died in prison in 1991 at the age of 77.

The recruitment of ex-Nazis by American intelligence is a scandal which must not be forgotten.

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