Clearing the fog on JFK, JLP

Published: Sunday | December 8, 2013 Comments 0

Daniel Thwaites

George Garwood suggests that it was Fidel, not JFK, who tried to kill me in the Cuban missile crisis. That's incorrect. I would hardly be the un-nuanced defender of Comrade Castro, but I can't see a reasonable interpretation of the Bay of Pigs that doesn't establish the US as the aggressor.

The Kennedy brothers had a hang-up about Fidel, actively plotting his assassination from they gained government. Kennedy said toppling Castro was "the top priority of the US government ... . No time, money, effort, or manpower is to be spared".

Recall Bobby Kennedy had worked for Joe McCarthy as counsel to the House Un-American Activities Committee, and Kennedy anti-communism (good) and red-baiting (bad) credentials were very well established.

Sheldon Stern, for two decades the official court historian at the Kennedy library, has reviewed the secret recordings of EXCOMM and concluded: "John F. Kennedy and his administration, without question, bore a substantial share of the responsibility for the onset of the Cuban missile crisis." He also concluded that if Bobby Kennedy had been president, the world would have seen its first nuclear war.

As for Kennedy's temperament being similar to Obama's, I hope for Michelle's sake that it's not so. Normally I wouldn't raise these delicate matters in a family broadsheet, but because John Kennedy's exploits are so legendary, the bald statement will permit me to have a little fun.

His known liaisons and flings include Ms Judith Exner (the mob-affiliated tart through whom it is claimed the CIA tried to get mobster Sam Giancana to assist in the assassination of Castro), Inga Arvad, Mary Pinchot Meyer, Florence Pritchett, two secretaries known as 'Fiddle' and 'Faddle', Pamela Turnure, Alicia Darr, Ellen Rometsch, Suzy Chang, Maria Novotny, and, of course, Marilyn Monroe.

But the real scandal of the Kennedy presidency, with which any account of his character must wrestle, is his drug use. Here I am relying on the reflections of Garry Wills, perhaps America's finest writer, in the NY Review of Books: "... Health, not sex, was the real Kennedy secret. The president was taking cortisone for his Addison's disease (cortisone is a libido booster) and penicillin for his recurring venereal disease - a kind of pharmacological merry-go-round. Since he was also taking painkillers for his back and the amphetamines given him by Max Jacobson ('Doctor Feelgood'), Kennedy was a walking drugstore."

Ask yourself: Why was it so important to hide the deal (Turkish nukes for Cuban nukes) between him and Khrushchev from the public? Kennedy insisted the secrecy was a deal breaker, meaning there could have been war if Khrushchev refused to play loser. Interestingly, Khrushchev paid for the secrecy and the peace it bought, because when the Politburo later deposed him, his supposed unilateral caving to the Americans was given as an illustration of his unsuitability for office.

The thing is, I still like JFK, or at least find him very interesting, probably because I feel political careers can be like some movies, where the ending illuminates everything else. Plus, politics is complicated, requiring difficult judgements in trying circumstances.

Regarding character, I don't consider his weakness for ladyfolk an automatic disqualification, though sharing a girlfriend with the mob probably wasn't a wise idea. The untruths and cover-ups about his health were a more serious matter. And more serious than all of the above is that he tried to kill me.


Lyn Johnson, observing the First Law of Tribalism (the First Law of Tribalism is to call everyone else 'tribalist'), suggested I was anti-Labourite, when, in fact, I am pro-some-Labourites. It's just that I'm more pro-some-Comrades. Still, there is a caution to be observed in saying all that.

Once when, against my better judgement, I was dragged into the carnival road march, it was so hot that I began to walk around shirtless. A few months later, I was clicking through someone's pictures online when I saw this weird-looking fat guy, my height, my haircut, wearing my clothes, and standing with my wife. All of a sudden, I realised that things were not as I perceived them to be. So the lesson is, my powers of self-assessment are limited, and I'm probably not the best person to render judgement on the matter.

So suffice it to say there are some in the JLP leadership that I admire. But as you can imagine, as a general rule, I have to steer clear of mentioning them for fear of causing them troubles. Since the leadership race for the JLP was ongoing, and it was exciting enormous interest and commentary, I felt I should put my two cents in. I preferred Tufton to Holness, and Holness to Shaw. Tufton really wasn't in the game, so I hoped the delegates would give de yute a chance, and I wrote that.

But I have been critical on some matters. On Dudus, that requires no explanation. Regarding Shaw's mishandling of the economy, my views are hardly unique. In fact, I'm certain they're shared by the International Monetary Fund. The thing is, I'm sure Mr Shaw is an engaging person who had good intentions, but he was unable to enact the discipline that the times called for. I don't mean for a moment to say that the task was easy.

Furthermore, Mr Holness' manoeuvre with the pre-signed letters, which precipitated my column and the letter, hasn't exactly been earning plaudits anywhere. I should say, though, that however suspect the means, the end result of Nigel Clarke entering the Senate is worth a standing ovation.

While we're on the topic, consider the error that Holness made by positioning Derrick Smith to oust the chairman. From one angle, Holness has, within a month of winning against Shaw, backed and canvassed for a candidate who has lost an internal election. That's a significant setback and withdrawal of capital, because nobody will forget it. From another angle, it shows a deliberative sophistication among the central executive that is promising.

Still, a word of comfort to Ms Johnson: You needn't worry! No columnist will sway a vote one way or another. We have no such power. Anyone who's actually done the work of soliciting votes knows this fully well. Plus, I have yet to meet anyone who makes a major decision about anything of importance on the basis of reading a column or two. And if I should meet such a person, I will invite them to have their heads examined.

Ms Johnson did invite me to comment on the Richard Azan affair. I'll comply. I think the contractor general manufactured a new category of offence, something he had no right or authority to do, thereby trespassing on the legislature's territory. It's like illegally erecting a structure where he had no authority to do it - rather like Mr Azan's confessed preliminary error.

As for why Azan has been reappointed, I can only surmise that he had secured a pre-signed reappointment letter from the prime minister, as these pre-signed documents are all the rage nowadays.

Daniel Thwaites is a partner of Thwaites Law Firm in Jamaica, and Thwaites, Lundgren & D'Arcy in New York. Email feedback to

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