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Foreign Policy Lessons from JFK's Secret Cuban Missile Crisis Tapes Foreign Policy Lessons from JFK's Secret Cuban Missile Crisis Tapes

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Foreign Policy Lessons from JFK's Secret Cuban Missile Crisis Tapes


(Яick Harris/Flickr)

The Political Landscape is a weekly conversation with leading experts on the news of the day. 


This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Cuban Missile Crisis and the release of new extensive analysis of President Kennedy's secret tapings during the entire ordeal. The tapes reveal Kennedy's disagreements with his military advisors, who strongly encouraged a Cuban invasion. They uncover a phone conversation between Kennedy and former President Eisenhower just hours before the President went on television to announce the crisis.

But most importantly, they are perhaps the best example we have of foreign policy leadership. At least that was the conclusion of a panel convened at the National Archives this week to discuss the newest research done on the roughly 250 hours of tapes. The panel featured three experts on Kennedy's tapings: Timothy Naftali, former director of University of Virginia’s Miller Center Presidential Recordings Project, David G. Coleman, author of The Fourteenth Day, and Ted Widmer, co-author of Listening In: The Secret White House Tapes of John F. Kennedy.

Today — almost a week after the presidential debate on foreign policy, less than two weeks from a presidential election — what can we learn from the Cuban Missile Crisis? 


Our show this week in three parts.

In part one, we’ll revisit the Cuban Missile Crisis and hear from our panelists and from some of the secret tapes. They explain the traits of leadership Kennedy exhibited during the 13-day affair. We’ll also hear from James Kitfield, National Journal senior foreign policy correspondent, who covered the foreign policy debate for National Journal earlier this week.

In part two, we’ll spin the Cuban Missile Crisis forward. The panelists and James Kitfield will compare the leadership and foreign policy of Mitt Romney and Barack Obama to that of Kennedy.

In part three, we ask: Is the Reagan foreign policy brand a dying ideology? Jack Balkin joins us to help answer that question. Balkin is a professor of Constitutional law and the first amendment at Yale Law School, and a frequent contributor to The Atlantic. His article this week look at the potential success of a Romney presidency from the perspective of a political scientist.


Check out last week's episode on confronting the Internet's worst troll, the political power of Reddit, and net neutrality. 

Check out all episodes of the Political Landscape.

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