Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Ike unspun was closer to the truth. But JFK had a better finger on the pulse

More than 8,000 words into the disso now, and what's emerging is a distinct difference in Ike and JFK's approach to the media over space.

When Sputnik launched, Ike was calmness itself - dismissive of the media's rabble-rousing since he knew that Khrushchev's propaganda attack was largely smoke and mirrors. But he misjudged the near-hysteria the satellite caused, and was forced to react to head off a media baying for massive defence spending.

JFK was pro-active in his use of the media, using his gift for rhetoric to fight back from the Bay of Pigs and Gagarin's flight with a big message built on little substance. JFK provided the content whereas Ike had failed to fill the vacuum. Back in 1957, the media had kicked off a space race that need never have existed. By 1961, Kennedy was using that race as a cornerstone of his foreign policy: driving hard at a new frontier beyond earth's atmosphere.

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