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How JFK’s wit lightened the country’s mood amid Cold War tensions

How JFK’s wit lightened the country’s mood amid Cold War tensions
Then-presidential candidate John F. Kennedy watches a playback of his televised appearance in Wisconsin on April 3, 1960. (Associated Press)

To the editor: President John F. Kennedy led with his wit. (“The state of politics today should scare us into our wits,” Opinion, Dec. 19)

During the 1960 presidential campaign, some pundits objected to JFK’s use of his family’s wealth and privilege in pursuit of the nation’s highest office. Kennedy retorted: “I just received the following wire from my generous Daddy. ‘Dear Jack, Don’t buy a single vote more than is necessary. I’ll be damned if I am going to pay for a landslide.’”

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When the president appointed his younger brother Robert as attorney general and was accused of nepotism, Kennedy replied, “I can’t see that it's wrong to give him a little legal experience before he goes out to practice law.”

Agree or disagree with our 35th president, one still is brought to the conclusion that his wit and humor eased tensions. Now, more than half a century later, we feel the loss of lightness that comes with witty leadership.

Ben Miles, Huntington Beach

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To the editor: I enjoyed reading James Geary’s piece on political wit. He mentioned a couple of quips made by Illinois Gov. Adlai Stevenson when he was running for president against Dwight Eisenhower.

Perhaps my favorite Stevenson line, which Geary omitted, was the time when he was giving a talk and a supporter told him that he would receive the vote of every thinking person. Without missing a beat, Stevenson replied, “That’s not enough. I need a majority.”

Lenard Davis, Newport Beach

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