October 23, 1962
Why do I keep remembering a lesson taught to me by high school football coach? He said: “when the opponent is coming at you in the open field, shield your crotch!” That’s what he said. Or sometimes, he was more colloquial: “keep your nuts covered when you are about to be hit.” Now that the shit has hit the fan and everyone knows that we know about the missiles in Cuba, I can’t get that advice out of my mind. The problem is: in this context, there is no way to follow the old man’s advice.
October 18, 1962
I’ve just finished a meeting with the military brass. Whenever I meet with them, I don’t know whether to laugh or cry or just scream in frustration. I say: so gentlemen, what should we do. They say: go to war, Mr. President. Right now. Go for it. Let’s go for the splendid first strike! What is so splendid? I say. What is so splendid about a nuclear war with the Soviet Union? They say: Mr. President, there won’t be any war with the Soviet Union, because they’ll be afraid to retaliate.
October 16, 1962
It’s the middle of the night and I’ve awakened in a cold sweat. I had this dream that our generals broke into the oval office and told me that they had taken charge, and launched a disarming first strike at the Soviet Union. They told me that in less than 30 minutes, the Soviet Union would no longer exist. I screamed at them: “and thirty minutes after that, we will begin to die of radiation poisoning, you morons!” That’s when I woke up. It’s now 5:00 AM, and I can’t get back to sleep. JFK
October 13, 1962
Upstate New York is pretty grungy. I’ve been giving speeches in support of the Democrats running for Congress next month. On every stop I have tried to tell these rural and small-town up-staters that their Senator, Ken Keating, is unpatriotic (bordering on treasonous), for not revealing who his sources are—about who is feeding him stuff about Soviet military installations in Cuba. Is it the exiles in Coral Gables? Is it the CIA analysts, who are developing the U-2 pictures of the sites? Anyway, Keating must either put up or shut up—that is my basic message.
October 10, 1962
What a relief to get Cuba off my agenda for a while. Well, not exactly off-off my agenda (as we say in Boston), because the damned Republicans and a lot of crazy Democrats as well—this is the only subject that interests them right now. But it really looks as if Khrushchev got my message back on 4 September: you put strategic nuclear weapons into Cuba, we will give you a choice: remove them voluntarily, or we’ll destroy them militarily. So far, anyway, our people say there is no sign of nuclear missiles—at least from the U-2 photographs.
September 17, 1962
The pressure is mounting. Now the Congress is trying to upstage me on foreign policy. The House has attached three amendments to the foreign aid bill that cuts off all aid to any country whose ships are transporting any goods to Cuba. Any goods! Maybe those dunderheads in the House have never read the constitution. The president conducts foreign policy, for chrissake.
September 14, 1962
That goddamned George Smathers is at it again. I mean, I can understand why, as a senator from Florida, he wants to impress the Cuban exiles in Miami. Those people care about only one issue—Cuba, the overthrow of Castro, and heading back to the island to take up where they left off. But really: declare that the exiles in Miami are the legitimate government of Cuba? That’s ridiculous! So Miami will be like Taiwan? Or, West Germany? Or, South Korea? George thinks we need two Cubas? There are wackos in Miami: hoodlums, radicals, and other nasty groups.
September 11, 1962
I wonder if Khrushchev has gone over the edge this time. This statement in TASS that appeared this morning is both belligerent and ridiculous at the same time. Khrushchev says that the Soviet Union is so incredibly powerful that they don’t need to put missiles in Cuba. Well, we know that’s bullshit. We discovered last year that most of the “missile sites” in Siberia were fakes, meant to fool us into believing that they had some vast nuclear strike capability. Of course, they’re not all fakes. Some are real enough.
September 10, 1962
That goddamn Tom Keating is at it again. Doesn’t he ever give this Cuba business a rest? Does he really think he can get the Republican nomination for president in 1964 just because he says he wants to go to war over Cuba? Today the New York Times quoted the blowhard as saying he is against “horse-trading” over Soviet weapons in Cuba.
September 9, 1962
What in the hell is going on in Cuba? I don’t know whom I can trust anymore. My intelligence people, beginning with CIA Director McCone, say that all the stuff they have found so far points to a ballistic missile deployment—a nuclear deployment, in other words. But nobody believes Khrushchev gives a damn about Castro and Cuba. Cuba is a little sideshow compared to Berlin, for example. Now Berlin: that is what I think this may be about.