Excerpts From CBS-TV Broadcast of "Face the Nation"1
March 30, 1958
MR. MADIGAN2: In the general field of national politics, Senator, do you think that the Candidate in the Democratic party would have to be definitely associated with the liberal wing of the party3 in 1960?
SENATOR KENNEDY: I do.
MR. MADIGAN: Do you believe that you are in that wing?
MR. MADIGAN: Do you think that your position in regard to, and I quote now from Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt's recent magazine article, in which she said that you, to summarize it, that you had dodged the McCarthy issue in 1954, and then in 1956. Do you think she is beating a dead horse, or is that still a live issue?
SENATOR KENNEDY: In the first place, Mr. Madigan, as you know I was not in the Senate for about a year. I was in the hospital a good deal of that time5 -- at the time, unfortunately, that the censure motion came up.6 I stated on this program -- I believe, in answer to a question of yours -- before the convention that while I regretted having missed it, I consider the censure action a reasonable action and a proper one, and one that I approve of. I have said it on other television programs, and I am glad to say it again.
MR. MADIGAN: Why is Mrs. Roosevelt bringing this up again?
SENATOR KENNEDY: Mrs. Roosevelt was writing her Memoirs of the 1956 convention7 in which she stated her opinion. I admire her and what she has done.
I think that my position -- I hope -- is clear to her.8 In addition, on the basic question of civil liberties or due process, I have been in the Congress for 12 years; and I believe that my record stands up very well in comparison with that of any man.
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1."Face the Nation," CBS's answer to NBC's "Meet the Press," premiered November 7, 1954, and for more than forty-eight years has been an important player among the nationally broadcast Sunday morning news programs. Like its ABC and NBC competitors, "Face the Nation" brought prominent and controversial political figures to the station to be interviewed live either before a panel of journalists and, in a later format, by the show's moderator.
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2. John Madigan, CBS newsman, was moderator of "Face the Nation."
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3. In the immediate postwar years, the Democratic Party had two liberal wings — the purists and the pragmatists. The purists, led by Herbert Lehman, argued that the party had to stand for a specific set of principles and promote policies based on these principles regardless of whether or not that legislation could be passed. Pragmatic liberals, such as Hubert Humphrey, believed that the party had to introduce legislation that could get passed and that gradual implementation of liberal goals was better than no implementation at all. All Democratic liberals, however, embraced a political philosophy that was quite optimistic. Liberals embraced organized labor and supported civil rights; believed that the government should have an active role in assuring all citizens a basic quality of life; supported capitalist economic policies but argued that the government and private enterprise should partner to develop programs that created a climate of individual growth rather than corporate profit; and, while strongly anti-communist, they disagreed among themselves over how best to protect civil liberties and curtail communism's influence.
JFK's ideological and personal aloofness increased liberals' distrust of him. As historian Steve Gillon argues, JFK's politics produced "a number of reservations" within the liberal camp. His "relatively limited exposure to issues, his failure to vote for McCarthy's censure, and the influence of his isolationist father" gave them great concern. He did not display the usual liberal passion and instead presented a "liberalism without tears." As one prominent Democratic liberal recalled, Kennedy "smiled, he was charming, but there was no outgoing affection, or warmth, or even indignation. He was master of what he was saying and he could say it vigorously, but there wasn't the passion that Hubert [Humphrey] put into it." [Steven M. Gillon, Politics and Vision: The ADA and American Liberalism (New York: Oxford University Press, 1987), pp. 131-133.]
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5. JFK, after undergoing two spinal fusions at the New York Hospital for Special Surgery, was absent from the Senate for seven months, returning May 23, 1955. [Eric Sevareid, ed., Candidates 1960: Behind the Headlines in the Presidential Race (New York: Basic Books, 1959), p. 205.]
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6. The Senate was reluctant to censure McCarthy for specific allegations of abuse of senatorial privilege and libel for fear that such action might later be construed as establishing a precedent that would both undermine the independence of the Senate and place other outspoken senators at risk. Instead, a majority of the Senate rallied around the argument that McCarthy's real crime was that his conduct demonstrated repeated "indifference to the folkways of the Senate." [David M. Oshinsky, A Conspiracy So Immense: The World of Joe McCarthy (New York: The Free Press, 1983), pp. 476-77.] (See ER, "On My Own," 3/8/58, n2)
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7. ER had submitted her manuscript On My Own to Harper & Brothers for publication. As part of its marketing campaign, chapters of the book were serialized in the Saturday Evening Post. The fifth and final installment discussed ER's recollections of the 1956 Democratic National Convention and the 1956 presidential campaign. [Eleanor Roosevelt On My Own (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1958), pp. 157-75.]
Recommended citation: Eleanor Roosevelt, John Kennedy, and the Election of 1960: A Project
of The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers, ed. by Allida Black, June Hopkins, John Sears, Christopher Alhambra, Mary Jo Binker, Christopher Brick, John S. Emrich, Eugenia Gusev, Kristen E. Gwinn, and Bryan D. Peery (Columbia, S.C.: Model Editions Partnership, 2003). Electronic version based
on unpublished letters. .