JFK Negotiated (and Got His Butt Kicked)

1961 summit with Khrushchev holds lessons for Obama
By Jason Farago,  Newser Staff
Posted May 22, 2008 12:55 PM CDT
JFK Negotiated (and Got His Butt Kicked)
John F. Kennedy and Nikita Khrushchev met at a 1961 meeting in Vienna.   (Magnum Photos)

On the campaign trail, Barack Obama often invokes a JFK maxim—"Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate"—to back up his commitment to talk to America's enemies. But in a Times op-ed, two writers observe that Kennedy learned a tough lesson when negotiating with Nikita Khrushchev: Meeting with the enemy gives him the opportunity to kick you.

"He beat the hell out of me," JFK told a reporter after the 1961 Kennedy-Khrushchev meeting in Vienna. The Soviet premier left the summit emboldened—he dismissed the youthful president as “too intelligent and too weak”—and by next spring had deployed missiles to Cuba, beginning the most dangerous episode of the Cold War. For the authors, JFK should remind Obama that negotiation, even by a smart and eloquent president, can be "self-destructive." (More Barack Obama stories.)

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