60th anniversary of Jackie Kennedy's White House tour

Originally published at: 60th anniversary of Jackie Kennedy's White House tour | Boing Boing


Granted, you can trace the modern practice of deifying(and commodifying)the President and his family back to John F Kennedy.

It all comes back to network television, a medium built for selling and marketing like no other. Nixon always believed that he lost the debate with Kennedy because the latter was more telegenic. The whole TV-friendly “Camelot” mystique came naturally to JFK and his young family, leading to shows like this one. Nixon and his cronies (including Roger Ailes) immediately got to work twisting the medium to his own ends.


Though the Kennedy years solidified the trend, I think presidential worship may have begun with Eisenhower. I was in elementary school during his presidency, and I remember almost everyone saw him as a father/grandfather figure, followed his day-to-day business, and thought of him as “just folks.” Of course FDR had a passionate following, especially during WWII. However the whole New Deal thing left behind a large group of FDR-haters. As I remember it “Ike” was a comfortable middle-of-the-road figure that even his opponents kinda liked. TV contributed mightily to this image. Eisenhower was the first president to have his entire presidency televised. Appearing in everyone’s living rooms night after night on the news, he became the first larger-than-life chief executive, someone whom everybody thought they knew. “I like Ike! You like Ike! Everyone likes Ike!”


I liked Jackie.

Came to make sure this would be linked. Bless you!

1 Like

This would be a good time to recall that the Capital City of the United States of America was officially renamed “Washington” about two years into George’s first term, and his wife Martha remains the only woman to ever have her image printed on U.S. paper currency.

Kennedy and Eisenhower had nothing on the cult of personality that surrounded some of the early U.S. Presidents.


The architects of the capital building had elaborate plans to entomb his body right there in the center of the building under the rotunda, turning the center of US government into a giant shrine. These plans were made even while he was still alive and explicitly requesting to be buried at Mt Vernon. Glad that it didn’t end up happening, there’s more than enough worship of that slaver.


I remember hearing that the President responding to natural disasters is a “modern” thing. They pointed to some incident on the west coast while Eisenhower was President and never gave a speech or toured the site. But FDR had the Infamy Speech and gave fireside chats before Eisenhower. Others mentioned Washington. I’m guessing it has grown and changed with the medium (newspapers, radio, television) and it varied President to President. Nobody really expected the last President to comfort the nation when tragedy happened.

FDR had his fireside chats, which almost everyone listened to. TV penetration during Ike’s years was much less.

I agree, however, that Ike had fewer passionate haters than either FDR or JFK.

Eisenhower was so respected after WWII that both the Democrats and Republicans were interested in having him be their candidate. He was sufficiently apolitical (at least before his presidency) that he could have fit in either party.

1 Like

To be fair, he had the second highest overall average approval rating of any modern president…

I don’t think it was just because of him being on TV, either. It helped that he was a 5 star general during the second world war. He had a pretty popular set of policies with regards to the Cold War, started NASA, and embraced the New Deal policies of FDR, helped end the McCarthy witch hunts, helped create the modern highway system, signed the 1957 civil rights act, and sent in troops to little rock… I know lots of people really believe that in the modern, mass mediated era, that “most people” are just stooges who believe whatever is on their idiot boxes, and for sure, we are shaped by mass media - no doubt. But people can still make choices and have views that while informed by mass media, are shaped by other considerations, too. Eisenhower was probably the last really solid Republican presidents that didn’t lean into reactionary politics. Every single one since him has done so, to varying degrees.


This topic was automatically closed after 5 days. New replies are no longer allowed.