Candid Ken and the Cuban Crisis: Senator Kenneth Keating, the Red Menace, and the Missile Crisis of 1962

Daniel James Gorman Jr.


Republican Senator Kenneth Keating had an illustrious career in 20th-century American government, but he has never been the subject of a full-length biography. This paper constitutes a first step toward restoring Keating to his proper place in historiographic literature. Using extensive primary sources, culled from both online databases and the Kenneth Keating Papers housed at the University of Rochester Libraries, this paper reconstructs Keating’s involvement with Cuban-American relations, culminating in the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. The paper charts Keating’s skepticism regarding the nominally democratic Cuban Revolution, his strongly anti-Communist rhetoric in the late 1950s, and finally his public revelation in August 1962 that the Soviets were installing military equipment in Cuba. In this speech, Keating also accused the Kennedy administration of not being completely honest with the public. The research conducted for this paper proves that Keating was correct. President Kennedy knew of defensive missile installations in Cuba, but lied to the public about the matter, until Keating’s address forced the President to go public with the information. In ensuing weeks, Keating’s claims grew more ominous, for the Senator argued in October that offensive IRBMs were being placed in Cuba. Once again, Keating accused Kennedy of being deceptive, but this time, Kennedy simply had access to less intelligence than Keating did. Finally, on October 16, IRBMs were photographed in Cuba, Keating was vindicated, and Kennedy’s famed “Thirteen Days” began. Overall, this paper has three major themes. First, the relationship between Congress and the White House figured largely in the buildup to the Missile Crisis. Second, Keating’s use of rhetoric is a masterful case of Congressional position-taking and self-advertising. Finally, this paper reminds us that many individuals, not only icons like President Kennedy, affected American foreign relations during the Cold War.


Keating; Kennedy; Soviet

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