To dramatize his "New Frontier" theme, Campaigner John Kennedy often drew on a favorite anecdote about Benjamin Franklin. As his fellow delegates to the Constitutional Convention rose one by one to sign the newborn document, Franklin observed that for many days he had been unable to decide whether the rosy sun on the painting behind the president's chair was rising or setting. "But now at length," said Franklin, "I have the happiness to know that it is a rising and not a setting sun."
On election morning this week, the rising orange sun flashed on the Boston steeples and rooftops and glanced through the mist on the old streets as John Fitzgerald Kennedy and his expecting wife drove to the stately West End (Congregational) Church in the Sixth Ward to vote.
It was, symbolically, Jack Kennedy's rising sun, heralding the greatest triumph of all for the Kennedy Clan, which first saw the light of political dawn two generations ago in that very city. It was there, in the turn-of-the-century days of boisterous hurrahs and beer-barrel politics, that his two shanty Irish grandfathers ruled: Saloonkeeper Pat Kennedy, the leader of East Boston's First Ward, and a state representative and state senator to boot; John Francis ("Honey Fitz'') Fitzgerald, twice the mayor of Boston and a U.S. Congressman, the only man in town who could sing Sweet Adeline sober and get away with it. (It was a proud Honey Fitz who at 83 climbed upon a table and danced a merry jig and sang Sweet Adeline when his grandson Jack won his first term in the Congress in 1946.)
Jangles & Bristles. It was a long leap from the days of bliss and blarney to the days of Ike, Nixon and Lodge, and before the moment of victory Jack Kennedy allowed himself to doubt that he might make it. In the final swing of the campaign, the Kennedy troupe was showing the frazzled edges of fatigue, even unaccustomed confusion. The motorcades in Connecticut and New York were dogged with inefficiency and out-of-kilter schedules ; so furious was Kennedy at one point that he stomped about in his Manhattan hotel room, called in his weary aides and chewed them out. "This,'' he stormed at one man, "is the most blankety-blank day of the entire campaign!'' His raw-rubbed nerves jangled all the more with his determination to win, for in his fatigue he had worked up a bitter personal dislike for Richard Nixon. "When I first began this campaign." said he grimly. "I just wanted to beat Nixon. Now I want to save the country from him.''
Slowly, as the Election Day sun rose off the horizon, Jack Kennedy's old cool confidence reasserted itself. Returning to his home at Hyannisport, he posed for photographers with Jacqueline and little Caroline, then changed into slacks and a sports shirt and relaxed. Once, he and his brother Bobby went outside and tossed a soccer ball around for a few minutes, though even this momentary fling lacked the old Kennedy flavor of sibling aggressiveness. The rest of the time Bobby kept close to his own home (a stone's throw away from Jack's), where he had set up a command post bristling with long-distance phone lines and news tickers.