The JFK Library’s “To the Brink” exhibit opens at a propitious moment. The story of nuclear confrontation during the Cuban Missile Crisis comes just as North Korea is issuing missile threats of its own. Meanwhile, in Dallas, all the living presidents will come together later this month for the opening of the George W. Bush Presidential Library, a reminder of how presidential decision-making remains the crucial variable in the chain of defense.
Back in the ’70s and ’80s, TV docudramas of the Kennedys often portrayed JFK as reckless and profane behind the scenes, as he vented his frustration with Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev. But when tapes of the meetings during the missile crisis were released, in the mid-’90s, it turned out that Kennedy had been the calm eye of the storm, parsing advice with diligence and restraint.