Clash of Emotions: White House—State Department Relations during the Kennedy Administration

Kasper Grotle Rasmussen

Abstract


This article examines the rather poor emotional relationship between the White House and the State Department during 1961, the first year of the presidency of John F. Kennedy. The article argues that both sides had expectations of the relationship that turned into disappointments and that both sides felt that their approach and work was superior to the other. During the Berlin Crisis, this clash of emotions gained political significance concerning the case of the American response to a Soviet formal diplomatic note (an aide-mémoire) following the June 1961 Vienna Summit between Kennedy and Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev. The White House and the State Department had different priorities and because of the poor emotional relationship they failed to find common ground. The end result was that the State Department won the battle by having its preferred version of the response sent to the Soviets. But the Department lost the war, because the White House used the opportunity to take control of Berlin policy at the expense of the State Department.

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ISSN: 0044-8060
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