Memo reviewed by Eugenia Soiles, HKS MPA/MC
This very short memo addresses a critical problem for Democrats in the 1960 campaign. James Wine, the author of the memo, begins with the bottom line upfront (BLUF) by describing that attitudes around religion across the country range from indifferent to severely critical. At the time, there had never been a US President who was a Roman Catholic, and certain parts of the country had varied feelings on JFK’s religious background.
In his description of the problem, Wine identifies that the audience, the American public, varies in their feeling and therefore a solution will require a varied response. The memo’s strengths are in its clarity of message, audience connection, and effort to build credibility. The memo is clearly written to political staff who are making decisions about scheduling, communications, and overall strategy. Wine makes clear that as a campaign it was important that they had a coordinated approach to dealing with the various feelings and reticence of the American electorate. His memo lifts up issues that would be important to political operatives.
The offered solution is written succinctly and takes into account the political reality, feasibility of implementation, and when the strategy should be deployed. By having such a strong opening explaining the importance of the varied reaction of the public, it improves the clarity of his proposed solution, which is hyper-localized.
While Wine does not provide many alternatives to his proposed solution in the memo, he does explain some tactics that he is against including, such as: bringing up the topic of religion, getting into arguments on the subject matter, or having the principal (JFK) discuss the matter. By listing these with reasons why they are not recommended, he bolsters his argument for local surrogates to help educate and explain religion without amplifying adverse reactions. His reliance on local surrogates helps build his case and lend him credibility. His campaign staff audience would respond well his to local endorsement, since campaigns are always looking for ways to connect with a local audience. This memo shows how a concise, clear message, with a defined audience, can address complicated issues. Wine builds credibility throughout his memo and drives the reader towards his proposed solution.