Again, this is taken from the introduction pages of Catch-22. This sentence is referring to John F. Kennedy.The austerities and anxieties of the Eisenhower mood, so preoccupied by the aftermath of war and the historial acceptance of America's new role as dominant Superpower, where giving way to a sense of youthful liberation, on which the young president capitalized.
Now, I get the mish mesh gist of the sentence, but I don't the 'exact' meaning when it says the president capitalized on the sense of youthful liberation in the 60s. What exactly does capitalizing on something mean? I only get the sense that he's taking advantage of it, but as for the precise meaning I'm not sure. Could you explain this for me?
You've got it: To turn something to one's advantage; benefit.