In a dramatic televised address to the American public, President John F. Kennedy announces that the Soviet Union has placed nuclear weapons in Cuba and, in response, the United States will establish a blockade around the island to prevent any other offensive weapons from entering Castro’s state. Kennedy also warned the Soviets that any nuclear attack from Cuba would be construed as an act of war, and that the United States would retaliate in kind.
Kennedy charged the Soviet Union with subterfuge and outright deception in what he referred to as a “clandestine, reckless, and provocative threat to world peace.” He dismissed Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko‘s claim that the weapons in Cuba were of a purely defensive nature as “false.” Harking back to efforts to contain German, Italian, and Japanese aggression in the 1930s, Kennedy argued that war-like behavior, “if allowed to grow unchecked and unchallenged, ultimately leads to war. Read the rest of this entry »
Salon’s Credibility on Life Support: Marxist Zealot Lee Harvey Oswald Revised and Repackaged as a ‘Right-Winger’Posted: July 25, 2014
“This entire article is a nonsensical mishmash of broken logical connections, slander, and outright historical ignorance.”
Via Salon today comes one of the most truly bizarre pieces of revisionist history I have ever seen, even within the context of articles appearing at Salon. The basic outline of the piece is as follows:
- Dallas in 1963 was full of crazy right-wingers;
- These people had guns;
- John F. Kennedy was shot in Dallas in 1963;
- Barack Obama likewise has many right-wingers who oppose him; therefore
- It’s only a matter of time before one of them shoots him.
The baseless appeal to sensationalism and emotionalism is the primary (and usually only) tool in the gun control advocate’s toolbox. To that end, I have to admit that this is well played on Salon’s part; every reasonable person of all political stripes in America is legitimately terrified at the prospect of President Joe Biden. The problem (as always, when dealing with a gun control advocate) is that reason, logic and history demand a completely opposite conclusion. Let us grant for just a moment that Dallas in 1963 was full of various fringe right-leaning groups that were well armed. I don’t know; it might or might not be true. I’m not a Dallas historian and it’s not really relevant to the point of this post. The point is that factually, John F. Kennedy was killed by an avowed communist because of that communist’s belief that Kennedy was too tough on commies. These are not facts that are in reasonable dispute. Even if you are one of the grassy knoll people you have to concede Lee Harvey Oswald’s place as at least one of the shooters which means that, without a doubt, Kennedy was killed by left-wing extremists not right-wing extremists. In an especially delicious bit of irony, while trying to somehow pin Kennedy’s death on the anti-communists, they omit mentioning that seven months before assassinating Kennedy, Oswald attempted to assassinate one of the most prominent anti-communists in Dallas, General Edwin Walker. Read the rest of this entry »
Morton Kondracke displays some funny logic. My commentary is in italics.
I didn’t read or watch every observation of the anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s assassination (who could?) but the ones I did gave short shrift to his signal accomplishment — saving the world from a nuclear holocaust.
Could it be because JFK played a provocative role in the nuclear confrontation in the first place? And other observers are more informed and realistic about this? The fact that JFK managed to back out of a nuclear crisis that he helped start is a “Signal Accomplishment”? Just a thought, Morton. Credit is due, Kennedy did act honorably, and skillfully, this is true. History records that. It’s been explored by scholars ever since. But let’s not pretend Kennedy swept in and saved the world.
The other view is that Kennedy brought the USA to the brink of a global nuclear war, then successfully avoided it. That might be the reason others haven’t touted it as a signal accomplishment.
His cool restraint during the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis — resisting many advisers who were calling for bombing Soviet missile sites in Cuba — ought to earn him the top-of-the-heap public approval ratings he enjoys (90 percent in a CNN poll).
I doubt the ratings are based on that, though. His celebrated grace, glamour, wit, eloquence, inspiration of a generation to public service, his (belated) support for civil rights, the Camelot myth created by his widow — and, above all, his martyrdom — most likely are the major factors.
Grace, glamour, wit, eloquence…morbidly brazen womanizing, medical dependence on steroids and regular injections of powerful amphetamines to mask grave health problems….and recklessly bringing the USA to the brink of nuclear war. Okay, got it. Glamorous.
Historians rate him lower than the public does. If you look at the excellent Wikipedia site, Historical Rankings of Presidents of the United States, he rates in the middle-upper tier in a dozen surveys of historians — 14th in a 2002 Sienna College survey.
I meant to wrap up our multi-volume series on Kennedy yesterday, but a this one caught my eye. It fits in with the contrarian view–a reality check on Kennedy myth–to counter the Kennedy inflation that characterized much of the coverage of the 50th anniversary of the JFK assassination this month. If you’re a Kennedy skeptic, this is for you. If you’re a Kennedy admirer, the Washington Posts’s WonkBlog‘s Dylan Matthews is here to rain on your parade.
Dylan Matthews writes: Fifty years ago Friday, Lee Harvey Oswald assassinated President John F. Kennedy. The assassination was a tragedy — and it turned the target into something of a secular political saint. There are few modern presidents about whom The Post’s own George Will and E.J. Dionne can agree, but JFK appears to be one.
“It tells us a great deal about the meaning of John F. Kennedy in our history that liberals and conservatives alike are eager to pronounce him as one of their own,” Dionne notes. A Gallup poll last week found that Americans rate him more highly than any of the other 11 presidents since Eisenhower. A 2011 Gallup poll found that he came in fourth when Americans were asked to name the greatest president of all time, behind Ronald Reagan, Abraham Lincoln, and Bill Clinton, but ahead of George Washington, Franklin Roosevelt, and Thomas Jefferson.
Some of that reputation is hard to argue with. Kennedy was a brilliant rhetorician who inspired a generation of young Americans, and his death left a lingering scar on the American psyche. But it’s important that his presidency be evaluated on its actual merits. And on the merits, John F. Kennedy was not a good president. Here are six reasons why.
1. The Cuban Missile Crisis was his fault
Historians disagree on what exactly lead to the October 1962 crisis that almost ended in a nuclear exchange. But basically every interpretation suggests that, had the Eastern Seaboard been wiped out that month, it would have been the result of Kennedy’s fecklessness.
Daniel Pipes writes: In three main ways, the JFK murder still has repercussions for Americans and the world. It also has a unique place in my life.
First, had the assassination attempt not succeeded, arguably neither the Vietnam War nor the Great Society expansion of government would have afflicted the United States as they did. The Virtual JFK: Vietnam If Kennedy Had Lived project concludes that “JFK would have continued to resist a US war in Vietnam. Even though the Saigon government, weak and corrupt, was destined for the dustbin of history, he would have resisted those calling on him to send US combat troops to Vietnam. He might have ended all military involvement.”
As for government expansion, American historian Don Keko writes that Kennedy “lacked Lyndon Johnson’s legislative abilities which would have doomed much of what became known as the Great Society. . . . Without the Great Society, the nation does not experience massive budget deficits and the economy would have been stronger.”
Second, Kennedy’s assassination profoundly impaired American liberalism. James Piereson’s 2007 book Camelot and the Cultural Revolution (Encounter) establishes how liberals could not cope with the fact that Lee Harvey Oswald, a Communist, murdered Kennedy to protect Fidel Castro’s control of Cuba. Kennedy died for his anti-Communism; but this wildly contradicted the liberals’ narrative, so they denied this fact and insisted on presenting Kennedy as a victim of the radical Right, reading Oswald out of the picture.
1. Camelot. The brief Kennedy years represent for many in the media their own golden moment. JFK was their royalty, their idol, their ideal, their handsome and rich young war hero. Jackie Kennedy was their queen. And then it was all cut short, like a Shakespearean tragedy or fairy tale. The mythic Camelot fell to lust. The American Camelot fell to an assassin. For those of us who grew up after JFK, it’s all so much history. I grew up around Dallas and heard about the assassination any time I visited anywhere else as a child, and later on I visited the Sixth Floor Museum. It’s haunting but it’s history. For many in that generation, which was mostly born after World War II and then ended up losing Vietnam, JFK provides a meaningful anchor point, or at least a point that they have infused with meaning. Don’t bring up his womanizing or how the Kennedy patriarch behaved toward the Nazis. None of that has any place in the myth.
2. It provides them a chance to bash handy villains they already hate: Dallas, Texas, and the South. Not a JFK anniversary goes by without the New York Times publishing at least one piece blaming the assassination on Dallas, and more broadly on Texas and the South. The fact is, while Dallas had its share of mainstream Kennedy-haters, none of them fired a shot. Texas went narrowlyfor Kennedy in 1960. Dallas citizens actually turned out on November 22, 1963, to greet the Kennedys warmly. Even the horrible Zapruder film shows happy, cheering crowds lining the streets in Dealey Plaza just to get a glimpse of the First Couple.
One lone nut can change all that, and did, which is unsettling to the point of horror. But Dallas was not and is not to blame, any more than Ford’s Theater is to blame for Abraham Lincoln’s killing. Texas is not to blame. The South is not to blame. But many on the left would rather blame their preferred villains than look at the truth.
3. The truth is more horrible than the fiction. The truth is, the assassination of John F. Kennedy is the killing of one of life’s genetic lottery winners by a small-time loser. If JFK was larger than life, his killer was much smaller than life. The JFK assassination could have been a conspiracy, but it probably wasn’t. The evidence points directly at one man whose ideology, coupled with his combination of grandiosity and mediocrity, led him to kill the president in order to elevate himself.
Useful suggestions from Althouse. On reflection, I have violated least half of these rules–did I mention that I was in Dallas in 1963? While true, perhaps Althouse is right and it’s become a cliche–and will probably violate a few more by the time November is over. But since it’s Friday Nov. 22, and I’ve included a lot of coverage of Kennedy this month, Althouse’s list of 10 rules is a welcome addition.
Althouse writes: It’s coming up next Friday, and I’d like to help with that op-ed or blog post you might have in the works.
1. Don’t repeat the cliché that everyone who was around at the time remembers where he was and what he was doing when he heard the news.
2. Don’t tell us — especially don’t tell us as if it were not a big cliché — what youhappened to have been doing and how you’ve always remembered that. After 50 years, can you not finally see that it doesn’t matter?
3. Don’t even attempt to say that the assassination had a profound effect on people. There is no new way to say that. We know!
4. Don’t make up alternate histories of what would have happened if Kennedy had not been killed. Everything would have been different; we would all have been different. If you’re American and under 50, you can assume that you would never have been born.
5. Don’t recount the conspiracy theories. Here‘s Wikipedia’s article on the subject. If you’re into that sort of thing, enjoy it some day in your spare time, but don’t lard your 50th anniversary writings with that. It’s tawdry and undignified, and we’ve heard it all a thousand times. And by “all,” I don’t really mean all. What’s the one about the Federal Reserve? I just mean, if that’s what you’ve found to talk about, just shut up.
6. Don’t connect the story of JFK to Obama. I know it seems as though everything is about Obama, but resist. It’s cheap and inappropriate.
7. Don’t tell us about other Kennedys. Don’t drag in the recent news that Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg’s son Jack appears to have reached adulthood in nonugly form and has grown a large head of hair and is therefore presumptive presidential material. That’s annoying and off-topic.
8. Don’t commemorate murder. A man managed to kill the President. He’s already gotten far too much press. He doesn’t deserve our endless attention. I’m sick of “celebrating” a death day. We don’t make anything of Lincoln’s death day. We celebrate his birthday, like Washington’s, because he was such a great President. We don’t celebrate JFK’s birthday — I don’t even know what it is — because he was not great enough. We celebrate Martin Luther King’s birthday, not the day he was assassinated. Why? Because of his greatness, and because we don’t want to direct our attention toward his murder. So why do we focus on Kennedy’s death day? It must be because he was not great enough, and because of points #1, #2, and #3, above. It’s about ourselves. A man died and we morbidly relive it annually, for some reason that must make little sense to those under 50.
9. Do write to end the annual ritual of death commemoration. Nail down the coffin lid and give the dead President some peace. Inspire us to move on to modest acknowledgements of the date at 10 or 25 year intervals up until 2063, when we — those of us who survive — can go big for the centennial.
10. Do make it — if not original — short.
Rich Lowry writes: For all these years, they’ve hidden the truth about the Kennedy assassination.
It didn’t require a conspiracy. It just took repeating a falsehood until it was accepted as conventional wisdom. The myth about the Kennedy assassination is that President John F. Kennedy, at great personal risk, traveled to Dallas a.k.a. the City of Hate, and was somehow murdered by an atmosphere of intolerance. The truth is that he was shot by a communist.
In a TV cult like Kennedy’s, there is more than a whiff of Roman decadence.
Michael Knox Beran writes: Whatever bargain Joe Kennedy struck with the devil, the expiation of it was cruel. The poor man was forced to watch his three gifted boys precede him to the grave, and left to die in the knowledge that Ted would succeed him as head of the house.
Give Joe this much. It is not every guy whom the devil finds it worth his while to tempt with gifts of fame, fortune, and a dynastic legacy. Yet those of us whose humbler stations in life testify to our having been passed over in the diabolic sweepstakes have our ungenerous consolation; few things are more satisfying to us than the spectacle of the Theban sufferings of folk like the Kennedys.
It’s nothing new. The sight of the great ones of the earth in extremis has ever soothed the passions of the little people. In the Periclean heyday of Athens the populace rejoiced, through the vicarious medium of the theater, in the gore that oozed from the palaces of Oedipus and Agamemnon. In 17th-century London the citizens imbrued themselves, figuratively and imaginatively, in the blood of Macbeth’s Glamis and Hamlet’s Elsinore.
In America we have the tabloid media, which dexterously foment the gloomy passions of envy and revenge; so prompt, indeed, are the purveyors of schadenfreude that scarcely a week passes in which we are not treated to the destruction of some high-flier or other, an exhibition we as a rule take in with a most complacent glee.
[The 2nd in a 3-part series on JFK this morning]
Warren Mass writes: As the nation pauses to reflect on the tragic assassination of President John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963, the respectful and civil recollection of this horrific act is already being marred by those who seek to politicize Kennedy’s killing to serve their own agenda.
With the passage of 50 years’ time, it becomes more and more doubtful that we will ever learn the entire truth behind the assassination. However, since some members of the media have already started to rearrange the events of 50 years ago to divert blame from a self-described Marxist — Lee Harvey Oswald — onto those they like to label as (variously) “ultra-conservative,” “archconservative,” or simply “right-wing,” a sane and sober look at these claims is definitely called for.
Leading the charge against the “ultra-conservatives” is Scott K. Parks, who penned an article for the Dallas News for October 12 headlined: “Extremists in Dallas created volatile atmosphere before JFK’s 1963 visit.” Parks lamented that following November 22, 1963, “Dallas became known to the world as the city of hate, the city that killed Kennedy.”
Parks proceeded to assign blame for exactly who was responsible for manufacturing this “hateful” atmosphere in Dallas, and — lest anyone miss his point — his explanation falls under a subheading, “John Birch Society HQ.”
Christopher Harper writes: The media coverage of the 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s assassination has overwhelmed the American public, with books, documentaries, made-for-television dramas and journalistic memorials.
“Many of these specials, and there are dozens, are as preoccupied with the images and bereavement of baby boomers as they are with the slain president,” Alessandra Stanley of The New York Times wrote recently.
I couldn’t agree more. We baby boomers like to revel in our story. Nearly all of us remember precisely where we were when we got the news. But more and more Americans — those born after 1963, which is generally considered the last birth year of the baby boomer generation — have little interest in the Kennedy legacy. Most of this exhaustive media coverage failed to note Kennedy was a mediocre president. His record of less than three years provides little support for his place in many polls as one of the best presidents in history. A recent survey ranked Kennedy as the most popular president in the past 50 years.
Within a month after Kennedy’s assassination, his widow, Jacqueline, started to sculpt the myth in cooperation with author Theodore White, who wrote a glowing article in Life magazine comparing the Kennedy administration with the Camelot of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table.
What he was, he was:
What he is fated to become
Depends on us.
– W.H. Auden, “Elegy for JFK” (1964)
BOSTON — George Will writes: He has become fodder for an interpretation industry toiling to make his life malleable enough to soothe the sensitivities and serve the agendas of the interpreters. The quantity of writing about him is inversely proportional to the brevity of his presidency.
He did not have history-shaping effects comparable to those of his immediate predecessor or successor. Dwight Eisenhower was one of three Americans (with George Washington and Ulysses Grant) who were world-historic figures before becoming president, and Lyndon Johnson was second only to Franklin Roosevelt as a maker of the modern welfare state and second to none in using law to ameliorate America’s racial dilemma.
The New York Times’ executive editor calls Kennedy “the elusive president”; TheWashington Post calls him “the most enigmatic” president. Most libidinous, certainly; most charming, perhaps. But enigmatic and elusive? Many who call him difficult to understand seem eager to not understand him. They present as puzzling or uncharacteristic aspects of his politics about which he was consistent and unambiguous. For them, his conservative dimension is an inconvenient truth. Ira Stoll, in JFK, Conservative, tries to prove too much but assembles sufficient evidence that his book’s title is not merely provocative.
Mile-High: JFK and Jackie did the Presidential ‘Secret Handshake’ in Air Force One the Day Before his Assassination, Biographer saysPosted: November 19, 2013
Postmedia News reveals: A new report says murdered U.S. President John F. Kennedy and wife Jackie joined the mile-high club the day before he was shot in Dallas.
The New York Post reports that historian William Manchester – who wrote extensively about JFK – knew the details and called it a “last hour of serenity.” But the Post says that Manchester covered up the sky-high tryst in his 1967 bestseller,The Death of a President. Manchester later admitted the whitewash in an interview with writer Philip Nobile in the 1970s.
Nobile had been researching a book on Kennedy’s numerous sexual antics when he was introduced to Manchester by their shared literary agent, Don Congdon.
“I filled him in on JFK’s teen-lover intern, Mimi Beardsley, who slept over frequently when Mrs. Kennedy was out of town,” Nobile writes in the Post. ” She confirmed their yearlong liaison in a 2012 memoir, Once Upon a Secret.”
Manchester had painted Kennedy as a paragon of virtue and devoted husband. Nobile said Manchester couldn’t resist trumping him with a bombshell: The Kennedys did not have a separate bedroom in the Rice Hotel in Houston the night before that fateful day in 1963.
“He asked that I not attribute the tale to him, at least not while he was alive,” Nobile said. “Manchester, who died in 2004, revealed JFK made love to Jackie on Air Force One during the short flight from San Antonio to Houston on the afternoon of the 21st, the day before he was assassinated.”
A so-so president, a deeply flawed man
By almost any measure, John F. Kennedy was a middling president at best, and an occasionally disastrous one. The Bay of Pigs fiasco, the Cuban missile crisis, setting the nation on the wrong course in Vietnam, his nepotism, the spying on political rivals — all must weigh heavily in our judgment of his presidency. And while Kennedy the president was a middle-of-the-range performer at best, Kennedy the man has been relentlessly diminished by the eventual revealing of the facts of his day-to-day life.
Conservatives who see in Kennedy a committed combatant in the Cold War and a supply-side tax-cutter must keep in mind his bungling at home and abroad. Liberals who see in Kennedy a receptacle for all they hold holy must keep in mind his calculating cynicism — for example, his opposition to civil-rights legislation when he believed its passage would strengthen the Republican president proposing it. Kennedy’s virtues — his vocal anti-Communism, his assertive sense of the American national interest, his tax-cutting — would hardly make him a welcome figure among those who today claim his mantle. His vices, on the other hand, are timeless.
The Cuban missile crisis is generally presented as the great episode of Kennedy’s hanging tough in the face of Communist aggression, but, like so much about Kennedy’s life, that story represents a triumph of public relations over substance. Kennedy gave up much more than he let on to resolve the crisis, agreeing to remove U.S. missiles from Turkey — on the condition that the concession remain secret, so as not to undermine his political career or his brother’s. And the Cuban missile crisis was brought on in no small part by Kennedy’s inviting displays of weakness: His performance at the 1961 Vienna summit made little impression on Nikita Khrushchev, and within a few months the Berlin Wall was under construction. After the Bay of Pigs, the Soviets had little reason to suppose that Cuba was anything but a safe port for them.
But Kennedy had a gift for spinning gold out of goof-ups.
Check out their slideshow of just a handful of Kennedy’s consorts
Lee Harvey Oswald was a communist who idolized Castro and hated America
James Pierson writes: It has been 50 years since President John F. Kennedy was cut down on the streets of Dallas by rifle shots fired by Lee Harvey Oswald, a self-described Marxist, defector to the Soviet Union, and admirer of Fidel Castro. The evidence condemning Oswald was overwhelming.
The bullets that killed President Kennedy were fired from his rifle, which was found in the warehouse where he worked and where he was seen moments before the shooting. Witnesses on the street saw a man firing shots from a window in that building and immediately summoned police to provide a description. Forty-five minutes later a policeman stopped Oswald in another section of the city to question him about the shooting. Oswald killed him with four quick shots from his pistol as the policeman stepped from his squad car. He then fled to a nearby movie theater where he was captured (still carrying the pistol).
Yet opinion polls suggest that 75% of American adults believe that JFK was the victim of a conspiracy. Most of the popular books published on the murder have argued for one or another conspiracy theory, with the CIA, FBI, organized crime or right-wing businessmen cast as the villains. Why does the Kennedy assassination still provoke so much controversy?
While the nation was still grieving JFK’s assassination, she used an influential magazine profile to rewrite her husband’s legacy and spawn Camelot
Few events in the postwar era have cast such a long shadow over our national life as the assassination of President John F. Kennedy fifty years ago this month. The murder of a handsome and vigorous president shocked the nation to its core and shook the faith of many Americans in their institutions and way of life.
Those who were living at the time would never forget the moving scenes associated with President Kennedy’s death: the Zapruder film depicting the assassination in a frame-by-frame sequence; the courageous widow arriving with the coffin at Andrews Air Force Base still wearing her bloodstained dress; the throng of mourners lined up for blocks outside the Capitol to pay respects to the fallen president; the accused assassin gunned down two days later while in police custody and in full view of a national television audience; the little boy saluting the coffin of his slain father; the somber march to Arlington National Cemetery; the eternal flame affixed to the gravesite. These scenes were repeated endlessly on television at the time and then reproduced in popular magazines and, still later, in documentary films. They came to be viewed as defining events of the era.
The obsession with all aspects of JFK’s murder is toxic to our cultural health
Mona Charen writes: The 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s murder is being marked, not primarily by retrospectives on his life and accomplishments, and not by reflections on the myth versus the reality of his presidency, but instead by one of the features of our media age that are poisonous to our cultural health — a macabre focus on the details of his murder.
National Geographic aired a film with the title “Killing Kennedy” (based on a book by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard). Trailers featured images of the first couple in the open limousine and close-ups of the actor who played Lee Harvey Oswald raising a rifle to his face and closing one eye. The movie Parkland likewise features a reenactment of the fatal day Kennedy was shot, complete with descriptions of the president’s “shattered head” when he reached the hospital.
CBS’s contribution will put CBS figures front and center. JFK: One PM Central Standard Time will reportedly focus on “the story of two men forever linked in history — Kennedy and CBS anchor Walter Cronkite, who delivered the tragic news to millions of TV viewers.” Bob Schieffer will also get his opportunity to bask in the reflected gore with As It Happened: John F. Kennedy 50 Years, during which Schieffer will reflect on the “fear and tension” in Dallas.
“I always tell people I’m not a bookworm. I’m a book anaconda,” John Judge says, as he turns sideways and carefully maneuvers his large frame down a narrow staircase into the main library of the Coalition on Political Assassinations, a nonprofit dedicated to researching the killings of John F. Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, and Martin Luther King Jr. Carved deep into a hill in Penn Branch, a quiet, leafy community in Southeast Washington, the room might otherwise be a basement, were the house not inhabited by a man who for the past 45 years has been obsessively reading and researching every facet of the Kennedy assassination.
He scans through hundreds of books, carefully pulling from the shelves some of the foundational texts of the assassination canon: Mark Lane’s best-selling Rush to Judgment, the first book he ever read on the case, and Robert Groden and Harrison Edward Livingstone’s High Treason: The Assassination of JFK & the Case for Conspiracy. Judge gestures to 26 hardcover volumes of the Warren Commission report, the official government investigation that fingered Lee Harvey Oswald as the lone gunman. On a shelf beside him sits a self-satirical bumper sticker: “Humpty Dumpty was pushed.” Judge, who has wavy silver-white hair and a goatee that fans out beneath his chin, smirks, “I tell people you can call me a conspiracy theorist if you call everyone else a coincidence theorist.”
Kennedy assassination nostalgia reveals the deeply engrained generational arrogance of the baby boomers. After 50 years, let’s hope the fever is breaking.
Nick Gillespie writes: If there’s one November tradition less digestible and more shart-inducing than Thanksgiving dinner (sorry, Mom!), it’s the seasonal and ritualized fixation over the assassination and broad legacy of John F. Kennedy.
Each fall since November 22, 1963, regular programming is pre-empted and whole rainforests are clear-cut to bring us books filled with the latest minor (and often delusional) variations on who killed Kennedy and why; the supposedly transformative effect of the “Camelot” years on contemporary geo-politics and, more plausibly, the hat-wearing habits of the American male; and counterfactuals about just how awesome—or awful—JFK’s second term would have been.
For a half-century, John F. Kennedy has mesmerized Democrats.
Robert Costa writes: It’s a black-and-white picture we’ve all seen before: an earnest, 16-year-old Bill Clinton shaking hands with President John F. Kennedy. It was snapped in July 1963 in the Rose Garden, soon after Kennedy addressed a group of Boys Nation delegates. Ever since, and most notably during his 1992 presidential campaign, Clinton has recalled the moment. For him, it was more than a brief encounter; it was an experience, and one so powerful that Clinton once said it caused him to have “arthritis of the face.”
Clinton’s deeply felt connection to Kennedy is hardly unique. Memories of Kennedy’s presidency, from his inaugural address to the horror of Dallas, live on in the American imagination. But they linger particularly with Democrats, and for the past 50 years, generations of them have venerated JFK as their party’s tragic hero. Democrats may have long ago abandoned the Kennedy program, but JFK’s flame flickers elusively in their hearts.
Yes, A Democrat President of the United States really said that
How could America not love a song called “Click With Dick”?
Emma Green writes: The pep was palpable. As scenes from the 1960 presidential campaign flashed by during a screening of JFK hosted in partnership with The Atlantic, the addictive, saccharine soundtrack was mesmerizing. Political jingles cheerfully urged listeners to vote for Kennedy, then Johnson, then Nixon—men, each song manically assured, who could lead America. It felt like a rogue a cappella group had taken the auditorium hostage.
For some reason, today’s campaign songs don’t quite capture this quality—Springsteen and Kid Rock lack that special perkiness. To revive a little of our republic’s former campaigning joy, The Atlantic has dutifully assembled a sample of the political earworms unleashed on the unwitting American public in 1960.
That year’s master of the campaign song was, of course, John F. Kennedy. His famous friendship with Frank Sinatra helped him secure “High Hopes,” a 1959 hit that was tweaked a little to fit Kennedy’s campaign.
Jeff Jacoby writes: As Democrats begin maneuvering for the 2016 presidential race, there isn’t one who would think of disparaging John F. Kennedy’s stature as a Democratic Party hero. Yet it’s a pretty safe bet that none would dream of running on Kennedy’s approach to government or embrace his political beliefs.
Today’s Democratic Party — the home of Barack Obama, John Kerry, and Al Gore — wouldn’t give the time of day to a candidate like JFK.
The 35th president was an ardent tax-cutter who championed across-the-board, top-to-bottom reductions in personal and corporate tax rates, slashed tariffs to promote free trade, and even spoke out against the “confiscatory” property taxes being levied in too many cities.
He was anything but a big-spending, welfare-state liberal. “I do not believe that Washington should do for the people what they can do for themselves through local and private effort,” Kennedy bluntly avowed during the 1960 campaign. One of his first acts as president was to institute a pay cut for top White House staffers, and that was only the start of his budgetary austerity. “To the surprise of many of his appointees,” longtime aide Ted Sorensen would later write, he “personally scrutinized every agency request with a cold eye and encouraged his budget director to say ‘no.’ ” Read the rest of this entry »
Dallas, Texas: It was no City of Hate—no matter what the Left says.
The “Dallas-did-it” community of storytellers, historians, biographers, and myth-makers, having gone relatively unchallenged for half a century, are finally encountering a long-overdue confrontation. First George Will, Then here, of course, then Mark Hemingway, now William Murchison.
“Dallas was a City of Hate only in the overactive imaginations of people with axes to grind…”
For the American Spectator, Dallas native William Murchison writes: After a time, ruts appear in the intellectual landscape, engraved through repetition of the same words, the same notions and incantations. “City of Hate” would be one of those; another, “right-wing hysteria”; also “paranoia,” “kooks,” “extremists,” “deranged,” “out of control.” The image of Dallas, Texas, the city where President Kennedy was slain in 1963, has the familiarity of a television commercial played so many times that reflex takes the place of reasoned assessment. Why analyze or appraise? Dallas, if it didn’t gun down the president, certainly furnished the stage and props for a creep like Lee Harvey Oswald. What else is there, my friends, that’s worth knowing?
From the historical standpoint, that is. I’m not convinced, actually, that vast numbers of Americans spend their days plotting to make the city of Dallas pay for the assassination—in Dallas, by a Dallas resident—of a president not understood as one of “The Immortals” until he became so at the Triple Underpass in Dallas. It was a long time ago, 50 years this November 22. The caravan moves on. The burgeoning, self-assured city of Dallas, to which the Kennedy party came in 1963, bears only happenstantial resemblance to the great North Texas “metroplex” of which modern Dallas is just one constituent element, albeit a large and highly important one.
For all that, we may anticipate that the Kennedy observances this fall—centered, naturally, in Dallas, and with the city’s robust participation—will require in the minds of some a retelling of the legends: the patient reconstruction, block by block, street by street, of the City of Hate. Some just can’t get past it. I’m sorry for them. Their mental batteries need a recharge.
The columnist Ira Stoll has managed to obtain a hard-to-get interview with the author Ira Stoll, whose new book, JFK, Conservative, is being published this week by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. An edited version of the exchange follows.
Q. Why did you write this book?
A. A lot of my conservative friends were contemptuous of the whole Kennedy family. I wanted to set them straight. And a lot of my left-of-center friend admired Kennedy, but for all the wrong reasons. I wanted to set them straight.
Q. Why does it matter now what people think of Kennedy? He’s been dead for nearly 50 years.
A. The same issues that Kennedy grappled with — economic growth, tax cuts, the dollar, free trade, peace through strength, immigration, welfare reform — are still with us today. I think he had some ideas that can inform our current debates over politics and policy.
Q. Oh, come on. When Kennedy wanted to cut taxes the top marginal rate was 91 percent. And when he built up the military we were in a global conflict with the Soviet Union. It was a totally different situation than the one we face today.
A. Well, read the book. You may be surprised by how similar some of the arguments then were to the arguments today. Al Gore Sr., the Democratic senator from Tennessee who was the father of Bill Clinton’s vice president, was denouncing tax cuts as a bonanza for fat cats. John Kenneth Galbraith, the Keynesian Harvard economist, opposed tax cuts and preferred, instead, more government spending. The top long-term capital gains tax rate in the Kennedy administration was 25 percent, and Kennedy wanted it lowered to 19.5 percent. In 2013, if you include the Obamacare tax, the top long-term federal capital gains tax rate is 23.8 percent.
Q. Why is the title of the book JFK, Conservative and not JFK, Libertarian?
A. There’s a lot in the book that will probably resonate with libertarians. Kennedy was likely influenced by a libertarian writer called Albert Jay Nock. Early in his political career, JFK gave some amazing speeches about the individual versus the state. On January 29, 1950, at Notre Dame, he said, “The ever expanding power of the federal government, the absorption of many of the functions that states and cities once considered to be the responsibilities of their own, must now be a source of concern to all those who believe as did the Irish Patriot, Henry Grattan: ‘Control over local affairs is the essence of liberty.’” And the Inaugural Address line “Ask not what your country can do for you” was a call for self-reliance and an attack on the welfare state. Other parts, like Kennedy’s foreign policy and his stance on some social issues, libertarians might find less attractive.
George Packer of the New Yorker Doubles Down on Stupid: believes Dallas’ collective right-wing-extremist “invisible magical spirit forces” assassinated John F. Kennedy (instead of a doomed Marxist leftist, Lee Harvey Oswald)
Left-wing Fantasy Projection: “From Dealey Plaza to the Tea Party”
Here we go again. This is too stupid to seriously contemplate, but just as predicted, the Left is actually trying to forge a link between Kennedy’s assassination, and the grassroots elements of the current Republican party. Desperate, you say? Absolutely.
This utter nonsense has been thoroughly debunked [see Society is to Blame: When Liberalism Lost its Way, Dallas, 1963] and revealed for what it is–self-serving propaganda and revisionist historic fantasy.
“…The authors describe the potent brew of right-wing passions, much of it well organized and well funded—Bircher anti-Communism, anti-Catholicism, racism (Dallas was the last large American city to desegregate its schools), Kennedy hatred—that suffused many people in Dallas with the spirit of dissension and incipient violence during the early sixties, including some of its leading citizens: elected officials, Baptist ministers, the billionaire oilman H. L. Hunt, the right-wing zealot General Edwin Walker, even the publisher of the Morning News, Ted Dealey. During the 1960 Presidential campaign, Senator Lyndon B. Johnson, the state’s most powerful politician, and his wife, Lady Bird, were spat upon in Dallas; Adlai Stevenson, J.F.K.’s Ambassador to the United Nations, was assaulted there just a month before the assassination. “WELCOME MR. KENNEDY TO DALLAS …,” ran the headline of a black-bordered, full-page ad in the Morning News on the morning of November 22, 1963, with a bill of particulars that stopped just short of accusing the President of treason. Kennedy had warned his wife, “We’re heading into nut country.”
Oswald was an avowed Marxist, which might seem to absolve the city’s right wing of any responsibility. But “Dallas 1963” places the assassin in context as a malleable, unstable figure breathing the city’s extraordinarily feverish air. Judge Sarah T. Hughes, who administered the oath of office to Johnson aboard Air Force One at Love Field, later said, “It could have happened anywhere, but Dallas, I’m sorry to say, has been conditioned by many people who have hate in their hearts and who seem to want to destroy.”
In 1962, at the Carlyle Hotel in New York, a man “peeled off his clothing and began prancing around his hotel suite.” His bodyguards were cautiously amused, until the man “left the suite and began roaming through the corridor of the Carlyle.”
The man in question was delusional, paranoid and suffering a “psychotic break” from the effects of an overdose of methamphetamine.
He was also the president of the United States.
The reason for John F. Kennedy’s bizarre behavior was that, according to an explosive new book, the president was — unbeknownst to him, at first — a meth addict.
The man who supposedly made him so was Max Jacobson, a doctor who had invented a secret vitamin formula that gave people renewed energy and cured their pain, and was given the code name “Dr. Feelgood” by Kennedy’s Secret Service detail.
This formula was actually methamphetamine, and over the course of a decades-long practice, Jacobson became doctor to the stars, making unknowing drug addicts out of a long list of the famous and distinguished, including JFK and his wife, Jackie, Marilyn Monroe, Mickey Mantle, Eddie Fisher, Truman Capote and many more.
This item by George Will is notable because it bypasses the current political drama and looks into the history of 20th Century Liberalism with a wider lens, and sweeps into a moment in time that bears thoughtful reflection. It’s an event that continues to influence post 20th-Century liberal thought, in ways that we have to live with, like it or not, every day.
If you don’t read anything else this week, read this one.
I also found it timely because I found myself listening to news on NPR yesterday, something I only do when I’m in my car, and was shocked to be reminded of a strain of Liberal thought that’s always troubled me: the theory of ‘collective’ crime, or collective guilt. Collective repentance. Collective salvation. But until this NPR segment, I hadn’t connected it the contemporary grievance culture all the way back to 1963.
I learned, contrary to common sense and written history, that President Kennedy wasn’t killed by an assassin with a rifle. Turns out (according to NPR) he was killed by a “climate”. Dallas did it. Society murdered JFK. It was the ‘climate of hate” that permeated Dallas Texas, in 1963. Apparently, this ‘stew’ (as the NPR reporter called it) of “hyper-patriotism, anti-semitism, racism”, etc., that was simmering in Dallas, reached a boiling point. The invisible brain-waves of anti-Kennedy hatred moved through the air in Texas, affecting anyone in that climate-stew, and concentrated itself in Dealy plaza, until President Kennedy’s head exploded, spontaneously, just from the pressure of all that collective hatred.
There goes the single bullet theory.
Liberals really believe this, too. Not that JFK’s head exploded spontaneously. But that Dallas killed Kennedy. That the city was so full of hatred for the President, so full of bitterness and bad thoughts, that the concentrated hatred assembled itself in the person of one unhinged individual, Lee Harvey Oswald (leaving aside conspiracist’s claims of additional gunmen) who acted upon this pent-up rage. The unavoidable fate–the Kennedy-death wish–had to be unleashed, and realized.
So, shots were fired. Resulting in the ghastly murder of the President, executed on society’s behalf. According to this narrative, the collective dark urge had to find expression. It was wound too tightly, had to be released. It wasn’t Owsald’s fault. It was Dallas’ fault. It was society’s fault. It was America’s fault.
How potent was this Kennedy vitriol, in Dallas? Well, you can clearly see, in photos, and newsreels, all those people waving and smiling as the motorcade passes. The moms with their babies, the kids with American flags, the civilians, soldiers, policemen. The crowds with cameras, eager to glimpse the President. Don’t let their happy expressions fool you. Those smiles and waves? They were masking deep, murderous, collective hatred.
Update: Tim Graham at PA Pundits has a much more informed report on NPR’s original segment (of which I caught the tail end of, or the following day’s listener mail) and quotes sections of the NPR interview with author Bill Minutaglio, who peddles this “right wing hysteria” fantasy:
BLOCK: As we approach the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President Kennedy, a new book dives deep into the city where the murder took place. “Dallas, 1963″ explores the swirling forces of right wing fanaticism at work in the city during the three years leading up to JFK’s assassination. By this account, Dallas in the early ’60s was a stew of super-patriotism, fueled by anti-communist paranoia, fierce racism and anti-Semitism.
Reading Tim’s account, it appears that historians and authors on the Left not only still dust off and promote this toxic mythology, they’re doubling down on it. Or at least Bill Minutaglio is, in his new book. And, I’m sure, ties it to the Tea Party, casually and dishonestly mislabeling it as a racist, radical pro-white, ‘hate’ group. Identical to those “right wing fanatics” in Dallas who collectively killed Kennedy, dragging America with it. Good grief. Who is the paranoid one here?
Besides George Will, I hope other rational reviewers take Minutaglio’s book apart, and expose it for what it is. Paranoid Left Wing Fantasy. Reason-free, heartfelt, self-affirming propaganda. Other historians are sure to agree. It hits all the right notes, in harmony.
As Tim notes:
Among the book blurbs for Minutaglio is one of the liberal media’s favorite historians/hysterians, Douglas Brinkley:
“Bill Minutaglio and Steven L. Davis’s DALLAS 1963 is a brilliantly written, haunting eulogy to John F. Kennedy. By exposing the hatred aimed at our 35th president, the authors demonstrates that America–not just Lee Harvey Oswald–was ultimately responsible for his death. Every page is an eye opener. Highly recommended!”
I really thought that by 2013 the “mass-Dallas-fanatic-hysteria” narrative would have withered under the bright light of contrary evidence. (as most of the other muddled assassination conspiracy theories inevitably have) It appears the narrative is even stronger than I realized, like a virus that’s mutating, adapting, poised to inform new generations of readers.
There’s so much to say about this. About the conflict between those who accept individual sovereignty, individual morality, individual responsibility, individual accountability, individual salvation, vs. those who believe in collective morality, group rights, group entitlements, tribalism, class-warfare, social justice debts, and collective guilt. The dreamlike romantic notion that we’re all part of an invisible web of interconnected thoughts and feelings, and the actions of an individual are really nothing more than a necessary expression of a larger unspoken wish. These are drastically different world views. And from this tainted collectivist narrative came the post-1960s Liberal grievance culture. As George Will explores in the following article.
Make no mistake, I do believe that a climate of hatred can afflict a culture. And that a society that tolerates crime and violence, tends to breed more crime, invite more violence. And that a system that enables corruption to flourish, reaps what it sews. And so forth. Yes, these things can have a corrosive effect on individuals in society.
But the notion of collective guilt that emerged from this historic miscarriage signaled a complete change of direction for the post-war Liberal project. And the sour, scolding, reactionary tone of postmodern Liberalism can be traced back to the aftermath of the events in Dealy Plaza, and the Left’s efforts to reconcile them.
From this poisoned well sprang the liberal historians’ deranged lie that “right-wing fanaticism” killed America’s beloved President. Even Barry Goldwater was somehow implicated. Why? Because for the Left, the truth was too disturbing to confront. That Kennedy was murdered, not from the right, not from random invisible hate-brain-waves, not by shadowy, clandestine, fanatical forces, but from the left.
Stripped from all the mythology, the uncomfortable truth remains: A radicalized Marxist crackpot with a cheap Italian rifle, acting–almost certainly–in solitude, completely disinterested in the social “climate” in Dallas that day, shot JFK. For his own reasons. Not society’s.
Next: George Will’s column:
On the days he resisted the temptation to have an affair, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. marked the occasion in his secret journal with a one-word exaltation: “Victory!” But on the days of defeat, the ink really began to flow across the page.
In the 398-page journal obtained by the New York Post, Kennedy chronicled his day-to-day activities in 2001, but also maintained a detailed account of his extramarital affairs as he crisscrossed the country for various speaking engagements. According to the Post it was all inscribed in a decoy ledger entitled “Cash Accounts,” where he recorded the date of the infidelity, the name of the woman involved, and a code of numbers, ranging from 1 to 10, representing the performance of certain sex acts. Number 10 corresponds to intercourse. Numbers 1 through 9 have yet to be decoded by the Post — so at this point it’s hard to know precisely what he did on the day he recorded a 10, 3, and 2 over the course of a single fundraiser at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. Read the rest of this entry »
Robert F. Kennedy Jr…. attorney, a radio host…environmental activist...also, as it happens, a full-blown anti-vaccination conspiracy theorist.
And I do mean full-blown.
“RFK Jr. has a long history of adhering to crackpot ideas about vaccines, mostly in the form of the now thoroughly disproven link to autism. He’s been hammering this issue for a decade now, and his claims appear to be no better and no more accurate now than they were when he first started making them.”
Contrary to reputation, the Kennedys aren’t particularly bright.
- Robert F. Kennedy Jr.: Anti-Vaxxer (yourcurrentaffairs.wordpress.com)
- Is Robert F. Kennedy Jr. Anti-Science? (blogs.discovermagazine.com)
- Can antivaccinationists knock it off with the autism Holocaust analogies already? (RFK, Jr. edition) (scienceblogs.com)
- RFK Jr.: GOP To Blame For IRS Scandal (huffingtonpost.com)