published Friday, November 22nd, 2013

Honoring a president: On JFK and hope




President John F. Kennedy's motorcade travels through Dallas on what would be the president's final ride through ride in this Nov. 22, 1963, file photo.
President John F. Kennedy's motorcade travels through Dallas on what would be the president's final ride through ride in this Nov. 22, 1963, file photo.
Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

American was never quite the same after Nov. 22, 1963.

Yes, we've had other days like the one when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas: The day Lincoln was assassinated. The day Pearl Harbor was bombed. The day we tested the first atomic bomb. And, of course, 9-11.

But with all those other days, we actually know why those events happened. With JFK's assassination, there still are many questions unanswered. Perhaps it is the mystery shrouding the "why" of his death that gave birth to the conspiracy theorists who today threaten to suffocate our political discourse.

To the young people in America in 1960, Kennedy was the answer. He was young, he was bold, he was progressive, liberal and idealistic in a time when young adults were moving beyond yesterday's music and mores. For many conventional voters, JFK was a World War II hero and settled leader. But to the radical right of the tumultuous 1960s -- especially those who opposed civil rights -- Kennedy was the devil in a suit.

In the last months JFK lived, he was focused on two great threats to the country: nuclear war and racial conflicts, according to Thurston Clark, author of "JFK's Last 100 Days." So when he was killed at that pivotal time, and then his accused shooter was killed just days later by another assassin, questions swirled fast and furious. Is it any wonder that JFK and his accomplishments have been romanticized?

That's not to say he shouldn't have been elevated to a pedestal. He advanced amazing change. He just didn't live long enough to get to carry it out. Instead, his brother, Robert F. Kennedy, and his vice president, Lyndon Baines Johnson, ably carried the ball. Bobby Kennedy and Johnson, who actually had much stronger political power than JFK, pushed -- even bullied -- the Civil Rights Act through Congress in 1964.

But with JFK's death -- and Bobby Kennedy's equally shocking assassination almost five years later as he campaigned for the Democratic nomination to run for president against Richard Nixon -- idealism in government seemed to die.

The immediate impact was disillusionment among the youngest of American adults, especially as the Vietnam War wore on and we saw our brothers and friends and new husbands come home in caskets. The hope of America's young gave way to unrest and protests like the one that left four students dead on the campus of Kent State -- shot by National Guardsmen, of all things.

Fast-forward 40 years, and perhaps nowhere is the loss of the Camelot-like idealism more apparent than in the constant impasse and obstructionism in today's Congress. The conspiracy theorists who have bloomed in the years since Nov. 22, 1963, can't seem to get past President Barack Obama's color or a preoccupation with his birth certificate. In fact, they can't seem to imagine a role for government, at all. Their aim is anti-government.

Let us hope that the change of filibuster rules introduced Thursday by Sen. Leader Harry Reid and approved 52-48 will be the jolt needed to bring on enough movement in government for the return of at least some hope. From now on, the majority only needs 51 votes, instead of 60, to clear a procedural hurdle on all but Supreme Court nominees before casting a final vote.

With Reid's rule change introduction -- what has become known as the "nuclear option" -- he noted that there have been 168 filibusters of executive and judicial nominations in history, but half of them have occurred during the four and a half years of the Obama administration. Further, only 23 district court nominees have been filibustered in the entire history of this country, and 20 of them were nominated by Obama. Meanwhile, 25 percent of the D.C. Circuit Court has been vacant.

After JFK was killed, a beloved University of Chattanooga English professor, the late George Connor, observed in a memorial that one of Kennedy's gifts was his ability to inspire us: "... the words he spoke on the great occasions were unfailingly words which helped us to see ourselves as a people, words which revived our sense of community and common endeavor, words which gave us a heightened vision of what it can mean to be an American."

Long live hope. And long live our trust in hope, in our country and in a good government to run it. This is a good day to remember our fallen president.

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nucanuck said...

While JFK was widely admired by most Americans as well as people around the world, he was despised within the US halls of power. JFK made deep and lasting enemies within the CIA when he refused to call in air power at the Cuban Bay of Pigs invasion. He secretly agreed to remove US missiles from Turkey as part of the deal to have the Russian missiles removed from Cuba to the great consternation of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. In October of 1963 he announced the withdrawal of 1000 troops from Viet Nam and the removal of the rest within two years (reversed by LBJ within less than 24 hours of JFK's assassination). JFK was negotiating with the Soviets on an arms reduction treaty and the US military opposed those negotiations.

JFK proposed rolling back the oil depletion allowance which sent the oil barons into fits of peak. He undermined the power of the Federal reserve by authorizing the US Treasury to issue dollars backed by silver reserves (again, soon abolished after his death). He was aggressively investigating the Mafia. In short, Kennedy had created deep and abiding enemies in every corner of Washington and beyond.

LBJ reversed almost all of JFK's initiatives except Civil Rights. At the time of Kennedy's death, Johnson had come under a darkening corruption cloud through his cozy association with Bobby Baker. LBJ not only was looking unlikely to be kept as Vice President, he might well have gone to prison.

November 22nd changed all that.

A big part of America died that day. In some ways that may be the day that America peaked. We have mostly been at war and expanding the American military outreach ever since. We lost a peacemaker who would have molded a completely different America than that which has evolved.

November 22nd 1963 is still the saddest day of my life.

November 22, 2013 at 1:52 a.m.

Oswald acted alone. No evidence of any conspiracy. Kennedy was a conservative by today's standards. The whole camelot mythology came about after his death. It was promoted by his wife. Kennedy's poll numbers were dropping like a rock at the time of his death, and his re- election was anything but a sure thing. Kennedy believed in defending America first, and hated communism.

Kennedy was a capitalist, wanted lower taxes and believed strongly in the greatness of America, unlike the jackass that is now the standard bearer for his party.

Oswald was a card carrying communist, a lefty. I don't think the media has ever gotten over that.

November 22, 2013 at 2:19 a.m.
nucanuck said...

Zab,

An attorney on the House of Representatives committee that held hearings on the JFK assassination said after the hearings that he would have rather defended Oswald than prosecuted him. That committee found that a conspiracy was probable, but they drew no conclusions.

FYI. Oswald was very bright. As a US marine with a security clearance above top secret (rare), he worked on a navy base in Japan where US U-2s were based. He learned to speak Russian while in the US Military. He requested an early release and it was granted within two weeks (rare)and from there he went to Finland and then the Soviet Union where he renounced his US citizenship. He was given a job in Minsk where he met his wife and had a baby. After two years he sought, and was granted permission (rare), to leave with his family and return to the US. He was allowed back into the US without fanfare and helped in relocating by two different people who apparently had CIA connections. One of those connections/handlers, George de Mohrenschildt, was to testify before Congress but he (apparently) committed suicide just before testifying. Oswald spent time in New Orleans and associated with a FBI operative. Oswald even made the embarrassing mistake of using the office address of this FBI agent on brochures about Cuba that he had made up and was passing out.

Oswald was not a communist, he was an avowed Marxist, an idealist seeking a political and economic utopia, which he never found.

There is no evidence that Oswald hated Kennedy, though he may have. There is overwhelming evidence that there was more than one shooter on that day.

November 22, 2013 at 11:44 a.m.
soakya said...

he was progressive, liberal and idealistic... he would not be welcomed into the democratic party today and most republicans would still distance their self from him. there has been a shift to the left for both parties.

November 22, 2013 at 12:55 p.m.
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