Thursday, May 04, 2006

Kennedy of Camelot

Having come of voting age in the new Camelot defined by the Kennedy presidency, I was mystified by the perverse transformation of Kennedy’s liberal ideology that occurred following his death. Kennedy’s liberalism was immensely attractive, resting on the twin pillars of freedom and optimism. Kennedy was willing to pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, to assure the survival and success of liberty. He responded to the Soviet launch of Sputnik in 1957 by challenging the nation to beat the Russians to the moon. Kennedy, loving a challenge, said to the nation: We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard. On the domestic front he opposed Southern Democrats like George Wallace to enforce school integration and enacted across-the-board 30% tax cuts to spur the economy. This was a liberalism I could embrace.

By virtue of the Democratic Party’s leadership during the Great Depression, the victory in World War II and the creation of post war international order, liberalism had become the pre-emminent political philosophy in America by Kennedy’s innauguration. Radicals on the Left continued their fascination with Communism and sought socialist solutions to problems. On the radical Right the John Birchers continued to find Communists under every rock. Kennedy’s brand of liberalism was fair, tough and optimistic. I was hooked.

Then on November 22, 1963, President Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas by Lee Harvey Oswald and everything changed. The newswires immediately assumed that the assassin was a right-wing extremist, probably a staunch anti-Communist, since it was unthinkable that a liberal would do such a thing. Chief Justice Warren proclaimed that Kennedy had been martyred as a result of the hatred and bitterness injected into the life of our nation by bigots.

It came as a shock when the police announced that a Communist had been arrested for the murder.

In a fascinating article in Commentary magazine (Lee Harvey Oswald & the Liberal Crack-Up, May, 2006) James Piereson explores the perverse effects of the assassination on the Kennedy brand of liberalism. Among other effects was the loss of societal memory concerning Oswald’s Communist motivation.

In preparation for this piece I sent out a quickie question to my faithful readers asking: Why did Lee Harvey Oswald kill President Kennedy?

I received almost two dozen rapid responses including these: Oswald was a disillusioned youth; He was against civil rights; He was a conservative; He did not like Catholics; He was crazy, nuts, a loser; He was paid by LBJ, paid by J. Edgar Hoover; It was a conspiracy; Did he really do it?; He was brainwashed by the KBG; It was something to do with Cuba; prevented the assassination of Castro; and my favorite: Kennedy was having an affair with Mrs. Oswald. It looks as though the obvious answer has been well obfuscated.

Piereson explains that Oswald was a died-in-the wool Communist who had defected to the Soviet Union and married a Russian woman, favored Mao and Fidel, was arrested for fighting with anti-Castro demonstrators, issued threats against the life of the President while in Mexico and tried to kill Army General Edwin Walker (he missed) with the same rifle he later used to kill Kennedy. Oswald was incensed that Kennedy had humiliated Castro in the Cuban Missile Crisis, permitted anti-Castro extremism (as personified by General Walker) to increase, and ordered the largest buildup of US Armed Forces in peacetime history.

Then why is Oswald’s ideological motivation so little known? Piereson goes on to show that the answer lies in the enduring need of the Left to circumvent the inconvenient fact that Kennedy was killed by a Communist as a result of Kennedy’s anti-Communism. Mrs. Kennedy aided the Leftist spin by feeding the fantasy that the nation as a whole was responsible for Kennedy’s death. James Reston in the NY Times wrote the headline: “Kennedy Victim of Violent Streak He Sought to Curb in Nation.”

Jacqueline Kennedy also orchestrated a transformation of the Kennedy image from that of a tough freedom fighter to an Arthurian liberal hero who was poised to lead the nation into a new age of peace and love, to a new-style Camelot. John Kennedy would have been stunned by his new self. Mrs. Kennedy was convinced that there will never be another Camelot again and thereby foresaw the weakness and pessimism that has come to embody the new liberalism after Kennedy.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Bill,

Today, Kennedy would be a moderate Republican. Amazing, ain't it.


11:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Looks like they are on a roll again of self destruction!!!


11:40 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was right! It had something to do with Cuba! Sometimes I surprise myself.


11:41 AM  

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