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I served in the US Navy from 2002-08; four of those years were as a Nuclear Propulsion Operator aboard an aircraft carrier. I engage in political activism in various Democratic circles when I am able to. I have a cat, and I am an uncle.

All opinions that I express are my own and do not reflect the views of any organization that I represent.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

THE KENNEDY ASSASINATION AT 50



Around the world on Friday and here in Dallas, events took place commemorating the tragic death of John F. Kennedy.

President Kennedy's trip to Dallas in November 1963 was part of larger campaign stop leading up to the 1964 election. Though Texas went for Kennedy in 1960, it was by a margin of 2 points. Kennedy made a stop in Houston, San Antonio, Fort Worth, and was scheduled to speak at the Trade Mart in Dallas. After Dallas, he was scheduled to address Democratic Party supporters in Austin and spend the night at Vice-President Johnson's ranch.


While riding in a presidential motorcade with Texas Governor John Connally through Downtown Dallas on Friday 22 November 1963, shots from an assassin pierced through the clear sky as the limousine drove through Dealey Plaza on Elm Street past the Texas School Book Depository building. One bullet struck Governor Connally in the shoulder, two others struck President Kennedy in the neck and head.

The motorcade sped to Parkland Memorial Hospital to save the life of the wounded president. At 1:38 PM (CT), Walter Cronkite of CBS News had the grim duty to report that President Kennedy was dead.

Meanwhile in Dallas a manhunt was underway for the assassin. Lee Harvey Oswald was apprehended at a Dallas theater and charged with two murders: the assassination of the president and the murder of Dallas police officer J.D. Tippit. The weapon in the assassination was a 6.5 x 52-mm Italian Carcano M91/38 bolt-action rifle and was purchased in the mail by Oswald for $12.78.



Vice-President Lyndon Johnson was sworn in as president aboard Air Force One and returned to Washington, DC that evening with Kennedy's body.




The newly sworn in president addressed the shocked nation with this speech:



The global response to the assassination was unprecedented as the world gave their support to a grief stricken nation. Even the Soviet Union expressed their condolences to the slain American president calling him "an outstanding American statesmen."




The Sunday following the assassination was the funeral cermonies for the murdered president. His son, John Jr., gave the iconic salute as the casket passed him and his family.





His widow, Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy, lit the eternal flame as a memorial for her husband. She would later marry Aristotle Onassis, a shipping magnate, and pursue a career in publishing. She passed on 19 May 1994 due to complications of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

While the funeral of President John F. Kennedy was going on, Lee Harvey Oswald was shot by nightclub owner Jack Ruby while Oswald was being transferred from police headquarters to the county jail. The crime was caught on live television. Oswald was rushed to Parkland Hospital where he died of wounds sustained due to the gunshot. Ruby was charged and tried in the murder of Oswald. He was convicted and sentenced to death on 14 March 1964, but his attorney argued that Ruby could not receive a fair trial in Dallas. The Court of Criminal Appeals awarded a change of venue to Wichita Falls and ordered a new trial to begin in February 1967, but Ruby died of complications due to liver and brain cancer in December 1966.

President Johnson commissioned a fact finding mission of who was behind the assassination. The Warren Commission, named after Supreme Court Justice Earl Warren who was the chair, determined that Oswald acted alone in conspiring to murder President Kennedy. Other well known names associated with this commission include Georgia Senator Richard Russell, former CIA director Allen Dulles, then-Republican House leader Gerald Ford, and Arlen Specter who served as an assistant counsel to the commission.

There has been debate about the findings of the Warren Commission. People have speculated that there were multiple shooters and there was a much larger conspiracy involving elements of the CIA, military-industrial complex, Mafia, Soviet Union and the KGB, lizard people, and even President Johnson were all behind the Kennedy assassination.


This blog is not to discuss conspiracy theories. If you wish to do so, might I suggest one of the many underpasses in downtown Dallas to rant those insane theories there are other forums to discuss that online. I believe that people like going down the Kennedy assassination conspiracy theory rabbit hole because it is comforting to believe that some sinister organization could be behind the murder of someone that we idolize and hold in high esteem.


This would not be the last tragedy to happen to the Kennedy family. After winning the California Democratic Party Primary in June 1968, New York Senator Robert Kennedy was struck down by an assassin's bullet. Even though Ted Kennedy had a distinguished career as a senator fighting for universal health care and education reforms, a car accident on Chappaquiddick Island cost the life of his passenger and nearly ended his political career due to his fleeing the scene of the accident. John F. Kennedy, Jr. along with his wife and her sister were killed in a plane crash off the coast of Martha's Vineyard in July 1999.

The Kennedy family is still active in American politics. Joseph P. Kennedy III is a member of Congress from Massachusetts holding the same seat occupied by Barney Frank. Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. is involved in environmental activism. The daughter of President Kennedy and First Lady Jacqueline, Caroline, was an early supporter of Barack Obama's presidential campaign and was a keynoter at the 2008 DNC introducing her uncle Ted. Today she is our ambassador to Japan. It should be noted that her father was making plans to be the first sitting American president to visit that country.

President Kennedy's death was a loss on so many levels. WFAA/ABC-8 showed a replay of the president arriving in Dallas on that fateful day on Friday. One thing I noticed when the president arrived at Love Field was the size of the crowd and the number of people who were chasing the motorcade as it went to downtown Dallas.




Here is a picture of President Obama and video of the motorcade when he has visited Dallas. The crowd is bit more controlled. An entire convoy of security and medical personnel travels with the president when he leaves the White House. Some of those protection measures are part of heightened security taken after the Kennedy assassination, the attempted Reagan assassination in March 1981, and the 9-11 attacks.



We are still feeling the effects of the assassination to this day. A lot of the politics of today are shaped by what happened in Dallas 50 years ago. The Johnson administration was in the shadow of Kennedy. They tried to forge its own legacy with establishing Medicaid, fighting poverty, and expanding voting and civil rights but President Johnson is most remembered as escalating America's involvement in Vietnam. The 1960s is remembered where the counter-culture reached its peak and clashed with the establishment. Richard Nixon ran and won as an establishment candidate in 1968 and was re-elected in 1972 by courting whites alienated by the liberal direction the Democratic Party took, especially those in the south. Nixon would resign over Watergate in 1974, but the country continued drifting in a rightward direction with the election of Reagan in 1980 followed by his two terms and then the establishment of the Bush family as the premier political family in this country.

I've read a couple of articles (ABC News, Yahoo, Huffington Post, Dallas News, NY Times from 2003, Washington Post book review) around the topic of "What if the weather in Dallas stayed dreary that day."

So far the consensus appears that Kennedy might not have made the same decisions about Vietnam in the same way that Johnson did. Kennedy probably does not achieve the same meaningful civil rights legislation and expansion of the social safety net that his successor did which led to the southern wing of the Democratic Party to start defecting to the Republican Party in the late 1960s-early 1970s.

I believe that the counter-culture of the 1960s still would have happened if President Kennedy lived, but it would have taken on a different tone possibly galvanizing over racial and gender equality instead of the Vietnam War.

It is possible that Kennedy's personal life would have dominated the headlines later on in this proposed second term, but the media had the events of Vietnam and Watergate to sharpen its investigative tools. Maybe in this alternative timeline Kennedy's indiscretions is the equivalent to Watergate.

In some of these alternative timelines, they speculate that Robert Kennedy continues the Kennedy dynasty being elected president in 1968. I'm not sure that it is possible to reach that conclusion because Robert Kennedy clashed with President Johnson in 1964 and left to run for the US Senate that November. Would have Robert Kennedy stayed on as attorney general or would the break with the White House been more amicable if President Kennedy lived?

Another idea is proposed by Steven King in his time traveling book 11/22/63 is that the pro-segregationist candidate George Wallace running as a Democrat wins leading to Vietnam turning nuclear and the world turned into a post-apocalyptic atomic wasteland. While King's book is a tad extreme, he raises a good point about how presidential politics swing from left to right in at most a ten year period. After the Democrats held the White House for 20 years through FDR and Truman, Eisenhower as a Republican was president from 1953-61. That was followed by the Democrats with Kennedy and Johnson from 1961-69. Nixon and then Ford from 1969-77 followed by four years of Carter, 12 years of Reagan-Bush, then eight years of Clinton (1993-01) and W. Bush (2001-09) with their own two terms, and we arrive at the Obama presidency (2009-17). Since the enactment of the 22nd Amendment, it appears that one party does not hold the White House for longer than 15 years.

While interesting to explore the topic of alternate history and timelines, it does not change what really happen.

I close with these words from Kennedy's inaugural address to point out to instead of imagining of what could have been to making what should be a reality.

So let us begin anew -- remembering on both sides that civility is not a sign of weakness, and sincerity is always subject to proof. Let us never negotiate out of fear, but let us never fear to negotiate.

Let both sides explore what problems unite us instead of belaboring those problems which divide us.

Let both sides, for the first time, formulate serious and precise proposals for the inspection and control of arms, and bring the absolute power to destroy other nations under the absolute control of all nations.

Let both sides seek to invoke the wonders of science instead of its terrors. Together let us explore the stars, conquer the deserts, eradicate disease, tap the ocean depths, and encourage the arts and commerce.

Let both sides unite to heed, in all corners of the earth, the command of Isaiah -- to "undo the heavy burdens, and [to] let the oppressed go free."

And, if a beachhead of cooperation may push back the jungle of suspicion, let both sides join in creating a new endeavor -- not a new balance of power, but a new world of law -- where the strong are just, and the weak secure, and the peace preserved.

All this will not be finished in the first one hundred days. Nor will it be finished in the first one thousand days; nor in the life of this Administration; nor even perhaps in our lifetime on this planet. But let us begin.


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