It’s that time of year again. No, I’m not talking about “the holidays,” rather it’s another Kennedy Assassination anniversary, celebrated this year with even more hagiographic books promoting the myth that JFK was “just like us” (on the far left) only better looking. And of course we all know who was responsible for Kennedy’s murder, right?
The deranged former New York Times columnist Frank Rich has departed to New York Magazine (Don’t worry, committed Times readers: You’ll always have Krugman) where he peddles not only the lie that Kennedy was a victim of “right wing hate,” but also, not surprisingly, tries to equate Kennedy and the putative atmosphere of hate in 1963 Dallas with the current president and his opponents. An assassination anniversary is, after all, a terrible thing to waste.
Here’s Rich at his worst:
…if the JFK story has resonance in our era, that is not because it triggers the vaguely noble sentiments of affection, loss, and nostalgia that keepers of the Kennedy flame would like to believe. Even the romantic Broadway musical that bequeathed Camelot its brand is not much revived anymore. What defines the Kennedy legacy today is less the fallen president’s short, often admirable life than the particular strain of virulent hatred that helped bring him down. After JFK was killed, that hate went into only temporary hiding. It has been a growth industry ever since and has been flourishing in the Obama years. There are plenty of comparisons to be made between the two men, but the most telling is the vitriol that engulfed both their presidencies…
Of course there is no and has never been any left wing vitriol in Rich’s world.
Here he’s talking about a new book by Stephen King and an old one by the late William Manchester:
But another controversy from the assassination—one that has never received remotely the attention generated by the endless “grassy knoll” and “second gunmen” debates—is forcefully revived by King: the role played in Oswald’s psyche by the torrid atmosphere of political rage in Dallas, where both Lady Bird Johnson and Adlai Stevenson had been spat upon by mobs of demonstrators in notorious incidents before Kennedy’s fateful 1963 trip. [King’s fictional account describes] anti-Semitic graffiti on Jewish storefronts, and angry billboards demanding the impeachment of Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren and equating racial integration with communism. That last one, King’s protagonist observes, “had been paid for by something called The Tea Party Society.”
That “Tea Party Society” is the novelist’s own mischievous invention [Thanks for that clarification, Frank], but the rest of his description is accurate. King’s touchstone is The Death of a President, by William Manchester… what …struck me in… rereading [it] was Manchester’s stern rejection of one major Warren Commission finding. Though he was onboard for its conclusion that Oswald was the lone assassin, he did not buy its verdict that there was “no evidence” of any connection between Oswald’s crime and Dallas’s “general atmosphere of hate.”
Manchester is uncharacteristically contentious about this point. He writes that “individual commissioners had strong reservations” about exonerating Dallas but decided to hedge rather than stir up any controversy that might detract from the report’s “widest possible acceptance.” While Manchester adds that “obviously, it is impossible to define the exact relationship between an individual and his environment,” he strongly rejected the universal description of Oswald as “a loner.” No man, he writes, is quarantined from his time and place. Dallas was toxic. The atmosphere was “something unrelated to conventional politics—a stridency, a disease of the spirit, a shrill, hysterical note suggestive of a deeply troubled society.” …He detected “a chiaroscuro that existed outside the two parties, a virulence which had infected members of both.” Dallas had become the gaudy big top for a growing national movement—“the mecca for medicine-show evangelists of the National Indignation Convention, the Christian Crusaders, the Minutemen, the John Birch and Patrick Henry societies.”
But here is the one inconvenient fact Rich only fleetingly mentions:
Immediately after the assassination and ever since, the right has tried to deflect any connection between its fevered Kennedy hatred and Oswald’s addled psyche with the fact that the assassin had briefly defected to the Soviet Union.
Notice the insouciant “briefly.” Oswald lived in the Soviet Union for two years, but more importantly, he was an anti-American communist who was motivated to murder Kennedy because the strongly anti-communist Kennedy had sought to overthrow Fidel Castro. Nowhere in his piece does Rich use the word communist.
Nor does he mention that Oswald had tried to assassinate retired General and notorious right-winger Edwin Walker only 8 months before Oswald murdered Kennedy:
…According to the Warren Commission, around this time, Walker got Lee Harvey Oswald’s attention. Oswald’s wife Marina said that Oswald, a self-proclaimed Marxist, considered Walker a “fascist” and the leader of a “fascist organization.” A front page story on Walker in the October 7, 1962, issue of the Worker, a Communist Party newspaper to which Oswald subscribed, warned “the Kennedy administration and the American people of the need for action against [Walker] and his allies.” Five days after the front page news on January 22, 1963 that Walker’s federal charges had been dropped, Oswald ordered a revolver by mail, using the alias “A.J. Hidell.”
In February 1963, Walker was making news by joining forces with evangelist Billy James Hargis in an anti-communist tour called “Operation Midnight Ride”. In a speech Walker made on March 5, reported in the Dallas Times Herald, he called on the United States military to “liquidate the scourge that has descended upon the island of Cuba.” Seven days later, Oswald ordered by mail a Carcano rifle, using the alias “A. Hidell.”
According to the Warren Commission, Oswald began to put Walker under surveillance, taking pictures of Walker’s Dallas home on the weekend of March 9–10. He planned the assassination for April 10. Oswald’s wife Marina said that he chose a Wednesday evening because the neighborhood would be relatively crowded because of services in a church adjacent to Walker’s home; he would not stand out and could mingle with the crowds if necessary to make his escape. He left a note in Russian for his wife Marina with instructions should he be caught. Walker was sitting at a desk in his dining room when Oswald fired at him from less than a hundred feet (30 m) away. The bullet struck the wooden frame of the window, which deflected its path. Walker was injured in the forearm by fragments.
A police detective, D.E. McElroy, commented that “Whoever shot at the general was playing for keeps. The sniper wasn’t trying to scare him. He was shooting to kill.” Marina Oswald stated later that she had seen Oswald burn most of his plans in the bathtub, though she hid the note he left her in a cookbook, with the intention of bringing it to the police should Oswald again attempt to kill Walker or anyone else. Marina later quoted her husband as saying, “Well, what would you say if somebody got rid of Hitler at the right time? So if you don’t know about General Walker, how can you speak up on his behalf?”
Before the Kennedy assassination, Dallas police had no suspects in the Walker shooting, but Oswald’s involvement was suspected within hours of his arrest following the assassination…
Much of the confusion and conspiracy mongering concerning the Kennedy assassination (a large majority still believe in any number of conspiracy theories) stems from the left’s 50 year campaign to rewrite the history of the time by transforming Kennedy into a fervent leftist and avid supporter of the civil rights movement and more importantly to promote the lie that Kennedy was somehow a victim of right-wing haters and racists.
Would that it were true, as Frank asserts that, “After the assassination and ever since, the right has tried to deflect any connection” between Oswald and the right. The truth is that conservatives have done precious little to defend against a blood libel which has done so much to promote the cancer of cynicism eating away at America.
For that we can thank liars like Frank Rich.